Monday, November 20, 2017

"Right at home"

P-day right on the water at the Pete's

Fishin

Happy Thanksgiving y'all!! I hope everyone has a holiday filled with good people, good food, and thankful hearts. 

Dorothy walked into church for the first time this week. She smiled at me and said "I feel right at home here. This feels good." What a happy moment! Yesterday was her birthday and she celebrated it by coming to church with us. She was practically glowing, she was so happy. I love how familiar the gospel feels. When we feel the spirit we get a taste of what heaven feels like so it's no wonder it tends to feel like coming home. 

We were out finding this week and we had a sad moment. It was dark and getting late, around 8 pm. A lot of people in these neighborhoods get cranky around that time and don't like to talk to us. But we knocked on this one guy's house and he answered the door and talked to us for a while. He told us he was baptist but that he had met with missionaries a few years ago. "I learned a lot of truth and that's the church I would join if I were willing to be more, what's the word for it, faithful." He told us he knows it's true but it's too much for him to live. Then he told us this was the kind of neighborhood where we'd get the cops called on us and so we had better get out (classic). 

I thought about that a lot. It's a big adjustment for someone to change their life and join the church, there's no denying that, but it really hit me that he knew it was true but wasn't willing to live it or even learn more about it. It gave me more resolve to seek out Heavenly Father's will and follow it. I mean living the gospel isn't easy. It isn't usually convenient. When we receive promptings or assignments to serve someone it takes resolve on our part to forget ourselves and focus on others. We don't always feel qualified when we receive callings and it can be inconvenient to magnify them. But "there is no spiritual power in living by convenience. The power comes as we keep our covenants" - Elder Ballard. I want the Lord to know He can count on me and I want to rely on Him for the strength and resolve to do His will. It's a lifetime pursuit but I know it's the happiest way to live. 

I love y'all a lot! Have a happy week counting blessings and giving thanks <3

"Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings but it also unlocks the doors of heaven" - Thomas S. Monson

<3 Sister Thomas


HBD Miss Dorothy

My Slidell fam
Rayce: "be cool"

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Rapping up another week of blessings

This is from last week when we all stayed at the mission home

Biking the Trace

Hey y'all! I hope you had a week full of smiles and tender mercies. We sure did!

Happy moments:
  • Our 12 year old investigator Elise'ya rapped for us. We were talking about faith and how as we trust in God he will show us the way to go. Elise'ya goes, "Ohhhh so that's like how the other day God told me I need to start up my rap career again!" She dropped a few beats about her jr high drama and it was so great. (also she's on date for baptism which is exciting!)
  • We made a new friend, Stephen, at the Bishop's storehouse. Apparently he's BFF's with "Tommy" Monson and all of the apostles. So cool! His son is "Ziggy" who plays for the Detroit Lions. He recruited us to help him find a wife for Ziggy! He told us, "If that boy isn't married by December 26th I'm going to march into a YSA ward in Utah and tell the first girl I see, 'Honey, you just found yourself a husband, whether you like it or yes it's not a choice." Oh boy!
  • We accidentally went on a 30 mile bike ride last pday. We decided it would be fun to go on a little joy ride on a beautiful trail. Well that bike ride doubled quickly! It was a blast. 
I wish I could explain all the good that happened this week. One example is when we went park contacting. It was our first time at this park and as we were walking around the only people there were kids on a field trip. We felt weird and stalker-ish talking to the students so we were getting reading to leave. As we were pulling out of the parking lot a young woman came running up to us, asked if we were missionaries and if we’d have time to talk in ten minutes. Sis and I looked at each other like “wow, this never happens” and gave an emphatic yes! Her name is Melissa and she’s an English teacher at a Baptist high school. She saw missionaries a couple years ago at a coffee shop and felt prompted to talk to them but she was too slow to act. She’s regretted it ever since. When she saw us she got really excited and had a lot of good questions about what is truth and how to know it. She invited us over to dinner with her and her husband. We’re excited to see where it goes! The Lord truly puts people in our path, even in unlikely places. 

