Follow by Email

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

September 24, 2013 - Gilroy

We had another great week full of miracles! Once again I don't even know where to start, The Lord truly is hastening His work.
I'll start off with our district meeting that we had this week. Every Wednesday all 10 of the missionaries in Gilroy meet together to discuss the work that is going on in our respective areas. The previous week our district leader had asked us to set 3 extremely high key indicator goals as a companionship. Sister Champlin and I chose to focus on investigators at Sacrament, progressing investigators and baptismal dates. All of the companionships came to district meetings with their 3 goals so we had a total of 15 goals.
Then our district leader told us the story of the brother of jared and how he brought 16 stones to the lord for Him to touch to make light. Obviously this required a miracle that would only be possible through the faith of the brother of jared. He talked about how our goals are similar to these stones and in order to achieve our goals we were going to need to exercise a lot of faith. Then he told us that we were missing the "16th stone" and so as a district we set our 16th goal to be 16 baptisms as a district this transfer. The spirit was SO strong and even though I was wondering how on EARTH it would be possible I know that if each companionship exercises faith then the lord will do the rest. 
Our goals may seem small unto the understanding of man but the Lord will show forth great power (Ether 3:5)
This goal and the motivation that it has brought to our district has already produced miracles. As a district we set 8 new baptismal dates this week! Sister Champlin and I focused on getting our investigators to church. Our goal is to have 4 investigators each Sunday for this transfer. We "knew" that Amber would come because she's rarely missed a week but she didn't show up!!! My heart dropped when she texted us saying that she wasn't going to be able to make it. I didn't want to admit it but I was worried that we weren't going to reach our goal. None of our English ward investigators came so we were praying that they would show up to the Spanish service.
We went with a member to pick up our one and only baptismal date named Yamilet. We sat next to her as the meeting was getting started and about 10 minutes into the service Violet and her mom Rosa walked in! I was so happy to see them. I about sprinted across the chapel to sit by them. Although we didn't reach our goal of 4 investigators at church I accepted 3 as a good effort on our part. We really did do everything in our power to get at least 4 there (We had a prospect of 11 so the fact that 3 came was a pretty good number). But then the elder in the other English ward texted us and said that Amber had shown up to the later service time with her family. I was so happy!!!! Not because her going meant that we had reached our goal of 4 inv @ church but because Amber realizes the importance of going to church. Especially the impact that it has on her children.
Speaking of Amber, she has decided to move out which means she can get baptized! She seemed so at peace with the decision when she told us. Her plan is to get baptized here and then move away and start her life completely over. She even mentioned going to BYU to finish her degree. I don't know how much I've mentioned about Amber but the changes that she's made are honestly so miraculous. She was homeless at the age of 13 and started using drugs at about the same time. She overdosed several times and was put in jail several times as well. Knowing her now you would NEVER guess that she used to live that sort of lifestyle. The gospel has completely changed her. She won't even drink soda with caffeine in it because she feels that it is against the word of wisdom. I know that the Atonement is real. Amber is living proof of that. During our lesson on Sunday she started crying and told us that what she wants more than anything is for her 3 year old daughter to grow up and be sister missionaries like us.
We had another great experience this week with Fatima. She was a referral from a ward member and her son has cancer. We hadn't been able to meet with her for awhile so we decided to drop in and see her one day. We weren't expecting to stay but she invited us right in and looked thrilled to see us again. She told us that her son has been telling his school teacher about us and calls us his friends but he told his teacher that his mom calls us her sisters. Fatima told us that she has been telling her friends about what we taught her last time and wants us to go visit them too. Somehow we started talking about temples and she looked like she was about to cry. I asked her if she would like to go with us to see the Oakland temple one day and she said that her son has been asking to go to a temple in Oakland. I asked her how her 10 yr old son knew about the temple and she said that a friend from school had told him about it. She doesn't know the friends name because  he's "American" as she said it and can't communicate with his parents. She told us that she knows she needs to take her son to see the temple and I just thought WOW. This boy's friend is doing missionary work at 10 years of age and has no idea what kind of impact he will have on this family. I said a little prayer to thank this boy for his missionary service and also his family for what they've taught this boy at home. No one is too young to do missionary work!
Last thing I'll mention from this week is someone we met at the car wash. We contact people on the street every single day but there are some people that I feel like I have more  of a special connection with than others. The guy that washed our car was one of them. I felt the strongest desire to do something for him. He was washing our car so my mind kept jumping to giving him money but obviously I didn't have any. He spoke Spanish so I asked him if he liked to read. He said that he loved reading so I gave him a copy of the Liahona. We then started talking about Jesus Christ and he said that he could tell we were really good people and how he wanted to change his life. I told him that I had something that would change his life and I opened up our trunk and gave him a copy of the book of Mormon. He was so grateful and said that he would start reading it right away. Sure enough, as we were pulling out of the car wash I looked in my rear view mirror and saw him reading the book of Mormon. He lives in San Jose so I don't know if I'll ever hear from him again but something tells me that we were supposed to meet him.
I wish I could write about more of the miraculous experiences we had this week! We've been working hard but we also have a lot of fun too. Yesterday we played soccer with our zone on a turf field. I WAS IN HEAVEN! I forget how much I love and miss sports until I get the opportunity to play them. We've also been playing indoor soccer 3/week at 6am with just our district but for some reason playing outside on the turf brought back a flood of memories from back when I was athletic. haha
Well I hope everyone is doing well and I hope God continues to bless each and every one of you!!! Have a good week!
Love, Sister Billings

