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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 30, 2013 - Gilroy

Hi family!! Last week was amazing! We had 24 lessons and 20 of them were with investigators. The zone leaders called us after we had already gotten in bed to confirm that our numbers were right. Unfortunately Graciela's baptism in Livermore was canceled. She got cold feet at the last minute. But Roberto got baptized! The baptism started 30 min late and we had an appt right after so we stepped out right after he got out of the water. He received the priesthood though and is planning on baptizing his sister, Briza. Of the 20 investigator lessons that we had we set 2 new baptsimal dates. One with Suleima and one with Javier.
Suleima watched the Restoration video and couldn't take her eyes off of it.Then she told us how she realizes that her baptism in the catholic church wasn't vale la pena and wouldn't be recognized by God. She came to the conclusion all on her own! Now we just need to help her get up to the church. Right now, the Spanish branch meets 15 minutes away in Morgan Hill. It's really hard to get people up there but in July it will be back in Gilroy.
We met Javier last Sunday at the park. He was sitting with a while bunch of friends drinking. My companion went to talk to some men close by and I shared a card to receive a free book of mormon with all of them. They were all being loud and laughing but then Javier spoke really soft and asked to know more about the book. I noticed that he was the only one no drinking. We set up an appoinment and visited him on Tuesday. He didn't even hesitate to accept a baptismal date and the prayer he said at the end of the lesson was the most heartfelt prayer I have ever heard. I think my favorite thing about him is that if he can't make an appointment with us he calls to tell us that he won't be home. Such an easy thing that makes ALL the diference. His trial will be getting up to church too. Not only because it's far but because he plays soccer on Sundays. We were walking by his house on Saturday and we stopped by just to say hi and he was sitting in his living room reading the Book of Mormon. It made me so happy! I love seeing that book change people's lives.
Two more of our golden investigators this week are Anthony and Ivan. We met Anthony in the parking lot of his apartment complex. He's 14 and is SO interested in the gospel and everything we teach him. When he prays I understand why we're taught to become like little children. He loved the story about Joseph Smith because he said he feels the same way. And I think he can relate to him being the same age. He keeps trying to include his mom in the lessons but she always says she's too busy with the baby. So anthony will offer to hold the baby during the lesson so that his mom can pay attention. His mom hasn't sat through an entire lesson but she's heard bits and pieces.
Ivan lives with Anthony and is 20. He heard us talking from the other room and basically ran in the room when he found out we were from the LDS church. He said when he was younger he wanted to be Momon but his mom or dad said he had to wait until he was 18. He hadn't been in contact with the church since then. We were just about to leave so we gave him a book of momon and told him to read and pray about it. The next time we went to visit him he said he was at work a few days ago and was having a really hard day. He just knew there was something else for him from God so he prayed his entire walk home from work. When he walked inside his apartment he saw the book of mormon and said he felt so compelled to read it. He said it was weird because he's received a lot of religious material from other churches and has never had the desire to read any of them. He's been reading the book of mormon and absolutely loves it. He told us he can't wait to be baptized. We asked him what he wanted to wait for and he said he wants to read the whole book first.....haha. So no date yet. But soon.
Last person...Amber. She came to all 3 hours of church (english ward) on Sunday and LOVED it.  I was worried that she would feel out of place but she showed up in the cutest little modest dress covering all of her tatoos. More than one person told her they thought she was our new companion. All of the members were super welcoming and helped her around. During relief society they were just going on and on about geneology and indexing and I was just trying to imagine how lost she must be. However, after church she had a million questions about how her family could be sealed (boyfriend and 3 kids). Marriage is not in their plans at all and the both refuse to even consider it. Yet.  Someone also gave her a gospel principles book which she begged us to teach her from since the book of mormon is too confusing.
Here's a quote from a 6 year old (non-member) that we heard this week: "If I obey good people I'll be a good guy. But if I obey bad people I'll be a bad guy". Kids are smart.
Dad you asked if we're on bikes full time. We still have a car but we usually don't use it until dark. We meet so many more people on bikes! Last week we contacted 176 just on the way to our appointments and people are starting to recognize the pink bikes. There actually weren't enough cars for all the missionaries but president said that sisters aren't allowed to ride bikes at night so he made the assistants give us their car...which is by far the nicest car in the mission (2013 ford fusion).
Well that's all I have for this week! No one said anything about a good time to skype for mother's day? It's coming up! Can't wait to see everyone :) :) Have a good week and love you all!
Love, Sister Billings
ps- People have told me that I sleep talk but Sister Garcia-Gomez says that she wakes up to me laughing all the time. Apparently I have very amusing dreams...although I never remember any of them.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

April 23, 2013 - Gilroy

Wow thanks for the emails everyone!! I felt very loved this week :) I know I say this a lot but time is going by SO fast!! I didn't think it was possible for the time to go faster but I was wrong...I feel like we were just at the Library yesterday sending emails.
The highlight of the week was the bomb threat in our apartment. Some guy was upset that he was getting kicked out for not paying his rent so he said he had a bomb. It was just a few days after the boston bombing so everyone was pretty freaked out. Luckily we were at service so we didn't have to get evacuated like everyone else. But we couldn't go back to our apartment until that night. There were helicopters and police lined up and down the whole street. The elders that live in our complex were wearing their service clothes and couldn't go back to change so they had to go the whole day without their proselyting clothes. Luckily we can wear our skirts to our service. Oh and their wasn't a case anyone was wondering.
So Liana will be in the MTC tomorrow?? Wow! Tell her good luck from me por favor. And will someone send me her MTC mailbox number as soon as you know so that I can write her. Mail is always like gold during the mission but I think even more so in the MTC.
We're still trying to find a balance between the spanish and english unit. Both the Bishop and the Branch president are so keen on giving us a lot of work to do which is AWESOME. We spend most of our time with the branch though but we picked up some english investigators this week. I taught my first investigator lesson in was weird. I couldn't find the words!
Briza is still planning on May 4 for her baptism. Her brother is getting baptized this weekend actually. He thought he was a member but they couldn't find his record. The goal is that he'll be able to baptize Briza.
All four missionaries in the spanish branch gave talks this last Sunday. I spoke on the doctrine and covenants and said how mom knew joseph smith was a prophet before reading the book of mormon because she had read doctrine and covenanats. That's true.....right?
Well sorry this week wasn't the most exciting to report on. It all just feels like a blur! A scripture that I've been thinking about a lot lately is Alma 6:6. It talks about how we go to church for others. To pray and fast for those who don't have the gosepl. I think I probably came on a mission for myself but now I know I'm here for others.
I love you all and I hope you have a good week!
Love, Hermana Billings

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 17, 2013 - Gilroy

Hola family! I have less time than usual because it's not p-day. We tried to use the computers yesterday (Tues) since the library isn't open on Monday but the internet was down. As were ALL of the phones in Gilroy for a whole day. We could text...but not make or recieve phone calls. It was weird. And definitely not mission friendly.
To be quick...we have a baptismal date for an 11 yeard old named Brisa. She's super smart and has been through way more than most adults. Her family is less active at the moment but they are supporting her decion to be baptized and they all came to church on Sunday. We're hoping that her baptism will be a re-activation as well. Brisa loved primary and her teachers told us that she did really well. Keep her in your prayers!!! I wish I had more time to talk about the other families and people we are teaching but I will try to include more of them next week. It sounds like we'll be making a trip up to Livermore soon for some baptisms of some of my old investigators!!! Not Blanca though :) Sister Wallace said they haven't been meeting with her very often and they haven't gone to church the last two sundays. I wrote her a letter on Monday though. I hope she keeps going strong!
Last week we got to go to the temple!!! The oakland temple is so beautiful inside. As are all the temples. It was such a great experience. The RS president from the english ward gave us a ride and bought us breakfast. I don't know what we'd do without the members helping out the missionaries all the time. Everyone is really excited about missionary work and they're giving us lots of things to do. Which is great!
We've been riding our awesome new bikes around everyone. We get to meet a lot of people that way and it's really effective. Last week we had 175 contacts without even trying. Crazy contact story of the week....we were talking to a lady outside of a house and we were just about to set up an appt with her when the house behing her caught on fire!! Literally. I'll send a picture but it was crazy! less than 5 minutes later the whole neighborhood was outside watching the fire dept put the fire out.
I got the backpack that mom sent. Thanks SOOOO much. It's been really useful. As well as the journal and journal pages.
I love you all and I wish I had more time to write but I'll talk to you next week. Mother's Day is coming up which means we get to skype soon :) :) :)
Love, Hermana Billings

