Monday, January 28, 2013

Settling In

January 28, 2013

Hermanas Clayton and Houghton, with  (Eliza's) first investigator baptized, Daniel,
and Hermano Gutierrez--1/27/2013

Dear everyone,

Missionary work is hard. I know, I know, it's obvious. But really, I'm learning the art of mental stamina and relying on the Lord! (Mostly the latter)
Yesterday Daniel got baptized! It was really, really exciting. He's the first convert who I really felt was affected by my testimony, and that added to the joy, but just seeing someone receive the blessings of the gospel in his life was amazing! He is a crack-up, and someone who really loves the knowledge of the gospel and the spirit, like me. I am thrilled to see how much he is going to be blessed. (Side note: he was telling his friend about Sister Clayton and I over the phone, and he told him that we're like Batman and Robin. It was hilarious. He wouldn't specify which was which.)
This week was crazy. We spend so much time studying, and learning, and going to training, that sometimes I wonder how we get anything done! But we really do, and we especially need all of the training and studying. I love the verse in Alma 56 that's talking about how the army of Helaman didn't doubt that their mothers knew the truth of the gospel. As missionaries we really need to be able to know, and be mothers and fathers in the gospel to others. I want to be the kind of missionary who has so much faith that all of my investigators know that I know.
This week I've been learning about the importance of the Spirit in missionary work. It is much more effective to bear your testimony to someone of Jesus Christ and the gospel, and then challenge them to be baptized, than it is to persuade them to let you into their home, teach them each of the lessons with eloquence and well-placed scriptures, and then hope they'll want to be baptized. That's kind of the main focus of the Florida Fort Lauderdale mission. Sister Clayton and I have been applying this to all of our lessons, and have found out how much good we can do by keeping our lessons short and sweet, applying the gospel and the scriptures to people's needs, giving them homework, and most of all inviting the Spirit through testimony and increasing our own faith.
The thing that really made me focus on this was when we had specialized training with President Anderson, and we watched a video clip about Brigham Young. It showed how all the persuasion in the world didn't do a whit of good for his testimony, but when a normal man stood up and bore his simple, pure testimony he felt the Spirit and it changed his heart. Our role is to testify and challenge, as it says in a talk that is pretty much the philosophy of our mission. I don't know if you could find it on or through google, but look up "The Challenging and Testifying Missionary" by Elder Dyer. It's amazing.
One other quick spiritual thought. We sang "Battle Hymn of the Republic" at the specialized training, and I was really touched by the last line of the third verse, which reads, "As he died to make men holy, let us live to make men free. Our God is marching on." I read Mosiah 5:8, which talks about how the only way we can become free is through Jesus Christ and baptism, and it was amazing. Our goal as missionaries is to make men free. We are an army of hand-picked soldiers fighting against trials and difficulties and sometimes the people themselves to help them to become free from sin, and sorrow, and being alone, and not knowing how to achieve salvation. This is really a marvelous work, and it is worth it!
I love you all!
Hermana Houghton

Some pictures from the missionary. . .

With Hermano Florience--2nd MTC
teacher, who posed as
"Jose" the investigator
Goofing around with Elder Perez--MTC

With MTC teacher, Hermana Van Vliet
And this is where she's headed!

Arriving in Fort Lauderdale, FL--a tired crew after cancellations
and many hours of travel!  1/15/2013

With Sisters Sablan, Ellett, and Price outside the
Fort Lauderdale Mission Home--1/16/2013

"The Digs:"  West Palm Beach North, Sisters' Apartment

Thursday, January 24, 2013

First Florida Report

We received this letter in the mail, from two days after Eliza arrived in Florida.  She asked us to post it as well!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dear Family,

The mission is crazy!  I am so busy and a little bit overwhelmed right now.  We flew in at about 8:30 Tuesday night, and were met by President and Sister Anderson and about five APs (3 were leaving the next day, and their replacements).  We spent the night in a hotel and started raining at the mission home yesterday morning at 7:30.  (Oh, and the sisters weren't allowed to touch our luggage while it was carried out to the cars and then to the hotel. . .)

After some basic training (intro stuff) and lunch, we had a transfer conference.  I got assigned to the West Palm North area, and my trainer is Sister Clayton.  She's super cute and hapy, and has been out here since August.  My Spanish is probably a little bit better than hers, so lots to learn!

