Monday, March 25, 2013

Crazy, It's the End of March, Dog Attack, and It's Hot!

March 25, 2013

The Dog Attack!

Sister Clayton with Michael, the dog that attacked her on Friday.
We didn't see the dog there, and we'd visited the house before
 so we walked right on in. He ran up to us growling and attacked Sister Clayton.

Michael, the missionary-eating dog!

He ripped her bag off of her shoulder and flung it to the side.
She ran for the fence and hurdled over it,
getting completely horizontal in the leap.
(Wow!  Go Sister Clayton!)

 A helpful neighbor went into the yard and got all of her stuff.
Oh, and the dog didn't even look at me as I sidled
behind him, opened the gate, and went outside.

Dear everyone,
Okay, I know I do this in every email but can you believe it's the end of March?? So crazy. I'm most likely going to be training in two and a half weeks. Scary.
So, returning to the end of last week's email. Harvesting is amazing. It started in the Fort Lauderdale mission under President Anderson but we hear that it's spread to Orlando, a mission in Southern California, and one in Hawaii.
First week in the mission field,
Sister Clayton, Henry, and Hermana Houghton.
What makes harvesting so cool (one of many things, of course) is that it's such an instant spiritual boost. We as missionaries are able to literally bless the lives of others and, through that, help them to feel and identify the spirit testifying to them that we are truly representatives of Jesus Christ. I feel like it's missionary work in its purest form - we missionaries are there to be the vessels, as it were, of the Spirit coming into their lives, but it's the Spirit that does the convincing, not us. Our testimonies are important, of course, but as long as we are being obedient and worthy of having the Spirit with us it directs how things go.
We often have miracles happen during harvesting. We will show up at exactly the time that a person needs a blessing, or right as things start to look hopeless in their lives. Oftentimes we will bless them and afterward they will tell us that they don't know how we knew what they needed, or what was troubling them, but we somehow did. We frequently have people tell us that they don't usually open the door but for some reason they did, or they don't usually just sit on the porch, but we caught them at just the right time. It is so cool!
This week we were very busy. It was great fun. We taught lots of lessons, invited lots of people to come unto Christ, harvested a lot of wonderful children of God... I loved it. Even if I was exhausted out of my mind by the end of every day.
We had a wonderful district training this week on asking inspired questions. It has really made Sister Clayton and I slow down during our lessons, and has helped us to make them more effective and more spiritual. As we've tried to use inspired questions we've seen amazing results. We had a lesson on Saturday with our amazing investigator Emma. We taught about repentance and the Sabbath Day, and were trying to meet her desire of having strength to overcome life's challenges (through becoming like God). Through a series of inspired questions we learned that Emma had gone to church for years as a child in Mexico (with a neighbor), and that her greatest desire is to raise her children in the right path. She pretty much taught us the lesson about repentance, telling us about how she'd learned that you needed to be humble to submit yourself to God's will and change. She loved the idea of keeping the Sabbath Day holy, because it was a way to show her willingness to follow God and would give her and her family that time to be apart from the world. Sister Clayton and I left that lesson feeling like we were on top of the world. The spirit had been so strong, and Emma's commitment and faith had really grown.

Hermana Houghton


 It's getting hot in Florida!

It got up to 94 degrees this week. It was so hot that when I tried to
 test my blood sugar and squeezed my finger, the blood squirted
 out all over my face. Gross.

An Exchange

Hermana Houghton and Hermana Andrus, on exchange
Sister Andrus came to our area with me for exchanges. She is at the very tail end of her mission and has learned a lot. It was great fun to be with her for a day. This is Derly, a less-active who we've been visiting this week.

Monday, March 11, 2013

1/6th of the way. When did that happen?

March 11, 2013
Eliza and Sister Ellett realized they were wearing matching outfits.
I suspect by Eliza's stance, that she is naturally just a bit taller than Sister Ellett! 

Dear family and all!

Wow, I'm already two months into my mission! That is really crazy. Plus time in the MTC, and I'm 1/6 done. When did that happen?

Updates on the people I wrote about last week first. Elena and Dimas have been super busy this week, and we've only met with them once :( I'll start a new paragraph for Ruben though.

Ruben, Sister Clayton, and Sister Houghton
He almost didn't give us the cigarettes, and
only handed them over as he was driving away.
We saw Ruben on Tuesday and felt like we shouldn't teach the stop smoking program. I had been reading the Ensign from January 2012, which has the 12 steps in the Addiction Recovery Program, and it was perfect! (P.S. The 12 steps are basically an in-depth set of directions on how to repent, which is awesome. I want to apply them to my life!) We shared them with him at our lesson (attended by a recent convert who is basically a missionary, sharing Old Testament stories and applicable verses from the Book of Mormon at the drop of a hat), and he gave us his cigarettes and lighter! It was amazing. We kept the cigarettes on our counter to show to President and Sister Anderson when they did an inspection on Thursday. We gave Ruben cinnamon toothpaste and breath strips in return for the cigarettes, and promised to give up chocolate until Sunday. It was harder than it sounds. Sadly, Ruben then told us he was feeling pressured about baptism and had to make the change on his own, and didn't come to church on Sunday. We're really hoping that the Spirit will work with him and he can receive the blessings from being baptized soon!

Right now we're teaching this amazing family, the Martinez family. They're from Guatemala and have three kids. They are so ready for the gospel. We've been teaching them for about a week and a half, and every lesson has been a miracle. And some funny things have happened too. On Saturday night we came for an appointment and they said they were going to bed because they needed to be up in time for church on Sunday. That's an acceptable excuse, I think. Then during the last hour of church Esteban, the dad, skipped Priesthood meeting to go outside with their four-year-old. We always encourage them to go to all of their meetings, but hey! he was out there reading the Book of Mormon. It is so exciting to think about how much the gospel and the church will bless their lives.

One more quick story. We met a man this week, Francisco, who is one of those who has been 'kept from the truth only because he knows not where to find it.' He was so excited to learn that God does still speak to the earth, and said that of course he would follow the prophet and give up smoking and drinking. His enthusiasm for the message of the Restoration really helped me to feel the wonder of it again. How amazing is it that Joseph Smith was actually a Prophet of God, that God and Jesus Christ appeared to him, that God allows man to hold his priesthood authority on the earth? SO amazing.

Anyway, my testimony is growing every day. I'm learning tons and loving the mission more and more as time passes. I played the piano in Sacrament meeting yesterday - songs which I'd never played before in my life. So fun. The bishop stopped us after the first verse and asked everyone to sing with more enthusiasm... But it's great! I love it!

Hermana Houghton

Monday, March 4, 2013

Feeling Like a Veteran

March 4, 2013

Daniel, just before heading to Chicago

Sister Clayton in one of the many
Time goes so strangely on missions. I feel like I just got out here, but at the same time I feel like I've been here forever. Last week was So long, but now it's like P-day was yesterday. We got a new Elder in our district this week - Elder Haddock is fresh from the MTC, and Elder Call is training him. What's really weird is that Elder Haddock got into the MTC the same day I did! But I feel like I have so much more experience. Sister Clayton and I were talking with him, sharing war stories, and I realized just how much has happened in the last six weeks. I have talked to more people than I talked to in the year before coming out here. And I've been in more houses/trailers/apartments than I had before in probably my whole LIFE. So strange.
Diesel the dog, scared of a chihuahua
Daniel moved to Illinois this week :( But as a positive result, we finally got a few good pictures of him. I even got one where he's smiling! While we were over saying good-bye, we had to walk back to our car briefly to grab something, and his dog Diesel followed us. I don't know if I've mentioned Diesel before, but he's great. He's a large fifteen-year-old pit bull who's a teddy bear. As we walked over the railroad tracks to our car a territorial chihuahua came out. It chased Diesel all the way back across the railroad tracks, which it could hardly jump onto. So. funny.

So, more about some other investigators. Elena and Dimas are a young couple (22 and 23) from Guatemala with two sons, three years old and three months old. They were hesitant to commit to coming to church, because they already go to a church, and they haven't been able to go since their youngest was born premature with breathing problems. We were impressed during our Thursday lesson with them to promise that if they committed to come to our church on Sunday their baby would be healed enough to leave the house so that they could come. They committed, and on Friday their doctor okay-ed them to leave the house for up to two hours at a time with the baby. They came to the first two hours of church on Sunday following another great lesson on Saturday with a fresh RM from the ward.
Also, ward members are SO important in missionary work. We don't use them as much as we'd like to, largely because we have a hard time setting firm lesson times, but we love it when we are able to have lessons with members there. For example, when Elena and Dimas came to church on Sunday we got stuck in the crush of people in trying to get up to them. By the time we got to their row Carlos, the member who came with us to their lesson, and his mother and brother were all talking to Elena and Dimas, about to leave to show them where primary was, and encouraging them for having come to church. It was awesome! And lessons are so much stronger with members there. The members help with their testimonies, they become resources for the investigators, and they help us on Sundays. Our ward is amazing in missionary work, too. We had members come out with us five times this week (three times the lessons fell through, but ah well). It is wonderful to see how much they feel the missionary spirit. Even when things don't go well they feel so invigorated. I've been able to see that the Lord really does bless members for doing missionary work, immediately as well as in the long term.
Okay, one last thing. We're teaching the Church's how to stop smoking progam tonight to one of our favorite investigators, Ruben. We felt inspired on the member we need to bring to the lesson, and it's going to be amazing. I'm super nervous for how we're going to do it, especially in Spanish, but I know that the Lord will help us. This work is moving forward!
I have a couple of really awesome spiritual thoughts to share with you, but I'm out of time, so I'll include them next time. Love you all! Write me!
Hermana Houghton