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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August 27, 2013 - Gilroy

We just had one of the best weeks of my mission. I had so much fun this week that I almost forgot I was a missionary! Although we had a lot of fun we still worked really hard and were blessed with the opportunity to see Jocelyn be baptized!
 
We met with her on Monday and she seemed very committed to baptism but then we went to visit her on Friday and she wasn't there. We talked to her mom and she told us that Joeclyn was having a lot of doubts about her baptism. Her mom was really nervous that she wasn't going to go through with it so we decided to fast together. The 3 of us knelt in prayer to start a fast on behalf of Jocelyn and the spirit was really strong.
 
We went back to visit them the next day (Saturday) one hour before Jocelyn's baptismal interview. We talked to Jocelyn and she bore testimony of the things that we've taught her since April. We asked her how she felt about baptism and she said that she wanted to do it because she knew it was a step in the right direction. We asked her if she had any doubts that she wanted to discuss and she said that she did. We asked her to share them with us and she said she was really nervous that she wouldn't go all the way under the water the first time and would have to be "re-baptized" until she finally went all the way under. I tried not to make my sigh of relief too loud!
 
Sunday came and the baptismal program went perfectly smooth and, most importantly, she only had to go under the water once! She prayed with so much faith that she wouldn't have to do it more than once and God answered her prayers :) She invited her non-member boyfriend and bothers to come to her baptism which was really great. However, her non-member dad didn't show up so she was kind of disappointed. If I have time I'll send some pictures from her special day.
 
On Saturday, the three wards in Gilroy had an awesome Luau. Over 600 people came and about 100 of them were non-members. It was such a great missionary opportunity! They cooked two pigs, had Hawaiian dancers (including a fire dancer) and a church tour. At the end of the night they invited all of the missionaries up on the stage and invited anyone who had any questions to come up and talk to us. We were able to find a lot of people to teach just because of that activity. AND it was a lot of fun!! The best part of the night was watching the elders try and do the Haka!
 
And just to add to our awesome week.....President took our district to the Santa Cruz beach yesterday! The weather couldn't have been more perfect and the ocean was so pretty!! Of course I didn't wear sunscreen and of course I got sunburned but it was totally worth it. We played soccer (which is REALLY hard in the sand) and had a picnic and just relaxed. Right before we left President made me race two of the elders but they both beat me :( I tried to tell him that I was retired but he said he had complete confidence in me and said we weren't leaving until I raced them. It was a close race though so I told him I'll train to beat both of them before I go home! 
 
Overall it was a really great week. We ended on Sunday with 0 progressing investigators so we were a little discouraged but we've already found some great people to teach this week so hopefully some of them show interest! We know God will bless us if we just do our best. I hope you all have a good week and thanks for everything. I love you all!
 
Love, Hermana Billings

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August 20, 2013 - Gilroy

Hola familia! This week was great! First and most importantly............Anthony's baptism was perfect!! It really was the smoothest a baptismal service that I've attended has ever gone. We got there in plenty of time to get the font filled and everything else set up. It really makes a difference when we do things ahead of time instead of leaving it to the last minute. Even though it went really smoothly we actually started about 20 min late. Everyone showed up on time EXCEPT Anthony and Amber. I called Amber about 5:05 (it was supposed to start at 5) and asked her if she was on her way to the baptism and she said "What baptism?" My heart seriously dropped! But then she started laughing and said that they got lost but were on their way.
 
Not a lot of people showed up...the primary president, ward mission leader, bishop and one other family that's close to Amber were the only ones from the ward. However, Amber's mom, sister, friend and 2 neighbors (all non-members) came!! So we couldn't have been more thrilled to have so many potential investigators in one room. While we were waiting for Anthony to change his clothes, Sister Champlin and I did a presentation and showed a Mormon message and Amber's mom was crying during the video. She also got a little teary eyed during a musical number that one of the elders performed. Good signs right? Buuuuut she left before the program was over so we didn't get a chance to talk to her.
 
Oh funny story....After Anthony's baptismal interview I went up to my district leader who conducted the interview (Elder Platt) and asked him if everything went okay. He said yes except for when he asked Anthony what the law of chastity is he replied that it's when you pray for everyone. But hey he's only 10! Close enough right?
 
