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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July 30, 2013 - Gilroy

Hi family!!! This last week was such an amazing one!!! Definitely an emotional roller coaster...but still an amazing week. The highlight of the week was Ines was baptized!! (I'll send pictures). Unfortunately Jocelyn did not go through with her baptism. I still can't believe how quickly Ines chose to be baptized. 11 days! And I've never seen anyone so happy. She couldn't stop smiling/crying during the whole baptismal program.
We went to the church with PLENTY of time to set everything up for the baptism but of course...everything went wrong. The keys that we've ALWAYS been able to use to get into the font and the baptismal clothes closet would not work. We called our branch president and everyone else that we could think of to help us but no one was available. It takes about 45 minutes for the font to fill up so with about one hour to go before the baptism all three of us started to panic. After about 10 minutes of panic aka getting nothing done, we decided to say a prayer. We kneeled down in the church, right in front of the baptismal font and said a prayer. Right as we were saying amen, we got a phone call saying that a bishop from one of the other wards was brining us the correct keys. Coincidence? Maybe. But I believe it was an answer to our prayer.
Our ward mission leader was late so the baptismal service started 20 minutes late....but other than that it was perfect! Ines had asked us to sing at her baptism and I was so happy that she was choosing to be baptized that I said yes before realizing that I don't sing! 
 But we asked President and Sister Watkins to join us and one of the elders so that our voices would be drowned out a little. :) We sang How Great Thou Art (in Spanish....Grande eres tu) and it was SO spiritual. I don't know how we sounded but the spirit was amazingly strong. Everyone was crying. And I forgot that I was even singing in front of our whole branch. I just kept looking at Ines and she had the BIGGEST smile on her face with tears rolling down her cheeks the entire time.
It was a very happy day (Saturday) even though we only had one baptism instead of the planned two. Jocelyn chose not to be baptized because she wanted her brothers to be able to attend and one of them was out of town. We don't have a new date set for her but hopefully it'll be sometime soon.
This week was also the 35th annual Gilroy garlic festival. Apparently it's a big deal! We volunteered for the whole day on Friday and our job was to fry the calamari. I know....we got lucky. The festival was really neat though....pretty much everything was made drenched in garlic. I tried garlic ice cream (DISGUSTING), garlic fries, garlic bread, garlic calamari and garlic pesto pasta. The garlic fries and bread were really the only thing that I liked. I'll send some pictures from the garlic festival too.
As far as our other investigators....Will is still meeting with us twice a week. We don't teach him the usual lessons, we are going through an addiction recovery program with him. He's progressing really well though. His next step will be to go to the addiction recovery classes with a ward member. He keeps saying that he will...but then he chickens out. He needs to take small steps but he's already turned his life around so much.
Amber's son, Anthony, is still planning on being baptized the 17th of August. It's coming up quick! When we first set that goal I thought it would never get here. I PRAY that I'm still in Gilroy next transfer (Transfers are next week). If not, I can always come back for his baptism. But I really want at least one more transfer here in Gilroy. Amber is still struggling with her smoking and coffee addictions but she's definitely made a lot of improvement as well. As far as wedding plans....they seem pretty distant. But next June is her goal so hopefully she sticks to it. We haven't had any interaction with her husband...he knows how to keep his distance. But I still have hope that one day he'll come around!
Thanks so much for the pictures!!!! I opened all of them and they were fine. I think Ethan looks so cute with his glasses!!! And all of the miller sisters look so alike. Looks like everyone had a good time!
By the're going to Texas in January? Can't you wait 3 more months?!?!?! I guess we can just all go back once I'm home....RIGHT? :)
Can you email me a picture of my weber ring? I'm really happy that it came!
I have a bunch of things that I'll send home...soon (hopefully) including my SD card. I haven't made a disc of all the pictures yet but I did make a disc with all the pictures from sis gg's camera. Maybe I'll send that home too.
Well that's it for this week!! I hope everyone else is doing great. I pray for everyone daily!! Jessica....feel free to write sometime soon! It's sure been awhile :)
I love you all!! Thanks for the support!
Love, Sister Billings

