Monday, October 24, 2016

Blessings and birthdays

Elder Stoddard made PIZZA for district meeting

Our favorite sisters stopping in to district meeting before physical therapy

Sister Green is officially a missionary (thanks to construction paper and tape)

Temperatures are dropping and Louisiana is just as beautiful as ever. It's been a real good week y'all. We've had  disappointments this week but as usual the joy we experience is greater than any hard moment. It has been cool to see how every disappointment has a bright side. What a blessing!

Marcella fell back hard into drugs and alcohol. Paul is still solid but he has been busy trying to help her. She was off the radar for a few days and then she was in the hospital and now she is back with Paul.Paul is still solid and trying to stay strong but obviously this is hard for him. He says he is just so happy he has the Book of Mormon to turn to now because it gives him comfort and strength. He didn't come to church like he promised he would and we are going to have to set a new baptismal date for him but we know he will get there in his own way. We are trusting in the Lords timing.

Connie, one of our new investigators loves the gospel and is excited to get baptized! The only problem we are running into with her is helping her get to church. Poor Connie really wants to come but she needs to have staff with her at all times. Her staff member that works on Sunday doesn't want to bring Connie to church because she likes to take Connie to her own church. We're not sure how to deal with this one, but we know God will provide a way.

Lisa started smoking again. But we had a really good lesson and heart to heart with her and she decided on her own to rip up all of her cigarettes. We helped her and it was pretty fun!

Happy moments:

 - Sister Amezcua had physical therapy in Opelousas Tuesday morning so she and her comp stayed with Sister Gelwix and I Monday night. I've missed her so much and it was fun to see her again!
 - Becky told us she has been practically glowing since she came to church last week. She said she catches herself smiling all the time and she has this crazy urge to read the Book of Mormon 24/7. She is definitely committed to the gospel and is always eager to learn more. 
 - Sister V, our relief society president, is one of the few people in Opelousas with a car. She drove us to a far out place in our area and we had some great lessons with her. It is always a blessing when the ward members help us out!
 - Sister Gelwix is a rockstar of a companion. I turned 20 on Saturday and she made me breakfast, made a birthday sign, and wrote me some sweet notes. I am blessed to have this sweet sister as my companion <3

One of my favorite parts about serving a mission is watching the atonement work miracles in the lives of those we teach. It is beautiful to see how this gospel can bring light into their eyes and help them feel joy. I have definitely felt its strength in my own life. It must be frustrating to Heavenly Father to have such an imperfect tool to work with but he has been lifting me up and helping me fulfill my call. Like Ammon I can say, "Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever" (Alma 26:12). God is good, this gospel is perfect, and life is beautiful. 

I love y'all and I hope you are doing well! Thank you for your love and support; it means the world to me. Have a blessed week!

Sister Thomas

Sister Gelwix making me breakfast on my bday <3

S/O to mom and fam for the awesome birthday package <3

Our ghetto birthday cake 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Miracles and cigarettes

Pictures don't do it justice but the skies here are stunning. They make me smile every time I look at them. I've never seen such gorgeous clouds or brilliant sunsets. God is so good to us!

The whole fam (aka district) on the same row at zone meeting (this didn't last very long)

Opelousas has a bunch of these rad cellos all over town

It's been a week full of miracles, testimony building experiences, and happy days. I wish I could describe the joy that comes with missionary work. There are  hard moments of course but this week has been packed full of straight blessings. Life is beautiful!

Miracles of the week:
 - Paul and Marcella are still on date to be baptized on the 30th! We had a lesson with them about the word of wisdom and it was powerful. Paul has smoked at least 2 packs of cigarettes a day since he was 15 (he's 56 now) and Marcella is an alcoholic. But as soon as we taught them about the Word of Wisdom they were ready and excited to live it. They were like, "well if it is a commandment from God then we need to do it." They are so prepared for this gospel! They both got a priesthood blessing from the Elders to help them and they have been praying and reading the Book of Mormon like crazy. And guess what? They haven't even had the desire to smoke or drink! The atonement is so real and so powerful. Paul and Marcella are incredible. 

 - We met with Becky, one of our new investigators last week, for the second time and she loves the Book of Mormon like no other investigator I've seen before. She told us she is memorizing the testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, which is three pages long! She really identifies with Joseph Smith and has a firm testimony of him. She had a hard time accepting that she needed to be baptized with the priesthood authority because she has already been baptized in another church but she called us the day after our lesson and told us God answered her prayers and she wants to be baptized! She's on date for November 12th. 

 - We were visiting Miss Frances this week and she collapsed and we were able to catch her. It has been really beautiful how God always sends us to see her right when she needs it the most. She is an angel in my life and I love her!

 Funny moments:
- Nathan, a recent convert the Elders have been working with REALLY likes the sister missionaries. The first time he came to church he tried to kiss us on the lips lol. But the Elders talked to him about that and now he just gives us really long handshakes. This week the Elders told us that in his prayers he always says "And please bless the Sisters, who I love the most". Nathan is the funniest!
- Sister Gelwix made some awesome homemade Mac n Cheese for us yesterday. We ate a few bites before we realized there were little bugs crawling in it.... sweet! We found out that our flour was infested with little bugs (that goes to show how much we actually cook). But we got some good protein in the mac so no complaints here!
 - We did a musical number in church yesterday and a third of the room was clapping and the rest of them just looked confused. Haha it's always funny to see LDS culture and southern culture come together

This week has helped me realize again and again that the atonement of Jesus Christ is so powerful. If it can help Paul who has been smoking for over 40 years have no desire to smoke, what miracles can it perform in our own lives? If we have that same level of conviction and faith and put our trust in Jesus Christ the atonement can continually change our hearts and change us. Our biggest weaknesses and our "favorite sins" can be improved and changed. This gospel is perfect!

God is so good y'all! He loves us and He is so happy when we turn to Him. Every good decision we make helps us change and become more like Him. So keep on serving, changing, and loving. I love y'all and I'm praying for y'all! Thank you for all the love and support <3

Sister Thomas

Making real food (carrot cake lol) in a real kitchen. It's been a while!

Happy Sister Gelwix in happy Opelousas

Monday, October 10, 2016

Opelousas Louisiana has my heart

Sister Amezcua heart attacked our door while she was in town for physical therapy. I wanted to cry when I saw it because I was so happy and because I love her so much <3

Baby Sophia after our little surgery

I think I fall a little more in love with Opelousas every day. This is by far the weirdest place I have ever been but I love it! I would do just about anything for these people. They are wild, weird, and wonderful. I am sure blessed :)

Sister Nations passed away last Monday night. She was an incredible woman. She and her husband have both changed my life. I have gotten really close to this couple in the last couple months; they feel like family. Brother Nations calls me his "daughter" every time he sees me and it makes me happy because I love them so much. 

We saw Sister Nations a couple hours before she passed away because we came over to sing hymns. It was a beautiful experience. Their home truly felt like a heaven on earth. Brother Nations was holding her hand as we sang and the spirit was strong. Sister Nations couldn't speak or open her eyes, but even her nonmember family members remarked that she looked like she wanted to join in singing. I hope I don't ever forget the spirit we felt in their home that night. 

We have been really blessed this week. We have a few new investigators and it is incredible to see the way the gospel has already changed their lives in just a short period of time. Paul and Marcella told us a couple days ago that they were up until 2 am reading the Book of Mormon because they felt so good and they wanted to keep going! People here might not be able to read very well but they can still feel the power of the Book of Mormon. Another new investigator, Becky, told us she had been in a deep hole for a while and she was praying to know what to do in her life and then that's when we showed up! God is just so good. He is the perfect father to His children and He knows just what they need and when they need it. 

Funny moments:

 - Sister Green loves to "crank" (prank). She told us that next time she goes to the doctor she is going to stuff a pillow in her belly so she looks pregnant and then she'll have her daughter on the phone making baby noises....what?? Haha it is always an adventure with Sister Green. She is a hoot.
 - Sister Green has a baby doll she pretends is a real baby. Its batteries were running low so she had us perform "surgery" (changing batteries) on the poor thing. The operation was a success!
 - Prayers here are always a good time. When people pray, they mean it and they definitely say what is on their mind. Sometimes they pray for their hair to turn out good so they can make it to church and sometimes they pray for their neighbors to stop performing witchcraft and to burn. We always have a good laugh :)

God has been so good to me lately. He blessed me with Sister Gelwix, who is an incredible missionary. She is hard working and we have a lot of fun together. We have seen a lot of tender mercies with our investigators and the less actives we visit. Sometimes being a missionary is sad because you love the people so much and when they fall or make choices that lead them to be unhappy it hurts. But I am thankful that God has given us agency, the ability to choose, because that is what makes the plan of salvation possible. Our decisions determine our destiny (Thomas S. Monson) and we can commit every day to follow the Savior and receive His strength and peace. That is a beautiful thing.

I love y'all and think about you often. Keep loving life and choosing to follow Christ! It is so worth it, I promise. I hope y'all have a blessed week!

 Sister Nations a couple hours before passing away

 Serving in Opelousas Louisiana is just the happiest thing

Monday, October 3, 2016

"Help thou mine unbelief"

I <3 Sister Gelwix

Lisa at Nathan's baptism

I love Opelousas Louisiana. I don't have a lot of time but it has been a really good week y'all! I have just been so blessed. I am seeing so many tender mercies and God is lifting me in every way possible to fulfill my calling. I am incredibly inadequate but with Him I can truly do all things. It has been beautiful to see His hand in my life this week. 

Happy moments:
 - GENERAL CONFERENCE YALL. It was an incredible weekend. Thomas s. Monson is a prophet of God. I have been inspired and humbled by the messages in conference. I have a lot of changes to make in my life! 
 - We met Paul, one of our new investigators. He plays music at his church and he is so humble and ready for the gospel! We love him a lot already. 
 - Nathan, the elders' investigator got baptized this week. A less active woman, Lisa, that we have been working with came to the baptism. She committed to quit smoking and she has been making some serious changes in her life. It is beautiful to see how the gospel is truly for everyone. I love watching the atonement at work in the lives of people here

Lately I have been pondering a lot about the Savior and I've been trying to develop a more personal relationship with Him. So it was an answer to prayers to hear Elder Bednar's talk on this very subject. I love Elder Bednar and they way he puts things into perspective. We can know about Jesus Christ but do we know Him, truly know Him personally? sometimes we can get caught in a web of believing that Christ can perform miracles, just not for us. We might think that some blessings don't apply to us. But when we give away all our sins to really know Jesus Christ we will find peace and love and joy like never before.

This gospel is real y'all. The atonement is powerful and it can enable us to become more than what we are. I love y'all and I am always praying for you. Have a blessed week!

Sister Thomas

 I love playing with sweet little Aubree (Sister Nations is in really bad shape. You can see her in the mirror on the wall)

Everyone here has like 4 dogs