Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Out with a bang!

Dear family, friends, and faithful mission-followers,

My last weekly email! 

We had three baptisms on Sunday, all of whom I believe I have written about. R is pictured here, with his sister L.
 J and RA were also baptized, and they were all so happy. I am excited for them.

 Last District training
My planners with Sister Olsen's
She has a lot to go!
This week I have been quite conscious of 'lasts.' Last exchange, last Sunday, last District training, etc. But you know what? It's been ok. Because 'last' does not mean 'only.' And I have had a lot of exchanges, Sundays, and District Trainings on my mission. I will miss them, certainly. But they leave a lot of space for new 'firsts.' And there will be many 'firsts.' As President Uchtdorf taught in this most recent general conference, in Heavenly Father's plan "there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings."

In the Book of Mormon this week I was struck by the importance of avoiding complacency, especially during Captain Mormoni's epistle to Pahoran. Onward and upward, forever! This work of serving others and saving souls doesn't end, and must be a priority.

Bishop Brown! So cool.

One wonderful spiritual experience this week was after our three baptisms, when Bishop was giving the official welcome to the ward. He was telling these wonderful converts about the importance of sharing the gospel, and our recent convert R exclaimed, "It's like going on a mission! And I'm ready for the journey." The Lord truly has prepared those whom we find, teach, and baptize.

During the course of my mission I've found people who would go on to be baptized in many ways - area book, member and media referrals, investigator referrals, other missionaries' contacts, etc. But I have never simply knocked on someone's door, not knowing who it would be, and then taught and baptized that person. I've seen that the Lord literally puts those whom he has prepared in our paths. Almost 1/3 of my baptisms have come from OYMs, and the rest have come from other people (missionaries, members, or investigators) who give us a referral. Wow! How important it is then to just open our mouths, as missionaries and as members. I love what President Kimball says in his talk "Jesus: the Perfect Leader":

"We must remember that those mortals we meet in parking lots, offices, elevators, and elsewhere are that portion of mankind God has given us to love and to serve. It will do us little good to speak of the general brotherhood of mankind if we cannot regard those who are all around us as our brothers and sisters. If our sample of humanity seems unglamorous or so very small, we need to remember the parable Jesus gave us in which he reminded us that greatness is not always a matter of size or scale, but of the quality of one’s life. If we do well with our talents and with the opportunities around us, this will not go unnoticed by God. And to those who do well with the opportunities given them, even more will be given!"

I have taught and baptized some people whom I would have looked down upon before my mission. I didn't want to even teach them! And now I love them more than I can express. Those with physical, mental, and other temporal or circumstantial challenges are so easy to disregard. But they too are among those noble and great ones, as Sister Ware describes them even the most valiant of God's children. He loves them just as He loves the rest, and they need Him just as the rest do. I am so grateful for the opportunities Heavenly Father has given me to know and serve and love His children.

I love you all!


We were in the office for a few minutes this week and I took advantage of the label-maker to change the transfer board a bit...

Mom's note:  Despite her label-making escapades, noted above, Hermana Houghton will complete her mission and arrive in San Francisco on May 29!  We will miss the tremendous blessings that have come to our family as a result of her mission, but we are so excited to see her and have her be with us for the summer.  She has written "100 Things I Learned on My Mission" as well as some goals. If you're interested in seeing those, she can probably email those to you.  We are so grateful  for her service and example as she has loved the Lord with all her might, mind, and strength!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Full Heart!

Dear family,

My heart is full. I can't believe it is almost over, but I know I've done my best and that's all I can do! I have my departing interview on Saturday with President Anderson and go to the temple with the rest of the departing missionaries next Wednesday, then on to California on Thursday

We had some amazing miracles this Sunday. J and J both came to church (some nice ladies on the bus called us so J could get on the right buses:) along with L and her brother R. J is super solid to be baptized this coming Sunday. Earlier this week he crushed his cigarettes and sold the rest of the ones he had to pay for his bus fare! He is set to be baptized this coming Sunday. J has been out of contact most of the week (troubles with work and her daughter's visa), but finally made it to church! She is praying about being baptized this Sunday as well. L was baptized in 1977 at the age of 17 but went less-active in the early 80s. She contacted us wanting to come back to church, and this Sunday she came along with her handicapped brother R. We found out when she came that her records had been lost, so she will need to be baptized again and R wants to be baptized with her (he doesn't need to be baptized because of his disability, but he can be if he wants to). Ra sadly was down in Homestead visiting a friend in the hospital so her baptism didn't come through :( next week though. 

We had a lesson with the Ws and Brother W is not down with getting baptized on the 25th :( He will get baptized eventually, because this is the truth, but he still has a few things to work through in the faith category. (And we all know the process is faith, repentance, then baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.) It was really fun talking to him though. I taught the lesson (mostly asking and answering questions he had) while Sister Merrill entertained the girls (they are 7 and 13, and so cute). Deep doctrine, so great. I realized how much more I have come to really understand the gospel on my mission.

