Monday, February 24, 2014

Exchanges All Over the Place

I don't even know where to begin my sweet family. This week was crazy and I don't really know what's going on in our area because of our 3 exchanges this week.. but we saw so many miracles and felt much joy.

First, yesterday Hermano Timalach spoke in church! We helped him write his talk this week. He gave his talk spoke from the heart. It was beautiful and the spirit was so strong, he was teary-eyed and bore his pure and simple love for the gospel and how it has changed his life. It was perfect. Hermana Cardullo made pasta last night and the Timalachs were in love with it!  Familia Perez (less active) has been going to church constantly for over a month now and we are helping them to prepare to enter the temple. :) I love this humble Lodi branch. My heart is here. 

I was able to stay in Lodi with Hermana Dando and we had a great day! We had lots of teaching appointments. We really focused on being positive and excited to do the work every day and being urgent to do the work! There is nothing better we could be doing right now. :)

Hermana Cardullo and I both went down to Stockton with the American sign language sisters. President Lewis asked that the 4 of us stay in the area and just work in different parts of the city. So we just had a party. I was with Sister Abbott. She is an incredible missionary, Such a great teacher and teaches with such love, I really learned a lot from her. We had a really cool experience, we found this English lady named Ana because we were at an apartment complex and her door was open. We offered to help her and she invited us in, we cleaned her apartment with her, shared the Restoration and the Book of Mormon and she absolutely loved it. Sis. Abbott went back on Friday and they invited her to be baptized and she accepted, she called me so happy. It is such a blessing to be able to be doing these exchanges with so many great sisters in the mission. English work is SOO different though, I felt lost during the day but everything worked out. I also didn't understand any ASL but we had fun and a great day full of miracles and crazy experiences. We also met some crazy people...(it's Stockton but we will save those stories for later :)

I was also able to go to Tracy West and spend the day with Hermana Griffith! She is great missionary. We really focused on talking with everyone because she said it is hard to get 20 contacts a day. We had a great time really going out of our way and talking to everyone. Haha, I just love being a missionary.

President Martinez came to the branch again with the 6 of us missionaries and we studied about what the sons of Mosiah did to baptize so many people. We really tore apart Alma 31:34-35. I love that they truly PLEADED with the Lord to find the elect. Hermana Cardullo and I have some new ideas and great things we want to focus on and strengthen so we can be just like them. To be a good missionary you have to study and apply the things you learn from the scriptures! We also went over a bunch of fun new finding activities that we are really excited to try!

I know that the Lord is truly preparing hearts (Alma 16:16-17), just one more exchange this week and then things will settle down a bit and we can really focus on our area. I hope you all had a great week, keep up the faith. "Y según su fe, se realizó un gran cambiol en su corazón. He aquí, os digo que todo esto es verdad" (Alma 5:12). Les queremos mucho!"

Con Amor,
Hermana Thomas
Exchanges with the Sisters
Big Tree National Park on p-day
I wish Hermana Thomas would have told me 
which tree park?
Homemade Pasta dinner with the Timalach's
Chef Hermana Cardullo

Monday, February 17, 2014

Gozo Eterno

This week was INCREDIBLE!!!

We had a wonderful zone conference "go baptize." We really studied Alma 7:11-16.  So many promoises in verse 15: Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism. We talked about what our investigators need to "know, feel, and do." It really helped me to focus on my studies in the morning to help my investigators to understand these 3 principles. It is helping really helping me to focus and teach simple doctrine. We talked a lot about how our knowledge comes from the feelings we have. I feel soo grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost. 
I was able to do exchanges here in Lodi with Hna Cuesta (Hna Skidmore is training her). She is Colombian and has been out for a month and is doing awesome!! We had a great day and an awesome lesson with Magda and helped her realize she has felt the spirit. It was awesome.  Valentines day was really great! We had some great lessons and we decided to spread some cheer. We went to the single moms in the ward and decorated (heart attacked) their door and left chocolate. It was so much fun. Lots of them guessed it was us but we didn't tell. Hna Gauna told everyone at church that she has a secret admirer. It was the best.