After some more training on the 12-week program (designed to make us newbies ready to train after being here for 12 weeks!), we drove the hour to our area.  We immediately went out tracting, with a method that started in our mission but is now spreading, called harvesting.  We knock on people's doors, come in, and leave a blessing on their home, identify what they're feeling as the spirit, and invite them to be baptized!  We had half an hour, and knocked on five doors. Two people agreed to the blessing, but outside their homes, and both agreed to be baptized!  We're planning on going back to see both of them today.

I'm excited to be a missionary!  It's exhausting, and Florida has really weird ducks (but nice weather so far and I like the thick grass).  But this is the best.  I'll give you more details later, but just wanted to let you know that all is well here, and the Gospel is true!

<3 Hermana Houghton

P.S.  If you wanted to type this up and put in on the blog, that would be cool with me.  Just let me know whether you did via email.  Pday is Tuesday.

P.P.S.  The bike is beautiful!!  Thank you Mom and Dad!

Weird Florida Ducks?
This duck does look a bit unusual.  It's a Muscovy duck.
And this is a wood duck from Florida.

Or is she talking about this one?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Learning the Ropes

Instruction from the mission office is to send all letters and packages to the above address , and that it's better to send USPS, because they can just
 forward it on if they don't have an upcoming meeting. 
Eliza's Mom

Hermanas Houghton and Clayton
February 16, 2013

January 22, 2013

Dear Family, Friends, and blog Followers,

I am in Florida! I got here last Tuesday night, after a long day of being in the airport. We left the MTC at 3 am, but a fire alarm went off in our building at midnight, so all of the sisters in the group got zero sleep! Our first flight got canceled, so it was a wait, but we got to talk to lots of people in the airport and on the plane. Also, I got to call home and I thought I would have time to call Luke but our layover was too short, and we got on the plane just as he was getting out of classes :( Sorry Luke!

After a night in the hotel we had some training on mission rules and guidelines, procedures, and talking to people. We went over to the chapel for a transfer meeting, all had to bear our testimonies, and then got assigned! I am in the West Palm North area of the Palm Beach Zone (which the assistants to the president described as the promised land for Spanish-speaking missionaries!), any my companion is Hermana Clayton. She has been in the mission since August, and has been in our area for one transfer. In mission lingo, she is my mom and she dies in December. Another funny thought: our two APs are Elders Shipley and Gust. I feel nautical whenever I see them.

Sister Clayton is great! We are very different in our viewpoints and in our teaching approaches, but that just means we have more to learn. She is amazingly patient. I said to her the other day that training must be a lot like other missionary work - invite, teach a little, and wait until the Spirit whonks the other person over the head. She is seriously one of the nicest people ever.

In the mission I am learning a lot about finding the people who have been prepared by the Lord to be ready to receive the gospel. I had a hard time with this at the beginning - we go pray with people, follow up with them if they accept an invitation to be baptized, and then drop them if they back off at all. But I've gained a testimony that there really are people who are ready, and the Spirit is the most important companion. It doesn't matter so much what we teach them as what the Spirit teaches them. We just need to help them feel the Spirit, recognize it, and know how to act on the impressions they receive. I really know that this gospel is true. Our approach wouldn't work for anything else - any other idea or product. We're not selling anything, and we don't have to negotiate about what the Spirit tells people is true.

We had a baptism this week - a young man (21-ish) from Guatemala, named Henry. He is awesome. We told him about the Word of Wisdom as well as the other commandments, and he took it like a champ. No complaints, just saying that he knew he needed to follow God. He texted us the day after his baptism saying that he was really happy because he had a new friend - Jesus.

Probably my favorite investigator is Daniel. He is in his mid thirties, has a ton of faith, and thinks a lot like me. When we taught him about the Plan of Salvation I really knew I was supposed to be there. He needed my in-depth, somewhat intellectual approach to gospel learning to help him internalize some things and know that the scriptures can give us answers, and I really felt the Spirit while we were teaching him. He is getting baptized this Sunday, and I am so excited for the joy he is going to receive! (Oh, and he's also an amazing cook.)

Eliza and her companions in Provo
--a bit of a weather switch!
Okay, total switch of topic. Florida is amazing. My body adjusted just about immediately to the temperature change - now I feel cold if our apartment is below 76! The days are usually between about 68 and 82, and we've gotten light rain a few times. The only problem with the humidity is when I run, because I feel like I'm not getting enough oxygen. The foliage is way greener than anywhere else I've lived during the winter, and the grass has really thick blades. Random thought again, we can often figure out which houses have Spanish-speakers in them by the foliage - HIspanics tend to have plant-filled yards whereas English-speakers tend to have just grass.

Sister Clayton and I are two of four missionaries assigned to our ward. We live with Sister Johnson and Sister Ellett, who cover some of the same area but work in the English ward. We frequently have to refer English-speaking people we meet to them. We refer Creole-speakers to the Elders a district up. I've met Cubans, Guatemalans, lots of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Nicaraguans, Colombians, Hondurans... It's awesome.

Okay, I'm out of time. More in letters and next time. I love you all!

<3  Hermana Houghton

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Proof! She Made It To Florida!

Yesterday, Eliza called from the Salt Lake City airport to report that she was up at 3 a.m., arrived to the airport at 6 a.m., and discovered her flight was cancelled!  She was re-scheduled for a flight out at 12:30, and was supposed to make it to Fort Lauderdale by 8:30 p.m.--a long day for someone who had been up for a fire alarm at the MTC the night before!  But she was in good spirits, and we trusted she'd make it just fine.  

Tonight, we received a phone call from a member of our ward who has a second cousin serving as a Senior Missionary with his wife in Fort Lauderdale.  What a happy, small world!  

He sent along this report:
"She is so wonderful and so excited and happy to be here. During new missionary introductions she gave a very beautiful testimony. She will do a wonderful work here in Florida. We are so happy to have her and I know the Lord is too. "
And this happy picture!
Dorothy and Richard McCormick, welcoming Hermana Houghton to Fort Lauderdale, FL
January 16, 2013
We look forward to hearing from Eliza, but in the meantime, it's a treat to know she's safe and getting settled in!

Eliza's Mom

Saturday, January 12, 2013


It's three days until I head out. My travel group, composed of three English-speaking sisters, a few English-speaking elders, a few Creole-speaking elders, and some Spanish-speaking elders (I'm not sure of the composition of the group, but there will be 14 of us) is leaving from the MTC at 3am on Tuesday morning. I'm so excited! And nervous! Oh, and I'll be calling from the airport on Tuesday. It will either be before 6am Utah time, or sometime in the late morning. Which one would be better? Both?

Yesterday all of the people leaving this coming week had in-field orientation. It was great - we learned about interacting with members, finding investigators, setting goals, planning, exercising faith... I loved it. And since my district isn't leaving for another 5-6 weeks, I split and went with another district from our zone. My companions for the day were Elder Cazier and Elder Deming, and they are both awesome. I learned about how we can encourage members to be missionaries too - it really helps if you practice what you'll say to your friends, just like we do as missionaries! And all through my time at the MTC we've been told again and again that we need to work hard so that the members will entrust the teaching of their friends and family to us. It occurred to me yesterday that the same thing applies to the Lord - we as missionaries need to be working hard enough and smart enough and having enough faith that Heavenly Father knows he can entrust His children to us, and prepare them for the gospel message coming through us.

Thanks to everyone who wrote to me! One thing almost everyone mentioned was the plague. I was super lucky. Only one elder in our district got sick, and it wasn't me.

Elders Dore and Bardalez left earlier this week - Elder Dore to go to the Colombian MTC and Elder Bardalez to go to his mission in Detroit. It was sad, but we got a new elder! His name is Elder Perez, and he is fantastic. He's from southern France, and will be going to Paris speaking Spanish and French for his mission. He is really funny, and every other word out of his mouth is about his girlfriend. We're already planning to crash the wedding.