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April 9, 2013 - Gilroy

Dear Family,
Wow what an exciting/stressful week. I don't remember when I said this but I do remember telling someone (I think it was Mom) that my mission wasn't the hardest thing I've ever done. Well my perspective on that COMPLETELY changed after this week. Well actually last week. Becacuse yesterday and today were so awesome. I can't believe I was in Livermore last week because now it seems like so long ago. But Monday night I visited all the families/investigators that I've grown closest to. It was the hardest to say bye to Blanca. She wrote a really nice letter in my journal  and told me that I would forever be God's angel sent to her. Sister Wallace said that Blanca is doing fine but they're struggling with money and she didn't go to church (general conference) last Sunday for the first time since we started teaching her. I hope it was just a one time thing. She was really close to Elder Perez too and he left as well so I hope she stays strong with the other missionaries.
Tuesday morning I found out that I was going to the Morgan Hill Zone. We are living in Gilroy and we cover the Gavilan Spanish branch as well as the Del Rey Park English ward. The new missionaries don't come in until Thursday so for two days I was companions with 2 other sisters who were scheduled to train- Sister Lindsey (spanish) and Sister Yunack. Sister Yunack is the sweetest person I have EVER met. She's from an island called vanuatu (her house is on an island called espiritu santo which means holy ghost in spanish!!!) near fiji and her native language is bishlama. She's been out for 8 months and her english is nearly perfect. I was so amazed! I can only imagine how much better my spanish would be if I were living in an all spanish speaking country. We stayed in Hollister for two days but had to drive back and forth to gilroy (about 30 min) for some of my meetings with the bishopric, wml's other missionaries etc. Crazy two days
Thursday morning we all headed to the mission office to meet our trainees. I was talking to the assistants right before the meeting and they said that one of the new missionaries was a native spanish speaker and I said "I want her!" And I got her :) Her name is Sister Garcia-Gomez and she is from Veracruz Mexico but she spent a lot of her life in San Diego. She speaks fluent English as well but we try to only speak spanish together. She's 20 years old so she's one of the new wave of younger missionaries. She's awesome! She LOVES shopping so we spent just about all of our first p-day going to the outlets. She also loves running :) We're gonna get along great!
We are currnetly living in one of the elder old apartments. It's disgusting might I add. We've already thrown away more than six garbage bags of their old stuff. The elders that were living there are currently sleeping on the zone leaders couch. Por guys. President found a new apartment for us but it won't be available for about another month. But I think it's in the same apartment complex so we won't have to move very far. It's a nicer complex than my last apartment and the gym is a lot better so I'm happy to stay!
I don't know how but somehow we got so lucky to use the assistants car until they get some more. It's a ford fusion and way nicer than anything I've ever driven before. My companion doesn't drive so it made me nervous at first to be the one responsible for it. But now I love it!
