Changing of the Guard

It is President Christianson’s last week in office. President Francis gets here on Monday!

While we watched the biggest zone conference of our lives on Sunday with Elder Holland conducting, we saw the camera pan over President Francis and his wife. All of us missionaries felt it–it was a rush of peace knowing that he was the man for the job. It’s been hard to watch President Christianson give his “last” everything, but the Spirit has quickly and quietly testified to all of us that President Francis will bring the Cradle of the Restoration to a whole new level. It was a small miraculous act that I’m sure the producers and directors of the meeting didn’t know they were doing.

 

Now, I can’t blow past talking about the meeting and not still be in complete awe. I don’t know if I’ve expressed this–I know I have to my family–but I’ve had a confusing time trying to figure out why I don’t cry. I mean, I do, but not nearly as much as I thought I’d be, or as other missionaries do. (It’s not just in Relief Society–our biggest criers are the elders!) I think I’ve cried five or six times on my mission, with Sunday night being one of them. With all of the spiritual stuff that’s happening to me, I expected it a lot more. Anyway, there was no expectation of what this worldwide leadership training would be, but I got out my notebook and knew it would be fabulous whatever it was. Well, to my surprise, when the choir sang “I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go,” and the genius producers who put those video clips to match it, I couldn’t stop the tears running down my eyes. I’ve been pondering a lot lately about how to effectively make my home an individual MTC/mission experience for each of my kids. If any of you watched it, you know how exact my answer was. Each child in the clip had their own life, but at the beginning and end of the day, their family came together in prayer and scripture study. I was overwhelmed at the blessing of having children grow up in the gospel, and influence their friends from the first day they introduce themselves. I know they have to learn it on their own, but I’d give almost anything for them to have the same experience I’m having right now. And I don’t even know them! Right after realizing that, I was again engulfed by the love I had for my mission, so of course, I cried even more. Alright, enough admitting for me!

 

OH! I almost forgot! Guess who our new roommate is?! Sister Brianne Noble from Centerville! Seriously, the Lord has the most perfect timing. We have all the same friends, but she just got to Viewmont right when I graduated. Sarah is actually friends with Melissa–so that makes the “coming on a mission” thing a lot less weird for the both of us. We’ve instantly become soul-sisters…she’s inspired me so much. So, of course, our little quad-ship is really fun. Sister West & Noble, and Sister Steel and I. It’s always a party…well let’s be honest…serving in the NYRM is always a party. It’s also surreal for me to think I’m the old fogey of the sister missionaries, there are just two sisters older than me in the mission. Since when did I get to be on my mission for so long? This is the time I really gotta get going!

 

Out of our twenty minutes we had in our area this week (not an exaggeration) we saw a pretty big miracle happen. I’m not sure if I told you about a couple we were teaching, Ed and Barbara, but we made some good progress on them a couple nights ago. They have been “investigating” for awhile now. Clarification: they said they want to know more truth, more light and knowledge, and they believe it comes from us. However, the told us they weren’t budging from their religion. We assured them their desires were plenty to continue to learn at a fast rate. Anyway, we had a great lesson on faith, and how listening with your heart is more important than listening with your head. It was a lesson full of inspired questions, which really got them thinking. We asked them to ask Heavenly Father if we were true messengers, and if what we were saying wasn’t crazy. During the closing prayer, Barbara thanked Heavenly Father for sparing her life this week (after being hospitalized) and also asked Him to start leading her from the path she was on, into the right direction of where she should go. I haven’t heard her admit to her Heavenly Father anything of that nature yet, and we both knew it was the Spirit guiding her prayers. She was finally listening with her heart. “For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith.” -D&C 98:12

 

There’s also been miracle on top of miracle going on at the historical sites, too. Nothing too out of the ordinary here in New York. 🙂 My courage to stand up for what I believe in has gotten stronger every day, but I think the most important lesson I’ve learned throughout my whole mission, so far, is that each person has an individual role to play on this earth. Yeah, yeah…everyone tells you that in Primary. But REALLY. You have something inside of your spiritual DNA that is part of God’s DNA. He created plants, animals, trees–but you are His child. He didn’t create you because He was bored; He desperately needs that something you have to bless other people. But you won’t know until you ask Him, really study your gift, and acknowledge it in everyday life. Specifically ask Him to tell you how He sees you. I promise you that once you learn it, you will be a tireless worker.

 

BE HAPPY!
Hermana Hawkes

Are you thrilled?

I’m so exhausted.
I guess when the Lord says to “wear ourselves out in the work,” He really means it. On Wednesday we had a couple of youth conference buses from Virginia, then Friday alone we had six of them come through in just a couple hours. I almost lost my voice, but thankfully the Lord even cares about that if you have enough faith.

 

The Joseph Smith Farm was on Wednesday, which means I got to take half the youth through Joseph’s stomping grounds. They split into young men and young women–and I got to take the young women. It was a powerful hour filled with testimony and the Spirit. When we got to the threshing barn, I wanted them to think of symbolism of the Atonement while I explained the threshing process. I’m not sure if you know the process, but it has a lot to do with beating, grinding, and more beating. Google it, if you don’t know what it is. Anyway, when I finished this simple explanation, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that the Spirit had slithered His way through each of the girls and they had learned a lot more about the Savior then they thought they were coming here for. After about ten seconds of silence, a quote I had read earlier in personal study popped into my head, which of course I shared. “No woman is a more vibrant instrument in the hands of the Lord than a woman of God who is thrilled to be who she is.” -Sheri DewImmediately I noticed one of the leaders in the back just about lose it. Tears were heavily flowing from her face, and I could feel the Lord literally putting words in my mouth. We spent a couple more minutes bearing testimony before we moved onto the Cooper Shop to do the same thing. Those are the moments when I really know that I can not do this on my own.

 

Going back to the “regular, every day” schedule of a missionary in the NYRM, we’ve had a few minutes (yes, I said minutes) in Irondequoit this week. On Tuesday, we decided go through the ward list to pick out a less-active that we could invite back to church. She didn’t answer, so we had a few more minutes to hand out some more invitations to the Hill Cumorah Pageant. (It’s our excuse for conversation starting when people see the name tag and run.) Across the street were two women walking their dogs. We made a b-line for them and treated the situation as if they had just been invited to opening night of Wicked. We invited them, and they were a little hesitant about attending. However, like we always do before we leave someone, we ask if we can help do their dishes or weed their garden. Carole turns to Sister Steel, puts her hand on her shoulder and yells, “You can weed?! GOD IS REAL!” Now, I’m sure that was a second-nature reaction to her fun personality that we had just now seen, but the second part of that I really wanted to emphasize with her. We both jumped on it, “YES! God is real! He listens to your prayers, and He has sent us to you to help you with whatever you need!” I really felt like Joseph Smith in the new Restoration movie, when a woman walks up to him and tells him she doesn’t like his religion, but she appreciates his service. All Joseph says is, “Well, I’d say that is our religion, ma’am.” It was a wonderful teaching opportunity, expecially when she said she had been praying for something to come help her weed her garden. Just because we have a few minutes, doesn’t mean we can’t do any work. We scraped some time, and found an hour to go on Friday. She ended up feeding us after, and we ended up teaching her the Restoration and half of the Plan of Salvation. Not too interested yet, but the key word there is: yet. 🙂

 

Exercise update: thanks to mom, P90X arrived this week! I’ve gone for a whole month without it, since Sister Johnson stayed in Brockport! However, Sister Steel and I have been waking up at 5:50 a.m. to run to one of the inner-city high school tracks. It’s nice to have a full hour each morning (well, about five days a week) to compensate how much we get fed. I don’t think it’s still enough, but I’ll worry about that later!

 

All I want to do is take a nap, but I’ll get that when I have time…like in October. It’s such a happy tired, but it’s making the time go by way too fast. I do want to mention that I’ve been studying the modern version of the “Wheat and the Tares” parable, and I’ve made a list of “Satan mimicks” that we have in our world today. Some include: fasting/anorexia, tithing/gambling, and to “get rid” of your pain, sacrament/alcohol. I’d encourage you to think of more, because it has increased my vision of how wicked Satan has made out the world to be, and on the same token, how real God is. (Thanks to Carole!) He wants to see us succeed, and He is “thrilled” to what you’ve turned out to be. Now, keep going!

 

BE HAPPY!
Hermana Hawkes

Because we believe in Jesus Christ…

For President Christianson’s last Zone Conference on Wednesday, we held it in the Sacred Grove. Remember how I told you last week I wasn’t going to play the violin because I couldn’t get one in time? Well, I got a call at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning telling me I now had a violin…which gave me 15 minutes to practice something! I chose “How Great Thou Art.” It actually went really well. I can’t believe after ten years of not playing, my Father in Heaven helped me out to 1) play the thing, and 2) play it in tune. I now know why my family had to endure many years of noise coming from the living room. It was because I had to perform in the Sacred Grove on my mission! It doesn’t end there…after we got back to the Palmyra chapel for the last half of the conference, President asked me to play another musical number to quickly get the spirit there. I had played around with “Abide With Me, ‘Tis Eventide,” a few times previous, and that was really my only option. Because that night, they had pre-asked me to do yet another musical number at site meeting, and I couldn’t play that twice in one day. At site meeting, I sang and play, “A Child’s Prayer.” That also went really well. However, I know people want a change-up…but this is what happens when no one else says yes! Moral of the story: say yes when people ask you do to do something, or else you’re going to have to hear from the same people over and over again. Regardless, it was really fun. I forgot how much music was and is such a huge part of my life.

 

Anyway, at Zone Conference for the main portion of the meeting, President just asked us to ask him any question in the book. Any doctrinal, spiritual…any question, and he would answer it. We started asking him some pretty tough questions that we’ve been asked, but he started every question with the phrase, “Because we believe in Jesus Christ, we…” It was amazing. We quizzed him about the Apocrypha, what Transfiguration does, the difference between sanctification and justification…you name it, he answered it using that phrase. President helped us realize that no matter what comes our way, we always start with Christ. If we make Him the focal point of anything, He will teach the righteous and confound the wicked. He’s kinda like a meteorologist–He can see the storms coming, but doesn’t cause them. He tells us exactly what we need to know, only if we watch Him.

 

Now for one of my favorite “deep doctrinal” thoughts that President had us think about:

 

“If God and Jesus Christ traveled at the speed of light, they would’ve had to leave the place near Kolob when Lehi left Jerusalem to get here in time for Joseph Smith…and they wouldn’t even be back Home yet. If you ARE the light, you don’t have to travel anywhere. You’re already there.” -President

 

Give that some thought about the importance of light and Christ! Study John 14. Needless to say, the Zone Conference in the Grove was life-changing.

 

Anyway, considering the two or three hours Sister Steel and I have had in Irondequoit this week, we’ve gotten a lot of things done! We taught Jessica the importance of the Plan of Happiness, and we’re going back tonight to talk to her and her family about the importance and blessing of eternal families. We brought a member, Ivie, with us, and she’s also from Puerto Rico. It was a perfect member-missionary lesson; they bonded and Jessica was more comfortable with the situation. It’s scary to meet with two girls you’ve never met, about a subject that can be very dear to your heart. Bringing people who won’t be changing as quickly as missionaries get transferred is key. Ivie was great, the lesson was great–the Spirit taught her everything she needed to know that day.

 

I got a pretty funny letter from my mom this week–which actually made me realize some success I have as a missionary. Whoo hoo! She said, “So let me ask you a serious question…tell me when/if you feel down, and for how long? When was the last time? If you do feel down occasionally, that’s normal…” I just laughed. All of you returned missionaries know that being a missionary can be the greatest calling in the world about 5% of your time, and then the other 95%…you’re dragging your heels. If my own mother has to ask me that question, I know I’m doing a pretty good job of keeping happy! So, to answer your question, let me share with you all a little bit of my journal last week:

 

It’s been a rough day. You’d think since we had a tour of the Sacred Grove this morning, and had a baptism, that it would have been awesome! Yes, it has. But spiritually and mentally, it’s been rough. I’m just going to say it: I feel like a horrible missionary right now. It’s hard trying to figure out what I need to bring back to the sites, and if I actually changed for the better going full-proselyting. Being a site sister is extremely different than anything–and it’s a different mission call than full-proselyting missionaries. It’s reminding me of my adjustment to that false expectation when I first got here, too. I usually don’t, but I’ve been beating myself up about it. I know the Atonement can overcome whatever I’m feeling right now…I really can’t even put it into words. Either I’ve been doing something right and Satan is pushing my buttons to get me to fall, or the Lord is slowly loosening His grip, and now is my turn to really prove myself. I just don’t feel on top of it as I used to be. I really hate these, but I’ve been asking for opportunities to grow closer to Christ. Well, bring it on! As much rejection as we face, my happiness comes from the peace that I have no regrets. We work hard. “A prophet hath no honor in his own country.” Well, guess where Joseph Smith was raised? I wish people would be more prepared…or at least I could start finding the ones who are prepared! Whatever, it’s not about me!

 

There you go…that takes a lot of humility to put that out there. I’m working on that, too. 🙂 But, I hope that answers your question, Mom. I do have horrible days. In fact, the last time I felt down was just last night! My philosophy is, why tell people that your life is horrible, when God has put you in a situation to succeed? That’s kinda rude. My “feeling bad time” is only a short–I let myself feel bad for about an hour (sometimes I give myself a couple of days–longer about the situation) and then it’s back to being the person I was called to be. I can’t have a bad day, at least not in public. We’re the face of the Church. We fight for the truth, and that’s the happiest thing you can get.

Thanks for all the support–we’ll especially need prayers since the Hill Cumorah Pageant starts in just one month! I love you all!

BE HAPPY! (More meaning now, eh?)

