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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Livermore, CA Pictures - December 2012


The Livermore God Squad
Hermana Billings, Hermana Green, Elder Dimond, and Elder Perez




Home Sweet Away From Home 


Power generators......,
and some wind mills.


Sister missionary apartment - the orange bathroom.


Sister missionary apartment - media library.



Sister missionary apartment - the study.




Sister missionary apartment - walk-up closet.


Hermana Billings at Via Mateo, aka - Matthew Way.
 



Sister Green and Sister Billings sew a blanket for one of the members in Livermore.



Hermana Billings and Hermana Green.

Monday, December 17, 2012

December 17, 2012 - Livermore


I forgot to tell everyone that I get to teach all the cute latino kids piano! They really want their kids to learn how to play the piano so that they can play for church. I'm really excited! Piano classes start in January as well as English classes.
Con amor, Sister Billings

December 17, 2012 - Livermore



Hola!! Coma estan? Todas estan bien aqui :) And I got the card reader. My companion and I were both very happy when we got it. And all the other missionaries that want to use it are very happy as well. Thanks for sending it! And I got Andrea's package and I already opened it haha not the wrapped present though. I'll wait for christmas. I'm going to write Jessica and Andrea letters later today. We have a christmas tree to put presents under so it'll be fun to have presents to open on Christmas. What is everyone else doing for Christmas this year? What are the chances that you could send a tiny bottle of pure vermont maple syrup for christmas? Even if it's after christmas...it won't feel like christmas without it! So you said you got my message about the gps from matt...does that mean you want me to send it home? Or should I just keep it? I'm not sure how much time I'll have next pday since it'll be Christmas Eve but I could probably still find time to send it. And my eyes are getting kind of bad..I can't see long distances very well anymore so I might need my glasses if you know where they are. Thank you for sending a christmas package. It hasn't arrived yet but I'm REALLY excited to get it :) Oh and will someone tell the Moody family and the Godfrey family thank you SO much for sending me a christmas card. They were both so nice and thoughtful and it made my day to receive them. I'll try to write them thank you cards but I don't know if I'll have time.
So this past week was AWESOME. When I first got here we only had 3 investigators and none of them were progressing but this week we got 9 new investigators and almost half of them are progressing and one of them has a baptismal date for jan 26. His name is pedro and he was a referal from one of our recen converts (antonio). It was crazy because we had planned on going to the english sister's baptism that day with one of our investigator families but they cancelled and every single one of our plans seemed to fall through and our dinner appointment got changed at least 3 times. But it ended up working out so that we could meet pedro that night and he agreed to be baptized in our first lesson. I got to recite the first vision and extend the baptismal invitation. It was such a neat experience! We taught the lesson outside on his porch in the rain because we couldn't go into his house without another sister but the spirit was still so strong. It was just so amazing how everything ended up working out perfectly and I know it was God's will.
My Spanish is slowly getting better. I can say what I want to say but I really struggle with being able to understand them. I can understand all the Spanish missionaries and other white spanish speakers but the natives are SO hard to unerstand. I think Sunday is the day I am the most discouraged. During branch council and church I just try so hard to follow what's going on but I always end up getting lost. And once I get lost it's really hard to focus again. And it's hard not to know anyone...but I'm slowly making friends. There are a few families that I already feel really comfortable with. I found out yesterday taht our branch is super inactive. Only 25% of the members are active right now. So we're definitely focusing on teaching the menos activos.