So as for our first week in Gilroy....I knew white washing an area would be hard. Especially with a trainee. But I didn't know it would be THIS hard. I really think that it'll get easier though. I already know this week won't be like last week because we've gotten to know a few members and we have a lot of set appointments coming up. The members have been really nice and have already called and scheduled dinners for us. Most of them are excited to have sister least that's what they tell us :) We've found about 4 investigators what we're going to start teaching plus we inherited some from the Elders.  Speaking of members: we had dinner last night with some of the english members and they gave me a huge bag of gluten free goodies. It was SO nice. And she made a gluten free meal :) (Her husband has celiacs). I like nice people.
I like Gilroy. It's apparently famous for Garlic? It's a really cute small town with lots of fields and farm and orchards. President bought us some bikes (pink with baskets!) that we started riding today. The weather has been a lot nicer. Livermore would get pretty hot but it's just perfectly warm here. The morgan hill zone is HUGE compared to my Livermore zone. We played volleyball yesterday for p-day and had almost four teams! One of the elders ran for uvu last year so we had a good time talking about our former track lives.
We watched half of general conference in english and the other half in spanish. I don't know who said it but one of the speakers talked about how families would always move into a stake and immediately ask which ward was "the best" instead of learning which ward needed a good family or support in some other way. That changed my attitude completely about coming here to gilroy. I need to ask where am I needed to help and strengthen an area instead of wanting to go wherever is going to be the most fun or have the most baptisms etc. I know there is some reason why I have been sent to white wash this area and I may not every find out why! But I'm glad I'm here and I really love my new companion.
Dad, where did you send my taxes? Mission office or my livermore address? I'll keep an eye out for them. Thank you SOOOO much for doing my taxes by the way. I think this will be the first year that doing my taxes won't result in my crying. Also, thanks for your email. I really appreciated all of it but especially what you said about perfectionism....something I need to remember. I'm glad you and the vitrano's got to attend general conference together. And I might steal that bead object lesson for one of ours! My journal is still in Livermore for some people to sign. I bought a journal just for testimonies and contact information. I think my old companion has it right now.
Mom, can you pretty please send my dakine backpack? The black and pink one? To my new address I think would be best. Also, will you include some filler pages for the journal that Andrea got me. I still have quite a few left but I'll run out within a couple months. That way you won't have to send another package again. And thank you for your Easter package last week. I really liked the poem you included. I need reminders like that everynow and then. I didn't have any time to write letters on Monday but I wanted you to know that I am grateful for your letters!
Here is my new address:
 8200 Kern Ave Apt J104
Gilroy, CA  95020
Speaking of addresses...I can't get a library card until I have proof of residency. For example.... a letter addressed to me with a Gilroy address. SOOOO if someone wants to send me a letter this week that would be even more greatly appreciated than normal! That way I won't have to pay for the internet next week. THanks in advance whoever you are! Also, I will be emailing on Tuesdays or maybe even Wednesdays from now on because the Library is closed on Mondays. I don't know why....
Well I hope everyone is doing well and I can't wait to hear from  you again! Love you LOTS!
Love, Hermana Billings

