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Monday, February 25, 2013

February 25, 2013 - Livermore

Well this was an exciting week! So remember how I said I would be working in an English ward now as well? We were assigned to the tri-valley YSA ward. Who's surprised that it's the same ward Matt Budge goes to? At this point I wasn't surprised. But of ALL the wards in the world how did we get put in the same ward?? So crazy. Anyway, president knows the situation so he said I'll probably be transferred next transfers. I've been begging him not to transfer me though because I love it here! I'm sure that's how I'll feel in every area that I serve though. I'll let you know in 5 weeks!
This weekend we went to three baptisms and they were all awesome. The first one was in Redwood (about an hour away) so that took up most of our afternoon on Saturday. It was for one of Sister Wallace's investigators before she came up here. The next one was later that night for a YSA and we brought Luis (one of our new investigators). He said he enjoyed it but he didn't understand most of it because he only speaks spanish. But our president talked to him afterwards and made him feel really welcome. It was so funny...during the service the YSA bishop asked all of the YSA to stand and Luis stood right up (he's like 60) and sister wallace kind of tugged him back down and said that it was for the "solteros" (singles) and he said "well I am single!" Even if he didn't understand the whole service...the spirit speaks the same language for everyone!!
After the baptism president took the two zones (pleasanton and livermore) out to dinner at chilli's. He's such a nice guy! But we stayed out until 11! I couldn't believe president let us stay out that long. I was getting so anxious too because we still hadn't planned. Sunday morning at 8 we had our third baptism and it was soooo special. The spanish elders have been teaching him and he's actually been investigating the church for 7 years. I'm not sure what condition he has, but he stopped breathing once for 2 hours and he's not supposed to be under water (because he's not supposed to hold his breath) so he was so scared to get baptized. He's also very old and can't really support his body weight. They had to let him sit on a chair in the water and he was really embarrassed so he only invited us and the person doing the baptism (somehow other people found out about it from the branch and showed up too though). Anyway, they had to re-do the baptism a couple times because he was too scared to go all the way under. Plus, the man doing the baptism is 4'11 and the man getting baptized is over 6 feet tall. Eventually one of the witnesses got in the water too to help. It was a very intimate and special and spiritual baptism.
Sunday was absolutely awesome! We had 6 investigators at church! Blanca hasn't missed a week but when we walked into Sunday school she wasn't there and I was so shocked/sad. So I called her to ask where she was and she said she was coming but they were going to be late because she was not leaving her house without her family this time. Sure enough, 15 minutes later Blanca showed up with just about her whole family. She is so awesome! I don't think any of them were very happy that they were there...but she was determined to bring them. She doesn't want to wait any longer for her baptism so she told us that if her husband comes to church she knows he'll want to get married in this church (not in the temple...blanca just wants the branch president to do it in the chapel). At the end of sacrament her husband was going around hugging everyone and saying "Hermano!" So I think he liked it?
Another neat thing about church this Sunday was one of the members that we have been working with paid his tithing for the first time! His 7 year old daughter has been setting a very good example for him with this and when he asked us for help to pay his tithing I just about cried. Hopefully he'll be ready to baptized his daughter in October.
As for the rest of our investigators they're all progressing at different rates. Ana and her family have pretty much reached a stand still but we're not giving up. We got a lot of new investigators (6) this week that we're excited about. We had an awesome member present with Poli Sosa (the short man that did the baptism on Sunday morning) and Luis. Poli bore his testimony about how to receive answers to prayers and said that the only place he could pray, when he was investigating the church, was in the bathroom. He said everytime he goes into the bathroom now he feels the spirit so strong. It took every muscle strength I had not to laugh at that. Luis keeps saying that he wants to be like the members of the church but that he can't because he drinks/smokes sometimes and Poli pointed out that just about every single member of the branch used to be alcoholics/addicted to drugs including the 2nd counselor.
I have so much admiration for the members of the branch! They've gone through so much not only to get here to America but to be members of this church. I've heard lots of stories that I wish I had time to share but I don' just know that they're amazing. And so are our investigators that are trying so hard to change.
I'm working on writing people back...I'm super behind I'm sorry! But I absolutely love hearing how everyone is doing and I hope to hear from you all again soon. Thanks for everyone's support and're all in my prayers as well as the prayers of a lot of people here (they pray for our families all the time!) I hope everyone has a good week!
Love, Hermana Billings

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 19, 2013 - Livermore

Hello Family! I swear all of the holiday's fall on Monday so we have to wait until Tuesday to email. Yesterday was so busy though! I don't think we would have even had time to email. For our zone activity we did a BBQ at the park by our apartment and it took pretty much all day. We also had to go to the chiropractor because my hips have been hurting...and now after going to the doctor to fix them they hurt 10 times worse! I'm so sore!!. Dad did you pass your bad hips on to me? Actually, he said it's my I-tband (iliotibial band) from running. He told me to come in and use their foam roller as often as I can. Too bad I didn't pack the one that Matt gave me for Christmas!

