SPEC TRAINING 0900 HOURS: Gathering of Israel

“You will be the ones who they build the foundation of missionary work from now on.” -President Christianson

On Thursday we had an all day Specialized Training on the House of Israel and our continued plan of action to get it together even faster. I attatched a picture of the chalkboard when President was through…the next thing he said was, “Does this make sense?” It was funny. But it actually did make sense! Thankfully I’ve been studying up on my Old Testament, so he was just filling in the gaps. I wish I could just tell you everything I learned. I felt like I was in Fort Rochester in a briefing. He explained that the missionary force had climbed 471% in the past three weeks, and we will see about 100 new missionaries in 2013. What does that mean for the US mission with the most snow? (That’s right: Buffalo, Syracuse, and Rochester.) Instead of 91% of us getting cars, only 70% will. Our areas will be smaller with about fifty new apartments to distribute our force more evenly, but the most important thing is the quote I started with. We can’t slack off now. We’ve got plenty of work to do, and we have to be prepared.

The past few days, my spirit has been on overload. I feel like the veil is a little bit thinner; I’m realizing that I actually have a body now, and I’m actually doing what I came to earth to do. Sometimes I feel like a fly on the wall, and I would give anything for you all to see what I see through my eyes. Even though I may make it seem fun and games–this is less than glamorous. This is real life. I can’t believe I’m actually here. It’s going so fast, and I want to soak up everything I possibly can. The only way to do that is to immerse myself in the work. This next story is just one of the many things that happened to me this week.

On Saturday, I went on exchanges again with Sister Madsen. (Yes, Mary Madsen…we graduated from Viewmont together!) We were working at the Book of Mormon Publication site and in walks (storms) an agnostic named Phil. He stood about 6’3″, dark long black coat, and no less than 230 pounds. Before we could even get out a “Welcome” he said, “Who in the world is this Romney guy, and what are his core beliefs.” Well of course Sister Madsen and I suited up, grabbed our Book of Mormons and went to shake his hand. We pulled out the Articles of Faith, and suggested he would take a look at those. We started talking about the Restoration…and asked every question in the book about that. Our discussion got even further, and we showed him the living prophet on the earth today. “What’s his name? Can I take his blood pressure? Did you know that by that age, it’s 40% likely to have schizophrenia? Are those age spots? What’s his cell number? I need to call this guy.” We just simply explained that his name was Thomas S. Monson, and he in fact receives revelation for the world, and for the Church today. He kept staring at his picture on the screen, and said, “You mean to tell me, that we have a living prophet on the earth today, and no one has told me about it? I can’t even wrap my head around this.” He had even more questions about the Spirit World, the moving planets, and what faith even means. It’s a great thing our good friend Alma had exact answers to all of those questions, and I could pull out Alma 11, 30, and 32, respectively. (Don’t’ worry I’m working on branching out of Alma…he just has some great stuff in there.) We answered every single one of Phil’s questions with the Book of Mormon. However, during the entirety of our hour-long conversation, he kept saying the words, “Prove it,” over and over. We had to explain that he needed to act for himself, and then it could be proven from within. His exact words were, “So you’re saying I need to experiment?” I got the biggest smile on my face and turned back to Alma 32, where we just were, and read it to him. “But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” -Alma 32:27. That verse stopped him dead in his tracks, because he knew we had just given him the right answer. The next thing out of his mouth was, “How old are you two?” “Twenty-one,” we said. “You two are good eggs. I better get to work, but here’s my phone number. Give it to the missionaries in my area and we’re going to talk about this.” We waited until Phil walked out and then Sister Madsen and I just threw our arms around each other. We struggled to get into our chairs, and the senior couples came up to us and were giving us high-fives. Haha–it was hard! But it felt so-o good. The spirit, through us, had changed an agnostic’s heart within one hour. The amazing things missionaries are set apart to do. This has nothing to do with me or Sister Madsen. It’s all about the Lord’s work, and about what He needs accomplished.

