Dear Family and Friends:
Hey Y’all!! Man… time flies. I never imagined that your last transfer as a missionary could be scarier than your first, and maybe it isn’t for everyone, but it most certainly is for me. This week I have found myself struggling with the reality that I can’t turn back the clock, that time marches forward, unbothered by our attempts to slow its progress. There has been several moments this week where I have found myself, like Gatsby, attempting to convince myself of the thought “You can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” Only to find myself more upset and disappointed than before, because it is simply not true, and any attempt to stop the progress of time is as futile as an attempt to stop the advent of winter, because you just don’t like being cold.
Our personal preference and desires have little effect on the progression of the world around us, but their effect is monumental on the progression of our personal lives, which is why each of us must strive to keep our desire in line with that of our Father in Heaven. Currently, my Heavenly Father’s desire is for me is to finish my mission strong, to endure to the end, and then to move on and flourish in a new stage of life, full of a variety of different challenges, but brimming with different blessings as well. I am doing my best to remind myself of that.
Anyway, now that y’all have had sufficient time to snooze through my personal crisis, I’ll get down to the nitty gritty of what actually happened to me this week. This week has been a wonderful miracle. Arkadelphia is a great area, but it has been struggling for a while now. In the past it has not been uncommon for the sisters to report 0 after 0 while calling in their weekly numbers, but as we have labored these past two weeks, it has been with a fiery determination to change that, and we have. This week we were able to accomplish the standard of excellence in three of the four categories, and even exceeded it in new investigators. As exciting as it was, my goal is to hit the full standard of excellence before I leave here, which hasn’t happened in a very long time here in Arkadelphia, maybe ever.
So now for some stories: This week we had the opportunity to spend the evening serving and teaching a part member family named the M’s. Sister M is a returned missionary (she served in Romania!), but her nine-year-old daughter, L, and her husband J are both unbaptized. Sister M has been inactive for a while, but has shown a renewed determination to come back to church. She recently broke her foot, and J has some pretty severe nerve damage that makes it difficult for him to move around without a cane, so getting around to clean their home has been difficult. Sister M & L were both at church last Sunday, and they asked if we would be willing to come over and help them clean their kitchen, and promised us dinner if we were willing to help. Being a returned missionary herself, I’m sure Sister M knew that missionaries serving in a small branch will never refuse an invitation to dinner! Ha.
Tuesday night we headed over to help with the cleaning, and we had a great time! J is a talented musician, and he told me all about his past rock bands, and multiple adventures from his time in the 80’s Metal scene. He even played me some of his original music, which he calls “shredneck” (a fascinating hybrid of country and heavy metal). Haha. We had a great lesson/cleaning/dinner with them, and at the end of the night we shared the Plan of Salvation with them. J is Baptist, and he expressed to us that his religious convictions are strong, so we should not expect a conversion from him any time soon, but that didn’t stop him from showing up to church this Sunday to watch his daughter in the branch Primary Program. Seeing them at church as a family was a very special experience, and even though J has several concerns, he stayed at church all three hours and spent time getting to know several branch members. I think he’s closer to baptism than he suspects.
This week we celebrated Sister F’s 20 birthday. Wednesday, we took her out to sushi, and picked up a couple of presents for her at Walmart, aka Arkadelphia’s one available spot for shopping haha. Wednesday night was the branch Halloween party, and they held it on a member’s property out in Bismarck. We were assigned to man the face painting booth (nothing is scarier than me having to paint someone’s face!), and we even dressed up for the party! I’ll be sure to include pictures of our costumes. The whole thing was a success, complete with hay rides, the whole branch participating in the monster mash, and tons and tons of dry ice! The people of Arkadelphia really know how to through a party 🙂
We had great success this week with our finding, and I’d like to tell y’all about a few of our experiences. The first came while we were in Arby’s for lunch after district meeting. While at the counter we struck up a conversation with the cashier, whose name is W. We asked her if she would be interested in meeting with us, and she said yes! We set up an appointment for Thursday. After we had ordered our food and were getting our drinks a young woman came up to me and asked me where I had gotten my skirt, which turned into another conversation, and another invitation to meet with us. The girl, P, told us she would love to sit down and learn more, but that her schedule is really busy, so she would need to figure out a time when she was free enough to meet with us. We exchanged phone numbers. Finally, we sat down to eat our food, and while eating, I noticed an older gentleman wearing a t-shirt for a food pantry. We have been looking for service opportunities in the community, so I went up and asked him if he worked at the food pantry on his shirt, and if so, if they needed volunteers. “Yes!” He excitedly told us, and asked if we could come help that afternoon. He told us where to go, and happily said he looked forward to seeing us at 2:00. The White Handbook tells us to limit how often we eat out, but there is no question in my mind that our lunch trip to Arby’s was inspired. HaHa!