It was one of those weeks where it felt really hard to push through and because of that we knew good things were coming. And we were right! Heavenly Father had people prepared for us to find, we invited a lot of investigators to be baptized, and the spirit was there teaching every lesson. I know this is the Lord's work! No matter how small or imperfect I am, Heavenly Father will use me to accomplish His work. Missions are cool because Heavenly Father takes you and shows you how small you really are and then builds you up so you can share His love with others. I meet new people to love every day and I thank Heavenly Father for loving me enough to send me to Louisiana. This beautiful and crazy place really is home. 

"For unto this end have I raised you up, that I might show forth my wisdom through the weak things of the earth" - D&C 124:1

I love y'all! 

<3 Sister Thomas

p.s. transfer news: I'm staying in Slidell with cute Sister Gamble! I couldn't be happier. I love this place and I adore Sis. 

Love them

Elise'ya and Paris

Dede has a tradition of going tracting with the sisters on her wedding anniversary

Monday, November 6, 2017

Elder Oaks!!

Good luck finding me in this one, Mom!

Still reppin LSU

Happy Halloween

Some weeks I just sit back and wonder, "How did I get so lucky to have these experiences?" The answer is Heavenly Father is just really good to me! I've done nothing to deserve all the tender mercies He sends but I am very grateful.

Friday night was a special YSA devotional in Baton Rouge with Elder Oaks and Klebingat. Our investigator Amanda drove Chance and Sheri so they were all able to sit at the feet of an apostle. How amazing. We're hoping it was really good for Amanda because she's had a tough week. The adversary has been hitting her hard and throwing a lot of opposition her way. That's not cool at all but we have faith that it will all work out! 

Between listening to Elder Oaks speak and seeing some of my best friends from LSU and around the mission I was about ready to burst with happiness. But it only got better! Friday night we spent the night in the mission home and then the next morning our entire mission came together to hear Elder Oaks speak again. The spirit was incredible. Elder Oaks is so kind and personable. He spoke a little bit and then opened it up to a Q and A session which was really cool. I don't have words for any of this but it was just incredible all around!

I don't have time to explain all the good things so here are some of my favorite tidbits from the weekend:
  • "I haven't been perfect, but I've never been neutral. The Lord knows where I've committed my agency" - Elder Klebingat
  • We were challenged to embark on a daily study to unlock the mystery of the atonement of Jesus Christ. To move it away from a theory to a daily living and rejoicing
  • Every day consecrate yourself to the Lord
  • "This church is not a retirement home for the righteous. It's a hospital for the sinners.....and that's why we call our units wards" - Elder Oaks
I love y'all a lot! This church is true. Heavenly Father has called prophets who speak to us today. They are great people when you see them in the public and on the screen at General Conference but they are even better in person. I am thankful for a Heavenly Father who has blessed me with many things - the chance to serve as a full time missionary, to meet these wonderful warriors in Louisiana, to make best friends out here, and to see tender mercies every day. But the most important gift He has given me is His son Jesus Christ who gave His life for all of us. And I can thank Him by following Him and applying His atonement into my life daily. I love y'all! Have an amazing week :)

<3 Sister Thomas

Meet Dede! She takes care of us and drives us to far out areas to visit people. 

Lighting a fire at the mission home....in 80 degree weather!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Happy Halloween!!

Our lil punkin (a gator howling at the moon)

The District

It's fall, y'all!! The weather's cooling down, leaves are falling (kind of), and there are pumpkin blow ups everywhere (Slidell is obsessed with yard inflatables). Fall really does happen in Louisiana!

Happy moments this week:

- Amanda is our new best friend. Every lesson we teach her she gets excited about how it all just makes so much sense. We gave her a church tour this week when she came to the ward Halloween party. It was pretty funny touring the halls as "Monster Mash" played in the background but the spirit was strong as we testified about the sacrament. 

 - Teaching KIDS. Y'all I love kids so much. I didn't realize how much I missed it until I went back to a family ward! There's a group of kids we started teaching a couple weeks ago and they're hilarious.  On Tuesday we were reading 1 Nephi 1 with them. We had planned to read half of the chapter and then have them finish it on their own but they loved it so much and begged us to keep reading together. It amazes me how receptive they are to the spirit.

