WEEK THIRTY-FOUR: I’M DREAMING OF A SWEATY CHRISTMAS!

Hola Familia!!

How are y’all?? I hope Christmas found everyone well. My Christmas was WONDERFUL! We had two Christmas meals with members, and both were more food than I think I have eaten my whole mission so far! Ha-ha. One thing I am so thankful for though, is that the church just breeds good people. Good, kind, humble, charitable people. I have learned that truth more and more as I have been on my mission. I was blessed with many gifts and notes from loved ones, so thank you for that!

As you can probably guess from the title of this email, my Christmas week did not include two feet of snow, as many of y’all’s did. In fact, Christmas Day it was about 70 degrees! Ah the south, I’ve missed it!

Hahaha. This week the work was kind of slow, that has a lot to do with the fact that people really don’t want to talk to strangers who aren’t their family during Christmas, but we still got some good things done. I finally met our eternigator (long term investigator), J. He’s an older guy, probably in his 50’s, and he lives alone. He likes the church, and he enjoys having us over, but he struggles with understanding the importance of the gospel in his life, personally. He’s really fun though, and a huge Firefly fan, so we got to talk about that.

My sign language has been rapidly improving, which I am thankful for. I still have a long way to go, but I am understanding more and more and Heavenly Father is bringing so many things to my remembrance! On Sunday I interpreted for the first time! I interpreted in Sunday School, and I studied the lesson the whole week before class, so that I would know all the signs for the words that would most likely get used in the lesson. That day it was on The Gathering of Israel. Yeah, not easy concepts to translate into sign ha-ha. It went well though, I could have done much better, but I am learning, and I didn’t crash and burn!! My plan is to interpret every week in Sunday school until I get good enough to help out in other places. I am really thankful for this new challenge, I think I had become complacent with my teaching in many ways, and having to learn how to teach in a new language has really pushed me to improve my teaching skills in general.

I’m sorry that this week’s letter is kind of short, hopefully next week I will have a lot more to talk about. I will close with my testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I know He lives; I know He loves us. He was born in Bethlehem and he died on Calvary. He Suffered for all of our pain, sadness, sickness, sin, and sorrow. He rose from Joseph’s tomb on the third day, and lived again, and because he lives, each of us will also have the chance to rise again. His life is the single most perfect example for all mankind, and if we look to him and live, we will be able to do all things, overcome all trial, and face all temptation with the self confidence that comes from knowing that each of us are truly loved of our Savior Jesus Christ. As I have had the chance to reflect on His life this Christmas season, I have been struck by how much more personally I know Him now than ever before. I know He loves me. I have a personal relationship with Him, and I know I always have a place to go, a shoulder to cry on, and a hand to hold in Him.

I love Him, and I love all of you!

Love,

Sister Hannah Kathryn Thomas

ALRM

Companionship Selfie

Companionship Selfie

Hannah Interpreting

Me Interpreting!!!

WEEK THIRTY-THREE: Hey, Okay, EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT!!!!!

Dear Friends and Family,

Yeah, so this past week was transfer week, and I didn’t think much of it because I was in the middle of training Sister L. PSYCH. Monday morning I got the transfer call, and so did Elder M, and so did Sister B, and so did Sister J. Everything changed! Not only was I getting transferred, I also found out I was going to the Arkansas side. I cried all morning. THEN, Sister N was going home, so we had to all say goodbye to her Monday afternoon and I cried again! Since N was leaving, H came into a trio with us, and while it was great because we all became really good friends, it was not great because we all became really good at whipping each other into a crying frenzy.

Monday night I was laying on the floor contemplating all the things I had to pack, when Sister H came out of her room sobbing and asked if it was too late to get a blessing. It was 10:25, but it is never too late for a blessing. We had to call the elders, and since we were in a trio they were allowed to come to the apartment to do the blessing, and while we were so thankful, it was weird having them there.

Tuesday was the most painful day of my mission so far, we drove around a million places so I could say my goodbyes, and it was so difficult. Transfers hurt. That night we had Book of Mormon Class, and when I got there I cried too, because I am just so proud of our little Book of Mormon class. After class we all stayed at the church and wrote in each other’s transfer journals. S B brought me a locket with a picture of her dog in it, and some crystallized ginger. Then I helped Elder M make an ornament, and then Elder T showed us all these bugs he got from an elder serving in the Spanish branch and they were alive and he told us to eat them!! It was really weird, but I did eat one, and it was pretty gross.

