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

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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A Witness Unto All Nations

This is my best friend, Rebecca:

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Laoag, Phillippines

We both put in our mission papers back in March 2012, and now, we’re both locals on opposite sides of the world. In fact, we’re exactly on opposite sides–she’s 12 hours ahead of me. Between the two of us, we’ve been constantly representing Christ 24/7 for over a year now. My point is, that we’re all over the world! There are 14,782,473 members in 177 publicated languages, with 74,900 missionaries in 405 different missions throughout the earth. (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/facts-and-statistics/)

“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations…” -Matthew 24:14

Our purpose as missionaries is to invite you to come to Christ. We travel from “house to house, relying upon the mercies of the world—not upon the mercies of the world alone but upon the mercies of God.” (Alma 26:28) We teach a series of lessons, and invite you to come into to the waters of baptism so you can be completely clean from all mistakes and guilt through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We don’t get paid for this, in fact, we pay to be here. We only call our families twice a year–Christmas and Mother’s Day–and e-mail them once a week. The rest of the time, we have our minds completely focused on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. What would Christ be doing if He were here? Do you think He’d wish He could personally talk to all of us, to get us ready for our own eternal lives? And that’s why He sent us.

If I didn’t have a sure witness this was true, absolutely true, I’d be on the next plane out of Rochester. But because I know it’s true, nothing will get me on that plane…until my time is up in a few weeks.

So, wherever you are in the world, chances are there are LDS missionaries in your hometown. Go to www.mormon.org/missionaries to find out. We aren’t perfect; we stumble over our words all the time. But the most important thing is to listen to the feeling you have around us. What are you feeling right now as you read this? “…It was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul.” (Helaman 5:30)

You lose nothing by trying!

My Declaration to the World

“I want it absolutely clear when I stand before the judgment bar of God that I declared to the world … that the Book of Mormon is true.” -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I had to quote it. I’ve felt and seen way too many witnesses for me not to exclaim this for myself.  Living and serving in the very place where the Book of Mormon came forth for these last days gives me authentic proof that it is the truth.  Obviously, the truth is worth my life.

How much is the truth worth to you?

“And now, my beloved brethren…hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.

 And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words…” -2 Nephi 33:10-11

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“If anyone is foolish enough or misled enough to reject 531 pages of a heretofore unknown text teeming with literary and Semitic complexity without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages—especially without accounting for their powerful witness of Jesus Christ and the profound spiritual impact that witness has had on what is now tens of millions of readers—if that is the case, then such a person, elect or otherwise, has been deceived; and if he or she leaves this Church, it must be done by crawling over or under or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit.” -Elder Holland

To read Elder Holland’s whole talk, Safety for the Soul, click here.

It’s all true, guys. If you don’t believe me, just ask Him.

Pull Up A Crate

We’ve taught a lot of people this week…and a lot of first lessons.

I spent Thursday in Henrietta, and Friday in Victor on exchange. We taught some pretty neat people, including a woman who flat out told us that she had been praying to find her purpose. She happened to be there while we visited her friend…coincidences just don’t happen like that in missionary work! Which brings me to yesterday, as we were on foot going towards a less-active’s apartment, we walked past the laundry facility and saw a woman sitting on a crate, with her head down, lighting a cigarette. Sister Steel and unanimously turned around and went towards her. We had huge smiles on our faces, and introduced ourselves. She said, (very humbly, might I add) “I need you to tell me something that’s going to bless my life.” We handed her a Book of Mormon, and sat down. One by one, employees all kept coming out saying, “Whatcha doing?” One lady even said, “Oo! The Mormons are here to bless my life!” We quickly expanded our circle of crates and taught the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is after getting a million “I already have Jesus” comments by people of our own race, it took us two, little white blonde girls to touch the hearts of people who were truly wanting something more. After about fifteen minutes, they had to go back to work, and they told us that their whole week was made by the message that we shared. It was a missionary lesson in which every kid dreams about–sitting in the slums and teaching about Christ. On our way out, we came up on a woman smoking that said, “I’m all set. And, I’m 75 and in good health. Now you figure out that one, girls.” Hm…

As much as I love missionary work, this week has been really hard. It’s more mind control, knowing that I’ve still got to focus more than I ever have before for just a couple more months. There’s been a lot of things I’ve blamed myself, for, very stupid little things, but coming across this scripture was Heavenly Father speaking to me directly: “Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and His mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart…” -Alma 42:30 Then the next line tells me that I am “called of God to preach the word unto this people.” It’s not about me! Nothing is about me! The hardest thing is to forgive yourself, but once you do, it’s pure freedom.

I’m sorry this e-mail isn’t very long, or too terribly exciting, we just don’t have too much time on this computer! I did take Elder Jay Jensen on tour this week at the Book of Mormon Publication Site. Grandpa and Grandma, he gives you his love. Anyway, God works in mysterious ways, I am sure of that. There has been so many miracles that have happened in association with the not-so-good things. I know, surprise, surprise, that I’m the one that’s had a hard week! But it’s inevitable for the work that I’m doing out here. There’s opposition in all things, and I have no doubt that I’ll be just fine. Sheesh, I am already just fine. I’ve just got to learn to rely on God just a little bit more. 🙂

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes