Monday, November 28, 2016

Light the World (and glow for Jesus!)

The view from the shack each night <3

 S/o to my mom for sending cute Christmas decorations so we can deck "the shack" with boughs of holly (the "shack" is what missionaries have nicknamed our apartment)

 Sister Green decided to start wearing sunglasses so when people look at her "they won't know I'm blind, they'll just think I'm being cool!" <3

This week was beautiful and packed full with miracles and tender mercies. I hope y'all are enjoying the holiday season! 

A few highlights from this week:

Heartfelt prayer. We were visiting a lady named Jamie and she gave a 23 minute closing prayer! I've heard some pretty long prayers on my mission so far, but this one set the record. So many of these people have a close and personal relationship with God. Way cool!
Superhero church calling: Sister Green is in constant pain and has been going blind. The doctors don't know what is happening and aren't doing anything to help so she's been going through a really hard time. But she was given a calling last week as a ward missionary and I don't think I've ever seen her so happy! She lights up when she talks about her calling. She is going to be a superhero in this ward. She has a list of people to call and told us "I am going to get them to church if it kills me!" I've never seen someone so devoted to serve and fulfill their calling. She is an inspiration.
Glowing with the light of Christ: Our investigator Rebecca is on date for December 17th! She soaks up everything we teach her and always yearns to know more. She calls us her "glowies" and tells us that every time we come she glows a little bit more. She can't wait to be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost to really "get that glow"! 

Miracle of the week: Rebecca and her husband Michael have absolutely nothing. They lost everything in the flood and she was telling us that the only clothes she has are the jeans and shirt she wore to church and a couple pairs of pajamas. She's not one to complain but she really wants a skirt or something to wear to her baptism. We really want to help her so we asked her to text us her size and we could have a clothing drive at the church. She called us after she got home from church and told us that there were three garbage bags full of clothes sitting on her porch! She has no idea where they came from because she didn't ask anyone for clothes. She said they are beautiful and there are clothes for Michael to wear to church too! This is nothing short of a miracle. God is watching over sweet Rebecca! She is excited for baptism and has been sharing the gospel with all her family members and neighbors. 

I am so blessed to be serving in Opelousas, Louisiana. There are so many people here I consider family and it is a blessing to have them at this special time of year. Sister Gelwix and I are excited to spend this holiday season serving Jesus Christ. What better way to celebrate the birth of our Savior than to love and serve Him? The church has created an awesome service program following the example of Jesus Christ and His service. There's a cool video that talks about it and there will be videos posted every day in December leading up to Christmas. I encourage y'all to watch the video and think of ways you can #lighttheworld by doing 25 acts of service in 25 days. Watch it here!

I love y'all and I'm so thankful for the prayers and support. I am always praying for y'all. Happy holidays! Remember the reason for the season <3

Sister Thomas

Proof that Louisiana really does have Autumn (even if it gets a late start)

Bacon wrapped deer meat and bacon wrapped green beans for dinner last night!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Blessings and serenity

Pictures don't do the Louisiana skies justice

 Nathan, a recent convert just received the Aaronic Priesthood! He was so proud and ran up to show us. He sure loves the sisters! (ft. Nathan putting his arm around me and me awkwardly leaning away)

Happy Thanksgiving y'all! 'Tis the season to remember our blessings and give thanks for all we have. Gratitude brings true joy. No matter what stage of life we are in I am sure we all have more blessings than burdens, so let's give thanks to our loving Father in Heaven!

It was a blessed week. This week:

