If you give a missionary a microphone…

It’s the most wonderful time…to be a missionary. Where do I even start? I wish you could all see my journal from the past week.
 
Monday: If I could just record a typical day in a missionary’s life…TODAY WAS THE DAY. Everything cancelled on us.
Tuesday: Great day. Lots of psychotherapy.
Wednesday: Today was another one of those days when I never want to leave the mission field.
Thursday: My legs hurt. Can I say that again? My legs hurt.
Friday: I’m really glad today is over.
Saturday: This was the best day of my life.
Sunday: I lied. THIS was the best day of my life.
 
The highlight of the week helped me cross something off my bucket list: singing with a live jazz band. One of the greatest men in our ward, Jerry Johnson, plays the jazz guitar like you’ve never seen before. He put together a band awhile ago, and they do concerts all over western New York. I told him one day at Church that I love to sing jazz…and that ended up in an impromptu concert at the Albion library on Wednesday! We came to support him while they were performing a Christmas show, and the pianist asked me to get up and sing the last two numbers. There was at least 20 people there–not too many, but it was so much fun. I sang Silent Night first, then ended with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. When we finished, one of the women in the audience yelled, “who are you?” We all laughed, but it gave me one of the greatest opportunities to bear my testimony. I talked about how Sister Torres and I are just two of thousands of missionaries across the world, and that we decidate 18 months to 2 years of our lives to talk about how Jesus Christ is our Savior. I told them what He meant to me, and invited them to check out mormon.org. We did go up and speak to a few people individually, those we could catch, but they politely declined a Christmas message. Who knows if anything came from it? All I know is that I felt the spirit bearing witness to me and to them it was true. It was Heavenly Father again granting me a wish of speaking to as many people as possible in the smallest amount of time–something that I’ve prayed for since I turned in my papers.
 
Yesterday was also a memorable day. We went to share more Christmas messages with members from the ward and their friends. The first home we went to is someone who I very highly respect. Mary is a single mother, and served four years in the Marine Corps. Let me tell you–she gets things done. As we were having a great conversation about how Christ is the center of our gospel, we hear the doorbell ring. Mary kinda looks at us like, “here we go.” She walks up to the door and we hear a “no thanks, we’re LDS. Actually, we have the missionaries over right now…” That was my cue to stand up and go over to the door, and introduce myself with a very firm handshake. I easily stood a foot taller than both of them! You shoulda seen their faces when I gave them a mormon.org card with a smile and told them this is where you find the fulness of the gospel. They were extremely nice people, and I wished so bad that we could have a nice conversation on the couch. They seemed very hestitant to come in, so Mary just let them go and we went back to talking. In the moment, it was just a funny picture to have in my head. I also don’t know if I’ve ever had a stronger confirmation of the truth in my heart. Living in Utah, it was my first time talking with missionaries from other religions, and it just confirmed to me that what I was doing was right. It’s different having the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
 
As you can see, Christmas as a missionary is the greatest. If people aren’t totally receptive, at least they are nicer. Instead of a door-slam, it’s a “we appreciate what you’re doing for Christ, but we’re all set.” It’s definitely a lot better! We had a great discussion about that at the Christmas Devotional on Tuesday with half the mission. The Rochester and Buffalo zones got together to hear President and Sister Christianson speak, have musical numbers, and watch “The Ultimate Gift.” I got caught in a moment in time where I wanted this train to stop, and park at “being a missionary” in my life for a few more minutes. These past seven months have seemed like hours, and I can’t handle it if it goes by any faster. There’s not enough time to learn everything I want to learn. There’s not enough time to serve the people I want to, and certainly not enough time to realize everything that is taking place.
 
Last week I asked if any of you had friends that could use the Church in their lives–have you pondered on it long enough? If you haven’t, keep thinking about it and invite them to learn from the missionaries. I can promise you that it will absolutely change the way they think of lfe, and may even change the way they think about you. You could become someone’s richest blessing. Keep thinking about it.
 
Thanks for the Christmas letters and packages some of you have sent. They are waiting to be opened underneath our little Christmas tree! I appreciate the prayers and the love. Oh, one more thing, President Christianson emphasized again in the last meeting that online proselyting is skyrocketing, and we need to be doing as much as we can. I’m putting each of my letters home on my blog: sistermonicahawkes.wordpress.com. If any of you have a blog, will you link mine to yours? Also, could you think of ways to get this wonderful message about Christ out in your own words? I’ve noticed a lot that people are scared of talking face-to-face, and we get a lot more work done online than you think. More often than not our referrals come from mormon.org. If you need ideas, and/or examples about how this online thing should really work, look up Al Fox on Facebook or google. She was baptized in this mission a few years ago, and has taken online proselyting to the next level–without a nametag on. 
 
Merry Christmas, and BE HAPPY!
 
Hermana Hawkes

Follow the Prophet…He Knows the Way

I’m not lying when I say this was the best week of my life.

 
Nothing spectacular happened…just being a servant of the Lord will always be the best week of anyone’s life. I can’t even begin to type out in words the joy that comes from being a missionary. I know I say that every week.
 
Recently our Commander in Chief Monson asked us to spend some more time contacting LARCs (Less Active/Recent Convert) and working with members and their friends. They want us to do less tracting and more teaching. My personal theory on why they emphasized it: the greater the knowledge, the greater the responsibility. Father in Heaven knows something we don’t know–like when Christ is coming again. I don’t think those thoughts need to be expanded. Anyway, being exactly obedient, we have been seeing many people that haven’t come to church in a while. There’s a plethora of reasons why they choose to not have those blessings for themselves, including taking offense, being prideful, not having enough faith, etc. I’ve never been more bold in the past seven months than I have this week. And there’s been a lot seeing the fruits of my labor because of it! Three LA families at church yesterday. Oh yes.
 
We’ve been taking one of the greatest 17-year olds, Casey, around with us. Casey got baptized last year, and was a total golden referral. She can see through the investigator’s eyes…because she was one of them. I don’t know how we teach without her now! She just applied to BYU, and I am praying so hard that she gets to go. Casey is one of those girls that BYU was made for. She comes from a non-religious background, laughed at the missionaries when they showed up at her door, but gave Him a chance and found Christ at a critical time in her life–without any family support. Now, there’s nothing she’d rather do than serve the Lord. Her hard work, dilligence, and patience all combine together perfectly for an extremely mature girl who needs friends just like her. Anyway, that’s my Casey rant. I wish I could have been more like her at her age. She’s ready to tackle the world. Being with her, I’ve realized that I can change lives. (I know…you’d think a missionary would know that by now.) But it’s one of those things that just clicked. It’s not any of my power to do it with. It’s the power that was given me of the Lord to literally change the hearts of those who are seeking for the truth, even if they don’t even know it yet.
 
While hunting down those that have wandered, we’ve been so blessed with more people in our teaching pool than we can handle right now. We ask everyone for referrals and more often than not they give it to us. We were even making pancakes for a woman in our ward, and her non-member friend, Jim, walks in. (Not a coincidence.) He sees our nametags and says, “Where is wisdom found in the Bible?” Of course we shared James 1:5 with him, but he wasn’t satisfied. He kept asking us the same question over and over. “Proverbs,” he said. He told us he was a non-denominational minister, and knows a lot about the Bible. We started to tell him about the Restoration focusing more on the Apostacy. Eventually he said, “You girls know what you’re talking about. Do you have a pamphlet I can have?” (OH YEAH WE DO!) And we gave one to him. We invited him to the Christmas party the next day, he was there 30 minutes early, and had a great time. We have a lesson set for Wednesday. Jim is one of those that is humble enough to accept what feels to be true, even though he was brought up somewhere else. Miracle 1 of 100 from following the prophet.
 
Miracle 2 of 100: After a long night of plans and backup plans being cancelled, Sister Torres and I decided to visit a former investigator, Maria. We weren’t sure she was going to be home, because all of the notes in the area book told us that she is always busy and hard to get a hold of. Regardless, we tried it. As we were walking to her doorstep, she opens the door to let the cat out, and looked a little surprised to see us. Nonetheless, she let us in. We saw a bunch of wrapping paper and Christmas presents spread out, so we offered to help her with the job. We started a small conversation, which ended up to her telling us that she had prayed that someone could help her with wrapping the gifts. It was something that she hated to do, since her children were grown out of the house, and it wasn’t a “family project” anymore. It was a small task to remind her that she again lived alone. Little did we know she prayed to our Heavenly Father about this, and little did I know that it was a prompting from the spirit to visit her. She told us it was an answer to her prayers and even let us teach her while we were helping her. She wasn’t wrapping these presents alone anymore–she didn’t have to do anything alone anymore. I never knew that I would have one of “those” moments on my mission…and at the same token I couldn’t have told you it was a spiritual impression. But after pondering, I realized what we had done. We followed the still small voice to lead us to “comfort those who stand in need of comfort.” Let me tell you, that voice is really small.
 