I wish I could tell more stories, but we have been grounded to our apartments the next two days. This is the last trip we will have out until Wednesday morning. Three big storms are supposed to hit Rochester, so we get to do tons of work from our little apartment! We’ve got good stuff planned, though. Don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine. I’m just hoping that this will bring in the snow. I really need some!

Thanks for all of your prayers and support, I know I say that almost every week, but I’m serious. Getting letters in the mail and feeling prayers is the best thing in the world. It’s really nice to know that people don’t think you’re dead! So I appreciate it. I love you all, and have a great week.

BE HAPPY!

Sister Hawkes

 

 

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Planting Seeds…. One by One

Man, I love being in the mission field when stuff like this happens…I heard through the grapevine today that over 7,000 missionaries have submitted their papers in this past week alone. We’re having a Specialized Training on Thursday morning specifically for combat instructions when our fellow soldiers arrive. When we say we’re serving a mission, we’re serving a mission. Stay tuned next week for more details regarding the action plan.

We got a decent amount of time in our area this week, and also celebrating the first time to church for one of our investigators! She brought her family, and they really loved it. What a joy it is to sit next to a mother and her children during the sacrament, especially if they’ve never experienced it before. She is progressing wonderfully. We had another great lesson with her and a member who knows a lot of what she’s going through. Missionaries don’t go out to baptize the world, we go out to serve just as Christ would–one by one.

Sister Graham and I also got time to do some street contacting in Phelps. This village (yes, a village) is right outside Fayette. It’s amazing to me that something so big could happen just miles away where nobody knows the magnitude of it. Anyway, we came across a bearded man named Jim eating his lunch. My companion offered a mormon.org card with our contact information to him and asked if he had heard of the church before. He said he had grown up in Palmyra, and had made a trip to Salt Lake City before. He noted how nice the Mormons were and that he didn’t realize how important upstate New York was to us. We began just in a small conversation about it, then he eventually asked what two girls could do to change his heart. I said, “Do you really want to know? Our Heavenly Father created a Plan specifically for you–a way to get back to Him. He’s sent us to tell you about it. The best part is that we can’t force you to believe anything.” We then went on to explain how a person has to ask God with real intent, meaning he needs to commit to act on the answer he’s given. Then comes his next question, pretty sarcastically, “So you’re saying that I’ll get an answer straight from God.” Without any hesitation, Sister Graham and I both nodded our heads strongly and said, “YES.” It took him back a bit and it was silent for a few seconds. I said to him, “Jim, when we are done with this conversation, will you just ask Him if what we are telling you is true?” He said he would. We finished up our conversation, and went on our way. I don’t know what will ever come of that conversation. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. I know Jim felt the power of the Holy Ghost testify to him that whatever we said was true. Like I said, missionaries don’t “get baptisms,” we plant seeds.

We also had an opportunity to teach a recent convert about what my parents have taught me since day one. She wanted to know how her kids could stop being bullied at school. She was expecting us to have some amazing prophesy about it, but we simply  turned to 3 Nephi 12:44. “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” My mom always taught me to “Kill ’em with kindness,” so that’s exactly what I told her! After her realizing this was the right thing to do, she wrote it down and said, “I’M PUTTIN THIS ON FACEBOOK!” Mission accomplished.

Again, I love being in this mission. Days feel like years, and months seem like hours. Time is totally messing my brain up, but I absolutely would not trade this mission for the world. The decision to go was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, and the ability to change a human heart can not be duplicated. I want all of you this week to find somebody who needs that invitation to come closer to Christ, and invite them to do that. Sometimes it’s not words. Maybe it’s just a hug, maybe just a smile, or something simple as asking them to go out to dinner with you. Commit yourself to this invitation tonight while you’re talking to Heavenly Father. Like I said, you probably won’t know what will come of it. But I promise something will. Maybe you’ll save a life.

Thanks for the support and prayers! I love you all!

BE HAPPY!

Sister Hawkes

A New Self-Discovery

I’ve recently discovered that going completely out of the comfort zone…is my comfort zone.

