Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"You can take the girl out of the Ghetto. But you can't..."

Well hey there!! 

Easter egg hunt at the church! (Inside because of the rain)
I hope you all had the best Easter imaginable! Mine was pretty good, a little different and definitely unorthodox, but hey! I wouldn't have it any other way :) I was shown the best video the church has ever put out on Tuesday night.. had I known about it last week I would have sent it then.. but seeing as I didn't have it I'll just send you all to it today. Its titled "Because of Him" and honestly its the best video!! And I'm not just saying that.. Its only like 2 minutes long, and I promise you that you will NOT regret watching it. Don't make me go all missionary on ya and ask a "will you" question.. Just watch it :) You can find it at: http://easter.mormon.org/

I've had a really great week! Thanks for your prayers! My procedure went well. My leg is swollen and sore, but the worry and stress is gone! Now I just have to not exercise or stretch and be a good girl and follow the Drs orders. :) Mom, I promise to be good. One more week until Student Teaching interviews. Exciting stuff! Please keep me in your prayers until they are over (April 29th) I would really appreciate it. 

Now as for the week, I have learned so much and experienced so much joy amidst the hard facts of missionary work. All of the things I love most about the South and my service as a missionary always come down to the people. This week I had some wonderful experiences with many of the people that I love and met some more people who also, of course, love dearly! Let me tell you about a few! :)

Sister Spencer and I :) 
The Spencers are doing great! We saw Sister Spencer one day this week and showed her how to use the "gospel library" app. She LOVED it. And its so fun to have her now show us scriptures from all over the standard works and how she's learned that they are connected. :) We went over there another time and showed her a baptismal calendar, a tool we have to help people see what they've learned, what more they need to learn, and set a goal for baptism. As we showed Sister Spencer all that they already know and live she looked up at us with the biggest smile and said "This is beautiful, I so want this, and I had no idea I was so close." We were able to help schedule some things and she wrote on her baptismal date "Our Baptism, Be Ready!" They have chosen to work toward being baptized on May 10th :) Pretty exciting!

We tracted into this sweet Muslim family. The daughter first answered the door and told us to wait there while she got her mom, her mom took awhile and when we said hi and told her where we were from she said "Oh I'm so sorry for wasting your precious time, we're Muslim" We assured them that they weren't wasting our time and had a nice conversation.. I couldn't resist asking what she was making because the curry smelled so good! Next thing I knew we were invited inside and shared a nice meal with Hibbah and her family and walked away with the recipe! :) It was neat to talk about the similarities of our religions and to just feel a great amout of joy in their home. 

We had dinner with the Williams family. Their son George is 5, and such a gentleman. Truly cutest little gentleman ever! He found out yesterday that they were feeding the Elders next week and he said "Oh Dad.. Don't you know I like the Sisters? Perhaps we can invite them again too." Oh proper little George! 

Sister Everett came to church again and is really just progressing so well! I love helping others to remember the feelings of peace and comfort that they felt at baptism. Its truly amazing and the best experience! 

We had a great evening with the Moores, a great couple in the ward. Brother Moore used to be quite hostile toward the church but for some reason has taken a liking to myself and Sister Smith. He has come to church for a month straight now and Sister Moore said he often bugs her to see when our next visit will be! :) Its so cute! I look forward to the big hug he gives us each Sunday when we see him at the church. :) As we left their house this week (the first lesson he participated in and shared his testimony of the Savior, truly beautiful!) I looked at Sister Smith and told her "Don't you ever forget this moment right now.. These are the moments I came on a mission to have. This is why I'm here and I hope its why you're here too."

Easter was really nice :) We spent the morning/lunch time with the Spencers. I was able to braid Annie's hair and she looked so cute! They had easter baskets for us. Really this family is such a blessing in my life. I love them so much! Then we had church, which was great. And afterward we went to Easter dinner.. More commonly and accuartely known as a block party, hosted by the wonderful Sister Manderson :) There were about 50 people including kids running everywhere. Brother Manderson reminds me a lot of Scott, the same hair, sense of humor, and love to cook. Bro Manderson grilled hot dogs, burgers, chicken, and salmon. The only time he left the grill was to break up a dog fight.. between two pitbulls.. haha And during that time I was put in charge of the grill.. Thanks Scott and Paul for teaching me! haha Sister Manderson's sister came up to me and said "Can you believe this craziness.. You can take the girl out of the Ghetto. But you can't take the ghetto out of the girl. I sure love my sister! And she sure knows how to throw a nice block party." HAHA It was so funny! 

The Byrds from Coal Mountain!! Did I mention I saw them last week? :) So wonderful!!! 
Lastly I want to share part of my interview with President Wolfert with you. First lets have a throwback monday. Right before I left to enter the MTC, just as right before I left for college, my mom looked me in the eyes and told me "You tell him that you are there to serve and that he will never have a problem from you, and make sure you mean it." In my first interview I did just that. I told President Wolfert I would always serve in anyway that he needed me to, and that he would never have to worry about my commitment level or obedience. It has been my goal to be the type of person that if the Lord needed something done that He could count on me. As I look at these past 15 months, I can see how President definitely has asked me to serve in a lot of various ways, and I'm so thankful for each learning experience!

So, back to my interview. It was so nice! I just felt so uplifted the entire time we talked. President then told me of a "pickle" (if you will) that he is in with these upcoming transfers that he is starting to work on. As I listened I wondered "why is he telling me this?" He then said "Sister Hamilton the more I pray about this I keep receiving one answer from the Lord.. He keeps telling me to "Ask Sister Hamilton" so Sister Hamilton, I'm here to ask you.." I of course told him again what I said in our very first interview.. I will always serve in anyway he needs. And as I walked out of his office I thought of a story shared by Elder Kopishke. It went something like this "One week before transfers i got a call from the MTC telling me an elder was sick and could not leave.. I just couldn't let myself go back to the drawing board and redo transfer assignments for 140 missionaries. I prayed and the answer came.. "Ask Elder.." He was going home the next week.. I called him and asked him his plans.. within the hour he had talked to his mother and agreed to stay not knowing if it would be 6 weeks or 6 days. He was a missionary the Lord could count on." 

I'm not certain if I will be asked when transfers come around to do what President and I talked about. But I had an overwhelming peace come to my heart that I have become the type of missionary that when the Lord or President Wolfert need something done, they know they can count on me. Truly a humbing experience. I know the most joy we experience in this life comes as we are willing to serve, giving everything no matter how hard it is. 

To the adventures in the future! :) I love you all!
Sister Julie Hamilton


Sister George and I!

The temple :)
Hendersons at the temple

The Spencer's dog that drives me NUTS! Its always climbing all over me because I have to keep it away from Sister Smith.. who's allergic.. I love dogs.. this one.. not so much.. haha

Us and Tracy's girls.They LOVE sister missionaries, and I think they are just so cute!

"No darlin' he wore blue."

Friends and Family from the North and West and all around! 

I'm so excited to share your favorite part of the week with you, you know the time that you sit down to read a letter from me. :) Its been a pretty fun week for me kind of crazy as well, but no complaints. Its hard for me to  know what all to share with you and to know what to talk about.. so maybe I'll start by some things on my mind that you can help me with. 

Often I have asked you to pray for those whom I love here whether it be a companion, someone I'm teaching, families/individuals in the ward, etc. Today I am going to be slightly selfish I suppose and ask you all to keep me in your prayers more specifically for the next couple of weeks. I have interviews via "google hangout" on April 29th for student teaching. I know they are going to ask me questions about philosophy of education and all sorts of things that quite frankly haven't been on my mind for about 15 months. Try as I may I cannot exactly remember terms and definitions which are likely to be discussed. I knew them well at one point and I have no doubt that they will come back to me when I need it, but it doesn't mean I don't need extra help. These interviews will determine where I move when I get home so its kind of important :) Also, I'm having a small procedure done this coming week, don't you worry! I'm not worried about the outcome of it, it'll just take a few stitches and all will be well. The only problem is its my leg.. which I use quite frequently as we walk miles each day :) So if you could just keep me in your prayers that everything will be fine but more importantly that I'll be smart enough to know when I should take a break and when I can keep working.. Thanks! That would be great :) 

Now let me tell you about the title of this email. These southerners crack me up! I love them so much. I met Lois tracting who just became my best friend. This cute grandma lived in California for many years but made her way back to the south. I decided to talk to her about genealogy, and no it wasn't just because she's a cute old lady. She apparently really likes genealogy so she was excited to tell me something she recently learned. She said "I found out I have a relative who fought at Kennesaw Mountain." (For those of you who don't know, major Civil War Battles were fought there) I naturally got excited and said "Really!? That is so cool!" To which Lois responded, "No darlin' he wore blue." HAHA Over 150 years later and she can't seem to be proud of her "Yankee" ancestors who fought in the war.. haha gets me every time!!

