Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Another Me In the World and Warrior Womens of God

Clouds in Florida
Hello dear family and friends!

Sister Ware and Sister LeBaron switched places.
I miss that girl!
I have some disturbing news to tell you... there is another me in the world. Yep, you heard me right. My new companion Sister Ware and I are basically the same person. And let me tell you, that has boosted my self-confidence through the roof, because she is amazing! We have a ton of fun together and get a lot done. We tend to say the same things at the same time a lot though, which can be awkward when we're teaching a lesson.
Some highlights from this week...
Late on Tuesday night (okay, it was only 8:45, but by that time we're pretty much dead :) we didn't have time to go to another appointment so we went to buy gas near our house. As the gas was pumping I felt like I should go talk to a lady who had just gotten out of her car on the other side of the pump. I was going to offer her a card and invite her to be baptized, but as I talked to her the words came out of my mouth wrong. Instead of saying "Jesus Christ sent us here to give you a special invitation," I said, "Jesus Christ sent us here to give you a special blessing." We left a powerful prayer with T and her 16-year-old son A. On Wednesday night, we went to have a lesson with them. T told us that she knew that God had sent us because before we drove up she had a blinding headache. When she briefly opened her eyes and saw us, it receded so that she could think again and she got out to breathe fresh air. After the blessing it went away entirely.
It turns out that she and her family have been looking for a church to go to after their old Baptist church went under. She has been wanting her 13-year-old daughter E to get baptized, and she feels a need to be part of a church. Angel has been attending Catholic school and thinking seriously about joining the Catholic church. They accepted baptism whole-heartedly and were excited to learn more.
Fast-forward to Sunday. Amid school preparations we weren't able to see them between Wednesday and Sunday besides a drop-by to give the kids English Books of Mormon, and once when we sang a hymn with their disabled grandmother who was out on the porch while they were gone one evening. We went by the house on Sunday morning to remind them about church, and were so happy when A came into the broadcast of stake conference. Sadly the other two were busy, but he was there. All during the broadcast, which was a bit fuzzy and didn't have great sound (plus it was in translated Spanish and he prefers English), I was praying that he would feel the Spirit. Well, he did! President and Sister Anderson and Elder Craig A. Cardon of the 70 helped :) Right after it ended, I turned to him and asked how he felt (really good), and then how he felt about preparing for baptism next Sunday. He started nodding his head and kept on repeating, "Yes, I want to." I asked him why and he just continued to say that he wanted to get baptized next week. It was awesome. I love seeing that there are people out there who are really searching for the truth, who have faith in God and act on promptings of the Spirit when they hear it.
Speaking of which, P. She is a member referral from two members in another ward. She actually lives in yet another ward's boundaries, but she wants to attend our ward (we actually don't know why, but she's been rather insistent). She's in her 20s or early 30s, recently divorced, and fairly recently arrived from Honduras. Her friend gave her a Book of Mormon when she had been having a hard time, and she loves it. We've had amazing lessons with her, she really recognizes the Spirit (she always wants to meet in the chapel because she loves how it feels to be there), and she told us that she knows God sent us to give her this message. During stake conference she was sitting next to Sister Ware, and a few minutes into the last talk she leaned over and, after pausing for a second, told Sister Ware, "Me quiero bautizar," or "I want to get baptized" !! After the broadcast she asked us if she could get baptized next week. The women in the ward have embraced her, and we are so excited to see how much the gospel will bless and change her life as it becomes part of her.
We may have gotten a text from a former investigator (we stopped seeing him because he wasn't progressing) that said, "I need warrior womens of God by my side, i got big challens in my future."
Oh the life of a missionary. I love you all!!!
Hermana Houghton
Sister Quiocho (Sister Ware's trainer) and Sister Clayton
are companions and Sister Training Leaders.
They're our mission moms.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Last Week With Sister LeBaron :(

Hermana Houghton with a huge mango!
Dear Everyone,

As usual, I don't even know where to begin. I guess I'll go with Luke's English advice and start off with the weather!

We don't have a thermometer, so I don't actually know how hot it has been. I do know that it has been quite warm. Happily I have adjusted to it, so although I notice it, the heat doesn't bother me too much. You just get used to dripping with sweat all the time :) The humidity is sticky, but I've gotten accustomed to it as well. Usually it's not too big of a deal. However, it necessitates quite a lot of water consumption. We're advised to drink 6 water bottles a day, at least. I usually end up drinking seven or eight water bottles' worth of water - a change from the two to three cups of water I would drink per day at home!
Our house, with a strange person in the light!
Cockroaches are also something that I didn't experience a lot of at home. We don't see the big ones inside too much - the record was two in the house in one night. Medium cockroaches, around 1/2 inch, are pervasive (we usually find them in the cupboards with our dishes daily), and baby ones (1/4 in) are all over the kitchen as well. We use a lot of Raid. Also, all of my food is air-tight in plastic and I wash dishes before and after using them. It's a daily battle.

I don't think I've mentioned this before, but apparently I'm almost Cuban. I've been told that I look very Cuban, I speak quickly, and I'm good at taking over conversations. I'm going to Cuba at some point when I get back from my mission. 4-5 people have offered to be my tour guide when I go and our recent convert J is honestly planning a trip with Sister LeBaron and I for next August :)
R with vodka and cigarettes

Okay, onto some more spiritual stuff/experiences. We had just about given up on our investigator R M (not to be confused with our recent convert R A.). He wasn't progressing, and wouldn't act other than reading in the Book of Mormon. We visited him on Thursday night and had an amazing lesson. Then on Friday night he told us he had to move. We asked him simply what time we could come over the next day to help.

He almost started crying. We started the lesson, taught with the Spirit, and were near the end. He looked at us and told us that we had convinced him that this was the true church, because of that simple question. Our offer to serve helped him to feel the Spirit, which allowed him to gain a testimony of the truthfulness of our message. Some things came up so he couldn't come to church on Sunday, but our Sunday night lesson led to the picture below.

We have another investigator, H. The Elders found her, and have actually been teaching her and her family (who live in their area, and are a big extended family), but she lives in our area so they passed her to us. She came to church on Sunday and is preparing for baptism this Sunday. We had a group lesson (four missionaries and four investigators...) yesterday that was really powerful. Near the end we asked Hailin why she wanted to be baptized. She told us simply that she knew this was right, and would help her to live a better life and be a better person. It was amazing to see how her testimony grew so quickly and strongly. She trusts in God, and it is fantastic!

Yesterday at District Training we did a "real play" instead of a role play. We were working on exercising the faith to find. So each companionship was instructed to pray about where to go, go out, and leave a harvest blessing that would find someone ready to be baptized. Sister LeBaron and I went to a street that we both felt really good about. Then we got rejected from two doors. We left a mediocre blessing with two men who just weren't interested at all, and then left another blessing that was rejected. We knew we needed to head back to the training, because everybody would be waiting, but Sister LeBaron felt really strongly that we needed to fulfill our purpose in coming out. As we were about to drive away, we saw a lady walking a dog, and decided to go up to her. As soon as we told her that we were representatives of Jesus Christ, I told us she knew that God had sent us to her, and that she really needed a prayer. She had said her first prayer in a long time that morning, because of some trials in her life, and she'd also just seen God's hand in getting a new job miraculously. She felt the Spirit strongly during the prayer and accepted baptism, church, everything! It was an amazing experience. Oh, and one more thing. She just moved into the area three days ago.

Okay, I've got to go. But I love you all a lot!! Thank you for continuing to remember me as time in the mission field goes on! (8 days until I'm halfway done with the mission, yikes!)

Hermana Houghton

P.S. I can't believe I almost forgot to mention this! Sister LeBaron is being transferred tomorrow :( I'm going to miss her a ton, and was hoping that we would have another transfer together in Hialeah. However, the Lord is in the work and I'm sure I will love my new companion a lot... More details next week. Love you!

 With the Cardenas family - all matching!

The banana tree in our backyard is bearing fruit!! So excited. 

 A little bit of Spanglish: "superese" = super-easy.
 The rest says roughly, "Learn English and become a citizen."
 Manatee mailbox

Pictures from the car crash! We have a ford fusion now.

Sister LeBaron after a rainy bike ride.

Road-side fruit stand

 This book was in our chapel's library.
Bonus points if you know where it's from :)
(Marta does!  She used to have this book)

The parrot that helped us with round-up
(getting people to church/waking them up)

 Pouring out beer

Florida air conditioning!
 Yes, this is for real.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Many Are Called

Dear Everyone,

This week has been crazy. I don't even know where to begin. We have dropped most of our investigators and will be starting from scratch on finding.
I learned something very valuable this week, applying Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-36, which reads: "Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson— That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven."
If you change a few of the words, you could say that "there are many who receive a testimony by the Spirit, but few are baptized. And why are they not baptized? Because... they do not learn this one lesson - that the rights of the priesthood are necessary to receive the powers of heaven unto salvation."
When investigators don't understand the significance of the restoration of priesthood keys - that God really does have just one church, and that His priesthood order actually has meaning; and in fact is essential - they allow the challenges of the world to overcome them and they don't accept the truth.
Two of our investigators who seemed the most ready for the gospel fell into this trap this week. It wasn't that we didn't teach them the Restoration, or the priesthood, or its importance. But they didn't understand it. They were unable to sustain their personal conversions, denying the witness of the Spirit and allowing opposition to keep them from receiving the ordinances of the Gospel.
However, this experience has really helped Sister LeBaron and me to grow as missionaries and individuals, and evaluate and strengthen ourselves. I applied what I learned from the Book of Mormon this week with these two investigators: we got to the point where we had no effective tools except "bearing down in pure testimony against them" (Alma 4:19). We did so, listening to the Spirit the best that we could and trusting in the Lord. Everything is in the Lord's hands. And we maintain our hope and faith that their hearts can be changed as we do and have done all that we can, applying something I loved in 2 Samuel 12:22 this week: "Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me (and to our investigators who have faltered)?"
In other news... Sister LeBaron and I have decided that we're not going to transfers. If they want one of us to leave they'll have to come get her and drag her away, kicking and screaming. We went to the flea market in Opa Locka today (similar to the ones in the CA central valley) and had a ball. We both got Cuba watches and we now have matching shirts :)
We have an awesome investigator, David. He should be Young Single Adult doesn't want to commute to the YSA ward. We taught him once this week and weren't able to see him the rest of the week because he picked up a new job. We had a really cool experience with him on Sunday. He had worked the night shift and gotten home just as we called him to remind him about church. He said he was too tired and couldn't come. So, being the diligent and energetic (and insistent) Sister Missionaries that we are, we went over to his house. We testified about the importance of Sacrament meeting and he said he would try to come for the first 20 minutes, just to see the Sacrament. Then he showed up and stayed for the whole meeting. He has a baptismal date for this coming Sunday, and we will be teaching him over the phone on his lunch breaks.
We also had some miraculous experiences with less-actives this week. We went over to visit Arturo, the one we met at the bus stop last week, on Saturday night. We taught a powerful lesson on the Sacrament, and he ended up coming to church! We also learned that he is probably has dyslexia, and so were grateful to be able to tell him that the Book of Mormon apps now have audio options. We really saw the love of the ward with a recent convert Naomi. She wants to be active but her husband doesn't. They have three kids under the age of 8, one of whom is very actively autistic. It is a struggle for her to be at church, let alone bring them there. But during sacrament meeting six or seven different people helped her - sitting next to her, taking the kids out of the room, or helping to control them. It was really amazing. On Sunday afternoon we also ran into two less-actives of many years, just talking to people on the street. One of them is coming to church next week, having felt like something is missing in his life but not having realized that it was the gospel.
MISSIONARY LIFE IS CRAZY! But so worth it. And I've decided that ice cream is a necessity for Sundays. Because you need it after church either for celebration or consolation. But anyway...
Love you all!
<3  HH

Ducks on the road. They wouldn't move so we had to go around
them to avoid them. They're definitely Miami ducks.

Sister LeBaron enjoying a -Florida breakfast. 
Mangos are amazing!

Sister LeBaron--I don't think this needs any explanation.