Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Letter Dated September 1, 2014 - Spirit Filled Week :)

Hey Hey Family and Friends,
It has been a fun AWESOME week!!! :) So last P-Day Brother Mathers (He's the one that gives me a hard time and makes me sit at the kid table at dinner. :) haha!!) He took us fishing! :) It was the greatest! I had so much fun! He and his wife took all of us missionaries, and another boy from the ward, and their granddaughter fishing.  It was so cute, it was at this little private pond thing, and he knows the guy that owns it, so he got permission to take us all fishin there. :) and it was a beautiful day!! Unfortunately I was literally the ONLY ONE that didn't catch a fish. HA!! Everyone else caught on just fine! haha! But I still had a really fun time! :) I'm not going to lie though...I really like fishing with my daddy a lot more than I liked fishing in PA.  Nothing compares to fishing with my favorite fishin pal...and I guess my little brothers can be included in that too. ;) haha! I love and miss them so much! I know Hagen would have just had a blast fishing there!! Ew...and we used some Meal-Worm critter things...I'm not even sure if that's how you'd spell it...but those FREAKED ME OUT! Ew...they were sooo gross!! haha! I only tried that little critter thing once and just stuck to worms for the rest of the time. haha! I couldn't handle it! Bugs still freak me out!
Sister Jones and I had a really awesome week that was guided by the spirit a lot! On Tuesday we had went to the Library to have our Mormon.org time so Sister Jones could get some things together for her talk that she gave on Sunday, and while we were there, we were walking out at the same time as this kid, who seemed like he wanted to say something an didn't...and we didn't take the initiative to say anything to him before we started walking different ways...our mistake.  So we were driving a little ways out of town on our way to Loretta's house, and we saw him walking down the street again...this time we weren't going to let the opportunity pass us by.  So we flipped around and tried to find somewhere to park so we could catch up with him...and the only parking we see is at this Doughnut Connections place...and there is a sign posted that says "costumer parking only" so we parked there and chased this guy down the street (okay...I know we sound like a bunch of crazies....but we weren't literally running down the street....we were walking really fast though haha!) so anyways, he finally turned around and we waved at him, and he stopped to talk with us.  He told us his name was Ty and then he asked us if he was in trouble!  haha we just laughed, and we told him no, and that we had seen him earlier and really wanted to talk with him.  So we talked for a bit, about religious backgrounds and such, and he was very kind. He lives in the Elders area though, and he gave us his number and we shared a card with him and left him with out testimonis...He was probably the one thinking we were the crazies! haha! But we really felt strongly to go talk with him, and we did....hopefully something comes from it! :) Anyways...we walked back to our car and decided to go in and buy some doughnuts so that we were obeying the posted signs...and I was so excited! They actually had a maple doughnut!! I swear NO ONE in PA has maple doughnuts...it was quite the tender mercy. :) haha! Anyways...then we were back on our way.
