Monday, March 31, 2014

Working hard in the rain . . . . . .

I forgot to tell you that last week I was able to go down to Tracy and do an exchange with Hna. Sanchez. This is her second transfer out and she is incredible! She really works hard and strives to do her best, we had a really fun day together. Her dad just passed away a few weeks ago. She is incredibly strong and an amazing example for all of us hermanas.

Hna. Skidmore came to Lodi with me for intercambios! It was SOO fun and SOO great. Oh how I miss her. It was so fun to be together again, teaching and testifying. She is training now and doing a great job. We found some really new cool investigators from El Salvador.

On Friday both Hna Cardullo and I went down to Stockton to work with the ASL sisters in their area. It was a fun day contacting in the rain. We talked to EVERYONE we saw and had so much fun working in the rain. We found some great potentials and a family that we probably wouldn't have found if we didn't go out of our way just because it was raining. The Lord knows are efforts and gives us strength and courage. Lets just say English work and ASL work are SOO much different than Spanish work....haha. I learned a lot though and which helped me with contacting everyone.

As I have the privilege to do all of these exchanges, I feel so blessed to be able to work with other sisters and learn from each of them. Each is so unique and a great instrument in the Lords hand. It also makes me so grateful for my companion and my area. I know that I am where the Lord wants me to be. 

Hna Cardullo and I have really been striving to better use the scriptures in our lessons and it makes all the difference. It has been so insightful as we read together and find stories that apply specifically to each investigator. We did this with a lesson with Bety and read Enos 1. Wow. The spirit was so strong and she even started likening the verses unto herself. It really has helped me increase my testimony of the Book of Mormon and I feel like as I testify it is more sincere and the spirit is stronger. How blessed are we to have the scriptures?

So Luz did not get baptized this weekend but we had a HUGE miracle with her. We were over there a lot this week, teaching and serving and one day we were outside walking and Luz said, "Hermanas, I want to be baptized next Friday!". WHAT!? We were so excited, Hna Cardullo just fell to the ground with excitement haha. I am so glad it is finally her desire now. I know she wanted to before but it was a lot more of the missionaries and her family. Hna Cardullo and I both agreed that we don't want to drag her to baptism, we want it to be her decision and desire. So Sunday we met with her parents, the branch president and planned everything. She is firm for the 18th of April and we couldn't be happier. She has taught me so much and I love being with her. She reminds me of Tori in a lot of ways. What great girls.

Bety just started a new job which is such a blessing. We had some powerful lessons and we are so excited to watch general conference with her, Lucy and Angel! 

We also had a Spanish Conference with the Mission Presidency. Presidente Martinez gave us some great training's and it was great because everything was in Spanish and catered to the people. The culture, how to best understand and love them. We had a great scripture study really focusing on how the Book of Mormom is their ancestors. I love being a Spanish missionary and it was so great to be reunited with all the Spanish missionaries. We took lots of reunion pictures!

I hope you all have a great week! Love you all dearly. Don't miss the opportunity to watch conference and hear the beautiful and powerful testimonies of the Prophet and Apostles. I can't wait to hear what your favorite talks were and what stood out to you. Les quiero!

Con Amor,
Hermana Thomas
 Tracting in the rain
 Cherry blossoms out in Lodi
 Richard the lizard
Spanish Missionary Conference in Lodi
with President Martinez

Monday, March 24, 2014

This is better than being in love. . .

Buenos dias todos!! Mis queridos, como estan? Well I am just LOVIN my life here. Let me tell you about a great week. I wish I could just tell you everything. I wish I could tell you about each amazing family in the branch, each amazing person I have met that has forever changed my life. One day :)

Friday night we were having dinner with Hermana Luna. She is incredible and has so much sass. She had a visitor and he was nice and said hi and was like "oh las hermanas, ok pues mucho gusto". Then Hna Luna was like, "oh no no. THESE hermanas are different. Nothing is impossible for them."  We felt so special! I love the eternal friendships we are creating with these lovely members. During dinner she was saying how she wants Bety and her kids to come to her house on Sunday for dinner. We were so excited. 

