Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Working Hard. Really Hard.

In  1833, Joseph Smith received revelation from God that would help His people be more healthy
This instruction is referred to a the "Word of Wisdom" and is summarized here.
Eliza teaches this, as it is a law and blessing the Lord requires people to accept before baptism.

Dear Family, Friends, and Everyone,

Hi! I love you all a lot! Did you get a chance to watch the broadcast on Sunday? If you didn't, go watch it. It's amazing. For us, it was like Christmas. Apostles speaking to us about missionary work with amazing stories and cool audiovisual effects? So great.

This week many things happened. I am not even going to attempt to go at them in order, so bear with me through this craziness. First of all, I created a Satan-repellant. I was reading on the second-to-last page of this month's Ensign about Islanders who had confidence in their own testimonies. So I made the following card, which I now carry around in my miracle book.

We're working with an exciting extended family nowadays, which we just call N's family (although N is the only one who hasn't accepted baptism, she's the matriarch and a strong Catholic, and wants her daughter and family to come closer to Christ since they grew up in communist Cuba and don't have religious roots...) We've seen lots of miracles with them. W, who's about 50 and has been in the states for a year, jobless for several months, got a job the day after we left a blessing with them. He recognized it was from God and so is baptism! We had a great lesson on the Word of Wisdom the other day with just N, her daughter T, T's daughter R, and R's baby. When we taught them that God has told us we shouldn't drink tea, R first started off by saying that she thought it should be okay for someone to drink tea if they were drinking it to avoid doing something bad. Then T piped in saying she agreed that all the other things (tobacco, drugs, alcohol, coffee) were bad, but that tea was healthy! R then chimed up again and told T that it was bad because it was addictive. Meanwhile N was reading the pamphlet we'd given her, and told everyone that she knew the Word of Wisdom was true because it counselled us to avoid eating too much meat! It was a crazy lesson but very fun and very effective. By the end they'd all agreed to live the Word of Wisdom.

We also had a really cool experience with meeting C, whom the English Sisters had left a harvest blessing with. We went to visit her and she told us about the day before, when Sister Schneider and Sister Biggs had knocked on her door. Right before they'd arrived, she had been sleeping, and had a dream that a woman who was a representative of Jesus Christ would knock on her door. When they knocked she wasn't going to open the door because she was busy. But a voice kept on telling her to open the door. She did, and had a wonderful spiritual experience that confirmed for her that God had sent them. Then the next day, when we visited her, she had been feeling anxious all day, just waiting for something. When we came over that went away. She told us over and over that she knew God was speaking to her, and wanted her to have our message. We're worried about her, because we haven't been able to get hold of her for a few days, but she is amazing!

A few weeks ago we had lunch with the S family, in our ward. Their oldest son is leaving on a mission tomorrow, so we gave him some advice, shared Alma 31:34-35 with him, and committed him and his family to memorize his missionary purpose. When he gave his farewell talk yesterday he recited his purpose over the pulpit, shared Alma 31:34-35, and said that our commitment had really helped him in preparing for his mission and having that missionary spirit. So cool!

Another wonderful experience we had yesterday was with a less active family. The 20-year-old son had been having problems with depression, and that was the main thing keeping him from activity in the church. We learn from Job that the way to have real hope is through gaining an eternal perspective and going forward in faith*. So we shared the second half of 2 Nephi 4 with them and then taught a lesson on the plan of salvation. It was fantastic. We committed them to creating personal plans to help them fulfill the goal of following Jesus Christ and the vision of returning to live with our Heavenly Father. It was so awesome.

Speaking of which, I received inspiration on missionary work in general. I've been focusing a lot on having visions, goals, and plans in order to achieve forward progress. But I realized that in order for our investigators to progress, they need to know what these are. The vision for them is eternal life with Heavenly Father and their families. The goal is their baptismal date. And the plans include keeping their commitments, living the laws of God, reading from the Book of Mormon, praying, coming to church, and meeting with us. If they don't understand the big picture and the role of the little things, they can't progress! Establishing expectations is super important.
Another realization for our area. Sister Smaellie and I have been working hard. Really hard. And we've been doing our best to give it our all, continue to improve, etc. But we just haven't seen the results. During the broadcast yesterday something stuck out to me: the Lord will not bless us with new converts until we take care of the people we already have. Now Sister Smaellie and I have worked to keep visiting the recent converts in our area. But our area in general, which has been a high-baptizing area, also has a history of many new converts going inactive and never being seen again. So Sister Smaellie and I are going to make a higher priority of visiting less actives and trust that the Lord will grant us success in baptisms as we do so, continuing the work of salvation on both sides of the font.

One more week of training. I will know by next P-day (Tuesday) whether I'm staying in West Palm or going somewhere else next week. I'm not sure which to hope for! I love you all a lot. Don't give up hope, and keep on loving and working with those who can't see the big picture right now. As you help them to see what we're fighting for, they will have hope and strength in doing what they know is right.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Growing Week

 A little statue at the house of a less-active/recent convert. I like it.

Dear Family, Friends, and Everyone,

This week was a growing week. It really taught Sister Smaellie and me to rely on the Lord.
One thing that was reemphasized for me this week was in my new favorite scripture, 2 Nephi 26:24. God's love is the reason for all of this, and so we can trust in Him that every trial is for the best and will create the best possible results.
We had an amazing exchange with our Sister Training Leaders. I went down to work in the YSA ward in Fort Lauderdale with Sister Stegelmeier, while Sister Smaellie stayed in West Palm with Sister Dougall... who doesn't speak Spanish :) It was fun and a great learning experience. I really love getting to see missionary work from someone else's perspective - it helps me get my head on straight again and figure out the difference between the Lord's expectations for us as missionaries and my own expectations for myself and my work. Also Sister Smaellie took over the area like a boss! It's crazy to think that we only have 2 more weeks of training together!
Crocs! I've worn them every day this week except for Sunday.  I love them.
Something I've really learned and focused on this week is setting a vision, goals, and plans, and then accounting to the Lord for them. Doing this helps me to have direction, listen to the Spirit, and apply what I learn so that I grow from it. An example of this set up would be that I set a vision of having the Spirit with me more strongly throughout the day. My goal is to be more patient, focused, and loving. My plans are to share my testimony in every letter I write today, open my mouth to talk to random people about the gospel at least three times today at Walmart, and perform an act of service for my companion. The accountability comes as I write down miracles that I see from this throughout the day, and then in my nightly prayers. I've started carrying around a little memo pad miracle book, and now I write down my vision, goals, and plans in that. It's awesome.
A wonderful spiritual experience came this week while we were doing companionship study yesterday afternoon. Yesterday was painful - the family we've been working with that was all set for baptism yesterday (the P family) disappeared. We stopped by their house before church with breakfast to help them be ready on time and all was well. Then we didn't see them again, even though we went by several more times. They didn't get baptized and we still have no idea what happened. To top it off, none of our other investigators came to church or answered us at all. So by the time we were doing companionship study, it was rough. I was silently praying to know what I could do to invite the Spirit and help us keep going forward with faith. I got an immediate answer - we needed the Savior's peace and blessing. So we knelt down and my companion asked Heavenly Father, by virtue of our calling as missionaries and representatives of Jesus Christ, to bless us with the Savior's peace and blessing to help us in fulfilling our sacred calling. It was beautiful and peaceful and brought the Spirit and hope back to us. We went out and taught two amazing lessons, left several powerful harvest blessings, and taught a wonderful Less Active who has just started to come back. We saw many miracles in a day that my companion had told me she hated only a few hours earlier. I really felt how we can rely on the power of the Atonement as missionaries, to support us as well as our investigators.
BTW, don't think we've given up on the P family. They are so ready to get baptized. They had their interviews on Thursday, came to the ward activity on Friday, and are awesome. A committed to kicking out her 'esposo' so she could get baptized. We're not sure what is happening with that, but she's an amazing strong woman and her desires are high, so we are going to see what we can do to help them this week.
The Canales family fed us lunch yesterday. They're awesome.
We also met lots of really cool new people this week. I wish I could tell you about all of them. But I'll just close by telling you that we're working with a Less Active we found harvesting, and also teaching his wife who's not a member. We went by yesterday and they weren't there, so we left their neighbor with a Book of Mormon to read as she was going to the Laundromat. It was cool - I love giving out such a huge and impactful book to so many people.
Love you all a ton!!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Life is a Ball!

Dear Family, Friends, and Everyone,

How are you all? Life here in West Palm is a ball - one that gets thrown around a lot and is going in every possible direction, but hey. Lots of fun experiences this week, and I'll just get right into them! Hope you have lots of time to read about them all...
So the main focus this week has been on the Perez family, who I summarized two weeks ago. We've been meeting with them a lot this week, and they've really been progressing. We saw amazing answers to prayers in teaching them. We showed up with a member on Thursday, a pre-arranged appointment in the afternoon. The car wasn't there. We waited for a few minutes, knocked the door, rang the doorbell, and were about to leave. We said a prayer and ten seconds later they drove around the corner. That lesson went so well that they were solid for the next day (she goes to school, works, cooks at home to earn money, and takes care of her little kids, so it's hard to get appointments). The next day we had another member come out with us, but when we sat down to give the lesson one of the renters in the other room was playing loud rap music. He agreed to turn it down but wouldn't shut it off. I said a silent prayer in my heart, and my companion was doing the same, that the music wouldn't be a problem. The music turned off after our investigator's son said the opening prayer. It turned back on during the closing prayer. We're still not sure what happened, but it definitely wasn't anything we did.
On Sunday our Bishop wanted to talk with the family. While they were outside the office and we were talking to him, Araceli started talking with our recent convert Emma, and one of our ward missionaries. We got out to find them tag-team-testifying to Araceli about how baptism is more important than her esposo/boyfriend. It was amazing. (Also funny in that Emma and Araceli were both sitting there nursing...)
We are also continuing to teach the Vega family. We had a fantastic lesson on faith with them this week, but then Frank didn't show up for our Saturday night lesson and they didn't come to church :(. So we went by on Sundaynight and taught just the kids about the Sabbath day and the importance of coming to church. The 14-year-old boy said the closing prayer, and in it he asked: "Please, oh please let us go to church this Sunday, Dear Heavenly Father." The 11-year-old girl told us shortly thereafter: "I really really want to get baptized. I just don't know where the church is!" We are praying that their father's heart will be softened and he will really feel the Spirit testifying to him of the importance of this message.
We met an interesting guy this week on the street. I was a little unsure about how I felt after he told us that he was going to take the picture of Christ from the pass-along card and have it tattooed on him... Oh and we also got proposed to/propositioned 5 times this week. It's been really interesting. Life is crazy. Sometimes I just quote Sister Johnson: "Where am I? Am I dead?" It's just a roller coaster and learning to rely on the Lord 100%.
I have been able to see over and over again that the Gospel is true. I absolutely know that what I am teaching is true. I am still working on applying it, but I know that God lives, that Jesus Christ lives, that Christ's church is on the earth in these days. I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives.
I love you all!
Hermana Houghton
P.S. Sorry I'm not referring you to as many talks - I've been mostly reading them in Spanish these days...
P.P.S. Pictures from our daily run trail (It's been raining a lot):

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Expecting Miracles. . .

Dear Everyone,

As I wrote the subject line for this email I started to type in April instead of June. Basically things have just gone SO fast. My one-year-left mark is in 3 days. What??
So, some fun experiences this week. I told you about Robert and Jasmine in the last email. We hadn't been able to contact them since we saw them last, and we thought we would never find them again. Then last night we were driving to another appointment, all the way across town from where they had lived. I caught sight of a familiar figure and outfit in the yard of one of the trailers we were driving by. I did a double-take because I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was Robert and Jasmine!!
 They were visiting a cousin, and were about to leave. The Lord put them right in our path. It was amazing. They are going to get baptized.
Also yesterday we had a member come out with us to go to some of our lessons. We ended up visiting the Vega family, a part-member family that Sister Clayton and I worked with for a while, and it was great! They let us in and we had a full-fledged lesson on following Christ. Hermano Rodriguez was so blunt and testified so strongly that Frank committed to coming to church! We tried for weeks to get him to even bring the family to church, but he would never come. Yesterday he asked what time church was and said he'd be there. It was an amazing experience of the miracle of member work. We also found probably the only member in the ward who has ever played water polo. It turns out he went to Colombian nationals in swimming. Sister Smaellie and I cracked up.
We also harvested a part-member family this week. The mom is a member, but hasn't been to church in a few years because she has a disabled daughter. We are going to start teaching the dad, and we are excited to see the blessings that living the gospel will bring to their family.
One more cool experience. We were out knocking doors and saw this guy putting branches in a dumpster. He was white (notable only because we try to talk to Latinos as much as possible), wearing an army cap and dog tags, ripped jean shorts and boots. We walked up to him, talked a bit, and told him that the Savior sent us there to leave a blessing with him. We followed him to his trailer and asked him what he needed from God. He broke down. His formerly ordered, prosperous life had fallen apart in the past few years and he just didn't know what to do anymore. We said the prayer and he literally asked us what he needed to do to make his life better. We answered some questions, left him a Book of Mormon, and arranged for him to have a ride to church on Sunday. The English Elders in that area will end up teaching him, but it was a blessing to have met him. It is incredible to see how the Lord prepares people to receive His Gospel, and I am so excited to see what his life will turn into as he comes closer to God.
Out of time but I love you all! We are expecting to see many miracles this week.
Hermana Houghton