Tuesday, August 12, 2014

PA Rocks - letter dated July 14, 2014

Hey There! :) 
How is everyone!? I miss you all so much!!
I'm so excited to tell you about how awesome Pennsylvania is! :) haha! 
things have been going really good here on my mission! I can't even begin to express to all of you the happiness I feel as I'm out here serving in the Lords vineyard! It is just the most rewarding thing that I've ever done in my whole life.  There is no feeling that compares to how I feel when I get to share my testimony with people that I've grown to love so deeply, and to see it click within them.  To hear the testimonies that they have gained through the experiences that we have shared, and to hear them bear testimony to us as missionaries, that the things that we are teaching them are true.  Yes, we haven't been having people flock to the baptismal font to be baptized here....there are always a lot of roadblocks,and it seems that the commitment of joining the church is too much for a lot of people.  Some people gain the witness that the church is true, and still choose not to overcome their roadblocks to do things about it...but it doesn't eliminate the great feeling that I get when I see peoples testimonies grow....weather they be active members, less-active members, or not members at all, my life will be forever changed by the people of PA and the effect they've had on my own growth and testimony!  There is a scripture I read this morning in my personal study that really touched me that kind of explains this feeling that I have.  It's in Alma 29:13 and it's where Alma is expressing the joy that he feels in the Lords work, it says:  Yea, and that same God did establish his church among them; yea, and that same God hath called me by a holy calling, to preach the word unto this people, and hath given me much success, in the which my joy is full.  and I thought about that for a minute.  We have a wonderful Father in Heaven, that loves us so much that He has provided a way for us to have the church that Christ himself formed while he was on the earth, to be restored to us in THIS day.  and I have the most amazing, sacred opportunity to be called by that very same God that Alma was called, to be here serving in Pennsylvania.  To preach the gospel to every person that I come in contact with, weather they accept it or not, and it is remarkable the joy and happiness that it brings to me! And I have seen great success in my mission! and it hasn't been in the number of Baptisms, but in each and every day I see some sort of success...and I think the greatest for of success is the person that my mission is changing me to become. Man...I just keep ranting...just know that mission life is great! :) and I love it sooo much! and it really  makes me happier than anything!
Sister Jones is a total BOSS! :) I love her so much! I've been having such a blast being her companion! We are seriously having so much fun! :) we laugh a lot, every day! And she's a big movie buff, so we're constantly quoting movies. Sure makes slow points of the day go by much faster:) We've been working our tails off and it's really been showing great effects! Our teaching pool has really increased the past couple weeks, and we're having the great opportunity to teach a lot of people. :)
This last week was so great! We got to pick up an investigator who I love so much! His wife is a member, and she is SOOO great! :) She calls us her kids, and I just love it.  She really takes care of us like we're her kids, and her husband is just as great! We invited him to learn more after a dinner appointment one day, and he actually accepted the invitation. :) He is worried about being able to balance work, and school, and learning about the church and keeping commitments, but he is really sincere to learn more about the church and understand it a little bit better.  So I'm excited to see where this goes. :) We got to teach him this week before we left to MLC and we talked about Prayer, and the importance of prayer and how we can receive answers to prayer, and it seemed to go pretty well! :) We're excited to go back and follow up on his experiences.
Then we had MLC on Wednesday.  MLC is Missionary Leadership Council, and it's where all the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders meet together once a month with the Mission President and his Assistants to receive training and council, as well as discussing things in the mission.  And it was AWESOME! :) We got a new mission President, his name is President Johnson.  He's just a rock star! :) He's soo funny and so much fun! and he is so sincere and diligent in everything.  I really just love him and his wife so much. And you can just tell how much he really wants to do his best as a Mission President to strengthen us as missionaries as well as the mission.  There have been changes that have been made to the mission, but they're good things. :) And I'm so excited to see the mission continue to grow! :) I do miss President Topham, but I'm grateful that for all of the mission Presidents that could have come to PA, it was President Johnson.  I get to have interviews with him this week, and I'm excited to get to know him more. :) 
MLC literally took all day though...we stayed at a sisters apartment nearer to Pittsburgh, and the meeting started at 10 wednesday morning....we didn't pull into Butler until 8.  So not too much work was done that day...but the spirit I felt during our training was totally worth it. :)
OH MY HEAVENS!!! I have to tell you! There is a family here that just LOVES the missionaries, and they give us all nick names, Mine is Lightning, and Sister Jones doesn't have a set one yet...he's called her beach bum, ski, and mermaid....so we're not sure which one it is. haha! anyways...they take the missionaries out to this place called Ponderosa...and it's pretty much like a golder corral...and they told Sister Jones and I that we had to eat FOUR plates of food to beat one of the other missionaries that was here before us....I was SOO full I wanted to DIE! haha! It was so funny!! I love them! They crack me up! 