Friday night we had an incredible lesson with Bety, Lucy and Angel. We taught about the restoration and El Libro De Mormon. Wow.  Words can't even describe the spirit in the room. I know the whole lesson was lead by the spirit because when Hermana Cardullo or I would speak it wasn't like we were teaching at all, we were just testifying with our "whole" hearts. We weren't the ones convincing her, she was sharing our love for the restored gospel. She was blown away by the Book of Mormon and so excited to read it. As we read through the introduccion con ella she kept shaking her head and had a face like "yeah, this is right". Then we asked her to read Moroni 10: 3-5 and pray to know if it's true and she said, "I can FEEL its true already. No doubts at all. I have never felt this way before". She has been soo prepared. Lucy, (her 13 year old daughter) posted a pic of the Book of Mormon on Facebook and said, "Thanks to the hermans for helping me and my family". They are so much closer and unified now. Bety's boss asked her to work on Sunday and she said "No way! I can't miss church. I think I understand what that man said about taking the sacrament and giving you that power to live through the week. I can't miss that!".  She is incredible right? After the lesson we got in the car and said a prayer of gratitude to our Heavenly Father. After Hermana Cardullo turns to me and says, "Wow. This is better than being in love...."hahaha. She is so great!  I love my companion!  She loves everyone inside and out. She truly see's their heart.  I am sure it is one of her many gifts.

Sunday, church was so great and so busy. After church Bety, Lucy and Angel followed us to Hermana Luna's. We had a fun lunch and a great lesson on the Plan of Salvation. Again the spirit was so strong and Hermana Luna was incredible at sharing her testimony and experiences. They have a lot in common and she is a perfect fellow-shipper for her. At the beginning of the lesson Bety said she didn't feel ready for baptism, as we taught and spirit testified of the truth we asked her again and she said she felt unworthy. Then we shared D&C 37:20 with her about the qualifications for baptism. After we asked her, "what are you missing from this scripture?"  She then said, in the most humble voice ever, "Nothing". Her and Lucy accepted the invitation to be baptized on April 11th!!! W are soo excited for them. They are such a miracle and my love and testimony of the Savior grows so much each time we are with them. Angel is 7 and will turn 8 in May and wants to be baptized too. So many miracles and blessings this week. The Lord is truly blessing us.

Luz was out of town all week in San Francisco with her grandma. We are hoping and praying firmly that she will put her fears aside and be baptized this weekend. Her grandma is not a member and told her all these crazy things, like Jesus drank coffee and there is beer in heaven.  She doesn't believe what her grandma said, but she is also scared that her grandma will treat her differently. We are going to the church tonight for our lesson and doing a "pre baptism" (going through everything, working out the nerves) to see if it helps. Please keep her in your prayers. I have faith that she will do what's right.

The Timalach's were called as branch missionaries today! :) So so so excited for them. They were just beaming! If you have time this week I would like to invite you all to read D&C 11. I especially love verses 8 and 11. It is such a powerful section and I learned so much. To sum up how I feel I would like to quote Ammon, 11  Pero Ammón le dijo: No me ajacto de mi propia fuerza ni en mi propia sabiduría, mas he aquí, mi bgozo es completo; sí, mi corazón rebosa de gozo, y me regocijaré en mi Dios. (Alma 26:11). My joy is full to the rim. I hope you all have a great week! Love and miss you dearly. 

Con Amor,
Hermana Thomas

 Happy St. Patricks Day
Bety, Lucy, Angel----Visitors at Church Sunday

Monday, March 17, 2014

Life Can't Get Any Better?

So this week was probably one of my favorite weeks, on my life. Words can't even describe the love and spirit I felt, but I hope as you read you are able to capture a glimpse of the happiness I experienced this week.

Remember how members make all the difference? Well Hermana Susana Martinez gave us a referral to her friend Bety. We went over on Wednesday to met her. We walked into her home and there was a different and special feeling. She told us all about her life, trials, faith, etc. Halfway through the lesson her friend Magaly came into the room. Bety told her friend that we were missionaries and coming over to teach and help her so she invited her too. Wow. We had a great lesson and the spirit just filled the room, we invited them to be baptized and they said they want to learn a little more and we set a return appointment for Friday.

