Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Secret Passage and the Courage to Continue

Hello everyone!
Sister Wong and the scarry Passage!
I seriously just can't even believe that I am back here writing an email to you all AGAIN. I feel like I was just here! Time is flying and it is kind of scary... speaking of scary- did I ever tell you guys there is a secret passage in the basement apartment I live in??? You have to lift a book and then the whole shelf moves backward. Inside is this big room with safes, food storage (mormons haha), and swords on the walls. Then there's this spiral staircase that leads up to what seems to be a wall, but if you twist this little lever thing it moves forward and boom you're in the kitchen, and the wall is actually a cupboard/spice rack! crazyy! Sister Wong and I explored it and took pictures so you can see :) This week has been awesome!! We had soo many miracles!! Also I got "creepy uncle" Rich's note haha his words not mine! But I missed him at the vc because I was out in my area. 

Monday night was such a funny/weird night! Oh my goodness! So this super sweet older couple named the Cody's (husband is less active and the wife is not a member) told us we could come have dinner with them and then have a lesson as well. We were super excited! Well we get there and it turns out they actually want to take us out to dinner! It was soo fun and they are now my adopted grandparents :) It is really cool too because when we told our ward mission leader about it he said that they had requested that the missionaries not go by anymore and that they wouldn't let the missionaries in their home. They were sooo sweet I just couldn't even believe it! It just goes to show that there are specific people that are put into your life for a reason. There is so much we can learn from the people around us. I am so grateful for the time I have had and for all the time that lies before me still! I have so much hope for the future  :) 

Anyways, we got to have interviews with President this week so it was really great getting to talk with him and get his advice on things. The spirit was just so strong that whole day- earlier that morning Sister Ellsworth came and talked to us and she told us a story about an elder in our mission that just broke my heart. The elder has been out for a little while and just before the holidays President called him into his office and told him that his dad has been fighting some disease and that he was going to die in the near future. He told the elder to think about the options and what he wanted to do. Well he decided to stay and on Christmas he skyped with his family and saw his dad for the last time in this life. Not too many days later his dad passed away. This trial was hard enough on the poor elder, but then he was called into Presidents office another time. His mom had just been diagnosed with the same thing his father passed from and it was more than likely that by the time this elder had finished his mission he would have lost both of his parents. Well there isn't really a happy ending or miracle recovery in this story, but what touched my heart was the faith and dedication of this elder. It made me think, am I that strong? Sister Ellsworth then brought up the scripture found in Luke 22... " Not my will but Thine be done..". Sometimes we want our rest now, we want to the Lord to say "ok you've done enough, and now you can take a break". Sometimes the Lord says no. That is when we need to pray for strength and have the faith that God will take care of us and help us through the trial- just as He sent Jesus a comforting angel. We need to pray continually for courage and strength. We need to show our faith through our positive acts and carry on knowing that one day- maybe not in this life time, but one day soon we will receive our rest. We then talked about conversion and what that really is. The Bible Dictionary defines it as the conscious acceptance to the will of God. Do I do that? I know that there are so many ways that I can and should be improving every day and that is why I am so grateful for the atonement of my Savior because I know that I can change! Everyone can change. True conversion comes after many tests and trials- we just have to decide that we will overcome them. And we can- maybe I'm not strong enough on my own, but I trust the words of the Savior and I know that He will pull through for me and give me the strength I need.

So anyways back to my interview with President, he asked me what the goal of my mission was... I'm running out of time so I will just copy and paste what I wrote to him:

Dear President,
I am so grateful that I was able to talk with you this past week and discuss the area Sister Wong and I are serving in. Thank you for your advice and words of encouragement. I have to tell you though, when you asked me what my goal was for my mission, I really thought about that a lot after we talked. What is my goal? Why am I our here? It was a good thing to really analyze and remember. The reason why I am here on this mission is because I love my Savior and I want to do all in my power to make this 18 months of my life a worthy offering for Him. That is my goal, and I know that as I do this, that then understanding of the atonement will come. Increased motivation to do good and work hard will all come as I remember who I am truly doing this for. It's not for me, it's all for the Lord. The area has been great this week! We attended ward councils and got lots of new ideas to help the missionary work continue forward.

