Monday, August 31, 2015

31 Lessons!

Hello Family and Friends,

It's been a super awesome, busy week! UW starts today, so Laramie is super crazy right now. Sister Gardner and I worked our tails off and have been so blessed with opportunities to teach the Gospel. The average total lessons per week that I've had for my whole mission so far has been like 20, but this week we taught 31, combined with 15 hours of service. We are being blessed in this great work! It's not because of us that we had so many lessons, it's because of Heavenly Father giving us those opportunities. Sometimes I get down about not having a baptism yet (or anyone on date for a baptism either), but I have to remind myself that success is not measured by the number of baptisms, it's measured by effort. Success = giving our best.

One of many miracles this week: on Tuesday morning at the soup kitchen, there was a guy in there doing the dishes who is about 23 or so. He's there on court order for community service hours. Sister Gardner and I got to talking to him and he was asking us questions about our missions and Mormon beliefs, it was way cool! We gave him a Book of Mormon before we left, and he was like, "Really? You can just give this to me? Wow, thank you so much!" He was so grateful for it!!(: The next day I asked him if he'd gotten a chance to read it, and he said yes! He liked it and was going to keep reading. We saw the Zone Leaders later that day, Elder Farnes and Elder Sell, and we were like you have to come to the soup kitchen tomorrow and talk to him!! (Because they are in the YSA wards right now.) So they did, and he is going to start coming to FHE and hopefully church too. He even has a friend in YSA right now. He's been so prepared for this, it's awesome!

We had exchanges this week! Sister Helsing went with Sister Gardner, and Sister Burden came with me. They both came up to Laramie, so they got the car and we got the bikes! Yay! I've missed biking around here haha it's fun! I absolutely love Sister Burden. She's my ginga sista! We had so much fun(: And she really helped me a lot with things I'm going through, I'm so so grateful for her. She even left me a cute letter on my pillow, because she's the best! 

This transfer I've learned a great deal about charity, which is the pure love of Christ. I was so blessed with my MTC companion Sister Pattillo, who is the most loving, kind person ever! And I'm so grateful that we formed a friendship that will last forever. Same goes for my "mom" Sister Martin. I was only with her for a short time but I'm so grateful for her and her continued love, support, and never ending wisdom!(:  And now, I've been so blessed to have been companions with Sister Gardner! Heavenly Father has given me this opportunity to develop charity when it's hard, and I am so so grateful for that! I truly love Sister Gardner and we've become really good friends, despite challenges along the way. By sincerely praying for charity and understanding daily, the Lord has helped me with this and humbled me. I've been so worried about me me me, when this entire time I should have been worried about my companion. I'm going to love this girl with my whole heart and soul as long as we are companions, and even after that too. Because she deserves it! She's such a good missionary!

Thanks for the continued love, support, and prayers. I love you all and hope you have a great week! Read 2 Cor. 5: 6-7. I also listened to a YSA devotional by Linda K. Burton titled "Tuning Our Hearts to the Voice of the Spirit" which you should all watch or read if you get the chance!(:

Love, Sister Emilee Thomas

Monday, August 24, 2015

Misisonary Work Sets Fire to The Ward

Dear Family & Friends,

It's been a humbling week for me. I've gained new perspectives, learned many things, and felt the Spirit lead and guide me daily. We gained three new investigators this week, which was super awesome! And each of these investigators were brought about by members. Honestly, missionaries and members working together is truly the key to success in missionary work. We could not get anywhere without members! And the Sherman Hill Ward is SO willing to help us always! A member told us at church that we've "set fire to this ward" because everyone is getting so excited and involved in missionary work haha. I'm excited too! We basically pleaded with the ladies in relief society yesterday for help with coming out to lessons with us, and we passed out a sign up sheet, and 12 of them wrote their names down with their number and specific days and times they'd be willing to come with us! Yay!

I've learned a lot about the Spirit this week. I'm always surprised at what more I'm always able to learn and feel from the Spirit. The Spirit is what teaches, guides, testifies, comforts, and gives us other good feelings, not us missionaries. We can't do any of that without the Spirit! The way we can get the Spirit is by being worthy of it, being willing to act on the promptings we receive, praying for it, studying, having a desire, and relying on it (not ourselves). The Spirit is honestly the true teacher. 

I've also learned so much about the role the Book of Mormon has in conversion. When we are teaching people, we need to get them hooked on the Book of Mormon! I've had some amazing spiritual experiences with certain verses throughout the BoM, and I can help them have those awesome experiences for themselves. The bottom line is, if you want to hear the word of God, you need to actually sit down and read it. This is literally God speaking to YOU. And daily scripture study is essential to our happiness and faith! So just do it! Like the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” Who wouldn't want that in their life every single day?