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 23, 2013 - Gilroy

This week really was a week of miracles! We met a lady named Ines who is visiting her brother, who is an active member of the branch, for the summer. She's visiting from South Carolina. We met her last Sunday at church and she asked if we could come over and explain some of the things that she learned in Church.
We had our first lesson with her on Tuesday and she loved it. She said that she's been looking for something for so long and she's been to so many churches but none of them filled her heart until she went to our church on Sunday. We invited her to be baptized and she said she'd read the Book of Mormon and we set up an appointment for the following Sunday after church.
On Sunday the branch president asked all 5 of us missionaries to speak on the 5 missionary lessons in Preach My Gospel. During one of the talks I leaned over to Elder Olsen and joked that Ines would be able to get baptized right after church because she would have received all of the missionary lessons. After church we taught her the second lesson and at the end she said that she had a gift for us. She told us that she wanted to be baptized August 3 and she had already looked up the church buildings in South Carolina. We were so excited....but it gets better.
We went to our branch presidents house last night for Family Home Evening and Ines came with her Brother's family. We shared a spiritual thought about the Book of Mormon being the keystone to our religion and then the president talked about how Heavenly Father has a gift for her and He's just waiting for her to accept it. She said "lo quiero ahorita!" (I want it now!). We discussed a few more things with her and set up this Saturday at 7 to be her baptism. We're going to teach her every day this week to prepare her for a baptism in less than a week! She'll be baptized 11 days after our first lesson with her. CRAZY!! But she has been very prepared by the Lord. She's even been thinking about staying in California with her brother's family so that she can have their support.
Looks like we'll have 2 baptisms this Saturday! One for Jocelyn and one for Ines. Pray for both of them :)
Our other miracle was Miguel-Angel. We've been teaching him for awhile and during one of our lessons with him last week he told us that he needs help quiting drinking. He's already been deported back to Mexico 5 times for drinking and driving and he got arrested on Sunday. We asked him why he keeps drinking if he knows it's costing him so much and he said he didn't know why. We asked the elders to come give him a blessing and it was so spiritual. After the blessing everyone was talking but I looked across the room at his 3 year old daughter named Mireya.
She was starring at me and our eyes locked for what felt like 5 minutes. I couldn't look away from her. And she didn't look away from me either. She didn't even blink.  I realized that what we were doing for Miguel-Angel was just as much for her. It was as if she was pleading with me to help her dad. At that moment I felt stronger than ever that there is a reason why I'm here on my mission. I knew that she is a daughter of God and if her Dad accepts the gospel, it will change her life forever. I don't think I'll ever be able to forget how I felt as I looked into the eyes of that little girl.
The rest of our week was good too. I went to Salinas and spent a day with Sister Green (my trainer) and her new trainee, Sister Thornton. It was really fun to work with Sister Green again. I love doing exchanges because I learn so much from each companionship.
The only not-so-good thing about this week was on Friday evening we had dinner with the zone leaders at a members house from the Spanish branch. Her food is always SO good! Buuuuuut all five of us woke up Saturday morning with food poisoning.  We're all better now though.
I sent a letter to Mom and Dad this week. Let me know when you get it! And thanks for all your letters this week. They're very much appreciated!
I love all of you!!! Have a good week!
Dios les bendiga
Love, Hermana Billings