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

September 17, 2013 - Gilroy

This week was FANTASTIC! There is so much that I want to write about but I know I'm not going to be able to cover it all. First of all, I'M STAYING IN GILROY!! It was honestly the biggest surprise for everyone in my district. The chance of me staying in Gilroy for another transfer was seriously 1%. Saturday night (when they do the transfer calls) I was on the phone with one of the elders arranging our car schedule and I heard one of the zone leaders in the background yelling my name. I asked them what was going on and they told me that I wasn't going to be transferred!! I didn't believe them at first but they sounded pretty serious so I yelled to Sister Champlin in the other room that I wasn't leaving and she sprinted out of our room and tackled me! Needless to say we were all shocked. 5 transfers in Gilroy!!! :)
And dad, the reason why I said my next area will be my last (even with 7 months left) is because my mission president has it set up so that sisters have a total of 3 areas and elders have a total of 4. We're supposed to serve 4 transfers in each area but I was only 3 transfers in my first area. Which is why I'll have 5 here. It all balances out :)
Anyway, besides the surprising news of transfers we really had a great week full of miracles. For some reason we came into contact with so many receptive people this week. One of them was someone we met in the Wal-Mart parking lot. We walked up to her to share a card and she got tears in her eyes and asked us how we knew that her name was Violet. We told her that we didn't know that that was her name. She looked confused and said , "Oh. Really? Because when you first started talking to me I swear I heard you say my name." I felt such a strong impression that that was God's way of reaching out to her so I testified to her that we were messengers of God and that He does know her name and that He loves her. She teared up some more and thanked us for stopping to talk to her. She doesn't live in our area so we gave her the contact information that she needed to meet with the missionaries in her area. Such a simple thing as a name can make all the difference!
Another contact we met was a referral that we got from a member in our English ward. I didn't make the best first impression though because we were on bikes that day so we rode our bikes to house. I was wearing a headband and when I took my helmet off it pulled my headband down around my forehead (like how hippies wear them) and I didn't even notice! So I talked to her for about 15 minutes without even realizing how strange I probably looked! But I guess that didn't matter to her because she was the most receptive contact I've ever had. She was so impressed with the fact that we would serve a mission to teach people about God and she wouldn't stop asking questions about the church's activities and programs. It was great! She told us that her door is always open to us and to please stop by whenever we get a chance. And her mom speaks Spanish! So we're really excited to start teaching them. Her name is Violet Duran and her mom's name is Rosa so hopefully more good stories will be coming from them.
We've also been progressing a lot with Margarita Zavala. She came to church on Sunday! And we met with her just about everyday this week. One of the days that we stopped by she was SO excited to read us a chapter that she had found in the book of Mormon. We had barely sat down when she started reading it to us. She said that she just opened up the book and the chapter she opened up to was Alma 29. After she read the whole chapter to us she started crying and began thanking us for everything we've done for her. She said that when she read that chapter she thought of us and she knows that God sent us to her. She called us her angels :) I don't know if I every told anyone this but my main goal for my mission was to be an angel for at least one person so hearing her say that made me feel like I'm actually finding those people that God has prepared for me to find.
This week we also went to the temple with Amber and Anthony. Amber had already been but she said she learned a lot of new things about Joseph Smith and she felt the spirit which is what she had been yearning for. Our ward mission leader held an FHE with another young single mom in the ward and Amber. We roasted s'mores in their backyard campfire and Amber's kids made some new friends. It was really nice of them to reach out to her. The ward has also assigned home and visiting teachers to her even though she's not yet a member. I love that they're so involved with her because there is only so much the missionaries can and should do.
Another tender moment was with Ivory. She's the less active member we found contacting back in June. She's had a really rough life and has been through more than any 13 year old should ever have to experience. She was talking to us about serving a mission and how she wants to but keeps changing her mind. I told her that it's okay to change her mind because I changed my mind a million times even AFTER I had received my call. But here I am!! We asked her to say the closing prayer and in her prayer she said that she was really glad that God helped Sister Billings serve a mission so that she could meet the sister missionaries. Once again it was a testimony to me that we are finding those people that God has put into our path to find. I can't explain how we come in to contact with some of these people. They are honestly just put into our path. It's our job to talk to them but I know God is the one directing all of these contacts. If He wasn't the one in charge I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't have a single person to teach!
I know this is long so I'll finish with Gerado. He is a very devote member of the Baptist church and he doesn't disagree with ANY of what we teach. But for some reason he cannot except the fact that we have a living day prophet. His excuse is that we're the only church that claims that we have a prophet. I don't understand how that makes him not believe me that's the evidence that this is the true church. God called prophets in the past and has called them again. No other church is founded upon prophets and apostles as was the church that Jesus Christ himself established. We testified that this church is true so he in turn testified that his church is true. But then he said "However, I'm not going to promise you that it's the way to get back to God because only God knows which church that is" So I said that we could promise him that. I told him that without a doubt I know that this church is the only church with ALL of the truth. I really have realized that other churches have so much good and so much truth but there really is only one church with ALL of the truth. Why would anyone want to settle for part of the truth? After I said that he looked stunned. He took a deep breath and sat back in his chair and said "wow. How can I know if there really is a prophet then?" We gave him some "homework" but  it would be really really awesome if everyone could pray for him to gain a testimony of prophets. Please???? And THANK YOU in advance!
I don't know why we had such a busy week but this isn't even half of everything that happened! Things just finally seemed to fall into place. It felt like we had about 2 or 3 weeks with not much going on but it all hit us at once last week. It seemed like everyone we came into contact with was coming up to us instead of us reaching out to them. We went to the post office last week and as we were leaving the lady told us that all missionaries are extremely nice and she wished more people were nice like us. Then the next day we were at the library and I returned an extra 10 cents that the printer had given me and they told us them same thing. They looked shocked that we would return such a small amount of money. But I learned in the MTC to ask myself if something like that is worth my salvation. Is 10 cents worth not being able to say I'm a completely honest person? Definitely not!
Hopefully this email finds everyone healthy and happy! I love you all and I appreciate all the prayers and letters that I receive :) Have a good week!
Love, Hermana Billings

