Monday, November 25, 2013

Going Bananas?

The banana tree finally bore fruit! And tip for those who haven't grown bananas before, you don't want to wait until they're yellow before you take them off the tree, or else the split open and bugs get in :( But they get yellow on the counter!

Picture at the zone conference - Hialeah and Miami Beach zones!!
Dear Family,

Big news this week was great learning experiences at zone conference and during an exchange and putting on a training for ward leaders yesterday.

The theme for our training was a quote by Jeffrey R. Holland, from the January 2012 Liahona:
"It is when an entire mission is united by the strength of every missionary’s integrity, every missionary’s personal covenant keeping, that we move mountains. When there is such unity and power, an endowment from heaven, coming to every individual in the mission, nothing can “stop the work from progressing.” It is in this way that the “truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent.'" 

We really wanted to focus the training on living the gospel, and then have a missionary application. As I've expressed in emails before, it is when we are truly living the gospel, by having faith, repenting, worthily partaking of the sacrament, striving to follow promptings from the Holy Ghost, and enduring in patience, that we have a desire to share the gospel, and we have the Spirit to support us in our efforts. I think that's one of the main reasons mission rules are so exact. Because as we are exactly obedient, we have that desire and that spirit. 

So we did three main segments - faith not fear, sharing the gospel with friends and family, and praying for missionary experiences. The Elders covered the first and third topic while we focused on the second and put together the whole program. We used the story of the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 2:18,20; 3:284:156:15-16) to explain how we can build where we stand, and each talk to those people with whom we regularly have contact, and then we shared Mark 4:26-29, and talked about how the Lord magnifies our efforts. It was great!

At the end, we asked Jorge to share his testimony. He told everybody about how knowing of the gospel had changed his life. It is so important to remember whose work this is! As we focus on God and His children rather than on ourselves, we can work miracles.

Anyway... our zone training was awesome. We talked about the difference between influence of the Atonement and access to the Atonement (the difference is the priesthood ordinances!). President Anderson compared the process of repentance to downloading a program or an app. If you don't complete and accept the download (aka repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost), it's canceled. You have to start over. 

Umm, other fun stuff.

-Last Monday night we had two people sign up to feed us, and we found out when we arrived at the first one that she wanted us to eat while we were there... So we ate two baliadas and were about stuffed. We arrived at the second dinner appointment, which was a part-member family so we usually eat there, and the kids ran up and told us what their mom had made - baliadas! They were all delicious, but I could barely move at the end of the night. P.S. I will make them when I see all of you again, but baliadas consist of homemade flour tortillas, homemade refried beans, crema, and Honduran cheese. You can add meat if you like. They are amazing.

-I love Liliana enough to eat whatever she cooks. End of story.

There were so many bananas that I
couldn't even lift the branch.
So we cut it off entirely and
then dragged it across the yard.
Looks like partners in crime!

-We're teaching this sweet family where the kids speak mostly English and the dad speaks only Spanish (The mom speaks both). Yesterday the 11-year-old asked us if we were sisters, and if not what were we to each other? We laughed and told him that we were partners in crime, which made the kids laugh. The dad asked why they were laughing, and we told him what we had said. He was horrified. "Crime???" he asked. We explained that it was a saying in English that meant we were tight, and he was very relieved. It was hilarious.

Sister Ware after cutting the huge banana branch off,
aka why I have trouble sleeping at night :)

So, my companion is just awesome and decided to write a list of things she's thankful for. I am out of time :( But just know that I am so grateful for the gospel, for my family, and for my mission. I love all of you more than I can say!

 My face when people tell us over text that
our teaching them about eternal
families and following Jesus Christ
made them want to go to their
husband's church so they would be united...

Hermana Houghton

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The World is Wonderful, the Work is Wonderful!

From 18 November 2013
Happy Couple, L & J
Wedding Cake!

Dear Family,

So the pictures basically tell the whole story, and they took most of my email time anyway...

It was Saturday, the day of the wedding, which started at 3 pm. We had received a referral for a less-active family from our Bishop's wife the day before, and they lived in the very northeastern corner of our boundary, far away from the place we had prayed about harvesting. But as we left the house we prayed and decided to go visit the referral at the very beginning of our day. We got up there and the family didn't even live there anymore, nor did we feel good about staying in the area to harvest. As we turned the car around we got a text from the bride-to-be saying that she was scared. We were, providently, less than 5 minutes away from her house. So before leaving that area we stopped by the house, prayed with them, shared a hymn with them, and got her excited for the wedding. If we had gone straight to the area where we had planned to harvest, with our limited time, we wouldn't have been able to stop by. (She got married on Saturday and they both got baptized yesterday)

Baptism Day (November 17), with JG who baptized them!

Overall, It has been the most wonderful experience to teach L and J They have been so open throughout, and I'm often reminded of one of my favorite scriptures in 2 Nephi 26:23 - the Lord God worketh not in darkness. As we have been very open and honest, not being shy or beating around the bush, they have been able to progress because God had prepared them and they had a willingness and desire to act. They have become so much happier as they have the hope of the gospel in their homes and in their lives. 

Other cool things I learned this week! In 1 Nephi 11:17, we discover the basis of Nephi's testimony. During Zone training we were talking about getting to the true desires of our investigators. As I studied more I gained an appreciation of this idea. Yes, any true doctrine will bring the Spirit and will be true. But we all have something that we really, really believe. I saw it even more as I paid attention to the testimonies our members shared when we brought them out to multiple lessons with us. They almost always had one main, individual focus. One member talked a lot about how repentance changes your nature. A recent convert continually shared his testimony that God will bless us as we obey the commandments. Another tells us over and over that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. I always testify that God is our Father, and He loves us. These core beliefs are what makes every other doctrine of the gospel make sense for us individually, so it's crucial that we know our investigators' central beliefs and desires. 

Okay, some funny stuff:

We had to go round up A from singing with the other ward's primary to get her there for even part of the baptism! (plus bribe her with candy). And I'm not sure I've mentioned this thus far, but the other ward is called Doral, pronounced differently from Grandpa's name but hey :)

Also, we found out why J's family couldn't come until the 16th, aka the reason the whole wedding and baptism were pushed back. The Brazil-Honduras soccer game was on the 16th. So all of the men went to the game, which was nearby, right after the wedding. 
Hermanas Houghton & Ware with the couple!

The whole week was crazy. Life is going well though. Hopefully you got the pic from Elder Thompson of R's baptism - yay for not having a camera charger! (P.S. Would you mind sending that pic to me please?)

The world is wonderful, the work is wonderful, and the Lord is even more so!!

I love you all!!!

L&J with the sisters from the ward who put the wedding together.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sick, yet able to do enough.

Dear family,

I LOVE YOU!! Not much time (the library was closed so we're at our amazing ward mission leader's house in the evening...), but I'll try to include the pertinent parts. 

This week I was sick. I started coming down with a cold on Monday, but was okay until Wednesday, when I couldn't stay awake or breathe during studies, and ended up resting a large portion of the day, only getting out for the evening.On Thursday I was feeling better, and after weekly planning we went out, but shortly thereafter I lost all energy and really wasn't sure I could keep going. We called our district leader and his companion and met up at the church so I could get a blessing. Afterwards I was feeling a little better, and so we decided to go look up a name we had pulled from former investigators (taught by Sister Clayton when she was in Hialeah!) in the Area Book. His main obstacle when he had been taught over a year before had been tithing. 

