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Monday, January 28, 2013

January 28, 2013 - Livermore

Hola famlia! This week went by faster than any other week in the mission I think. I think time speeds up the longer I've been out. If I would have had an entire mission like my first 3 months I would have said missions are easy but the past week proved me wrong. As far as investigators go, no one really is progressing. Besides Blanca. She is still planning on being baptized this Saturday (Feb 2) so we've been busy planning for that. I hope everything works out and goes according to plan. Extra prayers for Blanca are definitely welcome!! Our last lesson with her (tithing) was with her husband and he readily accepted paying tithing. I think one day soon he'll like to investigate the church like his wife. And I hope he makes it to her baptism. Blanca bore testimony about Joseph Smith to her husband and it was awesome! Did I already tell you that she chose the stake president to do her baptism? I still think that's funny. But when I asked him, he was more than willing to help out.
We got a lot of new investigators this week- I think about 9. All of them were former investigators that we found in our area book. Hopefully there will be some baptismal dates coming up soon. Erika (who had a baptismal date) didn't come to church on Sunday so we had to drop her date. And we haven't heard from Pedro since Christmas. It was actually kind of funny with Erika on Sunday. I texted her to see if she was coming to church and she said "Ya I'm going to church at 12" but our church starts at 10:15 so I asked which church she was going to and she was like "Oh it matters which one I go to?" haha she thought she could just go to any church. She ended up not coming to ours because it was too long of a drive (10-15 min) and she wanted to go closer to her house.
I had my first zone conference last week and it was a really good experience. My mission president really is awesome. He talked a lot about finding the lost sheep and said "whether you bring them in (baptism) or brring them back (re-activiating), it's the same." Especially in our branch there are SO many less actives. Everyone that we have visited has such a strong testimony but they aren't converted enough to come to church every Sunday. The day of zone conference it rained all day! We were walking down the street that night and I stepped into the biggest puddle because it was pitch black and looked just like the road. I think it almost reached my skirt.  I also dropped our huge area book with 10 years of important information in a puddle the same day. And that was actually one of the best days of the week!
Actually today was the best day of the week....we played indoor soccer for our zone activity! The assistants also made me copies of p90x so I've been doing that every morning and I love it!
Even though the work was hard this week, I still love being out here as a missionary. I just hope I'm doing everything I'm supposed to be doing. As far as I know, I am. Mom do you have a picture of my baptism? If you do, could you send it to me? I don't know if I kept a journal back then, but if you find a journal entry of something I wrote that day (Sept 5, 1998) I'd like to have that too. I have a few memories of that day but I'd like to share more with my investigators.
Dad thanks for your email this week. It sounds like Texas was a lot of fun...and very busy with home improvements. I remember every time I would watch the "tim the tool man taylor" show I would always think of you. I'm glad you are able to do so many home improvements for our family though. It definitely comes in handy! And oddly enough...I've had the EXACT same thoughts about left and right. But I've never really been able to explain it. Sometimes I just feel exactly like what you said "a spirit having a mortal experience".
I have birthday presents for Ethan and Boston...and Alex. Even though it's not his birthday I don't want him to feel left out. I remember how traumatizing that is as a kid! But I"m not sure if I'll have time to send them off today. Well I hope everyone is doing great and I can't wait to hear from all of you soon!
Love, Hermana Billings

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 22, 2013 - Livermore

Last week felt like THE LONGEST week ever! And So much changed. So first things first....I really miss Hermana Green. I didn't realize how much I loved her until she left. It was so easy to do anything and everything because we always had the same opinions/desires/attitude etc. But I know I'm supposed to be with my new companion for a reason and Sister Green is supposed to be in her new area. I've already learned so much from my new companion in this one week. Her name is Hermana Wallace from Alpine, Utah. She has 8months in the mission. Her Spanish is really good and we only talk to eachother in Spanish so I know that will help me with the language a lot. She is a theater major at Utah State. We're very different in almost every aspect but we still get a long fine.
It sounds like Texas was a lot of fun. Thanks for the email/update mom. I'm excited to see pictures! So is the kitchen completely done? It sounds like it. It's starting to warm up here. How's the weather in Utah? Still cold and snowy? And how is Justin doing? Jessica thanks so much for the piano tips! They are really useful. I teach Thursday nights about 10 kids (they only get 15 min each on the piano and then sister wallace teaches them beat and rythm for 15 min). I'll let you know if I have any more questions. They're all pretty beginner though. Tell Ethan thanks for the picture! I loved it. And it looks exactly like Mom and Dad's house...I was impressed. Tell him yes, my car is white. I have been saving up all the mexican candy I get to send home to the nephews one day. I'm not sure they'll like it....they put chilli powder on everything.
Speaking of the newphews- my president said that I can listen to recordings of them on my pday and watch videos of them. I don't know how you'd send that though. But if you figure it my guest! I would love to hear peoples voices. I don't know if I'd be able to send anything back though.
Okay so here's an update of my week: Blanca wants to change her baptismas date to February 2 instead of February 16. We're still trying to get it worked out because that's the same weekend as stake conference. I'm happy she's so eager to be baptized though. I had a big zit on my forehead one day and she looked so concerned and asked Que paso!? (what happened?!) haha I didn't know how to say zit in spanish. But she taught me. She's really into health and medicine so she told me how to get rid of them. It went away before I could try it though. I'll try it next time and see if it works. I think it's hot water and garlic? Anyway, blanca will be going to slc for a conference for her work (her boss is lds and served a spanish speaking mission) the same weekend as general conference. So I want to try and get her tickets and it'd be awesome if you all got to meet her! I don't know how likely that is. And you definitely wouldn't be able to communicate with her unless someone knows how to speak spanish and never told me. Hopefully we can figure out the details for her baptism today because Febrero 2 is soon!
One thing I learned about the mexican culture is if they invite you to dinner/lunch/breakfast it is a HUGE insult to pay for yourself. A member invited us to mcdonalds for breakfast so I went up, ordered and paid and he was so offended. I felt bad. I told him that it's different with Americans (which I don't know if that's even true) so he felt a little better. But he stil gave me cash for my breakfast. Then he said "If a mexican wants to buy you food, let them buy you food". Oops. Now I know. Speaking of food....I ate cow stomach. Gross? Yes. It's called menudo. And it's rubbery and gross. I like most of the mexican food now but that is something I don't think I will ever like no matter how many times I eat it.
This is random but every time we're in the church I see the plaques for all the missionaries serving and I'm so sad that I don't have one. Dad can you ask someone about that? And everyone always talks about their "plaque scripture" and when they ask me what mine is I don't have one.
We are not going to teach Apolinar anymore and he dropped his baptismal date. He said he wants to read the entire book of mormon before he gets baptized. He loves scriptures. I think it's great that he wants to read the whole book of mormon. Maybe not neccesarily before he gets baptized but I think it's still a good goal. Anyway our lesson last night with him was horrible. The elders were there too so that they could take over and none of us knew where the lesson was going. To be honest, I"m not even sure what we talked about or what our purpose was. It was so sad. Whatever the lesson was it definitely wasn't from preach my gospel so I didn't feel like a missionary. Then we didn't get home til 945 because we lost our phone. Last night was the second time we've been late for curfew and I hate breaking the rules!
Ana and her family are still reading the book of mormon but they haven't come to church. It's interesting because at first Ana was progressing really fast but louis wasn't that interested and now it's switched. I've been surprised at how well I know the area without Hermana Green. Plus the GPS helps a lot too obviously. I finished my journal already! But I had a package of refil paper so when I need more I"ll let you know.
Well I hope everyone is doing great! You're all in my prayers and I can't wait to hear from you soon.
Love, Hermana Billings
ps- are we in a third world war? We saw protesters on the street that said "impeach obama stop WW3" ??? I'm so out of the loop!

