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

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

Earned Not Given

…said the Nike slogan right above President’s head projected at Zone Conference. I knew I came to the right mission.

We had to earn absolutely everything this week. (Nothing new, really.) Who knew that filling up our car meant we had to earn things, too? As we were coming home from an appointment on Saturday night, we stopped at the usual place to get some gasoline. To our surprise, it said, “Please see attendant for cashier,” which to the both of us, meant “someone in there needs you.” We walked into the store armed with our Book of Mormon, when immediately a man yelled, “You’ve got to be KIDDING me!” He proceeded to tell us he knew all about our church, and that we had no idea what we were talking about. Obviously, the conversation was pointless, so we ended professionally. Not much time later, the cashier announced to the rest of the convenience store, “These girls have a really cool church, and it’s all about families!” We immediately had three different women with their children come up to us. One, Joy, said that she had been talking to her sister just the day before about how she needed to join a new church that actually had something for her two little girls. I think we pulled up to the right gas station, don’t you?

Most of the week was filled with exchanges, baptisms, and both Rochester Zone Conferences. Sister Steel and I had to present trainings about online proselyting, and it went really well. We took a couple of our investigators, Brittany and Mandy, to the baptism at the singles branch in Rochester. Both Sister Steel and I were independently praying so hard through the whole thing that they’d feel just something. Not to our surprise, right after the closing prayer, Mandy turns to me and says, “Everytime I come to one of these things, I want to be a better person.” Whoo! They are coming closer and closer to their Savior everyday, and progressing so well. I wish I had more time to expound on them, but seeing as I typed more than half of this letter, and accidentally deleted it, I don’t have too much time. Don’t worry, it’s all in my journal. Find me later.

A huge lesson I learned this week was simply just to be absolutely positive about everything that goes wrong. It’s incredibly hard to slap a smile on your face when you just want to crawl in a hole for a couple of days and only come out when everyone else is smiling, too. But it really doesn’t work like that. The only way to actually get a smile on your face is to go to one of your “holy places,” as they call it. These experiences I share with you are literally the highlights of the week, work wise. The rest of the week was like Alma’s, “Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance. Nevertheless, they hardened their hearts, saying unto him: Behold, we know that thou art Alma…and we are not of thy church, and we do not believe in such foolish traditions.” -Alma 8:10-11 I’ve literally been on my knees more than ever, just wrestling with God that He would deliver those people from out of their bondage. It’s not like it hasn’t worked; coming home each day, I felt as if the Lord had run marathons for us in working miracles. It’s not that the miracles aren’t happening, it’s that free agency that always gets in the way. 🙂 We are working as hard as we can. I can feel the Lord is proud of the work we are accomplishing. But let me tell you–it’s a battleground!

I appreciate the prayers and support you still continue to give me.

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes

The Dust of the Earth

Have you ever heard that phrase before? Have you ever felt like it?

Fortunately, I’ve caught up on my sleep (I think) so lessons are a lot more entertaining to me now. Not that they weren’t before, but you know. But lately, I’ve been humbled many times, over and over again. Wait…why did I say lately? It’s been happening my whole mission. I think I just finally pegged how I’m feeling. I’m not being humbled by people slapping me in the face and telling me that I think I’m prideful, but it’s Heavenly Father reminding me that I can’t do anything without Him. For example:

I never understood why people said, “I’m humbled to accept this call.” Wouldn’t it just be more work? Wouldn’t you just go to more meetings? I definitely found out the meaning of that this week. Sister Steel and I are now the STL’s of the Rochester zones (Sister Trainer Leaders) and to explain what that means to everyone that’s been on a mission–it’s pretty much the Sister Zone Leaders. It’s a new thing since the age change has more than half of the missionaries as sisters. No one really knows what we’re doing since this is the first time President has put them in this mission, so we’ll figure it out at Mission Leadership Council on Friday. But the first thing that popped into my mind when President called us (at 11 p.m. on Sunday night) is that Heavenly Father wants me to learn a lot more than I already have. This will teach me to rely on Him more than I ever have before. It’s not like we don’t have any time in our area…oh wait, we don’t! Sister Steel and I have to be even more creative on how to use our time wisely in the time we do have. We’ve got exchanges and more meetings that we now have to fit in. It will all work out though, I’m not even worried about it.  Just humbled, that’s all.

