Wow. I really don’t even know where to begin. This is THE GREATEST THING EVER. I absolutely love being a missionary under President & Sister Christianson and being here in New York. I truly feel this is where I’m supposed to be. I already know you will have to drag me out of this place. It’s so green, so many hills, and the sky looks like it was made from the producers of Toy Story. It’s unbelievable.
We got in on Monday afternoon, did a bunch of paperwork, had dinner, then a huge long meeting, then straight to bed. It was a very long day. The next morning we got up and President took us to the Grandin Press, the Smith home, the Frame home…everything except the Sacred Grove! It was pouring rain, and it was super muddy. So still to this day, I haven’t been in the Sacred Grove yet. Weird, I know. But President wanted to take us personally in there when it was a beautiful day and let us have time to ponder and think about the sacred experience that occurred there. I’ve pretty much spent every waking hour studying from the site manuals about everything. Believe it or not, the site manuals combined are about 2 Preach My Gospels in size, and technically I need to have them memorized by next week. We have a tour today that I’m just getting thrown in at the Hill Cumorah…yes I am giving the tour…yes please pray for the Spirit to bring everything and anything to my remembrance about that place. It’s going to be hilarious to see me try; I’m so excited!
So my trainer. She’s the most amazing person in the world. Her name is Sister Correia, and she grew up in Hawaii! She’s absolutely gorgeous, too. We instantly became like sisters. This is her first time training, and she was so worried about training a girl from Utah. haha. Then yesterday, she’s like, “Sister Hawkes, you’re actually cool! I feel like you’re training me! This is easy.” So it’s a party 24/7. And we get so much done. I’ve already learned so much from her. She goes home in a couple transfers. I’ll be her last companion, since the Church started the 12 week program for new missionaries. The program is just rating your teaching abilities for the next 12 weeks with your trainer, just so we can all improve.
We’re in the Newark South area, just about 5 miles out of Palmyra. We live in the cutest, most classic New England blue house. Rochester is pretty rough. It’s the 3rd highest crime rate in America apparently. I’m totally not surprised. My trainer has some pretty intense stories! I can’t wait for mine. 🙂 It also is an extremely hard mission. I honestly underestimated it before I got here. It’s very difficult to get investigators, and even more difficult to even get a baptism. The hardest part about this area, is that the descendants of the prosecutors of the Church have passed down story after story about the Mormons. We are either loved, or absolutely hated. Every missionary I’ve met in this mission is super solid, though. There’s only about 55 elders and 30 sisters, so a pretty small mission to cover lots of ground. It’s going to be extremely hard. But I’ll do my very best to penetrate this wonderful message into the hearts of the people that are prepared. I know they’re out there, it may just take a few extra batches of cookies to get in to their houses!
We also are called as Cast Trainers for the Hill Cumorah pageant, so we only have a day in our areas for the next couple months. Then we get going again, about three days a week in the area. But this is amazing how the cast training all worked out. The sisters were telling me that before I got my mission call, they were praying a sister would come in May so we would have a complete training group, and when I got my call, they knew it was the answer to their prayers! President also was worried about it, but apparently he told them to trust in the Lord and things would work out. And here I am…coming in full swing! The cast arrives next week. And I arrived on Monday. You do the math. Most people would be terrified, they had a whole meeting to prepare us for the stress. However, I am SO EXCITED. I can’t wait to see that many people and to talk to them…I just can’t wait! There is just 6 of us to train over 900 volunteers to be missionaries. They are literally set apart in the NYRM for those 3 weeks. We’re responsible for every single one of them and how they invite others to come unto Christ. I thought it was 450. NOPE. 900. 🙂 Plus the 10,000+ guests we will have. We each take turns and do lots of different workshops with them, and then during the day and right before the pageant, we do a bunch of exchanges with the cast members to help them with their missionary work. And don’t forget all of the site manuals I have to memorize as well. 🙂 When the cast arrives, we will be working until about midnight and arriving back at the Hill at about 6 in the morning. This mission was made for me.
President Christianson. I know everybody says this about their mission president. But I don’t care, I’m going to say it anyway. I swear this man has seen God. He will be the next prophet. I have never met a man so humble, yet so confident about what he believes in. He is the most powerful person I’ve ever heard give a testimony of the Book of Mormon. He and Elder Holland had a friendly argument about who loved the Book of Mormon more…yeah, I’m talking that much. He is absolutely incredible. And Sister Christianson, I hope to be even half of what she is. She is the rock in his life. And they are so adorable together–I hope to be like that with my husband. He sometimes just plays with her hair or her hand…he looks at her like she is the greatest thing that has ever happened to him. And it’s true, he tells us that every meeting. Anyway, they are wonderful.
I have learned so much about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith in just a few short days. When President took us to the Smith home, we had a testimony meeting in the upstairs bedroom where Moroni appeared to Joseph. It was so powerful. Even though the house is a replica…we were bearing testimony in the same air space that the Angel Moroni was standing. The First Vision is real, everyone. Joseph Smith truly saw God, the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. I know once I get to the Sacred Grove, my testimony will grow even stronger. However, I will still know for a surety that it really happened, regardless if I walked in there or not. I can’t believe how blessed I am. How many people get to testify of the Savior in a grove of trees right where it all began for the last time on this earth. How lucky are we to be born in the Gospel, but how much more lucky are those who are able to come to know of the truth for themselves. I encourage everyone to take Moroni’s challenge in Moroni 10:4. Read it, ponder it, and pray about the Book of Mormon. None of us can convince you it’s true. Only the Holy Ghost can. He will truly be able to testify of the events and make a sure witness to you, only if you simply have the faith.
Well, I must go study on the Hill Cumorah. Yes, I will be having our morning program right on the Hill. 🙂 I am the luckiest girl in the world! All the sisters here are amazing, and I’m a huge fan of all of the senior couples. They are so nice to me. Oh, and mom, they all somehow have some connection back to you. So, they all say hi. Word travels fast around these parts. 🙂 Until next time from western New York! I love you all!