January 14, 2013 - Livermore

So nobody warned me about transfers!! We got a call Saturday night saying sister green is being transferred :( I'm so sad! And she cried all night...and all day at church yesterday too. We were so shocked because she's my trainer and training is supposed to last 12 weeks. I'm so nervous to have to teach someone else about an area that I don't even know very well yet! Extra prayers this week please?? :) We are going to San Jose tomorrow to meet our new companions and then I'll return back to Livermore and Sister Green will go to her new area with her new companion.
Other than transfers, this week was really good. Oh I have a funny my bed doesn't have a frame it's just matresses stacked on top of eachother so they slide around a lot. One night I had one of those falling dreams except I really did fall off the bed and my matress fell on top of me. Sister Green woke up and we both just started laughing our heads off. It was funny, but in the moment I was scared to death!
We started piano classes last week and it was so fun to teach the little kids about piano. I'm definitely not as good of a teacher as Sister Johnson was with me though. We also started volunteering at English as a Second Language classes and I absolutely LOVE that. There are people in there that speak all sorts of different languages but most of them speak Spanish. I love being able to speak both so that I can help and I can't wait to learn more Spanish. It made me want to be a teacher....maybe I'll teach elementary spanish? Who knows. Also,  The relief society president was telling me about medical translating and it's definitely something I want to look into when I get home.
My 100th day in the mission was on....Friday? I can't remember which day...but one of the days. We celebrated by making the gluten free pancackes that mom sent with the yummy maple syrup :) Sooooooo good. I love mexican food but the american food really hits the spot.
On Thursday we went down to San Jose for a Sister's Retreat. I told you President spoils the sisters right? We listened to some talks about sisters and then had "exercise time" (yoga-- which is not exercise. At least not how we did it.) And then we had lunch. Sister Watkins made a salad that tasted comparable to zupas! Loved it. Then we got our pillows and blankets and listened to stories about Joseph Smith. Sister watkins went to a whole bunch of stores and bought tons of new clothes. They were on a whole bunch of tables and we could just choose which we wanted. So I got lots of fun new clothes!! It was like shopping for free.
Okay now for our investigators....Blanca is doing AWESOME and we asked her if she'd like to move her date up. She's been to church twice and she told her teacher this last Sunday that she has to miss all of her classes on Sunday so that she can come to church. She also came to a baptism with us on Saturday so she could see what they're like. It was in English so she didn't understand very much but at least she got to feel the spirit and see the ordinance. Everytime someone would ask her when she's getting baptized she would say "feb 16 or sooner". So she's definitely considering moving it up but she's worried she doesn't know enough. She makes really awesome comments during church though and we've taught her all of the lessons. We got a surprise new baptism date with Erika. I don't know if i've even mentioned her before. We hadn't seen her for awhile but we felt like we needed to. We taught the plan of salvation and the spirit was really strong as we were talking about the atonement. She said she doesn't even remember her baptism because she was a baby. We shared moroni 8 with her and then invited her to be baptized and she said yes! And I was lucky enough to extend the invitation. It was definitely a prompting from the spirit. Something that I'm recognizing more and more everyday. Her date is feb 16 also. Two other investiagators accepted baptism but without a date- Eva and Sylvia. I'll tell you more about them once we get a date this week. It's impossible to get lessons in with Sylvia. She just likes to cook for us. Her food is my favorite though! We met with Ana and her family and really stressed the importance of the book of mormon and baptism. THeir 8 year old daughter said she wants to be baptized and the parents were so shocked. I think it softened the heart of louis though and he was almost trying to talk ana into it. But neither of them commited and we haven't heard from them since. We're not giving up though. Haven't heard much from Apolinar either but we're giving him to the elders because we can't meet with him unless we have another sister so it's be more beneficial for him to have the elders teach him.
Yesterday I gave a talk in Spanish for 20 minutes! I used to not even be able to do that in English haha but I prayed for help and I know I received it. I honestly don't know what I said or if I even made sense but I did my best and that's all I can do! It was fun though and I enjoyed it. I also played the piano for a musical number  (6 elders sand brightly beams our father's mercy) in the departing missionary devotional in San Jose last night. All of the departing missionaries bear their testimonies and it was really neat to see. The ones that speak SPanish usually bear their testimony in Spanish and one elder started bearing his in Spanish but was throwing in words that aren't really words just like jibberish so everyone that spoke Spanish was laughing and all the English people were so confused and then a cute litte grandma sitting in front of me said, "All the jokes are in Spanish!" haha it was so funny. I think that's exactly what the elder was trying to do and it worked.
Jessica thanks for the pictures! Your house is so cute :) I can't wait to see it when it's done and the boys look so grown up! How funnnnn! And I hope everyone in Texas is enjoying the warm weather. It's probably warmer there than here for sure. Can't wait to see pictures of the trip and hear everything you did. Andrea I sent a letter to your old address last week so I hope you get it but I have your new address now. Thanks for the letter :)
Hope to hear from everyone soon!
Love, Hermana Billings
 Pictures to come in the next emails!

Monday, January 7, 2013

January 7, 2013 - Livermore

I feel like I just wrote my last email yesterday! The weeks are flying by! Mom thanks so much for your letter it made my week! I'm going to write you back later today. Yes I did get the gift from Karla. She sent me a necklace too and it's really pretty. I can't believe she made it! It's perfect because it doesn't get in the way and a lot of members tell me how pretty it is. I sent her a thank you card so let me know if she gets it. How is justin doing? I'll keep him in my prayers. And how is katie doing? I haven't heard anything for awhile.
So this week was so awesome. We got another baptismal date. Apolinar Maya commited to be baptized February 9. I already told you that Blanca has a baptismal date too right? We had to cancel Pedro's date because he didn't come to church yesterday. We're going to work really hard with him to come next Sunday though...he just needs to get work off. Blanca and Apolinar both came to church yesterday and they participated in the classes a lot. They both are really smart and have strong faith. Blanca is progressing really fast now. We made them baptismal calendars and she loved it. We taught Apolinar the word of wisdom the lesson after he commited to baptism and he asked if he could change his date because he didn't think he could be ready by then. And then he tried to argue that gatorade is worse than beer...we told him he can stop drinking gatorade too then if that's what he thinks. But we told him to pray about his date for a week before he decides to change it for sure. The fact that he came to church is a good sign I think.
Before sacrament meeting started I was explaining to Blanca what would be happening and since it was fast Sunday I told her all the members of the church fast every sunday and then have the opportunity to share their testimonies. She looked at me so worried and said "I only had a tiny glass of milk this morning!" haha it was so cute that she wanted to be doing everything she was supposed to. We haven't even taught her about fasting yet.
After church we went to the oakland temple with Ana and her family. sister green and I rode with the galvan family (we can't take our car out of mission boundaries)- they're recent converts. I'm not sure if I've told you about them but they're my favorite family here. They're going to be sealed in may. But the temple was perfect! It was ana, her husband louis and they're three kids: diana 8, louis, 6 and analise 2. The visitor center sisters took us through a movie tour of how the gospel blesses families with short video clips. Ana cried and the kids all paid attention. Then we watched the joseph smith restoration movie. It was my second time watching it in spanish. After the movie the visitor center sister's asked ana and her family what they thought about the movie and ana said Joseph Smith reminded her a lot of Jesus Christ because he sacrificed everything, including his life, to do the will of God. What a beautiful connection right? She's very smart. We didn't get to talk to them afterwards about baptism or anything so I'll let you know how our next visit goes.
This week I prayed so hard every day that we wouldn't have to stuff ourselves every day and my prayers were answered :) But yes mom you can still send those stomach pills if you want. It really is nice that the members are so willing to feed us. Last night we ate at a members house and they live in a garage. They're so humble and giving and said that even though their house is cold we are always welcome. I always feel so bad letting these poor people feed us so much food but they always tell us how blessed they are to have the opportunity to serve the missionaries. Sister Green always has to remind me that we're doing them a favor by letting them feed us. But it still breaks my heart to see the conditions that most of them live in. And yet they're SO happy and SO content because they know they have an eternal family. It's amazing.
Something I've learned about Latino's is they're very blunt. VERY blunt. They don't hold ANYHING back and it is so hillarious. The other night at dinner one of them told Sister Green that she looks like a mexican because of her mustache. But they're always very nice about our Spanish. They always say it's so beautiful that we can speak Spanish. Even though we don't speak very well it gives me the encouragement I need to keep trying. I can say everything I want to get across now but I still have trouble following along sometimes when they're talking. Before Sister Green leaves my goal is to be able to follow along.
For our zone activity today we're going Ice Skating!! It'll be fun. Oh for our service on Saturday we were taking down all the buildings for living bethlehem (I never thought as a missionary that I'd be a construction worker too) and sister green was trying to pry a nail out with ALL of her might. When it finally came out she flew straight on her back faster than anything I've ever seen. I think that's all my  news for the week. Can't wait to hear more about what's going on at home! Thanks for being such an awesome family I pray for you all everyday!!
Scripture of the week:
I love in Alma 18:8-9 when the king is looking for Ammon and he is found serving him. If the Lord were to ever ask where I am I want to be found serving Him. Being a missionary really is such a blessing because I know I'm giving all that I have to the Lord every single minute. It's all worth it!
Have a good week :)
Love Hermana Billings
ps- mom maybe when you send my stomach pills you could send a journal from deseret book. Maybe I have one at the house. I need another one for my studies because mine is almost full. I think the one ellice gave me is still at the house. Could you send that one? You don't need to be in a hurry to send it though...just whenever you have time. Thanks!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January 2, 2013-Livermore