Out of time, one more experience with an unnamed Sister on an exchange this week.
The spiritual highlight for the day for me was after a failed 12pm appointment, before we harvested. She mentioned to me that she was having a hard time feeling the Spirit as abundantly as she would like to. So I asked her how her reading in the Book of Mormon was going. She admitted that she wasn't reading it as much as she should - that she was reading it almost every day, but not always for a full half-hour (in our mission we're asked to read the BoM for 30 minutes every day, so it's an obedience thing). So before we went harvesting we sat in the car and read the Book of Mormon together for half an hour. We were uplifted, edified, and strengthened. The Book of Mormon is so powerful. I committed her to spend the first half hour of personal study on reading the Book of Mormon, every day.

I love you all so much!! Sorry this is short - I had a lot to write to President Anderson. See you soon!



A not-widely-known occupational hazard of being a Sister Training leader - we spend 3+hours more per week harvesting (walking around outside knocking on doors) than other missionaries, so we get a bit more sun!

Black Jesus! I've met some people on my mission who refuse to take the cards we give them with 'pictures' of Jesus because he's depicted as white... So it was fun to see this one :)

After a long day sister missionaries just like to have fun!

Light Bulb Moments!

From 12 May 2014

Dear family,

It was fun talking to the Soulsbyville Houghtons last night via phone... and weird that it's all becoming so real! Flight plans and everything, gah. Don't worry, it's weird but at the back of my mind. 

First the pictures...

On Tuesday we were out harvesting and started to walk around the side of a house to talk to the people sitting in the backyard. There was a little overhanging window cover thing (metal) and it was invisible... not literally, but that's my excuse. I ran smack into it and got a nice dent/cut in my forehead. Occupational hazards of being tall, I guess.

I saw this at one of the doors we knocked and it made my day.

R came to church again this week (yay!) and was all set to be baptized. But then she got sick halfway through sacrament meeting and had to leave :( But that's ok, next Sunday it is! 

There is a part-member family that we had dinner with a few weeks ago, the Ws. We read from Alma 22 with them, about how King Lamoni's father told God what he was willing to give up for salvation. We committed them all to pray to God and talk with Him about what they were willing to give up. Yesterday, Bishop Brown (who is awesome, btw) pulled Brother W (the non-member) into his office after sacrament meeting and committed him to be baptized on the 25th. So awesome! He has been married to his wife for 13 years and has a step-daughter on a mission. Finally he will be getting all the blessings too!

Oh, someone else really cool - our recent convert S, who's 17, wasn't sure whether his ride was coming to get him for church yesterday, because he wasn't answering his phone. So he got on his bike at 8am (church starts at 11) and rode off. He got lost a few times and arrived at 10:30. I was so impressed by his dedication! Thank goodness that sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.

We had a great lesson this week with a recent convert, M. When we came over she was a little troubled by the fineness of the temple, and had been for a few weeks. She was telling us that God didn't need all that, and why would he want such extravagance when it could help people, etc. Sister Merrill explained that we give our best to God, and I shared my testimony of the purpose of temples as well, but she wasn't having it. She wasn't letting her testimony of the church get shaken, but it troubled her. We shared a lesson on another topic and halfway through she said something about a king and his throne, then turned to us saying, "oh, duh! God is the king and he deserves the best!" It was for me a great example of the Spirit teaching, and the importance of the Spirit to understand truth.

I read Ether in the Book of Mormon this week, and I finally, after 18 months of studying the topic on and off, gained a better understanding of the link between faith and hope. I was reading Ether 12:4 when I thought of some things I'd learned at zone training, about vision. That's really what hope is, having a vision of the possible positive outcomes available through the Atonement. But those outcomes are only available to us (and thus hope-worthy) if we have faith, or in other words have trust in and knowledge of God leading to righteous actions and covenants, which will allow us to fulfill that hopeful vision. It was a light bulb moment. 

Just about out of time, but I love you all a lot! 


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Fort Lauderdate Temple Cultural Celebration & Dedication

5 May 2014

Dear family, friends, and everyone,

Only 3 more weekly emails to go after this one!  As usual, at this point I remember very little about what went on this week. A few fun points..

During Bishop's meeting (like correlation, but with Bishop Brown, who is very involved in the missionary work of our ward), Bishop Brown was trying to find the hymn he was thinking of to start off our meeting. We suggested that he hum a bit of it so we could help him. He turned to us and said, "I gotta tell you... I'm the first black man without rhythm." We died laughing.

Speaking of correlation, last night we were asked, along with some other missionaries in the Ft. Laud area, to help with replacing furniture in the temple after the dedication. More on that in a minute. At one point while we were waiting for the trucks of furniture to arrive and after we had already cleaned the temple to be ready for them, all the missionaries who were there, along with a few members who had come, were in the chapel. Our ward mission leader Brother Jensen was there so we sat down and had an impromptu correlation meeting! I think those plans will go through.

Helping out at the temple after the dedication! We got to
move the furniture back in that had been taken out for
the dedication... Well, the Elders moved it. We
dusted it all off as it came inside and vacuumed :)

So in cleaning the temple we got to go inside the newly-dedicated temple and clean it out - vacuum, dust, and remove the white chairs they had there for the dedication. When the temple furniture arrived we (and I mean the whole crew) unwrapped it, brought it inside, dusted it off (that was our job), and carried it to the rooms where it needed to go. We dusted almost all of the chairs in the temple last night. We left the temple at 9:30 and got home at 10. It was amazing. We wore white booties to protect the carpet and after scanning our recommends they gave each of us a white armband so we wouldn't have to scan the recommend every time we came in and out. I definitely saved mine.

Another amazing thing is that Sister Merrill's recent convert K is going through the temple on Tuesday night for the first time! She is one of three people who will be going through for the first time on the first day of operations, and Sister Merrill and her old companion Sister Karl get to go with her! They are both soo excited. Meanwhile Sister Furner and I get to go on exchanges up in Coral Springs :)

This is MLC at the Andersons' house.

I got to go to MLC, Mission Leadership Council, for the first and last time this Friday. It was fun. We all accounted for our own areas and our stewardships, then were trained by the Assistants on the importance and use of key indicators. Then President Anderson taught us about the faith cycle. We had Sister-Anderson-made lunch, took pictures, and off we went to apply what we had learned!

Sitting by Sister LeBaron and Sister Gordon...

On Saturday we got to go to the Cultural Celebration. Sorry for the use of so many exclamation marks and superlatives in this email, but it is all worth it. We arrived at the Nova University arena and saw all the other missionaries come in. Usually all the missionaries in the mission are gathered only once a year, at the Christmas mission conference. Since September we have been all together five times! So I got to see everyone I have ever served around :) It was fun; and probably the last time I will see most of them as missionaries!

The cultural celebration was great. The gospel singing, sign language, ocean life, mosquito swamp, hurricane, and helping hands were all very fun. But overall I was impressed not so much by the skill of the performers or the quality of the show as by the youth's power for righteousness. I also really really loved the mural at the end of Christ's coming. What you may not be able to see in the broadcast (https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/languages/florida-cultural-celebration/2014/04?lang=eng) is that it is made up of hundreds of pictures of baptisms. All we missionaries were asked to send in any baptismal pictures we had several weeks ago, and there they are! I'm hoping we can get our hands on a copy of it!

The Orellanas are a family from West Palm. I love them.

I got to see a lot of people I knew at the cultural celebration, which was so fun. Members from wards I've served in all over the place! I have served now in 5 different units (6 if you count the two weeks in Miami Shores before we split off..) and I know a lot of people. 
Cesar is also from West Palm. He was baptized less 
than a year before I got there, and was a tour guide 
at the temple every day of the open house. So awesome!
Meeting up with the Kempers at the Cultural Celebration--
Andrea, Aunt Jill, Caroline, Bridget, and HH

And at the end I got to see Uncle Rick, Aunt Jill, Andrea, Caroline, Tarl, William, and Bridget. That was fun :) I didn't even recognize William and Bridget they have grown so much! I am nervous for the family reunion this June.. I enjoyed speaking Spanish with Uncle Rick (well-remembered, btw. I was impressed) and also enjoyed seeing him and Tarl be supportive of keeping rules and getting home on time. Maybe I'm being judgy, but I definitely think that a returned missionary's continued respect and obedience for mission rules shows his character! (so thanks, I'm glad for the example)

One thing that I was considering as we prepared for the dedication on Sunday morning was the fact that from the time from Adam until Joseph Smith, there was one temple on the earth at a time. More counting the temples of the Nephites, but we don't know much about it/them, so we'll stick with that statistic - at least only one in the Eastern Hemisphere at a time. As of yesterday, there are now 143 operating temples in the world! That is incredible. 

And we got to see President Uchtdorf as he came out 
of the temple after the last dedicatory session. He 
came over and said hi to our group across the street too.

The dedication was wonderful. We got to hear from President Uchtdorf of course, Elder Christofferson of the Quorum of the 12, Elder Rasband of the Presidency of the 70, Presiding Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, Elder Kent Richards of the 70, and the new temple presidency and their wives. There were three dedicatory sessions and each one was different - different speakers, choirs, etc. (Oh, and I knew people from the choirs in each of the two sessions we were able to watch! And I think  saw Uncle Rick and Aunt Jill in the first session) I also really enjoyed the cornerstone ceremony. Elder Uchtdorf was giving a blow-by-blow because he had a clip-on microphone, and it was funny as different people were asked to come and put in the mortar. It felt right at home. 

Out of time, write to me! Not much time left to do it in!


Cousins, HH and Caroline Kemper Reid-Reynoso!

R & P are baptized!

The battery on my green watch is finally dead, almost
two years later. So I'm going to keep time using
my pump, and just had to commemorate the watch tan.

A pineapple plant. This photo is actually courtesy of 
Sister Ellett but it was cool so I thought I'd send it anyway..

Another one from Sister Ellett, who is serving in my old
area of Miami Beach English. This is one of my
favorite graffiti portraits in the art district.