No More Neutral Ground

“When we joined this church, we enlisted to serve God. When we did that, we left…neutral ground, and we never can get back onto it.” -Joseph Smith

Well, this is it. I can’t believe it. An incredibly fast year and a half has passed, and I have memories stored up in my head that I could never be able to describe to anyone. Just like Joseph has said, I’ll never be able to go back to neutral ground, and I certainly won’t allow myself to even try to get there. I just need to keep doing what I’ve told every single person I’ve taught to do: read, pray, go to church, and keep my temple covenants. I’m just going as an undercover agent. With a badge, that’s hard to do!

This has been the best week of my mission so far. I’ve seen absolutely incredible miracles take place in such a short amount of time, and I want to share one experience from Friday. It was my last shift at the historical sites, and Sister Gillespie and I were at the Joseph Smith Farm. Within the first hour, we had a huge BYU tour bus group come through, and I got to take them. So many comments going back and forth…it was fantastic. Once I finished that one, no other tours had come through in a while, so I was getting worried that could have been my last one! At five minutes to six (we close at seven) the Wirthlin family walked in. Yes, the grandson of the former Apostle. I introduced myself, had them sit down, and gave them a little background about the Smith family. Before we walked out to the property, I asked them specifically what they wanted to hear about the place. Brother Wirthlin said that he thought the historical facts were interesting, however, they had come here to have a real spiritual experience with his wife and two daughters. None of them had been to the Farm yet, and they had waited their whole lives to be here. I immediately felt humbled that I got to be the missionary to take them through, and I appreciated so much that they realized the nature of the experience. We had a fantastic discussion through the log home about God really knowing who we are, in the frame home about the protection He gives us, and it just continued through the threshing barn and onto the cooper shop. Once I sent them on their way to walk into the Sacred Grove, a huge wave of gratitude swept over me as I started down Stafford Road for the last time. That’s my usual (only) place to really pray out loud, and tears just wouldn’t stop the whole way back. (See, I do have emotion!) On the drive home, through my tears, I told Sister Gillespie that was hands down the best tour I’ve ever been a part of, just because of how prepared they were to receive the message the Lord had in store for them. She got the biggest smile on her face–she told me that it had been a matter of her personal prayers to see that I got the best tour of my mission for my last one. (She really is the best companion…yes boys, she comes home in just one transfer! That’s a good catch!) I just cried even more out of gratitude that my Heavenly Father allowed me to come to such a place. Poor Sister Gillespie.

I still can’t comprehend the magnitude of the things that happened here, or the things that I’ve accomplished here. I hope to one day see all of the fruit of my labors, and rest with them in the Celestial Kingdom. As President Packer said this last general conference, “When I look at the future, I am overwhelmed with the feeling of positive optimism.” I’ve had a year and half to become friends with Joseph, a year and a half to realize my purpose in life, and a year and a half to get to know my Father. What have I learned?

I could go on forever with the list, but I hope I learned everything that I needed to. I feel great about the work that I’ve put in, and I know that I’ve put in my whole heart, might mind and strength. If Jesus Christ asked me to turn around next week and go again, my next question would be, “How long do You need me?” I guess that’s how I can know how I’m doing on the conversion scale. I have experienced a “mighty change of heart,” and my heart issinging “the song of redeeming love.” I will be eternally grateful to my Heavenly Father for allowing me to serve Him for just a short amount of time. For this, I owe the rest of my life to Him.

“Now, Jesus said unto him, no man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.” -Luke 9:62

BE HAPPY!
Hermana Hawkes
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Have You Been Inconvenienced Today?

“Life was very inconvenient for [Jesus Christ], and, unless I miss my guess, it will often be so for you and for me when we take upon his name…If for a while the harder you try, the harder it gets, take heart. So it has been with the best people who ever lived.” -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

This address from Elder Holland that I studied this week has helped me really overcome my extreme selfishness that I’ve tried to get better at on my mission. I really encourage you to read this talk–it’s from one of the speeches at BYU given on February 27, 1982. Now, when I’m inconvenienced, I take it as just one more opportunity the Lord has given me to prove that I’m good enough.

Anyway, this week has been a miracle week. On Sunday, as we walked in from ward council to the chapel, Tracey and her daughter Shay were there in their Sunday best! I almost fell over. I ran (as reverently as I could) over to them to welcome Shay to her first time, and Tracey to her first time in over ten years. What an experience it was for her, especially during the sacrament, to renew her covenants that she had made so long before. Right after the bishop closed the sacrament service, Tracey leaned over to me and said, “I hate this. My heart is getting fuller and fuller, and my testimony is getting bigger and bigger.” When we first showed up at her house about four months ago, she had just lit a cigarette and said, “Of course the sisters would show up. You know, you’re never going to get me. You should just give up right now.” I then remember looking her right in the eyes and saying, “Get ready to get sick of us,because I’m never giving up.” When Alma talks about conversion, he is dead serious.