Speaking of being creative, we tried a new finding tool this week. When talking to people, all we could do is listen and ask questions. That’s it. It was so effective! We had to think really hard of inspired questions, and I felt that the people we talked with really thought about why we were there, instead of just thinking we’re some “Jesus girls” and ignoring us. In fact, that day, we were coming into our apartment for the night, and we saw our downstairs neighbor sitting on his porch with his head in his hands. As we were getting out of the car, there was a loose mormon.org card on the seat, so I grabbed it and had it in my hand. We said hello to Joe, and I offered him the card. He just started spilling what was going on in his head–his wife of 18 years just divorced him. To make things worse, she had said goodbye just minutes earlier. He felt lost and alone, and didn’t really know where to go to make things better. Once we testified of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and offered to teach him about the Plan of Happiness, he said, “In my religion, we call you two angels sent from heaven.” Well, Joe, that’s because we are.

In my personal study this week, I picked up an old Ensign from a huge stack in our apartment. It was from 2007 that had an article entitled, The Power of Laughter by K.S. Peterson. I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do to ease the situation in everything, because the work that I’m doing out here is pretty darn serious. Many people are stressed in this type of situation. This really answered my question. “When a person laughs, blood pressure decreases, heart rate and respiration increase, the body releases endorphins, and depression declines.” And then my favorite, “Play brings families together. It is a subtle tool for interaction and talk. It builds confidence because you can modify the rules to bring about success or any outcome you desire. Through play we develop relationships naturally…Children are more receptive when they are having fun. Laughter helps us remember. And we remember what we feel.” Maybe that’s why I’m a huge sports advocate…I’d rather go play catch on a date than go paint pottery! And I’ve finally figured out why.

To wrap things up, the more humility exercises Heavenly Father gives me, the more happy I seem to be. “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness, I give unto men weakness that they may be humble…then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” -Ether 12:27 Let’s be honest, I am the dust of the earth…without Him. But with Him, I can become like Him.

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes

p.s. my Spanish nametag is in the mail as we speak. 🙂

Celebrity Sightings…Part II

I now realize the phrase, “I’m humbled to meet you.”

On Wednesday for our weekly site meeting, we had Joseph Smith’s great-great granddaughter, Kim Smith, and 3rd great grandson, Brian Davis, come to the Hill Cumorah. They told us of their conversion stories, how they came to realize the importance of their grandfather, and what they had heard of him throughout their lives. They sang a couple of songs they wrote, one called “Willow,” based on a tree Emma used to pray near, and another one, “Serenity Blue,” describing the prophet Joseph’s eyes, and what was seen through them.  I’m pretty sure no one’s eyes were dry the whole hour.

The next day, we had shift number two at the Joseph Smith Farm…since I have come back to the sites. We all couldn’t wait to talk about what we learned the night before! As we were talking, a car pulled up, and lo and behold…it was Kim and Brian! Guess who’s turn it was to take a tour. MINE. However, I quickly realized that I wasn’t the one who would be giving the tour.  Ha. Anyway, we greeted them at the door–more excitedly than we did last week with the lead singer of The Killers might I add–and I re-introduced myself to them. She remembered I was from Centerville, and immediately asked about me, how my mission was going, and what I had planned after. Hello, I didn’t want to talk about me, I wanted to talk about them! So I quickly answered the questions and jumped into shooting my questions in the opposite direction. As they were talking, I noticed the pictures of Joseph and Emma so perfectly framed right next to their faces in the background, and couldn’t help but see Joseph’s blue eyes and wavy blonde hair in Brian. We are talking exact DNA people. So, “their” tour started by going into the humble log home, and her telling me what she knew from what was passed down from her fathers. Kim and Brian were two of 80 direct descendants of Joseph Smith that are actually baptized into the church, and 200 in-direct…with marriages and everything. Horror stories have been told more times than she’s wanted to hear, and she knew there had to be something positive about her grandfather. As we were standing in the same space where Joseph formulated the million-dollar question, little old me got to be the one who got to hear them the behind-the-scenes of the consequences of abuse in his posterity.

