Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dear Mom, Dad, Danny, Shar, Katelyn, Madison, Jane, Amy, Nate, Lucy, Ivy, Jack, Alicia, Alan, Norah, and everyone else,

First of all Mom, Thanks for all the news! (I haven't read the rest of your letter yet).  OH MY GOODNESS on all the marriages.  Craziness.  Congrats to Nancy! And welcome home to Ashley!  Congratulations to Lacey and Jake and Becca!  It's weird that that much time has already passed.  I just realized the other day, that I have been out for 7 months! Which is getting close to halfway.  Very weird.

We had a great week this week.  On Wednesday, we discovered that the less active family we have been working with to get the son Andrew ready for baptism will actually count as a convert baptism because he turns 9 two days before his baptism.  So we have a baptism this weekend!  We were always planning on being there, because we've been working with him and his family, but because both of his parents are members (they just aren't super active and the dad is totally inactive) we figured it would be a primary baptism.  Plus the ward kept going back and forth on what they were going to consider it and never told us for certain how it was all going to come together.  But we are excited for him to get baptized on Friday and we hope we will be able to help the family stay active!  

The greatest part of our week though, was Friday.  We were on exchanges and I was serving with Sister Weber, while Sister Carlton went to Woodridge with Sister Stewart.  We went to our appointment with Rick and when we followed up on how his reading of 2 Nephi 31 went, he said, "it made me want to get baptized"  !!!!!!!!!  Oh my goodness! This is exactly what we were hoping would happen!  Right about then, he ended up having a question about authority, so we answered that question, and then I led that into a discussion about Faith so that we come back to the whole baptism thing.  We had a great discussion about Faith as we read from the Bible Dictionary and then the member with us shared her conversion story of having to take those steps of faith even though she didn't know all the answers.  She shared how as she has continued to keep the commandments, she has seen more and more that the decision she made was right and she has eventually gotten all of the answers she needed.  It was really great.  Then I looked Rick right in the eyes and asked, "So Rick, will you take this step of faith, and follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone holding the Priesthood authority of God?  We are holding a baptismal service on June 23rd.  Will you prepare yourself to be baptized on that day?"  He got this curious look as I said the date, looked at his calendar, and then asked how we came up with that particular day.  We explained that we had prayed about it and just felt like that was a day he could be ready by.  Then he told us that in Puerto Rico, where he is from, they have a holiday every summer.  This year it falls on June 23rd.  It is called "John the Baptist Day."  He agreed to be baptized on June 23rd :)  SO COOL!  He is really excited about it and he feels that us choosing that date is another sign from God that he should in fact be baptized.  Sister Carlton was so excited when exchanged back that night!  We are really happy for him.

After Rick, we had an appointment with a woman named Brandi that we had tracted into a few days before.  She LOVES family history and she has worked with the church familysearch.org website a LOT.  Sister Weber and I had a great talk with her, getting to know her and about her family history.  Then before we left, we quickly introduced the Book of Mormon and asked her if she would read from it and then if we could come back and talk to her more about it.  She said she would and was quite excited about her "homework" :)  The best part though, was when we were first talking about it. She mentioned how the Jews have the Old Testament, most Christians have the Old and New Testaments, and then the Mormons have the Old, New and Another Testament.  And then she said, "What I don't get, is why hasn't anyone else picked up this book?  Why haven't any other churches started using it?"  Very good question Brandi.  Very good question :)  We would be thrilled to answer that for you when we come back.  

So we were very happy with our investigator on date to be baptized and our new investigator for the week.  

I am still absolutely loving working with Sister Carlton.  She is fabulous and we work so well together!  I enjoyed working with Sister Weber on Friday, but I really missed Sister Carlton while she was gone.  I'm happy to have her back again.