The other highlight of the week was my birthday!! It was honestly the PERFECT birthday. Thank you so so so so so much for the cards and gifts that were sent to me. They all came before my birthday but I waited to open them until the 16th. I think my roommates were more anxious than I was to open them. And Mom the treats you sent me were perfect! Thank you so much again :)
 
So part of why my Birthday was so perfect was because I got to spend half of the day with my trainer, sister green! I don't know how it happened to fall on my birthday  but both of our companions had advanced orientation to attend so sister green and I got paired up to be companions until they were done with their meeting. It was so fun to work with her again! We got caught up on a lot of stories and were able to teach a couple lessons together. Once I was back with Sister Champ we went to dinner at a members house and she made me a jello cake and gave me a nice gift. Then we went to our recent converts (Ines and Ricardo) who both live with the Alvarez family and they had a cake for me! It was so thoughtful of them! :) I actually waited until the evening to read my birthday cards so when I got home I still had something to look forward to. I couldn't have wished for  a better Birthday! I'm a little sad that it's the only one I'll get on my mission.
 
Today we had zone conference which is where 3-4 zones come together for a conference with President. I was asked to give a talk on consecration and I talked about becoming a consecrated missionary. I talked about how we physically left so many things behind when we decided to serve the lord for 18-24 months and how sometimes we need to leave them emotionally too. I know that the first part of my mission I wasn't ready to leave track behind emotionally, but when I finally did, I became a much more effective missionary. There are a few other things that I have started to do to be able to be a more focused missionary such as not reading mail until the end of the day so that it doesn't distract me and going to bed by 1030- I'm still working on that one! But surprisingly I have never once slept in past 6:25! and I hope I can keep that goal for the rest of my mission. I was a little nervous to give a talk in front of so many missionaries because I still feel so inexperienced compared to them. But I also realized today that I have been out on the mission a lot longer than the majority of the missionaries. When did that happen??! I'm also a lot....A LOT....older than the majority (if not ALL) of the missionaries. But I won't get into that because people still think I'm only 18 so I'm good right?
 
This Sunday we're planning for Jocelyn to be baptized. She was supposed to be baptized the same night as Ines so we're praying that everything will work out this time. Pray for her and our other investigators! We're pretty low on investigators now actually. But we're doing our best to find more people to teach. I know the lord will lead us to the work that needs to get done.
 
I really love each and everyone of you so much and I hope everyone is doing great. Thanks again for the birthday wishes and for all the prayers. Have a good week!
 
Love, Sister Billings

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August 13, 2013 - Gilroy

Hola! This week was really fast but really awesome! The San Jose Mission had 17 baptisms last week which was a new record. The average is usually 7-8 and 12-14 was the former "high". All of the missionaries and members are working so hard and it's great! Two of those baptisms were in our branch and it was a really spiritual baptismal service. It was for a newlywed (legally) couple named Maria and Salvador. Their 10 yr old daughter was baptized about a month ago but they weren't able to join her because of an "impossible" divorce that they were waiting for in Mexico. I thought that it was interesting that the divorce was able to go through after their daughter was baptized. I'm praying that a similar miracle will occur after Amber's son, Anthony, gets baptized this Saturday.
 
We are now on full bikes twice a week and I love it! I wish we could be on bikes every day but there are a lot of places and people that we need to visit that we can only get to with a car. We share 2 cars between 3 companionships. The elders have bikes 3 days a week and us and our roommates have bikes twice a week. Not a bad set up!
 
Our first full day on bikes started out with an amazing first lesson from a referral that a sister in our ward gave us. Her name is Jill and it was really one of the best first lessons I've every had on my mission. She wasn't able to schedule another apt until the end of August but pray for her! She seems very prepared.
 
On our way home from the apt we got chased by the scariest pitbull!!! We turned a corner and this dog started running AT us so I slammed on my breaks (don't ask me why) and I screamed the highest pitch scream that's ever come out of my mouth. It kept running at me so I decided to try and out run it on my bike and I pedaled right towards it (I also don't know why). I think it got scared though because it didn't try and do anything to me so I pedaled away as fast as I could and when I turned around to see where the dog was it was chasing Sister Champlin. She had the biggest look of terror and her face that it made me laugh. It didn't take long for the dog to get tired but Sister Champlin got mad at me for leaving her....you know what they say about just needing to be faster than your friend when getting chased by a bear? It applies to pitbulls too.
 
On Thursday one of our less actives got married to someone that she met online....they officially met each other TWO days before the wedding. It was the most awkward wedding that I've ever seen. Good news is he's taking the lesson from the missionaries.
 
Apparently I don't have much to update as far as investigators go but I feel like I have a lot of stories to tell....We had lobster for dinner at a members house and it was the most horrific experience ever. The lobster actually tasted pretty good...but getting the meat out was honestly traumatizing. I don't know if anyone has ever had lobster before but we had to pull the legs off and then cut into this animal. After I almost started crying from pulling the legs off the member told me to "just cut it's belly. It's just like dissecting a frog in science class" as if that would make me feel more comfortable. I never ended up being able to cut into the belly so she had to do it for me. Worst. Dinner. Experience. EVER. But again, the lobster actually didn't taste that bad. I just never ever ever want to do that again.
 
