Usually, full-time missionary service gives one a perfect excuse to completely forget the outside world.
Not this one. The past two weeks have reminded me that I’m still a person, and I still live here on earth. Sometimes, missionaries tend to think that we’re living in a dream, and after this 18-24 month dream, we go back to the “real” world. But as Elder Holland says, “Your mission is real life. You should never be normal again.”
I’ve seen ward members, cousins and friends here on my mission, just because of the location we’re at. We always get asked the question, “doesn’t that distract you from the work?” Well, if I let it, absolutely it could! The beauty of it, however, is that I use it to make me stronger. These people know me from home, from my old self, and now they’re seeing me at the most spiritual high that I’ve ever been. I could go back home and pretend none of this even happened, I could easily fall back into my old self, and my mission experience would have been a waste. But seeing these people from my “old” life, in my “new” life, forces me to incorporate the two lives together. I’ll forever be Sister Hawkes, but starting in a few months, most everyone will just call me Monica. This mission has just given me the training wheels to know how who to be.
I also have no room to be rude–ever–now, and in the future. Number one, because of the name(s) on my name tag. (Number two, because I try not to be a rude person anyway.) The two names I wear over my heart each day are Sister Hawkes, and Jesus Christ. The latter, obviously important, because I’m a representative of Jesus Christ. I am required to live chapter six of Preach My Gospel (Christlike Attributes) every single day. But with my Hawkes name, it gets recognized quite a few times. I think I’ve talked to about fifty of my dad’s patients this year alone! In fact, sometimes it’s not even the name. Yesterday, while working at the Book of Mormon Publication site, a woman walked in and said, “Are you related to Janet Wells, (usually, I get Sharlene) because you just look like a Wells to me! You’ve got to be one of their daughters!” Experiences like that remind me that I can’t “have a bad day.” I’ve got to always be on top of my game, regardless of what’s going on in my head. I’ve even noticed that the church is run on men who are exhausted, but led by a Savior who has already overcome it for all of us. In Luke 9, I know the Savior was completely exhausted, and probably just wanted ten minutes to Himself to regroup. But look at what happened:
“And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing. And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place. But He said unto them, Give ye them to eat…” -Luke 9:10-13
I’ve identified with that passage in more ways than one the past couple weeks. Pageant came and went really quickly. The cast worked so hard, on stage and off, to be the best examples of the light of Christ. We had so much success when we forgot out about ourselves. And not just while proselyting in the bowl! I’m not sure if you all have seen Deseret News lately, but the man who plays Abinadi has a fascinating story about how his journey to Hill Cumorah. Parry Winder, or “PeeWee,” as they call him, worked as a fighter pilot and a test pilot for the Air Force. He’s been in test planes where 43 different things have gone wrong, including losing an engine and going subsonic straight towards the ground at Hill Air Force Base. He’s even seen all of the four corners of the earth, all while serving our country. However, in October, right after he and his wife applied to be in Pageant 2013, he was in a horrific car accident that left him with a broken back, never ending pain, nerve damage throughout his body…you get the idea. He couldn’t tolerate light or noise and it left him basically paralyzed. He received a priesthood blessing that specifically told him, “there would be a time that you will have relief.” He went on through the months, still determined to participate in the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Turns out, his son is an orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN that could get him a front row seat. After much testing, poking, prying, and skipping waiting lines that were years long (literally), he got a small computer implant in his back that goes straight to his brain in just five days. Long story short, he healed more than just enough to run up and down the stairs on the ancient Mayan temple stages, and (pretend) to burn to death. “I’ve got the best seat in the house,” he said, “I see what Alma looks like, what King Noah looks like…I will never read the Book of Mormon the same again.” But PeeWee also gave us his testimony he’s been molding since his piloting days, “As a fellow warrior, I’ve been on the tip of the sword a lot. I know these guys felt like I did. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to try.”
My Pageant stories don’t stop there…I wish I could go into more detail. I’ve met so many incredible people, including a man who passed his “friends” at the anti-booths to walk in and see what it’s really like. “Sister Hawkes, I used to be one of them,” he told me as he pointed beyond the gate, almost with tears in his eyes. “But I need to come here to see who you really are. You do it right. You really are servants of Christ.”
Miracles are born all the time, and it just takes some time to stop and recognize them. Your character is defined on how much you give credit to God every single day for those little moments. Even though these past two weeks took a lot out of me, I am positive I got more out of it than anyone else.
I think the experience I’m having right now feels closer than it’s ever been.
…said President Francis at our missionary fireside on Sunday.
“And blessed be he that shall bring this thing to light; for it shall be brought out of darkness unto light, according to the word of God; yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness, and come unto the knowledge of the people; and it shall be done by the power of God.” -Mormon 8:16
Every year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints puts on the Hill Cumorah Pageant: American Witness for Christ. It is a huge production with hundreds of men, women and children who devote three to four weeks of their summer to bring the Book of Mormon to life.
So, why is it called the “Hill Cumorah” Pageant? Well, it is set on the hill where the ancient American prophet, Moroni, hid the record of Jesus Christ visiting people in the Americas soon after He was resurrected. Moroni (being a resurrected being) appeared to Joseph Smith in 1823, and told him where this record was hidden–just three miles away from his home. Joseph obtained and translated the record, and it is now known as “The Book of Mormon.” It is an account of the ancestors of the American Indians and how they worshipped Jesus Christ. We celebrate their efforts in keeping this precious journal,on the very ground they stood–only 2,000 years later.
The coolest part is that it’s all volunteer work–no professionals allowed!