We had zone conference this week and it really got me thinking. Our mission has had a strong focus lately of being "all in" and laying everything on the altar of sacrifice. Something I've realized is putting everything on the altar of sacrifice pulls me out of the comfort zone. Those parts of myself I want to hold back or the sins I want to hold on to are comfortable. But giving them all to the Savior brings me out of my comfort zone and onto my knees, because I know I can't do it without Him. 

This gospel is true! Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and He lives. I love y'all a whole lot, have a great week!

<3 Sister Thomas
Sis Gamble is the cutest am I right or what?


Love her <3

Sis Gamble is the cutest am I right or what?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Cloudy with a Chance of baptism

Chance's happy day <3


Chalmette missionaries came up to do service at the Slidell
Bishop's storehouse so our "squad pan" was happily reuinited

 #21

Hey fam!

Major highlight of this week: CHANCE GOT BAPTIZED. It was a pretty crazy week leading up to it but the baptism was peaceful and beautiful. It turned out so well! On Sunday he was confirmed and then given the priesthood. It's sweet to work with him and plan for his and Sheri's temple marriage a year from now. Since we've been teaching Chance Sheri has become more active and will even be going out teaching with us later today. Blessings on blessings on blessings!

We're still getting to know the members but wow I love them so much. Slidell is already starting to feel like home. I don't know how I got lucky enough to be serving here but I am sure thankful! Every single day there seems to be a new miracle. 

My favorite miracle of the week is Amanda. She's 22 and up to this point has had no relationship with God. In our first lesson she was explaining how she's felt a void in her life and she knows she needs something more. As we taught her she felt the spirit and is already planning on and excited for baptism! She's been reading the Book of Mormon and praying about it and recognizes a difference in her life. 

Y'all, this gospel is so true. There is always an answer to our problems in life and the answer is always Jesus Christ. I read Alma 26:12 this week and it took on a whole new meaning for me:

"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..."

Before my mission I knew that "in his strength I can do all things" but now I believe it. I knew God loved me and had a plan for me but now I believe it. Isn't it funny how that works?

I love y'all! Have a stellar week!

<3 Sister Thomas

p.s. Thanks to all of you who were so sweet to me on my birthday! It was a great day :)

My Slidell fam (The May's) called my mom and got the recipe for the birthday
dinner she always makes me....I'm telling you, I am too spoiled here

More birthday love


Monday, October 16, 2017

His hands

Sierra's happy day

Pday with Sister Edwards in the pouring rain = :)

Elder Christofferson came to our ward yesterday. That should give you a clue of how good our week has been.

We finally made it to Slidell! Sister Gamble and I have been so antsy to get into our area so when we got here we hit the ground running. It's been an adventure taking over an area from the Mississippi mission! The area book hasn't been updated for about 6 months so we spent a lot of time searching out investigators and former investigators and figuring out what they've been taught so far. It's been crazy but we are happy to stay busy. There's one investigator we've gotten close with who will be getting baptized this week! His name is Chance and we feel blessed to get to know such an honest seeker of the truth. 

It's amazing how work keeps popping up. Heavenly Father continues to remind us that we need to be here. 

Elder Christofferson came to Slidell yesterday to reinstate the Slidell stake! Slidell used to be its own stake but it was dissolved in 2005 with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Like so much of Louisiana, Katrina hit the church hard and many members left the area or passed away. But these people are finally getting their stake back! The Lord's work moving forward here and this new stake is evidence of that.

My favorite part of Elder Christofferson's visit was actually after the meeting ended. He announced that as much as he would like to, he didn't have time to meet everyone. But he asked if all the children could come up so he could shake their hands. That was powerful. It reminded me of the Savior's love for children and the different occasions that He blessed them. I know that the disciples are representatives of Jesus Christ but it was still powerful to see Elder Christofferson acting in a way that the Savior would. It made me think about how all of us have promised to take Christ's name upon us. We've committed to serve as He would serve and love as He would love. None of us are there yet but that shouldn't stop us from trying!

"We are the Lord's hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children" - President Thomas S. Monson

I love y'all! Keep looking for ways to serve and love those around you. I'm sure praying for ya!

<3 Sister Thomas

p.s. Sweet Sierra was baptized on Saturday! I got permission to face time in for the baptism and it was such a special moment. I'm know spirit was strong in that room because Sis and I could feel it over the phone. Sierra was glowing. I love her so much!