Later that day we had a great lesson with our new investigator Angie! :) She's awesome and really wants to learn....the problem is she has two grand kids that she takes care of, and they DEMAND attention every time we're over there, so it makes it kinda hard to teach.  But we're making progress, and we're having members come to help in lessons, it seems to help the kids stay more calm. haha keep them in your prayers. :)
Oh, and one more quick story....we were on exchanges on Friday into Saturday, and we were teaching a lesson to a new guy we have never taught before, and we're outside teaching him (he lives in the projects) and while we were out there teaching him, people just started to come sit down and talk with us to see what was going on...none of them ended up being interested, but it was pretty cool anyways...it was my celebrity moment of the week! :) haha!
Anyways, I love you all so much! Thanks so much for all of your love and support! I sure couldn't do it without you! :) The Church is True! :)
Sister Thomas

Note from Kelsey: I apologize this is out of order I just found it while going through emails and realized it never got posted! 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hey Yinz - July 28, 2014

Had another good week in PA :) I swear, life as a missionary...there is never a dull moment! :)
So...This last week on Tuesday we went and did service for this thing that is called Produce to the People.  And it's where they provide free food to people in the community...and they hold it at this community shed/barn thing, and people line up in a huge long line out front and wait for the doors to open.  And we go early to separate food into portions per person...so like this week we bagged 7 onions to a bag, and like 10 apples to a bag...ect. and then when we're done with that they open the doors, and everyone that has a pink ticket gets to go through the line and get food. So we stand at the tables, and we pass out certain items as they pass....and they have what they call runners that have cart things to help the elderly and disabled...or really whoever....that would need help carrying all their food because it gets heavy really quick (this week they were giving out like 5-10 zucchinis per ticket...and they were HUGE! So you can imagine it gets heavy.  Well anyways...there was one runner in particular who kept coming by to talk to us every time he had a free moment, and he was asking us about the church, and what we believe. So we'd get in little snippets of information here and there before he'd have to go help someone else....well finally I just asked him if he'd be interested in us stopping by to teach him.  and he said yes! So this guys name is Thomas (I know...super easy to remember right? :)) Well I was STOKED! I was sooo excited! Here I am thinking that someone is really truly interested in learning!  So Sister Jones and I asked him if he was from around town, and he told us he was, so we asked whereabouts....and he said, "Right up the street" and flashed us his wrist...where there was a wristband that stated he was an inmate at the Butler County Prison.....
....oh....nice. Haha! Missionaries luck right? :) haha! He said he only has 40 days left and he's really looking to turn his life around and wants to learn more.  So we gave him a Book of Mormon with contact information in it and highlighted Alma 36 where Alma the younger is explaining his conversion story. :) So hopefully he starts reading it! :) Don't worry...we can't teach him while he's in prison so it's all good! :)
But on Wednesday we did some service for some members that were moving out of the ward, and Brother A is actually a convert, and he has a crazy awesome conversion story.  He had done some time in prison before he found the church, and so he asked if he could write his testimony at the front of a Book of Mormon so that we could give it to him...Hopefully that will be beneficial for Thomas to see that you really can turn your life around, and begin to live a life worth living. :)
We did some Blitz' this week in Cranberry and then in Beaver.  
So As a Sister Training Leader we go on exchanges with the Sisters in areas near ours, and a Blitz is where all four missionaries work in the same area, but we still switch companions.  So on Thursday morning to Friday morning I spent the day with Sister Hodson in Cranberry.  And it was fun! :) We had a lot of fun experiences...like we randomly talked to some lady on the street that day..a.nd then later that night we happened to knock on her door...coincidence? I think not!! :) haha she wasn't interested, but I know that we were lead to her for a reason. And we got to go to a lesson that was on the further part of their area with a member....and the member has a SUUPER SWEET CAR!! :) It was a convertible! and on the way home we drove with the top down. :) Yeah buddy! That's the closest thing to a thrill that I get as a missionary! and I loved every second of it! :) haha! We had a blast on the exchange! 