We eventually made our way to the Frame Home, expecting to spend just a couple of minutes there for them to take a few pictures. We walked in and Kim said, “How much time do you have, Sister Hawkes?” “You tell me,” I said. “Sit down, let’s talk.” I asked her question after question of the character of Joseph, the moment she became truly converted, and how they’ve been missionaries to her family. From growing up, she heard horrific stories all about the “Utah Mormons” and the “Brighamites,” and was basically forbidden to go to Utah. Kim knew they weren’t true by the power of the Holy Ghost, that had come into her life at an early age. She was always taught from her mother, “the Holy Ghost trumps everything.” So, she decided to always follow Him, and never listen to what anyone else says. Since then, she’s always poured out her heart to the Savior, and she’s never said no to a prompting–because she knows exactly where it comes from. After half an hour of an uninterrupted quizzing session, we took a slow walk back to the parking lot on Stafford Road. I walked right in between the two as they continued to tell me stories…including how the missionary discussions they took at Meryl Osmond’s home went. (I couldn’t help but think how intimidated those poor sister missionaries were.) On the third discussion she knew she needed to be baptized. About the members of the church, she said, “there was something in those people that I couldn’t deny, and that was the Holy Ghost.” Kim was baptized June 7, 1998, and her son, Brian was baptized a year later. Right at the end of our visit, she said they would love to come do a fireside in Centerville when I return home. I gave her my e-mail address, and planned to set it up! (Mom, I think I’m going to turn that over to you for now.) We’ll make sure you all know when that’s going to happen!

Basically, that’s been the highlight of my week so far…if not my whole mission! Luckily I’ve had many highlights, and many experiences that turn me closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ. Every experience that I have as a servant of the Lord gets me closer to Him. It doesn’t matter how “famous” these people are. If I meet them on the streets of Rochester, and I put a smile on their face–that’s really all I care about. All of those combined make up the “highlights” of my mission. More often that not, it’s entertaining to see how that smile actually got there in the first place, but regardless, it’s a blessing. Anyway, we found three more investigators this week, and we’re teaching two tonight and another one on Thursday. They look promising, and I’m really excited!

It’s been another beautiful, rainy week in Upstate New York, and I’m so happy to still be wearing this nametag.

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes

Healthy or Not…Here We Come

As a missionary and as a member of the Church, I eat really healthy.

My trainer and I (Sister Correia) in Naples, New York!

Well…at least I try to.

There are some things you just can’t resist! But overall, we have something called the “Word of Wisdom.” It’s a health code.  Jesus Christ set it up in order to keep our bodies consistently healthy so we can submit everything to our Father’s will at any given time. It makes sure that we aren’t addicted to anything–that we don’t need anything in our bodies in order to function. Because in reality, the only thing that we really need to function is Him. Then think about it, when we get to meet Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ again and present our bodies to them(that They gave us by the way), are They going to be disappointed if They see it all torn up?

Basically, we stay away from any addictive substances–alcoholic drinks, tobacco, coffee, tea , illegal drugs and the misuse of perscription drugs. We don’t just not consume those things, but we do consume the good stuff: wheat, rice, oats, fruit, vegetables, and meat sparingly. read more about exactly what this all entails, check out: http://www.lds.org/topics/word-of-wisdom?lang=eng

I am a huge fan of this, not only because it keeps me feeling good all the time, but because I promised my Heavenly Father I’d do it. When I gave Him that promise, He gave me one too:

“And [ye] shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures…and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.” -Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21

Last but not least…something that my companion said the other day that is SO TRUE that I just really want to include:

“It’s better to work out for an hour than to be fat all day.” -Sister Johnson

It’s not about me.