This weekend alone, I took five full buses on tour at the respective sites I was working at. Two came at one time, and that was even after a long day of running and praying little kids wouldn’t break anything in the print shop, and that’s exhausting in itself. Well, let me back up. When each tour bus comes in, we have to brief them (Mom that’s a shout-out to you) on what’s going to happen. It seems that I am always picked to do the “briefing.” I explain who is in which group, what floor they are going to first, any announcements, and most important bring the Spirit…with a loud enough voice so everyone can hear me. I also seem to have really random questions asked that make it that more fun to try and make them have a great experience. So as I was teaching each of the groups, I noticed that I have this big push of energy that seems to come from out of nowhere. Of course I know Who provides it, and He always seems to energize me when I get in front of large crowds. Even on the drive home, we were totally exhausted, but I feel like I could have gone six hours of talking to people. That was easily one of the highest moments of my life. I was so extremely happy, because I could actually feel the Lord proud of me for what I had done.  Especially when I’m conversing with adults or old people. Oh man–I love old people. (Sorry–wrong term?) They have so much knowledge and want to learn even more, and the group conversations we get into are always fantastic. They really are interested in what me, a 21-year-old has to say, and that makes everything that much better.

Speaking of seniors, the senior couples here are absolutely incredible. I figured out why they are all so hilarious. It’s because they are retired, they are on a mission with their spouse and no one else, and the only argument they have is what is considered “dusk” to close up the sites. I’ve learned that even though they’ve gone through more trials than I even want to imagine, I look at them and they are so happy. They are so happy. They know what’s important in life and it’s not bills that need to be paid, someone at work causing you to be late, wondering how good they look in the mirror, but it’s doing everything that’s in their your power, and then trusting in the Lord. I have fifteen sets of grandparents that think their job is to care for the sisters. They would do absolutely anything for me. And vice versa–I would do anything for them! Sister Graham and I were commenting how we couldn’t imagine a mission without them. They complete the New York Rochester Mission.

Another comfort zone discovery is that I actually like to stick it to people. For example, today at TJ Maxx after this guy is almost done ringing up my purchase:

Cashier (26-ish year old guy): “So, are you like…a nun?”
Me (trying not to laugh hysterically): “No. I’m a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! Have you heard of it before?”
Cashier: “Nope. I don’t believe in God.”
Me: “YOU DON’T?! WHY??”
Tyler (I looked at his name tag) : “Whoa, um…I just don’t…”
Me: “Well, Tyler, I can promise you that there is one. Here’s a mormon.org card for you to go check it out! This is one of the coolest websites, and I can again promise you that you’ll relate to someone on there!”
Tyler: “No, I don’t believe in Mormons.”
Me: “Well, can you just take this card? I really know that you’re going to love it.”
Tyler: “Please don’t give me that card.”
Me: “Okay, well I know there’s a God! I hope you’re having a great day!”

Who knows if that was the correct approach. Maybe I should have been more loving and understanding on why Tyler didn’t believe in God. Actually…nah. How can I understand that? I can’t. So when people tell me they aren’t Mormon, or they don’t like the Mormons, you just shock them out of their pants and tell them what they’re missing out on something that could change their lives forever. That might ring a bell for them the next time they talk to a missionary. Then at the sites on Sunday, I came across a 19-year-old girl who was on the fence about turning in her mission papers. After the tour, her family was just wandering around and we started talking one-on-one. I told her how much this could change her life and was pretty insistent on her just going. Just about five minutes into our conversation, she sincerely thanked me for what I said, and told me that she was now seriously considering it. So you see, in just a short amount of time, you can change the way people think about themselves, the way people feel about themselves, and show them the way God feels about them. That’s what being a missionary is all about. That’s our comfort zone.

I better wrap this up, but one of the greatest compliments I ever received was, “I’m like my mom on steroids.” Well, I have to be! I only have a year left! Today was transfers, and the sister that came on my transfer but a year earlier, just went home. It’s really strange to think I’m already a third done. I don’t want to be a third done. I just got here. I need to do everything I can, and seriously duct tape this thing to full throttle. I love being a missionary, and even if I do no more than convince others to go on missions–it was worth it. Congrats to Nicole and Hannah for their decisions! Along with the anchors close behind in Sarah and Maddy. I know I’m missing MANY more others, but really, the decision to go is a decision of a lifetime. There’s absolutely nothing you will regret other than not going. “The Lord is getting ready to send His Priesthood army to the earth, and who better to send them to mothers who have served missions?” -President Hinckley (paraphrasing)

Thank you all for the support and prayers. It’s felt all the way here to New York. Harmers, thank you for the Jelly Bellies, stamps and letters…it made my whole week! I love you all…even if I am a nun. 🙂

BE HAPPY!