Monday, April 1, 2013

Photos of the Mocho Branch of Livermore, CA April 1, 2013

This is Napolean's son Roman who just got baptized last week
(not sure who is who, I only see one person without a missionary badge!)
Sister Barker preparing for surgery
"Wo unto them that seek for a sign"
Matt Budge (San Ramon YSA Ward) and Sister Wallace
New missionary (Sister Green's companion), Sister Billings, Sister Wallace, and Sister Green.
Sister Billings with Diana and Duncan
Sister Fuimaono washing her un-able companion's hair
(Sister Barker just had surgery on her hand)
Napolean and his son Roman who just got baptized last week
Mocho Branch missionaries
Sister Billings, Sister Wallace, Elder Perez, and Elder Nielsen
Zaira, Rueben, and Angela Rocha of the Mocho Branch
with Sister Wallace and Sister Billings
Angela Rocha and Sister Billings
Blanca and Marco with their grandson Jesse
with Sister Wallace and Sister Billings
Robert and Mirel Flores of the Mocho Branch 
with Sister Billings
Sister Billings and Erika
Ana and Sister Billings

April 1, 2013 - Livermore

Well surprise surprise I'm getting transferred :( But the real surprise is that I'm going to be training!! I do not feel ready to be training a new missionary. At all. Especially white washing a new area...(extra prayers the next couples weeks will be needed). I'll find out tomorrow morning around 10 where I'll be transferred to and then Thursday morning I'll meet my trainee :)
This whole week has been soooo busy. More than usual. Sister Barker (roommate) had to get surgery on her hand so we had been driving back and forth to take her to the doctor and then we were in a threesome with Sister Fuimaono. So the three of us were covering four wards for a couple days and it was insane. On Thursday we had four dinners all back to back of eachother. But two of them were with investigators so it was well worth it.
Well another surprise that I experienced this week was getting proposed to. There's a first for everything right? I just didn't think that would be something I experienced for the first time while on my mission. Remember Luis? We hadn't seen or heard from him for awhile so we called him as we were about to head out. He said he had been thinking about baptism a lot and that he wanted to be baptized. I was SO excited.....until he asked me to marry him. I told him that it was very inappropriate (well that's what I would have said in English but since I didn't know how to say that in Spanish I just said "Hermano. Eso es muy muy mal" And then I told him what our purpose is as missionaries. I told him that if he still wanted to learn more he needed to call the Elders and he actually took it really well and said he would still like to learn more from them. Sister Wallace thought it was the funniest thing ever and could not stop laughing about it. And she still makes fun of me for it! I didn't find it very funny at the time...but I've been able to laugh about it since then.
We've been teaching a woman named Lupita -she's the one that got mad at me for implying that she should find a new job that allows her to come to church on sundays. She said I don't understand because I'm white and I have papers etc.) Anway, we've been teaching her ever since I got here. She has been meeting with the  missionaries for years and tells us every day that we go over there how much she wants to be baptized. She reads the book of mormon and bible with out fail EVERY single day.The reason why she isn't baptized is because she can't come to work on Sundays (work) and isn't married to her "husband". We've been trying to take baby steps with her but she won't even consider coming to church because she doesn't want to lose her job. Sister Wallace has wanted to drop her every since we've been companions but I just didn't have it in my heart and yesterday she came to church!! I was SO shocked to see her there. We hadn't even visited with her this week. She even made her very catholic husband come with her. It made my last day in the mocho branch so much better! It's always worth having hope in something that seems hopeless :)
After church I had the worst experience to date on my mission. We were walking outside the mexican tienda and a Jehovas Witness man came up and started talking to us. I know I shouldn't stereotype the religion with how this man was but if I were to never meet a jehovas witness again I would think that they are all horribly mean people like him. I decided that I always have to be a perfect example of how I want people to view the church. If I'm the only church member they every meet I better leave a good impression.  He immediately drove the spirit away and we tried leaving several times but he kept asking us if he could ask us questions. Then he told us that we were way too young to know what we were talking about and that we're too young to know the bible etc. Towards the end of the convo he asked us a question that neither of us really understood. We said sorry but we didn't understand what he was asking so he threw his hands in the air and said we shouldn't be preaching in spanish if we can't speak it and all this other horrible mean stuff. Maybe I shouldn't have said this, because I was angry, but I said "well I'm sorry that we're not perfect but neither are you sir" And then we left but he was still trying to get us to come back. I've never met anyone so mean in my life. And the thing that made me so mad is he was pretending to be nice. Uhhh I'm getting angry even thinking about it again!
Well I don't think I"ll have time to write anyone today because I need to finish packing. I'm sending lots of pictures in the next email.  I'll send home my new address in the next weeks email. Letters can be sent to the mission office too:
 3975 McLaughlin Ave Ste. A
San Jose, CA 95121
Andrea: HAPPY BIRTHDAY on Sunday!!!!!! I'll get something in the mail next week. But I hope you have an awesome birthday and I can't wait to hear all about it :)
Love you all mucho mucho!!
Hermana Billings