“Behold, he changed their hearts; yea He awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word…And I again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, where they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed., and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love…” -Alma 5:7,9

Tracey also asked us this week if the Elders could come over and give her husband a priesthood blessing. As we all sat down, Tracey began to explain to her children what the priesthood is, and what it meant to her. Right in the middle of her sentence, she said, “OH! We didn’t have an opening prayer!” She then got straight on her knees and looked at us to follow. She told our Heavenly Father that she was now out of the drivers seat, and that He completely had the reigns with whatever happened to Will and the treatments they have to go through for his cancer. Which describes more life-application from that section in Alma 5:

“And according to his faith, there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.” -Alma 5:12

The other big miracle is how many things Sister Gillespie and I have done, and how not as exhausted we think we should be. We went on two exchanges in a row again this week, one with the Brighton sisters, and one with the Pittsford sisters. Then we woke up really early on Saturday morning to make three hours worth of pancakes for the House of Mercy 5K that our Rochester Stake put on. It was a blast! I have pictures, but unfortunately we forgot the camera. You’ll see them soon. President came and showed up in his suit–as always! (It’s a good thing we were in our skirts.) His son, Jason, completely smashed everyone and won the whole thing. It really is so much fun having kids in the mission home. I look up to their family so much, and I’ll get an even better idea of it next week!

Other than that, it’s been a really busy week at the sites. I worked my last shift at the Peter Whitmer Farm yesterday, only to finish up super strong this week at the Hill Cumorah tomorrow, Book of Mormon Publication Site on Thursday, and the Joseph Smith Farm on Friday. This week is going to be the hardest working week I’ll ever see on my mission. I’m committed to build up stamina for the rest of my life. So, if you’re going to pray, put your prayers in help of us softening the hearts of Irondequoit. President told us it should to be translated by the end of this transfer. We’re well on our way, don’t you think?

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes

Liken The Scriptures

You know you’re doing the right thing when you can substitute your name for Ammon’s in the 18th chapter of Alma.

“Now Ammon being wise, yet harmless, he said unto Lamoni: Wilt thou hearken unto my words, if I tell thee by what power I do these things? And this is the thing that I desire of thee. And the king answered him, and said: Yea, I will believe all thy words…And Ammon began to speak unto him with boldness and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God? And he answered, and said unto him: I do not know what that meaneth. And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit? And he said, Yea. And Ammon said: This is God…” -Alma 18:22-28

Yesterday, as we were teaching John (a former investigator we found in our Area Book) I felt a deja vu, however it wasn’t from my own experience. I think I realized it when John said, “Well, girls, I believe there is something, but I really don’t know what that something is.” We had the exact same Ammon/King Lamoni conversation sitting in his library, yes library, and I felt as if his wife brought tea and crumpets it would fit right in with the ambiance. John had his legs crossed, his big three-inch glasses down on his nose, thumbing through the Book of Mormon as we were expounding the meaning of “Father.” When I say we were bold, I really mean we were bold. The longer I’ve been out on my mission, the more bold I am, because the more I realize that I’m a servant of Jesus Christ. It’s got nothing to do with me, and has everything to do with Him. What do I have to lose?

Another bold experience I will lightly touch on…on Saturday, I took a Catholic Priest from Syracuse and his Mormon friend through the Book of Mormon Publication site. Within the first few seconds of the tour he told me who he was, but that he was very interested in what the Book of Mormon taught, and had always thirsted for more information regarding God. With that crack of a door, I swung it wide open. Throughout the hour, I related everything to the gates of baptism, and how those gates (with the right authority) will give him more information than he had been looking for previously. He was an incredibly nice fellow who grew to be a friend very quickly. At the end of the tour as he was walking out the door, I shook his hand and said, “See you at your baptism!” #YOMO right? (You’re Only a Missionary Once…a current catchphrase of the NYRM.)

