Monday, August 29, 2016

I love being a missionary!

The folks go all out for watermelon here

Poor Miss Frances in her hospital bed
Steph is just the cutest thing

Hey y'all! I hope y'all are doing well. This week was wild, wonderful, and incredibly faith building.

We had a crazy experience Tuesday night. We were heading home and Sister Amezcua had the thought to visit a sweet less active member, Miss Frances. It seemed weird because we needed to get home, but we followed through anyway. Miss Frances is the cutest thing. She loves us, hugs us forever, sings to us, and calls us her "babies". We were helping her change into her night gown when all of a sudden she fell back and fainted. She started having a heart attack so Sister Amezcua held her and comforted her while I called 911. It was the saddest thing! Miss Frances just kept saying over and over that God sent us to her. She lives alone so it is scary to think about what would have happened to her if we hadn't been prompted to visit her. But she is safe now and doing well! 

Happy moments this week:
 - we went to a funeral and it took a solid 20 minutes for us to realize we were the only white people in the room (classic)
 - we played "water pong" as a district
 - we got drenched just about every day this week (I love the rain here)
 - we had stake conference yesterday and it ROCKED
 - Sister Amezcua is the best thing. She is in a lot of pain all the time but she is still so outward looking. She truly loves the people here and she gives everything for them. We appreciate all the prayers for her from y'all! It means a lot.

This week has taught me a lot about the converting power of the Book of Mormon. We've been focusing on reading the Book of Mormon with our investigators and it has been powerful. I have no doubt that this book is true. It truly can get us closer to God than any other book. 

Life is good y'all! It's a commandment to have joy so I've been trying to smile a lot more. It's amazing the difference a smile can make! I love y'all a ton. Make it a great week!

Sister Thomas

Driving to Stake Conference with cute Stephanie Nations

The graveyards are above ground here - that has been new to me!

Monday, August 22, 2016

I know that my Redeemer lives

The frog didn't turn into a prince so that's a huge bummer

President Hansen paid a surprise visit to District Meeting and treated us to lunch

Box pile or album cover?

Happy Monday, y'all!

This week was wonderful. One of the best parts was we were able to do some service to help out with the flooding. The schools were reopened again today and most of the roads are clear so we are seeing some real progress! We helped out at a project organized by Our Savior's Church to provide supplies for those affected by the flooding. It was beautiful to see people in the community of all religions coming together to help those in need. The people here in Opelousas are just so good. On Saturday the governor's wife, a nun, and some other random people dropped by which was pretty cool. It was a great service opportunity.

Crazy/funny moments:
 - The bell went off at the end of Sunday School and Theodore, who came to church for the first time, jumped up and said, "See if we're having a fire drill we better run on out of here!" 
 - We were teaching Sharon about reading the scriptures and how it brings us closer to God and she started going off about how it is just better to be with God "in His presence" and how she just chills with Him all the time (this is a common occurrence with people around here)
 - We had a member present lesson (always a gamble in this area) and it went downhill fast. We were trying to teach the restoration and the member says, "Okay well let me just tell you. I can get deep. I can get real deep. I can tell you that some people don't even have birthdays!" (she went on for 20 minutes despite countless attempts to stop her)

Sister Amezcua is an angel. She is so good at lifting others up and she is a light in the lives of so many. She has some hard mountains to climb right now. This week she finally got a diagnosis: degenerative disc disease (not something she should be experiencing at 21 years old). She is in a ton of pain all the time but she is so good at staying positive and maintaining hope. We are learning how to take it slower and leave it in God's hands. I thought I understood what it felt like to let go and trust in God before my mission but now I am experiencing it like I never have before. I'm realizing that sometimes faith isn't about doing more; it's about caring less. It's about letting it go and allowing yourself to fall into God's arms. It might be hard now, but like Sister Amezcua always says, "It can't rain forever". The best is yet to come! 

We can find the beauty in every day if we will allow ourselves to do so. So find joy in the little things, smile more, and give thanks to Heavenly Father. He is so good to us. Whatever happens, this gospel is true. I promise it is true. It is perfect and it is for everyone. "Oh, sweet the joy this sentences gives: I know that my Redeemer lives!"

I love y'all!
Sister Thomas

I am head over heels for sweet Tammy

District en pointe (homemade matching ties and headbands)

Monday, August 15, 2016

The rains came down and the floods came up

Just chilling on a member's back porch (that lake was their backyard last week)

My angelic companion

I ATE A RAW EGG (pretty much just for bragging rights)

Tender mercies this week y'all.

 All the missionaries in the mission are safe! This is such a relief. The storm did a lot of damage in other areas of the mission but Opelousas did not get hit as bad. We were on lockdown here from Friday night until Sunday morning. I have never seen rain like this - it poured hard for a day and a half straight. There was quite a bit of flooding here but it is not nearly as bad as the damage in Denham Springs and Baton Rouge. We are praying for the people all over the state that have been affected by the storm. Y'alls prayers would be appreciated as well!

Funny moments this week:
 - "Well it looks like y'all have been eating REAL well" - 87 year old woman (we love being called fat by old ladies)
 - We held a pretty wild funeral for our old district leader, Elder McArthur. We had piano background music, flowers, a grave, and everything. 
 - The ceiling in the nursery room of the church building fell in! 

We saw so many miracles this week. We have been teaching a man named Glyndell for a while now but he stopped progressing. We have been praying and fasting for him because we know he needs the gospel. When we met with him this week he had totally turned everything around. He is on date again to be baptized! I have never seen the atonement working so fast and so strong with anyone else. He is making some very hard, very good decisions in his life right now. We are so happy for him! He is incredible! 

We have another investigator that we were getting ready to drop last week. She wasn't keeping commitments and we thought she was losing interest. But again, miracles this week. We have been reading the Book of Mormon with her and she is loving it. The Book of Mormon is so powerful - it answers the questions of the soul and fills us with light. I sure love that book! 

With all the flooding we were worried that church would be cancelled. The storm was supposed to turn around and hit us again Saturday night and if that would have happened we would not have had church. But again, miracles! Church was great! Glyndell came and he told us he could not sleep because he was so excited all night to come to church! He had a great experience. He took notes in the back of his Book of Mormon during Sacrament Meeting and he participated a lot in Gospel Principles. He is such a stellar guy. We love him a lot! 

I love having a front row seat to seeing the atonement change lives - including my own. This gospel is truly for everyone. If we understand grace, we know that there is never a point where we are too far from Christ. We can always find healing in and through Him. He has already paid the price for us - the entire price. When we follow Him we are not trying to repay Christ for the gift he gave to us - we are just allowing his grace to change  us. Because that's what it is all about, right? The commandments help us become more heavenly so that we will want to live in God's presence when we die. They don't force us to become something we are not; they help us become who we truly are. 

This gospel is so beautiful, so pure, so perfect. I feel so blessed to be here sharing this beautiful message every day. I am so lucky! "Men are that they might have joy". Well missionaries are that they might share joy. :)

I love y'all a ton. Y'all are always in my prayers. Keep on keeping on! 

Much love,
Sister Thomas

All out funeral for Elder McArthur

The new district doing what we do best (eating Canes)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

"Here's my heart, oh take and seal it"

Louisiana has the most beautiful skies

Thug district

Classy district

Hey y'all! This week has been one for the books. There have been tears, laughter, hard days, miracles, and everything in between. Good news: Sister Amezcua and I are staying in Opelousas! This week is transfers which is why I am emailing on a Tuesday instead of a Monday. On transfer week we proselyte on Monday and have preparation day on Tuesday. Half of the district is leaving which is sad, but I am overjoyed that Sister Amezcua and I are staying together. She is an incredible missionary and I love her to death. I feel so blessed to be able to work with her for another six weeks! 

One of my favorite things is when our investigators and recent converts share the gospel with others. Haley, one of my favorite people ever said the sweetest thing this week. She was baptized a couple weeks ago and now she is excited about bringing her boyfriend Ezelle to church. She told us that he is going to be baptized and that she "is going to change his whole life". She said she has been so much happier since her baptism and she has had a greater desire to make good choices. She wants him to be as happy as she is. What a sweet girl! We're really excited about teaching Ezelle. 

We had a zone training meeting (ZTM) this week. It is always wonderful to hear from our leaders about how to be better missionaries. I learned a lot about being courageous. The Zone Leaders called me the night before ZTM and asked me to sing. Of course I said yes, but I was terrified! I threw something together really quick and went to ZTM knowing I had no idea what I was doing. I love to be prepared so this was pretty hard for me. But I did it! I just totally relied on God to help me get up there. I sang "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing".

I especially love the last verse of that song: "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it/ Prone to leave the God I love/ Here's my heart, oh take and seal it / seal it for thy courts above". It helps me remember that none of us are perfect. We are all going to fall; we are all going to wander in one way or another. But if we feel it and we truly love God we will always come back. We will keep trying to do His will because we know that He loves us and knows what will ultimately make us the happiest. If we trust in Him, He will be our "light in the wilderness" (1 Nephi 17:13) and lead us to happiness. The light might not always be bright enough to see the entire path ahead of us - sometimes it is only bright enough for us to take a couple steps at a time. But God promises us that if we look to Him He will help us find our way. This gospel is so good! God loves us more than we can even imagine.

Life can be tough, but all things can be made right through the atonement of Jesus Christ. So keep on trying, keep on loving, and keep on keeping on. God will lead us if we trust Him. I love y'all! Have a fantastic week!

All my love,
Sister Thomas

Sister Amezcua cried when she found a dead lizard on the floor. She
named himLarkin and we had a funeral (love this sweet sister)

Monday, August 1, 2016

"Ye are only in the service of your God"

Sister Amezcua is an angel

Last district meeting! Elder McArthur is "dying", which is a mission term for going home

Happy August 1st, everyone! I hope y'all are doing well and loving life. Time is flying by so fast! Next week will be the end of my first transfer (six weeks in Louisiana) which seems crazy. I love it here in Opelousas and I am convinced I have the best companion. Life is beautiful. 

The six kids that got baptized last week, the Papanias, are doing really well. They are some of my favorite people. They glow and we feel at home when we teach them. Hopefully Maverick will be getting baptized soon as well! He's on date but we are waiting on Robyn's divorce to go through so they can get married before being baptized. He is a solid guy. I haven't met many people here who are as grounded as he is. He understands what is most important and he is always striving to be better. We love seeing him grow!

We received an answer to our prayers this week about Ms. Robyn, the Papanias mother. She had been avoiding us for a while and we didn't know how we could help her. But she called us one night and told us she needed to see us. Yes! We saw her the next day hoping to share a message with her and check up on her and see how she is doing. Our lessons never really go as we plan with Ms. Robyn though. She spent two hours talking to us about all the guys she has been with and the drugs they took, her party life, and who knows what else. We got a word or two in here and there but mostly she just talked at us, not to us. We finally just stood up and Sister Amezcua told her we had to go and we left. This was a step in the right direction and we're grateful for it!

One of the less active members of the ward has also been avoiding us lately. Last Monday she called us sobbing and when we talked to her she confessed she relapsed with drugs. It is heartbreaking. The worst part is she has a 13 year old son who witnessed the whole thing.  We met with her every day until she went to the hospital to detox and she seemed to get grounded, but this is a cycle with her. Very sad. But she told us she wanted to read the entire Book of Mormon while she is at the hospital so hopefully that will help her get back on her feet. We love her and hate to see her so down. Most of all, we hate seeing how it all affects her son. 

Sister Amezcua is still in a ton of pain. We went to the hospital for her to get her MRI but they said the machine broke. Classic Opelousas. Hopefully they can get her in again soon so some real progress can be made! She is fighting many hard battles right now but she is great at staying positive and keeping up the faith. She is an inspiration to me. 

I love studying about Jesus Christ. One of my favorite parts about my mission has been really coming to know my Savior better. I read a talk by Henry B. Eyring from conference (women's session) about service that I really loved. He mentioned that when we serve others, Jesus feels that service. When we comfort others, Jesus feels that comfort as well. I had never thought about it like that. I love Mosiah 2:41 and I have understood that by serving others we serve God but I had never imagined it was so direct. Knowing that makes me want to serve so much better! 

Keep loving and keep serving everyone. Love y'all!
Sister Thomas

Rocking the cornrows Haley put in our hair

Fried frog legs anyone?