Oh, and to answer another question - my companions are not going to the same mission as I am. Hermana Nesbit is going to Salt Lake City (not Central, North, West, or Temple Square, just the City), and Hermana Hernandez is going to Arcadia, California. Elder Johnson is going to Boise, Idaho, and Elder Hart is going to New York, New York South. A few funny things about my companions - Hermana Nesbit is a geologist, and loves going to the bathroom in the Utilities building (where the barbershop, health center, copy center, bookstore, etc. are) because she loves the counters there. She's also quite impressed by the counters in the cafeteria - apparently they have Agate in them. Hermana Hernandez gets the giggles during our evening class, and it's infectious. Poor Hermana Van Vliet! She also tells Elder Johnson all the time that his eyes are pretty, and he has to marry a girl with blue eyes so their kids will have beautiful eyes. It's pretty funny.

Tonight we have TRC (Teaching Resource Center), where we meet with people who speak Spanish and just talk about the gospel with them. It's super fun and I'm excited. I also get to go the temple in just a little bit, so I'm going to head out now. If you have any questions or comments or venting or desire to do something with your evening, write me!

My address will be:

Hermana Eliza Houghton
Florida Ft. Lauderdale Mission
7951 SW 6th Street Suite 110
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33324

Love you all!

Hermana Houghton

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Exciting News From the MTC!

We were excited and surprised to receive a phone call from Eliza on Thursday.  She was instructed to call home and let us know her great news!  
Eliza's Mom

January 4, 2013

Hello, all!
For those who didn't know, I got some exciting news yesterday. I'm heading out from the MTC on January 15 to Florida! I will be staying with my district in the Intermediate class until I leave, which will be really nice, and I'll be one of 14 going to my mission on the 15th. Also, Florida Fort Lauderdale is the top baptizing mission in North America! So exciting, and I hope we'll be able to keep it up for the next year and a half.
I'm probably going to be jumping around a lot in this email, so bear with me. Starting off with some general MTC info/stuff...
Our class has two investigators: Jose, who we've been teaching for a couple of weeks, and Gloria, who we just started teaching yesterday. It's hard, scary, and exhilarating to teach them (and they don't tell you until like the third week that when you teach a lesson you don't have to cover all of the principles in one of the lessons in Preach My Gospel!). Also, Gloria and Jose are our main teachers, Hermana Van Vliet and Hermano Florence. We didn't have Hermano Florence as a teacher until we'd been teaching him as Jose for two weeks, which was weird. And for the past week and a half, we've been having lots and lots of substitutes, because Hermana Van Vliet went to visit family over Christmas. We've covered a lot of material several times, but we've learned worthwhile things from each teacher (Hermano Anderson, Hermano Walton, Hermano Johnson, Hermano Litzenberger, Hermano Busath, and Hermana Jeanfreau have all come in...)
This week at the MTC we've had what we call the plague. It's an intense intestinal flu that spread like wildfire all over the MTC. It was at one point on every floor of the residences, and we don't really know how people got infected or avoided it. Fortunately, it only lasted about 24 hours for each person, although some people had to go to the hospital for dehydration issues.

Also, it's been cold! I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but our room in the Residence Halls doesn't have a functioning heater, so we could never get it above 66 degrees. Using some skillz I picked up from Mom and Marta, I was able to fasten a curtain around the window with bobby pins and safety pins, and now we can usually keep the room at 69. Also, the weather for today was crazy. High of 20, low of -8. We walked all the way to the temple during the coldest part of the morning. Brrr!
Okay, now some things I've learned this week. One of the speakers at our Fireside on Sunday night, Brother Durrant, said, "We don't think we're so much, but we know in the name of Jesus Christ we're everything." I thought that was way cool, and very true. In another devotional we watched (from last year, recorded), Elder Bednar talked about how even when Christ was having the worst times of his life he turned outward, helping others, instead of being selfish or using his power to help himself. Whoa. A later Elder Bednar devotional told us that we should look to God when things go well or we experience success, and look inward when things go wrong, to see what we did incorrectly, instead of being self-congratulatory or self-pitying.