Last night in 2nd ward we had a ward activity centered on missionary work.  It was AWESOME!  Brother Oscarson put together this whole program of speakers and videos from mormon.org etc, to talk about what it means to be a Mormon and how we live our lives according to the teachings of Jesus Christ because of that.  Several youth spoke, and Courtney (one of our recent converts) and then the Bishop gave a great talk at the end about acting on the feelings that anyone may have had during the program which then led into the "Waiting on the Road to Damascus" mormon message.  It was fabulous. (P.S. Mom, you should try to put the video on my blog right here if you can.  That would be cool.)   Waiting on the Road to Damascus - President Deiter F. Uchtdorf

I also forgot to tell you about this cool thing that happened last week!  Last Sunday, we had a comparative religions class from the College of DuPage (CoD) come visit Sacrament meeting in 2nd ward, and then they stayed after for a question and answer session with us.  We were able to get several members to stay with us to help answer questions and it went really well.  We ended up giving them all a restoration pamphlet and we gave away about 6 copies of the Book of Mormon.  We had a few with us, and passed them out for them to look at while we explained a little about what it was.  We were hoping they would want to keep them.  At the end, one lady handed hers back to Sister Carlton, and when she told her she could keep it, she said she didn't want it to be wasted, so she would just give it back.  Two seats down, another lady had heard her, and jumped at the opportunity, reaching across and saying, "Well then can I have it??"  It was exciting to see her so excited about it, and a few of the others holding their copies, gently fingering through as they pondered on the things they had just heard and felt.  Then this week, we found out from one of our Bishopric members that someone else in the class had stayed after and asked him if he could get a copy of the Book of Mormon!  It was really neat and I hope those who were touched - which I would say there were many who were - will get the chance to learn more about the church and will request the missionaries in their respective areas.  That would be even better if they lived in ours :)

I think that's about all for the week.  Healthwise:  Saturday was a pretty yucky day, but yesterday was better and today is a good day too.  I got my follow-up bloodwork on Friday, so hopefully we'll have those results back soon.  Sister Bostrom (WML's wife in 3rd ward) also said she would ask one of the doctors she works for if she has any ideas what all this could be.  She said this doctor is an excellent diognostician and that she would be willing to look into it for me, so I gave her a list of all my symptoms and we'll see if any new ideas come from that.  

I love you! I miss you! (in a good way)

Love, Sister Ali

Monday, April 16, 2012

Haha you wore my clothes :) Well I'm glad they can be there for you when you're missing me. For exercise we sometimes go for little runs outside, sometimes we just walk, and sometimes we just stretch and do crunches in the apartment... Way to go Dad! Running a whole mile! I bet he's sore!

We get to go to RS in the 3rd ward, but not in 2nd because that's during 3rd ward's Sacrament meeting. I can't believe our ward has 7 recent converts! How many converts did we ever have my whole time growing up in that ward? Like, NONE? That's awesome and amazing and wonderful.

Our "Walk with Christ" was on Good Friday, and they had about 6 different rooms set up with either "live" scenes or videos playing (with a narrator in every room) to share testimony of who Chirst was, or to depict scenes from his death on the cross and resurrection and then it ended with Him visiting the Americas. It was pretty cool.

Happy Birthday Sheeshee! I hope you have a wonderful fabulous day!

This week I got sick again. So far it's just a cold, but a few of the signs/symptoms from when I got SUPER sick have started coming back, bit by bit. I'm trying to take care of myself and take it easy so that it doesn't end up like last time. We'll see what happens and I'll keep you posted. A funny thing did come of this though. For a couple of days, but throat was so raw (like when I got my tonsils out) that I couldn't/didn't have any desire to speak at all. So for two and half days Sister Carlton and I communicated by limited sign language skills and writing things down when it was too complicated to sign. She was awesome and took over teaching a couple of lessons all by herself. So one day, we had to go to the Sprint store to see if they could fix our phone, because it is having some major issues right now - we like to say it's possessed because it is seriously wacky. Anyway, we went into the store and I just kind of hung back while Sister Carlton did all the talking. As we waited though, I came up by her and I had a few things I wanted to tell her, so I wrote it down on. The girl working noticed my lack of vocal communication, and drawing conclusions from the name tag I wear asked, "Did you take a vow a silence?" Hahahaha! It was awesome. We explained that I had just lost my voice, and she was afraid she had offended us, but we weren't upset at all. We just thought it was hilarious.

For our Stake Conference on May 5 & 6 Elder Dallin H. Oaks will be coming to preside. AWESOMENESS! Super excited about that. Hopefully we can get some investigators there!

And speaking of investigators: We had a really great lesson with Rick this week. We had planned on teaching him the Plan of Salvation, but then when we were following up on how he liked church, he had some questions about the Priesthood, and when the member with us mentioned one of the differences between Aaronic and Melchezidek being that one could baptize and one could confirm, he ask what being confirmed was which then led into a really awesome discussion about the Holy Ghost. It was super cool and the Spirit was definitely there. We asked him if that constant companionship of the Holy Ghost was something that he would want and he said it was, and that he thought it would really help. Then we explained that that is why we invited him to be baptized, because we wanted him to be able to have that as well. This week he is going to pray on his knees at least once a day and ask about baptism and the Holy Ghost and if that really is something that he can have and needs to do in his life. We are excited!

Agnes, the sweet Sister that we visited in the hospital last week, passed away on Saturday. Her daughter visited our ward on Sunday and thanked us for going to visit her. We are both so grateful that we had the opportunity to meet her. Her funeral is on Saturday and perhaps Dean, the man we met while sharing the Easter message on the driveway will be there. I am happy to know that she is now at rest from all her pain and no longer has to suffer.

We have been having some CRAZY thunder storms the past few days. The only problem is, they have only been happening at night - as in the middle of the night - so I don't really get to enjoy them, and then they just end up waking me up periodically throughout the night because the thunder is so loud and the lightening is so bright. But oh well! I can sleep well another night... Maybe not until I'm done with my mission... but another night nonetheless :)

Saturday's Miracle: We went tracting in the neighborhood just south of our apartment complex, so instead of driving, we decided just to walk there. We worked on a street called Applegate and we met some nice people, and a few not so nice. Overall, it was a good and successful morning. Then it was time for lunch, so we started to walk back. As we were walking by this field close to home, we crossed paths with an older lady walking her dog. We ended up talking to her for about 25 minutes and she said she was currently in a "state of transition" religiously. She said she would be interested if she could ever make the time to sit down with us and learn more of our message. So we gave her our number, and then asked for her number and address. She lives on Applegate. I guess we were going to find her one way or another! It's amazing how the Lord leads us to those that He has been preparing.

I love you all very much! I miss you!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for the pictures Dad!

Oh! And last night we got a text from Brittaini saying that she was going to quit smoking once and for all! She asked for our prayers, saying that she was going to go cold turkey and that she had just thrown out her last pack of cigarettes, but that she knew with the Lord's help she could do it. We promised her on Saturday that if she read from the Book of Mormon every day she would have greater power to resist temptation and now she's acting on it! What a show of faith. She decided to do this all on her own, and we are just happy to be a part of all these wonderful changes she is making in her life.

Sister Ali

The pictures are from our lesson with Andrew (the one from the less active family getting baptized on the 27th). We talked about Nephi building the boat and then we made our own :)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dearest Familia,

This week has truly been a week of miracles!