Wednesday morning came and I was having some serious issues with the whole transfer situation. I didn’t understand why it was happening, and why it was happening now, right before Christmas! I had to be to the church by 8:00 to drive to Little Rock, and of course it was raining. The sky was almost as sad as I was. I said goodbye to sister L and we both cried so much, she is such a sweetheart. I ended up in the mommy van with a bunch of missionaries that I don’t know and Elder M. We talked for a while, but we were both leaving our first areas, where we had been for so long, and the sadness was palpable. We arrived in Little Rock, and the transfer meeting started. My heart was beating so fast, I had no idea where I was going, or why I was going there, and I felt confident that no matter where it was, or who it was with, I would be upset. I was only half listening when President Wakolo said “in Little Rock ASL (American Sign Language), Sister L will be serving with Sister Thomas.” I shot out of my seat, what???? I probably had the most confused look on my face walking up to hug my new companion, but I was so confused, I’m not an ASL missionary!

After transfer meeting Sister L took me home and we got settled in. As the time passed, I felt a little more comfortable. That night we went to Book of Mormon class, and while we were there I met two deaf members, K and P. As I sat and talked to them in my broken ASL, I slowly realized that I knew I was here for a reason, that these people needed me, and I don’t know all the reasons why yet, but I will. Heavenly Father works in mysterious ways, and sometimes he works in ways that hurt us, but while his way is not always easier, it is always better, and I know that. I have been called here for a reason, I have been reassigned as an ASL missionary for a reason, and I know that if I am faithful and confident in my work and my call, that I WILL see miracles, I know that because I have seen that truth time and time again on my mission. God sometimes blesses us in unexpected ways, but the surprising blessings are most often the best. My new companion, Sister L, is in her last transfer as a missionary and I am so excited to serve with her.

I hope y’all have a wonderful Christmas, but I think mine will be the most wonderful since I get to talk to my family!!

Love,

Sister Hannah Kathryn Thomas

ALRM

Hannah with Sister Wilson

Saying goodbye to Sister Wilson

Packing for First Transfer

Packing fun

Hannah in New Ward

Me with two new ward members

WEEK THIRTY-TWO: WEIRDEST, JOLLYEST AND NOW MOST STRESSFUL WEEK!

Dear Friends and Family,

Okay, so weirdest, and now, most stressful week of my life. This week we had two almost all day mission meetings, and a Christmas party for the Ward, and a Christmas music devotional, and I just feel like we spent a lot of time in meetings and parties, and not a lot of time out proselyting, and that stressed me out.

Monday was pretty normal. We exchanged secret Santa gifts. I got a Bath & Body Works candle from Elder M, which makes me laugh every time I imagine them awkwardly wandering B&BW’s trying to find something to get me. The highlight was that I got to give Sister B her secret Santa gift, which was THE BEST!! I bought her this plaid green dress that is like, floor length and wonderful hahaha, and I bought myself a matching red one! Salvation Army is the bomb hahaha.

Monday night we had four companionships of sisters all staying in the Bartlett apartment because we had to travel over to the Arkansas side by bus Tuesday morning at 6:15 and the sisters all live like an hour or more from Bartlett. It was really fun to have everyone together, but it was a little difficult coming up with places for everyone to sleep! Hahaha

Tuesday morning, we travelled to Little Rock and we spent most of the day there at the Sisters Time Out. It was so fun!! We did service and ate food and made candy and caroled and it was great. It was really fun to see all the sisters I know on the Arkansas side, and meet a lot of sisters on that side that I didn’t know!

Wednesday we went on splits with the Dyersburg sisters because they were staying with us until Thursday for Zone Conference. That was kind of a crazy day because we broke our phone and also drove our car into a ditch and the elders had to come push it out. It was crazy. We also went to lunch at Fat Larry’s and when we got there the elders were already there so then we had to sit on opposite sides of the restaurant and try really hard not to make eye contact.

Thursday was zone conference and we had our Christmas party for the Memphis side. Sister B & I wore our matching dresses and we looked the best and the most festive by far! I will include a picture 🙂 We also got to watch a movie, and we watched The Cokeville Miracle, which was really good, but VERY intense and it made me realize that I haven’t seen any movies in a long time.

I don’t remember anything from Friday or Saturday. I am sorry this email isn’t good. The reason is that this morning I found out I am getting transferred, and it came totally out of the blue for me, and I am really upset. I don’t get to finish training Sister L, I am leaving my first area that I LOVE, and it’s all happening a week before Christmas.