Okay real quick...we got 5 new investigators this week! And it was about time. We have definitely been praying for new people to teach and find. It helps that our ward and branch are really trying to be involved. Anthony will be baptized on Saturday and Jocelyn set a new date for the 25th. Amber has been coming to church and has been a lot more involved with some members of the ward. Will hasn't wanted to meet with us lately but we'll keep trying. Once we learn more about our 5 new investigators I'll update you!
 
Thanks for everything...especially the birthday wishes! I love you all!!
 
Love, Sister Billings

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

August 6, 2013 - Gilroy

We just got back from Transfer meeting at the mission office and our trio is now just a duo :( Sister Garcia-Gomez went to a new home. She'll be serving in Saratoga where they just opened up a new Spanish branch on Sunday. She'll do amazing there! Sister Champlin and I will still be together so I'll be in Gilroy for at least 6 more weeks. That's all I was praying for! I just wanted at least one more transfer in Gilroy. God answers prayers!! I always knew that...but I like when His answers are the same as mine :) September 15th is the end of this transfer so I have until then to enjoy this area.
 
This week I got to go to Watsonville on exchanges with one of my old companions, Sister Wallace. We had so much fun catching up on what's happened since we've been apart. She had a lot of stories about Livermore so it was really good to hear how the people are doing up there. I didn't realize how much I missed Livermore until we got talking! She's coming to the close of her mission and it just reminds me that one day that will be happening to me!! I'm not ready to think about that yet....
 
As far as investigators for this week it was pretty slow. We did pick up a new investigator that seems really promising and a few other potentials that are also promising but we'll just have to wait and see if they progress. Anthony will be baptized next Saturday but we still haven't heard from Jocelyn. Her mom said she's too embarrassed to come to church because she thinks everyone will judge her for not being baptized on her scheduled day.
 
Ines bore her testimony during fast and testimony meeting and it was so beautiful! She really is amazing. I was sitting next to her in Sunday school and I noticed she had a really pretty ring on. I told her that I loved it and she told me to try it on. It fit perfectly but when I tried to give it back to her she said she wanted me to keep it. I tried to refuse but she insisted and said that I had given her something really special and she wanted to return the favor. Isn't that adorable?? It was the best gift I've ever received!
 
We had a leadership training on Friday with the zone leaders and other STL's and the guest speaker talked about "heck" week in sports and how one week of intense training and conditioning makes the difference of performance during the season. She said that our missions are our "heck" week for life. I couldn't agree with her more! I feel like each and every day is intense training for the rest of my life. It's exhausting...but more than worth it!
 
She also talked about how laying down our lives for the lord doesn't mean that we have to die for what we believe in. We can lay down our lives to the lord each and everyday. I've heard that phrase so many times....but I only ever thought of martyrdom. It was a really neat new perspective for me.
 
That's really neat that you did family names in the temple. I heard there was a new presentation as well. Can't wait to see it in October! I don't remember what I requested for my track ring but whatever it looks like I'm sure is fine. Probably not much I could do about it now if it wasn't what I wanted. But I am excited to see it!
 
I haven't sent my picture CD yet. We didn't have time to do much this pday because Sister GG had to pack. I might wait until the end of this transfer so that I can put together a big box of things I've accumulated that I don't want to take with me to my next area.
 
 
Thank you so much for the emails and letters this week! They always make me feel loved! I love hearing what's going on in your lives and our neighborhood. I'm probably not the best at writing letters in return but I do my best!! I love you all and I hope you have a good week! You're in my prayers! Dios les bendiga
 
Love, Sister Billings

Thursday, August 1, 2013

July 30, 2013, #2 - Gilroy

I forgot to mention another mini-miracle that we had this week! We were sitting in sacrament and I realized that we had ZERO investigators at church with us. Ines was there....but as a recent convert. Obviously I was glad that she was there but I was a little sad that we didn't have any investigators. Every single week that I've been in Gilroy we've had at LEAST one.
 
Anyway, I was thinking this during the sacrament when I saw the door that's in the front of the chapel, right by where the elders were standing to bless the bread, open. In came two men that we had contacted on the street and invited to church. I was so surprised and happy that they came!! I couldn't help but laugh either because they honestly walked right through all of the men who were about to pass the sacrament. They looked annoyed that these men would walk right through their perfect formation but I was just happy they came to church! They stayed all 3 hours and absolutely loved it! We saw them on the street yesterday and they couldn't stop telling us how their hearts felt during church and how they can't wait to go back next week!
 
Tender mercies like those are what get me through the days!