Thanks for all you do President!
Till next week,
Sister Hamstead

I love you all soooo much! You are so very important to me! More important than everything else I have left behind. You are all my motivation- and the Savior of course. Thank you for loving me and for supporting me. I miss you all so much, but I am comforted that I will all see you again. Thank you for being a blessing to me in my life. AND thanks for writing me everyone! You all are amazing! Please send me tons of details about Eugenie's wedding! You have to send me a dress to take a picture in so that you can get one of those giant stand up picture things of me :) I will be at that wedding!

Love you guys!!!!
Sister Hamstead

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Baby Steps and Chuggin' Along

Hello Family!

So my area is actually called Las Sendas. It is so cool! It sounds like you all are having an amazing time! I am so happy that there is so much good stuff going on! 

Ok. I'll do it. (Sis. Richardson asked for my thoughts on Personal Progress). Where to even start... really it is funny that I was asked to do this because I remember talking to you (Mom) and Sam about it the day I went into the MTC. Looking back I was able to see what it had done for me.  Not just in YW's, but now as a missionary, and as an endowed member of the church. As missionaries we always set goals for our investigators and give them commitments in which they are expected to prayerfully follow through on. We do this so that the investigators have the opportunity to experience the atonement of Jesus Christ- to give them the charge to act and change. That is what Personal Progress did for me, it offered me opportunities to apply the atonement of Jesus Christ in my life by developing new talents and abilities, and ultimately by becoming the person my Father in Heaven has designed for me to be. Personal Progress has helped me to see my true potential as a daughter of God. I can change. There is nothing better, more comforting, or more hopeful than understanding this principle. That is what gives me peace. I have learned to trust in my Savior. In all things I know that as I do my best, He WILL make up the rest. Sometimes Personal Progress seemed annoying and trivial. I often thought to myself- why do I have to do this program? Why am I being forced to read this, or make that, or go to this or that service project... but just like inviting our investigators to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it- something that seems so trivial and that often gets pushed aside because of our busy lives- that is where our faith will grow. I was reading in Alma 32 today and Alma was teaching the people about faith, and what it all comes down to is just having a desire. Just taking that one first step into the dark and saying ok I'm going to do this. Or ok I'm going to finish Personal Progress, then committing to it, nourishing it through your works, and then reaping the benefits in the end. One thing I love about our Father in Heaven is that He demands that we progress. He demands that change- BUT He has provided the way through His son Jesus Christ. I came to truly know this on my mission, but I can look back and see instances in my life where I felt that desire for more- to know more, to feel more, and just to be more. Through exercising my faith and pushing myself beyond my limits my Father in Heaven has given me amazing experiences and opportunities. I look back on my younger years back home and I feel peace. I am happy with the life and grateful for all the experiences both good and bad, because they helped me to grow. But we don't get to this point in life in just one moment- baby steps. That is what Personal Progress taught me to do. I am so grateful for that inspired program that we have been given in these latter days to help us not be distracted by the flashy temptations of the world. Our faith can be strong enough, and by praying without ceasing to our loving Father in Heaven and reading His inspired words found in the scriptures we can be reassured that we are on the right course. I am so grateful for Personal Progress and for the lessons it taught me at a young age. These are eternal principles.... 

Well anyways, this week has been absolutely amazing. Heavenly Father answers prayers- that is all I can say. In Alma 32 it talks about exercising your faith, being patient, and diligent and then you will receive the reward of your labor. Well it is no secret that this area has been a bit trying. There have been days where Sister Wong and I literally have nobody to teach so we will just be driving around for hours trying to visit less actives that typically aren't home or who are busy and can't talk right now. But, we don't give up or get discouraged- we just keep chuggin along trying to talk to everyone we see and praying for those prepared people which we know are here in our area. So anyways Sunday finally rolls around and let me just say that Sunday truly is a sacred day. There is a different spirit on Sunday's and miracles ALWAYS happen on that day. So anyways we go to our ward councils, correlations, and meetings- Oh! also we taught mission prep that morning and it was absolutely amazing! The spirit was so strong and I just love seeing how this next younger generation of missionaries are even stronger! They are so prepared and so willing- it is truly humbling! I just keep imaging seeing little Christopher in the class :) awwww future missionary! You are going to be awesome! Anyways, in one of ward  councils this one man was super rude to us! He was calling me and Sister Wong out for not having taught his friend who isn't even in our area and just a bunch of other ridiculous drama that had nothing to do with us! It was getting pretty bad that Bishop had to eventually step in. Oh my gosh I was so mad at this man! Who did he think he is!? He wanted us to drop everything we had planned for that day and cancel all of our commitments to do what he wanted us to do. We left that ward counsel fuming. haha but anyways, so later that night we were considering whether or not we should go see that mean man and try to fix whatever his problem was... We really did NOT want to go. Also we felt kind of sick too and just all in all it seemed like we had every reason not to go. We even called him and left a message, but he didn't answer. Really we shouldn't have gone, but we did. We swallowed our pride and were determined to show this man that we are hard working and dedicated missionaries. So we get to his house- we are feeling pretty nervous at this point- his wife answers the door, we go in, and... it was great! We met their Jewish friend named Michael who had just moved in with them and who had attended church that day. Holy cow Michael is soooooo wanting the gospel in his life. I can't even believe how incredible prepared he is! He told us that he wants to be baptized on his birthday! We talked for an hour about the amazing spiritual experiences he has had leading up to this point and he knows that God has been directing him. What a blessing. I am so grateful for the opportunity to teach people about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ so that they can find the peace they are looking for. Also another cool experience, we are teaching the 9 year old son of one of our sweet recent converts. It is so fun teaching kids! We are going to be teaching another 9 year old as well. Her mom is returning to activity and wants her daughter to be baptized. I just love how God fulfills His promises. Go forth with faith, be patient and diligent and you WILL see blessings! Every minute of every day I am praying for this area. I believe in a God of miracles and I love being involved in a work where I see miracles every single day.

I love you all soooo much! Keep being the wonderful amazing people you are! Be missionaries and set examples just by being you! Love everyone, invite everyone, and share what you have with everyone. I need more updates about Eugenies wedding!! and my comp has been out a year she is 22. 

Sister Hamstead

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

If you want to change something . . . go back to the Doctrine.

Hello family!!!

Times Square, NY  New Years 2012
It feels strange emailing you all again so soon... Tonight is the last night of Christmas Lights!! I can't believe the Christmas season is already over! Can you even believe it is the start of a new year again?! I keep thinking back to where I was at this time last year. Such amazing happy memories! It is so cool to think that we were all standing together huddled in a giant crowd in Times Square! What an amazing way to have started off this amazing year! 

This truly has been one of the most blessed years of my life. So many changes and adventures and I have loved every second of it! Life is just so exciting! Well Sister Marand and I are rounding up our last 2 days together. Even though we were only companions for just about 2 weeks we really became good friends and I am going to miss her when she goes back to Temple Square! It's OK though, because now I have an excuse to go over to France and visit her after my mission ;) So I can't lie I am pretty intimidated by the huge challenge that lies before me with this new area. It is wwaayyy bigger than my last area- even though there is one less ward... and there truly is a lot of work to be done. This area has a reputation of being very hard and not getting many baptisms- sometimes not even any! But, I will do my best to turn that around and help this area become the very best it can be! I know there is potential and I know there are prepared people out there. I just have to go back to square one. It reminds me a lot of the allegory in Jacob..."go to go and labor diligently" - and I will! Having more responsibility really has caused me to rely a whole lot more on the Lord - more than I ever have before. I am so new and I honestly have no idea what I am doing, so I will trust Him and I know He will show me the way. Ah! It almost feels like I'm about to jump off the high dive at the swimming pool. You just have to close your eyes and jump! Anyways, so full field. We did our planning for this next week and it literally took forever!! We have so many more spaces to fill now that we have 4-6 more hours open each day. Crazy! But I know that it all depends on my attitude and if I choose to work hard and love it then I know it will be amazing no matter what :) 

So cool that you guys had all missionary talks on Sunday! I actually spoke in Sacrament meeting with Sister Marand and a returned senior couple yesterday as well! Yesterday was just amazing. Literally all 3 Sacrament meetings that we went to were about missionary work and it made us soooo happy!! The members hearts are changing and I love it! The spirit is just so strong when people talk about missionary work and that is because that is the life line of the gospel of Jesus Christ! I talked about the doctrine of Jesus Christ- mostly focusing on the quote by Elder Packer, "True doctrine understood changes attitudes and behaviors.". I know this is true. If you want to change something about yourself, if you want to strengthen your testimony, if you want stronger faith- whatever it may be go back to the doctrine. Jesus Christ and His teachings are what change us. That is one thing I have truly gained a testimony of this Christmas season. I have been blessed with so many opportunities to testify about Jesus Christ at the Visitors Center as well as in my area and I am so grateful for that. I feel like I have come to know my Savior in a way that I have never been able to before. I feel like I have invited Him into my life and that He truly is helping me. There is just absolutely no other way I would be able to do this work! I want to tell you guys a story about a sweet guy from my old YSA ward. I just want to help him! But anyways, so he has had a really hard life and has struggled a lot with depression. I know the teachings of Jesus Christ can help him, but I can't make him want it. This guy really struggles with taking out his depression on himself. He hurts himself and it just makes me so sad. He came into the visitors center the other night while I was doing the Christus presentation and I talked to him for a few minutes. I could tell he was having a bad day and he seemed really weighed down by all of his troubles. While we play the presentation we go over to the side and I like to look at everyone's expressions as they listen to the words of their Savior from the scriptures. When I looked at this boy I just wanted to cry. I felt the way His Father in Heaven feels about Him. I saw Him as a true son of God that is so lost and caught up in the hard things of life. When the presentation was over I just felt impressed to testify that nobody knows us better than our Savior Jesus Christ. He knows our pains and our sufferings. He knows what we need and knows how to help us. I am so grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ. I can't say enough about His goodness nor express how truly grateful I am for Him. I love being a missionary and being able to testify to others that there is hope in this crazy world. We can experience happiness and we can change! Anyways back to the story, so the boy gets up to leave after the presentation and I could see that he was crying. I know he felt the love of His Savior. He told me thank you and said he wants to meet with the sisters. Yayyy! No matter how far off the path we may be, we can ALWAYS come back. That is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It doesn't matter where you are, it just matters where you are going. That's something I have been thinking about a lot lately, especially with this new year. I want to be better. I want to be a more consecrated missionary and I want to change. I want to set a pattern for the rest of my life. I hope that as this new year approaches that all of you will take this opportunity to apply the atonement of Jesus Christ to your life and change! I am so grateful that I have a loving Savior that performed the atonement for me- even if I was the only person here on this earth, He still would have come and died for me. How humbling is that. I want to show my Savior that I love Him and appreciate Him by trying to change, by trying to become a better person. I just love my Savior Jesus Christ :) 

So what are all of your guys new years resolutions??

So last night my old roommate from BYUI came in and visited me! Tiffany Galovich!!! It made me sooo happy!! Also Julianna Benham (can't remember her new last name) came in and said hi to me too!! It was soo sweet!! 

Tell the McGurrins I love them and that I say hi! They are soo sweet and I am so happy to hear that they are doing well!!

Thanks for all the updates! Good luck this week in Macon mom! Love you all!

Sister Hamstead