If you give a missionary a microphone…

It’s the most wonderful time…to be a missionary. Where do I even start? I wish you could all see my journal from the past week.
 
Monday: If I could just record a typical day in a missionary’s life…TODAY WAS THE DAY. Everything cancelled on us.
Tuesday: Great day. Lots of psychotherapy.
Wednesday: Today was another one of those days when I never want to leave the mission field.
Thursday: My legs hurt. Can I say that again? My legs hurt.
Friday: I’m really glad today is over.
Saturday: This was the best day of my life.
Sunday: I lied. THIS was the best day of my life.
 
The highlight of the week helped me cross something off my bucket list: singing with a live jazz band. One of the greatest men in our ward, Jerry Johnson, plays the jazz guitar like you’ve never seen before. He put together a band awhile ago, and they do concerts all over western New York. I told him one day at Church that I love to sing jazz…and that ended up in an impromptu concert at the Albion library on Wednesday! We came to support him while they were performing a Christmas show, and the pianist asked me to get up and sing the last two numbers. There was at least 20 people there–not too many, but it was so much fun. I sang Silent Night first, then ended with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. When we finished, one of the women in the audience yelled, “who are you?” We all laughed, but it gave me one of the greatest opportunities to bear my testimony. I talked about how Sister Torres and I are just two of thousands of missionaries across the world, and that we decidate 18 months to 2 years of our lives to talk about how Jesus Christ is our Savior. I told them what He meant to me, and invited them to check out mormon.org. We did go up and speak to a few people individually, those we could catch, but they politely declined a Christmas message. Who knows if anything came from it? All I know is that I felt the spirit bearing witness to me and to them it was true. It was Heavenly Father again granting me a wish of speaking to as many people as possible in the smallest amount of time–something that I’ve prayed for since I turned in my papers.
 
Yesterday was also a memorable day. We went to share more Christmas messages with members from the ward and their friends. The first home we went to is someone who I very highly respect. Mary is a single mother, and served four years in the Marine Corps. Let me tell you–she gets things done. As we were having a great conversation about how Christ is the center of our gospel, we hear the doorbell ring. Mary kinda looks at us like, “here we go.” She walks up to the door and we hear a “no thanks, we’re LDS. Actually, we have the missionaries over right now…” That was my cue to stand up and go over to the door, and introduce myself with a very firm handshake. I easily stood a foot taller than both of them! You shoulda seen their faces when I gave them a mormon.org card with a smile and told them this is where you find the fulness of the gospel. They were extremely nice people, and I wished so bad that we could have a nice conversation on the couch. They seemed very hestitant to come in, so Mary just let them go and we went back to talking. In the moment, it was just a funny picture to have in my head. I also don’t know if I’ve ever had a stronger confirmation of the truth in my heart. Living in Utah, it was my first time talking with missionaries from other religions, and it just confirmed to me that what I was doing was right. It’s different having the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
 
As you can see, Christmas as a missionary is the greatest. If people aren’t totally receptive, at least they are nicer. Instead of a door-slam, it’s a “we appreciate what you’re doing for Christ, but we’re all set.” It’s definitely a lot better! We had a great discussion about that at the Christmas Devotional on Tuesday with half the mission. The Rochester and Buffalo zones got together to hear President and Sister Christianson speak, have musical numbers, and watch “The Ultimate Gift.” I got caught in a moment in time where I wanted this train to stop, and park at “being a missionary” in my life for a few more minutes. These past seven months have seemed like hours, and I can’t handle it if it goes by any faster. There’s not enough time to learn everything I want to learn. There’s not enough time to serve the people I want to, and certainly not enough time to realize everything that is taking place.
 
Last week I asked if any of you had friends that could use the Church in their lives–have you pondered on it long enough? If you haven’t, keep thinking about it and invite them to learn from the missionaries. I can promise you that it will absolutely change the way they think of lfe, and may even change the way they think about you. You could become someone’s richest blessing. Keep thinking about it.
 
Thanks for the Christmas letters and packages some of you have sent. They are waiting to be opened underneath our little Christmas tree! I appreciate the prayers and the love. Oh, one more thing, President Christianson emphasized again in the last meeting that online proselyting is skyrocketing, and we need to be doing as much as we can. I’m putting each of my letters home on my blog: sistermonicahawkes.wordpress.com. If any of you have a blog, will you link mine to yours? Also, could you think of ways to get this wonderful message about Christ out in your own words? I’ve noticed a lot that people are scared of talking face-to-face, and we get a lot more work done online than you think. More often than not our referrals come from mormon.org. If you need ideas, and/or examples about how this online thing should really work, look up Al Fox on Facebook or google. She was baptized in this mission a few years ago, and has taken online proselyting to the next level–without a nametag on. 
 
Merry Christmas, and BE HAPPY!
 
Hermana Hawkes

Fine Tuning

Isn’t it just great that when you think you’ve got it, you don’t? It’s been an occurring theme in my mission.

Ether 12:27–“And if men come unto me, I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

So He’s saying that when we finally get the humility to come to Him, we get smacked in the face with weaknesses? That’s exactly what He’s saying. He never said it was going to be easy. Coming on my mission, and even in the MTC, I thought that if I just slowly but surely work at all of these things, they will come. However, I have learned that I still have to work slowly and surely, but they don’t come all on my time frame. This is what I call fine tuning.

Yesterday, we spent a lot of time on mormon.org chatting. There weren’t too many people at the Hill Cumorah so we had time to get our brains fried. Teaching people online is probably one of the most mentally draining thing I’ve done. (Besides producing my first show at True Blue.) We get every single kind of person from all over the world asking absolutely anything they want to. We had some great conversations–members who didn’t know quite the correct doctrine and are too afraid to ask their leaders in person, investigators with their missionaries who are making sure this is the truth, and Bible-whizzes sincerely wanting proof that the Book of Mormon is real. However, we do get some who are bored, and just want to argue. That’s when I know my study for the next day will be centered around Preach My Gospel Chapter 6: Christlike Attributes. I never knew how upset I really can get when someone jokes about my Older Brother. What they don’t know is that this could bring them happiness. Pure joy. That person they are speaking lightly of can literally save them. That’s when I have to tell myself that the war in Heaven is continuing and it’s little annoying Satan that wants to make my job more difficult.

In Doctrine and Covenants 84:88, Christ says, “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” Now tell me that isn’t comforting? That single scripture (along with many others) has pulled me through those rough times. There is no other person in the entire universe that could give me the feeling I get when I know He is lifting me up, and magnifying my words.

One of the most memorable experiences I’ve had at the sites happened just last week. Sister Graham and I were working at the Peter Whitmer Farm in Fayette. We were chatting online waiting for some people to come in for a tour. Finally, a very cute Canadian couple, each not over 5’5″, walked in and said they were “site seeing in Western New York.” (Um hello…? There’s a barn over there, a tree over there…oh and a corn field across the way!) So as you can tell, it was the Spirit that led them here. They introduced themselves as Mr. and Mrs. Latley. They were Catholic, and hadn’t heard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before. They said they had 15 minutes before they had to leave, so I took them straight to the log home. As we were walking there, I gave them the watered down version of the Church. Hard to do? Yes. As soon as we got in there, I just took a deep breath, and said, “So this is where the Church was organized.” Apparently the spirit magnified my voice, because they got silent. I let their heart and eyes wander for a bit, and then I went on to explain what happened on the day of April 6, 1830. Mrs. Latley then said, “You mean to tell me, that this is the same church that Jesus Christ formed on the earth?” I said “Yes, and nothing has changed.” I then explained the Book of Mormon and where the record came from. Mr. Latley then questioned the use of the Bible for us and I told him that the Book of Mormon, in fact, proves that the Bible is even true. That’s when both their eyes got very wide, and listened to even more of what I had to say. After about half an hour, I had explained most of the details of the Restoration. They mentioned they had never felt like this before, and telling me when their next trip to the sites would be. Without even me asking, Mr. Latley gave me his card for me to call them and explain more. Now, five days later, we have exchanged e-mails back and forth and they are doing some “real soul-searching, and will call me with any questions.”

The reason that experience was so memorable, is because I could physically see the spirit working on them. They knew that what I was telling them was true, and they could not deny it. They gave it away right in their eyes. They were absolutely impressed with the dedication, diligence, and spirituality that all of these young sisters have. What they didn’t know, is that we don’t do this on our own. The spirit worked through me to invite them back to the Hill Cumorah Pageant, and then for them to ask me to  personally give them another tour of the sites next year.

The experiences I’ve had this week have fine-tuning in patience and love to help me be a better daughter, sister, mother, wife, and friend. Yes, I came to Christ. Yes, I did realize many more weaknesses in myself. But that’s just because it gives me the opportunity to make them stronger. This is a lifelong journey and I will continue to be humbled with weakness. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Thanks, again, for all of your support. The missionaries appreciate it more than you can even imagine, and going home after a long day, knowing that someone still remembers you, is one of the best feelings in the world. Thank you so much. I hope you all have a great week!

BE HAPPY!

Sister Hawkes

Planting Seeds…. One by One

Man, I love being in the mission field when stuff like this happens…I heard through the grapevine today that over 7,000 missionaries have submitted their papers in this past week alone. We’re having a Specialized Training on Thursday morning specifically for combat instructions when our fellow soldiers arrive. When we say we’re serving a mission, we’re serving a mission. Stay tuned next week for more details regarding the action plan.

We got a decent amount of time in our area this week, and also celebrating the first time to church for one of our investigators! She brought her family, and they really loved it. What a joy it is to sit next to a mother and her children during the sacrament, especially if they’ve never experienced it before. She is progressing wonderfully. We had another great lesson with her and a member who knows a lot of what she’s going through. Missionaries don’t go out to baptize the world, we go out to serve just as Christ would–one by one.

Sister Graham and I also got time to do some street contacting in Phelps. This village (yes, a village) is right outside Fayette. It’s amazing to me that something so big could happen just miles away where nobody knows the magnitude of it. Anyway, we came across a bearded man named Jim eating his lunch. My companion offered a mormon.org card with our contact information to him and asked if he had heard of the church before. He said he had grown up in Palmyra, and had made a trip to Salt Lake City before. He noted how nice the Mormons were and that he didn’t realize how important upstate New York was to us. We began just in a small conversation about it, then he eventually asked what two girls could do to change his heart. I said, “Do you really want to know? Our Heavenly Father created a Plan specifically for you–a way to get back to Him. He’s sent us to tell you about it. The best part is that we can’t force you to believe anything.” We then went on to explain how a person has to ask God with real intent, meaning he needs to commit to act on the answer he’s given. Then comes his next question, pretty sarcastically, “So you’re saying that I’ll get an answer straight from God.” Without any hesitation, Sister Graham and I both nodded our heads strongly and said, “YES.” It took him back a bit and it was silent for a few seconds. I said to him, “Jim, when we are done with this conversation, will you just ask Him if what we are telling you is true?” He said he would. We finished up our conversation, and went on our way. I don’t know what will ever come of that conversation. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. I know Jim felt the power of the Holy Ghost testify to him that whatever we said was true. Like I said, missionaries don’t “get baptisms,” we plant seeds.

We also had an opportunity to teach a recent convert about what my parents have taught me since day one. She wanted to know how her kids could stop being bullied at school. She was expecting us to have some amazing prophesy about it, but we simply  turned to 3 Nephi 12:44. “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” My mom always taught me to “Kill ’em with kindness,” so that’s exactly what I told her! After her realizing this was the right thing to do, she wrote it down and said, “I’M PUTTIN THIS ON FACEBOOK!” Mission accomplished.

Again, I love being in this mission. Days feel like years, and months seem like hours. Time is totally messing my brain up, but I absolutely would not trade this mission for the world. The decision to go was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, and the ability to change a human heart can not be duplicated. I want all of you this week to find somebody who needs that invitation to come closer to Christ, and invite them to do that. Sometimes it’s not words. Maybe it’s just a hug, maybe just a smile, or something simple as asking them to go out to dinner with you. Commit yourself to this invitation tonight while you’re talking to Heavenly Father. Like I said, you probably won’t know what will come of it. But I promise something will. Maybe you’ll save a life.

Thanks for the support and prayers! I love you all!

BE HAPPY!

Sister Hawkes

A New Self-Discovery

I’ve recently discovered that going completely out of the comfort zone…is my comfort zone.

This weekend alone, I took five full buses on tour at the respective sites I was working at. Two came at one time, and that was even after a long day of running and praying little kids wouldn’t break anything in the print shop, and that’s exhausting in itself. Well, let me back up. When each tour bus comes in, we have to brief them (Mom that’s a shout-out to you) on what’s going to happen. It seems that I am always picked to do the “briefing.” I explain who is in which group, what floor they are going to first, any announcements, and most important bring the Spirit…with a loud enough voice so everyone can hear me. I also seem to have really random questions asked that make it that more fun to try and make them have a great experience. So as I was teaching each of the groups, I noticed that I have this big push of energy that seems to come from out of nowhere. Of course I know Who provides it, and He always seems to energize me when I get in front of large crowds. Even on the drive home, we were totally exhausted, but I feel like I could have gone six hours of talking to people. That was easily one of the highest moments of my life. I was so extremely happy, because I could actually feel the Lord proud of me for what I had done.  Especially when I’m conversing with adults or old people. Oh man–I love old people. (Sorry–wrong term?) They have so much knowledge and want to learn even more, and the group conversations we get into are always fantastic. They really are interested in what me, a 21-year-old has to say, and that makes everything that much better.

Speaking of seniors, the senior couples here are absolutely incredible. I figured out why they are all so hilarious. It’s because they are retired, they are on a mission with their spouse and no one else, and the only argument they have is what is considered “dusk” to close up the sites. I’ve learned that even though they’ve gone through more trials than I even want to imagine, I look at them and they are so happy. They are so happy. They know what’s important in life and it’s not bills that need to be paid, someone at work causing you to be late, wondering how good they look in the mirror, but it’s doing everything that’s in their your power, and then trusting in the Lord. I have fifteen sets of grandparents that think their job is to care for the sisters. They would do absolutely anything for me. And vice versa–I would do anything for them! Sister Graham and I were commenting how we couldn’t imagine a mission without them. They complete the New York Rochester Mission.

Another comfort zone discovery is that I actually like to stick it to people. For example, today at TJ Maxx after this guy is almost done ringing up my purchase:

Cashier (26-ish year old guy): “So, are you like…a nun?”
Me (trying not to laugh hysterically): “No. I’m a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! Have you heard of it before?”
Cashier: “Nope. I don’t believe in God.”
Me: “YOU DON’T?! WHY??”
Tyler (I looked at his name tag) : “Whoa, um…I just don’t…”
Me: “Well, Tyler, I can promise you that there is one. Here’s a mormon.org card for you to go check it out! This is one of the coolest websites, and I can again promise you that you’ll relate to someone on there!”
Tyler: “No, I don’t believe in Mormons.”
Me: “Well, can you just take this card? I really know that you’re going to love it.”
Tyler: “Please don’t give me that card.”
Me: “Okay, well I know there’s a God! I hope you’re having a great day!”

Who knows if that was the correct approach. Maybe I should have been more loving and understanding on why Tyler didn’t believe in God. Actually…nah. How can I understand that? I can’t. So when people tell me they aren’t Mormon, or they don’t like the Mormons, you just shock them out of their pants and tell them what they’re missing out on something that could change their lives forever. That might ring a bell for them the next time they talk to a missionary. Then at the sites on Sunday, I came across a 19-year-old girl who was on the fence about turning in her mission papers. After the tour, her family was just wandering around and we started talking one-on-one. I told her how much this could change her life and was pretty insistent on her just going. Just about five minutes into our conversation, she sincerely thanked me for what I said, and told me that she was now seriously considering it. So you see, in just a short amount of time, you can change the way people think about themselves, the way people feel about themselves, and show them the way God feels about them. That’s what being a missionary is all about. That’s our comfort zone.

I better wrap this up, but one of the greatest compliments I ever received was, “I’m like my mom on steroids.” Well, I have to be! I only have a year left! Today was transfers, and the sister that came on my transfer but a year earlier, just went home. It’s really strange to think I’m already a third done. I don’t want to be a third done. I just got here. I need to do everything I can, and seriously duct tape this thing to full throttle. I love being a missionary, and even if I do no more than convince others to go on missions–it was worth it. Congrats to Nicole and Hannah for their decisions! Along with the anchors close behind in Sarah and Maddy. I know I’m missing MANY more others, but really, the decision to go is a decision of a lifetime. There’s absolutely nothing you will regret other than not going. “The Lord is getting ready to send His Priesthood army to the earth, and who better to send them to mothers who have served missions?” -President Hinckley (paraphrasing)

Thank you all for the support and prayers. It’s felt all the way here to New York. Harmers, thank you for the Jelly Bellies, stamps and letters…it made my whole week! I love you all…even if I am a nun. 🙂

BE HAPPY!

Sister Hawkes