New addy:
1734 Tidewater Slidell LA 70458

When Sis tries to open the blinds....

 I love Sis Gamble <3

Monday, October 9, 2017

NATE

Saying goodbye to Sister Beck :(

Chalmette sleepovers for dayzzzz

Sweet Leonard in the hospital

This week we ate pizza 4 times in 2 days, enjoyed a midnight snack in the mission home, cried with Leonard in the hospital, had a slumber party every night, and......got EVACUATED thanks to hurricane Nate!

So yes. I feel like I say this every week but y'all, it's been a wild ride. Sister Gamble, my new companion, is adorable and I love her a ton already. We've been bunking with the Chalmette sisters which has been a blast! They are both already good friends of mine so spending the week together has been too much fun. They doubled in so Sis and I have been showing them the area.

Chalmette didn't actually get hit by the hurricane but President evacuated us and 12 other missionaries just to play it safe. He called us Saturday morning to tell us to come up to BR and said "bring your Preach My Gospel, it's gonna be like girls camp!" And you can bet we took that to heart! After a day of working in BR we came in and watched President play corn hole with some elders, cut strawberries with Sister Varner, and then we dragged mattresses into the family room so all of us sisters could sleep together. It was definitely one of my favorite nights of the mission! The Varners are seriously like family. I can't say enough good about them :)

Sister Gamble and I have felt a bit homeless this week without our area to work in and because we've been moving around so much, but I've been so blessed to work in two of my favorite areas! In reality we weren't actually homeless because Chalmette and BR are both home to me. I got to say some "hello again"'s and "see you later"'s to my fam in Chalmette, and then we went to church at LSU so I got to see my best friends in BR! I don't know how I got so lucky to have such wonderful people in my life but boy am I thankful.

I love y'all! Tomorrow we should be moving to Slidell so we'll be off on a whole new adventure! Thank goodness Heavenly Father keeps life exciting. Have a great week!

<3 Sister Thomas

Back at the mission home

Back at the mission home

Girls camp?

Corn row in the hallway of the mission home

Back at LSU with Emily <3

Saying hello to Abbie

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Leaving LBRM....kind of!

This is how I feel about transfers

One last time at the state capitol

Transfers are usually a lil crazy....but this one is downright insane! The whole mission is being turned upside down in the best way possible. Heavenly Father truly has some big plans for Louisiana!

Transfer news: I'm leaving LSU to open up Slidell. The funny thing is....Slidell is not even part of our mission. It's in the Jackson, Mississippi mission. There's a new stake opening up and Slidell will become part of our mission. That will all be going down in about a week, so in the meantime I'll be serving in Chalmette, the area I was in a few transfers ago! I'm excited for this new adventure and of course to see my fave Chalmette branch. God is so good.

I love LSU and I'm sad to leave. This area has been a place of serious growth and beautiful experiences. I have seen the Lord's hand in this area. Sister Beck and I were talking the other day about the beauty of change. As a missionary I've had such a great opportunity to see change in my investigators, areas, companions, and of course myself. Change can be tough but I am so glad that "our Father in Heaven is concerned not just about our comfort but even more about our upward progress" (President Eyring). Change is beautiful. I'm thankful for the changes I've seen here and for the changes that are to come.

It was a great week! Conference was amazing, of course. We watched a couple sessions at the mission home with the Varners and two of our investigators came! I loved talking to Sierra about it afterward. She was excited that she recognized some of the Book of Mormon references from what she has been reading. Sierra is a ray of sunshine in our lives. She is progressing so well and will be getting baptized next week! I'm happy for her and proud of the choices she is making. 

Some of my fave conference quotes:
"In any case, I am grateful to know that in spite of my imperfections, at least God is perfect"
"We cannot control all that happens to us, but we have absolute control over how we respond to the changes in our lives"
"Hard is good"
"Who needs me today?"
"Whatever we do, don't do it out of fear"

I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. He lives and He is there for us. I find great peace knowing that we don't walk alone. I love y'all! Have a great week!