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September 10, 2013 - Gilroy

To be honest, this week was actually really slow. We don't have a whole lot going on with investigators but we've been working hard with a lot of the less actives. We have plenty to do! But we don't have very many promising investigators...yet.
This will most likely be my last week in Gilroy :( I don't want to leave but I've been here for 4 transfers so I think it's about time. Plus, I was talking to my mission president this morning and he hinted that I'll be leaving. He also hinted that I might be going to Salinas so please please please everyone pray that I DON"T go to Salinas. I have had nightmares of that place ever since they opened it up to the sisters.
I sent a package home yesterday and it should get to the house on Wednesday. Let me know when you get it! There's a letter for mom and dad and you can read the journals if you want too. There's probably a lot of stuff in them that never made it to the emails.
Sister Champlin has been really sick the past few weeks with a bad cold so we finally called the mission nurse. We were in the church bathroom when she called us back and she was trying to find a doctor for us to go see so she asked "where are you?" So I said, "In the bathroom" I didn't know that she was asking which area we were serving in! Not the most embarrassing thing I've said on my mission though.
On branch has 3 missionaries leaving on Wednesday and one just returned a couple weeks ago so the branch is really excited about missionary work. They've been a lot more involved in the work so it's been really helpful. We helped the 2 girls that are leaving pack on Sunday and I couldn't stop thinking how helpful that would have been to have some sister missionaries help me pack. As a thank you, they took us to Santa Cruz yesterday for our preparation day. We didn't have time to do much but it was still a lot of fun.
Sister Champlin and I have kind of known that I'll probably be getting transferred so we wanted to make a trip up to the Oakland temple trip before I go. We didn't think it'd be possible but then Amber asked, out of the blue, if we would go up with her and her son. So we'll be going up this weekend!! I love going to the temple. Obviously going inside is a lot better, but the visitor's center is always so spiritual for the investigators. Amber is having a pretty hard time right now and she's worried that she'll never get baptized. I'm worried about that too to be honest. But we're doing everything we can to help her progress.
Well sorry that this email is so short but we really didn't have a whole lot going on this week. I hope everyone is doing great and I hope to hear from you soon!! Oh...don't send letters after this weekend in case I do get transferred. I'll get my new address to you as soon as I know.
Love you all!!
Love, Hermana Billings

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

September 3, 2013 - Gilroy

Ahhhhhh it's already been 11 months??? That means in just one month I'll have been a missionary for an entire year! I remember when I felt like my mission would NEVER end. But now I can't believe how fast it's flying by. Transfers are in two weeks and I'm guessing I'll be transferred to my last and final area :( I wish I could stay in Gilroy forever but I don't think that's possible. I also wish I could train again but there aren't any Spanish speaking sisters coming in this next transfer.
So this week was one of the harder weeks but also very successful. We received over 60 referrals from the members and about 50 of them were from ONE member. He's really excited about missionary work! Our efforts combined with the efforts of the members produced 8 new investigators this week! Just to put it in perspective we usually only get 1-2 new investigators each week so we were thrilled! As far as baptismal dates we don't have any scheduled right now. However, Savannah is a 15 yr old girl who's been meeting with us for awhile and she's getting really close.
Something that I learned this week is that we really need the elders. I hate to admit it because I like to try doing things myself but I think the Lord wanted me to learn how to rely on other people. So many things happened this week that we should have called the elders for but I insisted on doing it myself. But then our car got a flat tire and I barely know how to pop the hood let alone change a tire so......we finally called the elders. They were more than willing to help us and were really nice about it. The same week our bike got a flat tire and one of the chains fell off so they ended up having to help us both of those times too. So much for being independent!
I was feeling really bad for making the elders help out so much and I almost felt indebt. So I was thinking about how we could repay them but nothing was coming to mind. I felt SO useless and realized that I had nothing to offer. BUT the elders bike got a flat tire Saturday night which gave us the perfect opportunity to serve THEM. They asked if they could ride our bikes. (Remember, our bikes are pink) So we ended up letting them use our car on Sunday and we took our bikes. It felt good to finally be able to serve them.
 Long story short....I'm really grateful for the opportunity to serve others when I can and I'm also really grateful to those who serve me when I need it.
Something really interesting this week happened and it taught me a great lesson. There's a companionship of sisters that my president had asked me to talk to about a problem that was being reported by the members. He told me that I had to be bold and direct and firm. So basically the opposite of everything that I am! I was really nervous to confront them about it but at the end of our exchange I mustered the strength to say what President had asked.
The companionship is a trio right now and only 2 of them are causing the problems. After I was finished speaking the 2 who are causing the problems both looked at me as innocently as they could and denied that there was a problem. But, the sister who hasn't caused ANY problems looked at me completely heart broken and took ALL of the blame and promised that she would change and be better. I was literally speechless. But it showed a lot of their characters. I learned what true humility really looks like. It's when we take the blame for failure and give credit to others for success. After all, all of the success we experience should be credited to the Lord and all of our failures come because of our own weaknesses.
Last thing, Dad do you know a Perney family in Dijon france? Their first names are Veronique, Gean and Irene. I know it's a long shot but it never hurts to ask! Their daughter/granddaughter is serving in the san jose mission and I went on an exchange with her. She's still learning English but she's picked it up really quick! A lot quicker than my Spanish!
Well I hope everyone is doing well and I can't wait to hear from you again. Have a good week I love you all!
Love, Hermana Billings