Another major highlight of my week.. more like of my mission! Was being able to go to the Atlanta Temple. It was a huge blessing to be able to go! I'll of course attach some pictures :) I got to see three of my past companions Sister Beasley, Sister Blackett, and Sister Alder along with many Elders and Sisters I've served around these past.. many months. I must say, there was something extra special about being in the Celestial room in all white with only missionaries and President and Sister Wolfert. It was just so refreshing to be in the Lords house and not have to worry about time! Time is something we have to stress about as a missionary.. Always making sure we are using our time wisely.. but in the Temple.. I didn't look at my watch once. I just sat. I sat in peace.. It was beautiful!  :) Of course once we got out and took pictures and I actually looked at my watch once again a pressure to be somewhere came and off we went. But man, those 3 hours in the temple were GLORIOUS! 

The Spencers are still doing great :) We continue to teach them and help them prepare for baptism. There are some concerns we are working through, which is normal, but both tell us often how they want to be baptized. Sister Spencer told us of an experience she had this week where she met someone and the woman asked her why she was so happy. She told her it was because she had Christ in her life.. She was then asked what church she goes to. Sister Spencer said "And I just told her 'I go to the Mormon Church! You should come too, its wonderful!'" Oh Sister Spencer, I sure love you! 

Here's one last funny story for the day. So on Saturday we were able to teach Brother Wood again. He's recovered very well and even read the Book of Mormon while he was at the hospital. Goodness I love that man :) So we were teaching him how to use Mormon.org (mind you he's in his late 70's). And I said "So now you'll just click on I'm a Mormon.." to which he cut me off by saying "Oh I can't say that! That would be a lie! I'm not a Mormon just yet.." HAHA We had a good laugh and I then explained how it would take him to the "I'm a Mormon" videos and that it wasn't a link only for members of the church. Seriously how funny/adorable is that? 

Church was really great yesterday, we had one of the most powerful testimony meetings I've ever been to. Each testimony was absolutely empowering and made me want to be better and want to continue to help those here in Georgia. Brother Dixon shared his testimony, it was AMAZING. Usually he is at the Air-force base on fast Sunday but because of Conference it was moved. He said he felt it was moved so he could share his testimony with all of us. :) 

To close I wanted to share some of the things people said..
  • "I am a proud Mormon, willing to stand for what I know. Yes, I will stand."-A convert of 30 years
  • "With Christ I can do anything, right now its been 13 days since I smoked my last cigarette. Without Christ I'd still be smoking."-A returning member
  • "I'm not perfect in the Gospel.. But all we have to do is try, and when we try its always enough."-A girl in her 20s
  • "Prayer is an opportunity, not an obligation."-Teenager
Well.. thats all folks! I hope you all have a great week! Thank you so much for all that you do for me! I love you!!

Sister Hamilton

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"Is there life after death? Trespass here and find out."-- Uh... neat?

Hey Everyone!

Its been a minute since I talked to you last and yet there is so much to share! (That's a southern phrase by the way..) I feel extremely blessed right now! For the first time as a missionary everyone we are teaching is a family.. We aren't just teaching individuals.. We are teaching the whole family, and that is such a tender mercy. I have literally been praying to find/teach families since I got my mission call, and so I cherish every moment we have to sit down with an entire family and teach them the good news, or Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We went on exchange this week with the Sister Training Leaders in Woodstock, that makes exchange #48 I believe. I was once again reunited with Sister Breinholt and we had a lot of fun! Truly we were robbed of fun when we were only companions for 5 days. I went back to the Woodstock Ward and loved every second of it. We had dinner with Judy and the other Sisters for Sister Porters birthday. It was awesome! It was fun being in my old apartment for a day and getting to see some of the members/recent converts there that we worked with.

We are continuing to teach the Spencer family they are so sweet and I just love them! We went to Annie's birthday party this week and I thought it was so cute that Sister Spencer was talking to some of the parents about their daughters having a sleepover. The parents said 'It would have to be a Friday, we have church Sunday morning." to which Sister Spencer responded "Oh thats just perfect, because we have church Sunday afternoons." You better believe I had a stupid grin on my face :) haha They are doing well and are praying about being baptized at the end of this month so if you could keep them in your prayers that would be great!

The Dixons are fantastic, as usual :) Honestly.. I just don't know what to say about them because they are doing so well and I just love them so much. So I'll leave it at that :)

We are still teaching the Clarks but we are having to take things a little slower because Wendy hasn't been doing well. She went into surgery about an hour ago, so we are just praying for success and that it will help her to regain some strength. The family as a whole is doing well though and I'm thankful to learn from their great faith!

