Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Be A Friend To Investigators and Converts!

Sister Smaellie and I at the beach. There were no waves and it was boring,
especially as we couldn't actually go onto the sand. 
At the beach. And no, I didn't actually get asked
if I was Amish that day.... surprisingly.
Dear Family and Friends (and random internet stalkers who may or may not be reading this),

Hello! O como yo diria cualquier otro dia de la semana, Hola! ?Como estan?
Life has been crazy in this neck of the woods - emotional roller coaster with our investigators, as always. Robert and Jasmine, whom I told you about last week, have been going through some tough times. We're not sure where they're living right now, actually, so we're really hoping to get in contact with them soon! We had an amazing experience this week with a member. We invited Cesar, a recent convert of about a year, to come out with us to their lesson. When we arrived Robert had been having a bad day and didn't want to talk with us. (He'd sent us a text the day before telling us not to waste our time on them) We talked with Jasmine and taught her about faith while Cesar talked with Robert. When we finished talking with Jasmine, Robert was getting into Cesar's car to go to the store and told us that we could come back the next day. It was sweet! Member friendship and testimony is so important. My plea to all of you who read this is to be a friend to investigators and recent converts. They are experiencing an entirely new culture and point of view. They need people who will empathize with them, explain things at their level without talking down to them, and be available to help them in creating new habits and visions for their lives.
We randomly ran into Renaldo, a super sweet former investigator who was taught by Sister Clayton and Sister Daines and then once while I was with Sister Clayton. We had some awesome lessons with him and he set his date for baptism for this Sunday. He is so ready. Unfortunately he has been MIA since Friday and we're worried about him...
We also re-met some other former investigators this week. It turns out that Jorge G, whom I told you about a while back (April 22, and he's not Jorge R), had disappeared because he felt bad about breaking his promise to come to church. He had been avoiding us for weeks and then called us out of the blue to ask us to pray for him. We stopped by his house on Sunday morning to invite him to church, woke him up, and he followed us to the chapel! He loved church. We invited him to stay for the baptism after church in between classes, and he told us he couldn't because he was going to the class with all the men... Liked the baptism and after an in-depth Plan of Salvation lesson he is really excited to be baptized this Sunday.
We taught Araceli P and her 13- and 14-year old kids at the beginning of last transfer. They never came to church and we eventually had to stop coming by. But then we knocked on their door on Sunday morning and they were getting ready to come to church! They loved it. And what's even more amazing is that when we came by for our appointment yesterday their whole extended family was there for a BBQ. We had an amazing blessing with them that had two of Araceli's sisters in tears, left them with a Proclamation to the Family to read, and committed Araceli's esposo Casimiro to meet with us and come to church. The whole family is coming to Mutual and the Bridal shower/ward activity on Wednesday night!

An amazing spiritual experience we had this week was a first lesson with a large extended family, the Rodriguez family. The grandma is hard of hearing so the granddaughter and one of the aunts kept on repeating what we were saying so she would understand. We ended up teaching the first vision and receiving answers to prayers. I loved when the granddaughter, Paula, told the grandmother, "They're telling you that their message is true, and God will tell you it is good because you'll feel peace." It was amazing to see her teaching and learning at the same time, and you could tell that she knew we were telling the truth and were so sure of it that we trusted God to back us up. So cool!

Sister Smaellie is feeling better and I started to come down with what she had but hopefully have bypassed it (I feel much better after going to bed an hour and a half early last night!) We are praying hard for our investigators and all the people we're working with.
Oh, transfer data! Elder Call got moved to Miami Shores, Elder Barbosa went home for a transfer to get knee surgery, Sister Ellett went to Stuart (north of us), and Sister Schneider got a new trainee, Sister Biggs, who is sweet and funny and tiny (not big).
Our companionship theme this week has been trusting in the Lord. A (slightly misquoted) part of The Challenging and Testifying Missionary (a talk that is basically our mission's theme talk) says that we do not have veto power in missionary work, we only have sustaining power. That has been a huge comfort for me recently - I just have to do my best. The results are in the Lord's hands, and whatever I do, His will is going to happen in the end. I just have to work to be worthy of being part of His gathering. It is such a relief to know that whatever I do I can only help the work, not stop it.
We're seeing miracles every day. And I continue chipping away at my frozen peanut butter (I froze it so that I couldn't eat it so quickly because I'm addicted). This transfer is going to be miracle transfer! I love you all!
Hermana Houghton

Sister Johnson and I
P.S. I'm not lying. I actually do want to know what's going on in your lives. I will never turn down any type of mail.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Frogs Outside Our Window

Dear Everyone,

Last night frogs outside our window kept waking Sister Smaellie and I up all night long. They sound like wet rubber boots squeaking - most annoying thing ever! Luckily it's nap-day. Oops, did I say nap day? I meant writing-meaningful-letters-to-friends-and-family-day. But really. Sorry for being so lame at writing back! I still greatly appreciate your mail and will try to write back when possible.

This week changed my mission. We had a trio exchange (one extra missionary - Sister Johnson, who used to live with me and is now a Sister Training Leader - with Sister Smaellie and I) on Wednesday and it was fantastic. I don't know what made things really click, but they did. I understand planning a lot better now, and I see how it doesn't have to be a painful process. Before we would plan out every little thing, get stressed out because we weren't sure we were going to be able to see everybody, have agonizingly long lessons, and half the time never get to use the in-depth plans we'd created. Now we've started doing shorter and more spiritual lessons, praying to know who we should plan for, paying attention to how we feel as we plan (because it's not worth anything to plan if the spirit's not there, and it's not there if we're so stressed about everything that we can't even listen), and getting members out with confidence that we will be able to have appointments for them to go to. It makes the work more fun, faster, less emotionally exhausting, and more effective. We got more lessons last week, when we had to stay home for two days because Sister Smaellie was sick, than we have gotten in any other week of the transfer.  Anyway, I feel a lot better about planning and effective time use now.

One miracle spiritual moment we had this week was at the end of a disappointing lesson with a drunk man. As we were walking away this man from the half-house next door yelled out to us telling us that we were doing great work and even though he did bad things he recognized that we were representatives of Jesus Christ. We turned around and blessed Robert and his family and found out that they have been so prepared. They have questions that have answers only in the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, and they want to make changes in their lives. I loved that the Lord touched his heart and in that exact moment we were able to meet them.
In the Book of Mormon this week I was studying in Ether, the story of the brother of Jared. One thing that really struck me was the importance of knowledge. Jared and his brother had a great knowledge and understanding of the nature of God. I noticed that Jared asked his brother to ask God that the curse not apply to them - so he knew what would happen before it did, or he couldn't have talked to him. Jared's brother had a knowledge of divine things that allowed him to create the stones that would conduct light, and his knowledge allowed him to exercise great faith in the Lord. I don't know if my explanation is making any sense, but basically what it came down to is what the Bible Dictionary says: "Knowledge of divine and spiritual things is absolutely essential for one's salvation." So cool.
I love you all!
Hermana Houghton

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Dear Everyone,
Did you know that lightning in Florida kills more people than lightning in any other state? Fun fact, but it also led to some fun miracles last night! We were directed in Zone Conferene on Friday to stay under shelter or in the car whenever there is lightning directly overhead. So last night we were waiting for lightning to pass from the area where we were going to harvest. We had some great studying, but after a while without any relief from lightning we decided to go to another area.
We pulled up to the curb and out of the truck across the road comes a man whom we'd harvest blessed the other day but hadn't been able to get in contact with. We'd seen him on Saturday too, driving out of a gas station halfway across town. We knew it couldn't be coincidence - three times in four days in completely different places is crazy. So we talked to Wilfredo and his brother Gilberto, whom we hadn't met before. They are crazy busy with work, so arranging time for lessons will be fun, but it will be worth it. They are super excited about baptism and recognize that they're missing something in their lives. Plus they're Cuban. Oh, and they think I have an awesome native-born accent, even if my vocabulary isn't very good :)
HH with Giovanni's mangoes
Some other fun people we met this week were Giovanni and Rogelio - more Cubans! We met Giovanni as he was picking up a big pile of little mangoes off the ground. He told us to take some, so we grabbed a few. Then he wanted us to take more, so he went and got a garbage bag to put a bunch in. It was sweet! They're really yummy. Anyway, turns out that he's pretty great too. We came back and taught him the next day along with his cousin Rogelio, and we're going to talk with his wife Janet this week (she's never home when he is and vice versa). He loved the Book of Mormon and was super excited about coming to church... until work came up. He's really hilarious, and very generous. His cousin Rogelio is legally blind, but when he said he couldn't read the Book of Mormon Giovanni said he would read it for himself first, then read it out loud for Rogelio.
I know all I ever talk about is Emma nowadays, but she called us on Friday night asking us to come over and read some mail she'd gotten from the court. We were able to help her with that, leave a blessing on her home, and help her 6-year-old write a Mother's day card for her. It was a really sweet experience.
We had some hard times this week too, though. We were having a hard time finding any really solid people and getting lessons, and we had several investigators drop us. At our zone conference we made a commitment to teach a lesson on repentance that night, so we did, to Jorge Roche. It actually didn't go quite as well as we had hoped - we found out that Jorge didn't really have a desire to change, but just liked the Spirit that we brought. It was hard when he dropped us on Saturday. But then I was reading today in 1 Nephi 14:7, where it talks about the purpose of the great and marvelous work of the gospel. It's not to forcibly bring everybody to Christ. It's to give everybody the clear choice between what is right and what is wrong, with the hope that they will use their agency well and accept the help of Jesus Christ to their salvation. That realization cleared my vision of my purpose and the Lord's plan for this work.
On Sunday we were bummed out. We did round-up, but we hadn't been able to get in contact with any of our few investigators who had said they would be able to come. Getting investigators at Sacrament has been a struggle recently, so our hopes weren't high. But then the Lord showed us exactly whose work this is. We had three less-active members bring friends and family to church and refer them to us. We got to visit one of the friends last night, and she's getting baptized this Sunday, after getting married to the less active member on Saturday. It was fantastic. It really made me think of Isaiah 55:8-12. I know that the Lord will get things done in his way in his time. I've been thinking lately that the Lord will make miracles occur in our area through us - by giving us inspiration or strength. But really we don't know how those miracles will occur. We just know that they will.
To close, it was wonderful talking to the fam yesterday. Just for the record, Fort Lauderdale missionaries do not get "trunky." We yearn for the end of P-day when we can get back to work :P Well that's the idea at least. I've noticed that I'm actually getting a lot closer to it. I miss you all a lot, but I am where I am supposed to be, touching the lives I'm supposed to touch.
I LOVE YOU ALL A TON. Write me letters and send me packages and I will love you a metric tonne.
Sister's at the Zone Conference--Eliza in the back, as usual!
-Hermana Houghton
P.S. Just kidding. I won't love you any more. I will just be happier.

Monday, May 6, 2013

El Libro De Mormon!

May 6, 2013

Guess what?? I finished the Book of Mormon in Spanish this week!!! It was so awesome - throughout the experience I've really seen how the Spirit opens our minds to help us learn. My Spanish has gotten so much better through reading the Book of Mormon. Plus it's the best book ever.

Sorry, I don't have a lot of time to write this week - just a quick miracle to tell you about. So Henry, who got baptized the first week I came in, immediately got a new job and we haven't been able to see him since two weeks after his baptism. We've texted occasionally, but he's super busy. He texted us last night just to see how we were, and I testified to him that if he put God as a priority in his life and came to church God would take care of everything else. He told us that he trusted in God and would do that. I am so excited for him! I know he is going to see miracles in his life as he does his best to follow the commandments. 

We're going to be looking for a lot of new people this week, because all of the people we've been teaching haven't made church a priority and we know the Lord has prepared people for us to teach who are ready. This week is going to be awesome! I love you all a lot.

Hermana Houghton

P.S. Write me! (if those of you who post the blog could put my address up that would be great!)

Sister Smaellie and I

Rain in Florida. . .a little different from in California!

Sister Smaellie, Sister Clayton, Sister Moody, and Iat trainer-trainee follow-up meeting this Wednesday

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Splits, Visits, and Lizards

Sister Moody and I at transfers a few weeks ago
Dear Everyone,

I love you!!! So this letter kind of skips through lots of things this week - hope you don't mind the discontinuity!
One phrase that really stuck out to me in my Book of Mormon reading this week was in 3 Nephi 11:23, where Christ is talking about those who qualify for baptism. He describes them as "whoso repent

eth of his sins through your words." That made me think of Alma 32, where investigators are asked to test the word of God, and this will create faith. So then I laid out the process: words -> faith -> repentance -> baptism. I realized that we all contribute different parts - we as the missionaries (with God's help and guidance of course) contribute the words, then God gifts investigators with faith, they choose to repent, and this leads to the great end/beginning of baptism. Thinking of the process this way made me realize two somewhat contradictory things: how crucial are our own preparation and teaching skills and Spirit as missionaries; and how little effect we have on the whole process - it's really in Heavenly Father's hands.
I loved another verse in that chapter that made me think - verse 30 says "this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away." That immedately brought to my mind the Doctrine of Christ - faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. So I was thinking about how those five things are opposite to contention. I realized the connection is that through the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel we become more like Christ. We don't have space in our hearts for the spirit of contention when we are firmly on the path of Christ and our eyes are single to the glory of God. Anyway, the scriptures continue to be super cool. I'm a big fan.
We have an investigator, Jorge, who has been a continual surprise to us. When we blessed him he was drinking and smoking, and we really only ended up going back to him because our other backup had fallen through. He's a 56-year-old Cuban man who works continually for the little that he has. He understands very little about God and religion, and doesn't openly say he wants to change anything about his life. We love him. His mind isn't very open, but his soul hungers. You can just feel that his soul is hungry for the word of God. He doesn't quite recognize the Spirit, but he really feels it. For our second lesson we taught him the first vision and the word of wisdom. His brother came into the yard where we were teaching about halfway through the lesson, drunk. He was quiet and just stood there for most of the time, but wasn't interested in listening to us or talking to us. As we taught the lesson we used a technique we learned from our leaders - identifying the spirit immediately after teaching something, then asking them if they believe it, and why it's important to them or why they should live it. We taught the word of wisdom to Jorge and followed these steps. He drinks and smokes continually - 2 packs a day, and beer cans everywhere. He told us that he believed that the word of wisdom was from God and he needed to follow it. His brother interjected at that point, yelling at Jorge and asking him why he would give up alcohol and tobacco. Jorge turned around and just told his brother that it was because God wanted him to. He's working to quit after habits of a lifetime (and realizing that beer is alcoholic too, not just tequila and whiskey...). The Spirit was amazing.
Sister Sobkowicz, me, Sister Smaellie, and Sister Sheffield
This week two sisters who have finished their missions came back to visit West Palm - Sister Sobkowicz and Sister Sheffield. They are great - they went and basically taught lessons to about six less-actives and got many people to church :) They also came over to our apartment and went through our area book, identifying people they'd taught who might be open to being taught again, and telling us about members who'd helped them a lot.
Freddy the lizard who took a ride on the car yesterday
- he stayed safe in the windshield wiper well.

I had an important re-realization this week, following a short conversation with Sister Sheffield. She told us to always, always have fun. I've thought of that in the past, and worked to enjoy even the hard times, but recently I've forgotten that concept just because it's so different being the senior companion in the area. I've been letting stress over the big picture wear me out, and that effects everything - I'm not quite as cheerful during lessons, or as patient in harvest blessings. It's hard to feel the Savior's love for these people when I'm worried about everything all at once! So basically I'm just going to try to focus on one day at a time, and I'm grateful for a timely reminder from a spiritually sensitive sister. (P.S. This paragraph makes it sound like I've been crazy stressed. I haven't been. Sister Smaellie and I are both fine; this will just help with showing my happiness to people we meet :)
We also had exchanges this week, which was crazy! I went out to spend a day in Royal Palm Beach West with Sister Clayton's trainee and she came here to work with Sister Smaellie. So fun! I loved it, but working in an English area was so weird. Teaching is completely different in English, and the people are just different. I got a little bit homesick for West Palm. Also it was strange having Sister Moody talk about Sister Clayton. I kept on thinking, "that's my companion! What are you talking about, you two did something without me there?"
Anyway, out of time. We're moving forward learning every day, and working to always listen to the Spirit. We are hoping to start using Family History as a retention and possibly a teaching tool; more on that later. We're excited for the miracles to come!
Hermana Houghton