Being on a mission teaches you the mindset of how to live the rest of your life. In high school, it was all about boys, school and work. That’s not what life is about at all. If I learn anything coming out of the mission field, it will be how to love people, and how to keep Christ centered on your thoughts. I never realized how much of a real life experience being on a mission is. I thought it was an escape from the world, but it is “real-life” training in it’s entirety. Nothing else is important. Sharing the gospel with others is the most productive thing you could ever do in your lifetime. In fact…I’ll give whoever is reading this a challenge. Because that’s what we do as missionaries–challgenge people. As Visitors’ Center sisters, we have access to send people’s contact information straight to the mission office in which they live. Will you all think of someone that you know that could seriously use the gospel? We all need it. But some may be fighting for it more than others at this point in their life. Maybe they just lost a parent, had a baby, moved to a new house, or switched into your class at school. If you feel comfortable enough, I would be more than honored to send servants of Jesus Christ over to their home to explain how they can have more peace in this life. Just send me their contact info, and a message from you, and I’ll make sure it gets to them. If you don’t have anyone in mind right now–think and ponder it, and get back with me. If you already know the missionaries in their home town, great! Give it to them. Then we can all be following the prophet.
 
Tonight we are headed to the Joseph Smith Farm to have a huge FHE with the Rochester area! Caroling, entertainment…it’s going to be so fun. Then tomorrow is our Christmas devotional and I’m doing a couple of musical numbers; one with Sister Raines and Elder Hole, and another with a few other sisters. I feel like I’m at a family reunion when I go to those meetings! Especially last night at the Rochester Mormon Choir! I’ve never felt so at home. I never ever want to leave this place. You may call me obsessed with missionary work…probably because I am! I think it’s because I’m finding more and more weaknesses in myself that I need to get fixed. Overcoming a weakness is the most fulfilling obstacle in the world.
 
I hope you are all having a great Christmas season. Spend time serving others by giving them your time to help them what they need help with. I’m also loving getting these Christmas cards from other people. and thanks Reading Ward for all of your letters! I loved them. Oh, and whoever can go see the lights on Temple Square for me this week, do it. Thanks, I appreciate it.
 
BE HAPPY!
 
