WEEK FORTY TWO: FISHIN’, FAMILIES, AND A WHOLE LOTTA FUN

Dear Family & Friends,

The title is a little misleading; this week wasn’t THAT much fun, but it was a good week 🙂 Monday we ended our P-Day with a little fishing at The S’s. Arkadelphia is the dream, and fishing was so fun! I was the ultimate victor of the day, and out of the four sisters, and the two members, I caught the most fish. That is probably due to my extensive fishing experience thanks to Ba!

Monday night we also had a GREAT lesson with K & J, and she told us all about how much she loves the Mormon church, and how when she was young her step-mom used to take her to church and she always wanted to be baptized, but her dad said no. We asked her if she wanted to be baptized now and she said yes, but knew that she couldn’t be because she and J aren’t married. We told her the branch president would be happy to put a wedding together and they were so excited!!

Tuesday we came back to Little Rock, and to be honest it was kind of bittersweet, I totally fell in love with Arkadelphia!! It was good though.

Wednesday we had Zone Conference and it was SO spiritual! We learned all about obedience and how we can increase our desire to be obedient. I was so thankful for it! I am really striving to be more obedient, and it’s difficult, but I am thankful for that too! Some other highlights from the week; we had a lesson with the M family and it went so well! We taught The Plan of Salvation and the kids were so engaged, and the parents both expressed how much sense it made. C made that comment that we were the first people who ever explained the afterlife in a way that made sense. The Spirit was so strong during the lesson, and I am so thankful for the opportunity we have to teach this family. Towards the end of the lesson the kids all said “we want to be baptized so bad!!”

I’m sorry this email is short, but it was a good week! I received a couple of wonderful blessings in the past couple weeks, and I want to just bear my testimony to y’all of the power of the priesthood. It is so real! The priesthood is here for us, it’s meant to bless us, and when we utilize it we can receive so much peace. I want to encourage all of y’all to take advantage of the priesthood power more; get more blessings! Use the power as much as possible! I love y’all so much, and I hope everyone has a good week!!

Love,

Sister Hannah Kathryn Thomas

Hannah fishing

Me with a fish I caught

Beautiful Arkadelphia

The pond in Arkadelphia!

Sister Thomas' Zone in Little Rock

All the sisters in our zone

 

 

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WEEK FORTY-ONE: LITTLE ROCK, HOT SPRINGS AND ARKADELPHIA

Dear Family and Friends,

Hello everyone!!! This was an UP week y’all, seriously. It didn’t start out that way, though. We had 3 really solid member-present lessons set up at the beginning of the week, and then for a myriad of reasons, they all fell through.  I was pretty disappointed, and by the time Wednesday rolled around I was feeling really discouraged. I decided that once we got to Arkadelphia Thursday I would ask for a blessing. That night though, something happened that totally picked up my spirits.

Super Bowl Sunday we knocked on a house looking for a potential investigator who’s name we found in our area book, but when we knocked on the door, we found out the person had moved. We started talking to the guy at the door and found out he had a family. We asked if we could come back and share our message, and he invited us back for Wednesday night at 7:00. We agreed, but it wasn’t until after we left that we realized that we had set an appointment right in the middle of Book of Mormon Class…which we interpret for. We prayed about it and decided to go to the lesson and ask someone else to interpret for class. I am so glad we did!

Our lesson with the M family was WONDERFUL. Ch & Cr are engaged, and they have three children, A, Ke, and Ka. We taught the restoration and the whole family loved it! The kids were so engaged, and the parents really connected with priesthood authority. The lesson was so spiritual, and at the end C bore his testimony that he knew God had sent us to them in order to help them get closer to the Savior. After that I went ahead and extended the baptismal invitation and they happily accepted!! Ch, Cr, A, and Ke all have a baptismal date for March 12th!!

Sister K and I walked out of that lesson on cloud 9. It was so great!!! It was such a tender mercy. I have needed this boost! This week has been full of tender mercies, actually. On Thursday before we headed to Arkadelphia we went to visit R, one of our deaf members. While we were there she asked if we wanted to go to the deaf school with her because she wanted to go there and share her testimony with people. That didn’t sound like the kind of thing that we would be allowed to do, but R was determined, so we went along, haha. We got there and they invited us right in to the school! They even let us go into the cafeteria where the 4th-5th grade students were having lunch and let us sit down in there and talk to them! It was crazy! It was so fun though because we got to talk to a bunch of cute little deaf kids and it was such wonderful practice signing. They all understood me, and I was so thankful for that! Haha. We also found out about a great deaf event happening on March 5th, which I am so excited about because it will be my first one!

After that we headed to Hot Springs, where we were able to teach one of our deaf investigators, K. He is really, old, and he has a hard time understanding scriptures, so we gave him a Book of Mormon stories book and invited him to read that. We are going back to see him tomorrow. After visiting K in Hot Springs, we headed to Arkadelphia, where we had a dinner appointment with the sisters and some of their members. Let me tell you, I found real actual Arkansas. This family, the S’s, live on 5 acres of land, and have over 30 different kinds of fruit trees, and a huge garden, and a BUNCH of turkeys and chickens and one peacock. Speaking of tender mercies, Sister S studied ASL in college, and while she is kind of rusty, she is excited to work with us so that she can get good enough to interpret! After dinner with them we got a tour of their land in the dark, haha. We all had lights on our heads, it was great.

That night the STLs texted us to tell us that there was going to be a meeting for all the sisters in the zone, in Little Rock. Which I thought was kind of crazy considering we had just driven to Arkadelphia! Thankfully President told us to just write off the miles. The meeting ended up being so wonderful! President & Sister W met with all of us to discuss how we could increase the unity and love among the sisters in the zone, and I needed it so much. There were so many things discussed that I need to work on, particularly holding grudges and judging other sisters. I was so spiritually edified and uplifted. I am so thankful for President and the revelation he receives! As I have committed to dropping those things out of my life I would ask y’all to hold me accountable to that, I never want to be involved in Sisters drama again. So I am going to work on hard on that this week.

Since we are in Arkadelphia this week, we attended church in their branch and it was SO great!!! The branch is so SWEET, they have been so welcoming. We got invited to branch council, people keep volunteering to feed us, and we even got two deaf referrals! I think I really needed this. Being in the Little Rock ward has been hard because of our strained relationship with the members, but I think in some ways I have become desensitized to it. Coming here was a great reminder of what we want to help the Little Rock ward become.

This has been a wonderful week, I have been able to see so many wonderful people, and learn SO much! I love being a missionary!!

Love,

Sister Hannah Kathryn Thomas

WEEK FORTY: 9 MONTHS, A COLD AND THE REFINER’S FIRE!

Dear Family and Friends,

Aloha! I hope this email finds y’all well, and I hope y’all are as overjoyed as I am at the fact that P finally got his second ring! Now to be clear, I DID NOT watch the game, but the Ward Mission Leader was sure to text out occasional updates on the score 🙂

This week Sister K & I both got a cold!! I lost my voice Tuesday, and my nose alternated between stuffed up and runny all week. Sorry if that was TMI, hahaha! This week saw the culmination of a lot of different stressors for me. So as y’all know, my biggest goal since I’ve been here in this area is to improve our relationship with the Ward, and while we have been working really hard on that goal, I feel like I haven’t seen much change. I know that these things take time, and that often the heavenly virtue of patience is required, but I think I finally identified this week why I have been struggling so much. I’ve been homesick!!! Not homesick for Utah, or my family, or my friends, but homesick for Lakeland! As I’ve been here I have found myself comparing this ward over and over again to my last area, and things are different here.

I have been struggling with the feeling that the Ward doesn’t like me that much, and I’ve realized that’s probably because in Lakeland I was very blessed to build friendships with several people who are going to be lifelong friends. I’ve been upset with the fact that I feel like the other two companionships of missionaries serving in our ward receive more support and attention than us. In Lakeland, we were the only set of missionaries in the ward, so I grew used to undivided attention. I even feel like the other missionaries don’t really like us, and regularly leave us uninvited to P-Day activities; in Lakeland I planned all the P-Day activities, so I did all the inviting!

I’ll be honest with y’all, last night I was sitting on the kitchen floor crying my eyes out on the phone with Sister L, my last companion in Lakeland. After I was done calling her, I sat on the floor in my closet and cried my eyes out on the phone with Sister B! I was stressed, and I was sad. As I have been struggling with the fact that I feel like so many people don’t like me, I said to Sister B “I don’t understand, Lakeland liked me, and y’all liked me, and I haven’t changed, so why are things different here?” I don’t think I realized it until I was in my studies this morning, but honestly, I answered my own question. I haven’t changed. My situation has changed, my companion has changed, the needs of the ward I’m in have changed, but I have not changed.

No wonder I have been so upset and discouraged lately, I have been trying to complete an impossible task! Little Rock Ward is not Lakeland, and it never will be, but that is okay. Just like the Lord needs lots of different types of missionaries to serve His cause, he needs lots of different types of wards as well. In the blessing I got from Bishop H at the start of this transfer he blessed me to “minister to the single mothers in the ward” and he blessed Sister K to “increase her ability and understanding in order to serve those who are currently facing poverty”. All this time I have been worried about whether or not the strong, financially and spiritually secure pillar families of the ward like me, when clearly I have been called here for an entirely different set of people. I have a small wooden plaque on my desk that has the words of the scripture Luke 4:18 carved on it “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised”

What I have realized this morning is that just like my Savior, I am called to “preach the gospel to the poor, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” And if I ever want to be a successful missionary here in this area, I need to stop worrying so much about what I want, the things in this ward that I want to see change, and start focusing instead on what I have been called here to do. The simple fact is, it doesn’t matter all that much whether or not the ward as a whole likes me, or is engaged in our work, because there are good people here who are invested in us already, and I think I have just been too blind to see it.

For example, this week we traveled to North Little Rock to visit R and J, two of our deaf members, and while we were there R told us she had a deaf friend she wanted us to teach, and then told us she wanted to go with us to visit her…right then! A member who wants you to teach their non-member friend, and who wants to be the one to introduce you to said friend, is a rare opportunity in missionary work, and this was the first time it has ever happened to me. The lesson with A went well, and she invited us back. I know I am so blessed, but I just don’t think I have been looking for the blessings very well recently.

A funny story from this week: We went on exchanges with the STL’s this weekend, and while we were on exchanges Sister E & I made it a goal to work on following promptings. We were driving down the road and we saw a lady walking into a hair salon. Sister E thought that she knew her, and we drove a little way down the road before Sister E said she felt prompted to talk to her, so we turned around. When we got to the hair salon we realized it was actually an African Hair Braiding Salon. And Sister E & I are two very white girls. She asked me if I wanted to go in, and I said we should if it was a prompting, so we walked in. The moment we got in there the very woman we had gone in there to talk to said “oh no, I’m Muslim, I don’t want to hear none of what y’all got to say.” I was silent for a moment, but then I decided to just go for it, and started talking about the Book of Mormon, but no one took us up on the offer of a prayer or lessons, Hahahaha. They all just stared at us!! It was so awkward!! We walked out and I burst out laughing. Sweet is the work, man, sweet is the work!!!

I love y’all so much, I’m sorry if this email was kind of a downer haha. The thing I am giving up this week is my perception of what I think the area should be, and I’m focusing instead on what I know it can become. I hope y’all all have a good week!!!

Love,

Sister Thomas

Hannah and Comp with Training Leaders.jpg

Us with the STL’s after exchanges.

WEEK THIRTY-NINE: CHARITY, SACRIFICE, A NEW COMPANION…AND SHIPLEY’S!

Dear Family & Friends,

Hello everyone!! This week has seen a change in my companionship since I killed Sister L. (Not literally, she just went home hahah). Sending my first companion home was sad, but I love her, and I know she is so excited to be back in Provo! My new companion is Sister K, and I will tell y’all more about her later 🙂

The area continues to struggle, but Sister K & I have committed to changing that. We received bishop’s blessings on Tuesday night, and afterwards spent some time with him discussing what he believes the ward needs, and how we can help with that. We decided that our plan of action going forward is to do all we can to help the members both temporally and Spiritually. We are putting a big focus on working with less actives and part member families, but we also are going to spend time working with the active members of the ward who face challenges as well.  The bishop expressed his deep concern for the Spiritual welfare of the members, and we want to help. We are going to focus on spending time in members’ homes outside of dinner appointments, performing acts of service, heart attacking people, and just stopping by to say hello and thank them for all they do. We are also preparing to come into people’s homes and offer to do FHE with them, and we hope that as the members learn to see us as a resource, and as friends, as people who care about them, and not just as people who need their help, I think we will see this ward change. I hope we can accomplish our goals.

Our companionship is great. We work so well together, and I am so blessed to have Sister K. She is a hard worker and her testimony is powerful! She drives me to be better and I am so thankful for that, I NEED that! We get along so well, and we have just had so much fun! Her light is beautiful, and I am basking in it!

This week we spent one whole day contacting a list of 15 less actives the bishop had given us to visit, and it was so fun! We decided that for every less active we visited we would knock two or three doors in that area, and on our first visit we discovered the address listed for the less active no longer exists, but as we went to go knock our couple of doors we came upon a man and a woman talking in the street. Their names were N and S, and they are neighbors who live on the street we were on. We started talking to them and ended up teaching a great lesson on prophets and receiving revelation! At the end of the lesson, before we could ask for a return appointment, S said “I really hope you girls come back and see me!” Of course we promised we would, and we set a return appointment for this Tuesday. We are so excited to see her again 🙂

This week we also got to meet a deaf girl named T. We met her in Boyle Park and she was so cute!! She has studied with the missionaries in the past and she loves the Book of Mormon and reads it as much as she can. Unfortunately, her mom is a pastor at another church and doesn’t want T to get baptized. T is 24 and could make the decision for herself, but she lives with her mom right now and it’s just a complicated situation. But, she is taking us to lunch of Wednesday and we are going to talk more about the Book of Mormon then 🙂

We had Stake Conference this weekend and it was great! I got to interpret a lot, and even though I am still not amazing at it, I am improving. The Spirit was so strong, I just love Stake Conference, and I am so thankful that as a missionary I have the opportunity to go to it way more since I keep moving around to different stakes! Haha

This week in my studies as I was reading in the Book of Mormon in Alma 43, I was so struck by the account of Moroni’s conversation with the Lamanite General, because even there, on the battlefield, amidst terror and bloodshed, as he addressed the leader of the men who took the lives of so many of Moroni’s soldiers, he stood and shared his testimony of his Savior, Jesus Christ. I was so struck by this powerful example of missionary work in unlikely circumstances.

This week I have also been pondering a lot on the difference between charity and sacrifice, and as I was reading I came across a verse in Mark that really stood out to me. Mark 12:33 reads “And to love him with all thy heart, and with all thy understanding, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” In this verse a scribe is addressing the Savior’s answer to his question about the greatest commandment of all, and following the scribe’s response, Christ looks at him and says “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God” As I read these verses they expanded my understanding of the difference between having charity and making a sacrifice. Both are good, but one is better. The natural man can master sacrifice, in fact in Christ’s own time there were many who sacrificed of their own wealth and time in the service of the poor and the sick, but it is easy to sacrifice, because when we sacrifice, we tell ourselves that we have done something great, and often, we expect praise. We point out to others what a great thing we have given up, and we take pride in our own accomplishment of will. To sacrifice implies a focus on ourselves, and the impact that our actions will have on our own personal lives, but when we have charity, we don’t ponder on that thing that we have given up, or on the praise we will receive, or on what reward we believe we deserve. When we have charity, we act without thought of ourselves, and do so because we love other people, and we love our Savior Jesus Christ. We act out of a sense of responsibility, and love, and don’t expect praise or reward in return.

Charity is so difficult to master, and I am so far from being there, but that is what I want to work on giving up this week. To not focus on the sacrifices I make, and to focus instead on other people, and how I can serve them.

I love all y’all, thank you so much for everything y’all do for me!!

Love,

Sister Thomas

P.S. Caden Haws, the OL from Arkansas that is signing with BYU is totally here in my Ward hahaha

I’m so happy to be able to get Shipley’s! 🙂

Hannah at Shipley's