I am trying really hard to not be sad, but I have already cried quite a bit, and I just hope things get better. I have faith in revelation, I just think I should have been consulted on the revelation first! Dang it.

I do have to say, however, this reminds me a lot of the two weeks I spent in Dyersburg, and those two weeks were some of the best of my mission so far, so I have faith it will work out, there is always a reason.

Love,

Sister Hannah Kathryn Thomas

ALRM

Christmas Party 121415.jpg

WEEK THIRTY-ONE: I THREW UP THIS WEEK, SO I’M NOT FEELING VERY CREATIVE.

Dear Friends and Family,

Hello! So this letter might be kinda short. It was somewhat of a weird week. The ASL sisters set up a secret Santa for us, them, the STLs, and the elders. We drew names on Monday and the ASL sisters were very intense about the fact that we weren’t allowed to tell anyone who we had, ever. So of course as soon as the ASL sisters left, we all told each other who we had and found out who had us, hahaha. We suck! Then we went to the mall and bought our gifts. I have Sister B, and I bought her this all plaid green dress from The Salvation Army, hahahaha. I bought myself a red one to go with it ☺️ (See pic below!)

Monday night was not so good. I started to not feel very well, and then everyone we tried to see either wasn’t there or dropped us. L Right after this one lady told us she wasn’t interested, I tripped stepping off her porch and scraped my foot really bad! And it was raining! Not a good night hahaha. We are still staying in Bartlett until the heat is fixed, so we headed back there at the end of the night. Tuesday morning, I woke up and I was not feeling well, but I kind of ignored it, thinking I would be fine. I made cookies for district, and then it was time for studies. Once I got into studies, I realized I really didn’t feel well. I told the other sisters after personal study and they told me to stay in. I didn’t want to though because we had district meeting! I was planning on going out and not worrying about it, until I threw up in companionship study.  So we stayed in all day Tuesday, except we went to Book of Mormon class and our dinner appointment because the people who were signed up to feed us had never fed us before and we didn’t want to cancel and have them never sign up again! So I pushed through hahah. Then once we got to Book of Mormon class, I threw up again, so I just laid on the floor in the back for the rest of class. It was really special.

Wednesday morning I woke up and I thought I felt better, but then I threw up again at lunch time! Another day inside L Thankfully I got to nap and catch up on my Jesus the Christ reading though! Hahaha.

Thursday I was finally better, and we got to go out again! We contacted this media referral named D, who initially denied making the request, but after we did our normal little door approach, let us in and confessed he had in fact made the request, he just wanted to make sure we weren’t Jehovah’s. Hahahahahaha. The lesson went really well and we are seeing him again tonight! We also taught his aunt C, who is kind of crazy and thanked Jesus a lot for the fact that she had 3 strokes, but whatevs hahah.

Friday we went on exchanges, and Sister B and I were in Lakeland. We went to go contact this lady who moved into our ward from the Bartlett 1st ward almost a month ago, but hasn’t shown up to church since then. We brought Sister L with us so she could meet someone from the ward, but when we got there all we could hear was this loud crashing and B yelling. At first we thought she was trying to corral her dogs, but after standing on her front porch listening to that for 10 minutes we decided to go in and see what was happening. We walked in on B lying flat on her back in the middle of all of her living room furniture which had been knocked down. She was in the middle of some kind of drug overdose! (Note-this has already happened to Sister B & I on exchanges once). This one was accidental though. She has been really sick, and her steroid had a negative reaction with one of her anxiety meds. We got her in bed, made her eat something, and then Sister B & I literally RAN down the street to get a member from the Bartlett 2nd Ward and ask him to come give her a blessing. It was crazy!

Saturday was much more low key. We got to see E and make some soup with her. We also taught a lady named R who has 7 kids who are all eight years old and under. It was crazy hahaha.

Sunday we went to church and got to bring A, who we have been visiting in the youth villages, with us! She had a great time, and so did we.  Later that day B, the STLs investigator, got baptized!! It was a WONDERFUL baptism, and I am so happy for them! The spirit was really strong, and their ward did a great job of supporting her. After that we went and watched the First Presidency Devotional at Sister W’s house, and it was great. I LOVED Sister Burton’s talk, and that she used the phrase “my cute husband.” It felt like an appropriately hilarious equivalent to “my sweet wife.” Overall it was a good week, even if it was kind of difficult. Some verses that really stood out to me in my studies this week were Alma 36:20-21 “20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! 21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.”