Thursday, July 18, 2013

July 16, 2013 - Gilroy

This week was long and busy! AKA it went by REALLY fast! I had the awesome opportunity to spend two days on exchanges in seaside with the sisters serving over there. Their apartment has a beautiful view of the ocean! It was SO pretty and I'm already planning on telling my President that I would love to finish my mission in Seaside. Our first appointment in Seaside didn't exactly start off the way we would have liked. We pulled up to an apartment complex with my pink bike from Gilroy on a bike rack on the trunk. One of the Sisters needed to get her backpack out of the trunk so she lifted up the trunk with the bike rack still connected. When she closed the trunk (which she did so by just letting go of the bike) the back window COMPLETELY shattered into a million pieces of broken glass. We all just stared at the broken window in complete silence for a good minute! (I'll send a picture). We cleaned up all the glass and then drove around the rest of the night without a back window. But we got a new window the next day!
I loved seaside because it's an all bike area so we got to be outside ALL day! However, my pink 7 speed beach cruiser didn't do very well with the hills on the first day. You can't go anywhere in seaside without riding up at least 5 hills! We also got up at 6 to go running that morning (also up a million steep hills) so my legs were pretty sore that night. I was also SUPER hungry all day! Mom do you remember how hungry I would be after track practice? That's how I felt after riding up hills on our bikes all day! But it really was great! The second day in seaside I got to use one of the other sisters 21 speed bikes instead of my beach cruiser and it made riding up those hills a lot easier.
With the little experience that I have from doing exchanges I love it so far! I didn't sleep very well at night because I was worried about what was going on in Gilroy. When I came back to Gilroy I felt at home again! But I learned a lot from the other sisters that I plan on applying to the rest of my mission. This week I'll be going to Salinas for exchanges with my trainer Sister Green!!! I'm REALLY excited to see and work with her again :)
As far as our investigators go I'll just tell a quick story about Rob. His wife is an active member and so are his sons (who both served missions) but he's never agreed with organized religion. He's met with the missionaries several times but has never read the Book of Mormon. He promised us to read one chapter with his wife before we came to visit him again and he ended up reading the first 6 chapters of 1 Nephi and most of Moroni :) His wife was SHOCKED that he actually read and she couldn't stop smiling. But the cool part of the story is how he found a Book of Mormon to read:
When we gave him the challenge to read we just assumed he had a Book of Mormon from his wife or sons (our bad!) so we didn't even think to give him his own. He ended up going out of town for work and planned on having his wife read to him over the phone. She ended up not being able to so when his plane landed in Denver he decided to go to the temple (which was 10 minutes away) to ask for a copy. The temple visitor's center was closed so he headed to his hotel. Turns out that he was staying at a Marriott!! When he got to his room he opened the drawer and saw a Book of Mormon waiting for him :)
The other exciting thing that's been going on is our former branch president (who's been inactive since he was released as president) came back to church on Sunday! he brought his entire family too. Everyone was SO happy to see him there and just about everyone was crying. He bore his testimony and said that he was back to stay. He's been going out with the Elders to visit all of the less actives and tells them that he's come back so they need to too. We've already had a lot more activation just from his example. 
Madison and Ivory went to girls camp and absolutely loved it! Madison is planning on being baptized in August. She's waiting to find out when her brother will be in town so that she can set a date.
Mom and Dad I want to hear all about the camping trip! Pictures would be nice too :) I'm glad Cathy and Rita got to go to church....hopefully they enjoyed it! I still think you should invite the missionaries over for dinner while they're there! Then they can see what it is that I'm up to!
Sorry about your finger dad. I cut mine while cutting a Mango the other day....not bad enough to get stitches like you though! Thanks for the update about the Zimmerman case. And don't worry, we're staying out of trouble. And thanks for sharing your experiences with working in branches. It definitely helps to see other perspectives and realize that we actually don't have it THAT bad! Especially with the baptismal font setup that you had to do! I guess we are pretty spoiled :)
Mom- you should make a profile! And also.....for my birthday could you send me a new white shirt from down east? Maybe a black one too? Or whatever other cute colors they have. They don't have a downeast in Cali and my white shirt is starting to not be white. The shirt is the "Classic Tee" size small. It's the one with the finished edges. Thank you so much!! I'm looking forward to your next letter. have fun camping with your sisters!
I hope everyone else is doing well! I haven't heard from Andrea for awhile? You still alive?
Have a good week everyone! I love you all!
Love, Sister Billings

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 9, 2013 - Gilroy

Happy 4th of July!!! (I don't remember if I said that last week). We learned this week that the 4th of July isn't exactly missionary friendly. We tried so hard all day to find people to teach but no one was home. Literally. But we did go to our ward BBQ and it was such a blast. There were several of our investigators there as well so it was a great activity! We had to be in at nine so we didn't get to see any fireworks :( I was really sad sitting in our room hearing them outside just knowing that we couldn't go outside and see them. But I'll just appreciate them even more next year!
Before I talk about all of our investigators I have to tell you what we ate for dinner one night this week.....Cucumbers and shrimp in ketchup and water. It was a chilled type of soup thing. Possibly the worst thing I've had to eat my entire mission! Including the cow tongue! But luckily, that same night, President took our zone out to dinner at a really yummy Mexican restaurant. (I still can't believe I like Mexican food).
Okay so our investigators are doing really well for the most part. Amber is in the same boat and her son is still excited about his baptism in August. Will told us that he didn't want to see us anymore so we went over to talk to him and it turns out that we were just going too quick for him. Once we established our purpose and cleared up a few things he asked if we could keep coming. We told him that of course we could! And then he said, almost in tears, "Thanks for giving me another chance".  He told us that he's been praying about what to do and his answer was "Don't let those Sisters out of your life".
We have a new investigator named Madison (15yrs) who is at girls camp this week. We met her niece, Ivory (who is 14 so they're pretty much sisters) on the street one day and found out that she was a less active. Her records were still in Oklahoma so the ward didn't even know who they were. We started visiting her and Madison got really interested. The stake offered to pay for both of them to go to girls camp and Madison said she wants to be baptized when they get back. They came to church on Sunday for the first time and it was Ivory's first time coming to church since her own baptism.
Well that's about it for news! Jocelyn still has a baptismal date for July 27 but she might move it up so that her boyfriend can come. She's been visiting with the missionaries for 4 years and FINALLY picked a date!  :)
Oh! I almost passed out on Sunday for the first time in my life! It was fast Sunday and REALLY hot and at about 4 we were waiting in the church building for a lesson. I started feeling really weird and then I told my companions that I couldn't see out of my right eye. It seriously was just black. Then the rest just felt like a dream and I don't even remember what happened. I guess sister champlin asked if there were any doctors but just about everyone had already gone home. A sister in the other ward asked what was going on so she told her that I couldn't see. She brought in a huge box of food that she keeps in her car for her kids and made me drink a bottle of water. 10 minutes later I was perfectly fine but I don't remember any of it! I do remember having the WORST headache for the rest of the day though.
Other than that things are going great! I get to spend two days (tomorrow and Thursday) in the Monterrey zone (Seaside) with the Sisters down there and I am SO excited!!! It really is going to be fun to get to know all of the sisters and see how the work is going in different parts of the mission. I think God has handed me a pretty good deal :)
Well I pray for each one of you and I hope everything is going good!! Have a good week and I love you all!
Love, Sister Billings

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 2, 2013 - Gilroy

Hola famila!
This past week got HOT overnight! I'm sure it's just as hot over there in Utah and Texas though. Well on Thursday we met our new companion, Sister Champlin. She's from Logan, UT and is 19 years old. She's a super hard worker, she ran track (sprints) in HS and loves Harry Potter :) She's really enthustiastic and even though she can't speak the language it doens't stop her from talking! It's been really fun to work with her and realize that I actually have made some progress...even if it's just with time on the mission. I have so much to learn from her though and I honestly feel spoiled, once again, with the people that I get assigned to work with. I'll try and send a picture of us three after this email.
I think the highlight of the week was on Saturday. It was well over 100 degrees but we decided to take the bikes out for 2 hours to give Sister Champlin her first taste of the pink bikes. She was dying after the first hour! But she almost made it back to our apartment. As we were riding into our apt complex we heard  a crash and turned around to see Sister Champlin had fallen into a big bush. Poor thing! I guess we did a little too much too soon! I didn't realize how much riding those bikes for the past 12 weeks would pay off.
She really is great though....she's super willing to try anything. She invited 2 people to be baptized her first day her and they were both in Spanish!
Well as for investigators it looks like Amber's son Anthony will be getting baptized without her :( Nothing is for sure yet but that's the way it's looking. She's still making great progress though and has been coming to church faithfully. Maybe this will give her husband a chance to accept the gospel. Keep her in your prayers!
Will came to help some famillies in the ward move so he got to know a lot of other members. One day he'll make it to church!
Well that's it for this week....I hope everyone has a good week! Love you all!
Love, Hermana Billings