So remember how I said I would be emailing on Mondays now? I must have jinxed it because here I am on a Tuesday, emailing once again.
The reason why we didn't have time to email yesterday is because we got asked to give a special presentation for a Theology class at a private school. They called the mission office and asked for two sisters and two elders to come and present about our beliefs and some church history. On Sunday, sister Bair and I set aside about an hour to put together a power point presentation with video clips and pictures that we would be using. After working on it for about an hour at the library, it somehow got deleted. It was like finals week of college all over again! Working on a project last minute just to have it be deleted. But this time it wasn't a grade in school that I was worried about. I called the elders to tell them what had happened (they were at the temple with an investigator so they weren't able to help us) and I said, "this is like finals week only worse because people's salvation is hanging on the line!" They thought that was pretty funny but at the time I was pretty stressed. We ended up using a member's computer (with president's permission) and everything worked out fine. Even though we had to take an extra hour to re-do the presentation.
So on Monday morning we went to the school to present. It's a small (275 students) private catholic school. We presented for 2 classes of seniors. They had already studied the history of the church in class so we focused mainly on the atonment. The teacher said that it was "good strategy" on our part so as to distract from the controversial church history topics. But we didn't do it to be strategic. We all prayed about what we should present and decided that focusing on the atonement was the best idea. Afterall, it is Christ's church and His atonment is central to the plan of salvation. I wish I could go into more detail about how the presentation went but I don't have time. After our presentation the students had about 20 minutes to ask questions. The usual questions came up but everyone (minus one) was very respectful and accepting of the answers we gave. One lady came to visit for the first class and was looking for a debate about prop 8. She was getting frustrated that we weren't debating with her but we just told her that as missionaries we can't represent the church in political issues but we can say that we believe marriage is between a man and a woman. She found us at lunch and had printed off an article about mormons involvment in prop 8 and handed it to each one of us. We smiled and took the article so hopefully she can feel at peace now. The teacher, who is openly gay, had invited her to come. But he wasn't looking for contention I don't think.
Anyway, it was an amazing experience. The students were very well educated and very open. I was nervous about teaching in front of so many people but I know the words that we should say were given to us. I hope that at least one student will remember the spirit that we brought and have the desire to learn more.
Okay, so about Jose Luis. His baptism was so amazing! I still can't believe how quickly he decided to be baptized. His brother-in-law who has been baptized for about a year was able to baptize him. It was his first time using his priesthood to baptize someone and he was so touched to be given such an opportunity. When Jose Luis came out of the water he had THE biggest smile on his face. Bigger than any I've seen after a baptism on my mission. He was also really brave and got up to bear his testimony after he changed his clothes. He was nervous but he did a good job. His non member wife, daughter, and granddaughters all came to the service so we're hoping to be able to start teaching them soon. As part of his testmiony he said that it's never too late to change (he's 65). he even got a little emotional during his testimony. It seriously was a miracle! I'll send pictures if I have time.
Speaking of miracles. We had a zone conference this last week and our mission president put up a whole bunch of numbers and charts of what we've accomplished so far this year. With the new flood of missionaries and missionaries just working harder we've really seen so many miracles. It was so interesting though because he pointed out that we're doing about double the work but seeing four times the results. You'd think it'd be double the work and double the results right? But when we're working extra hard the Lord blesses us. And it was easy to see that He really has been blessing this mission. We're all working extra hard to finish off 2013 strong..
Last story for the week....we went to a christian church that is putting on a live nativity program this december to volunteer. Similar to what I did in Livermore when I first got into the field if anyone remembers. Anyway, a few of us missionaries showed up at the same time and we asked the guy in charge how we could help. He explained our responsibilites for the day and then asked us if we could remove our name tags. He said it was a "non denominational" group and he didn't want anyone asking us questions. We told him that we wouldn't be able to remove our tags and then he said, quite angrily, "Well how are you going to help in people's salvation if you can't remove your tags?" I don't know what he meant by that but I was pretty defensive. I told him that we were just there to help and if he didn't want our help then we could leave. For how defensive I felt, i was pretty surprised how calm the words came out. His entire demeanor changed and he started telling us how grateful he was for our desire to help and let us stay.
I know that the tags we wear might just look like tags to someone else but I've learned that the tag I get to wear every single day shows that I don't represent myself but that I represent Christ. I've become very attached to my little black name tag with Christ's name on it. It really is such an honor to represent Him and His church.