Without fail every lesson we go into, someone will ask us about december 21 being the end of the world. I think it's funny but at the same time I realize that it's a real fear these people have. We're so lucky to have the gospel to be able to teach us what to do to be prepared. One sister that has been meeting with the missionaries for a long time all of a sudden decided that she wants to be married THIS tuesday so that she can be baptized. We told her it would take longer than that and she was so frustrated. We couldn't figure out why she was in such a hurry all of a sudden and then she said "well you two don't have to be worried because you're baptized but I have to be baptized before december 21" hahah we both thought it was pretty funny. But She hasn't ever come to church because of work so we definitely have some steps to take before she can be baptized but maybe it's a start.
Last week when we were contacting, two people asked US to come teach them before we even offered. I don't know if it's the fear of the end of the world or the christmas spirit but people have been very receptive to us for the most part.
In preach my gospel it says that the number one reason why people reject the true gospel of jesus christ is not because of doctrinal issues it's because of social concerns and we definitely see proof of that every day. And in 2 nephi it says that satan wil lead people into carnal security. People are content with their lives right now but it really is sad that they don't realize that their eternal salvation is at stake.
One nght we had dinner at a members house and they took us out back to see their chickens and he made me hold one. It was the scariest thing I had ever done, I really didn't want it to poop on me! and then it started flapping it's wings so I threw it at Elder Perez. But chickens are really soft...did anyone else know that? Oh another funny story of the week...they have a program here called "vandalists to vango's" is that funny to anyone else? So they give benches and park garbage cans to kids to paint in hopes of keeping them from vandalizing. one our of investiagators is in the program and he's actually a really good artist.
Just about all of the latino's struggle with saying my name. Who knew it was so hard? And they all ask me how I have blue eyes and dark hair. And then they'll just STARE at me for what seems  like forever. I used to feel really uncomfortable but it happens so often now that I just sit there and smile until they're ready to stop starring at me.
Tomorrow we get to help an investigator make tamales so I'll definitely teach everyone when I get home. Who knew that I actually liked mexican food? But i've really loved all of the meals we've had so far. We even went to a real mexican restaurant and I think I liked it...it was hard to tell because my mouth was on fire. Oh and remember that blanket we made for one of the sisters? I finished it on Saturday and it actually turned out pretty terrible but she still liked it. Also on Saturday we had a zone breakfast with the stake leaders and I realized how important faith is. We exercised so much more faith on Saturday and Sunday and it was AMAZING to see the results. For example, we exercised our faith and promised pedro that if he prayed right then and there about baptism that god would answer him and...well he did! I know we can do all things through god if we have faith. God just really wants us to have joy.
Last thing...did Brother Dowdle call? He's going to tell you how to set up google something or other so that we can skype (only with a different program) and do 3 way so that we can talk to Andrea and Jessica too on christmas. With this program we can have as many people as we want. I guarantee scott and or justin and or matt know what it is...it's in google plus. So please ask them if you need help! and let me know exactly what time we need to call.
Okay I have to go but have a good week and I'm sending pictures in another email! Merry Christmas
Love, Sister Billings

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 10, 2012


Dear Family-
The first thing I learned when I got to California is it's COLD! Definitely not as cold as Utah is right now but definitely not the weather I was imagning either. Today is the warmest day we've had so far though. I am going to print off some pictures and send them by mail because I don't have a card reader to send them throgh email today. My apartment is so cute! I can't wait for you all to see the pictures. And we have an orange bathroom. I love it! Oh and the best part is our apartment complex has a gym with treadmills so we've gone running every morning. And yes my trainer likes to run too! As soon as I learned that I knew I was meant to be with her!
So sister Green is from Murray Utah like I said and she has been in the field for 12 weeks. We know we're supposed to be together because there are two native spanish speakers right now who are training English sisters this transfer instead of me. So sister Green isn't fluent yet but she's very close and we're learning a lot together. She's like the happiest person I've ever met and we've already had so much fun together. She can definitely help me a lot and she's so patient and encouraging with me.
Okay so my first day. We met President Watkins, his wife and the AP's at the airport and then they took us to San Jose University to go contacting. I actually really love contacting. It's my favorite part of the day. Our goal is 20 contacts a day so 140 a week and we were over our goal this week. Our mission is 0% tracting. Elder Ballard asked us not to as a pilot program. Instead we talk to EVERYONE that we pass no matter where we're going and we are also more focused on "rescuing" so bringing back less active members and then of course getting referrals from them and active members as well.
After contacting we had a super yummy dinner by a sister in the ward at the mission home and then the elders went to the AP's apt to sleep and the sisters stayed at the mission home. President said not to tell anyone but when the elders left he told the sisters to get in our pjs and we watched The Nativity with popcorn and hot chocolate. He LOVES sister missinoaries and I've been told that he spoils us. He is a father of 5 girls and I think 2 of them have served missions. He said as long as we don't cause or create drama then he loves us.
The next morning I met Sister Green and we went to Chilli's with a member. It was kind of hard to follow the conversation 100% in Spanish but I didn't freak out like I was expecting. That night we had a lesson with an investigator and, as I expected, Sister green made me extend the baptismal commitment. It was so scary and I definitely didn't say it with confidence but Sister Green helped me out. She said she's going to pray about it but we don't think she was too interested.
Sorry this email is going to be all over the place but did you get charged a lot of money for the airport call? I've been worried abotu it. Oh and Mom thanks so much for sending that package. I LOVE sleeping in my bed with my own blankets. I've been sleeping SO good here. I don't know if it's because I'm more tired here than I was in California or what but I think a lot of it has to do with having my own blankets. And the chex mix is so GOOD! Sister green loves it too so when we run out we might have to ask for more. The members feed us lunch and dinner just about everyday so we don't eat our own food very often. I've actually been really surprised that I've loved all of the food we've been served so far. Well except one time. Has anyone had papaya? It's horrible. She asked if we wanted fruit and I love fruit so I was excited and it looked like cantaloupe so I took the plate with more on it and honestly...I almost threw up. Sister green had already taught me that it's super offensive not to finish so I was praying the entire time that I would be able to eat it without throwing up.
All the days have kind of meshed together but somewhere in the past 4 days or however long I"ve been here we've extended 3 baptismal invites and I did all of them...because sister green knows I need to practice. One was in English though. And we've taught lots of lessons. I don't know how many. No baptismal dates....yet. Sunday was really busy. We go to branch council every sunday and that was definitely the hardest to keep up with. I don't think I understood anything that was said. But the sunday school and relief society lessons were easier to understand. Oh and no one plays the piano so I'm the new ward piano player. It used to be sister green but she can only play the right hand.
I already have a few favorite people. One family is the Perez family. They're all recent converts and so awesome! The parents are going to be sealed in May so I really hope I'm still around Livermore when that happens. It's so sad how little these families have though but they're just so grateful for the gospel. One man (gilberto) was telling us how he doesn't have a lot of money but he's content because he has the gospel. It broke my heart.
So story short I LOVE being a missionary. It's a thousand times better than I could have ever imagined. It's also a thousand times harder than I could have imagined but there are ALWAYS tender mercies every single day that get us through the day. Oh also mom, thanks SO much for teaching me how to sew. We went to a sisters house who has breast cancer to do service and she wanted us to make her a blanket for her new grandson. I thought we were going to HELP her but she wanted us to do it for her and sister green didn't know how to use a sewing machine. It definitely didn't turn out as well as your blankets but it still looked like a blanket and I was so happy that I could help.
My ipod speakers are blown out and the music sounds horrible so if anyone is still offering to get me a christmas present an i home would be so great! We only have one cd and we're already sick of it. I'll look at costco today and also someone can ask Matt if he has one because I think he said he had extra speakers.
Here's my address:
 
1736 Paseo Laguna Seco Apt #124
Livermore, CA 94551
 
Dad I know which track photo you're talking about. I have it on my facebook under the HS track pics album and also I think the original is with my hs track scrapbook. Mom probably knows where that is.
 
Sister Green says hi! Oh and we can skype on Christmas so does morning or afternoon work better? And the member's house that we're going to said he'll need your username so that we can add you and have it all ready to go on Christmas. The members are SO nice here. And most people on the streets are nice too. We've definitely talked to some not so nice people but the nice ones make up for that.
I know the gospel blesses families and I'm SO thankful that our family has the gospel. I want every family to have the gospel!!! It's so easy to live the gospel and be happy. When we don't live the gospel we're not happy. Sooooo why not live the gospel? 2 nephi 4:27-30...why would we ever yield to temptation and sin when it just afflicts our soul?
My time is almost up so I need to go but I'm really looking forward to hearing from everyone real soon!!! Have a good week.
Love, Sister Billings

Friday, December 7, 2012

Last Days at the MTC - December 2012

I pestered Kristen for weeks to get me a picture of her barefoot at the MTC and she sent this fitting pose. 
"How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" - Romans 10:15
 
 

Hermanas Johnson, Billings, Snow, and Connely prepare to leave the MTC.

December 5, 2012-San Jose


I made it to San Jose! We met our mission president and wife right when we got off the plane and then we went street contacting at the University. It was so fun! The weather is awesome and my trainer is Sister Green from murray utah. I'll be in livermore for my first area. I haven't met her yet but I'm the only new spanish sister so he already knew who my trainer would be. My p-day is on Monday so I will be able to write a longer email then!
Love, Sister Billings

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December 1, 2012-MTC

Did I mention I get to call home on Wednesday? I'm still not exactly sure if I can call home when I get to the Salt Lake airport or the San Jose one but should I call the home phone? That's what I'm planning on. And I bought a calling card with 500 minutes...only it takes 129 to make the call in the first place. So hopefully you can answer the first time? My flight leaves SLC at 835am so if I call from there it'll be 7 or 730? Not sure. But sometime in the morning so make sure you're awake :) And then I'll be in California at 1036am (Utah time) so I might be calling closer to 11. Dad will you be able to stay home from work that late in case I can't call until I'm in California? Also, I don't know how it'd be possible to talk to Andrea and Jessica too...so if anyone has ideas let me know! 

So this week has been pretty crazy with getting ready to leave for the field. And it's gone by even faster than most other weeks. I'm over my cold now...which means I stopped taking my cold medicine at night which means I'm not sleeping as good anymore haha. Our teachers think (at least they say) that our Spanish is more advanced than any other district they've taught. They might tell that to every district though. I feel like I technically understand everything they teach us, I just can't quite apply it to my speaking yet. But when I write and can take my time with everything I do a lot better. Unfortunately I won't be writing lessons to my investigators though huh? In our fireside last Sunday we learned about the importance of saying positive things to people...especially when labeling them. Make sure you only use labels that Christ would. We also learned, from an old Elder Bednar fireside, the importance of our missions. This mission isn't an "experience" that will be over in 18 months...it's training for the rest of my life and it will shape the kind of person I am. I only have 16 months left to shape the kind of person I will be for the rest of my life! Well obviously there will always be growth and progress throughout my life but 16 months just seems so short. I just pray that I'll always have the desire that I have right now from being in the MTC for 2 months and that is to bring others unto Christ. 

I also realized this week how AWESOME the plan of salvation is. I've never studied it like I have these past two months. We are so lucky to know where we came from before this earth, why we need to experience earth life and what happens once we leave this earth. Such a blessing. I think I've just always taken it for granted. I don't know how you (my parents) talked me into taking piano lessons but I have been so shocked how many people DON"T know how to play the piano. I've been able to play a lot for workshops etc and I think I've taken that talent/ability for granted a lot of my life too. But it's been fun to be able to help out through playing the piano. My kids better take piano lessons. Our Devotional on Tuesday was with a member of the 70 Elder and Sister Gavarret and they were native Spanish speakers with real thick accents but it gave me hope that if they can learn English then I can learn Spanish. And sister gavarret bore her testimony in Spanish and I understood it! It was so cool!! But then she switched to portuguese half way through and I could only pick up a few words and didn't realize she had switched languages until someone told me. Listening to them speak gave me this huge love for latinos and I'm so excited to be working with them next week! I want to share my testimony in Spanish so you can see where I am at the end of my MTC experience...then after my mission we can compare and see how much I thought I knew leaving the MTC...but really didn't: (I bore my testimony in Spanish to our district on Wednesday but it's going to be hard to type because I don't know where the accents are. And I'm sure there are tons of errors!)

Yo tengo gracias a mi Padre Celestial por la oportunidad yo tengo estar aqui en la CCM y preparar servir El y a mis hermanos y hermanans en San Jose. Yo se que sin ninguna duda en mi corazon que Jesucristo vive y cada dia yo siento el amor de Dios y Jesucristo por mi. Yo se que Jesucristo es mi salvador y a traves su Expiaction puedo regresar y vivir con mi Padre Celestial otra vez. Estoy muy agradecido por el Evangelio en mi vida especialmente que mi padres han ensenado estas cosas a mi. Yo se que si obedece los mandamientos, tenga paz y gozo en mi vida. Mas importante yo se que Jose SMith fur un profeta de Dios y hoy tenemos profetas qui gian la Iglesia a traves revelacion de Dios. Tambien, yo se que el Libro de Mormon es verdadero y contiene la plenitud del Evangelio. El Libro de Mormon es un otro testimonio de Jesucristo. Yo ouedo testificar que estas cosas son verdaderas porque el Espiritu Santo ha confirmado. Y yo se que todas personas pueden saber estas cosas son verdaderas timbien a traves el Libro de Mormon y oracion a Dios. Yo digo estas cosas en el nombre de Jesucristo. Amen.