And the second strong experience we had this week actually happened last night...we had just had dinner at a members house...and they made us Mexican food! Oh my gosh!! Probably the  one of the best meals I've had on my mission!! Brother Hendrix is from out west, and he's a chef, and he made THE BEST Mexican food.  For some reason there are hardly any Mexican restaurants here in PA, and I really miss Mexican food from out west....so that really made me miss home a bit..it was a good treat!! After we left we tried to contact a referral and they weren't home...so we were trying to decide what to do next..because the timing was a little bit weird on the plans that we had set....so we just decided that we were going to go visit this Less-Active sister in the ward.  She really lives in the Elders area, but she's super close to our house, and she never really gets visited by her Visiting Teacher.  So we were driving to her house and about half way there, I just didn't feel right about the decision we have made. So I brought it to Sister Jones attention, and she said that she was kind of feeling the same way...she was driving and so I offered a prayer to ask Heavenly Father what He would have us do with the short time we had before we needed to be in for the night...and when I finished, I hadn't had anyone come to my mind....and I was feeling like maybe there was someone somewhere that we needed to find. so we talked about it, and Sister Jones said that the only person that came to her mind was a Sister that didn't live too far from where we were..so this time she said the prayer to ask if that's the person we needed to see.  And we both sat in silence for a minute really focusing on what the Spirit was trying to say to us....and I was really feeling like it would be okay if we saw that Sister...but I still felt like that wasn't quite what we were supposed to be doing...so we drove for a bit in the direction that we felt we should be going....and while we were driving Sister Jones said, "I just really wish that I had a name or an address" and as soon as she said that Oak Street popped into my head....but we knew that Oak Street was in the Elders area...so we typed Oak into the GPS and we scrolled through the names that came up...and the one that really stuck out to me was Oak Ridge Rd, so I clicked on it...and it wasn't too far from where we had just had our dinner appointment (Silly me....if I would have listened to the spirit the first time once again...we wouldn't have had to do so much back tracking.) but we decided to pray again to see if this is the street that we needed to go...and I prayed this time...and I was expressing to Heavenly Father that we wanted to be doing the things that He wanted us to be doing, because we knew that this is His work, and not ours....and I told Him that we wanted to find whoever it was that He wanted us to find, and to go wherever that was...and I felt the spirit so strongly that that was where we needed to be. So I ended the prayer...and I was nervous that Sister Jones maybe didn't feel the same way I did...but she looked at me and said, that's where we need to go.  I felt strongly about Oak Ridge Rd too.  So we drove out there...it's about 8:30 and it's raining....and we finally get out to this street...and it's a really dark road...with hardly any lights on...so we just continued to drive up the road with a prayer in our hearts that Heavenly Father would help us feel which door we needed to knock on...so we drove, and we drove, and there was one  house in particular that felt like it was right....so we pulled in front of the house and we prayed again..(we pray SO MUCH as missionaries. :)) and we grabbed an invitation to a musical celebration that we are putting on at our church, and we went to the door to knock.  And we knocked twice, with no answer. So we wrote a note on the back of the invitation thing...and left our number and left it and stuck it in the door...and it was really neat, because even though we didn't have an answer at the door Sister Jones and I had the most amazing peaceful feeling that we had done what Heavenly Father had asked us to do.  And we had felt that we had been in the right place at the right time. So we offered one last prayer of gratitude, and both felt the spirit so strongly, and then made the drive back home...without the music on, and not saying much...we were really enjoying the spirit that was present and and the peaceful happy feeling that we had felt.  It was an experience that I've had like no other! I have never felt so lead by the spirit in such direct terms! I am so thankful!! :) and hopefully something wonderful comes because of it! :) 
Those were the two most distinct experiences that we had this week.