In our Zone Meeting last week, we talked about happiness. They said to ask ourselves, "How can I make today be the happiest day of my mission?" Being happy can be a hard thing to do all the time, honestly. But, I can only change me, and I can decide whether I want to be happy with what's going on, or not. I've also found that I am the happiest right after a lesson where the Spirit was there, in charge and guiding the lesson, and touching all of us present. I want to be happy, but sometimes it's just not that easy.

We had our Mission Tour on Friday with Elder Zeballos (of the Seventy) and Sister Zeballos!! It was so good! First of all, it was an awesome day because I saw Sister Martin!! And got to sit by her, like, all day! We were basically latched on to each other the entire time. I've missed her so much. And, I got to meet so many other Sisters! It was great! I'm not used to a lot of Sisters because there's just the two of us in our whole zone right now haha. I learned many, many things from the Mission Tour, but three things really stuck out to me. Sister Zeballos said, "You have had eternity to prepare for your mission, and you will have eternity to reflect on it. But, you only have a short time to live it." What a good perspective. Makes me want to give my all! Also, Elder Zeballos talked about reading the scriptures with investigators, and then what we should ask them after they've read it. First ask, "What did you learn?" But is this enough? No, we then should ask, "What did you feel?" Now, is this enough? No... It is then critical to ask, "What are you going to do about it?" Helping them recognize the Spirit when they are feeling it, and then committing them to take action and build their faith, is essential. Definitely something I need to work on. Another thing that hit me hard, was that Elder Zeballos talked about success. Success is not the number of people we baptize, or the number of lessons we have, or any other statistic. Success = Doing our very best. That's really something that I needed to hear. Alma 26:27. Also something that I truly needed, and now rely on. 

I'm so grateful for this gospel. I'm grateful for priesthood power, and awesome zone leaders who gave me a blessing this past week. It's real, it's true, and God loves us all individually. I love you all so much! Have a good one!!

Love, Sister Emilee Thomas 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Chopping Wood and Zone Conference

This week was busy! It was good. We saw many miracles happen. We had 5 less-actives come to church, which was SO awesome! The most I've seen so far! I hope they all had a good experience and will have the desire to come back next Sunday. It's been an adventurous week! Last Monday we actually went hiking up by Vedauwoo (sp?)! Super fun! And then Saturday we went up to the mountains and we helped chop and block firewood for the widows in the Laramie Stake. It was a good time! I am SO sore though! We were up there from 7am to 4pm.
We taught some of our recent converts the Restoration, and it went well! their kid is such a handful though! She drives her mom crazy! We try to stay on the lesson, but it's hard haha. Next week we are going to meet with them later in the evening so that her husband, who is a nonmember, will be there too.
You may remember me telling you about a crazy cat lady that we go and visit once a week? This time we read the next chapter in the BoM (2 Ne. 3) and the spirit was so strong as we talked about it afterwards, because we talked about Joseph smith and the Restoration, and it was so awesome!! She realized the Mormon church was the most correct, so I invited her to church with us and she said she's come and that it would be good to get back into church again!! Woohooooo we were so excited! Unfortunately, we went to pick her up and she chickened out and didn't want to go into the thunderstorms.... So she didn't come :/ but we were close! And we will keep trying!
Another LA finally let us in on Saturday evening, and we went on a walk with her. Her husband is Catholic, and is nice but it seems like he tries to avoid talking to us and wants nothing to do with the Mormon church. But, he actually offered us dinner, which we had already eaten dinner but we couldn't turn him down! It was a miracle! She told us that has NEVER happened with any missionaries, ever. It was huge. He ate in the basement instead of at the table with us, but still! It was a pretty big deal(:
We had Zone Conference (multiple zones) in Fort Collins on Wednesday, which lasted all day, and then we had Zone Meeting here in Laramie with just our zone on Friday. This Friday, all of the missionaries in Wyoming are going to Cheyenne for our mission tour! Which means I will see Sister Martin! YAY!!! I miss her so much! Elder Jorge Zeballos of the Seventy will be there. It's gonna be good!  
I noticed this week that I am the happiest after a lesson where the Spirit was in charge, after seeing the Spirit work in someone and help them to understand the truth of what is being taught. I'm just so grateful to be a part of this marvelous work, and I will strive to give my all to the Lord while I'm out here for a short period of time. Thanks for all you do for me, I love each of you! Study Moses 6:31-34!

Monday, August 10, 2015

New companion!

It's been a hard week! I miss Sister Martin a lot, we became like best friends and always had so much fun together. I know she's doing great things as a Sister Training Leader up in Casper. She told me that I am the least green greenie that she has ever seen! So now, I'm leading this area and it's only my second transfer. The statement is true that says "As you follow the little commandments, God knows He can trust you with big responsibility." I hope and pray that I will be able to be an effective leader and follow the spirit each and every day.