And then the next day we Blitzed in Beaver. So Fridays are weekly planning days...and it's where you plan for like three hours for the people you'll teach in the upcoming weeks, and other things your going to be doing in the coming week. And it's quite a drive from Cranberry to our house...and it would eat up our miles (because we have an allotted amount of miles we can use each month) so we decided we'd go plan at a park instead. :) Turns out the park that the GPS took us to was a Softball field. :) Woot Woot! Made me really want to play some ball! But it was awesome because both Sister Jones and I play Softball...so it was fun to plan there. :) 
Then we spent Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon in Beaver....and I just have to tell you about the coolest experience I had!!! We had a dinner appointment at a members house in Beaver, and Sister Wilde and I got to have the dinner appointment.  Well, they have a daughter that is deaf and blind, and we were all sitting there eating together, and you could see her mom talking to her through signing into her hand.  And I just thought it was the neatest thing.  and Dinner was great! But before we left I had asked her parents If I could say hello to their daughter and to tell her it was nice to meet her.  And they seemed so thrilled! So they pulled her away from the table and helped her get cleaned up, and I got to sign to her.  I knelt down on the floor by her wheel chair, and I got to have a full blown conversation with their daughter. I guess she has a degenerative disease that caused her to loose her sight and hearing as she was growing up as well as control of he limbs and things...so she can't really sign back...but she can talk back from the knowledge that she had before she went deaf.  So I would sign into her hands, or her hands would follow me as I signed, and she would speak back to me in return.  Turns out she's been to Payson, they have some family that lives near there, and she's been to the Red Barn in Santaquin. :) and she was telling me about that.  And then she told me some jokes! She was so cute and sweet! :) Her favorite things to do are swimming, crochet, reading, and being on the computer.  She asked me what my favorite things to do were...and my signing is a little bit limited...so I told her I like to swim too, and that I like to read from the Book of Mormon.  And then she told me a full blown story about Sariah in the Book of Mormon, and an essay that she read on her.  It was amazing! This might not sound as cool to you as it was for me to actually experience it! But this was really one of the biggest highlights of my mission! To see her just light up...and talk...and talk...and to find connections.  It was amazing! I could just feel so strongly the love that Heavenly Father has for her.  And she just made my day! It was amazing! I am soo thankful that I got to use some of the things that I learned from Mrs. Campbells ASL classes in High School, and I'm so thankful that the spirit was able to bring certain signs to my remembrance so I could communicate with her.  :) 
I am just one extremely blessed Sister Missionary! :)
I have so many other stories I want to share with you but I'm out of time! I'll write them down for next week. :) I love all of you so much! You have no idea! :) 
Sister Thomas
p.s....I hope this makes sense and it's not super jumbled..haha! I have been all over the place in this email! haha! 
Also...the definition of YINZ in Pittsburgheese- You Guys, all of you, ect. :) haha! sooo many people say it out here!

Letter Dated June 30, 2014

Heyy Everyone! :) 
So....I'm really sorry that I really am not very good at keeping up on these things! No excuses...besides the fact that I'm just a big slacker!! 
So I'll kinda fill you in on a few things that happened this week. :)  A while back we went and did service at this "dentistry from the heart" thing, and it was a thing that some dentists and an oral surgeon did dental work for free in the community, and we volunteered, so we helped people get all signed up and everything, and while we were there, the elders won some tickets to the Pittsburgh Zoo, so we got permission from our Mission President to have a member take us to the Zoo.:) So we finally used one of our P-days to do it before Sister Larsen got transferred, and it was sooo fun! :) That was the first time that I had been to the zoo in a really REALLY long time!  It was a pretty cool place, and by far the elephants were my favorite part! :) It was a lot of fun, I was talking with Sister Larsen and I talked about how going to the zoo was probably the most vacation-ish thing I've done on my mission! haha!  It was a blast, and definitely a stress reliever, because I always hate transfers.  Not that I've really had any problems with my new companions before, I just really hate saying goodbye.  It was really sad that Sister Larsen was leaving, she was the one that trained me on how to be a Sister Training Leader, and so now I get to teach my new companion how to be a Sister Training Leader! So that's exciting! Hopefully I do as good of a job as Sister Larsen did! Then after we got home from the Zoo, we had lunch with some members in the ward, it was with Kevin and his mom.  Kevin is a recent convert that the elders baptized last transfer, and he is so solid! Elder Bashein and Elder Larsen were the ones that taught him, and Elder Bashein was leaving, so they had us all over for lunch to say bye. It was really cool though because they're from Micronesia, and Kevins mom made us some tapioca, That was the first time that I've ever eaten that outside of like...tapioca pudding! So that was really interesting! :) Then we got to go say goodbye to a few other people in the ward for Sister Larsen.