·         We walked Opelousas: We cover a large area and we are blessed to have cars to drive. We're allotted an amount of miles for the month, and we're running low. Since our bikes were stolen a few weeks ago, in order to save miles we walked across the town! It took an hour to get from one place to another but we had fun on this little adventure :)
·         I hit up the city: Sweet Sister Gelwix took over Opelousas and I went to Alexandria on exchanges for 24 hours. Missionary work in the city is sure different than in the country! I met some rockin members and we volunteered at Salvation Army. God gives us exactly what we need and I learned a lot about myself and areas I need to improve. What a blessing to get a glimpse of God's love for me and how He wants to help lift me higher. 
·         Sister Green practiced being blind: We were working in Opelousas Friday evening and all our plans kept falling through. We thought about seeing Sister Green but it didn't make sense because we had just seen her the day before. But the thought kept popping up so we decided to give her a call and stop in. She was in bad shape. This darling lady never complains or lets others know when she is hurting but she was in bad shape. She couldn't move any of her limbs, she was in a lot of pain, and her eyesight was going. The Elders were forty minutes away so we called a member of the ward to give her a blessing. Sister Green is a warrior. Since then her eyesight has gone in and out but she is practicing dialing her phone, using her computer, etc. with her eyes closed so she will be prepared if/when she loses her sight. I am blessed to have this special lady in my life. 
I am humbled to serve in Opelousas, Louisiana. This place has opened my eyes and changed me. It has helped me see how blessed I truly am. There are some days where everything seems to feel out of control. Like when our investigator with cancer goes to the hospital because she is malnourished and doesn't have the money for food or water. That is humbling. As missionaries it is hard for us to lift people out of these circumstances. I always wish I could do more for these warriors. But Heavenly Father always reassures me that the most important thing we can do to help these people is to bring them the message of the restored gospel. I might not have much experience, but I know this gospel is true. I know God loves His children and I know He has restored His truth to the earth again. I am blessed to get to share this message every day.
There is a "serenity prayer" that is popular around here:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

I hope y'all have a beautiful Thanksgiving and remember where all our blessings come from. Life is beautiful! Thank you for the love and support! My prayers are always with y'all <3

Sister Thomas

The 9 primary kids celebrating after the primary program

A friendly sign we found on our walk

Monday, November 14, 2016

We're on the winning team!

Happy fall y'all from the sisters in the Alexandria zone ft. President and Sister Hansen

I love my sweet Sister Gelwix

I feel like a broken record but it has been a crazy week y'all. The mission, just like life, is full of some ups and downs. But the great thing about living the gospel is that the joy is greater than any of the hard moments :) I hope y'all are happy and doing well!

Some funny moments this week:
- A woman contacted church headquarters asking for a bible and Book of Mormon. She works late so we knocked on her door around 7 pm and it was dark outside. We knocked on the door and about 30 seconds later a shirtless man opened the door and screamed really loud and ran away. Apparently he was cleaning up and was playing loud music. He didn't hear us knocking but he opened the door to take out the trash and got really scared when he saw us standing there! His wife wasn't home but we had a good laugh with him and we'll go back when she is home. 
- Sister Green invited us over and told us she was bringing some kids over that wanted to hear about the gospel. We got really excited about this of course! Long story short she didn't have any kids over and she told the Elders some fibs as well just so she could feed us some hamburgers . After we were done eating she said, "Okay, let's go play basketball!" What? Lol it is always something new with Sister Green. 

The work was good this week. We had some disappointments with some of our solid investigators though. Some of them dropped and one of them doesn't want us to contact her ever again. I learn over and over that Heavenly Father is so involved in this work and I'm also continuing to learn that Satan is consistently opposing the work. He does not want our investigators to change and come closer to Christ so he is doing all he can to keep that from happening. This is a very real battle we're a part of. But there is no need to get discouraged because we are on the winning team! 

Our investigator Rebecca is incredible. She has cancer but she is optimistic and happy. She knows the church is true and she is excited for baptism! She had been sharing the gospel with her friends, family, and neighbors. We love her a lot and we know Heavenly Father is so proud of her for choosing to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized. 

Sometimes it seems crazy that God calls 19/20 year olds to do His work. I don't know much and I have a lot of areas I need to improve. But we had a great instruction from our mission president this week and he talked about how God calls us weak things of the world to do this work because we are humble and have the faith to do what is asked of us. I need a lot more faith but I am thankful for my weaknesses because they help me turn to God and rely on Him for everything. I know this gospel is true and I know He is with us through it all. Life is good y'all! I am so happy here and I'm thankful for all the love and support I get from y'all. Have a great week! Remember to turn to the Lord in all things :)

Sister Thomas

I am in awe of the amount of faith in Louisiana <3 (also these murals are all over the place - beautiful!)

 Crazy Opelousas celebrates birthdays once a month with birthday cake. It's a pretty sweet tradition! (lol sorry, I had to throw that in there) 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Seekers of the Truth

Hey y'all! This week was full of blessings on blessings on blessings. 

The beginning of the week was slow and a little tough. Our investigators that were on date for baptism decided the gospel isn't for them. It was sad because we love them so much but we hope they are happy. They know the Book of Mormon is true so maybe they will be ready to accept the gospel a little bit later. Sister Gelwix and I were feeling a little bit down. I have been praying really hard lately that we will find what my mission president, President Hansen, calls "seekers of the truth". This basically means those that are earnestly seeking to know spiritual truths and are prepared to follow God's will for them. Y'all, I know prayer is powerful because as I opened up my heart to Heavenly Father He blessed us more than I could have asked for.