Hermana Hawkes
 
 
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Deck the Streets

Another amazing, but hard week. I don’t know how anyone can top serving the Lord by walking down old little main street in Brockport, underneath Christmas lights, and getting doors slammed in your face. This is the best Christmas ever.
We decorated our apartment! Not by much…it screams missionary. We got a two-foot Christmas tree from the office and strung some lights across the window, and tried to make it look “homey.” For two sisters who don’t have other missionaries within 50 miles…it looks pretty good. If any other returned missionaries have any ideas, they are always welcome.
Finding investigators was on the top of our priority list this week. We did tons of street contacting, tracting, and referral asking. As a missionary, you really have to talk to EVERYONE. There is no one that you can let get by. I always think to myself, “will I regret not talking to them?” The answer is always yes. We talk to everyone. The other part of street contacting is trying not to be awkward. Sometimes, we find ourselves doing a zig-zag dance while walking down the street to give them a Mormon.org card. Sometimes I just want to say to them, “You should know we’re going to talk to you. We’re trying to make you happy here.”
We also met a wonderful lady named Anne. Missionaries have done service for her in the past, but they’ve always told us that she wasn’t interested at all in what we had to say because she grew up Catholic. Psh, yeah right, like I’m going to take their word for it. On Tuesday, while we were packing up some boxes in her home, we asked her if she’d like to join us at scripture study that night. “Sure! I’d love that!” (I wonder what these missionaries actually asked her…) Anyway, we planned on meeting her at the chapel about ten minutes before it started. We got a call from her telling us that she wouldn’t be able to come because some Diet Coke exploded in her freezer. It was obvious it was Satan that was trying to get her not to go, so we showed up at her house and offered to clean it up so she could come with us. She agreed and we had it clean in no time, and on she went with us to scripture study.
We introduced her to the group and had a wonderful discussion about the gospel of Matthew. We kept going back and forth between the Bible and the Book of Mormon of course, and had great insights from everyone, including Anne. At the end of the night, she raises her hand and says, “So you’ve been going back and forth between another book I assume. Who is Joseph Smith, and where can I get a copy of this book?” Oh man, you should have seen the look on the High Priest Group Leader’s face. He looked at us like, “what have you guys been doing all day?” Another woman got really excited to tell her and gave her a synopsis of the Restoration. She explained (before we could even get a word in) that she could have us come by and teach her. She accepted rather quickly…and there you have it. A new investigator.
The next day we went out to teach her. (FYI, we did tell her a little about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon before the scripture study…not a total fail on our part.) We started by going over the Restoration in pretty good detail. We explained how the Book of Mormon is just another testament of Jesus Christ, and it in fact, proves that the Bible is even true. We started wandering from the plans we had to teach her, and started talking about the Spirit and how it speaks to us. Hermana Torres showed her Helaman 5:30. She just stopped talking, and had tears in her eyes. “I’ve felt that. I’ve had the Spirit speak to me. I know what that feels like.” It was one of those moments in missionary work when you think that it’s all worth it, and you can have as many doors slammed in your face and you don’t even care. We explained what the Spirit was, and how she explained she’s felt previous, was spot on. We explained that the Book of Mormon contained the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and how she can find out if it’s true or not through that Spirit that she’s already familiar with. She stopped talking again, had more tears, and said, “I always knew there was more. I always knew there was more.
We can’t let people pass by. We have to tell them there is more. They won’t know until they experience it, and there are only so many of us set-apart missionaries in the world right now. Tell your friends. Tell everyone. Shout this stuff from the rooftops. I would absolutely hate for you to have the experience of having someone come up to you in the spirit world and say, “why didn’t you tell me?” That would easily be the hardest thing to swallow.
The lesson with Anne was probably the highlight of my week. We had the opportunity to go to the temple with a woman from our ward, and we even got a surprise visit from President yesterday at Church. He pulled us out of Gospel Doctrine, “don’t worry, no one died. I just had you two on my mind all night and wanted to know how you were doing.” He even got our hopes up and told us that he really wanted to send the two of us to downtown Buffalo Spanish speaking…but since we’ve got 21 new missionaries coming in January (!!) he will send some elders out there. It is so amazing how President and Sister Christianson are SO in tune with the spirit.. I can’t think of anything significant that the Spirit could have told them to come to us, but it was such a comfort to know that even though he has plenty to do, he even cares about the tiniest little things. It’s just like our Heavenly Father. If we pay enough attention, He will send angels our way to help comfort us.
One more piece of exciting news…I got a call from my former companion Sister Graham telling me that a young girl we found and taught is getting baptized on the 22nd!  It’s a miracle. She’s 14 years old and told Sister Graham she really wants me to be there. Cross your fingers that I’ll get to go. She even told me of another FAMILY we found and taught that has accepted baptism, too. (I would be gone for a week, and have this happen for the first time on my mission.) It’s working! It’s actually working!
Thanks for all of your support, especially during this Christmas season. I love you all!
BE HAPPY!
Hermana Hawkes
p.s. Crystal was early to Church yesterday wearing her brand-new sweater, complete with a huge smile on her face. Mission accomplished.
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Clay in His Hands

Could someone try to explain how it feels to be ripped out from a place, then to completely fall in love with another part of the vineyard…in less than seven days? Impossible.

Brockport has been incredible so far. We started off at the college (SUNY) to have lunch with a recent convert and her friend, a returned missionary. It was a great, but super weird introduction to Brockport. I was on campus again! There were people my age. In normal clothes. Not wearing nametags. What?! Then we’ve put up gobs of Christmas decorations, including dancing Santas on the front porch, candy canes nailed in the garden, blow-up reindeer…you name it. But as I’m sure of all the other missionaries recall after getting transferred, you walk into someone’s house and they say, “Wait, where did Elder/Sister_____ go?!” Then you feel awkward because you’re not them. You’re the new girl. But you get used to it, and then it’s fine. Yesterday was my first Sunday in the Brockport ward. They put me right to work–I gave the invocation in Sacrament meeting, taught Gospel Principles, and played the piano in Relief Society! We’ve got about 80-90 very strong people in the ward. It’s FANTASTIC. It’s a small congregation, but everyone does their calling. It really is amazing what can happen when everyone does their calling. Because of one woman doing her visiting teaching, I get to share with you this great experience I’ll never forget.