But now...I'm going to tell you an experience that we had earlier this week that is more of a funny story than it was spiritual.  So we have to track how many miles we drive in our car each month...and we were pretty close to going over our allotted amount of miles...so we had to do a lot of walking...and we were walking down town, and were on main street, and had a little bit of time before we had to be at Katies Kitchen where we do service so we walked up main street a bit...and while we were walking this man stopped us...and he asked us if we were mormons, and so we told him yes, and the very next thing he asked was "Oh, so you think you're Gods then?" and you could hear the insincerity in his voice...and though my mission has changed me a lot...I still have some work to do when it comes to things like this. haha! So I kind of got a little stand-offish and we were talking with him, answering some of his questions...and with the answers we gave, he would twist our words and make it mean something that didn't have to do with anything at all that we said...and so I was just done talking to this guy.  And he said he had somewhere to get going...and so I jumped right on that, gave him a pass along card and kept going...this guys name was Jim.  And I was a little fired up, and recognized that I had not been as good as I could have been at loving this man anyways...I had not tried very diligently to help him feel the love of the Savior.  And I was expressing this to Sister Jones while we were crossing the street and then heading back down to Katies Kitchen since our time was up, and who do we run into again??? JIM! And he was sitting down next to a man that started talking with us. It was very kind at first...and I was striving extra hard to be loving, and emulate the love of the Savior, because I had been given a second chance...and he started by talking with us about the weather and asked if we were talking to a lot of people...you know..just that small talk stuff...and then he said, "You know I just told Jim here that I stayed in a hotel in Utah near your temple.  So we talked about how beautiful the temples were and things..and all the sudden out of NOWHERE like a freaking assassin he wants to kind of bash with us...what?? Okay...I don't like this...so I'm trying even harder to be loving now...to the point that my knees were actually shaking! haha! And he was asking some questions...and one of them he asked was "What are you going to say to Jesus when He's standing at the gates of Heaven and asks you why He should let you in...what are you going to say to him." And Sister Jones and I were quiet for a moment, pondering the question and listening for the Spirit to guide our words...and aparently we were quiet for too long, and he's like, "If you don't know what you'd say to Jesus, you had better figure it out now" and he said some other things that I don't really remember...and I started to explain that we believe that this time on earth is a time for us to prepare to meet God. But he cut me off in the middle of my sentence and said, "I don't want to hear what you believe, I want to hear what you would say to Jesus." and I just straight up told him I don't think that the Savior would ever ask me that question...and that I was sorry but I didn't imagine it being that way....so he jumped right on that before I had time to finish me statement...and he said, "So you think Jesus is going to just let you into heaven then?!" and my answer was absolutely not.  I just couldn't imagine myself having the Savior asking me why he should let me in, but instead it would be a glorious experience, filled with love and rejoicing that I got to see my Savior.  And Sister Jones also added that she felt the same way...and that the Savior wouldn't be asking why we should stay...but pleading our case, and being our advocate with the Father as to why we should be allowed into Their presence.  And then he brought up the Book of Mormon.  And we testified that it was the word of God and so was the Bible...and they testify of each other..and he did not like that. And questioned Sister Jones as to where the Bible testifies of the Book of Mormon.  So Sister Jones pointed him to Ezechiel where it talks about the Stick of Judah and the Stick of Ephraim..and all he said to that was "That's Mormonism for ya." and mentioned some unkind things about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon..and we didn't want to get into it anymore...so I began to just compliment him in his faith in Christ and how that was something I really admire about PA is the fact that so many people have a faith in Christ. and he stands up and shakes my had and says, "That's my Job. I'm Pastor Berkley." Oh man..I was a little upset. haha! I shook his had, and we thanked him for talking with us and went on our way to do service.  I knew in my mind when he asked us about what we'd say to Christ, he was trying to trip us into saying something along the line of our works...and our works being the only thing that saves us. We know that Faith without works is dead...but other people believe that you just accept Christ into your heart and it's your ticket to heaven. I am just so thankful for the knowledge that I have of this church.  I wish I could have shared the full story with you...but it was too long! haha! and this is already a really long email! I had a lot of cool things to share this week I guess.
But I want  you to know, that I know with my whole heart, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God, and that he was able to translate the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God.  I know that the Book of Mormon gives us the fullness of the gospel, and brings us closer to Christ through our study of it! I am so thankful and blessed to be here at this time! And I want to testify of the Love that we must show to others...we have to show people we love them, and help them to feel the love of the Savior! :)
The Spirit is real and guides and directs us so long as we allow him to. :) 
I love you all so much and hope you have an awesome week! :) 
Sister Thomas

Letter Dated August 18, 2014

Hey Everyone! :)
So...this week was really long! I don't know about everyone else..but man, for Sister Jones and I it was a lot longer than normal for some reason! haha! I think I'll blame it on the fact that we didn't get to do exchanges this past week! 
But, despite this week being long, it was still super awesome!! :) I'll talk about a few awesome highlights. :) 
Monday we had our regular P-day...we didn't do anything fun.  There really isn't anything in Butler..so when we stay around Butler...we just do our grocery shopping and look at stores that are around. haha! tons of fun right? But the super cool thing that happened Monday is while we were shopping at 5 Below, we got a media referral from someone that referred themselves for a Book of Mormon.  And the super cool part is that it was in the same area as our dinner appointment. So after our great dinner at the Bonetti's we went to contact our referral. Oh really quick...let me tell you the riddle that Brother Bonetti told us at dinner...."What happens once in a minute, twice in a moment, and never in a thousand years?" the other one that he told was, "You're driving down the road it's pitch black and you don't have your lights on, yet you can see everything...how?" I'll let you think on those and I'll tell you the answer at the end of the email. :) Anyways, so after dinner we drive to this guys house who asked for the Book of Mormon, and we pull up and there is this "No Trespassing" sign in the front of their driveway...so we were a little hesitant..because sometimes people play jokes on the missionaries, and refer us to mean people, or they make up fake people with an address...like let me just tell you...one time I got one with the name Charlie Brown....he wasn't real. haha! But anyways...we said a prayer and we felt okay about it, so we knocked on the door, and the man that opened the door was young, probably in his early thirties, and he was so kind and invited us right in! So we sat down with him and his three daughters, and his wife wasn't sitting down, but was doing some things in the kitchen while listening to us.  And this guy, we'll call him "J" had a lot of questions! It sounded like he had been looking for churches for quite some time, and really didn't like some of the answers that other churches were giving him...so we sat down and had some really nice conversation and discussions about our church.  Some of the questions he asked were about family, and what programs we have in the church for children and youth.  And if we believe in Christ, and what sets us apart from other churches? Things like that! And it was really awesome because he was very impressed by some of the answers that were given.  We invited him to begin the lessons, and he said he wanted to read more out of the Book of Mormon before beginning the lessons.  So we left him with our number and we have his, so I'm excited to see where this goes! He just has the cutest little family! His wife is so sweet! and his daughters are ADORABLE! :) They would just make the best family in the Church. :) I'm super excited to hear what happens! :) It's really cool though to see how many people really are looking for truth, but they "are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—" (D&C 123:12) And to hear again and again the questions of the soul of people wondering Where they came from, and Why they're here, and Where they are going. As children of God searching for truth...these are things that we ask ourselves, and all things that can be answered through the Book of Mormon and prayer. :) 
Then, we had one of the Less-Actives that we are working with call us up, and tell us that her brothers girl friend wants to learn more about the church, and wanted to set up a lesson! :) so we set up a time to go over on Thursday.  So we went over and we started with understanding what her religious background was, she was born and raised a Catholic, but when she got older switched to becoming a Lutheran.  She became interested in the church through conversations she's been having with Kristen and other members of her family. :) So we taught her the Restoration, and it was so awesome, because Val realized every time that she was feeling the spirit...and she testified back to us, that she was feeling the spirit when we talked about Gods love for us, and His desire for us to be with Him again. We introduced the Book of Mormon, and talked about the promise it contains with Reading and Pondering the book, and then asking God if it really is true, if the things we're teaching her are true. And she accepted that invitation to do so, and she even wanted to read from the Book of Mormon every day with Kristen for 20 minutes! Doesn't she just sound awesome! :) She really is the greatest! She is so kind, and sweet! and another awesome connection she has with the church..is she just started a job where one of our members works! How awesome is that! I really like Val a lot! I feel like we totally related because she is a CNA too! But she's been doing that for 7 years....She's got a lot more time than I do.! :) haha!
We just had a really awesome week of finding and talking with new people! :) We have a lot of awesome service opportunities coming up this week! :) I can't wait to begin! :) There is so much love that is felt through doing service, and it really opens and prepares a lot of peoples hearts to receive the Message of Jesus Christ that we have to share. And I think I'm the super lucky one here! Because having the opportunity to do service for others has been some of the neatest experiences on my mission! There is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment, and love that you receive from serving God's children. :) I love it!
And I love you guys! :) a lot! and I miss you a ton! keep being awesome! 
Sister Thomas
oh..by the way..your answers to the riddles are:
The letter "M"
and the other is you can see everything because its the middle of the day...it's to road that is pitch black. haha...this one made me feel like an idiot!

Letter Dated August 4, 2014

Hey Hey everyone!! 
It has been quite the abnormal week! haha! I'm excited to tell you about it!
So Last P-day after we were done emailing and shopping for groceries and stuff..we went to Jans house to paint! :) She's teaching us how to paint...we're working on a Monet...Yeah...mine looks NOTHING like his...haha! I'm not done yet, but I'll tell you what I"m not really an artist! haha! But I really do like painting a lot! It's actually pretty relaxing. :) even when I suck at it!
