Monday, December 16, 2013

"there are no words"

Disclaimer: When Hannah writes her letters, she always uses the people's names in her stories. I go through and take out the names for their privacy. I am sorry if it ever gets confusing or sounds awkward, but I am just doing my best :).

Happy reading!
--Jenessa, Hannah's Secretary
With a group of students at the devotional

Dear loved ones!

This week I had the most spiritual, amazing experience my entire mission thus far!!! Ahhh it was so wonderful. I'll tell you about that first because I've been dying to email since then ;) Just a warning, this will be a long one :) So, Friday was the last day that one of our member friends would be available to teach with us before leaving for Christmas break. Sis. Etherington and I really felt the need to have a lesson with her and our investigator before she left, so we worked hard to fit that in with all of our schedules. At about 8:30, we all met in the empty art building (which was nice because it was nice and quiet.) In planning for the lesson, we had a lesson plan we were going to do, but I kept feeling like maybe we should just focus on Joseph Smith and reading some First Vision-like experiences in the scriptures that I had been finding. Sis. Etherington asked me if I felt good about our first lesson plan, and I mentioned what I was feeling, and she was like "Oh that's totally fine! Let's do that!" So glad we did! Going in, we really felt the urgency to have a really good, spiritual lesson. We had had weekly planning that day, and as part of that we were supposed to plan for upcoming baptisms, so we did so with the hope that he would be ready, but we still weren't sure. And we really wanted to know by Sunday so we could start necessary arrangements.

Anyways, that's more than enough background (I'm a rambler, sorry!) ;) We talked with him about his Book of Mormon reading and praying (he finally read again!!!), then after talking a bit we read Paul's account of his vision to King Agrippa in the book of Acts. SO cool because it sounds SO much like Joseph Smith's account! Then we read in Joseph Smith History where Joseph Smith says that he felt like Paul and could not deny what he saw. Our investigator told us the COOLEST thing - he said that he had had a dream a few nights ago that Joseph Smith appeared to him and bore his testimony to him!! He said it strengthened his faith and that he was feeling a lot better about Joseph Smith (though not 100% yet). When reading the accounts, he admitted that he doesn't think that Joseph Smith was lying when he said what he saw. We also read Joseph Smith's testimony in D&C 76 where he says "that He lives! for we saw Him..." and he LOVED that. We talked a lot about his faith and how it's already grown so much - he said how he finds himself sharing what he's learned with others because it's changed his life and so he wants to share it! He even brought another roommate to our lesson a few days before and bore his testimony about the Book of Mormon to him. The Spirit was really strong throughout the whole lesson. Finally, I asked (we had planned this) if we could all kneel down together and have him pray and ask if Joseph Smith was a prophet, as he has done many times before, but this time we'd wait for a little instead of just jumping up and leaving. So that's what we did, with him offering the prayer in Spanish like usual(so grateful for the little high school Spanish I know!).

After he finished praying, we all stayed kneeling with our heads bowed. And we waited in silence for an ETERNITY. Like, sooo long haha! But the Spirit was so strong and I could really feel it testify to me of the reality of the First Vision, which was so cool. I just hoped so badly that he was feeling it too! After a little I heard him start to get up so I thought that he was done, but when I glanced up I saw that while he had sat up on the couch (kneeling's hard for him), his head was still bowed. And it was obvious that he was feeling the Spirit and really seeking an answer - you could start seeing the transformation on his face! We stayed there for a while longer and finally I asked, "How are you feeling?" He said, "calm." (1 Nephi 18:21-"...And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord; and after I had prayed the winds did cease, and the storm did cease, and there was a great calm." - a new favorite :) ). 

There was a little more silence and I looked around and everyone had tears in their eyes. I wish I could explain it all exactly but it was just amazing. He kept saying things like, "Wow, that was amazing" and "there are no words." We talked about how we were feeling a little, and then asked him, "do you believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith?" and he said "yes, I do." Our member that was there with us said "do you really?" and he responded something like, "yes, how can I deny it?!" Ahhh it was so amazing. She asked how he feels about getting baptized on the 21st and he said yes, he's so excited and he wished it were sooner!!! And he was like, "Thank you so much for coming. What an amazing way to end the week." Prayer works! The Church is so true. Joseph Smith was a prophet. The gospel changes lives, because it's true!

Sister Etherington and I have basically been on Cloud 9 since then. I get nervous sometimes that it's not going to work out, but Sis. E helps me with my doubts and fears :) I just get SO happy when things go well and then get SO crushed when they go bad again, that I get scared that things aren't going to work. And I haven't slept well since then haha. But he's still doing great! We met with him again the next day and he still was feeling really good. He told us about how when he got back to his house after our lesson the night before, he still had the really good feeling with him, but then his roommates were talking about bad things and he could sense that good feeling leaving him. So, he asked his roommates to stop talking about those things, and when they asked why, he said it didn't make him feel good! What a champ. He also came to church yesterday, even though that meant he had to drive 30 min to church, 30 min back, then like 70 miles back up to Des Moines to take his friends to the airport and back down again. He looked so good at church! He was wearing slacks instead of jeans (not that that's a huge deal, but still) and he was really happy - even other people noticed :) He's just getting spiritually stronger and stronger :)

K that was really long and detailed, sorry :) Another awesome thing about this week - Zone Conference! It was soooo great! We had some awesome trainings in the morning, and Sis. E. and I played a musical number! We had scrambled the day before to find something to play, and thank goodness we're friends with a certain lady because she let us come over and look through her things, and we found "O Holy Night" - conveniently the same version I played at home! Which was nice because we had time to run through it all of like 2 times before performing haha. That was really fun. It was also so fun seeing other missionaries from the MTC, especially Sister Browne! 

I LOVE being a missionary and I LOVE the Iowa Des Moines Mission and I LOVE Pres and Sis Jensen :) We have such a culture of love and hard work here, it's the best! After eating a delicious lunch, each district performed a song or skit we had put together at district meetings. We performed a dumb little skit of the story of Ammon, which we had put to different Christmas hymns - such as "Once in King Lamoni's City," "With wondering awe the servants saw the bandits' arms go flying," etc. :) The best part was the fake "synchronized swimming" to "Joy to the world, we know the truth." Haha. So dumb, but so fun. It was great watching all the other ones too. Then, we watched "Ephraim's Rescue"! So weird watching a movie haha! It was fun.

Yet another highlight - guess how many investigators we had at church? THREE! I've never had more than one! A mom and her two sons came! I was amazed, they were soo easy to get to church! It was incredible how much the ward stepped up yesterday to welcome all of them. Sis. Watkins reminded me of Mom, as she saw the mom and her boys come in, introduced herself, invited them to sit with her, and was just SO loving the whole meeting long, and SO helpful with her kids. After Sacrament Meeting, the primary president went right to her and helped shepherd her sons to primary and nursery (everyone raved about how awesome he was in primary!). The baby stayed in nursery the WHOLE time! It was amazing!

THANK YOU for the packages and letters!!! Mom, the boots work amazing, thank you! And the Christmas package was so sweet and unexpected! We finished decorating today :) I also loved the letters from Mom and Jenessa - and even got a Christmas letter from the Law's in your ward :) 

Other random fun bits of news:
  • we taught a, a 100-year-old member of the Community of Christ! She is darling.
  • We also taught a man in his 80's who used to be a Baptist preacher! Nicest old man ever. Accepted the invitation to read and pray about the Book of Mormon before I could even finish extending the invite :)
  • Had dinner with a nice lady and taught her part of the Restoration!
  • Taught our 13-year-old investigator and also talked with her mom, who said that she is so glad that we found them and have been teaching her daughter. She said she has already seen a positive change in her daughter! We are really hoping to be able to teach her mom too soon!
  • Taught two ladies, and I was more bold and loving than usual, which I've been trying to work on! 
  • We watched the First Presidency Christmas devotional on Wednesday night with some students.  Unfortunately, all of our students are now gone or soon-to-be gone- except for the young man whom we had the experience with that I told you about at the start of this email :)
  • We got a ton of referrals from a family in our ward!
  • We stopped in at a former investigator's home in the countryside, and she let us right in and was so sweet! Also in her 80's. So many old people here haha!
Yesterday morning Sis. Etherington woke up pretty sick - some sort of mild flu, it seems like - but we were blessed to be able to go to church because that was SO important. But, after that we had to come home and take a sick day because she was not doing well. Thankfully, even though we had had three really awesome lessons scheduled, they all ended up falling through anyways, so we just did a lot out of the apartment - planning the baptism, making phone calls, doing studies, and watching "The District." We're grateful today's P-day so that hopefully she can rest up some more and we can get working again!

Hey thanks for making sure I learned how to type quickly, I've been so grateful for that skill ;)

Anyways, that was our week! We have been so blessed. Sometimes Lamoni seems like a dream haha - I get so scared that I'm going to get transferred! I can't believe we're already more than halfway through our second transfer together. But I know that Heavenly Father has things in control and I just need to do all I can and trust Him. My testimony has been so strengthened, and I am so grateful to be able to be a part of miracles here. "twasn't me, 'twas the Lord." I love you all and thank you so much for your wonderful examples! The Church is true!

Sister Whipple
A nasty bug I killed!

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