So did anyone know what I said? :) Does Liana have her mission call yet? I swear within the last week every single building is now under construction to prepare for all the new missionaries coming in next year. I'm actually really happy that I'll be gone by then...it's going to be hectic. Our classroom is getting changed into sisters residence so we moved on Thursday to a new buildling...that is super old. Probably similiar to what Dad had while he was here. Tiny desks etc. I guess we were pretty spoiled our first 8 weeks here with padded rolling chairs and big desks and computer labs. But we'll only have 3 more classes in that room. I finished the book of mormon on wednesday...so I read it 1.5 times since I've been here. I was in helamen when I first got to the MTC so I re-started it about a month ago. I can't remember. But that book is SO awesome. And SO true. How could a book that testifies of jesus christ and the bible on just about every page NOT be the word of god? No se. 

Yestereday we had in-field orientation all day and it was really helpful. It made me realize that I really am leaving and I really will be sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with people everyday all day. But it sounds SO fun! And hard. But mostly fun. I realized everything I've been taught here is contrary to what I've been training for the past four years of my life: "Success is given from constant dilligence, not sudden bursts of energy"  What?? I'm a sprinter not an endurance runner! But oh well...I just keep relating it to training for those races. That definitely required constant dilligence. I'll try to comment on everyone's letters now:

Dad- I got a foot picture for you but not by an MTC sign. I don't know where you've been seeing pictures of it...but no one here seems to think it exists. So hopefully you're okay with the one I got. It's on the statue where the missionaries are biking across the world. Not sure if i'll be able to send it today or not. But I will be sending my card home one day. They've taught us a lot about effective ways of finding people whom the lord has prepared to hear the gospel and tracting was not one of them. They did mention the internet as a way...not facebook but some missions do set one up. Mainly using mormon.org to help them answer faq. But that story really is cool. I think you're right...that the elders were led by the spirit through technology. I don't think God allowed the internet to be invented for people to do their christmas shopping. He also has better ideas in store. Sounds like the kitchen is definitely coming along. You'll have to send pictures soon. I think my texas airline ticket was about 300 and then I used my voucher. So 387 might not be too bad. How early did you have to get in line for black friday? I did that once...last year....never again. I don't miss christmas shopping this year. Just the Christmas music. And dad I'm gonna tell you what we tell all of our investigator's when talking about the word of wisdom..you only get ONE body for your entire life on earth so you better take care of it. Did you get your foot in a boot yet? It doesn't sound like you'll be doing soccer next year. Oh and horror stories about the overcharges at the airport for making calls..they charge 20$ a minute if you use your debit card. So I'll just use my calling card. And I can call home for christmas too. 

Mom- thanks for checking my bank account. Did the christmas tree get decorated? I want to see lots of christmas pictures! Will christmas be at your house? And I don't know what the best form of mail will be while i'm in california. Maybe snail mail or email..i guess dearelder still works but you have to pay for it right? Thanks for sending my package! I'm excited to get it. And I have some clothes that I won't be taking to california with me. Actually maybe just one skirt. I might put it in the donation box I don't think it's worth sending home. It's the pink skirt that I already had and it's pretty old so I don't think I'll miss it. So you've mentioned a lot about member missionary work and we talked about that A TON in our workshop yesterday. I don't have time to write everything but here is what needs to happen for anyone to be converted and you can help in any and all of them:
Be invited to investigatte, be taught the missionary lessons, read from the book of mormon, pray, attend sacrament and other meetings, live the commandments including the word of wisdom, law of chastity, law of tithing, fast and hold fhe etc. There are more but those are a few examples. I wish I could role play with you. We role play ALL The time and it's super helpful. Role play with dad haha it'll be a fun fhe activity. Plus your example of how you live and how you've raised your family is missionary work in and of itself. 

Andrea and Jessica- I don't have time to email you back so i'm gonna write both of you real letters before i leave the MTC. I got the package you two sent and I'm so excited to open it!! But i'll wait until christmas even if it kills me. And andrea yes you can give him my address but you should probably wait until I have my california address. Thanks for asking! Jessica I LOVED The pictures of ethan and alex. Super cute. 

Okay I have to go but I'll talk to you soon!
Love, Hermana Billings.