On Thursday, we went to go read the Book of Mormon with Crystal. Crystal has been a member for about thirty years, but hasn’t come to church since. However, she loves reading the Book of Mormon with her visiting teacher each month and loves the sister missionaries. Now the greatest mystery in my head was, “Why doesn’t she come to church then?” So…I asked her. She explained to me that over the years she’s gained a lot of weight and has been struggling with bad acne, she doesn’t like showing her face to anyone except her visiting teacher and the sister missionaries. I didn’t really know what to say to her in the moment, so we tried to explain to her that our Heavenly Father loves her the way she is, and wants her to come partake of the Sacrament to renew her baptismal covenants, and in turn, get closer to Him. It didn’t really look like it sunk, but we were already late to another appointment so we had to get going. In the car, Sister Torres and I were just talking about what more we could do to get her back to church. Obviously her saint of a visiting teacher–who is 87–and sister missionaries have been trying for a long time to figure out what to do. Of course I asked myself, “What would Sharlene do?” And lo and behold…a stroke of genius. A makeover.

Let me clarify a little. In my mother’s eyes, makeovers are not girls watching chick flicks, putting on purple eye shadow and blue mascara. It’s simply showing them how to bring out their beauty, and build their physical confidence to achieve anything. I thought of what she does for the Veterans’ wives and daughters at the Miss America Pageant…why couldn’t we do the same thing? “Hermana Torres! Get Crystal on the phone! We need to go over on Saturday night and have a girls’ night!” (That’s what we called it.) She answered her phone and we asked her if that would be okay. She kinda hesitated, because no one had ever wanted to have a “girls’ night” with her. But she accepted rather quickly and sounded really excited for us to come over. When Saturday night finally came, we headed over to her place. She had ready all the makeup she could find, and got right to work.

Before I go on, I want to turn to the Savior. In Matthew 9:28-30 it reads, “Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, according to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were opened.”

At the very moment when I was showing a woman how to make herself more confident, I thought of the Savior and all that He did. He used his hands for everything. He used them to raise the dead, to heal leprosy, to calm waters, and to give sight to the blind. I was literally opening someone’s eyes to their own personal beauty with my own two hands. I couldn’t help but be absolutely overwhelmed at the thought that I, little Sister Hawkes, was the “clay in His hands.” When we were done she took her mirror, something she hasn’t picked up in a long time, and couldn’t put it down. She kept looking at herself, and her smile was just beaming. She had absolutely no idea that it was possible. Then I looked at her and said, “now can you come to Church?” While she was still looking in the mirror, she agreed, but only to Sacrament meeting. (Hey, we’ll take what we can get!) We arranged a ride for the next morning. What made it even better was that Crystal invited her sister to join us that night, who isn’t a member of the church. Hermana Torres spent quite a bit of time listening to her. Anyway, the next morning at church, there was Crystal, in her nicest clothes with a brand new necklace. She stayed all three hours, and her visiting teacher even pulled me aside and said she came out of her house smiling like it was the first day of school for a first grader. I don’t tell you this to pat myself on the back. This is a direct answer to my prayer.

When I first got here, I felt like everyone wanted the old Sister back, and that I was just the “new girl.” It’s really annoying how Satan tries to tear you apart. (It’s never going to work!) “Nevertheless, after much tribulation, the Lord did hear my cries, and did answer my prayers, and has made me an instrument in his hands in bringing so many of you to a knowledge of the truth.” -Mosiah 23:10 Missionary work, done one person at a time, will bring thousands into the knowledge that they are beautiful sons and daughters of God. The light will always overpower darkness. Satan’s going to try and attack everyone from the inside out, so literally, it’s up to you to put a stop to it. Being happy is a conscious choice. It is something that is one of the hardest things to maintain, but the most rewarding thing that could ever happen to a human being.

Thanks for all of the love, continually….it’s felt from all the way out here! Even though I’ve got a nametag on, it doesn’t mean that we all can’t lift someone up this week. Try complimenting someone who you feel is in need. If you ask Heavenly Father, He’ll provide. I’m a living proof. I hope you all have a great and wonderful holiday week!

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes