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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May 28, 2013 - Gilroy

Hi family!
We had a really good week this week. Especially with Amber. She had surgery on Friday so the relief society made her dinner and she was so touched. We brought the dinner over and visited with her for a bit. When we left we put in The Testaments for her to watch and she said she really liked it. Her husband even watched some of it with her! Which is a HUGE step for him. She said that he's been changing a lot lately and has been warming up to the idea of getting married. Which is good because she has a baptismal date for August 17!
The very first time that she came to church was a fast Sunday and she asked me why everyone who goes up to bear their testimony cries. I told her that sometimes there isn't any other way to express how we feel. Anyway, we visited her again on Saturday and she started telling us how she really thinks this church is true and how she's been through a lot of trials and always felt alone but now she knows that she's not alone. She started crying and then said "Ah man! Now I'm one of you guys!" It was funny but SO amazing to hear her bear testimony. Usually we're the ones bearing testimony, but she's learned so much and can now do it for herself. It was so amazing and powerful to hear an investigator bear testimony of the truthfulness of everything we've taught her and everything she's learned in church. It really strengthened my testimony.
Amber's also doing missinoary work without even realizing it! This is my favorite story from my mission so far....Amber's neighbor (Nuri Rodriguez) is a less active in the Spanish branch. Amber didn't even know that she was a member of our church and asked if she would drive her to church because she wasn't going to be able to drive after surgery. It was amazing in and of itself to see the Rodriguez family at church but then to find out that Amber was the reason they came was even more amazing.
Last thing about Amber....when we went to see her she said she hadn't smoked for 5 days and that she doesn't even have the desire to. We didn't even know that she was trying to quit! Hmna Garcia-Gomez asked if she could throw all her cigarettes out and she told her to go for it. Please keep her and her family (especially her husband) in your prayers that they'll be able to one day be sealed in the temple together.
Ricardo, who'll be baptized on June 8, has also been doing his fair share of missionary work. Every time we go teach him he invites all his friends over. As we were driving home after our last lesson we got a phone call from his mom and she said that Ricardo, his 8yr brother Luis and all of their friends were reading the book of mormon together. We had assigned them "homework" but didn't think they'd do it right away! His parents are both very active members and ricardo (10yr) was just adopted by them this last month. His friends are learning alot and love it when we come teach them but don't come to church because their parents won't take them.
Last investigator update is about Ivan. We started teaching him the same time as Anthony but only taught one lesson. Then he disappeared and we didn't see him for weeks. We ran into him at this work (grocery store) and he told us he had a new address. When we visited him he told us that he did what we said and read the Book of Mormon and had been praying about it and wants to be a mormon. He said he'd also been doing research about Joseph Smith and he actually knew quite a bit about his life. I love when people take what we say seriously! All we ask is for people to do their research (read the book of mormon) and find out for themselves (pray). Is that too much to ask? He set a baptismal date for June 22 but it'll be difficult to get him to church. Although he did ask his boss for Sundays off so maybe things will change.
So I called my bank to see if I had enough money on my card for groceries this week since I already spent all the money that we get for the month (it was my comps b-day I had to treat her well!!) and there was a lot more money on there than when I first left. Any explanations? Thank you to wherever that money came from!
Well I think that's all for the week! Hope everyone is doing great!! :) Oh, I finally finished reading the Book of Mormon in Spanish out loud :) Hope to hear from you all soon
Love, Hermana Billings

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 21, 2013 - Gilroy

Hola familia!
We had a really good week. Amber and her son picked August 17 for their baptismal dates. Her son would and could get baptized sooner than that but Amber wants them to do it together and the soonest she can get married is in July. After they decided on that date Amber couldn't stop smilling. We had already said a prayer but before she left she asked if we could say another kneeling prayer. She has been doing so awesome. She's starting to make a lot of big changes and her kids are learning a lot. Plus they all love church. This last Sunday their dad helped them get ready for church and according to Amber, this is a huge improvement on his part. She keeps telling us how bad she wants her husband to learn these things too. Keep them in your prayers! On Sunday a member from the bishopric invited the missionaries and Amber and her family over to their house for dinner. It was so nice of them to include her and her kids. Everyone had a really good time too. But I think Amber brought mocha coffee cake for dessert....oops. I didn't eat any of it but does that still count as against the word of wisdom? Also, my granola bars say sugar alcohol in the ingredients. Is that against the word of wisdom too?
Have all of my pictures been coming through? I'm surprised that my camera card isn't full yet because I have over 500 pictures on it. I'll print some out and then I think I'll send my card home pretty soon to get the pictures saved on a disc or something. I also need to send home a box of stuff that I want to keep but that I don't have room for anymore. We moved apartments this week and I realized that I have a LOT more stuff than I originally came out with. I don't know when or how I got it all. Speaking of moving apartments....our new one is so new and nice and wonderful! We spent about 2 days cleaning out the other one and it was even worse than we originally thought. 10 plus years of elders living there definitely showed. But now we have 2 bedrooms, new carpet and new roommates :) Here's our new address: (only the apt number is different)
8200 Kern Ave Apt B104
Gilroy, CA 95020
My companion had advanced orientation on Friday so I got to spend about half a day with a sister who is waiting for her visa to go to brazil. I spoke in Spanish and she spoke in Portuguese and we could actually communicate with eacother! Well and obviously we both speak English but I was surprised how similir it is to Spanish. It also sounds very French and it's BEAUTIFUL! I made the goal to learn Portuguese when I get home.
Anthony is still making a lot of progress and came to a youth fireside with us on Sunday. He's concerned about his family not making the decisions that will take them to the Sun kingdom with him. But he prays for them and is setting a really good example.  They've noticed a change in him though. He goes to school now for one. He still hasn't talked to his parents about baptism but he said he tells them everything we teach them and they think it's really good that he's interested in this stuff but they don't have interest themselves.
Here's another funny but true story about  the power of faith.....just before coming over here we stopped by a house to visit a referal that someone in the stake presidency gave us. We were too scared to get out of the car because there was a big German Sheppard right outside our door. It was my companions turn to pray so I told her to pray that the dog would go sit under the tree far away from us. She said "okay hold on I need to get some faith" and right when she said that the dog started walking towards the tree. After her prayer the dog was still over by the tree so we got out of the car. Tender mercies :)
We had another funny encounter with an animal today...we were on a ranch or farm type thing looking for another referal and I was about 30 feet ahead of my companion talking to a lady when I hear my companion make a little squeel. I turned around to see what was going on and a huge pig was running full speed towards her. It just sniffed her, like a dog would. But it made me laugh.
Before I forget....I made some new years resolutions at the beginning of the year but I've just about completed all of them so I wanted to ask you return missionaries (dad, scott, justin, ellice, matt, amy etc.) for some ideas of goals that you wished you would've set while you were on your mission??? I'll appreciate any and all ideas!! Thanks :)
Well I hope everyone has a good week and I'll talk to you again soon! Love you all
Love, Hermana Billings

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May 14, 2013 - Gilroy

Well it wasn't very long ago since I got to talk to all of you so I'm not sure that I'll have much to say! It was soooo good to see everyone on Saturday though. As everyone saw it was a little hard for me to say goodbye but I'm up and running again!
We had a big Mother's day lunch after church (spanish branch) on Sunday and on Monday we went bowling as a zone. I'll send some pictures this week since I'll have a lot of extra time.  I think I already mentioned that we'll be moving apartments this week. Same complex though. Unfortunately it's going to take away ALOT of missionary time. From the elders too because we're going to need their help.
Mom- wow I can't believe Kelly is going to have a baby. When is she due? And is it going to be a boy or a girl?
Dad- thanks for sending the track update...and the news update too. And thanks for the advice with Anthony. Sometimes I can tell that he doesn't exactly understand everything we say. And I think he feels exactly the same way you did about reading outloud. Can you remember any other experiences with the sisters  you when you were 14 that might be able to help Anthony? I think his biggest obstacle will be getting permission from his dad.
Thanks to everyone for the support, love, letters, emails and prayers! I love you all have a good week!
Love, Hermana Billings