We’ve been quarantined a lot this week. We’ve tried to go out as much as we can, but it only seems to be an hour or two at a time. It didn’t help that I woke up sick on Easter Sunday morning too…this weather is killing me when it drops thirty degrees overnight! Hence, this e-mail will probably be more what I learned than actually what I did. I hope it’s usually like that, but in any case…bear with me.

Sister Johnson and I have continued to talk a lot about our futures, and how our missions will shape the person we were meant to be. I know she was meant to be my companion, not just because she’s teaching me how to really love a person, but because she’s also teaching me more than I could ever teach myself about my own potential. She told me it’s not normal for a human being to be this optimistic, at such a constant rate. We’ve been trying to diagnose why my brain works like that, and what I can do to magnify the reason for it. After her help, I’m slowly starting to realize that’s...weird? Anyway, I want to share some of my journal entry on a day that we couldn’t work at all. Usually, that situation would make me really anxious to just go out and do the work, but somehow, that day…it just made me…well, you can read it:

“I opened my mission call a year ago today. It’s incredible how fast time flies… but I just have to express how much hope I have in my life right now. I think today might top it all, just because everything is continually getting so much better. Nothing special–in fact we’re quarantined right now because Sister Johnson is really sick. But I’ve just been studying and pondering about my family and my future. I am just so extremely HAPPY…I have absolutely no limit on anything I want to do–and to say that as a 22-year-old is mind blowing. My future looks better than I can even picture it, and God is always giving me more than I ask for. I think it’s because I’m finally realizing it’s not about me. Anyway, it’s just lovely to be SERVING A MISSION! I can’t believe I’m a missionary!”

I really want to reiterate the fact that it’s not about me. The more I read my Patriarchal Blessing, the more I realize that I am a vessel only to be used for the Lord. It’s great to see how obedience and dedication play a part in me thinking that. I feel like I’ve been trying to be obedient for so long previous to my mission, and all I experienced was failure. I always ended up doing my “back-up plan.” I still was happy, but I always felt like my first choice was never what God wanted for me. But now, It’s taken me this long to fail over and over again to actually comprehend that it was all for something, and something much much better. I’m finally seeing my rewards of obedience to our Father in Heaven, by just letting it all go and asking Him to make me want what He wants for me. It really works. My first choice is finally His, and I intend on keeping it that way.

In other news, we could go to the local nursing home to visit Anne’s mother, who is undoubtedly stuck in there for the rest of her life. She grew up a strong baptist, and is very close to Jesus Christ. It’s fun to periodically read to her poems from her mother’s journal, and talk to her about her husband who passed away a short time ago. Sometimes, we can even get in excerpts from the Book of Mormon. She continually seems to be surprised that Christ did come to the Americas, and that He said the same thing to the Nephites as He did to His disciples in Jerusalem. All she can say is, “Well that just makes sense. It just makes sense.” She’s not at all looking to convert, neither can she at this point with her physical health, but the simple fact that she is accepting our message and loving us makes me feel like we’re doing something right. This week, as we were walking out, we smiled at another old woman who could barely even move her mouth. Before we walked on by, she blurted out, “I just want to go home.” Both mine and Sister Johnson’s heart tore right in pieces. We turned around and just clung to her. We started talking to her, and asked if she had any family close around–she didn’t.  Then we explained to her the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her countenance did change, so we offered to come back and teach her more, but she didn’t want it surprisingly. I hope people know, especially at that age and situation, that there really is something more than sitting in a nursing home until they have to pull the plug. Like I said, it breaks my heart, but what puts the pieces back together is the knowledge of the Atonement and how we can use it.

On Saturday, we also went to the Bishop’s Storehouse in Canandaigua to help fill orders. It was extremely humbling to see how much time and effort the Church puts into the physical well-being of their members. We truly have everything taken care of…if we just come to church! Later that day, we got to go to a baptism of a 9-year old girl that Sister Johnson taught in Irondequoit. It was a beautiful service, and we got to sing “He Sent His Son.” It was very simple, and a good reminder that we are doing the Lord’s work.

I hope you all take time to find reasons throughout your day that your life really isn’t about you. It is all about other people. The more we can comprehend that, the better our life will turn out, and the happier we will be. So…

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes