Monday, December 30, 2013

Cuban Bold!

Dear Family,

It was so good to talk with all of you on Christmas! I'm glad everyone is feeling better and hope New Years is just as good! Sorry, I don't have a lot of time today but I will write this afternoon! And a couple of experiences :) I can't send pics from the library we use here, but will try to figure out a way to send some in the next few weeks.
 




On Saturday
 nothing was working out. Nobody was home, nobody was answering our phone calls, and the YW member we had out with us was getting bored. 







A "finding skirt?"
So I put on my finding skirt (not pants, because that's not allowed ;) and talked to everybody! I opened my mouth like a crazy lady and felt the Spirit in every encounter. I remember the testimony of a leaving elder months ago, where he said that finding is the heart and the fire of everyday missionary work. As we share simple and powerful testimony of God's love for each one of His children and our own role as representatives of Jesus Christ we get to see so many miracles, and we are truly instruments in the hands of God. We met a man outside as he was rushing to work. He was very open to receiving a prayer, and was excited to be baptized. But he wasn't going to be able to go to church the next day because of prior commitments. Then five minutes later he called us and said he would be able to church and could we please give him the address and time? (We'd given him the card for the new branch, so he didn't have the info for the ward where we met yesterday)
 






So the culture change hasn't been as drastic as I thought it would be... More of a problem is my tendency to retreat back into my pre-mission anti-social shell, because it's all in English! But I realized that what I really need to do to be bold is become Cuban! I've told you a little before about Cuban culture, but what it boils down to is talking a lot, really fast, not letting anybody else cut in, being super excited about everything, and being just a wee bit stubborn. It's working like a charm :) Once Cuba opens up for missionary work we might have some great elders and sisters coming from there!






In the scriptures this week I loved reading JJacob 2:21, about keeping the commandments. When we are obedient we are glorifying God, showing our love and gratitude, and fulfilling the measure of our creation. And we are all equal in our need to adopt a spirit of obedience. Matthew 23:23 has been a huge influence as well. I know that as I cultivate a spirit of obedience I will be closer to the Lord, I will improve and become what God wants me to be, and I will be able to influence others for good by the Spirit and out of love for them.

I am learning and growing every day, and looking forward to the future with faith! I love you all oh so much! Write to me?
  
 <3
Sister Houghton

My new comp :)  in front of our house!
(Note from Mom:  I'm not sure HH sent the picture she thought she did,
because this looks like her previous companion.  We shall see in future pictures!)

R and his new puppy  ...soooo cute!

 Ward Christmas party, you'll never guess who decided to sing a song....in English!
:)  Hno quinones is the best!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Opening New Area in Miami Shores South

Miami Shores Country Club


Greenie-breaking Sister Albrecht.  Opening up a new branch beginning in January.  Still the only white people around, but this time no Spanish!

 
Real email to follow shortly :)
 
Dear Family,

I already told you the important stuff... :) And hey, no more cockroaches! I haven't seen one in the house yet, and that is true luxury. I really really miss Sister Ware, and Hialeah, but I'm adjusting. Teaching in English isn't as much of a change as I might have thought, but I am still very excited when I meet people who speak Spanish! I absolutely love the people, and the different cultures continue to be fun.
 
Sister Albrecht is from Orange County and is number 7 out of 10. She turns 23 on January 2. This is her third transfer and I am her second companion.
 
We are in the Miami Shores Ward right now, in the South area, but as of January 1 we will be part of a new branch, as yet unnamed as far as we know. We will be meeting at 6950 Indian Creek Drive in Miami Beach, FL. I hear the chapel is really beautiful and right on the beach, so you should look it up on google maps!
 
We are teaching lots of cool people right now.
 
J had asked for a Book of Mormon from mormon.org  because he was looking for answers about God. He almost cried when we gave him the Book of Mormon and he invited himself to baptism in our first lesson before we even got to it. He always asks us for more commitments, because we told him the purpose of commitments and he wants to act and grow and prepare as much and as quickly as he can. He tells us all the time about how God prepared him to receive the gospel, and he recognizes the truth we learn in Alma 37:6-7, that it is by small and simple means that God works and that our testimonies grow. It is amazing to see how little of this work is actually on us. The Lord truly prepares people. We have seen many of this kind of miracles this week, and I feel like the Lord is blessing us as we are working to build up a new branch.
 
Our lovely B has two adorable little kids, ages 3 and 2. She asked God for a sign the first time she went to church - she told him that if her kids were quiet and calm she would stay, and accept that as an answer from Him. And guess what? They were! Her experience really clarified 2 Nephi 17:11 -13 for me when I read it later on this week, as I hadn't understood it before.
 
K, I met for the first time yesterday. She was taught by missionaries about a year ago, but didn't really progress... and we figured out why! She has a hard time reading because she can't see well! So thank you Aunt Lisa (who sent reading glasses in my Christmas package for just such a need)! She is getting baptized!
 
We meet a lot of amazing people, and I really see the Lord's hand in the work.
 
Anyway, out of time. A few miscellaneous things/responses:
  • I'm glad the Volvo is getting repaired - you know her name was Flo, right? I like the name Vivaldi, but am a bit miffed that the violin culture is taking over everything.
  • Sad the Websters are gone!
  • Sorry no pics. The computers at this library don't allow it... we'll see if I can work something out next week.
  • Excited to talk to you on Christmas!! I'll come prepared with questions if you do :)
 
Love you all and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!
 
<3 HH

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Leaving Hialeah :(

Dear Everyone!

 The golden duo is getting separated :(
And I'm leaving our wonderful Sister Santana too.
She's one of the most Christlike people I know,
and she has an amazing understanding of
the gospel and its application!
I have no idea where I'm going yet,
but will find out 
tomorrow. And Sister Ware is training!




I'm leaving Hialeah :( :( I know I will love my new area and companion, but it's kind of hard to see that right now. I will find out where I'm going tomorrow, and will update you on Monday. Sister Ware is staying here and training! About time :)








Okay, now down to business, with the little time that remains. We had a super-cool new investigator this week, G (his father's name was Sergio, so they just mixed it up a little. It's a fairly common Cuban practice.) is a young father with two little girls. Before we gave the Harvest blessing in his home he told us he knew that living with his girlfriend without being married was a sin and he needed to repent. Later he told us he'd lost his job six days before we came, and had been reading the Bible and praying that God would help him. It's hard to set up lessons with him because he lives in his mother-in-law's house, but he looked up mormon.org like we told him to and loved it. When he came to church on Sunday he told us how 'bonito' it all was, and told us the whole Joseph Smith story. He is so awesome! Also, he looks like a Latin version of Caleb Chain :)

And another look-alike! An 8-year-old from the ward was baptized this Sunday and he looks like a little Latin Levi. It made me so happy. I was asked to give the talk on the Holy Ghost at his baptism and learned something really cool - having the gift of the Holy Ghost is a promise from God that we'll feel good when we're doing good things. As we're worthy to have the presence of the Holy Ghost we feel good! It's so simple, but I never even noticed it before!

Pollo frito con tajada, L-made. SOOO GOOD.




L came out with us twice this week - and cried at the end of the first night when nobody would open the door to us. But then yesterday we had a great lesson with a struggling less active, where Liliana told her that baptism is just the beginning, and it's afterward that we do most of our growing in faith and repentance. It's so cool how much we as missionaries learn from the people we are 'teaching!'





2 Nephi 13:1-8,12 has never made sense to me. I've read it many times but always kind of skimmed over it. I loved the realization that I made yesterday, that it's talking about apostasy! It is the pattern for a general apostasy as well as a personal apostasy - allowing things of little import to be a bigger part of our lives than the things of God. I'm going to keep studying it, but I was excited for that break-through!

Gotta go pack now, so probably not too many letters... I love you all! Merry Christmas!

<3
HH

Elder Marshall and Hermana Houghton, both of the
CA Modesto North Stake, at the Christmas
Conference.  He's been out a while now,
but this is the first picture we've taken together. . .
And he was trained by Elder Levy, who was
trained at the same time, in the same district, as I was.

Santa Collins and his lovely wife with Sister Ware and I at the mission conference




SOME OF WHAT HH WILL MISS IN HIALEAH. . .

 Sister Santana's 10-year-old grandson Jonathan. 
He arrived from Nicaragua shortly before I came to Hialeah, and whenever we eat with the Santanas he helps us to learn Spanish and we help him with English. 

 A double banana that came from our tree


Sister Ware of course, and R, with his dog Mickey. Who knew but he speaks some English! :)

:)







Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Grateful



For 9 December 2013


Dear everybody,

Christmas in Florida




First off to answer the question, which I've gotten from several of you, of what Christmas is like in Florida: hot! There have only been a few days when the high was lower than 80, and the low is usually around 70. Lots of people have lights and inflatable santas and lit-up reindeer in their yards, but other than that it doesn't really feel like Christmas time! That's ok - I'm happy with 70+ degree weather :)





Displaying 20131210_105918_resized.jpg
Christmas at home











It sounds like the Christmas activities certainly haven't decreased in the Houghton household, regardless of how many children have left home! I hope the concerts all go swimmingly! Also, I hope some of those caramels that were not destroyed in the search-and-devour mission by Tess and Levi will be in a box to Florida?








As for having the missionaries over for Christmas - you're the best! I agree with Elder Houghton, that it's super-awkward when you're not sure where you're going or what you're doing. I think the best gift you could give them would be to come out teaching or finding with them after you're done at home. Otherwise, hmm... studytime snack foods are fun and generic, but I don't really know the Elders there so I would say that unless you think of something specific a gift card to Walmart (so they're not in the awkward situation of accepting money) would make them happy, and they can take it from there!

I suspect that if I'm still here in Hialeah it will be over to the Villetas to skype, but we shall see! We should get transfer news by next Monday, and I will let you know if I go or stay on Tuesday.

This week I've been thinking a lot about gratitude - the attribute and the actions and the attitude. As I've worked to "live with gratitude ever in [my] heart," I've seen changes in myself, and I've really felt that I've been able to "touch heaven" in a significant way. (See "The Divine Gift of Gratitude" by President Monson.)

We had arranged to leave a member blessing with a recent convert of about 9 months. M is an older lady who is tremendously converted to the gospel - she even studies Preach my Gospel! We went to leave the blessing and asked what she would like us to include. She answered that we should pray for her health, because she'd recently been diagnosed with pervasive cancer. She told us everything very calmly, but started crying after we had been talking for a few minutes. I started to say something comforting but she cut me off to tell us that she wasn't crying because she was sick or sad. She was crying because she was so grateful that we loved her enough to come over and pray for her. She hadn't cried since she was diagnosed. Afterwards she expressed to us her gratitude that Heavenly Father had opened doors for her to get treatment that should not have been possible. 

I learned from her that more important than being thankful that we've been given something is being grateful for the one who is giving it to us. There is never a day that goes by when our Heavenly Father does not love us, and everything in our lives, whether it be an obvious blessing, a future blessing, or a blessing in disguise (trial), was given to us because He loves us. All things, if we accept them with hearts full of gratitude, will work together for our good, as we turn to the Savior and accept God's will in our lives. (Also please remember that I am ever grateful for each one of you!)

Another realization about creating success as a missionary. All of my mission I have worked hard to be my best, but during some of the hard times I haven't been entirely accountable for my lack of results. I've thought of success in missionary work as simply coming from God as a result of our efforts and His will - which it does, but God will never withhold results without a purpose. And as I am willing to learn and improve during the hard times, rather than simply enduring, I will be a better instrument in God's hands. In the only words of the "Creating Success" talk that I remember, "only dull missionaries have dull months," and I'm done being a dull missionary!

We met a guy yesterday who used to be super-involved in his church but had stopped going. He was really interested in talking with us, the first Mormons he had ever met. As we talked I realized just how crucial the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. There is so much confusion in the world! He kept on asking us why we needed another Testament of Jesus Christ when we already had the Bible. But in all his study of the Old and New Testaments, the 'original' Torah, and different translations, he somehow didn't learn the main, key point: that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and without him all men are hardened and fallen and lost. He didn't understand that grace, faith, and works are all necessary in achieving salvation. He didn't know that Jesus Christ wasn't just a great example but our Redeemer. He didn't know that man cannot reach heaven by himself, and MUST have the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and have help to access it through revelation and God's power and authority. As Elder Holland said in the April General Conference, "In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith."  I am so grateful that I know and am able to exercise my faith to grow in light and truth.

Out of time, but I LOVE YOU ALL!!!

Merry Christmas!!

<<3
Hermana Houghton

Thursday, December 5, 2013

December Already!

From 2 December 2013

 
Remember our mission's finding method? :)

Dear Family,

YOU SENT ME A MOTAB VERSION OF THE MESSIAH!!! That makes me SO HAPPY! When I realized that it was on the mini-sd I was thrilled! The whole set-up is fantastic, and I will be sending a picture next p-day :)

I cannot believe that it is December already! Sister Ware and I passed our six month mark on Thanksgiving day, and it was a bit of a shock... Speaking of which, we did have turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes, healthy style (just not right for Thanksgiving, but I'm very grateful for the lovely ward member who tried to give us a taste of home :) and then each had a mini pumpkin pie that we bought at Walmart. I was a little bit jealous of the 25 pies and 3 turkeys that I hear were at the family reunion, but with a ward that fed us 12 times this week I think we're pretty well off.

This week was rather disappointing in terms of missionary work - the second Sunday in a row without new investigators at Sacrament meeting, and working hard but not seeing a lot of results. All in the Lord's time though, and we're continuing to be diligent and patient.

I'm working hard to get Christmas cards sent off, so I'll use the 15 minutes left in P-day for that. Love you all!!

<3
Hermana Houghton


Bananas! And we found another, smaller branch
that's ready to be harvested as well!
A white hedgehog! The pet of a member in our ward
From Sister Espinoza's wall - I love it.
Sister Ware's Thanksgiving package... it arrived two days late
but we definitely made the turkeys anyway :)
 Yes, mine is closely related to some of the long-beaked waterfowl in Florida

Monday, November 25, 2013

Going Bananas?

The banana tree finally bore fruit! And tip for those who haven't grown bananas before, you don't want to wait until they're yellow before you take them off the tree, or else the split open and bugs get in :( But they get yellow on the counter!

Picture at the zone conference - Hialeah and Miami Beach zones!!
Dear Family,

Big news this week was great learning experiences at zone conference and during an exchange and putting on a training for ward leaders yesterday.

The theme for our training was a quote by Jeffrey R. Holland, from the January 2012 Liahona:
"It is when an entire mission is united by the strength of every missionary’s integrity, every missionary’s personal covenant keeping, that we move mountains. When there is such unity and power, an endowment from heaven, coming to every individual in the mission, nothing can “stop the work from progressing.” It is in this way that the “truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent.'" 

We really wanted to focus the training on living the gospel, and then have a missionary application. As I've expressed in emails before, it is when we are truly living the gospel, by having faith, repenting, worthily partaking of the sacrament, striving to follow promptings from the Holy Ghost, and enduring in patience, that we have a desire to share the gospel, and we have the Spirit to support us in our efforts. I think that's one of the main reasons mission rules are so exact. Because as we are exactly obedient, we have that desire and that spirit. 

So we did three main segments - faith not fear, sharing the gospel with friends and family, and praying for missionary experiences. The Elders covered the first and third topic while we focused on the second and put together the whole program. We used the story of the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 2:18,20; 3:284:156:15-16) to explain how we can build where we stand, and each talk to those people with whom we regularly have contact, and then we shared Mark 4:26-29, and talked about how the Lord magnifies our efforts. It was great!

At the end, we asked Jorge to share his testimony. He told everybody about how knowing of the gospel had changed his life. It is so important to remember whose work this is! As we focus on God and His children rather than on ourselves, we can work miracles.

Anyway... our zone training was awesome. We talked about the difference between influence of the Atonement and access to the Atonement (the difference is the priesthood ordinances!). President Anderson compared the process of repentance to downloading a program or an app. If you don't complete and accept the download (aka repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost), it's canceled. You have to start over. 

Umm, other fun stuff.

Baliadas
-Last Monday night we had two people sign up to feed us, and we found out when we arrived at the first one that she wanted us to eat while we were there... So we ate two baliadas and were about stuffed. We arrived at the second dinner appointment, which was a part-member family so we usually eat there, and the kids ran up and told us what their mom had made - baliadas! They were all delicious, but I could barely move at the end of the night. P.S. I will make them when I see all of you again, but baliadas consist of homemade flour tortillas, homemade refried beans, crema, and Honduran cheese. You can add meat if you like. They are amazing.

-I love Liliana enough to eat whatever she cooks. End of story.


There were so many bananas that I
couldn't even lift the branch.
So we cut it off entirely and
then dragged it across the yard.
Looks like partners in crime!




-We're teaching this sweet family where the kids speak mostly English and the dad speaks only Spanish (The mom speaks both). Yesterday the 11-year-old asked us if we were sisters, and if not what were we to each other? We laughed and told him that we were partners in crime, which made the kids laugh. The dad asked why they were laughing, and we told him what we had said. He was horrified. "Crime???" he asked. We explained that it was a saying in English that meant we were tight, and he was very relieved. It was hilarious.













Sister Ware after cutting the huge banana branch off,
aka why I have trouble sleeping at night :)








So, my companion is just awesome and decided to write a list of things she's thankful for. I am out of time :( But just know that I am so grateful for the gospel, for my family, and for my mission. I love all of you more than I can say!









 My face when people tell us over text that
our teaching them about eternal
families and following Jesus Christ
made them want to go to their
husband's church so they would be united...
ANYWAYS.. <3!







<3
Hermana Houghton