I've kind of become an Elder Bednar fangirl, BTW. In the later devotional that we watched, he talked about becoming a missionary, not just serving a mission. That's what I'm aspiring to do. I learned a ton more, but I'm running out of time, so it'll have to wait. I love you all!
Hermana Houghton

Week 2 in the MTC

Just returning from holidays, I'm running a little behind on posting. So here is last week's letter!
Eliza's Mom


Dear family and friends,

Things are going great here at the MTC! Every day is full and exhausting, but somehow, at the end of each day I am just so happy to be here. I´m going to try to not do the ´typical´ missionary email but include more anecdotes and fun things I´ve learned, so it might be a bit choppy, but here is some of what has been going on.
I have two companions, Hermana Nesbit and Hermana Hernandez. Hermana Nesbit is from New Jersey and just graduated with a degree in geology from Princeton. Whenever a missionary tells us that he or she is from or going to anywhere on the East Coast, Hermana Nesbit gets way excited. Hermana Hernandez is from Ohio but has lived for a couple of years in Idaho. She graduated from cosmetology school and hopes to go to school to do stage makeup when she gets back from her mission. She does a really nice ´ghetto´ voice that always has us cracking up.
We live in a room with Hermana Martinez, who is a solo sister and thus has to always tag along with another companionship or solo sister, because both of her companions moved to a different class. She is super sweet, and she has gotten about three boxes full of sugary goodies for Christmas.
In my district we have four elders. Elder Dore is an eighteen-year-old from England, and has some very funny opinions. He likes to pretend to dislike everything. Last week for some reason we got to talking about the Revolutionary War, and I wrote down what he said: "The French got involved in the war, and so we decided to fight them instead, because the French are so much more fun to fight."
Us: "Why?"
Elder Dore: "Because of the accents, of course!"
Elder Bardalez is of Peruvian descent, born in Florida, and has grown up in Utah. He's a 'smart' kid, and I think that he and Luke would get along very well. Elder Johnson is our district leader. He's from Georgia, and is very focused and on track with learning. He's also a thoughtful leader and gets along really well with everyone, even though he's pretty quiet. Elder Hart is a recent convert (13 months), and 21. He's always talking about how he's strange because he's a black Mormon in Utah. During that same conversation I quoted earlier we touched on slavery, and Elder Hart surprised everyone by bursting out that "Slavery is a good thing!" He explained, of course, that this was because of how it helped in economics and travel, but he got some pretty funny looks from the rest of us for saying that!
The longer I'm at the MTC the more I'm seeing how much help I'm getting in learning and staying focused. I think a large part of it is because of the setting apart, but I think it also has to do with the subjects that we're learning and the amount of prayer I put into learning. It's really amazing. I'm remembering and seeing things that I wouldn't have been able to before.

So now, some of the things I've been learning. Greg Olson (the painter) came on Christmas afternoon to talk to all of us, and it was fantastic. He talked about how pictures of Christ are really only symbols, and we can't let them or our own imaginations create unnecessary distance between ourselves and the Savior. He talked about how Christ knows what it's like to live an ordinary life - after all, wasn't he chased out of Nazareth because he declared himself the son of God, and nobody believed him, having known him all his life? Brother Olson told about some advice that Boyd K. Packer gave him about painting Christ - that he saw him as a 'man of men' or a manly man, and that he looked normal. Remember how Judas had to identify Jesus with a kiss? There wasn't any extraordinary physical feature that really made him stand out. And finally, he talked about how Christ loved us enough to suffer and understand our sorrows and our pain. He could have had the Holy Ghost reveal how it felt to be in those situations, but he chose to suffer it himself. Wow. That was an amazing talk for me, and I think for everyone there.
During our Christmas Day Festivities we also got to hear from Elder and Sister Nelson. Sister Nelson talked about spiritual gifts, which was amazing but I'd have to include everything to explain more than that. Elder Nelson talked about things we need to do and not do as missionaries, like spread and listen to rumors and work, work, work. One thing that I really liked was that he said that we go into countries through the front doors. This also applied to a lesson I learned later in the week when we talked about how we invite people to be baptized during the first lesson, asking them to be baptized if they receive confirmation that they should. We aren't hiding our purpose. We are going out to bring people unto Christ.
The Christmas Devotional also featured an awesome talent show that was great fun.
On Sunday, we had Stephen Allen, managing director of the missionary department, come and talk to us. He talked about how repentance isn't just change. Repentance involves the Atonement of Christ, and has specific steps that we need to use to apply the Atonement to our change.
I also learned this week that in 1 Nephi 1:12 there is a promise we can make to anybody. The Book of Mormon has the power to change not just minds, but hearts.
I've been learning and memorizing so much. I will hopefully be moving to Advanced today, and I'll let you know asap.
I love you all!