We left a harvest blessing with R and invited him to baptism. He said he wanted to, but couldn't because he couldn't pay tithing. We explained the doctrine (windows of heaven), the application (10% of what we have, not a set amount), and testified strongly. He committed to live the law of tithing and be baptized. Right after he committed I started getting woozy and knew I had to sit down. At the end of his prayer I was very close to passing out and ended up lying down on the doorstep with my companion sitting by me and R looking on awkwardly, and some random English-speakers in a care facility next door singing Southern Gospel hymns. Happily we were able to leave without me actually passing out, and Sister Ware made me go to bed :/. Throughout the next several days we only got out for a couple of hours every day, but we taught R the main doctrine he hadn't understood before that helped prepare him for baptism (repentance), and had his baptismal interview. Things worked out, thanks to the Lord's intervention, and he was baptized yesterday! Sadly I lost my camera cord and nobody in my district has the same camera as I do, so I can't charge it... Our district leader's companion took a picture and hopefully already sent it but if not will send it to you next week! 

I saw the Lord's hand so strongly in this experience. He knows exactly what is going on, and although I was weak and couldn't do as much as I wanted to do, we were able to do enough.  

Yesterday for personal study I prayed about what I needed to study and this experience came to mind. I knew I needed to study the ways that I could be a 100% missionary all of the time. During the time when I was sick this week I worked efficiently and, thanks to the Lord's intervention, effectively. I gave it all I could, even if all I could wasn't very much, and He made up the rest. I studied in Alma 17 and 18 to learn from some of the great missionaries of the Book of Mormon. One part that really struck me was that these missionaries were able to have the spirit of prophecy and revelation, and teach with power and authority, because of their prayer and fasting. They had God's power in their work because they were really doing His work in His way. They were constantly seeking His will and doing their best to align their wills to His. They accepted the circumstances they were given and did their best with what they had. 

Other cool things: during my sick time we got an amazing referral for a lady whose brother just got baptized in Mexico. By the second time we went over LD had read from the title page to 1 Nephi 10 in the Book of Mormon! Her family (2 teenage sons + husband) came to church with her, and one of her sons is already sharing the Book of Mormon with others!
L and J are getting married this weekend! The ward has taken over and it will end up being a huge affair. So exciting!!

Sorry, out of time. More details next week. Love you much!


P.S. Aloe juice is amazing!!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I Get Another Transfer in Hialeah With Sister Ware!!!!!

Hermana Ware, Alma, and Hermana Houghton--We didn't match on purpose!
Dear Family,


That's the big news for today :) After an FHE last night at a member's house, I told Sister Ware that I could not leave Hialeah. Happily the Lord blessed me and I get to stay! Also, I will be here for L and J's wedding on the 16th!

AL, A, J, A, A2, and O (friend/relative of AL, whom L keeps on inviting to church - she's already a missionary!)
Speaking of them, some little tidbits:
-L is hilarious. We had an activity on Saturday night at the church and she asked me how I liked the tamales she'd given us, then when I told her we'd eaten them for breakfast she casually asked if we'd had some coffee with them. I said no, of course, and my mind was racing. 'We have to teach her word of wisdom again!' I thought. Last night at the FHE she asked me again if I had drunk coffee for breakfast, a little bit of cafe con leche. One of the members, scandalized, told her that we don't drink coffee. L couldn't hold a straight face anymore. She knew the word of wisdom and had been messing with me the whole time!
-At the FHE last night J was our volunteer in an object lesson. We were teaching the role of the holy ghost and blindfolded him, spinning him around and then telling him to listen for the voice of the Holy Ghost to help him find the door. It was a little bit too easy and he went straight to the door. But he made up for it by saying that he didn't need any more promptings, he knew where the truth was, in the church, and he was going to go straight there and never vary. So awesome!
-A turned six about two weeks ago. We got her some cute earrings from the Dollar Star and gave them to her on Wednesday night during the activity. She ran into the RS activity and made her mom put them on her during the middle of the lesson :)

JO passed the sacrament for the first time yesterday!! And I forgot to tell you about AL. She is the YW president in the ward but had been in Honduras on a business trip for my entire time in Hialeah until about two weeks ago. JO had told us, his first Sunday at church, after seeing some pictures in the hallway, that he knew her. J (L's fiancee) has been her best friend since elementary school. Sister Ware met her months ago when she came on an exchange to Hialeah. I was the last one to know her :) but finally met her two weeks ago. She's great. When she first saw JO at the activity a week and a half ago she jumped on him and cried. She told us last night that he was her first neighbor in this country, and was like a father to her. The gospel truly brings families together - families of blood and families of spirit. 