Sister Hawkes

My Mind is Completely Blown

MISSION AGE WHAT?! I don’t think anything has been ever discussed to more of an extent than the changing of missionary ages–while serving a mission.

I have been telling everyone (probably two or three times actually) that I have a 19-year-old sister and she’s turning in her mission papers, a 17-year-old sister who starts on her papers when I get home, and a brother that gets to go right after he graduates. How amazing that all of us kids get to serve missions? We watched the Saturday Morning session at the Hill Cumorah. When President Monson said the word “eighteen,” we started screaming, “He’s going to change the age! He’s going to change the age!!” Sure enough, age was changed to 18 to boys, and NINETEEN to girls. I’m totally not surprised, however. I have felt that the Lord was going to do something to forward this missionary work. I now know at least six nineteen year olds who have dropped everything to go right now, including two recent converts from the Lyons ward. This has a bigger impact than we all think–the missionary force will double, even triple. The Lord needs an army of strippling warriors to come out and fight hard. And guess what? Those of us serving right now will get to welcome in and train the new army. Talk about a responsibility. The gathering of Israel is real everyone, and it’s happening at it’s strongest right now. You are truly seeing continuing revelation at it’s finest which gives everyone an opportunity to take part in it. Good luck to the bishops and stake presidents out there that won’t have a life. 🙂

I’ll try to write somewhat of what we did this week–but this news basically trumps it all. Anyway, the rest of this week was fantastic as well. Not because it was easy, but because it was hard. We picked up three new investigators by tracting, but had got a baptismal date and dropped by one within four hours. We tried to reach former investigators, but none of them answered their doors, or they had moved. We’ve done lots of planning and having everything fall through. You’re wondering why I enjoyed this week so much. Two words: general conference. I had easily 10-15 questions written in my notebook that I needed answered. All of them were answered. Some word for word, and some not even said, but the Spirit brought something to my mind while watching a servant of the Lord speak. If you listen, the answer is always there. The Lord will never leave you hanging out to dry, He’ll put you in the place where you can see him the most. It’s up to you to listen or not. Sister Graham and I have been listening hard, and it’s been coming.

Honestly, that’s what our week has consisted of. Tracting, planning, and falling through’s. Thank goodness for general conference! It is a missionary’s dream. Hearing revelation straight from a living prophet, words of advice from His servants, and gorgeous music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Having such an opposite experience to our week is true happiness. You can’t experience true joy without experiencing true sorrow. I noticed also that there was a lot of talk about “leaving your nets” and following Christ. There are so many analogies you can make to this–obviously my favorite is dropping everything to come serve a mission. The time has come for you to get up and serve. The Lord didn’t reveal this call for missionaries just because. He needs you to be the front runners in this vast army of soldiers. He needs more bodies, literally bodies, to come and do the work that most people can’t do for themselves. Instead of fighting with guns, swords and shields, we are fighting with the Book of Mormon which is the strongest weapon anyone can ever hold in their hands. It has the power to change a human heart, and no manufactured product could ever do that. Don’t contemplate serving the Lord, just go. He needs you. Don’t worry that “you don’t know anything.” You’re right, you don’t know anything. It’s not about you. It’s all about the Lord, and He teaches you everything you need to know in the very hour you need to know it. All you have to do is study hard…really hard.

D&C 4: “Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men…therefore, if ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work.”

Now, who wants to come join me in the field?

Sister Hawkes

p.s. BE HAPPY!

Duct Tape it to Full Throttle

This week has been one of the best weeks of my life.

