Monday, June 16, 2014

Keep Hope

Quilt mentioned in last week's blog. Given to her by a member
You know it surprises me that some people fail to recognize the hand of The Lord in their lives. I think this week especially I was very conscious of how He played a role with me and my companion.

I remember a few weeks ago when I was with Sister Pinkston, asking her if people really do ever cry or feel overwhelmed when they hear the First Vision, or if that's only for an especially awesome missionary to experience. She told me it would take both parties being worthy and prepared to ever get to that point. I know this is trivial, but I am proud to say I have finally witnessed the First Vision changing someone's life. At the beginning of this week we taught Amber and Corey- an awesome couple who are investigating the church. We taught them about the Restoration of Christ's gospel. As I said Joseph Smith's account of the First Vision, the room got quiet. I watched tears form in her eyes. "Wow, that's powerful", she said. And it was. I know that Joseph Smith really did see Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ because when I say Joseph's words describing the answer he got to his humble prayer, I always feel the spirit wrap around my heart and I can hardly breathe! Like Amber said, it's powerful.  I can honestly say that no matter how many people are present, the room ALWAYS goes silent whenever I say it...

So many changes have been occurring with me and with Sparta! We also have some changes in our district, which is always exciting.

One of the amazing changes with the branch is seeing their hearts softened towards missionary work. When I first got here, Sister Pinkston and I were in a rut on how to get these people involved and becoming member missionaries. Upon seeking the guidance of Preach my Gospel, President Andersen, and the Lord, we began implementing plans and getting to work. Now as I stand here three months later, my trainee Sister Kohler, has a dropped jaw as she watches the branch constantly working to come on exchanges with us, feed us, surprise us with groceries and send an even bigger smile our way. We are being accepted into the family and the southern hospitality is beginning to shine. We still have a ways to go to complete our vision, but I can't even begin to describe to you the growth of the Sparta branch and how far it's come in just the 3 months that I've been here.

Of course with every good, there is some bad. I had probably the worst day of my mission so far this week. There's just some kind of evil in turning away from Jesus Christ's church. I don't mean just falling away or slowly stopping going- I mean completely turning your back to the things that you know and saying it's an act of God.

"And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell"
-Alma 12:11

I am so grateful to have the gift of discernment. The Spirit is able to constantly warn me of wolves in sheep's clothing. It is a sad sad thing to see people I care about fall away. I am thankful to be able to recognize when the Holy Ghost is present, and when He has left. It is these feelings that witness to me that Christ lives and is real, as is his enemy the devil. I have never before given much thought to what Joseph Smith must have felt when he knelt down to pray to God, and the devil tried to stop him. We must choose light and good continually, and only then will we find joy and peace in this life and in the life to come. The fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been once again restored to the earth, and it is our key back to the presence of our Heavenly Father. It can be found plainly and simply in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon answers all questions, and if we read it with a sincere heart and real intent, it will manifest to us all things which we should do by the power of the Holy Ghost.

So despite having a hard day of seeing the evils around me, and also a rough week of being sick, I have also been blessed with many wonderful miracles!
 We were seeking out a house one day when I pulled into a random driveway. It wasn't the house we were looking for, but we went up to knock on the door anyway. The lady came out and asked who we were. We told her, and she began to cry. She told us she had only just offered a prayer to God for help, and she knew we were her answer. Another time, we were out tracting and we came to an old ladies house. I felt inspired to get her to give us a referral. After a while, she eventually told us where her son lived. That night, we went to go find him. He lived wayyyyy on the other side of the world from her, but we found him nonetheless. The crazy part is that when we got to his house we recognized it as being one we had just knocked on the other day- and set a return appointment for. So we went up to him and told him we had met his mom, and she had asked us to come see him. He was shocked that we had even found her, and we were shocked that we already knew him! It was funny and a total miracle. 

My favorite miracle of all this week though is teaching the Lewis family. They have been meeting with missionaries since the dawn of time. They were having over their aunt and uncle who had just returned from a couples mission, and invited us over too. We taught them the Restoration (another steller first vision moment) when I felt prompted to commit them to baptism. It was a little scary, but I knew that God had been preparing them more in these past weeks with us than He had in all of their years investigating. So guess what? They accepted! We have a date for them all next month! I wanted to cry I was so excited. They have so much potential in the gospel and I know this is going to bless their cute family tremendously. I love them.

It's a little weird being the senior companion this young in my mission. We had the big "Trainer Trainee" meeting this week... it was really odd sitting with some of the oldest wisest missionaries in the mission- knowing I was just sitting in my dear trainees spot last transfer! BUT age doesn't matter, as I'm beginning to learn, it's all about your obedience and righteousness and desire to serve.

So yesterday was a fabulous day. Amber and the Lewis family all came to church (we did however have to go wake Amber up by banging loudly on her laundry room door, haha) and it was an awesome fathers day! In honor of my dad I accepted the Father's day treat of reese's pieces and ate them gladly ;). President Andersen asked me to thank my father and tell him thank you from him for preparing me and sending me out to serve a mission :). Dads are great things. Greatest of all is our Heavenly Father who is the ultimate provider and the perfect example of how we should love and raise our children. He is there for us through the ups and the downs, and he is mindful of what we are going through. He will never give us more than we can handle, for His hand is in all.

This week I've been studying in Alma. One chapter that especially stuck out to me was Alma 14 when the two missionary companions Alma and Amulek are cast into prison and suffer hardships and torture for many days. They endure the trial, not speaking one word, until finally God sees fit to loose the bands that tie them down and send the prison walls crashing down on those who persecuted them. 
Alma 17:11 says:
"And the Lord said unto them also: Go forth... and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls"

I know that if we endure our own trials and hardships well, keeping a perfect brightness of hope, that we WILL come out on top in the end, because the Lord will deliver us. All of these things are for the welfare of our soul. We are in this fight no matter what, so we can either choose to lay down and give up or to stand strong and get up when we fall.

Sis. Hochstrasser and Sis. Kohler
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. "
-2 Timothy 4:7-8 

I encourage you, when you find yourself complaining or wondering "why me?" this week, to stop and pray for strength to endure whatever your trial is. Work to have hope (trust in the Lord) and you will begin to find greater patience, confidence, and optimism.

Sister Hochstrasser


Sister Jennifer Hochstrasser
Tennessee Nashville Mission
105 West Park DR Suite 190
Brentwood, TN  37027

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