Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Miracles Changing Lives!

Evander, baptized February 24, 2013
with Hermanas Clayton and Houghton

February 26, 2013

Dear everyone,

Sorry for the lack of detail last week. I'm still working out what you want to hear, and I also had a low blood sugar during the whole hour of email...

I saw lots of miracles this week. One started when, last Sunday, our Ward Mission Leader Saul told us he'd seen a previous investigator, from before I arrived, at the store looking sober. So on Monday night we just happened to be in his area and dropped by. Evander met the sisters in December and was completely drunk the entire time. He came to church wasted, and didn't understand the lessons very well because every appointment he'd been drinking. He was very enthusiastic about being baptized, but wasn't giving up drinking so Sister Clayton and Sister Daines had to stop teaching him. When we showed up on Monday Evander was sober and had been for almost two months. We taught him all week, bringing members to every lesson to bear their testimonies. He was baptized on Sunday! It was completely amazing. Oh, and some background info on him:  He is from Mexico, late 30's, can't read or hear very well, and is very humble and sweet. He has a wife and three sons in Mexico, and has a brother and a brother-in-law who are already LDS. His whole family was thrilled to hear that he had taken the steps to change his life and be baptized. We just love him to pieces.  

So, something else happened that was really wonderful during that whole experience. On Saturday night we'd stopped by to talk to our investigator Ruben, whom we'd dropped for a while because he wasn't progressing. We had a great talk with him in which he dumped out his beer and promised to come to church on Sunday. He stayed for the baptism with his ride, and I was standing next to him, explaining things, testifying, etc. Right after Evander came up out of the water I was just grinning like crazy. Ruben turned to me and asked me if it really made me that happy, and why. I was able to explain to him how important and wonderful baptism is, and how much value each of our investigators have to us and to God. We're gunning for this Sunday for him.  

Okay, one more brief spiritual experience. We talked to our recent convert Daniel last night. He told us about how he'd been talking to a friend about joining the Church. He'd borne his testimony of the Book of Mormon to his friend and now his friend wants to meet the missionaries! It was so exciting to see him sharing, and see him feeling the missionary spirit! Daniel also came to one of our lessons with Evander this week and had an awesome analogy, sharing his testimony that the gift of the Holy Ghost is better than any drug :)

One of my constant refrains this week has been that I want a button camera. We're not allowed to take pictures while we're proselyting, because we don't want to look like tourists, but there are so many fun things that I want to get pictures of. Things like the strange mixed breeds of dogs, and the cool flowers, the mailboxes (many have dolphins, elephants, or houses on the stand or as the box), the innovative construction (like some people who'd welded an oven rack onto their fence to keep their little dog in, instead of attaching a board or doing anything boring like that), the many ice cream trucks, the stairs... I don't know, maybe there's this much diversity and innovation in other places, but I've never noticed it.

Okay, out of time again. Keep sending me mail, and I love you all bunches!! Missionary work is amazing and the Lord is in every aspect of it. 

Hermana Houghton

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Busy Hermana, Learning in February!

 Hermana Houghton attended a conference and received some great instruction and the opportunity to have her name sealed in the cornerstone of the Florida Fort Lauderdale Temple, which is scheduled to be dedicated sometime in the next year!  Apparently, this picture includes all the missionaries in the Fort Lauderdale Mission. Hermana Houghton is left of center in the second picture, with a black sweater and peach shirt.  
Eliza's Mom