Anyways, then her and he husband Nick fed us dinner, and we had a lesson with them after dinner.  Jan is a member, and her husband is not, so we've been teaching him the lessons! :) But the last lesson we had wasn't the most amazing lesson I've ever had as a missionary. haha! It was one of those lessons where every possible distraction happens...the phone rings...the air conditioner breaks...stuff like that.. so, it was a good lesson...just not the greatest... haha okay enough of that low-light stuff.
So later that night we drove up to Erie for exchanges. Its like a 2 hour drive, so we didn't get in until about bed time! haha it took forever! But we had such a good time up there all day Tuesday! I got to spend the day with Sister Holmstead.  She's probably the most boss missionary I know.  She goes home in like...two weeks.  But she works SOO hard! We got to go visit some people they're teaching, one of them was Vern.  (Did you catch that Kels :)) Anyways, this guy has been an investigator on and off for the past year and half or so.  And it was just a quick visit with him. He's so awesome though....he's totally going to be baptized one day! :) 
We also got to go to the vineyards up there and work in them for some members. :) Did you know that Welches gets some of their grapes from Erie PA? :) and I worked in some of the vineyards that they buy from :) Now that's pretty cool right? Well...it was raining while I was out there....so I didn't get any pictures to share of that one...but I sure had soaking wet, lake smelling pants to prove it. haha! YUCK! I was so wet and cold for the rest of the evening! haha! But it was so awesome! I love LOVE getting to do service! I have never done so much service in my whole life I swear! and it is just the greatest feeling to get to help people who are in need! anyways, we traveled home later that evening...and we were about 40 miles away and we had to stop for gas and saw that Sister Holmstead had forgotten her scriptures in our back seat. Bad news...so we called our Zone Leaders to see what they wanted us to do...if they wanted us to use the miles to go back up or what....and of course they didn't answer their phone! haha! and our phone was dying! So we called the AP's and they reminded us we had a meeting later that week that we could give her scriptures to her Zone Leaders that would be there. haha! So we got that all figured out. Thank heavens for the AP's! They're saints! 
Wednesday was probably one of the weirdest days I've had as a missionary...we were asked to come help do service at the Farm Show in Butler..so we went, and it was sooo much fun! Really all we did was sit at this booth thing and help people when they needed it...which wasn't very often....so we got to see this cute little act from this guy...his stage name is the "moo-gician" It was cute. :) We saw a lot of really neat stuff. :) and met some cool people! 
But the weirdest part of my day...was when we went over to some members house and helped them BUTCHER CHICKENS!!!! Like literally...cut their heads off....skin them....all that nasty stuff. haha! okay...and we didn't really do all that much "helping" because we were in our skirts and stuff...and they said it was going to be a bloody mess...so we were more of the learning/support aspect! Gross right? I don't want to freak any of you out...so I won't share pictures unless you want me to send them to you....and I'll spare you the details..other than...the phrase "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off" isn't just some silly phrase we say...it's legit! haha!!
Then Later this week we had our Missionary Leadership Meeting in Pittsburgh. :) It was SOO legit! :) I seriously LOVE those meetings! I'm going to be so sad when I don't get to attend them anymore. But I was extremely lifted spiritually leaving that meeting :) All the Sister Training Leaders got to stay the night at the mission home in preparation for MLC and it was so fun! I just want you all to know That I have the greatest Mission President in the whole world....of all the other missions...no questions asked. ;) haha! I'm sure that everyone thinks that about their mission presidents...but I really love President and Sister Johnson! :) They are super awesome! :)
Sorry I didn't share lots of awesome spiritual stuff with you this week! We spent a lot of time out of our area in Erie and Pittsburgh...but I shared a few fun highlights. :) 
I am SOOO thankful for the opportunity that I have to be a missionary! It freaks me out to think that this is only for such a short period of time...because I love it! I love the people! I love my areas that I've served in! I love my companions! and I love the person I'm becoming. But most of all I love the gospel.  And I know that it is true! I'm so thankful for it in my life! I love you all so much! I'll talk to yinz soon! :)
Sister Thomas