Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Our True Motivation is Love

From 24 February 2014

                                      "Cool Grafitti" in Miami

Dear everyone,
Sorry, not much time so part of this is copy-pasted from my email to President Anderson and somewhat more formal than I would normally use, but the stories are the same!
Sister Orton and I have been really working hard to gain trust with the branch, who have not felt a real connection with missionaries and their efforts for a long time. We have realized that what is really important is the internal motivation - if you are motivated by love of God, the branch, and the members and investigators in your area, you will do all you can to build up the branch, and establish Zion in your whole area. If you are motivated by numbers you will have baptisms, yes, but not converts or real growth.
As we have been striving to show the branch that our true motivation is love, they have come to trust us. We've been able to share with them our purpose - which truly is to invite others to come unto Christ, not just unto baptism (although that is of course a main objective in terms of measurable goals). We've been serving every week in cleaning the chapel and helping out as appropriate in callings, classes, and activities. We've been visiting less-actives and reporting back to ward leaders. We've been taking advantage of finding opportunities as we do so, and using the members to help in pulling, not pushing. Less-actives have come back and our recent converts are staying strong. The work is moving forward in amazing ways, and members are starting to do their own missionary work because they trust us to augment their efforts, not take over or destroy them by being intimidating to potential investigators.
The main thing that helps us to keep our forward momentum in all this is following the Spirit. Love, then following the Spirit, hard work and obedience, then results! As we are living the gospel and following the Spirit we can invite and challenge and encourage rather than push and frighten. It is amazing! Our branch and our investigators can trust that we are really following God's will, not our own.
I read in Alma 27 about how this trust can help investigators and members to move forward in missionary work. Ammon wants the Anti-Nephi-Lehi's, whom he loves, to go to the land of Zarahemla and be safe from Lamanite aggression. But they are afraid that the Nephites won't accept or forgive them because of their past wrongdoings. Ammon asks them if they will go if he inquires of the Lord, and they trust him that he won't push them if it's not what God wants. Ammon does so, and they go and are safe. Meanwhile Ammon is trusting in God by knowing that what He wants will be best for the people. We are trying to apply this to our missionary work by doing our best to follow the Spirit always, knowing that it will be the best way, and as we do so we will build trust with others.
So, a cool investigator :) Yesterday morning in ward council we had already known that our amazing investigator Nicole wouldn't be able to make it to church and so we asked members in ward council who could come out with us that night to visit her. A member couple volunteered, whom we would not have thought of as being great member friends for Nicole. Her testimony is very simple, and particularly the husband of the couple (our Elders' Quorum President, who is by the way an awesome member) likes to get into deep doctrine. We'd never taken them out teaching with us before and didn't know if Nicole would be intimidated or even confused. But they are strong members with strong testimonies and we knew that it would work out and they would help her.
During the first few minutes of the lesson we asked them to introduce themselves and she did the same. She told them about how she had lost a child and that still troubled her. Immediately our EQ president went into the story of Joseph Smith being tarred and feathered and losing a newborn child. We were a bit worried. But Nicole listened intently as he went on to explain that Joseph Smith had a vision about those who were raised in the first resurrection being able to raise their children in the millennium. Deep doctrine, but the Spirit was strong and she loved it. Her testimony of Joseph Smith the prophet and the restoration of the priesthood was strengthened, and the lesson was so successful that she texted us last night asking us if she needed to buy a white outfit to get baptized in. What miraculous results from a member's testimony! 
A's baptism day!
BTW, A got confirmed yesterday :)
-B's son J got baptized in the YSA ward yesterday. Her daughter is getting baptized next Sunday in our ward, taught by the Creole elders.
-We're in Miami! What could get better?
-... except that the temple open house is next month! So excited!
Anyway, sum-up.This really is the Lord's work, and the ward's work, not our work. We are just the instruments, here for a tiny bit of time. We can't seek our own interests if we want to see true success. I am loving it. And I love you!!

<3 HH!

A tired missionary.
Also note this bit from HH's snail mail letter this week:
"In other news, you probably wouldn't believe how much of a neat freak I'm becoming.  I've been that way for a few years with the kitchen (?), but it's carrying over to my bedroom.  The study room is next.  Watch out!  But really, I can't deal with messes anymore."
Yes, we may have trouble believing it!

Drinking from a fresh coconut, courtesy of a nice
Haitian guy outside an apartment building.

The prettiest bug I've ever seen in my life. I originally thought it was a sparkly sticker on our car.

Evidence of Valentine celebrations.  Chocolate syrup?
Decadence evidence!

 Our zone! I protested against the sisters always
being the ones in the chairs, but I was outvoted...

This is how we plug the baptismal font so we can use it...
a HUGE iron key (taller than I am)
that you have to put in a water-filled hole
in the ground and try to find the right place to actually turn it...

A lizard

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Straight Into The Action

Eliza instructed us to celebrate Valentine's with pink and
chocolate chip pancakes.  We did.  So our picture
will have to do for now!
Dear Everyone,

Happy day after President's day! Sorry, I forgot to bring my SD card reader today but I will send pics of beachside baptisms and Valentine's day heart pancakes next week!

Straight into the action...

A was baptized yesterday! He is so cool. We have been teaching him for about 5-6 weeks and he took his time but he really understands. He is someone I really admire because he is so constant. He is solid! When he came up out of the water he had the most blissful smile on his face, and it was an amazing spiritual experience to see him baptized. He said afterward that he felt like part of the family now. And he is going to be an amazing member missionary - the second time we met him he asked for some pamphlets to give to his friends!

Last P-day our car got towed. I won't go into details on that, but we got the car back on Tuesday morning. So on Monday evening we biked down to our area, arriving at about 7:00. We prayed and picked a spot near the border to harvest. It is an area we wouldn't normally put as first choice for harvesting because there is so much diversity - Spanish, Creole, and English all mixed together. We would normally have left it to the elders assigned to those languages and waited for English referrals from them. A few doors yielded no results but we kept going.

We saw a lady outside her house and walked up to her. B was very happy to receive us, and after we were inside and she got a chance to look at our tags she told us she was so excited we had found her! She had been baptized in Haiti and was active for 5 years there before coming to the US. She went to the church for a few weeks in Miami before her ride moved and she lost all contact with the church. Shortly after that she married a member of another church and didn't try to find the church again because he wouldn't like it.

When we found her she was so happy! Her husband has been in a nursing home for a few years because of a stroke he had and their family has been wandering religiously. She hadn't seen elders (the ones she would recognize more easily) so she didn't think there was even a church in the area. The Creole elders are visiting her now and her two kids are preparing to be baptized this Sunday. What a miracle! A car being towed and praying for guidance on where to harvest and we found someone I could legitimately see as being the Lord's reason that we somehow don't have a Relief Society president in the branch yet in spite of having several amazing, capable, and active women available to fill the position. Wow.

Lots of other miracles too :) including powerful lessons with investigators and less-actives and divine guidance so that we were in the right place at the right time. Something that I really love about my companion is her willingness to listen to and follow the Spirit. So many times one of us has felt like we need to go see someone who wasn't on our plans, or at a different time, and we've seen that following the Spirit bears fruit!

Last night we followed the Spirit to visit the T family. They were baptized at the end of 2012 and were active but then had some health problems (including hospitalization, a premie baby, and back injuries) and hadn't been to church for months. I had never met them before. Many people would fall away and lose even the desire to come to church after such challenges. I've met some who feel like they can't come to church unless they're going to be able to come every week without fail (yes, that is the ideal but some take it a bit far...) so they just never come. But this wonderful family has been reading their scriptures every day and praying as a family and has been waiting for the day when they will be able to come. They know they won't be perfect, but they're giving everything they've got. I wish more people would copy them!

In my studies this week I was learning about repentance, or a change of heart. Something that I had noticed earlier in my mission is that we usually talk about hearts relating to what we love (Valentine's day being a prime example..). So repentance is really a change of what we love, or what we are willing to sacrifice for. The next day I was reading in 2 Nephi 9:30, which says, "their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god." What a connection! When we aren't willing to repent we are putting our hearts upon whatever is holding us back from repentance, and we are making that thing our god rather than relying upon God the Eternal Father.

Anyway, I love you all!!


Monday, February 3, 2014

Now Serving With the Amazing Sister Orton! And. Please Send Mail!

Sister Lake, the wife of a counselor in our mission presidency. I think she looks so much like Grandma Houghton :)

Dear family,

My granddaughter Sister Lightheart! (+Sister Smaellie and I)
I knew as soon as I saw her that she would be
Sister Smaellie's trainee :) Isn't she adorable?
Somehow the fact that we now have 90 minutes to email gives me less time to get the general email out, because I have more time to send little reply emails! Sorry about that...
We had transfers this week and my new companion is the amazing Sister Orton. I have now been companions with three people who came in at the same time as Sister Smaellie! (including Sister Smaellie herself of course :) Sisters Hansen and Vaioleti stayed in Miami Shores North and Sister Albrecht went up to Palm Beach North, the English area that covers my first area of West Palm North.
Sister Orton is 21, the third child of four, and just came from being in Palm Beach North. She is super-kind and an awesome, obedient missionary. I am excited to work with her!

In other transfer news, I neglected to get a picture with her but there is a new sister in our mission, Sister Hunter, who is from Manteca, CA! That makes 3 missionaries in our mission from schools that play water polo or swim with Sonora - Tracy, Modesto, and Manteca :) Also, Elder Marshall is now in one of the Spanish areas covering part of our area, and my new zone leader is Elder Doria, who was in my district in West Palm all four transfers I was there.

Some North Miami Beach housing. . . .
NOT Hermana Houghton's

I have been informed that I have neglected to tell you about our housing here in Miami Beach English. We actually live in the city of North Miami Beach, which is on the mainland, not Miami Beach (the island), which is very confusing. Our house is a little yellow beach shack with insulation-free walls and tile floors (good thing it's Florida!). There are three bedrooms (one for each companionship + we get a study room while they study in the living room) and two bathrooms, but only one shower. That makes life interesting when we all have the same schedule to get a shower in! We live about 10-15 minutes from the beach.

We have an amazing branch. During the third hour yesterday we had a combined meeting and went over the ward list picking out less-actives we will visit during the 2nd and 3rd hours next Sunday. The energy and spirit in the room was incredible! Afterward we had a branch linger longer and built up some branch unity. Also our new ward clerk made all my fondest dreams come true. We now have a directory with birth dates, family information, and priesthood ordination, and lists of children of record and recent converts of the last two years... I love having information!
One of the long-time members, who actually is the wife of the original branch president of the Miami Shores branch (back in 1991 it split from the Hialeah ward), shared her testimony in fast-and-testimony meeting. One thing she said really stuck with me - "if we build it, they will come." We have been having a really hard time getting people to sacrament meeting. But as we are working to build up the ward (less-active work, helping out in service - we will be helping clean the chapel every Saturday this next month, assisting auxiliary leaders, etc.), they will come!
We have some amazing people right now. I told you last week about E. She is progressing and learning and loving it. She will be baptized this coming Sunday.
In addition, we got an amazing referral from some elders down south on Friday. We visited D and his desires to be part of a church and really come closer to God for his family (he is recently divorced and doesn't get to see his baby daughter often but really takes care of his sisters and nieces and nephews) were amazing. He told us he would be at church, no maybes about it. We stopped by the next morning and his niece told us he had already left. We were so excited. But he never showed up at church. We stopped by on Sunday night and D told us that his boss had called that morning and asked if he was available to work. He had been worried that he would be seen as unreliable if he said no, so he told his boss he would come in. Near the end of the day he had been feeling bad about it and mentioned to his boss that he really should have gone to church. His boss told him it wouldn't have been a problem. D got to thinking that maybe it had been a test from God, and he had failed. He told us that he wasn't going to fail a test like that ever again. So cool!
I love the people, and the work, and the message, and most of all the fact that IT'S ALL TRUE!!
I love you all! Send me mail please? (I did LOVE the Valentine's messages, btw. So cute, and so thoughtful.)

With the Villetas at the adult session of stake conference!!