Tuesday was transfer day! So we spent a lot of time making sure Sister Larsen got all of her stuff and doing the last minute to-do things before we drove to Greentree for the transfer meeting. I think that this transfer meeting was really neat to go to, it was President Tophams last transfer meeting of his mission, and he was cracking a lot of jokes and was just so sweet! :) I'm really glad that I got to be a part of it! :) My new Companion is Sister Jones,  She's from Southern Californa, and she's very sweet! :) She's been out for 6 months, and Butler is her second area...and it's a little bit different than her last area...she served in part of Pittsburgh before she came to Butler, and her last area was a walk area...so this is all foreign to her being in a drive area with no big cities around! haha she feels like we have no one to talk to...I'd probably feel that way too coming from Pittsburgh! That place is HUGE! We've had a really great week, we've been working hard and we've been trying to find people to teach! It's kinda creepy cause we're already saying the same things at the same time...haha! We laugh about it! 
We've also been having some crazy adventures this week in our apartment.  This week has been SOOO hot and SOOO humid....and we have this little window unit in our apartment....so our room is like the only place we camp out when we get to be home...it's the only place cool enough to function. :) haha I really am actually kind of enjoying this Humidity hot thing...it's something I've never had to deal with before. :) The one part we haven't been liking about our adventures is the massive spiders we keep finding! They are the freakiest things ever!! They look like daddy long legs on steroids! Freaky! 
We got to teach some really awesome lessons this week to some less-active members in our area. :) it's wonderful because both Sister Jones and I are social, so conversation is suuper awesome with everyone that we're visiting. :) I know that Sister Jones is so meant to be here, and I feel like we'll find a lot of success! :) One lesson in particular, a sister was telling us about her past experiences in the church with her ex-husband, and she has just walked a really long,and hard road, and she is just amazing! She has such a conviction of the Savior, and of the Book of Mormon, and she really wants to start coming back to church to keep ALL of her covenants.  She is just a rock star! She has such a strong testimony, and I can't wait for her to come back to church, we definitely need her! :) 
We also got to go to lunch with the cutest grandma named Stella! :) He son is a convert to the church and has served a mission and is now married and has children that have served missions, and we went to visit her a while ago, and she insisted on feeding us even though she wasn't interested in learning more about the gospel.  So she took us and the Elders to lunch this week at a place on main street called Natilies. And she is just so sweet! :) she really is a very neat lady! and she just kept mentioning how wonderful she thought it was that we were serving missions and we talked about her family and such.   She told us that she strongly considering joining the church when her first grandson got baptized a member because he told her, "Grandma, I just know that you'll be baptized too when I get baptized into the church." and she said she thought really long and hard, but she decided to stay strong in her faith.  She told us that her son is always talking to her about the church and how he wants her to join....those dang Mormons...we're a persistent bunch aren't we? ;) haha! it really was a really neat experience, and we got to pray with her, and read from the scriptures with her right there in the restaurant.  :) it was wonderful! :)
Oh man...and I forgot to mention.  I had to give a talk on Sunday.  It was about preparing for missions...so it wasn't too hard. :) I just shared all the things I WISHED I would have done to be more prepared! :) haha!
The Butler ward and area are awesome! :) I love it so much here! I can't even tell you! They are working so hard to be missionary minded, and I think it's just great! :) I want you all to know, that I know without a shadow of a doubt that this church is the true church. I know that it was restored by our prophet Joseph Smith, as he went to the Father in humble prayer to find for  himself the truth.  I know that our Heavenly Father is so mindful of us, and hears our prayers.  I know that He loves us, and helps us to have the experiences we need to help us become the people that he needs us to be.  I love you all so much! :) I hope that you're all killin it in your missionary work! Because it is literally the best work to be involved in! I love you tons! :) Keep up the hard work.  A super awesome scripture I shared this week was found in 3 Nephi 5:13
It says, "Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life." Isn't this a boss scripture?! :) we are all called to this work of salvation as we are disciples of Jesus Christ. :) We don't just have to be set apart missionaries to help others have the joy of eternal life. :) I love Yinz! :) 
Sister Thomas