February 19, 2013

Dear Family, Friends, and Everyone,
Before getting into anything else I'd like to share a short section from my study journal about faith and difficult times.
"Miracles follow faith. When we pray for specific things, we're showing our faith that God will grant that specific request. When we move on quickly in trying to find the elect, we're showing our faith that there will be prepared people for us to find and teach and that God will lead us to them. When we keep our lessons short and concise, we're showing our faith that the Spirit will be the one to change the investigators' hearts. And the great thing is that it will! Trials and faith will bring miracles and learning. Learn to love hard times, and you'll be happy the rest of your life."
As long as we're doing what we know is right and listening for the influence of the Spirit, acting on promptings that come to us, we are going to be blessed. Even if we don't see immediate blessings or if we feel like we're going forward blindly we'll eventually see the results. So the challenge is just to keep that faith in the Lord and to have an eternal perspective.
This week I had my first experience with playing the piano in Florida. Zero time to practice but I got to accompany at a baptism. Hopefully he wasn't scarred for life. Also, who knew that "Love One Another" in Spanish adds several notes as the syllables are different! :) I'm encouraging all the kids I meet here to take piano lessons.
Sorry, I just can't gather my thoughts right now at all and I'm out of time. I just realized this email sounds really negative,  but it shouldn't be! We actually had some really cool experiences this week, and I learned a lot and met many amazing people. We also had some awesome trainings, including one by Elder O. Vincent Haleck of the Seventy. Write to me and let me know what I should include in future emails!
Sister Clayton with the dessert we shared right before our fast.
PB and chocolate, you know it.
 Me with a cool tree :)

Sister Beck, who I had an exchange with on Friday.
She is so awesome, and I learned a lot.
I picked up some of her mannerisms in one day,
which cracks me up.
 Also we lived in the same apartment complex at BYU!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February 11, 2013

No pictures from Hermana Houghton this week, but we went on vacation and sent some to her, so we'll share them here!  
Mom and Dad the week of Valentine's--overlooking San Francisco

Trying to spell "Eliza"--but only four people for letters,
and who knows WHAT Marta is doing.  Levi is
obviously the "z"

With Luke and Eliza missing, it feels like we're just a normal
"small" family!  We miss them!

Dear Everyone,

I'm not quite sure what to include in the letter this week. It's been a long one, but it's been really great to be able to see the Lord's hand in everything.
We had several miracles in knocking doors this week. First we met Patricia, who we were really excited about (and still are!) because she seems to just know that what we're saying is true. On Saturday we took a member to her lesson, and she told the member that when we knocked on her door she'd been crying and really devastated because her husband just left her. But when we came in, she said, she felt the spirit and knew that it was her answer. Her kids calmed down and she felt peace. It's really hard to be able to ask about things like that as missionaries, especially because it's so difficult to make a deep connection with people when you don't speak their language very well. But when she was talking with the member we felt so affirmed that the Lord is using us even when we don't feel like we're making a difference.
We had another miracle when we were walking down the street to a referral the elders from the English ward had given us. We felt like we should go knock on a door, even though it was on a street that the elders had already knocked. We invited this woman and her boyfriend to be baptized and she said she already had been. We hear that a lot, and generally explain how important it is to be baptized again, and what a blessing it is. She told us that no, she'd been baptized a member of our church already. Then she started crying and said that she hadn't been to church in a couple of years but had wanted to start going back. She just didn't know where the chapel was, because she had moved, and she wanted her boyfriend to learn about the gospel too. She had been praying for missionaries to come by as they did when she was fourteen, and had hoped we would stop by when she saw us walking by.
One thing I never really thought about before going on my mission is the importance of baptism. When I came out I felt like baptism was a commitment, a huge step, and shouldn't be entered into lightly. I still think it's hugely important, but what I've realized is how crucial it is to receive the gift of baptism as soon as possible. When a new member is baptized, he is saying that he will work to change and follow Jesus Christ more. He's not saying he knows everything about the gospel or is going to start giving all he has to the poor tomorrow. He is saying that he has faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, that he believes that Joseph Smith was a prophet and Thomas S. Monson is a prophet today, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. He is saying that he will repent of his sins and follow the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Chastity, the Law of Tithing, and that he will keep the Sabbath Day holy. And as he takes this step and is baptized, he will receive the ability to access the Atonement of Jesus Christ in his life in repentance and changing. He will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which will enlighten his understanding, guide him, and help him. It's amazing how much God gives us when we have just a little bit of faith and understanding. We just need to have the desire to receive it.
And a quote from mormon.org (which you should really check out, member or non-member; it's awesome!): "The teachings of Jesus Christ have more power to bring lasting happiness than all the success and pleasure the world can offer." It's so true.
This week I've learned a lot about relying on the Holy Ghost to do the teaching. We're really just there to give them something to mull over. The Holy Ghost is the one that integrates it into their minds and hearts, if they're willing. No amount of persuading or rationalizing will convince anyone to really accept the fulness of the gospel, even though it does make sense rationally and has a lot of obvious benefits right off the bat. It's only when we can get the Spirit into their thoughts and feelings that they will learn at all. 
One frustrating thing that I've learned this week is that people have their agency. Yes it's good that they make their own choices, but sometimes it's so hard to see them be lazy, or lie to us, or not keep commitments. I just want to make them see what they're missing! If I could impress onto the mind of every person I met how being a member of this church has blessed my life and will bless theirs, we would have people lining up down the street to be baptized. But they don't see that, and they get distracted, and they feel like they are already happy enough with their lives, and it's really easier just to ignore us because change is hard and sometimes painful and we're always calling them. It's easy to feel down on yourself when you feel like you're not doing well enough as a missionary, seeing the huge value and potential of each of these sons and daughters of God that you're not helping them to tap into. That's why we really need miracles like the ones that I mentioned above. The Lord has prepared people to accept the gospel, and He is helping us to find them.
Sorry, I'm out of time to include a funny story. Just know that there has been lots of laughter, smiles, tears, prayer, and work on this side of the country this week.
Hermana Houghton