Sister Gardner is from Enterprise, Utah (by st. geoege) and she has been out for 11 months. She started in the Montana Billings mission but then was in Riverton in April when our mission took in that area. She's nice and a very hard worker! It was her birthday on Saturday, and we didn't have a dinner appointment so I took her out to dinner. The ZLs brought her a present too! It was a bunch of chocolate and Book of Mormons.(: 

This week we stayed really busy. Our goal each week is 20 lessons, and we had 26! So that was awesome. We contacted a lot of referrals from Bishop Wilson and from other members.

We taught our Spanish investigator, on Thursday and had an awesome lesson with her on the Plan of Salvation! A member in our ward, is in her early 20s and is from Peru so she translated for us.
She remembered a lot about the Plan of Salvation because she's been taught it before, but was also confused about other parts. But as we explained, I could see her eyes light up and the spirit enlightening her mind to help her understand. It was so cool!! The spirit was very strong. 

We aren't biking anymore since it's a new month, which means new miles on our car. Sister Gardner asked me how many miles we get per month, and I said "I think 750... That's what Sister Martin and I thought it was last month." Which is why we had to bike a lot because we went about 100 miles over! So Sister Gardner asked the ZLs how many, and they said, "Well, it was 1,000 last month so it's probably the same this month." Haha! Sister Martin and I biked for nothing! Lesson learned: Don't Assume.(; But I don't mind, I loved biking with her.

In Ward Council this week we had the training from our Bishop about Sabbath Day Observance, which every single Ward is getting directly from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. I find it interesting that of all of the topics they could have chosen, they chose keeping the Sabbath Day holy. They said that this is what will help church members and church attendance more than anything. Are we all doing our very best to give this sacred day each week to the Lord?

Sunday night we had President Brown (counselor in mission presidency) and his wife give all the missionaries in Laramie and the ward missionaries and ward mission leaders a training about utilizing members in the work!! And it's exactly what our ward needs at this point! The Spirit taught me many things and ways to get the members more involved in the work. We need them to form long lasting relationships with the people we are teaching, because we missionaries won't be here forever, but the ward members will! 

Biking Everywhere

So we biked every day last week, and it was soooooo hot. Yes I do have a water bottle, thank goodness! I'm constantly drinking a ton of water every day, all day long haha. Everyone we talk to says this summer has been weird, because it's never this hot for this long in Laramie. Oh well! At least it's not snowing yet. And yeah, biking in a skirt is tough. I bought some leggings, which work really well. But I've started to like riding the bikes and I think we'll do it more often now!

The next morning, we get a call from our elders quorum president. He wanted us to help move a new family into the ward. Turns out, the mom just got baptized last Saturday! And her 8 yr. old daughter did too! And her husband isn't a member but he's taking the lessons currently. They're from Greenriver, WY. It was like an immediate miracle that came to us because of our striving to be exactly obedient and an answer to our prayers for finding more people to teach. Now we get to teach a new investigator and also teach the new member lessons!! I'm so excited! And so so grateful for Heavenly Father for trusting us with a few of His previous children to teach. they even came to sacrament mtg. yesterday and many members were welcoming them and introducing themselves. It was so cool to see the ward pull together and fellowship them. I love my area soooooo much(:

We met with our investigator this week, and she let us in and fed us chips and salsa, and we just had a good chat with her about questions she had concerning the church and comments she had about the Ensign we gave her the week before. She like read the whole thing! It was a casual, comfortable conversation and we really built up trust and our relationship. And when the conversation just flows like that, that's when you know that the Spirit is guiding the lesson. She is so prepared(: She's so interested in the history aspect of our church, and all religions, so we will teach her the Restoration lesson next week. Should be great!

So, bad news :(. Sister Martin is being transferred tomorrow... And I am so sad. I can't imagine being in this area without her. I'm going to miss my mom so much!!! She has taught me so many things and I've learned so much from her, and she's been such a blessing to this area in helping prepare souls to come unto Christ. Her personality and character shines bright, and the ward members all absolutely love her. She will be greatly missed, mostly by me :(  We've become so close and such good friends. But she will do great things in Casper, WY! AND she is going to be a Sister Training Leader! Because she's awesome! I love her so much. 

My new companion will be Sister Gardener. She will be my trainer for my second phase, aka my "step-mom." I'm hopeful that we can hit the ground running this new transfer and be able to work mighty miracles in our area. I'm so nervous, but like Sister Martin said to me, "Now we both have a chance to grow." So true.(: