WEEK SEVENTY-NINE: HALLOWEEN WEDDING, INSTITUTE, & PRIMARY IS MY FAVE!

Dear Family and Friends,

This week started off with a Halloween wedding! A member of the branch’s sister was getting married Halloween night, and they invited us to the wedding under the pretense that there would be lots of less active and non-members there, but mostly they knew we would need something to do the night of Halloween. (: The wedding was super fun, and we DID get to talk to several non-members and less actives. They did the wedding and the reception in the backyard of the S’s home, which was totally decked out for Halloween. Everyone in the Wedding Party had Dia de Los Muertos make up, and they had tons of Sugar Skull cookies which were beautiful and delicious! It was a really fun wedding, and a great way to spend Halloween, but it reaffirmed to me how much I want a Temple marriage. The ceremony Monday night was sweet, and it was clear that they loved each other, but as the man officiating the wedding spoke the words “As long as you both shall live” I felt a pang of sadness in my heart. Their wedding is for time only, but we know that it can be so much more. Eternal marriage is such a gift; the knowledge of eternity with one you love is so sustaining, and the faith that you can be with your Father in Heaven forever is more motivating than any other belief or concept. I’m so thankful for this knowledge that comes from the restored gospel.

We’ve had tons of district meeting this transfer, and it’s been so fun! Sometimes the simplicity of a district meeting, as opposed to a huge zone conference, is such a powerful vehicle for the Spirit to testify and teach you. We also had a district P-Day last Monday where we carved pumpkins and ate Elder H’s homemade chili. I’m not a chili person, but some things are just so right for an October day spent carving pumpkins.

I don’t remember if I’ve told y’all about Institute here in Arkadelphia yet, but it’s the best! The class is taught by Brother B (otherwise known as Dr. B, but we usually just call him Brother Dr. B haha) who is a history professor at Henderson State University. He has a PhD from Georgetown, and he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He also had a degree in Theology, and his Institute class goes so deep. Right now, we’re studying the New Testament, and we recently finished a study on the miracles. It’s been so cool to see all the symbolism behind each of Christ’s actions. His healing miracles especially are rich with symbolism. I love learning about the Savior and I can’t wait to begin attending Institute at home!

On Thursday we had a super fun Relief Society Activity where we made crafts, and it was a huge success!! We had several less active sisters show up, which was awesome. We painted these little wooden snow man blocks and I accidentally gave mine angry eyebrows. Crafting is not my strong suit apparently.

We had a lesson with W this week, where we talked some more about our understanding of faith and how we get answers. It’s so interesting to listen to his perspective of things. He has great faith, but believes that his answers can only really come from one source- the Bible. He has a hard time understanding the concept of personal revelation, and doesn’t understand the need for a modern prophet or the Book of Mormon, even after reading it cover to cover. He isn’t combative, and I think he has a real desire to understand, but I’m not sure he can accept the concept that his basic understanding of how God talks to us might need to shift. Talking with W makes me all the more thankful for being born into the gospel, because it can be so hard to accept and understand it when the world has time to get in the way.

We had dinner with the M family again this week, and it’s so cool to see Sister M come back to full Activity. Brother M is still pretty set in his ways, and doesn’t seem too excited about learning from us, but he is willing to let his wife and daughter participate, and he is always excited to cook for us!

At church this week Sister S, the Primary President, was somehow the only Primary worker who showed up, (yay branches!) so she asked us to come and sit in with her during singing and sharing time, and it was so fun! Primary is my absolute favorite place to be. Sister S is an amazing woman. She has 4 children, and three of them sit somewhere on the Autism spectrum. She is so patient and kind, and I am constantly in awe of her. Her youngest child, J, is six years old, and his autism is the most severe. He is verbal in the sense that he can say words, but doesn’t often use them to communicate, and when he does, it’s difficult to understand what exactly he’s trying to communicate. But he is very sweet, and if you’ll just put a little extra effort in to paying attention to him he will love you forever! I helped him put his shoes on after junior primary, and he refused to leave and go to his class, so he spent the third hour in Senior primary next to me asleep in his chair! He is so cute.

Overall this week has been full of service and bittersweet moments. Nothing brings joy quicker than serving others, and nothing makes me more wistful than thinking about this period of service coming to an end. I am so thankful, however, for the time I have been blessed with. I’ve been thinking a lot about how blessed we are to be able to bear testimony. Each time we bear our testimony, it grows, and over the past 18 months, I have had the opportunity to bear my testimony over and over again, and as I have, it has grown tremendously. That’s the amazing thing about Heavenly Father, he never asks us to do something without including a powerful reward. I know my Savior lives, that he loves me, and that this is His church.

I love y’all so much,

Sister Thomas

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Me in my ridiculously not matching pjs, wishing y’all each a Happy Halloween! Haha

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Arkansas has some killer sunsets.

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Sister Companionship pictures, featuring Laura Mann, as we helped her clean her room.

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