The library was closed again on Monday so sorry I'm not writing until today. How was everyone's Christmas and New Year's? I want to hear all about them! It was so fun to skype on Christmas. I wish I could have spent longer talking to the 3 boys though...that night I had a dream about giving all of them hugs and it made me miss them really bad. After we skyped we went to several member's houses and everyone served us tamales and posole. I was SO full that night. Elder Dimond ate 50 tamles in one day!!! So sick. I think I only had a total of 3 and I was stuffed. We had a zone party/gift exchange and Elder Perez baught me superman pjs and popcorn. The galvan family bought sister green and I cute cardigan sweaters in our favorite colors (blue and green). At the end of the night we went caroling and it was so fun! I finally got the other package that you sent and thank you SOOOO much. The maple syrup is delicious and of course the engineer gifts are a must. I felt right at home. And my glasses have helped out a lot.
For New Year's people were definitely not as receptive to hearing a message about Jesus christ as they were around Christmas time. The only nice people on New Year's Day while we were contacting were the drunks. But we still had a lot of success this last week. We got another baptismal date!! Blanca commited to be baptized February 16. We met her contacting a few weeks after I got here. Pedro still has his baptismal date but he hasn't come to church yet. He bought us a really nice Christmas present though and really has a stong desire to change and do what's right he just works so much and it's hard to schedule appointments with him. We can tell he's trying though. Ana and her family are progressing the fastest and we're going to the temple with them this Sunday. We taught them the family proclamation and they LOVED it. They believe the book of mormon was written by prophets of God and they want to be sealed as a family.They always ask us when we can come over and what we want them to read and then they always read more than we assigned.  But they haven't committed to baptism. They know the catholic church has faults and they always talk to us about them but they're not ready to give it up yet. I think they'll be our next baptismal date though. We have a lesson with them tonight at 630. We have a goal to have 5 baptismal dates before Sister Green gets transferred.
I don't know if I mentioned Apolinar Maya but he has THE strongest faith. He doesn't have a car so he runs to the church to visit with us in the dark and cold every night. I wish it weren't against mission rules to give him a ride. We had one of our lessons at a members house and he got lost so he was just running around looking for the right apartments. It was so sad. But he really wants to understand. He gets confused a lot with the scriptures etc. but he's awesome. We think he'll have a baptismal date soon too. Seeing investigator's exercise that much faith makes me realize how often I took advantage of the gospel in my life. We really are so blessed to have a knowledge about the gospel and to have it so easily available. There's another family that doesn't have a car and they walk/ride their bikes to church every Sunday even in the rain. The dad is one of the only members that doesn't every work on Sunday so they never miss a week at church. I think our biggest challenge right now is helping others (investigator's and members) undestand the importance of going to church EVERY sunday.
Our newest investigator is Syliva and her husband. We found them in the area book and Sylvia bawled during our lesson. They talk alot so we only made it through the first part of the restoration lesson and then in our second lesson we were prepared to talk about Joseph Smith and give them a book of mormon but their sister-in-law was listening in and this time she was bawling during the lesson. Very emotional family. So we have visited with them 3 times and haven't even finished the first lesson! Syliva is going to teach us how to make tortillas on Saturday though so we're really excited.
Speaking of food...I can't handle eating this much any longer! We got two dinners two nights in a row, including last night, and I woke up at midnight to throw-up because I was so full. Or maybe I got food poisoning. Not sure. I feel better now though. But I don't remember what it feels like to be hungry. Somehow I haven't gained weight....yet. Sister Green brings ziploc bags in her purse sometimes and puts spoonfuls of food in there when no one's watching. It's saved our stomach several times.... She's teaching me so much :)
Oh here are my Gifts to christ this year: (I wrote them in my journal but I didn't bring them with I'll try to remember)
1. Finish Jesus the Christ
2. Finish reading the Book of Mormon (In Spanish, reading out loud)
3. Be fluent in Spanish (so I can better teach the Gospel of course)
4. Be 100% obedient
5. Allow my will to be "swallowed up in the will of the Father"
I think I had 2 more but I can't remember. Did you make Matt do it again this year? Well I have to go but thanks for everything! I love the staionery! It's very handy. And I love everything you sent me for Christmas! Thanks for everything and especially thanks for supporting me. Sometimes I still can't believe that I'm actually a missionary but I can see how God prepared me for this and how he allowed me to go through certain things in my life in order for me to make the decision to serve a mission. His ways are always better. I realize that every single day taht our plans fall through. He always has something better for us to do or someone else that he needs us to talk to. It never ceases to amaze me when I realize how in control He really is. But I'm grateful that He is the one in control and not me because He knows so much better than I do.
I love you all and I hope to hear from you soon! Happy new year!!!!!!!!!! Feliz Ano :)
Love, Hermana Billings
ps- what are everyone's new year's resolutions?