The last three days have been miracles. On Friday, God led us to 48 year old Rebecca. She has cancer in her uterus and she told us "It is just not working without God". So she sent out messages to the LDS church, Jehovah Witnesses, and one other church. She told God that whichever one responded she knew was the answer to her prayer. Well we were the only ones that responded! She has so much faith. She knows that whatever happens to her is God's will and she is okay with it. We taught her about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and she was so excited! She told us she will be finished reading the Book of Mormon by next week. What? She is awesome!

On Saturday God led us to another seeker of the truth! She lives next door to our investigator Becky. We asked her how she was doing and she said "honestly, really bad". She said she never opens up to others but for some reason (the Spirit) she opened up about some hard things that are going on in her life. When we shared a message about the Restoration she was just crying and kept saying "this is exactly what I need". We love her and are so excited to see her again! 

Then on Sunday, God led us to yet another seeker of the truth! Three incredible new investigators in three days. God is too good to us! We had been striking out all day and finally a spunky lady named Lacey let us in the door. She grew up Pentecostal and was telling us that a lot of it doesn't make sense and she has a lot of questions. She opened up to us about her life. She is going through a really hard time. The entire time I was just thinking, "you know, the gospel is the answer to all of these problems and questions!" She is genuine and down to earth and is excited to read the Book of Mormon and see us again.

I am realizing over and over that I have nothing to do with this work. All of this is in God's hands and I just need to do my best to be a worthy vessel of the Spirit. God qualifies those whom He calls so even though I can feel inadequate and unworthy of so many blessings I know God will raise me up to be the missionary He needs me to be for His children. I love my Heavenly Father and I love this gospel! 

Heavenly Father is literally our Father and He is watching over us. He is sad when we are sad and He cares more about us than we could ever comprehend. How can we ever fear when we have Him on our side? The more that we turn to Him and focus on others the more He will show us the way and help us become like Him. The gospel is beautiful y'all <3

I love y'all! Have a blessed week! 

Sister Thomas

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Shaved heads, stolen bikes, and transfer news

Alexandria Zone sister pic

 I'm the luckiest to get to stay with Sister Gelwix another transfer

Opelousas is full of fun murals we got to enjoy as we biked through (zydeco is cajun music)

Transfer news: Sister Gelwix and I are staying in Opelousas! I feel so blessed to be able to stay in this area for another 6 weeks. I love the people here more than anything.  

Y'all this week was action packed. I sure love Opelousas and all the crazy adventures that come with it. This week:

1. We biked for the first time and counted our blessings the whole way
2. We shaved Sister Green's head with disposable razors (wouldn't recommend). We thought she was joking when she said she wanted us to give her a haircut. Lol she is the craziest! She told us, "When I feel my head, I want to feel only skin. I want to be a skinhead!" I sure love this funny lady!
3. Our bikes got stolen. We walked out of an appointment to find a bike lock that had been cut open. We didn't know what to do so we just laughed it off, counted our blessings again, and filed a police report. Everything happens for a reason and we know God is watching over us so it's all good. 
4. I did the "mega death sauce" challenge (I am the biggest wimp when it comes to spicy food so this is quite the accomplishment)
5. Lance (our recent convert) said "this is my favorite part" as we took the sacrament on Sunday <3

This week was a tougher week for the work here. One of our investigators who is on date for baptism in a couple weeks said her brother won't let her join the church. He makes all her big decisions for her so she won't go against what he says. Paul, Marcella, and Melvin gave us the same disappointing news. They all love the Book of Mormon and know it is true, they quit smoking (huge change), they know the church is true, and they want to be baptized but they texted us on Sunday saying they can't go against the commitment they made to another church. It's disappointing when people come to know our message is true and then they choose another path but it just makes me more grateful for the gospel in my own life.

Prayer is powerful y'all. I have a firm testimony that our Heavenly Father hears our prayers and He is watching over us. Life can be tough but when we truly understand who we are and we know Heavenly Father is on our side then nothing can keep us down. Life is good y'all! Thank you for the prayers, the love, and the support. I love y'all and my prayers are with you!

Sister Thomas

I wouldn't recommend using cheap, plastic, disposable razors to shave a persons head

Happy Sister Green with the new cut

The Jesus mural outside the police station