The cast arrives just five days before opening night to get cast in their roles and rehearse all of their scenes. By the final dress rehearsal, the audience is welcomed in, and they are expected to keep the show running smoothly.
My favorite part about this is what I get to do with five other sister missionaries. We get to train the cast and work crew to be missionaries during the show’s run. Two hours before the actual production starts, the cast spends that time actively talking to visitors who have come to see the performance, and sharing their testimonies of why they came, what they will see in the Pageant, and what spiritual significance this whole thing is about. Member or non-member, if you come to the Pageant, you’re bound to have a few friends by the end of the night.
So…these guys get here in two months:
They are our fine work crew. They build the stage and…pretty much make everything happen. Anything that is “cool,” that’s what they do.
But then these guys get here in two and a half months…not that I’m counting down or anything:
I can’t say enough about the cast and work crew. They come from all around the world to make it the best two weeks of the summer for us.
The Hill Cumorah Pageant coming in July 2013!
Pageant is over. I’m definitely going through HCP withdrawls. I have the battle scene songs stuck in my head, and it feels so empty thinking about the cast not being here! I have to wait until next year. But at least we get time to think now. Kind of. 🙂 It’s been so busy, but it will get just as busy with more people to teach…more investigators hopefully coming our way…etc. I can’t believe I did all that in my first transfer.
Pageant was absolutely incredible. The spirit of the cast was so strong all day, everyday, because every single person wanted to be there. There wasn’t one person that was ruining it, but all together made it amazing. With 900 people bringing the Book of Mormon to life, and within a couple hours having everyone leave, was really hard. Especially being the 75th anniversary! We had an awesome turnout with so many people that came, “just because they felt they needed to.” Members, and non-members both. What was really neat was that every night, I saw at least someone I knew, if not multiple people. It’s making me feel less weird about being on a mission, it’s actually helping me focus even more on the work! Anyway, at the last Sacrament Meeting we had with the cast, they had the PR woman come and tell us how the media received the Pageant. She said they were intrigued by these young kids that knew exactly why they were there, and not because their parents signed them up for it. We had the Discovery Channel, the New York Times, Time Magazine, a bunch of international television stations, and of course all the local newspapers and magazines. I actually got to talk to the producer of Discover America on the Discovery Channel for about 5 minutes. He came up and just asked me about why I was here for 18 months, if I got paid, etc. We had a fantastic conversation and from what the PR woman said about them, they were very impressed with everyone they talked to! Apparently they came here for another reason, but it turned into a documentary about the Mormons and how devoted we are to their faith and our Savior. Hopefully that’s how they will portray it on television, but regardless of the fact, it was an amazing opportunity.
Even though that was a cool experience, the thing that made it all worth it was what one of the cast members told us on closing night. He said that there were girls who said they wanted to go on missions because of us six sisters, because we proved that missionaries could be fun and spiritual. The boys also raised their standards to girls who not necessarily were returned missionaries, but were girls “just like the sisters.” We spent a LOT of time with them, and every single second was worth it because of that comment. If we could change just one life, it would have been all worth it. But I, with the other sisters, are amazingly blessed to have been able to influence at least 900 lives over the course of 2 weeks.
Yes, today is transfers. But Sister Correia and I are staying together! This is her last transfer. 😦 I’ll miss her so much. She has taught me a lot about missionary work! She loves everyone she comes in contact with, and puts all of her trust in Heavenly Father. And, we are getting a new sister in our apartment tonight! It will be really fun to start off with a new transfer, and have time to go knock doors and testify of the Savior in the most interesting places. 🙂
Well, sorry I don’t have that much else to report on. You can check out my pictures on my missionary facebook from the Pageant! I can add you, but I can’t communicate with you on my missionary page, sorry. Just my investigators. 🙂 This is the most important work in the world. I’ve been thinking lately how much I had to give up to come here–but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Missionary work is the hardest work, but also the most rewarding. If anyone is thinking about turning in their papers–don’t think about it. Just do it. I can promise you that you will have an experience that could never be duplicated anywhere else. The Lord will guide you and bless you in your efforts.
This is probably going to be really short.
The past week, me and Sister Correia have been pretty sick. We have been talking all day every day, and our bodies just ache. Haha. But the work is still SO GOOD! I can go into more detail later, but I have seen so many people I know. We also brought two investigators we met at the sites to the Pageant last night, and one of them was just crying because as soon as Moroni read his promise, she goes, “That is it right there. That right there is what I needed.” It was the best reward out of anyone I’ve ever seen. And the best part: SHE’S FROM SALT LAKE! So she said when I get home she’ll be a member, and we are going to general conference together. She is just amazing. And another one we met did almost the same, only when she came to the sites she straight up told us that she didn’t want to learn more…half an hour later…we had her committing to come to Pageant and then came and sat with us! She is also AMAZING. I got the actor who plays Moroni to come talk to her before hand too.
Apparently that was a good move on my part, because they were talking for a really long time and simply him just being in costume and testifying of Christ really got to her. She came up to me after they talked and just gave me a huge hug and said, “I love you.” Again. Best reward ever.
Yesterday was such a fantastic day…including Brother Johnson telling me he had seen you all the day before! I saw the Hammonds from St. Anthony, and also Ray’s youngest daughter and her family! And a bunch of other people…so odd to see them while I’m a missionary. But so awesome. The work is progressing. We have been working so so so hard. I literally fall in my bed every night. It’s a complete miracle that I can actually smile and be friendly with people. 🙂 Love you all!
Enjoy the following pictures, complimentary of Monica’s facebook account. 🙂