We ended up volunteering at the food pantry for several hours, and it was a very special experience. I have volunteered at various food pantries while on my mission, but this one was different. Everywhere else I have volunteered; we would prepackage the food the people were to be given and brought it out to them. In this food pantry, however, we take each patron through with a runner (that was me) who helps them pick out the type of food they want within the predetermined guidelines. This gives you a great opportunity to talk with each person, and get to know them better. It also gave me serval opportunities to talk about the church with those I was serving. It was very special to get to know each person I took through, and to get even a small glimpse of some of the trials they were dealing with that had brought them to that point. Service opportunities like that give me such an increased appreciation for my Savior and his Atonement, because to bear the pains even of those at the food pantry that day, would be more than I could ever hope to accomplish, but he suffered the pains of the whole world!
Now back to W, the Arby’s cashier. Our appointment with her was scheduled for 2:00 on Thursday. The time came, and as we were approaching her apartment we heard someone call out, “I’m over here!” We looked an it was W, standing near a different apartment building, where she had been visiting one of her friends. We walked with her back to her apartment, and once inside we got to know her a little better, she is a single mom of 3 kids, and she is trying hard to support her family. She expressed to us that recently she has found it hard to get to church, but that she really wants to become more involved. We taught her the Restoration, and she soaked it up like a sponge! She excitedly accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon, and accepted a baptismal date for November 19th!! She is beyond solid, and promised us she would read from the Book of Mormon.
As we were talking from her apartment, we had a woman stop us and say “Hey, you’re missionaries, right?” To which we responded with a confused “yes”. She then looked at us and said “well why haven’t you come to my house yet? I’ve been waiting for you to come over and teach me!” We asked her when she would like us to come over, and she told us her name was K and asked us if we were available Sunday at 5:00. We promised her we’d be there, and she said the same. Sunday at 5:00 came, and we knocked on her door twice with no answer. As we were walking away, though, she pulled up and apologized several times for being late! She invited us in, and we sat down and taught her the Restoration. She told us about how much she loved church, but since moving to Arkadelphia she hadn’t been. We pointed out that our church building was less than a mile from her complex, and she happily exclaimed, “oh, I can walk to church from here!” She also accepted a baptismal date for November 19th, and is happily reading the Book of Mormon.
Sunday, we had another lesson with W, and she brought a family friend, M, to listen with her. M is an older woman who has been through a lot in her life. We were teaching the Plan of Salvation, and before we were even done with earth life, she stopped us and said “now I have a question- what happens to those in between people, you know, the one that weren’t really good, but weren’t really bad either? I’ve been going to the same church for 43 years and no one has ever answered that question for me.” Excitedly we promised her that we had an answer, and by the end of the lesson, both she and W had committed to coming to church next Sunday, as well as to Institute this Wednesday!
This week has been full of blessings. We have worked hard, and the Lord has seen fit to bless us for our efforts. I absolutely love being a missionary, I love it more than anything I have ever done. I am so thankful for this amazing opportunity to serve the people Arkadelphia. I know my Savior lives, that he loves me, and that he loves each of y’all as well.
Sister Hannah Kathryn Thomas
Sister D & I
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SISTER FIFIELD SELFIE
About 900 pictures from the Halloween Party:
And my new favorite picture quote.