Monday, February 4, 2013

Real Missionary Experiences

 February 4, 2013

My own captions for the pictures Eliza sent. . .Eliza's Mom

With Hermana Clayton and their matching new shoulder bags.

They are feeding her!  Gourmet dinner from one of the sisters.
With Pedro, a recent convert who with his
friend Max, takes the Hermanas out to lunch
every week, and this week brought chocolates.  

Dear family, friends, and everyone,

Missionary work is still hard, but I'm learning to really love it. I've been working on keeping my focus on the work, and it's been great!
We had some interesting experiences this week. One evening we came across this group of men just coming home from work in the fields. They were all recent immigrants, and rather amused by the American girls trying to speak in Spanish. Luis, David, Renan, Jesus, and Antonio all listened quietly, as we stood outside their house and they squatted by the wall with three sitting on the lone chair and one on a bike. But Achilles wanted to talk. We quoted scripture, discussed doctrine, and invited. They all went and got drunk on Saturday night, so they didn't come to church, but we're going to keep teaching them like they're getting baptized tomorrow! (An attitude I learned from Sister Clayton)
We also met a man this week who enjoyed our blessing, recognized the Spirit, but cheerfully told us that we were following the teachings of men and that Joseph Smith was schizophrenic. We were a little bit taken aback, but it was a funny experience. We also met a man who didn't want to listen to us because he thought that the Mormons had supported Prop 8, which was in fact legalizing gay marriage. He wouldn't believe me when I told him that he was confused and I was from California.
We've started teaching a family in the ward whose mom actually served a mission. She married a non-member and won't go to church or take her kids to church unless he's a part of it. Frank thinks that church isn't for him, but really wants his kids to learn about the gospel, so we're trying to pull them all along to church. Luckily with football season over now he may be open to coming to church for a week or two. Also, the two kids are soo sweet. They are 10 and 14, and the 10-year-old girl told us that she just wanted to follow Jesus. Her brother described his hero as someone who cared about others, worked hard, and always had time for his family.
I'm slowly adjusting to the Spanish ward. My Spanish still needs a lot of work, but I can usually understand most of what people are saying as long as they're not going into long soliloquies about their lives, and we're not talking on the phone. This week we're really focusing on making connections in the ward, so I'll get lots of time to work on my more in-depth Spanish, rather than just my teaching Spanish!
Daniel, who got baptized last week, is so awesome. He can't wait to go to the temple and loves learning about everything. He's really smart, and I enjoy finding answers to his questions within the scriptures when I can. He's actually receiving the priesthood this week and will be blessing the sacrament next week! I can't wait to see how many lives he is going to touch.
I've really been diving into the scriptures this week in my personal study time. I'm out of time, but just know that my testimony of Jesus Christ, the gospel, the Church, and the Book of Mormon is stronger than ever. I know that the work I am doing right now is the most important work there is. I read a quote from Brigham Young that said basically, "This is my religion. This is what the Holy Ghost dictates to me. It is saving the people." I know that through the gospel of Jesus Christ souls are saved, and as we strive to follow Christ we are personally converted and changed every day. I love you all!
Hermana Houghton