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May 7, 2013 - Gilroy

I think I only look at/pay attention to the date on the days that I email so that I can type it into the subject box and my heart always skips a beat and I can never believe how fast the time flies!! May 7th already?? What in the world. Okay....first things first. It's almost Mother's Day!! I'm so excited to talk to everyone!!! We don't have time to do it on Sunday because we have church until 4 and the despidida at 6. So how does Saturday at 2 (CA time) work for everyone?? I'll have a member call you guys and figure it out if that doesn't work. But hopefully it does. Dad I took note of your email address for the google hangout. for mine. I think it's the same one we used during Christmas.
I'm going to start with a few food stories for this week....story #1 I bit into a pepper (not the spicy ones...they're small sweet ones) and saw an ALIVE beetle starring back at me!!! It reminded me of when Andrea got a beetle stuck to her hair in the swimming pool. My reaction wasn't quite the same as hers though. Although it was similar. I am officially never biting into a pepper again without breaking it open first.
story #2 Last night we were fed lengua...cows tongue. And I threw it all up. Twice while we were still at the members house and a final time at 4 in the morning. I woke up from my dream about cows with their tongues hanging out. I will never eat that again if I can help it! I was trying to mix it with the rice and beans and tortillas but hermana alvarez called me out and said to try it by itself or else I wouldn't be able to taste it. So everyone stared at me until I took a bite of just the lengua.
story #3 This is the only good food story....we didn't have a dinner appointment so we had fro yo for dinner! :) That's what happens when the missionaries don't get fed.
Okay that's it for food stories. Remember how we had a lot of investigator lessons last week? President told us that it was a record for the mission. I thought he was going to lecture us about the importance of balance with our lessons so I was really surprised and happy to hear him say that. He said he never expected the record to come from a white washed area. BUT we all know that numbers or records are not what's important. It's the people behind those lessons that matter. And that's honestly how it happened...we prayed about who needed our message and we were always led to non-members. In the past our focus would be "who can we visit to get a lesson" and we would usually be led to an active members house where we could be guaranteed a lesson.  
Remember Anthony? He reminds me SO much of Joseph Smith. If I had a hard time believe that a 14 year old boy would be able to do what he did I would no longer doubt it after meeting Anthony. In fact, now i relize why a 14 yr old boy is the perfect canidate for restoring the gospel.   During one of our lessons we asked him if he had been praying and reading the book of mormon. He said yes and then we asked if he had prayed about baptism yet and he said "Actually I haven't talked to Him about that yet". He really understands that prayer is a form of communication between us and Heavenly Father. He made it sound so simple. He helped me remember that we can talk to God just as we talk to anybody else.
There was actually quite a bit of drama with Anthony. "Luckily" everything is fine now. We invited him LAST minute to go hiking with the YM the next morning. Someone brought him over a permission slip at 1030 and they left the next morning at 630. Long story short 3 boys had to go to the hospital and there wasn't cell phone service so anthony's mom was freaking out about the fact that it was 9oclock and he wasn't home yet. We knew there had been an accident but we weren't sure if Anthony was one of the ones involved. They finally got cell service at about 10 and we found out that anthony did not get hurt but he didn't get home until after midnight. His parents were not very happy at ALL and said that we couldn't visit him ever again. THe branch president went over and talked to her last night though to apologize and she said it would be okay if we still visited him but if there is a church activity she'll have to "think about it". The cool thing about the hike was that Anthony had told us he wanted to come to church on fast Sunday so that he could hear peoples testimonies about baptism but he wasn't going to be able to come to church. We mentioned that to the YM leader so during their lunch break they had 3 recent converts of about the same age as Anthony bear their testimonies about their baptism. How cool is that???
I wanted to mention some other things but my time is up so I'll just have to wait until Saturday.  Can't wait to see everyone!! Love you all :)
Love, Hermana Billings