So first of all, last week I bought myself a box of chocolates for Valentine's Day because I didn't think I'd be getting anything. I didn't think anyone would remember me on such a wanna-be holiday but I still really wanted chocolate! But then I got Mom's package of chocolate and the card and it made me SO happy!!! Thanks so much Mom and Dad :)  Andrea I did get your letter and the heart from Boston. Tell him I absolutely LOVE it. It's in my journal now. I read your talk during personal study one day and I really enjoyed. It was a really good talk! And I learned a lot so thanks for sending me a copy. I also got a special delivery surprise from Matt (I'll send a picture of what he sent). However, with NO letter. I realized how awesome gifts are as a missionary but how letters are so much better. Feel free to forward that on to him somebody? (Oh, also someone tell Matt that the other Sister Billings got transferred today so hopefully there will be less confusion! haha His bishop met the other sister Billings and thought it was me). But anyway, thanks to everyone for remembering me on el dia del amor :) 

We found out this morning that we get to cover another ward. I'm so excited!!! We're going to have so much more to do...I hope. Right now we teach a lot of the same people as the elders who cover Mocho Branch with us so hopefully this will help. But it's an english ward...which is fine because we'll still be involved alot with the Spanish. And hopefully, with a bigger area (we're covering the tri-valley now aka livermore, dublin, pleasanton and san ramon), we'll contact more latinos in the surrounding area. 

Okay as for our investigators: we got three new awesome investigators! The first one is Luis and he tells everyone that he meets that we wants to be like the members of the church. Every time he tells us that he wants to be like us we remind him that he really wants to be more like Jesus Christ. And he gets that. But he calls us his angels. I think He'll progress really fast. He texts or calls us almost every single day to ask when he can have another lesson and he's reading the book of mormon like crazy. However, we assigned him to read Alma 32 the first time we met with him and the next time we met with him he just kept saying "Who's Alma??!" Apparently starting from the beginning of a book is the practical thing to do. Who would have known? But we learned our lesson. 

Our other new investigators are Maria and Patricia. I don't have time to talk about them much but they're awesome! Blanca is still doing wonderful. I don't know how I'm going to be able to leave her so hopefully it's not anytime soon. The elders (who are teaching Blanca's son now) said that they're really surprised how much he knows about the book of mormon already. They think he was listening in a lot to our lessons with his mom. Awesome! Maybe they'll end up getting baptized together. We're still working on her husband though.

I just have to tell this funny and slightly inappropriate story real fast...we were eating dinner at a members house and they have a dog. Someone asked them (in english) "does your dog shed a lot" but to latinos "d" and "t" sound very similar so he went on to talk about how often his dog goes to the bathroom. Everyone was laughing. 

Dad thanks so much for your letter! I really like hearing about your and mom's stories. Especially because you two were about my age when all of it took place so I like putting myself in your shoes. But I laughed so hard when I read the first line. Elephants??? hahaha

Last thing, a light bulb finally went on in my head about my purpose in the mocho branch. I kept getting frustrated because there are so few people willing/able to help with visits and activities etc. and how even the really active members don't see why it's important to come to church/pay tithing.I felt like the missionaries were doing everything but then I realized that I'm not here for them to help me...I'm here to help them. I guess I thought my purpose was to bring new people into the branch and the current members had the responsibilty to help us to do that. but then I realized that I'm here to help this branch. It changed my whole perspective. If onliy I had realized this 2 transfers ago!

Well we have to go but thank you so much for everything! I hope to hear from everyone soon. I didn't have time to write any letters yesterday but I will try to next week. 
Con amor,
Hermana Billings

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February 11, 2013 - Livermore

Hola mi familia! Mom thanks so much for sending the baptism picture. I showed it to Blanca and she loved it! I'm going to get it laminated so I can always bring it with me. I also really really liked your letter with your baptism entry. And dad, I'm looking forward to getting yours. Thanks to both of you! And yes, I still need you to send letters to Matt. I sent one to his mom in January but I haven't heard back from him yet. The next one I write I'll probably send to you guys so that not one person has to do it every time. But who knows...maybe I'll be transferred! Probably not though. We have transfers next week (week 5) because......I'm not sure why actually. All I know is this transfer is only five weeks long. Something to do with all of the new missionaries coming in.
This week was really productive and yesterday we had 4 investigadores at church! :) I was so happy. Blanca came...she hasn't really missed a week but I still love to see her there. Her husband and son are starting to take more of an interest in learning the gospel. The elders have been teaching her 17 yeard old son so I hope he starts coming to church as well. Ana, Luis and Diana were the other investigadores that came. It was fast Sunday (because of stake conf) so they got to hear a lot of really good testimonies. I felt like everyone who bore their testimony said exactly what I felt like Ana and Luis needed to hear. They said "next time we come, we'll wear nicer clothes" I didn't care that they were wearing jeans I was just happy that they said "next time". And most of the active members in the branch wear jeans to church so I didn't even notice that they weren't dressed up.
Blanca seemed really happy that there were other "new" people at church. When she saw them walk in she asked me if they were new too. I said yes and she got a huge smile on her face. Then she leaned over and told Ana "I'm still learning too. We're the same." It was so nice of her. Then she asked me how many people we teach and I said we try to get 25 lessons every week and I showed her my list of people and pointed out her name and she got an even bigger smile and said "Oh I'm number 1!" She reads more than a few chapters from the book of mormon every day and is learning SO much on her own. And she's already made friends with several people in the ward. Blanca invited us over to a members house for dinner this Thursday and I was trying to figure out how the tables had turned. But it's great!  Oh and apparently there is something wrong with my pancreas? That's what blanca tells me just about everytime she sees me. She works for some health company (it's kind of like meleluca. And the owner is mormon) so she said she's going to get me something.
Ana and her family will hopefully have a baptismal date this week. They know the Book of Mormon is true and they know they need to be baptized but they're not ready to commit because they know that means they have to give up a lot of stuff. But I'm happy they're at least taking baptism seriously. When they do decide to be baptized I know they'll be strong members.
We got a surprise baptismal date from a woman named Patricia. We met her in the parking lot leaving one of our dinner appts, got her address and then stopped by a few days later (yesterday). She was baptized in the catholic church but has never really gone to church or read the bible. She has really strong faith in christ though and prays everyday. She's been through SO much but is still so happy and didn't let her trials become her. She's used the atonement in her life without even knowing it. We taught the restoration, and to be honest it wasn't our best lesson. We were jumping around a lot and barely even mentioned Joseph Smith but somehow the spirit was really strong. We intorduced the book of mormong, asked her to read it, invited her to be baptized on march 16 and she said yes. I'm so amazed at the faith these people have! Getting them to commit to baptism is not hard...getting them to church is another story.
Martin is still the happiest person in the world. Super excited to learn and be baptized but he works SO much. He makes an honest effort to meet with us as often as he can and he's going to try and get work off every other Sunday. We might have to move his baptism date but for now it's still March 16.
There's a talk that I want to recommend for everyone. It's called "The Hesitant Missionary" by Elder Uchtdorf. He talks about how anyone and everyone can and should be a missionary.  I don't know where the week went...I feel like we did so much but I can't think of anything else to share.
Well Dad said he wanted to hear more about my companion so here it is: (I'll send a pic today) She can do any type of accent and it's hillarious! She always makes me laugh. She's VERY dramatic and loves to exaggerate. She loves to talk, especially to tell stories and make people laugh. She hates to run. Especially outside (we've been doing exchanges with the other Sister Billings sometimes) but she has done a couple of treadmill workouts with me too. She always makes me a fruit smoothie in the morning while I'm exercising. She makes super yummy mango salsa. (Side note: I learned how to make floutas! They're the best thing ever. Mom especially would love them. I'll make them for everyone in 14 months) And she's been helping me a lot with my spanish. Hopefully that helps!
I pray for everyone every day and I hope all is well back home! Can't wait to hear from all of you :)
Love, Hermana Billings

Monday, February 4, 2013

February 4, 2013 - Livermore

Yesterday was my four month mark! How can I only have 14 months of my mission left? Well first things first....Blanca didn't get baptized :( But she will one day really soon. We spent the first half of the week planning the baptism, making tons of phone calls and getting everything scheduled. Then on Wednesday as I was praying before starting my personal morning studies I just all of a sudden knew that she wasn't legally married to her husband. We had taught her the law of chastity and asked if her and her husband of 20 years with children were married and she said yes. So we weren't worried. But I told sister wallace what I felt so we called Blanca and asked her if they were legally married and she said no. It was sad to tell her that she couldn't be baptized especially because she is so ready. She reads from the book of mormon everyday and always picks up on the things that usually we have to point out to people. For example, she said "well in the book of mormon it says there really are only two churches. The devils church and Gods church. And I want to belong to Gods church." Anyway she was supposed to talk to her "husband" yesterday to find out if he is legally divorced from his first wife. If he is, they'll get married and she'll probably still be baptized this month. If he's not....I might not be here for her baptism. But she came to church yesterday and her son is going to start meeting with the elders.
As for some of our other investigators...we have a new investigator named Martin that is just the happiest person in the world and every time we teach him or talk to him I just want to smile. He accepted a baptismal date for March 16. People seem really willing to accept baptismal dates and believe in living prophets and read the book of mormon but they don't understand the importance of coming to church. Especially why they need to go to this particular church. It's frustrating. They believe everything we say and everything they feel but they don't act on what they've learned. As of right now, Martin is the only baptismal date that we have. His work schedule just changed so that he has to work on every sunday. So unless there's a miracle and he comes to church 3 times before March 16 we'll probably have to drop/change his date too.
We were teaching one of our investigators named Lupita, who has been investigating the church forever and wants to be baptized in THIS church only but will not come to church and we tried everything we could think of to get her to come but she just kept saying "nope I can't. I have to work" We talked about asking God to provide different work, or for a way for her boss to let her have some/all sundays off etc. and finally she just looked at me and said "all this is so easy for you to say because you're white, you speak english, you're young and you have papers" It made me feel so bad because she's right. It's so easy for me to live the gospel because I can find jobs that will allow me to go to church every sunday. Especially in Utah. So I feel blessed. But at the same time I wish there were something I could do for those that don't have the same opportunity to just quit their job and work somewhere else. In her mind, going to church is the difference of having food to eat and a place to live. They're never going to take my word for it that they just need to have faith that god will bless them if they go to church because they know I don't understand the risk.
We visited another man named Angel who is actually being taught by the elders right now. He's been receiving lessons from them a lot but he said he felt something different with us. He said he thinks, because we have had to learn spanish so quickly (Elder Perez is native) that we have a lot of faith and humility. It was a really spiritual lesson. But as we were leaving I went to shake his hand and he gave me a big hug. Oops...and I reacted in the most awkward way ever. I didn't know what to do! Nothing too interesting has happened with many of our other investigators. We had an AWESOME lesson with ana and luis and they promised to come to church...but they didn't come. We've been spending a lot of time in Dublin and Pleasanton (the 2 surrounding cities of LIvermore) because as our mission leader said, "Livermore is just a bunch of dry wells" The elders only cover Livermore so we've been trying to find new people to teach in the other cities. No luck this week...but we have hope for this next week.
Yesterday, we had stake conference and Elder L. Tom Perry spoke about missionary work. It was awesome! I hope everyone is helping the missionaries in your wards: giving referencias, dinners etc. It really helps a lot. And he talked about the importance of knowing Ch 3 in preach my gospel. Look up the scriptures etc. and learn how the missionaries are taught to teach lessons. Preach my Gospel really is awesome and so helpful. Anytime our lessons stray from what it says in Preach My Gospel, I don't feel the spirit as strong.  The members really need to be the full time finders so that the missionaries can be the full time teachers.
I think I'm finally getting to the point where Spanish comes easily. I still have a lot to learn though. But we were walking through a parking lot one day and I contacted someone in English. I got about half way through explaining the Book of Mormon and my brain completely switched to Spanish in the middle of my sentence and started talking in Spanish. I realized that I was talking in Spanish but I couldn't remember how to say anything in English. I just stood there in silence for a min until Hermana Wallace came to the rescue. It was so embarrassing. Luckily the guy was nice.
I got some letters from the youth in the home ward and they made my day! Dad make sure to tell Brother Peters thank you. I remember writing letters to the missionaries when I was in YW and I never thought I would be on the receiving end. Plus I feel like I was in YW just last year. Time goes by so fast. Will someone also tell Karla and Aysia thanks SO much for the stamps. They are perfect gifts :)
Andrea, will you send an email with a picture of that elmo cake you made for Boston's birthday one year? A sister in my branch wants to make one for her sons birthday. I gave her your blog address but I don't know if she'll be able to find it.
Mom, you don't need to send the whole journal from the tan family. Unless it's small. But some pictures would be good. And you could just type in an email some of the things I wrote like you already did. I'm excited to hear about your baptism. Maybe dad could said some of his journal entries from his baptism too. They'd be interesting to read.
Dad I thought you might like this quote because it talks about how in reality our bodies are just housing our bodies. It was for some word of wisdom youth acitivity they did at the church "If you don't take care of your body, where will you live?"
Okay well I think that's all I have for this week. Can't wait to hear from everyone soon! Have a good week
Love, Hermana Billings