I have been thinking a lot about how much of a blessing that trials are. H. Burke Petersen said “Let us remember, trials are evidence of a father’s love” When I first read that quote at the beginning of my mission I had no idea what it meant. Now, I feel like I understand it much more clearly. Our Heavenly Father gives us trials because without sadness we could not feel joy, just like without the dark, we can’t appreciate the sunlight. Through trials we grow, we become more, and as we become more our capacity for joy increases. That is why people often look at good righteous saints and do not understand how they can be so happy. They have not been expanded by the process of trial and atonement to be able to comprehend the eternal joy we receive from the gospel. We are so blessed! Our Heavenly Father is amazing!

Love,

Hannah Kathryn Thomas

ALRM

The Plaid Dresses

WEEK THIRTY: SURPRISE!

Dear Friends and Family,

Okay, so this week was definitely the biggest miracle of my mission so far. I can’t explain how crazy, exciting, terrifying, and overwhelming is was, but it was. Monday was normal, we hung out with the STLs and ASL sisters in the morning, and then, because they were both walking that day, we let them borrow our car so the 4 of them could go shopping. While they were shopping we just stayed at the church and emailed, etc. we also hung out with the Bartlett Elders for a while and just talked with them, which is kind of against the rules since it was just one set of sisters and one set of elders, but they had gotten ditched by a bunch of elders who were supposed to come hangout and play basketball with them, and I felt bad just letting them sit in the gym alone, especially because I knew they had gotten ditched. Other elders can suck sometimes.

Tuesday was district meeting, and we talked about true discipleship vs. Sunday Christianity, and it was an AMAZING lesson. We focused on the things in our faith that help and encourage people to become true disciples, and how we can get better at focusing on those things in our teaching in order to help guarantee that those we teach stay active and are truly converted. We also talked a lot about how sometimes we really just need to push those we are teaching who are ready for baptism, but that for some reason, are hesitating to take the plunge (literally, ha!). The whole district meeting I had J running through my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about how ready she was for baptism, how solid her testimony had become, and what a blessing she would be as a newly baptized member in the Lakeland Ward. After district meeting, when we got in the car, I expressed my thoughts and feelings to Sister L, and it turns out she had been thinking and feeling the exact same things that I had! We took it as a sign and resolved to have J baptized by November 28th, this past Saturday. We prayed about what course we should take to accomplish this, and received the answer that we needed to have a lesson with J where we went over the baptismal interview questions. We knew that based off her responses to these questions we could know whether or not she was truly ready. We went over to J’s that day and had the lesson we planned. Her responses to the questions were intelligent, spiritual, and heartfelt. She was ready. I knew it, Sister L knew it, and J knew it. Just to be sure, we knelt in prayer with J as she asked her Heavenly Father about getting baptized on the 28th. Coming out of that prayer there was no doubt in my mind she needed to be baptized on that day. She felt confident in the date as well, and we knelt one more time in prayer as she asked for strength and guidance in discussing it with her mother.

Tuesday night we had Book of Mormon class, and it was really fun. J was there, and after class she asked Elder M if he would be willing to perform the baptism, and of course he happily accepted. We had resolved to go forward with faith, assuming that baptism would happen, even before we knew whether or not her mom would say yes.

Right here I need a side note in order to tell my next story. The heat in our apartment has been broken for over a week now, so Monday and Tuesday night we stayed with the Bartlett Sisters. That night we arrived back at the apartment well before the STLs and we were already finishing up our nightly planning session when they burst through the front door yelling. Confused, and a little frightened by the situation, we asked them what was going on, and they informed us that A & B, their wonderful investigators, and set their own dates that night and were getting baptized! With tears in our eyes we congratulated them, and we were so excited about A & B, that it took us a full ten minutes to remember to inform them about J! Once we got that out none of us could hold back the tears, it was clear then that all our sacrifices throughout the month of November had paid off, and we saw miracles.

Wednesday morning was very intense. We texted J to let her know when her baptismal interview would be, and to ask if she had talked to her mom, and her response sent a literal pain through my heart. She told us that while she HAD talked to her mom, and her mom actually had given her permission to be baptized on Saturday, she now felt herself that she wasn’t ready, and told us that she wanted to postpone. I couldn’t believe it, it was like all my hopes had been dashed in that one text. Thankfully, Sister L was far less despondent. She suggested that we dedicate our companionship study to a lesson that would remind J of the importance of baptism and get her back on track for Saturday. We did just that, and by the end of the hour we had more material than we would possibly be able to use in a 45 minute lesson. We asked J if we could meet up with her at 4:00 and she agreed. Before we went to see J at 4:00, though, we stopped by Sister W’s. While we were there we told her about the situation with J, and when she found out she was having second thoughts she asked us to record a video message for J. We agreed, and as I recorded the video it took everything I had to keep my crying from shaking the iPad too badly. Sister W spoke directly to J’s soul. Her words addressed almost every concern J had ever expressed to me. I was so thankful to be privileged enough to witness that miracle.