Magda was baptized on Saturday!! It was THE BEST DAY EVER. The spirit was soo strong. It was so great to see Hermana Pitcher again. She gave a great talk on baptism. Elder Fernandez also came back and baptized her. All of us missionaries sang, "Donde Hay Amor" and the spirit just filled the room. Everyone was beaming or had tears. Magda got up and shared her testimony. She thanked everyone for helping her get here, for their constant support and that she is doing this and wants this for an eternal family. Just hearing those words were the best thing ever. My heart was soo happy. It was a branch baptism, it wouldn't have happened without everyone. She was happy and has changed just in these few days too. She looks happier. I love being a missionary, I love this family. It will be the best day ever when I will be able to go through the temple with them and watch them be sealed. They are now a complete family. The gospel is edifying them and I can't wait to watch their conversion grow each day. I have never been happier.

I am feeling a little better each day and I know it's because of all the prayers/fasts of family and friends. Thank you everyone. I love you all so so much.  This we was incredible just like each of you!

Con Amor,
Hermana Thomas 
 Magda's Baptism
Heart attacking the single sisters in the area
Loving our Sister Diaz

Monday, February 10, 2014

Learning More Each New Day

Mi querida familia! So there is a lot I want to tell you but not enough time, so we will see what comes to my mind first!
First of all HAPPY BIRTHDAY EASTON!!! I hope you have a great day. Can't believe you are already 4! That is so crazy and happy birthday daddy on Sunday! Love you both so so much.
First of all, Hno. Ku is a CHAMP! So Magda is all set and ready for baptism but is struggling about prophets. So for Gospel Principles Sunday School Class yesterday he went out of order on the class and taught about profetas. It was a powerful lesson and everyone gave great comments and testified. Just what she needed. Then the Ku's invited us and los Timalach over for lunch and a lesson. She really opened up with Hna Ku and it was exactly what they needed. How grateful I am for the Ku's and for an awesome ward mission leader that is willing to do all he can to help us. Magda is ready for her baptism Saturday. She hasn't had any coffee so we just keep praying she will resist the temptation!
We had an awesome zone training this week and it helped me realize a lot of things. Sometimes its easy to get caught up in delivering the same lesson over and over. But, when you really teach to people's need the spirit is soo much stronger. One of the things Hermana Cardullo and I have really been focusing on is teaching by the spirit to what they need. We pretty much just teach by asking inspired questions and it's changed so many things. We both feel like we are becoming better teachers and it's easier to heed to the promptings of the spirit. We were asked to do a real play in zone training and we learned a lot. I had the opportunity to share the conversion story of the Timalach's. How blessed I feel to be able to have taught them.
Maria Hernandez (amiga de Hna. Campos) is doing great! She has now come to church 3 times!!! Which means she can be baptized at any point.. we just need to marry them first haha. So we had an awesome FHE with the Campos and her  "novio" came and participated a lot and seemed to have a good time. A few days later we stopped by and talked with her about it and what he thought. He thought it was nice (we talked about families and the roles of each person (kids, parents, etc) but nothing changed. She wants to be married and have Christ in her life more, but he sees marriage as just signing a paper. So tonight we are going back over and going to discuss the Plan of Salvation and how marriage is ordained of God. I am excited and a little nervous! 

I would like to invite you to read 2 Nefi 4 this week. I was able to really study it and learned so much! Nefi is incredible. Especially focusing on 14-35. I loved verses 27 Y ¿por qué he de ceder al pecado a causa de mi carne? Sí, ¿y por qué sucumbiré a las tentaciones, de modo que el maligno tenga lugar en mi corazón para destruir mi paz y contristar mi alma? ¿Por qué me enojo a causa de mi enemigo? (27 And why should I ayield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to btemptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my cpeaceand afflict my soul? Why am I dangry because of mine enemy?)

