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.

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