Miracle #1.
Last week we had a woman named Brittaini call us. She told us that she was a member, but hasn't been active in over 10 years. She wants to come back and to raise her kids in the church and she wanted to know what she needed to do. We met with her on Tuesday and it was AMAZING. We started with a prayer, and she was crying by the end. She said she hadn't felt the Spirit that strong since she was learning about the church and joined when she was 12. It was pretty cool. She told us her story, which is basically that she's always known the church was true, but was looking for something that would be "easier" or that would let her break more rules. She got married to a Muslim man and for the sake of family unity, converted to Islam. And then she got really depressed. And I mean REALLY depressed. Finally one day, she realized that it was because she couldn't NOT accept Jesus as her Savior and as the Son of God. Once she started coming back to that realization, and decided that she wanted to come back to church, she started feeling better. And so a couple of weeks ago she looked up the closest church building on lds.org and saw that the 4th ward met on Tuesday evenings for mutual, so she figured she would show up at the church and see who she could talk to. When she got there though, no one was there. It was Spring Break and they had cancelled mutual. Just as she was about to leave though, someone pulled up. It was the Executive Secretary from the 4th ward. He was able to look up her address and see that she was in our ward, so he gave her our number and the Bishop's number. MIRACLES. So we met with her on Tuesday and then invited her to the "Walk with Christ" event that the 3rd ward (her ward) was doing on Friday night to celebrate Easter and she and her son came and LOVED it. Alec is 5 and he had never been to church or anything before. He had a really hard time in the Crucifixion room and got really sad, but then by the end when they showed Christ visiting the Americas and blessing all the children he got happy. Then as they were driving home he said, "Mom, I really love Heavenly Father and Jesus." I am so excited to be working with Brittaini and her sweet family! They ALL came to church on Sunday - even her husband - and they had a great time. The ward was so welcoming and loving. It was wonderful.

Miracle #2
On Saturday, after tracting for a couple of hours, we had to use the bathroom, so we called the Matsens to see if we could stop in quickly and use theirs. On our way over, Sister Carlton suggested we share the Living Easter Card with them and see if they could think of anyone we should share it with, since the next day was Easter. We were able to share it with them, and then Sister Matsen suggested we visit an older lady in our ward named Agnes who has cancer and so is unable to come to church. Her husband is not a member, but Sister Matsen said he was really nice, so we should be okay to go over. When we got there, there were three men sitting in lawn chairs in front of the open garage door, just talking and drinking their beers. We asked for Agnes and they told us that she was currently in the hospital, and gave us her room number. Then we asked if we could share our Easter message with them, and they said that would be alright. So right there in the driveway, we pulled out our scriptures and hymn books and started to sing and read the Easter story. The neighbor across the street had been mowing his lawn, but he stopped and came over to listen as well. So here we are, two young girls, and these four old men, all drinking their beer, and listening to us sing about Easter. It was pretty cool. When we were done, the one man who had been very quiet the whole time, stood up and came over to us. He thanked us and reached out to shake my hand and then pulled me into a kind of hug (we didn't know what to do!), and then did the same to Sister Carlton. It was powerful to see this man so touched by the Spirit. We gave him a mormon.org card and told him he could find us on there. We are praying that sweet Dean will visit the website and request us to come back. If he doesn't soon, we are just going to tract his street until we find the right house! We know it's close. Then, Jesse, Agnes's husband, wanted to make sure we would go visit his wife and share our Easter message with her. That night after dinner, we went to the hospital, not knowing what to expect. Agnes was worse than we could have imagined. We found her room, and saw this tiny, fragile woman, clearly in a great deal of pain. We shared our message with her, and though in agony, she joined in singing with us as much as her frail condition would allow. Every so often, I would look up from my hymn book and scriptures, and I saw this light come into her eyes. She was still in pain, but she had joy and hope now. And as we finished our message, she smiled. It was one of the sweetest things I have ever seen. Her smile told us what she could not say: that although she was in the deepest pain and agony, she had hope and faith that because of our Savior's Atonement, one day, her pain would end. And until that day, she knew that at least she wasn't alone in her suffering. My testimony of the Atonement and the Easter season was strengthened greatly by this dear sweet Sister's song and smile.

Miracle #3
Rick is awesome. We went to his new house for our appointment on Friday and got the tour. Nothing is moved in yet, but in his daughter's room was one picture sitting against the wall. It was the "One hundred cats and a mouse" picture that we have hanging in our downstairs bathroom! I have never seen that picture anywhere else. It was really cool. But then, this picture became more than just a fun connection to home. As we went forward with our lesson, Rick told us that sometimes he feels like God speaks to him through dreams. We said that was perfectly plausible - and then he proceeded to explain: A couple of days before Sister Sorensen and I knocked on his door, he had a dream. Though unclear in the details, he somehow knew that I (me, Sister Hatch) would be coming to learn his story. So then we knocked on his door and our journey together began. When I recognized the picture, that was just one more sign that I really was the one he had been told would be coming. HOW CRAZY IS THAT??!? And by crazy I mean that in a good crazy way. It was really cool to hear that. Anyway, we had a good lesson with him. We invited him to the "Walk with Christ" and to church and he said he would try to make it to both, but he wasn't certain he would be able to come, but he would try. All the pipes started leaking in their house Friday night, so he couldn't come to the Walk with Christ, and then he wasn't at church on Sunday either. But then, as I was handing out flyers for a ward mission activity at the door after Sacrament meeting, someone told me that there was a man in the foyer looking for me. I peered around the corner, and there was Rick! He came to church!! He was just a little late and didn't want to interrupt the service. So he listened from the foyer and gave himself a little tour of the church and looked at all the pictures. Then he came to Sunday School with us and he went to Priesthood as well! We were super excited :)

So yep. It's been a pretty amazing week. There have been tons of other little miracles happening all this past week, but those are the big three.

On Sunday, I received probably the greatest compliment anyone can receive as a missionary. Elder and Sister Anderson are Stake missionaries for the Addiction recovery classes and such, and they are in the 3rd ward. I absolutely love them :) A few weeks ago, Sister Sorensen and I had dinner with them, and yesterday Sister Anderson told me that after we left Elder Anderson said to her, "I really wish we had someone for them. ... I would trust Sister Hatch with anyone. She is something special." I was blown away! I'm not sure what I have done to deserve that, but I am grateful for the gifts that Heavenly Father has given me to gain the trust of the members so fully. I must strive to keep that trust that they have in me, to teach their friends about the gospel.

I love you very very much!!
Sister Hatch

Sunday, April 8, 2012

April 2, 2012

Dear Mamacita and Papcito,

I'm really glad to hear that Don and Rose said they were excited to watch Conference! Sister Stewart's recent updates haven't been too heartening, so I've been worried about them. She said they still come to Sacrament, but they won't stay for the classes, and for a couple of weeks they kept cancelling their appointments. I hope they really did watch Conference. It was FABULOUS! We watched it at the Naperville Stake Center (because it's closer than Joliet which is actually our Stake...) and it was fun because a lot of other missionaries were there and Sister Charles from my last area brought the Woodridge Sisters and food for all of us :)

I did get the money from Grandma and Grandpa and I am very grateful for it. I plan on using the birthday money to get a few summer-y things in terms of clothes because I'm starting to realize that what I have is going to be too hot!

So, about this week: My dear sweet companion is named Sister Carlton. She is so awesome! I seriously LOVE her. We get along really well, and I keep forgetting that she's brand new because she's such an incredible missionary already. She's from a tiny town in Kansas called Larnad. She is number 8 of 9 in her family, and her dad died in a car wreck when she was 3. She graduated from BYU-I in early childhood special ed in December. She is super cute and tons of fun. It's great because she's so fresh from the MTC, and I'm still pretty new, so we are figuring things out together, and moving forward with some fun plans to get our wards ready to take the next step in doing missionary work. She has a lot of good ideas and is really excited about the work and the possibilities ahead of us, and it helps me remember my excitement when I first came out and to keep it up, rather than letting it dwindle with time.

We had an AWESOME first "official" lesson with Rick on Friday. We taught about the Restoration, and we were able to flow really well together in our teaching, and while sometimes he went off on a few digressions, we were able to bring it back to the Restoration. It's interesting, because we talk so much about "teaching people, not lessons" but then we also talk about how important it is to bring things back to the Restoration, so sometimes it's a tricky balance, but I think we did pretty good. Then he ended up bringing up on his own things that TOTALLY sounded like the Word of Wisdom, so we gave him a pamphlet for it, and told him to read D&C 89. Things worked perfectly into that because we had just given him a large print BoM, but they only make them in triple combination form, and literally at the last second before going in to meet with him, I decided to put some more pamphlets in my backpack, and Sister Carlton must have been inspired to hand me one for the Word of Wisdom. I love little miracles like that :) Then at the end, he gave the prayer, and it was one of the most sincerely searching prayers I have yet heard from an investigator. It was really powerful.

After Rick, we went to visit a woman named Jane, who loves us and says we are always welcome, but isn't exactly interested in changing religions. I think she totally knows it's true though, she just doesn't want to give up her Catholic traditions - even though she doesn't believe it all! People are funny like that... Anyway, I had been reading the Conference talk by Elder Cook from October, "The Songs They Could Not Sing" and kept thinking about her, because she has been through a lot of really difficult things in her life, and I wanted to give her a copy. We stopped by and ended up having a great lesson with her and invited her to watch Conference. She seemed really interested and I hope she did! She is a really sweet lady, and just fun. But she needs our prayers. She's one of those people that we WANT to visit regularly, but she's not officially investigating, so we can't just go over to hang out, but at the same time we're still always teaching her things about the gospel (oh yeah, and she's already read most of the Book of Mormon!) so I don't know quite what to do. But she's definitely someone we don't want to lose contact with.

The other woman we don't want to lose contact with, but aren't teaching - though again, we're always welcome - is Carla. From the second I met her, I loved her. Sister Sorensen and Sister Carlton were both the same way with her. She knows who God is, and has a great understanding of Jesus Christ and His role as our Savior, but she "cannot" accept the Book of Mormon. She thinks that she can just get her authority from the Bible and that it was never lost from the earth. Other than that though, she is spot on with pretty much everything else we have talked about. She and her husband are in Brazil for two weeks and they are going back to the place where he had his "spiritual awakening". We are praying that that site will continue to be sacred ground for them, and that somehow they will have another Spiritual awakening wherein they desire to read from the Book of Mormon to see if it is true.

And now back to Friday... After Jane, we stopped by a less active Sister in the same neighborhood, but she wasn't home. We had planned to just tract her street afterward before moving on to the area that was closer to where we would be having dinner. When she wasn't home, we walked back to the car to grab our tracting bags, but both ended up just getting in. I had this weird, uneasy, kind of creepy feeling and I didn't like it. I had worked in that neighborhood before (that's how we found Jane) and had even been on that street before and felt totally safe, but something was not right. I was trying to decide if I was just feeling like that because I didn't really want to tract right then, or if there was something else going on. I expressed to Sister Carlton that I was feeling kind of uneasy about the area, and she said she felt that way too, so we quickly started the car and left. We went to the area we had planned to work later in the day, and after listening to a couple of hymns, everything was better and the creepy feeling left. I had heard about missionaries feeling warned about certain areas before, but I had never experienced anything like that before, so it kind of freaked me out at first. I don't know what would have happened if we had stayed, but I'm glad that I don't have to find out. I am grateful that we were both in tune enough with the Spirit to recognize his warning and that we were able to remain safe and protected.

On a happier note, this morning we were studying the Christlike attributes section of PMG (Preach My Gospel) and our focus was on Hope. We had a really awesome study, and I encourage you all to study that chapter (Ch 6). As we read through the scriptures and talked about it, I came to realize the significant relationship between Hope and Eternal Life. The scriptures tell us that if we want to have eternal life, we HAVE to have hope. I had never realized that before! Hope in Jesus Christ and His Atonement is essential to obtaining eternal life. And as we talked about it, we came to the conclusion that hope in eternal life (that through the atonement and resurrection we can all obtain eternal life) is really the only thing there is to have hope IN. Everything else comes back that - to our Heavenly Father's Plan for us. I don't know if that is making any sense, but it was an epiphany for me. Eternal Life really is the greatest gift God can give us. And so it is in eternal life, through our Savior Jesus Christ, that we have hope.

Happy Birthday to Alan! I hope it was a fun day with all the Conference goodness imaginable!

Today we are going to dye Easter Eggs with the Woodridge Sisters using the dye Shar and the Girls sent me for my birthday :) I'm excited. Happy Easter on Sunday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love Spring.

Love yous! (I told you the "yous" thing is a Chicago thing, right?)
Sister Hatch