Monday, October 13, 2014

His Image in Your Countenance

When it was announced that girls could go on a mission at age 19, I was actually at a swim meet. My mom texted me telling me the news, and I remember replying, "we'll talk about it when I get home". I wasn't really sure what to think. I had never really considered serving a mission, I just was planning to go to college and get married like everyone else. Over the weeks my mom kept saying "when you go on a mission", as if the decision was already made. In my heart, I knew it was probably the best option for me, but I wasn't sure. My decision to go on a mission was just sort of something that happened. I didn't have a big "aha" moment where Heavenly Father told me to do it. I think He already trusted me enough to know I could make the decision on my own. 

So fast forward and I've now been a sister missionary for about 7 months. Everyday I wake up and pray for somebody else. Then I go to my desk and study intensely, for somebody else. After that I go out and spend the rest of my day serving somebody else. I end my night at the table, planning out what I can do for somebody else. Day after day I work until I can't work anymore, and then someone else comes in and gives me the strength I need to keep going, for somebody else.  I guess the funny part is that I'm the one who gains from it. I've always been one of those people who takes on challenges like "develop charity by serving someone everyday" or "practice being patient by not raising your voice for a week", but then as soon as that week is over I go right back to how I was. On a mission it's different, I'm taking these challenges, and I'm changing. I'm growing. I'm becoming the person that Heavenly Father knows I can be. 

Because of my mission I now know that success is knowing you used the atonement that day.  Fun is taking the youth out tracting and seeing miracles. Peace is knowing you did your Father's will that day, and joy is bringing someone closer to Christ. Serving a mission has been the hardest thing that I have EVER loved to do. And let me tell you, it's something that I will never stop doing.  Monday was Sister Smith's last day as a missionary, and she was determined not to waste it just saying goodbye. Most missionaries like to spend their last few hours hugging members and wishing investigators luck and maybe picking up some last minute things at the store, but not this sister missionary. Her purpose, and every missionary's purpose, is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. 

And so we spent the last few hours of Sister Smith's missionary life inviting, testifying, and proclaiming the good news. Because of my sweet companion's diligence, we found Shiana. Shiana is a young mom who is amazing! When she heard our message, she couldn't WAIT to learn more. She invited us in to teach her, but we had an appointment we had to run to. Don't worry though, we came right back, and with a member! The lesson was great, and I can't wait to tell ya'll what happens with her progression towards Christ :).

Tuesday was transfers. (BUM BUM BUUUMMMM). It all felt really surreal, saying goodbye to my best friend and bringing home a new one. I guess that's what's kind of cool about missions, you're never too worried about who you get because you know that whoever they are, Heavenly Father hand picked them to be your best friend! My new companion is named Sister Cotton. She is from Washington D.C, so together we're kind of the best of both worlds (I'm from Washington state). She used to be a swimmer like me, and she sure does love being a missionary. I think she is the most consecrated person I have ever met. At first, this really scared me. She's intense and very solemn about her missionary duties. The first day was hard, I struggled with the change. Sister Smith and I were goofballs, so this was a stark contrast. Luckily, Heavenly Father knew what He was doing.

Wednesday was our first official day out on the job. Getting out and working side by side with Jesus Christ and Sister Cotton helped me feel a lot more confident about what I was doing. You see, I haven't even been in Paducah two months, so there's a lot of people and places I still don't know about and I was worried it would all be kind of a mess for us. But it wasn't! 

Thursday we got to meet Tarry. Tarry is the niece of a part member family who has come to America from Zimbabwe to play tennis professionally. She is a Jehovah's Witness, and so is her whole family. She was spending the afternoon with one of the young women who had reached out to her, and we got to meet her. She asked us some questions about our belief and the young woman she was with was able to give her a Book of Mormon. The next day her aunt (who is a member) called us and said she'd never seen Tarry so happy before, and that she wanted to come to church with them! I know that would not have happened if that young woman hadn't been a member missionary. Boy am I grateful for you members! 

Friday we had interviews with President Andersen. The Assistants came and gave trainings on how to be better missionaries while we waited our turn to be interviewed. President Andersen expressed his excitement about having Sister Cotton and I together in Paducah, I guess you could say we're the "dream team" when we work equally yoked with the spirit! President's faith in us and our area helped me feel excited about the work. I had to leave the meeting early to go teach a lesson with a member. It was my first time going out teaching without my companion, so I was pretty nervous. However, it ended up being awesome! We taught a lady named Krista. At the end of our lesson she just sort of starred at me, and tried to put into words something that had obviously been on her mind. "You look...." she began, not sure how to express herself, "You just have Jesus all over you" (she motioned towards my whole being). "I've only ever seen one other person like that, you just have him shining in your eyes and all over. It's like a huge light".  I wasn't really sure how to respond. I think at the beginning of my mission I would have thought that was pretty cool and said thanks, but at this point I was able to better realize what all that meant. 

To have Christ in your countenance is nothing small, and it's something that I have to work for everyday. I make LOTS of mistakes, and I'm not always the purest vessel. It meant the world to me to know that despite my imperfections, I was still representing my Savior. 
"...and his countenance did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them, and behold they were as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus..."(3rd Nephi 19:25) That very night we were out tracting in a very wealthy neighborhood. At the last door, the lady looked at our name tags and reading "Jesus Christ" said we were the answer to her prayers. She asked us if we were angels. She saw that we were different. She saw that we had his image in our countenance. "There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us." (Psalms 4:6)

 I think my favorite memory of all though, is our lesson with Regina. Regina was so excited for us to come over. We told her we were going to bring a movie (The Restoration) so she bought popcorn and cute little treat bags to put it in. We brought over Sister Hayes and her daughter Lucy (members) and had a powerful experience. After the movie, Regina seemed deeply moved. She shared with us how much this gospel has already been blessing her life, and how she felt she could relate with Joseph Smith. She told us Heavenly Father had put it on her heart to ask about baptism. She then told me that I was the happiest person she had ever seen, and asked why. She said I was always smiling, that I had a light. With this question I was able to explain to her about the gift of the Holy Ghost that I had, that she also could receive once baptized. We read about the different feelings the spirit brings found in Galatians 5, and she told us she was feeling most of those already! "Regina, what if I told you you could have those feelings always?"President Brigham Young said that "those who have got the forgiveness of their sins have countenances that look bright, and they will shine with the intelligence of heaven".  Deidra has also been investigating the church. She has struggled for some time to know if there are still prophets today. Last week we taught her about prophets, and she just couldn't let go of the light that we had when we spoke of such things. This week, she was telling us how she was still not sure, when she said something that was not actually from her. She essentially taught herself why we have the need for a prophet, and really, what their role in her life is. She stopped suddenly, and got teary eyed. "I don't know where that came from" she told us. We explained to her that it was from God. Deidra knew that she had just received her own personal revelation about prophets. It was amazing to watch the Holy Ghost work!

Saturday we met with Sandra, an investigator who has been ready for baptism for quite some time. It's actually been kind of hard working with her, since she refuses to actually be baptized even though we know she is ready. We took Sister Frederich, a member, and decided to just talk with Sandra. She began to open up about why she was hesitant to be baptized, and with the spirit, we were able to explain to Sandra why this would bless her. We sang her favorite song, read from the Book of Mormon, and then asked her to finally just pick a date. After looking at the calendar, Heavenly Father told Sandra that she should be baptized October 26th. "How do you feel?" I asked her. "Like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders" she explained with watery eyes. The spirit was strong in that room. I'm so grateful to be a missionary! 

Heavenly Father loves the people of Paducah. That is why he has sent 6 of his chosen servants to labor in this part of the vineyard with Him. It has been amazing to see His countenance shine on others, and to watch it radiate from his missionaries. I know that I'm not perfect, and every mistake I make puts a wound in my spirit. That is why I am so grateful that because of Christ we can be healed. Throughout the week I work to clean out my spiritual wounds by repenting. So if repentance is the cleansing process, what's the healing? That is the sacrament! After a week of sincere repenting and cleaning out my wounds,  I am put in a state where I am ready to be healed. When I partake of the Sacrament, my sins are forgiven and I am made whole. It's a wonderful thing we have been given.

I know Heavenly Father loves me. I know He loves you. I know that He has literally prepared a way for every single one of His children to return to Him, and that way is through us. Members and missionaries alike. I know the atonement is real. I know that Jesus Christ leads and guides this church. I know that President Monson is a prophet today, and that Joseph Smith is the prophet of this dispensation. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. And I KNOW that Jesus Christ is real, and He is my best friend. I say this in His name, 

Sister Hochstrasser

Write to me, and I'll write you back!

Sister Jennifer Hochstrasser

105 West Park Drive Suite 190

Brentwood, TN  37027

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