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!