Hermana Hawkes

p.s. This picture is the day I wrote that entry in my journal. Rachel was baptized, by the help of all of these sister missionaries, plus a few others who already went home! Sister Madsen on the far right is from my home stake in Centerville…she was the missionary that knocked on her door, and I got to be the one who “baptzied her!” (For lack of a better word…) We’ve got 4 Viewmont/Centerville sisters in the NYRM starting next week!

Expect the Unexpectable

The sites here in Palmyra/Fayette are getting busier and busier.

 

Which means, we get to play the “do you know…?” game even more! I’ve met a lot of people who know family, friends, MTC buddies, and of course past missionaries…it’s been great. It feels good to have a connection again with people before we hit them with the Spirit while teaching at the sites.

 

This week, we gathered a few new investigators to our teaching pool. Jessica, a wife and mother of three from Puerto Rico has been attending church every Sunday of her life. She feels peace. She feels like she’s doing the right thing. But, she felt like there was something even more out there. She ended up on mormon.org to chat with the missionaries online there (which happens to be the sister missionaries here at the Visitors’ Centers) and she requested missionaries to come to her house to teach her more. Well, within 24 hours, we were contacted her, but she was running out the door, so she told us to come back Thursday at noon. Naturally, at 11:59 a.m. on Thursday, we knocked on her door and she invited us right in. “Oh, girls, I have so much to tell you,” she said. Of course we quickly sat down and listened intently. (I was smiling so big that my cheeks hurt just 5 minutes into the conversation.) She started to tell us that her close friends and family thought she was crazy for believing in Christ so much, and for being positive and enthusiastic about everything. Regardless of what they tell her, she still feels peace and happiness, and knows God has a bigger reason for her to be here. She knows her education from on high should not just be once a week, but should be daily, straight from Christ Himself. Yes, she did use the words, “I know God has a purpose for me.” I just wanted to hug her and cry…and tell the camera crews from The District that they needed to be there ASAP. The Spirit helped Hermana Steel and I teach the most perfect Restoration lesson which began with tears during the First Vision, and ended with her baptismal date. However, she told us she needed to learn a lot more before she made that commitment–which is every missionary’s dream comment from an investigator of the Church. We finished up the lesson with the promises God has for each of His children that follow Him, a prayer, and her own personal copy of el Libro de Mormon. Hermana Steel and I sat in the car for a few seconds, still beaming, then knew we needed to offer a prayer of gratitude. If my whole 18 months was to come to Jessica to teach her that one lesson, I would have still done it. Not even a question.

 

I wish I could tell you more stories of what happened this week. One included a less-active member who (after laying down the law of the Word of Wisdom) looked at me and said, “You’re never going to give up on me, are you?” Or even the man who has been Catholic for 84 years, prays everyday to God the Father, but never realized God was his Father. His specific question this week is if Hermana Steel and I are true messengers from our Savior. We told him that if we aren’t, you never have to see us again. But if we are…oh the happiness we could bring to your life.

 

The focus of my studies lately have been why missions have to be hard. Can’t they be fun all the time? Granted, I still find every way possible to have a blast–because hello people, this is fun! The only obligation I have right now, is to preach the gospel! However, have you ever thought that things can be hard and fun? Basketball taught me that lesson very clearly my freshman and sophomore years, and now a mission is teaching me even more of it. A mission is hard, because it’s what you don’t expect. If you expect it, it’s going to be easy. So–expect the unexpectable! The Lord teaches you what you need. Quoting Elder Holland who “quoted” Jesus Christ in his October 2012 conference talk, “What I need, Peter, are disciples…and I need them forever.” He will convert you to what He needs at His own rate. At BYU, in the MTC, and when I got out of the MTC, I was sprinting at full speed. When I got to the field, even with the Pageant, the sites, and our areas to balance, I felt as if I had been dropped on a treadmill going two times slower. My “hard” time, was and still is learning how to slow down, but to still accomplish the same amount of work. No one is going to listen to you if you live your life like the energizer bunny. However, the goal is to energize everyone around you with that same type of energy. I know my dad is laughing right now, but, “whatever, Dad.”

 

Zone Conference tomorrow is in the Sacred Grove, and unfortunately I couldn’t find a working violin fast enough to play it–so a piano arrangement of “Abide With Me, Tis Eventide,” will have to do. I’m so lucky. I’m so happy. We are working so hard, but there is still always more room for improvement. I told Hermana Steel this morning, “Every day I’m out in the mission field, I feel more and more inadequate for the work.” I’m guessing that’s a good thing. Thanks so much for your prayers, and even just putting up with reading my e-mails! I love you all, thank you!
BE HAPPY!
Hermana Hawkes