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

Ready To Give An Answer

“Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…” -1 Peter 3:15

This scripture has not only been on my mind the past few weeks, but it has been like a meteor shower to my brain. In every situation possible, it has come up. Do you think I’m going to need to be ready to actually explain myself soon? You better believe it. I’ve spent a couple personal studies on this scripture, and my down time at the sites studying and pondering this instruction. There are quite a few things I’ve learned on my mission that I can answer back, but no one can ask if they don’t see it in me in the first place. It’s literally a command from the Lord to always be converted, and act in such a way that everyone can see that. “Let [my] confidence wax strong in the presence of God,” (D&C 121:45) and then I will always be able to explain the positive emotion that hopefully is evident in me.

Well, we got some pretty devistating news yesterday. Our part-member investigator family, the Kemps, had a doctor’s appointment for Will yesterday. Tracey called us to cancel our appointment we had for last night because he had just been diagnosed with Lymphoma Cancer. It was a total shock to their family, and especially to us. I know everything will work out in the end, but it’s just a really scary time right now. I don’t know what I would do, or what they would do, without the knowledge of the Plan of Happiness. Sometimes I wish I could hand out samples of my eternal perspective on a mormon.org card. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that–something called faith that is required for that.

More to happier topics…General Conference?! Man, it gets better every year. I’m going to second President Monson when he said it was the most spiritually uplifting conference he’s been to. I wouldn’t doubt that though, because it should get better every time. The more doctrine we study, the more questions we ask, the more answers we get, and then the more love that Heavenly Father showers down upon us. Personally, my favorite talk was Elder Edward Dube’s talk, and how we can appreciate what happens in the past, but never live in it. Quoting Luke 9:62, he pointed out that, “No man, putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” How bold is that? Well, I obviously won’t ever be looking back with a longing glare that anything I ever leave behind me. No more Lot’s wife for me! Even though I’ve had incredible experiences, and I will miss a lot of it, I have so much work ahead to do. Way too much to even think about looking back to the past.  I have just as much, if not more, responsibility in just a couple of weeks!

Anyway, Brittany was with us during both sessions on Sunday, the morning session at the Bishop’s house, then the second one at the Anderson’s. She’s been having a bad week, and mentioned in the car that she felt really cloudy from not taking the sacrament in almost three weeks. (She had to finish out her last week at work before she took Sundays off for good.) I was so impressed at how quickly she diagnosed her soul with that. She then immediately asked for a Priesthood blessing when we got to the Anderson’s with the Elders. I noticed a change in her right after–just like a weight was lifted off her shoulders. Obviously blessings don’t take place of the sacrament each week, but because she had so much faith, Heavenly Father wanted every opportunity to give her to show her that He cared. He definitely took that moment, and let Sister Gillespie and I be a part of it.

I’ll end with a snipet from President (Coach) Francis from his reply to my e-mail: “You are in the last 30 seconds of the game. You have almost reached your goal. The lifetime and eternal life rewards are in place, but you need to finish off strong for your own personal satisfaction and the blessings of those you are serving…you are full court pressing now. It’s time to double team the man or woman with the ball with spiritual suffocation.”

Now, do you see why he’s my mission president?

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes

Faith Into Action

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“I wanted to put my excitement and my faith in Jesus Christ into action. When I played football, I thought in terms of game plans. There was no question going into a contest that if our team was prepared with the right plays, we were going to be successful. However, I recently spoke with BYU’s legendary coach LaVell Edwards about our game plans, and he said, ‘I didn’t care what play you called just as long as we scored a touchdown! …Since we are all on the Lord’s team, do we each have our own winning game plan? Are we ready to play?'”

-Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, October 2013 General Conference

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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

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