President Hinckley always said there was a better way to missionary work, and that better way was through the members of the church. Well.. its true. Just accept it. :) And let me share an experience which will help you to see why, as if the Dixons weren't enough proof. :) It all starts with the Futral family. I sure love them! Sister Futral is such an inspiration.

Two months or so ago President Nichols asked all the memebers in the Stake to pray that all missionarys would be able to teach 20 lessons a week. Well, a few weeks ago we saw Sis. Futral and she told us "As I started praying for you to teach your 20 lessons, I felt a sense of urgency to do my part in helping you to get those 20 lessons." We then promised to pray for her each day by name to have the courage to invite her friends to do something. Since then they have had a family in their home for us to teach and have given out 3 copies of the Book of Mormon and are trying to set up days we can do a Family Home Evening with their friends. Its a miracle!

Now let me tell you about that sweet family. Susan and her husband are both deaf while their two sons are hearing. Her husband is actually a member of the church but because the closest deaf group is so far away he stopped going many years ago. As we taught them in the Futrals home the Spirit sure was strong. It was really special to have Brother and Sister Futral bearing their testimony of principles and helping Susan and her boys to recognize that spirit. Susan would say things like, "I feel what you are saying.." or "I feel comfort, is that the same as the Spirit?" We would then give them a chance to answer and teach. The interpreters were also a great help as both served sign language missions :) Truly this really is the better way for missionary work to be done because its true and it works! The Futrals then were able to have them over to watch conference and are the ones who are setting up our next appointment to come and teach. I am so thankful for this great miracle and blessing! Once again I am reminded that the Spirit needs no particular language nor does it need to be heard. Rather it is felt and as we allow it to touch our hearts it can change us for the better.

That's pretty much my week. In closing I figured I'd share with you a bit about my experience with General Conference :) I must say as Elder Holland started speaking I thought to myself "Did he read my journal!?" That story he shared of those sister missionaries sounded a little too familiar although that wasn't me.. haha I was amazed at how virtually every talk given addressed the need to stand for your beliefs and to be kind to those who respond negatively to your beliefs. And honestly, that just made me thankful to be a missionary and to be standing for my beliefs each day. I especially appreciated President Eyrings remarks on the inheiratance of hope and President Monsons on loving those around us. Its true, the world needs more love!

Well, I better get going. I hope you all have a wonderful week! Enjoy spring :) I am living it up! I love that its that time of year when everyone is having a bonfire at night so we just go up and sit around a camp fire and talk with them. I love how green it is here. I love that the flowers are blooming. I even love the pixie dust like pollen that is currently coating everything :)

I'm thankful the Spirit knows no limits and that as we love others we better feel the love our wonderful Father and Savior have for us.

Love you all!
-Sister Hamilton

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"He Healed Me"

Hey Everyone! 

I've had a pretty good week, and hope you have too! Let me try to update you on the whirlwind of a week I've had. Let me just start by saying it really is amazing how much I absolutely love the people here. I know what you're thinking "there she goes again.." but its true. I love the people here so much, its hard to explain. Their hugs and smiles mean the world to me. 

Sister Smith and I
Last night we had dinner at the Dokos' and their grandma from Blue Ridge was here. For those of you who don't know, Blue Ridge is very north Georgia it's the mountains and little towns up there.. And the people there have the thickest and best accents ever! :) As Nanny talked with me I just tried to memorize her face, the wrinkles, the no teeth, the light in her eyes, love in voice.. I wanted to take it all in. Sister Smith thought she was speaking a different language because her accent was so thick.. and I just thought it was music. :) I am not a perfect missionary.. But when I go home at least I will be able to know that I loved these beautiful people with all that I have. 

Let me tell you about another who has just stolen my heart. She is Sister Spencer's daughter, I'll call her Annie. Annie is 9 years old today! Woot woot! Since we started teaching them a few weeks ago Annie has started to change, just like her mom. Sister Spencer said that she now keeps her room clean, doesn't argue, and is just happier all round. Annie LOVES church and the activities on Wednesday. In fact, yesterday they were late for church because Sis
ter Spencer was sick but Annie wanted to go so bad that she got dressed with a fever and came so that Annie could come. Annie texts us everyday and now loves to say the prayer when we come over. And she gives great hugs! She and her mom are working toward being baptized and love the new family they have found within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Sis Spencer was really sick this week and so we brought over some people from the church including some of the men to give her a priesthood blessing. She prayed with all of us and the Spirit was so strong! We went by the next day to check in on her, she was completely up and about feeling good. She told us how she felt so much peace yesterday and said "Want to know a secret? The reason I'm so happy today is because, I still feel it!" I'm so thankful for the Spirit of peace and comfort that comes into our lives as we strive to follow Christ and learn of Him. 

Helen and her grandma came to church again this week :) She gave me a big hug and said "I told you we'd be here for now on." haha Love that honesty! They're doing well, church 2 weeks in a row, and came to an activity this week. We have been really blessed lately to be working with so many wonderful people, both members of the church and not. 

Sister Henderson is a woman who comes to church usually about once every 3 months. And my oh my is she awesome! That woman is full of attitude and spunk and I love it! We've been visiting her more often and doing some service for her :) As I was speaking in church yesterday I saw her come in the back (two weeks in a row mind you) but when she saw me she walked out. At first I thought.. Yikes! What'd I say! But then the next thing I knew she came in the front doors and sat down on the front row giving me the biggest grin. Best thing ever! 

Let me tell you a story about the House family. We thought we had dinner with them.. Turns out it was actually the Halls.. but the L's were connected making a U.. and HAUS is House in German.. so when Sister Smith read it to me she said "house" and so I called the House family up you know saying I saw that they signed up to have us over for dinner etc.. Whoops! Well the Elders were the ones who gave us their humber and they said "why do you need it? Bro House doesn't like Sisters.. And you know what I thought? Sweet! Another Challenge! I love making people fall in love with Sister Missionaries :) Its kind of a goal of mine. 

My Dixon girls! :) 
I need to give credit where credit is due.. So credit ultimately goes to Grandma Smith who taught mom the importance of thank you notes, who then engraved it in my brain. I'm basically obsessed with Thank-yous. We "hide" one in every house we go to for dinner so they find it after we leave. I mean, they do so much in having us over for dinner the LEAST I can do is leave a note you know? Well we did that for the House's and apparently they were really impressed. We saw Bro House at the Dixons later that week and he pulled his phone out to show the Dixons a picture of the thank you we left and said "My wife said this is why Elders can't quite keep up with the Sisters" hehe :) Sister Dixon then went on about how she always finds notes from me in her purse etc. So I guess Grandma was right.. thank you notes really make a difference! :)

The title of this email comes from a sweet woman we met tracting.. As we told her we were representatives of Jesus Christ she grabed our hands and said "He healed me" What a powerful spirit that brought! Just as He healed Janine, He can heal all of us as we turn to Him. 

I hope all of you women and girls watched the General Womens meeting. Wasn't it remarkable! Oh my goodness I LOVED it! It was amazing, I can't wait to read it and watch it again. I just felt so full of love during the whole thing. So amazing! :) 

I'm so excited to watch General Conference this weekend. Are you!? Remember, watch one more session than you did last time! And have a question in mind that you want the Lord to answer as you listen. I promise that if you pray about that question that the Lord will answer your prayer/question thruogh the Spirit and words of His chosen leaders. 

One of the things that I have always learned the most from President Monson is to never let a prompting go without acting on it. Unfortunately you don't often know that you are acting on promptings until you find one that you didn't act on quite as fast as you should have. And unfortunately I had that experience this week.. I try to always be willing to throw out the plans when either my companion or I feel there is something else we need to do. For weeks I have had this name coming to my mind.. and always put them in the planner to go see.. but something always seemed to come up and it never happened. Well then our Bishop and Relief Society President suggested we go see that exact person (not knowing I've been thinking of them for weeks). So we went and saw this sister this past week. My heart broke as I saw the pain in her eyes and loneliness. How could I have not gone when I first felt we should? Why on earth did I make the Lord have to have two people tell me to go see her.. Shouldn't the Still Small Voice had been enough? I gave her the biggest hug and apology that I could.. 

I'm not telling you that story to make you feel sorry for me.. so you can say "ya but you did this and this right.." I tell you it so hopefully you can learn from my mistake.. Please don't ever ignore a prompting. As children of God we are here to help each other.. If you have a good thought, something nice to do for someone, just do it.. don't question the source. You'll NEVER regret following it! However, you will regret not following it when more of the bigger picture is revealed. 

There definitely are hands to lift, hearts to cheer, and hugs to give all around us. I hope that all of us will be the type of people that the Lord doesn't have to wonder if we will follow, but He can trust us to be His heart and hands here on earth. I pray each day to be better at following, at acting without being asked, to be a true disciple. 

I love you all just as much as I love the people here! I hope you have a great week! 

Sending love and smiles! 
-Sister Hamilton