When we met up with J we read her our scriptures and our quotes, we taught and read, and asked questions, but without a doubt, the thing that touched J’s heart most, the thing that turned her again towards the waters of baptism, was the quiet testimony, the gentle admonition, and the loving words spoken in the hushed tones of Sister W’s sweet voice. She recommitted to Saturday, and as we walked out of the church building that evening we were greeted with the most beautiful harvest moon I have ever seen. It felt like the Lord had provided a beautiful gift to reward all three of us for our faith, and to let us know that he was there, present in our discussion that night.

Thursday was Thanksgiving, and by divine design unknown to us at the time, Ja had asked that J spend Thanksgiving with us, because she would be working, and she wanted her to “be with people she loved”. That morning at 11:00 we went over to the S’s home to have our first Thanksgiving of the day. We told them about J’s baptism, and they were over the moon! Sister S is a great cook, so we ate well, and when we walked out I definitely had to loosen my belt. Then, at 1:00 we headed to the church for J’s baptismal interview. Elder Ma & his companion had driven up from West Memphis for the interview and when we got there he had set up a classroom with two puffy chairs he stole from the foyer, and a table with a tablecloth he had taken from a RS closet! It was so funny, and J loved it.

Once she was in the interview my nerves really set in and I couldn’t sit still. I paced the church twice, and by the second lap she was already done! She passed with flying colors, and Elder Ma later told us he couldn’t believe the power of the spirit that accompanied her testimony, we are so privileged to teach her.

At 4:00 we headed to Thanksgiving round 2 at the V’s, and they had also invited the N’s, the K Family, The Y’s, and a family from the neighborhood. Needless to say it was a full house! But I loved it so much. The mashed potatoes, the vibrant conversation, the mildly stressed hostess, the screaming children, the overly competitive game of Pictionary we played, and even T Y throwing up because he had spun around too many times on the tire swing, it all felt so right. It reminded me of home, and all of the people that I adore, but I wasn’t sad. As I sat at my table next to J and observed the good natured chaos going on around me, instead of feeling homesick, I was struck by how lucky I was to love so many wonderful people back home, to have a family that was loud, and silly, and perfect, and then, I was struck by how lucky I am to have the opportunity to serve a mission, and to add to that wild, energetic, perfect family. The Lord is so good at giving us exactly what we need.

Friday was a good day, but it was relatively uneventful, so I am going to skip right ahead to SATURDAY. So the baptism was scheduled to take place at 11:00, and we were driving up with Brother M and J at 9:15 to make sure we had plenty of time to prepare and fill the font, etc. well, Brother M was running super behind, and by 9:30 he hadn’t even stopped by to pick us up yet. This meant we wouldn’t be to the building before 10:00 and we would never had enough time to fill the font before 11:00. I was freaking out!!! But, I called the Arlington elders because they serve close to the church building and I asked them if they could possibly run over and start the font right then. They then informed me that they had been studying at the church that morning, and because they knew about the baptism they had started filling the font the moment they got there and it was already halfway full! What a miracle! The baptism was AMAZING. The spirit was so strong, J was glowing. The one mark on the whole day was that her mom didn’t show up. I was so sad for J, but she handled it so well. We took the funniest baptism pictures of all time and had such a wonderful time.

After the ordinance, she stood up and bore her testimony. She said a lot of really great things, but the thing that struck me more than anything, was when she stood up, she smiled at all of us and said “I’m officially a part of the family now.” I can’t even explain how much that warmed my heart to hear. She gets it. She understands the gospel, and she loves it. I am so privileged to have been able to teach her. Sunday morning she was confirmed and the Spirit was there just as strong. The Ward is overjoyed to have her, and I am so thankful to have been able to facilitate this. She insisted that everyone call her Sister J W at church, and I was on cloud nine all day. I am so blessed. Miracles are real. God’s hand is in each of our lives. I love this gospel, I love J, and I love my Savior.

Love,

Hannah Kathryn Thomas

ALRM

Jaleesa's Baptism3