Specialized Training was on Thursday, and Sister Gillespie trained both Rochester Zones on effective planner use. The title of our powerpoint was “The Great Planner of Happiness.” Subtitled, “Where did you come from? Why are you here? Where are you going?” The idea was to get missionaries to answer each of these questions at any point of the day using their planner. We did a True/False section, including statements like, “The sole purpose of the Notes/To Do page is to write notes to whoever’s planner you are decorating,” and my personal favorite, “You don’t really need to write anything down, because that’s only for people who don’t know how to follow the Spirit.” It was an entertaining half an hour…but I think we got the point across. I know I needed to hear it more than anyone, so that’s why we were assigned to teach it. It has made my planning a lot more effective…I definitely could have used that at the beginning of my mission…oh well.

We had a couple more exchanges this week, and have a couple more next week. We decided to keep my last week (hopefully) free from anything that would keep us away from our area, so we can do the most work then. It’s been such a hard working week, as usual, but I’ve never felt more on top of my game than I do right now. “Sprinting to the end” does not mean that I need to tract every door in my area before I leave. It means to plan effectively, and have my whole mind in the work at all times like 1 Peter 1:13, “Gird up the loins of your mind.” It’s a challenge, but not optional. I promise Heavenly Father every morning that I will work with my “heart, might, mind and strength, that [I will] stand blameless at the last day.” I can’t break that promise.

Thanks for the continued support. It is incredible to me the things that the Lord gives to His missionaries. Way more than I could ever ask for, and the saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it all,” has come into my mind multiple times this week because of all of your prayers.

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes

Be a Flashlight…Not Just a Glowstick

It’s taken me this long to figure out the best way to start off a transfer…

To see one of your sisters get baptized! Brittany has grown into our “5th companion” as she got baptized this week, and already has taught lessons with us and the Webster sisters. Apparently she told one of their investigators that he needed to back off if he wasn’t totally ready to change his life. She’s my hero.

Man, so much has happened this week. Sister Gillespie is on fire, and we are tearing up Irondequoit. Even though we have trainings to plan, exchanges to do, sites to serve at, we are finding time to talk with everyone. President likes to remind me that I don’t have much time to sprint to the end, and last week he said, “Irondequoit better be translated when you leave!” (He doesn’t leave much room for laziness.) I’m pretty sure I’m his biggest fan. I could go on forever about how much respect I have for him, but unfortunately I’ve only got so long to tell you about the rest of my week. The Francis family is perfect.

As for an introduction to our training (that trained me more than anyone else in the room):

“Behold all ye that kindle fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks which ye have kindled.” -2 Nephi 7:11

We started off by giving each missionary in our zone those little glow stars that children put on their ceilings at night. We charged the stars a bit with our flashlights, then all walked into a dark room with Sister Gillespie and I holding the flashlights, with the whole goal being to find the Starbursts in the front of the room. In order for them to find them, we just shone them in every which way, but we didn’t really point them in a specific direction. The point was for us to invite them by pointing the beam of light in a specific direction in order for them to easily find the candy…a.k.a. eternal life. How hard is it for missionaries to focus and shine their light they received from Christ? Are we bold enough? Are our batteries charged? The other missionaries (investigators) had a glow star…why couldn’t they find it just from that?

The point is to be the flashlight. We are commanded to be a flashlight once we are baptized into the church. What happens if we are just a glow star? We still have a light, right? Yes, we do have a light, but it is unreachable. It is something that is only glowing, and not pointing towards a specific direction. Now, there are a million other analogies to that concept, and I hope that you think about how you can be the flashlight in the darkness. Offering a ride to a Mutual activity? Giving someone an invite to your Family Home Evening? The light of Christ you have can not only charge the other glow stars you work and live among, but so you can use Christ to literally change their state of being to a flashlight. Now, read that scripture from 2 Nephi again, and never look at a flashlight the same again.

On Thursday I had the opportunity to take a couple from Boston around the Joseph Smith Farm. Robert and Jean have been dating for quite some time, but their religious background won’t allow them to get married. After just a few minutes in the Manchester Frame Home, Robert the atheist, turns to me and says, “I’ve never seen anyone so happy…I usually can fake it on a Saturday night at the bar. But are you for real?” I explained to him the Plan of Happiness, and related it to Joseph Smith and how he wanted to know his identity so badly, so badly enough that he had a confidence in God that He would answer his prayer. I expounded on the Restoration and my personal witness of the things that happened here. After about a twenty minute conversation, he said, “So…this is why you’re happy.” I almost was in tears defending what Joseph learned in the grove, just a few hundred feet away. I mentioned to him that missionaries are throughout the world teaching the same message, and it was no coincidence that I had my best friend Rebecca’s picture of her serving in the Philippines on the back of my Book of Mormon. I showed it to Robert and Jean, and even if they don’t act on the prompting, I knew they felt it was right that what we both were doing was the absolute truth. Their faces look at her picture gave it away, and the spirit testifying to them was way too strong to deny. After sending them into the Grove, I vocally expressed thanks to my Heavenly Father on the walk back to the Welcome Center on Stafford Road.
Along with success from the less-active members of the church, potential investigators, and hilarious journal entries, this week has been one of the best on my mission. It’s also been one of the most trying…thus being the best. I’m completely convinced we don’t learn anything if we don’t feel any urgency to complete tasks ahead of us–especially those that have to do with Christ’s work on the earth. He’s not chastising us, He is giving us the opportunity to grow because He loves us that much. A coach doesn’t yell at the people he’s going to cut!
I can really feel your prayers, and letters of encouragement are completely inspired from everyone. Thank you! I can’t pay you all back, so I’ll pay Him forward.
BE HAPPY!
Hermana Hawkes

Pay It Forward

My fellow Palmyra resident Joseph and I recently had a one-on-one discussion about our extremely similar personalities.

“I displayed the weakness of youth, and the foilbles of human nature…I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been. But this will not seem very strange to any one who recollects my youth, and is acquainted with my native cheery temperament…in consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections.” -Joseph Smith

As you probably already know, I get excited about everything. Anything anyone tells me is extremely interesting. I don’t take many things very seriously, and I know that everything will always be okay–that He will always make everything work out. In reading Joseph’s account of his self-examination, I’ve found myself doing the same thing, and concluding the same thoughts. A woman from my last ward (Brockport) said something I’ll never forget: “A coach isn’t going to yell at someone he’s going to cut.” Same thing with God. Furthermore, I’ve started the repentance process of my “jovial” nature, and have tried to be more of a mature servant of the Lord. But it doesn’t mean I have to be boring! I just need to take things more seriously. Because this is serious business…it’s eternal life! I’m just really glad I’ve got someone of that caliber to relate to.

Brittany is all set to walk into the font on Saturday.  Aubrie (every missionary’s dream member) took Brittany to dinner on Friday night before they came to the chapel together to have another lesson. Sister Steel and I decided to pull out all of the big guns at once–Law of Chastity, Word of Wisdom, Sabbath Day observance, and the Law of Tithing. It was such an entertaining, but spirit-filled lesson. Anytime we ever tell her any principle of the gospel or commandment, she looks at us like we’re totally crazy. But then always says, “Well of course, that makes total sense. I have no choice but to keep it.” Last night, she told us she was so tired at church on Sunday because she stayed up all night reading the Book of Mormon. I told her, “After Saturday, all you have to do is endure to the end!” She turned around and quickly said, “No, Sister Hawkes, I’m going to dance to the end.” She takes everything with confidence and complete trust in God…even though three weeks ago she had no idea what the name “Christ” even meant. Brittany embodies the phrase, “golden investigator.” Psh, we didn’t even do anything. We just happened to be the missionaries in the area, working hard, at the time she was introduced to the gospel. No effort is wasted!

Speaking of paying, Sister Steel and I recently have had some incredible companion studies which were very much inspired. Have you heard the phrase, “pay it forward?” That is the essence of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. There is no way in the Universe that we could ever “pay back” our Savior for what He did. With that in mind, we have to pay everything forward. What are we doing thinking of ever going “backward” for anything? Even if you’re sitting still on the fence, maybe even with your hat over your head like Martin Harris when he told Joseph about the 116 pages, you’re considered in backwards mode. We must move forward constantly. Every little commandment we keep, every little guideline we follow are like thank-you notes to God. They aren’t restrictive in any way; they are enabling in every way. Joseph thought about this concept long before we did:

“Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!” -D&C 128:22

To finish up this week’s news…transfer calls came last night! It was probably the most dramatic transfer call yet…just because we could make it dramatic. It makes it that much more hilarious when all four of you sit around the phone while brushing your teeth extra hard because all you can think about is your short-lived destiny. Our ringtone for the Zone Leaders are crickets chirping, and the ringtone for President is, “GONG…GONG…” So naturally, that’s what we were waiting for. The crickets went off finally at 11 p.m., and our poor neighbors downstairs must have thought we were practicing our martial arts for a few minutes. Sister Steel is going full-proselyting out to Buffalo, and I’m getting Sister Gillespie…Sister West is going to my first area (Newark South) and Sister Noble is getting Sister Van Geenen! What a party; I can’t even wait. Except I’m really going to miss Sister Steel! After three transfers, we’re like a part of each other now. (Especially since she’s my mission daughter!) She’ll be incredible in full-proselyting.

I’m going to give everything I have for these last six weeks. It’s going to go by so fast!

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