I've told you briefly about the older gentleman who had left the church for 40 years, and then met and married an amazing active member and came back to church. He's the one who we challenged to read a page of the Book of Mormon every day a while back. They feed us about every other Sunday. His wife has told us numerous times that she has seen President Hinckley's promise about reading the Book of Mormon come true in their lives. They're going on a trip today, for about a month, and he called yesterday to tell us that he was going to keep reading while he was away. His wife sent us a farewell text last night (knowing that most likely one of us would be gone by the time they got back (but not anymore!)) with the hope that we 'sean siempre esa luz que brilla en cada hijo de nuestro Padre Celestial.' SO SWEET!

We have a new family to teach! They're very busy so we're having the actual first lesson tonight, but they are wonderful. C and N are the parents of NA and another girl whose name I've forgotten, who are 11 and 12. We walked up just as they all got home last Tuesday. We left a blessing, which they loved, and then told them where the church was. N got so excited! She told us that some kids (missionaries) had visited her mom for a while when she'd lived with them, and that she (Noemi) had been wanting to go to our church for a long time. They came to church on Sunday and are committed to coming back and getting baptized. The Lord truly prepares people. 


Our district! Elder Carver (just finishing up his first transfer), Elder Allen (crazy face, Elder Carver's trainer), Elder Williamson (so funny, leaving Hialeah tomorrow), Elder Hunter (our district leader, looks to me a lot like Cory), Sister Espinoza (Utah-Chilean, fireball), Sister Fletcher (her companion, also a bit of a fireball), the crazy one, Sister Ware (a lot crazier than you would think :)

How Beautiful the Work of the Lord!

From 28 October 2013

Dear Family,

This manatee was not the one actually sighted,
but it is important to note that manatees have been
Eliza's favorite animal for years!

This week I saw a manatee!!!! In a canal! We really only saw its tail, but it fulfilled all of my wildest dreams! And the next day the men sitting by the canal told us there had been an alligator earlier in the day, but we missed it :(

We've been working in a very hard section of our area - there are many people who know they need God, but they're down on their luck and they have a hard time trusting God because they feel abandoned by Him. We've had some cool experiences, but not a lot to write home about yet.

I was talking to a man outside of his home and gave him a Gospel of Jesus Christ pamphlet. He looked at it more closely and jumped in the air. He was gleeful as he told me, "I'm a member of this church! I have this book!" He had been baptized in California but hadn't been to church since coming to Florida (who knows how long). 

We brought a member out with us on Saturday afternoon and had people who had no interest beforehand listen. We'd taught a lady named Sandra a couple of times, mostly because she was always sitting outside as we walked by. She hadn't accepted anything we'd said, and refused to even take a Book of Mormon. When we brought Hermano R out, she told us that she didn't want to listen because she felt like she'd lost all her faith in God, as a result of of all the things she'd gone through and done. Hermano R told her about Elder Holland's talk in the April conference, and that all she needed was a desire to believe. He helped her pray, where beforehand she had refused to even try. At the end of the lesson she asked us for a Book of Mormon. When we were starting another lesson down the street, she walked up and joined in. Her change of countenance was amazing! She became animated where before she'd been hopeless, free instead of trapped. 

The area where we've been working is at the very southern boundary of our area, about 25 minutes away from the church. We had a lot of people commit to coming to church who didn't have transportation. We asked two of our amazing members to come with us to pick them up for church, and we even got on the way early. But we soon found out there was a problem - a huge bike race was going on along the main east-to-west road we needed to cross to get to the bottom of our area. We were stuck in traffic for half an hour before we rerouted and finally got there - at 9:05 (church starts at 9). We ran around the neighborhood trying to round up the people who had said they would come - only one was even home, and said she was sleeping and wasn't coming. It was devastating. But our solid member missionaries were supportive and helpful throughout - they even stopped and invited all the people we saw to come to church! They worked hard and although the recompense isn't visible now, it is wonderful to know that the Lord will reward them for their service and patience.

Our ward had its annual talent show and Hispanic Heritage night on Friday. Most of the talents had to do with dancing, which was weird as a missionary - listening to music, let alone watching people dance, is very foreign. There were tables of food from different countries - Honduras, Cuba, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, and America, just to name a few (at the American table they had hot dogs and lots of store-bought cakes and pies :) Sister Ware and I decided to be smart and try all of the food. We did this by each taking a plate of food from a different table, stashing it in another room, and then going back to get plates from different countries. We got quite a variety of food, and there's still some in our fridge! The Honduran and Cuban foods were my favorites of the night.

L and J are going to wait to get married until his brother can come from New Orleans on the 16th. This probably means that I won't be here for that or her baptism :( but they are doing amazingly. L made food for and danced in the talent show, now has an assignment at church (washing baptismal clothes), and signed up on the food list to feed us.

Transfers are next week so P-day will be on Tuesday, and we'll find out then whether I'm staying or leaving Hialeah East, the best area in the best ward in the best mission in the best church in the whole universe!

Oh! One more thing.
This week I had a quiet but very rewarding experience. Our chapel is undergoing construction, so the RS room is out of commission. All of the classes are moved around because of it. Yesterday at church the Priesthood class had to move from the room where they'd started because it wasn't big enough, and Sister Ware and I were in the hallway as they all passed. I had a small glimpse of just how important our work as missionaries is. As the members of the Priesthood passed by us, probably about 20 or 30 in total, the people who weren't there three months ago really stood out to me: a less active who had accepted the challenge to read a page of the Book of Mormon a day; a recent convert who before we met most likely would have been drunk and miserable and alone

on a Sunday afternoon; another recent convert who had a first lesson, disappeared for two weeks, and then found us again, having read the whole Book of Mormon; a less active who hadn't been to church for 14 years, and will soon be married to his girlfriend, who will then be getting baptized, and they will be raising their five-year-old daughter in the gospel... I feel so privileged to have been an instrument in the Lord's hands as He accomplishes this work. I knew in the moment that they all passed that there is great value in everything that we do as missionaries. These men, and their families, will have the chance to build, or rebuild, their lives upon the Rock of our Redeemer. They will be worthy holders of the priesthood as they press forward with faith. How great is our calling, how beautiful the work of the Lord.

I love you all! 

Hermana Houghton

Pictures that caught Hermana Houghton's attention this week!

Water Polo sticker!

The Fort Lauderdale temple - almost done!
A mini dog

Mission Conference

From 21 October 2013

Look at the mission picture! I'm one seat to the left of Elder Oaks, in the row right behind. Elder Marshall is in the third row from the top, middle-right, and Elder Low is in the row below him, two people to the right.

Dear Family,
This week we had another mission conference. Usually they're only once a year, at Christmas, but we've had two amazing general authorities come speak to us in the last couple of months. On Saturday we met Elder Dallin H. Oaks. He talked with us about making our aim the temple - as he said (and President Anderson quoted him from an earlier talk) "Baptism is essential. But it is not sufficient. If we're not baptizing them to get them to the temple, then why are we baptizing them?" The Fort Lauderdale Temple is very near the end of its construction. We drove by it on our way to the mission conference and it was thrilling! It looks done from the outside.

Elder Oaks also talked about making the temple, and temple covenants, our aim as missionaries and members. After all, the mission ends eventually, but covenants don't. One funny quote from him about what many returned missionaries do: "doggone guys don't get married! They spend their time 'hanging out,' which if it's not a sin is pretty close to it!" (there was some pulpit-banging in there too :) 

Then he talked about the process of gaining a testimony. Basically what it comes down to is that the Lord doesn't answer academic questions. He gives answers that will change lives. You have to have real intent - meaning that you ask for an answer in order to be able to act on it. If you ask to know if the church is true just to know, you're not guaranteed an answer. But if you ask in prayer; "If you give me this answer I will be baptized," or "if you give me the knowledge that the church is true then I will be a faithful, enduring-to-the-end member," then He will answer. It was a really great focus, for missionary work and for life. 

I may be using what I learned about getting answers as I am applying to school... and I started reapplying today. Gulp! I am printing out a list of majors and minors and figuring out what's going to come of my life! But only on p-day :) The future is not going to distract me from the 'now' of missionary life. 

So, things that happened this week. L and J are getting married!!! We called a bunch of courthouses and an embassy and now everything is set up so that they can get married this weekend, with just a little bit more effort with papers and interviews. Of course his sister now wants them to wait until the 16th of November, when she and her family (her husband is a Bishop in New Orleans) can come. We're encouraging them to not wait to get legally married or baptized but have the actual wedding ceremony on the 16th... It will all turn out like Heavenly Father wants it to, since we're doing our part, so it's all good :) Oh, and they're already amazing member missionaries. L is working with some family friends to get them involved; her friend's daughter, the niece of a member, almost got baptized a while ago (probably a year+), but her mom pulled her back. Yesterday L brought the daughter and her sister to church. And J is talking with their neighbors who are less-active members, working to get them back. So great!

Yesterday at the end of Relief Society the teacher (we missionaries sometimes call her the chocolate lady because every once in a while she just brings chocolate to give it to all of us) had Hershey's kisses for everybody. She poured them all out onto a plate and another lady (mother of two rms and one of the more strong-willed women in the ward. She started liking me when I interrupted her during her Sunday school lesson because we had been waiting and she didn't give us a chance to talk :) went around handing them out. She gave two or three kisses to each lady as she passed. We were sitting near the back of the class. I yawned right before she got to us, and so she looked at me and gave me a whole handful of kisses. Then she looked at me again and gave me another handful... and another... and one more. It was pretty comical, and I was happy!

After church we had another wonderful experience (better than chocolate). That morning we had gone to round up some investigators. As we got out of the car we saw a man whom we had harvest blessed but hadn't been able to teach the next day because he'd had to go to work. We re-invited K to church, and he said he was going to come. When we left the neighborhood he was still outside his house, and said he was about to leave. He didn't show up for sacrament meeting. Then as we were going to Sunday school he walked in the door. He came with us to the other ward's sacrament and we left him in Priesthood meeting. After church we lost him talking to other people, and finally went back to the Priesthood room to see if we could find him. We did, and he was surrounded by five of the strongest Priesthood-holders in the ward, including our ward mission leader and Elder's Quorum president, and our amazing recent convert Jorge. They were teaching him about the Plan of Salvation. We jumped in on the lesson and bore testimony about Jesus Christ and His power in His church. He was crying, and said that he'd been needing this. He is getting baptized this Sunday!

Something that I really loved from the Book of Mormon had to do with developing the faith to drop people. Throughout my mission I've looked at it in different ways: prioritizing our sacred time to teach those who truly want to progress; leaving former investigators in the Lord's hands, trusting that they will have another chance to accept the gospel; planting seeds; questioning whether they were truly elect and my own discernment was off, or if they weren't elect from the beginning; trusting that the Lord has prepared people who are searching for the gospel; putting a focus on finding; knowing that we as missionaries do not have a veto power in the work of salvation, simply a sustaining power, and so the Lord's will, will be done... There are so many ways to see it. I really loved reading in the Book of Mormon this week about the Lord sending his representatives to the people they needed to teach, and knowing exactly where they were supposed to be. If we are doing our best to be receptive to the Spirit, and giving all we have to the work, the Lord will not let us drop permanently those people whom He would have us teach and baptize. He sent many of His prophets back a second time. Alma, Samuel, and Abinadi are just a few examples. They had the faith in the Lord, and in the fact that declaring repentance and bringing about salvation are His work, to move on, and He made sure they were where they needed to be, when they needed to be there.

I love you all! Do your best and pray for opportunities to be where the Lord needs you, and doing what He wants you to do and you will see miracles.