Mission President interviews were on Wednesday, with some extremely exciting news!! Mom and Dad (Grandma and Grandpa too) get ready to send me some Spanish materials, because…I’M STUDYING SPANISH!! That was one of the first things he brought up. I told him in one of my letters that I take Spanish tours sometimes at the sites…and I only say about half in Spanish because I don’t know the rest. He encouraged me to start studying the language so I can communicate with more people and help them feel the spirit! It is wonderful. So, if anyone has good Spanish materials I can study, they would be much appreciated. I’ve almost got the First Vision memorized.

We planned to take our investigator, Sandee, to the Relief Society Broadcast with us. We called her a couple hours before it started, and unfortunately said she couldn’t make it. We’ve also been having a hard time finding her a ride to church. (Our area is about the size of South Salt Lake.) Sister Graham and I were so bummed, and immediately went into one of the rooms in the chapel to ask our Heavenly Father what to do. (It’s very nice to be able to go straight to the source.) I offered one of the most sincere prayers of my life, asking Him to help us know how to get her to Church, how to teach her, and how to let her know that this is important. After I was done, we just sat there, hoping to think of anything we could do. We thought of some ideas, and then opened the door to walk out. And lo and behold…our bishop is standing right there! Sister Graham and I both just look up and smile. He was probably caught way off guard because we were ecstatic to see him. We told him the situation, and all three of us thought of some great ideas to get Sandee to church. As of yesterday, we found a solution for her to come and feel the spirit. If I learned nothing else, it was teaching me how much one person means to God. The same amount of work is placed one one person, as if it were a hundred. Exactly like the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

And I haven’t even gotten to how the Broadcast was impacted on my personal goals. Remember my “prove me now moments?” I decided to take a brand-new notebook, and write a question on the top of each page. At first, I thought, “this might be too much for Heavenly Father, these are a lot of questions.” Then I thought about my own question. Too much for Heavenly Father? Wow, that was stupid. I kept on writing more questions down. I had about six or seven different questions that I had been thinking about. And guess what? Each one was answered. But that’s not the coolest part. They are still being answered during my personal study and other meetings and conferences. So I’ve dated each question, and also dated each answer. It’s really neat to have my own little Doctrine and Covenants. Anyway, after this experiment, I found myself explaining it to a family in a tour at the Smith Farm. (Well, it was actually two families. One was a part-member family, and the other was a family who’s son was about to serve a mission.) I explained how helpful it had been, and encouraged them to do the same thing. When I finished, the mom of the future missionary said, “I don’t believe it, what you just said was an answer to my question.” She is a seminary teacher and has been wondering for so long how to prepare her students for upcoming General Conference. When I explained it, she realized that that was exactly what she needed to do. I then looked over to the non-member in our tour, and I swear I saw her wipe a tear away! She even promised that she would write down a few questions this weekend. Another lady said, “I’m going to text all of my friends and tell them to do that!” You see, it was a small and simple thing, with great things brought to pass. By being an empty vessel for the Lord, I was able to just blurt out something I had never even thought about, bless the lives of the people present, bless the mother’s seminary class, and bless all of that woman’s friends. I’ve learned over and over again that the Lord never wastes His time with His missionaries.

Right after I finished this incredible tour, who else comes out of the Frame Home other than Shawn Stringham! Oh my goodness it was so good to see her. I got to take her and her family through the Threshing Barn and the Cooper Shop, and then the best part–walk with them through the Sacred Grove. Like I said, it was an incredible day. We even went to go see a referral, who Sister Graham and I immediately adored. Her name is Amanda, and she’s a cancer survivor. We can’t wait to go teach her again.

I should probably explain the subject of this e-mail before I finish. In the broadcast, President Eyring spoke about working hard in any capacity that you have. He quoted President Hinckley saying “I’ll duct tape this to full throttle until someone else is called.” What a good visual to know how hard you should work. The Lord won’t give you anything you can’t handle. Check out 1 Nephi 3:7 for more information. It’s made me even more motivated to do all that I can to make sure none of the Lord’s time is wasted. It’s been on my mind all week, and has affected each of the experiences I told you about.

Time to go, but just know that I love you, and I love the Lord so very very much. We are so blessed.

BE HAPPY!

Sister Hawkes