<3 Sister Thomas

The district

Monday, September 25, 2017

"The Screamers"


 A sneaky picture of one of "the screamers"'s signs
 before the craziness began

Idaho potatoes from Sis Beck's fam
Exchanges with Sister Putoa

I can't believe how fast the weeks are flying by. I think I blinked and this week was over! So many tender mercies happen every day. I'd love to tell y'all all about them.....but then this email would be forever long. I know for sure that the Savior is with us every moment in this work.

Free speech alley was a wild ride on Tuesday. A group called "The Fellowship of the Consuming Fire" (affectionately nicknamed "the screamers") made an appearance on campus. Basically they are a group of 40 or so Pentecostal extremists whose tactic of "spreading the gospel" is to scream hellfire and damnation to every single person who walks by. Like they would take shifts and scream hate repentance on a little 4 ft wall while the rest of them chased students down or tried to bash others on free speech alley. It was insane! At one point 10 or so of them surrounded Elder Adams-Hart and Sister Putoa who politely confounded them.

There were some booths next to us who pumped up their music to drown out the screamers. That was awesome! It was understandably hard to talk to students that day, but our role was to lift and reach out to everyone who walked by. It was cool, the spirit was with us and it was like having a little "spirit bubble" amidst all the craziness. 

I've been thinking a lot about that this week. I'm not gonna lie, life has been pretty crazy lately. Sister Beck and I always talk about how our heads are spinning and we haven't really taken a second to breathe. I've been noticing how important it is to find moments to "be still and know that I am God" (Psalms 46:10). It's great to be busy, but when I'm rushing around I have a harder time listening to spiritual promptings and drawing nearer to the Savior. I'm setting a goal to be better this week!

I love y'all tons! Women's Conference was incredible and inspired. I can't wait for General Conference! Something I loved from the women's session:

"When we give our heart to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ we change our world, even if our circumstances don't change - Neill F. Marriott

Have an amazing week!

<3 Sister Thomas

We challenged Elder Dildine to eat 8 cookies at zone conference #bikelife

Keeping up with the Jones'

Happy exchanges <3

Sister Pedro <3

Monday, September 18, 2017

Spiritual highs and smiles

I love Sister Gelwix <3

This sweet and craaazy woman who was telling us about her "drug ferret"

It was another lovely week in the world of Louisiana! I seriously don't think I'll ever get over this place. I feel a lot like the people of Alma in Mosiah 18. Just like how Mormon became "beautiful...to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer" (Mosiah 18:30), Louisiana has become a beautiful and sacred place to me because it is here that I have come to know Jesus Christ in such a personal way. I wouldn't trade this place or these experiences for the world. 

It was one of those weeks that kept us smiling! Here are some of my favorite smile moments:
  • We were teaching Sierra (an answer to prayers) at the Union, which is the student center on campus. She wanted to meet in the food court as she took her lunch break so we sat at a table right outside smoothie king. Let me tell you - there were blenders going, people talking all around us, trays dropping, and all sorts of crazy noises but it was as if we were in a small spiritual bubble. The outside world could have been miles away for all we knew; the spirit was strong as we testified of Heavenly Father's plan of happiness. Sierra opened up and is now on date for baptism! We love her and her sweet desire to follow Jesus Christ.
  • We were coming back from this amazing lesson and had a sweet "feel good" experience! As we were walking back from campus we saw this cute little old asian woman wobbling up to us. She didn't speak any english but she embraced us and held our faces, looking into our eyes with such joy. She kept hugging us and kissing our faces and then she just walked away. Words don't do it justice, but it was one of the coolest moments.
  • I went on exchanges with Sister Gelwix! It's been almost a year since we were first companions and I didn't realize how much I miss teaching and "missionary-ing" with her. We actually taught some people who reminded me of Opelousas so I felt right at home!
Missionary work is full of ups and downs, just like life, but I am so grateful for these tender mercies of the Lord. My favorite quote this week: "We fail only if we fail to take another faithful step forward. We will not, we cannot, fail if we are faithfully yoked to the Savior - He who has never failed and will never fail us!" - Elder Bennett

Have a bless'd week. Keep on taking those steps of faith. I know the Savior will be right beside you. I love y'all!

<3 Sister Thomas

Michael teaching me how to play the erhu (chinese instrument)

We tried to take a fun picture after baton rouge
exchanges but it just ended up like this

Wild Louisiana rain