It’s Not A Competition

Brittany’s story has to be one of the most note-worthy stories I’ll ever tell about my mission.

On Thursday, we went to the sites with her…well, just the Joseph Smith Farm, the Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon Publication Site. I noticed it’s a whole different thing knowing Brittany’s spiritual journey, and then applying the history at the sites to her. While in the Sacred Grove, we read Joseph Smith’s experience straight from his history, and she mentioned how much she can relate to him. However, her whole spiritual journey has magnified by a million in just the past few days. After a really rough night last night, she sent us the scripture in 2 Nephi 1:15, “I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.” She gets it–she really gets it. Brittany is now tearing up Irondequoit with us, teaching lessons, and even basketball tracting! (Note: basketball tracting is recruiting for our Tuesday night basketball games at the church…one of the greatest finding activities in my opinion.) She wasn’t afraid to just go up and knock on doors, even if we got a door slammed in our faces. I wish she had any idea how much she was teaching us instead of what she thinks is the other way around. By teaching with her, we’ve been able to hear more of her conversion story, which puts mine to shame. Thankfully, it’s not a competition, and all that matters is that we get the same end result.

That reminds me of a lesson I’ve learned the past year and a half–nothing ever is a competition, especially when it has to do with the Spirit. I don’t need anything big to happen to me to be truly converted; I don’t need the scriptures to shake as I read them, to hear a “voice of thunder” of confirmation as I am bearing my testimony, or that I don’t need to cry throughout the whole sacrament meeting in order for me to feel the Spirit. Elder McConkie said, “Being born again is a gradual thing, except in a few isolated instances that are so miraculous they get written up in the scriptures.”

As for the other events of this week, we had an exchange with the Victor sisters, and then two exchanges coming up this week, where I’ll be off to Henrietta and Fairport. The leaves are beginning to change, and that means more bus tours! This week we had a bus tour while Sister Tran and I were serving at the Hill Cumorah. I read on the schedule that it was a mission reunion, but lo and behold, did I ever know that it was the Mexico Monterrey Mission from the early 1970’s. Just my grandpa’s missionaries themselves! A few of them came up to me, introduced themselves, and fortunately I got to talk with all of them in the Christus room. (The painting of the Sacred Grove right behind the statue of Christ.) We talked about our missions, the thoughts the Spirit has given them throughout their lives, and what specifically their missions have done for the rest of their lives. A few of them came up to me after and told stories of how Grandpa has a lead foot, how Grandma was so patient with all of the Elders…I was just beaming with pride to be their granddaughter. We did get a picture of a few of us that I’ll have to show you later.

The last, but definitely not least, thing I want to mention was the anniversary of Joesph getting the plates on September 22, 1827. He met Moroni for the first time on September 21, and since that day fell on a Saturday this year, we decided to plan “the walk” for that morning. Most of us sisters, senior couples, and President Francis walked from the log home at the Joseph Smith Farm to the top of the Hill Cumorah, which was about four miles. (I’m proud to say that Sister Gillespie and I were the first ones to the top, after President started racing us!) What a great walk to remember Joseph Smith and the things He did for Jesus Christ.

Miracles are piling more and more on top of each other as I head towards the end of my journey here in New York, As I’ve thought about that though, I’ve noticed they’ve been happening not just my whole mission, but my whole life, and it’s great to finally realize His hand in many more things.

Keep staying strong, and remember that God always has unlimited minutes.

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes

Charity Never Faileth

The exciting news of the week is…dun dun dun…Brittany’s getting baptized! I think I briefly mentioned her last week. We met her three weeks ago, and since then we’ve taught all the way up to lesson three, been to a baptism, and went to church. When we offered the official invitation, she said, “Well, I was going to ask you when I could get baptized, and Sister Hawkes, I was hoping it was before you leave.” (YAY!) She said she felt so calm and peaceful at church, and knew she was going to be baptized while sitting in Relief Society. Brittany even told us that she was shopping the other day with some friends while picking out “mormon” outfits that covered her shoulders and went to her knees. Oh yeah, and while she was shopping, she taught her friend the Plan of Salvation. She is what you call a “golden,” and it feels like we really didn’t do anything. We are just the lucky ones that got to teach her…it’s all done by the Spirit.

This week was Fast Sunday, and Sister Steel and I decided to do a companion fast for a family in our area. The mother, Tracey, is a less-active member, but her husband Will and children aren’t members. We stop in every once in a while to check up on them, share a spiritual thought, and invite them to church with us. They always decline, but they appreciate the thought. However, on Sunday, the last couple hours before our fast, we decided to see if they were home. This time we didn’t plan just a spiritual thought, but we planned to teach them the Plan of Salvation, or as I like to call it, the Plan of Happiness. (That’s my favorite one to teach, too!) Will and Tracey invited us right on in. The lesson started quickly, and the discussion was so incredibly focused and Spirit driven. I have no doubt that our prayers were heard way beyond this earth, because when we finished our lesson, we asked the Will, the head of the house, if we could re-teach them both the discussions. He said, “Not only would I like you to come teach Tracey and I, I’d like you to come teach our children as well. We’d love for you to invite us to pray as a family, especially so my children can see you two as role models.” I wanted to do a fist pump right there, but Sister Steel is way more classy than I am, so she respectfully accepted the offer. Miracles are happening!

Aside from so many miracles happening left and right, I’ve noticed that the Lord’s real work is in the details. Many missionaries think all we have to do is what’s in the white handbook, but the details are what determine you as a servant of the Lord. It’s how you react to something that goes completely opposite of what you expected. It’s in the thoughts in your mind as you’re driving to an appointment. It’s how you treat your companion. Anyone can spit out the missionary lessons and “convert” people, but it takes a real servant of Christ to clean up the little pieces of garbage on the highway to the Celestial Kingdom. Don’t forget, we have to be the ones waiting for the people we taught at the pearly gates!

Now how do we do that? It seems easy talking about it. But when it comes into play, it takes true character. True character all stems from confidence–the confidence you have in your God. “Confidence is generated by confronting challenges and striving for and achieving meaningful goals.” And another one, “Confidence is not the certainty of success, but rather the conclusion that failure does not determine our worth…we lose nothing by trying.” (Ensign, Sept 2013) Once we can figure out the confidence required for the Celestial Kingdom, we’ve got charity. Just ask Moroni:

“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” -Moroni 7:45-47

 

The sites have been great this week, nothing too exciting to report as of now. All exciting things are happening in our area, which is exactly what we’ve been praying for! It’s hard to be an hour away from your area for four days a week. But the Lord makes it work–He always makes it work!

 

Sorry that haven’t gotten any of your letters…we haven’t gotten mail for a couple weeks now. We don’t know what’s going on, but don’t worry, I’m sure it will come soon. 🙂 I think that’s all for now. Thank you for everything, you are the best family (and friends) a missionary could ever ask for.

 

BE HAPPY!

 

Hermana Hawkes

Our Higher Destination

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“We do not preach and teach in order to “bring people into the Church” or to increase the membership of the Church. We do not preach and teach just to persuade people to live better lives. We honor and appreciate the many ministers and others who are involved in the kind of ministry that makes bad men good and good men better. That is important, but we offer something more…we are concerned with a higher destination.” -Elder Dallin H. Oaks

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Never Too Young…or Old!

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Something huge I’ve learned throughout my mission is that I really haven’t been on a mission for only a year. I received my “mission call” to New York on March 27, 2012, but I actually received my real mission call on March 27, 1999…exactly 13 years previous. It was the day I was baptized, around the same time this picture was taken. Once you’re a member of the church, you immediately qualify to become a missionary. You’re obligated to share everything that you know to be true, because of the impact it’s had on your soul.

As I’m currently a “full-time teacher” instead of a “full-time finder,” (as Elder Bednar put it) I’ve realized how much healing missionary work can do to one person. The Lord doesn’t say, “The people who don’t really care and scrape on just the surface of the gospel get to heaven.” In the scriptures, He specifically states that the “Laborers in the Lord’s kingdom gain salvation.” If you seriously want to find the truth, you have to ask for it, and you have to work for it. There’s no way around it.

“You may make the winning touchdown, cross the finish line first, swish down the mountain on perfect powder, drive “a beauty” to the left-field stands, or pitch a no-hitter. You may do and thrill to many things. But you will experience few feelings equal to the quiet, even tearful moment when you record in your diary: “Today we baptized Mr. and Mrs. Brown and all their children.” -A. Theodore Tuttle

The nametag only qualifies me as one of those “full-time teachers.” We fully rely on the members of the church to share this incredible message with their friends. It’s not awkward, it’s not scary…it’s your obligation. The best moments in your life will be sharing your happiness with others, so they can do the same thing. This moment has been prophesied for centuries–this is the gathering of scattered Israel, people! Take part it in while you still have time.

It’s never too late.

I’m never going home.

No, not that home. Here, read this:

“You can’t go back ‘home.’ If you do, you will break my heart and the heart of God Himself. It isn’t just two years to eighteen months…I stand here at 49 years and counting. It’s never, ever over.” -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Yes, my family’s house is back in Utah, and our Home with God is of course our ultimate destination.  But what I’m referring to in this context is “home.” It’s your comfort zone. Your retreat. Thanks to dictionary.com, the actual definition is, “the place or region where something is native or most common.” Now, as a missionaries, do we ever go back to something that is native or most common? No way. We’re completely out of our element, teaching something we don’t really know enough about, and somehow, the Lord qualifies us all to make it all work together.

There’s something extremely both nerve-wracking and comforting in the fact that once we sign up for missionary service, we don’t have the option to retreat. But, just because you don’t have a companion, doesn’t mean you’ve escaped your duty either. This isn’t the Hunger Games. As Elder Holland continues to say, “Your nametag does not qualify you as a missionary.” Every person baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sign themself up for missionary service.  We aren’t on neutral ground anymore. We promised to dedicate our lives to build the Kingdom of God here on the earth. It’s something that is really happening, whether you realize it or not. But, the best part is that you’re safe. You’re safe, of course, if you’re on His team. A coach knows that he always keeps his best players ready to go at all times. He’ll do anything to keep them playing…if they’re willing to take his orders at practice. In effect, God always keeps His missionaries at top notch and closest to His heart. Keep going, you can do it. Because then, you’ll be on home plate forever.

Finally some photos…

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Sister Johnson and I in our lovely Brockport apartment. It doesn’t get much better than this!

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This is the cake that the Young Women made for the New Beginnings this year. I am so impressed!

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At Elder Warren’s farewell…that boy will be a great missionary in Monterrey!

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Anne’s baptism: January 27, 2013

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Last but definitely not least, Steph’s baptism: January 20, 2013!

 

They Live in You

Have you all seen The Lion King? That’s the song I’m referring to. Google the lyrics real quick and then you can read the rest of this e-mail.

The highlight of my mission happened on Tuesday. I don’t care if I’ve ever said before. We went to go have lunch with our recent convert, Anne, and wanted to get her thoughts on what happened on Sunday. A little background information: Anne was very nervous about the act of being baptized itself; she’s about 6’1″ and was worried she wouldn’t be able to bring herself back up after she went down in the water. Anyway, as we walked in she said, “Oh, girls! I forgot to tell you something about my baptism! I can’t believe I forgot!” So of course, we sat down pretty quick. Anne very quitely explained, “When I was getting up out of the water, I felt lots of arms on my back pushing me up, and people saying, ‘Help her up! Quick, help her up!’ and it was like I didn’t have to do anything. It was so easy!” We had to pick our jaws back up off the floor before we could respond. I finally said, “Do you know who they were?!”…”Um, the Holy Spirit, I think?”…”Those were your ancestors who have been waiting for hundreds of years for you to be baptized for them.”  Her eyes got real big and immediately she asked what she had to do for them to feel the same way she felt. (Yes! It takes action on our part! She gets it!) We explained baptisms of the dead and how she could do that. We told her that her parents and grandparents have been talking to the missionaries, just like she has, but in the spirit world. But instead of setting a date to be baptized, they had to wait for who knows how many years. You could see the sense of urgency in her face and said, “We have to get this done right now!” We explained even more of our purpose as missionaries, and how she could do exactly the same thing that we are doing, but for her ancestors. It was an extremely eye-opening experience for me, especially since I realized that I didn’t just help Anne get to the Christ, I helped hundreds of other people get to Christ–through one person. Family History is serious business.

Back to the lyrics–now did that make sense? Our ancestors are literally living vicariously through us. That is the importance of getting a body. That is the importance of temples. That day got even better when immediately after we went to Anne’s home, we all went to her cousin’s home (who isn’t a member) and talked to him and his less-active wife about Anne’s journey to the Church. The less-active wife re-committed herself to come to church, and together, they’ve been studying three chapters a day in Gospel Principles. Their ancestors have obviously been working really hard.

On the way home, Sister Torres and I were still soaking up what we just heard. She pointed out the scripture in D&C 84:88–“And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” This is coming from a woman who, before this experience, knew little to nothing about the spirit world…and now she knows more about it than I do. We just had scripture and revelation to back it up. But what we didn’t have, was the experience. Experience is the true teacher. I am now constantly praying for experiences that will keep me close to our Heavenly Father.

So obviously, spiritually–I’m doing great. Why am I doing great? Because I’m challenging every question that comes to mind. Everything I hear (like that) I ask Him about it.  At the perfect time, He answers them for me. (For example, “Heavenly Father, is this whole thing true? Then turning straight to D&C 18:2, “Behold I have manifested unto you by my Spirit in many instances…wherefore you know that they are true.” Oh, duh. Thanks.) I’ve noticed that most of the time however, He answers them through other people. I got probably the best letter yet on my mission from a family member.  She obviously put a lot of prayer and thought into it, because she directly answered my question and helped me realize that I wasn’t only blessing the lives of the people in my area, but I was also helping the people outside New York, just by recording my everyday life. It was a huge confindence bootser–being confident in the fact that Heavenly Father doesn’t waste His time, and that I’m doing the right thing. He is going to inspire little old me to say something that might let that person think of what the Spirit needs to teach them–regardless of if that’s exactly what I said or not. Everything we do needs to strengthen someone around us, even if it is through something as seemingly insignificant as an e-mail. In D&C 108:7, “Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings.” Remember: it’s not me, it’s the Spirit. I just do what I’m told.

I noticed that I haven’t said anything about Steph lately…she’s on fire. I wish I could just bottle up every single thing I hear and tell it to you. My favorite recent quote from her: “I contacted the Spirit and said, ‘Hey, if you’re not busy, can you come and just comfort me for a sec?’ And He DID! How doesn’t everyone know about this?” Yep, Steph, we’re all wondering the same thing too.

Anyway, the week has been great. Definitely the most spiritually eventful weeks I’ve had out here. Just yesterday we got another phone call from Anne asking the details of how to pay her tithing, and then at the end of the conversation said, “I am just so ecstatic! I just can’t thank you enough for helping me find the truth! I’m just hungry to read my scriptures every night.”  If you’ve noticed, those are almost the exact words Christ used. Hungry. Anne was hungry. She now has a backbone, a rock, to base the rest of her life on. She’s so much more put together than she was when I first met her nine weeks ago. Especially from all the past trauma she’s been through in her life…the fact that she can say, “I’m just so tounge-twisted, I can’t put into words the happiness I feel,” is one big fat miracle. THIS IS THE TRUTH YOU GUYS.

Please keep your prayers open for missionary experiences. The missionaries in your area don’t know the community like you do. All you have to do is pray about and introduce your friends to go to a fireside, mutual, Family Home Evening, anything…and we will do the rest. And one more thing, can we commit ourselves to go to the temple on a regular schedule? Once a week, once a month, once a quarter…anything. Immortal missionary work is just as important as mortal missionary work. Because then, they live with you.

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes