Dear Friends & Family,
Hello!! How is everyone? I am here in Arkadelphia, and yes, that is a real place haha! One thing I have learned on my mission is that we always think we know what is going to happen in our lives, but it is rare that we are right. Such is the case with my transfer to Arkadelphia, which hit me out of nowhere like a 280 lb. defensive end. Another thing I have learned on my mission, however, is that even when changes come out of nowhere, God always knows better than we do. Always.
Here in Arkadelphia, where I will spend my last six weeks, I am companions with Sister D & Sister F. Sister D has been out a year and is SO sweet! She has been in as many musicals as I have! And we have spent a lot of time singing Les Mis, Next To Normal, Wicked, and Showboat to one another at the top of our lungs! Sister F has been out for 9 months and is very nerdy like me! She loves cosplay and Marvel and does a lot of voice over acting on YouTube. They are both so sweet, and we have been having insane amounts of fun since I got here.
The area is struggling a little bit right now, not a lot has been happening, but I am excited to change it! Please pray that we are able to find the people who the Lord has prepared for us to find. This is a wonderful branch though, and I am excited to be able to strengthen it!
This week we had a wonderful experience with an inactive member named Sister H. The sisters have knocked on her door at least 50 times since they have been here in Arkadelphia, and never received an answer. But my first day here we knocked again, and this time she answered. She said she was about to head out the door to work, but asked if we could come back Thursday. We said yes. Thursday came and we were running behind. When we arrived, about 15 minutes late, we knocked on the door but found no answer. Assuming that we had missed her, we headed back to the car, but as we were walking away her front door opened, and there she was! She had just pulled in, and if we had arrived at the set time instead of 15 minutes later, we would have missed her. She invited us in and we sat down with her. She shared with us her whole conversion story, and then told us the story of what had driven her away. Several years before, when her daughters reached dating age, a member of the branch informed her that, because Sister H was African American, she would not be allowing her sons to date Sister H’s daughters. The woman was spoken to by the branch president, but not much changed, and it became difficult for Sister H to be there, so she left.
After she finished her story she looked up at us and said “but I know it’s true. I know it’s all true, and I want to come back. These past couple weeks I’ve known I NEED to come back, and now here you are.” She then told us about her work schedule, which would make attending church difficult. She works nights, 7 days a week. We promised her that church attendance is a powerful and important thing, and that if she made the sacrifice to come, that she would be blessed. While we were there, one of her daughters called, another inactive member, who lives in Little Rock. When Sister H told her she was talking with the sister missionaries, her daughter became so excited to hear there were sisters in Arkadelphia. After she hung up, Sister H told us that she too has been wanting to go back to church.
Sunday came and as we were standing in the lobby, in walked Sister H! She had come straight from her job, which she would be going back to later that night. It was truly amazing to see the excitement of the faces of the longtime members of the branch, to see their old friend Sister H back at church after years of absence. It was a very special thing to be a part of.
In my studies this week, I spent some extra time on the scriptures that were given to me during my first My Plan (a program for missionaries in their last transfer to help them prepare for life at home) session. The scriptures were Alma 5:6, Heleman 5:9, and Moroni 10:3. All three scriptures deal with what the Lord has done for us, and one phrase in particular stood out to me. Alma tells us that the Lord has “delivered their souls from hell”. If there is one thing I have learned these 17 months on my mission, it is that being caught in the grips of sin is quite literally hell. That is why I am so thankful for my Savior, because despite the hell that each of us has been caught in at some point in our lives, He can and will free us, if we are willing to let Him.
I want y’all to know that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God lives, and that He loves us more than we can comprehend. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He always knows what we need. Coming to Arkadelphia to be an ASL sister again was not what I wanted, and definitely not what I thought I needed, but I see now that it is going to be the perfect ending to the greatest adventure of my entire life. Serving the Lord brings joy beyond anything we can imagine or hope to gain on our own. The experiences I have had here have added so much depth and color to my life, as my ability to experience happiness increases. Each day I wake up excited to live and serve and be. We are so blessed, each one of us.
Sister Hannah Kathryn Thomas (AKA the most blessed missionary in the world)
New companions haha
Sister F & I accidentally matched haha
The last train out of Paris during WWII