Friday we went over with Hernana Susana to visit Bety. When we got there Bety looked a little shocked but let us in and we talked. The spirit filled through the room as Susana bore her testimony and as we testified of the Atonement. Bey so badly wants to find peace and start a new life. She then went on to tell us that earlier in the day she texted us to say she couldn't meet with us today. She wasn't going to let us come back. After sending the text, without our "response" for a while she double checked our number and just figured we didn't have time to reply. So then she thought she would just hurry and shower and leave when we were coming. She was just on her way out when we arrived... and she showed us the text and she had typed our number wrong into the phone. She then said that she knows the Lord had a hand in her whole day and that HE is looking for her and knows that this is what she needs to be doing now.

Sunday, we drove to her house so she could follow us to church. We got there and her and her two kids (we are teaching them too!) were all ready in the car waiting for us. The best sight ever. We got to church on Sunday and EVERYONE was so nice and welcoming to her. There were lots of powerful meetings and she enjoyed them all. She especially enjoyed the Relief Society lesson on taking of the sacrament worthily. Her daughter really liked Young Women's and her son enjoyed primary! On Friday Susana had mentioned to Bety of getting a blessing (she is pretty sick and has so much stress, single mom, etc). 

So after the meetings we grabbed Hermano Garcia and the Elders and they were able to give her a blessing. WOW. The spirit was incredible. A love filled the room I have never before felt. After the blessing she bore her testimony and said, "I think this is where I am going to the find the peace that I so anhelo (longing) por". She told the Elders that we are her angels and knows that God placed us in her life for a reason. As we walked her out to the car she said, "This morning when I woke up I felt darkness. Now, after leaving church and receiving that blessing I can feel and see the light. I have peace. I now know that the Lord really does love me." I can't even describe to you the joy I feel. This is a kind of joy that is only possible through the Savior. I have NEVER desired the gospel more for someone. I have NEVER loved someone so easily. She is so special and I feel so blessed to be able to watch her come unto Christ and receive the peace and love she desires. 

This morning I read D&C 15:6, 6 And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen.There is nothing of greater worth to me. I know I say this a lot but I truly love being a missionary. Words cant describe. I have never worked harder or been more tired, but most of all I have never had this much joy, felt closer to my Savior and never better understand my Heavenly Father's plan. What a blessing my life is. I cant imagine my life without these experiences and tender mercies from the lord. I am one lucky Hermana :)

Luz is doing great and has a date for the end of March! We are so excited for her and the best part is she is excited too! I feel so blessed to be a part of her life. She is such a special and incredible daughter of God. So grateful that we have the blessing of teacher her and helping her go to the temple with her family!

I hope you all have a great week! Happy Saint Patrick's Day. Joce, I hope you have a great birthday, love you so much. I am soo excited for WES and his mission call to Bahia Blanca, Argentina leaving July 2.  I am sad I will just barely miss him. Spanish is the best!! :) Last week we had a blast going through all the caves (we are all a little beat up with bruises, scratches and wounds but it was so much fun and so worth it). I will send more pictures next week. Les quiero!

Con Amor,
Hermana Thomas 
Sacramento Temple P-Day

Black Chasm caverns P-Day

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Member Missionaries Make a Difference

Sorry, I don't have a lot of time today, but yes, transfers happened... The Lord answered my prayers and I get to stay in Lodi with Hna. Cardullo!!! I am soo happy!! :) My 5th transfer here and I am so excited. I really think Lodi is one of the best things that has ever happened to me :)

Let me tell you the coolest thing that happened to us. We were eating dinner with La familia Velarde. Hno Velarde is an amazing member, he helped us a lot with Los Timalach. He was a convert at 18 and served a mission in Mexico. He said that on Sunday the testimonies were really strong and he realized he needs to do more missionary work. So he asked if he could go out tracting. Of course we said he could come with us and he said, "No, Like by myself. I want to find you LOTS of people to teach and I have already talked to all the people I know, I must share the gospel with everyone and prepare them to be taught by the missionaries."  So we called the Zone Leaders, who called the Assistants and he got permission to go tracting. Sunday after church he called us and had 9 REFERENCIAS for us. WHAT!? Member missionary work at its best. He said he just went up to everyone on the street and those that listened to his short message of the restoration----he asked for their address and said he would send his friends to bring them a special book. He is so incredible. I love this branch, they really understand the importance of missionary work.

Hna Cardullo and I had the opportunity to go to the temple today! It was so great, I felt like I had a  renewed look on life and was filled with peace. It was fun to see other missionaries as well and I saw Sister Woodland, Hermana Guadalupe and Sister Smith from East Sac so that was a treat!

We think of really fun ways to teach the gospel.... So we went to the park and played tennis with Los Timalach and taught the Word of Wisdom. Best lesson ever and it was so much fun. Little Kevin is a pro!

Erastro is amazing, every time we teach him he says it's like God and Jesus coming in and sitting with him. He is progressing we are just working on getting him to church. He has some health problems but we know he will come. Also, We are teaching Luz now, one of the most special girls. The elders taught and baptized her family in November but she didn't feel ready yet. She is 14 and LOVES talking to us. She is very shy but so smart and wants to get baptized. The elders were having a hard time teaching and seeing her so now we get to and I am sooo happy.

Sorry this is so scattered.  Next week I will update you on everyone else we are teaching. I love you all so so much and hope you have a great week. We are going out to the caves today, should be lots of fun!  Last week we went to the zoo! Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOB!! I hope the family spoils you.

Con Amor,
Hermana Thomas
 Tennis with the Timalach's 
Neighborhood Little Meat Market

Monday, March 3, 2014

I love Domingo De Ayuno

We had our last exchange this week and it was incredible! I went down to Manteca with Hermana Hurley. She is an INCREDIBLE Missionary, I was blown away. She has been out for about 5 months and teaches with such charity. I learned so much from her and we had an amazing day. We taught really well together, sang in all the lessons, invited people to be baptized left and right and now they have 2 people preparing. I love exchanges! I Love my life.

Let me tell you about my new dear friend and investigator Erastro. He is the greatest thing. He is 61 and was a Mexican rocker. haha. so funny. Hermano Cardullo found him on exchanges talking to everyone. Come to find out all his children and wife are members but not him! He never really cared before but now is so prepared. We had some incredible lessons with him this week and he was so excited to accept the invitation to be baptized. We are so excited to help him prepare for baptism and become converted. He has a lot of health problems but has so much faith. Last time we went over he said,  "Hermanas, sit down please. I would like to share with you what I have been reading in the bible." Cute, funny endearing man. Love my life.

We also got a referral from the zone leaders for this man in Lockeford. So we drove out there and WOW. There he was, with his family of 6, waiting for us, inviting us in. We had a short and powerful lesson, the spirit was so strong and they wanted us to come back the next day. La familia Hernandez!! Can't wait to keep you updated on them. THEY ARE SO PREPARED :)

Let me tell you about the most beautiful sight. I love el domingo de ayuno (fast Sunday). As soon as it was time to start sharing testimonies, about 7 people raced up to share. Can you just picture that? Humble followers of Jesus Christ racing to share their testimony and conversion stories. It was so special. Also looking over and seeing the Timalach's so tired, yet sitting in sacrament meeting as a family. Have I told you I Love my life?

Yes dad, don't you worry. The Timalach's are inviting us to teach ALL their friends. We went over and they had a friend so Omar taught her how to pray, and invited them to a church activity. Yesterday during studies after church they called us and asked us to come over. So we went over and they had their cousins over, taught them how to pray, invited them to church and told them to let us teach them in their homes. They were really nice and at first were distant and said we like the Catholic church y "solo hay un Dios." So Magda pipes in and says, "That's what I thought, but there is a difference. With time and coming to church you too will see". BEST THING EVER.  They are already missionaries. Love my life.

I hope you have a great week, I love you all so so much! Transfers are next week and I am really praying that I stay in Lodi with Hermana Cardullo :)
 Lodi Mission District
Familia Martinez
Most humble people I have ever met