28 ¡Despierta, alma mía! No desfallezcas más en el pecado. ¡Regocíjate, oh corazón mío, y no des más lugar al enemigo de mi alma! (28 Awake, my soul! No longer adroop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the benemy of my soul.)  The Lord will change our hearts and we will have the desire to deepen our relationship with him. What a beautiful promise. I love my life right now. Being a missionary is the best thing that has ever happened to me. 
Last picture is our best friend Hermana Jimenez.  She goes teaching with us, takes us around her apartment complex, knocks on doors and tells her neighbors she lives in their apartments and wants to share the gospel with them.  Best member missionary ever!

Thank you for all your prayers and fasting. I cannot express mi gratitude. The Lord is strengthening me and carrying me. I love you all so dearly and hope you have a great week! Les quiero!

Con Amor,
Hermana Thomas
Dinner with Ku's and Timilach's
Member Missionary
Sister Jimeniz

Monday, February 3, 2014

Prayers are ALWAYS answered. . . .just in the Lord's time!

Cy (Elder Holt) is home!!! So fun to see all the pictures of all the cousins together. How great that he got to baptize his little brother Hank!! It was so fun to see all the pictures. Give him a big hug for me! We just got a new Elder in the branch from Chile, so I am learning how to speak Chilean now since I am Latino haha.

I LOVE Hermana Cardullo. She is so great and is taking great care of me :) We are already having so much fun, working hard and have had some fun adventures. Yesterday everyone fasted for rain (the whole state of California) and it rained! So we were out visiting potentials and tracting in the rain and we met this Muslim guy. He asked us who we were and we explained but he understood little English. He asked Hermana Cardullo if she was Muslim because of her dress and the hood she had on. It was pretty funny. He didn't understand why she was a missionary since she dressed like a Muslim haha. SO funny.

This week was fantastic!! I LOVE being a missionary. We had a really, really special experience. Hermana Cardullo and I were driving in the car right around the high school, we stopped at the light and were turning and Hermana Cardullo noticed a young girl sitting on the hill that looked really sad. We decided to pull over and go talk with her. We walked over and told her that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. We asked her if we could sit and talk to her. She then opened up and told us about her life and some the challenges she is having right now. She is 17 years old and a Baptist. After listening and teaching parts of the Restoration and Plan of Salvation she told us that in that moment she had been praying really hard. She said, "God. If you REALLY love me, please help me. Show me a sign that you are there and really love and care about me. I don't understand why all these hard things are happening to me." She then said, after I finished my prayer, you two came over and talked to me. I love he loves me and answers my prayers. It was SUCH a special moment and I felt so blessed to be able to be an instrument for the Lord in this cute girls life. She wants to learn more so it will be great for the English sisters to start teaching her! :)

Our Fireside was a big success last week! We were able to go out with 3 hermanas from the branch for their  Visiting Teaching and visit some of our less active sisters. They all seem excited now to do their Visiting Teaching and have a new perspective or vision.

Magda is doing really great! We had an awesome lesson about recognizing the spirit and praying with REAL INTENT, with all of our heart. I think it's a great lesson and review for all us. If we really want an answer or really want to know something, we must pray to our Heavenly with ALL OF OUR HEART and he will answer us. What a blessing. She is still working on dejando el cafe and is getting there! Her baptism is in 2 weeks and she is already planning everything. Sunday was really special because they blessed baby Jayden (9 months). President Duncan gave the baby blessing and they were both just beaming. Jayden was crying through the whole thing haha.The spirit was so strong.

Bopie's birthday was yesterday! It is fun to think about him and the great example he was to me. I think he helped me prepare for my mission more than he will ever know. All of his BYU TV, church books and stories of his conversion and time with Meme. I feel so blessed to think of the example he left and can feel his presence. What a great Grandfather and cheese-ball. That is probably why I always got in trouble because I got all my ideas and pranks from him :) haha.

Thank you for all your prayers and fasting. It means the world to me. The Lord is blessing me and strengthening me. I feel deep gratitude each day for my Savior and His love and sacrifice. I can feel ALL of your love. Espero que tengan una semana llena de felicidad! Les quiero mucho!

Con Amor,
Hermana Thomas
Meet my new companion Hermana Cardullo
All of California prayed for rain!