Well on that note, I hope everyone is having a good week and I can't wait to hear from all of you soon. Cuidense y Dios les bendiga
Hermana BillingsThis week I received the BEST news of my entire mission. Amber (from Gilroy) called me last night to invite me to her baptism this Saturday at 6!! It's all I've been able to think about since she told me. I still can't believe that it's even happening. If the rest of my mission is horrible, her getting baptized will all make up for it. She decided that she doesn't want to marry her boyfriend afterall and decided to move out to an apartment in San Jose. She'll be getting baptized in the Gilroy ward right before she moves. And I just PRAY that her new ward in San Jose will take her under their wings. So this Saturday I will be going back to Gilroy!!!! I still feel like Gilroy is my home so it will be really good to see everyone. Amber asked me to speak at her baptism and I feel very honored. She really is the greatest inspiration to me that righteousness really is more powerful than wickedness. I would have bet that she wouldn't have been baptized until after I returned home from my mission but I was wrong. And I'm glad that I was wrong!
Anyway, besides that fantastic news we had a really good week. Normally we set companionship goals for lessons taught etc. but this week our district leader decided to hold us accountable as a district. On Sunday, we were 16 lessons behind for the month as a district (3 companionships). He told us that we all needed to get at least 6 lessons that day to meet our monthly lesson goal. On a typical day we usually teach 3-4 lessons so we knew that getting 6 would be a stretch. And Sister Bair and I had already met our companionship goal for lessons and we didn't have a single lesson appointment but we pushed ourselves to find more people to teach to help out the district. We ended up teaching 5 lessons and sure enough, our district met our goal and we ended up getting 17 lessons as a district that day! It was interesting taking a team approach though because I know it pushed us to do more than we would have done without that perspective. But missionary work really should be a combined effort and it taught me a really important lesson about working together to bring to pass miralces. I would never have thought getting 17 lessons between 3 companionships (on a Sunday nonethelss) would ever be possible. But the Lord always provides a way :)
I had a meeting with the other STL's this week and we had the opportunity to talk to President Watkins daughter who just got back from her mission on Tuesday. She was serving in Arizona and her mission used ipads. She told us of all the amazing things the missionaries were able to do with ipads including scheduling appointments, using it as an area book, google maps with investigators and members pin-pointed, showing mormong messages and communicating with all of the missionaries in the area. It sounds like a dream!! By January there are supposed to be 30 missions in the U.S that use ipads and hers was #8....so I'd be lying if I said I'm not praying that the San Jose mission gets picked to use ipads soon!
We had a really neat experience this week. We had just spent about an hour contacting. In other words, we had just spent an hour being rejected by people on the street. We were heading back to our apartment, walking down a hill, and I was thinking how sad it is that so many people just casually reject such a good thing. Then we saw an old lady in a wheelchair with bags of groceries on her lap, pushing herself up the hill with her legs. Clearly she was struggling so I ran down to her and asked if I could help. She said no because she didn't want us to waste our time. I assured her that it wasn't at all a waste of our time and started pushing her up the hill. We took her about a block or so to her destination and had a nice conversation along the way. She was very grateful and let us share a pass along card with her. We said goodbye and started towards our apartment again. As we were walking down the hill, a construction worker on the overpass above us yelled something down to us. We got closer and asked him to repeat what he said. He thanked us for helping the lady up the hill. His simple thank-you made me realize that there are still good people out there. It really touched me that he would thank us. I thought about that experience later that night and just imagined that construction worker watching the old lady in the wheelchair struggle, but not being able to help her. I'm so glad that we were able to help her and that there was someone else watching out for her. The sad part is, several people walked right by her without even hesitating to stop. But there are still good kindhearted people out there! Sometimes you just have to look closely :)
By the way, I got hit by a car on my bike this week. But don't worry I'm fine. I was kind of shaken up from it for a few hours afterwards though. It was a rainy day, but the sun was still out and I was about to go through an intersection when a car decided to turn right at the last second. Luckily they had been at a stop so they weren't going very fast. I didn't even see the car until the last second and I slammed on my brakes but the ground was wet so my tires slipped on the ground. I wouldn't have even looked up to see the car at all but a car behind me saw that I was about to get hit and started honking. Thank you car behind me! By the time I got back on my bike, the light had turned red and my companion was already on the other side. She kept going and going for a few blocks before she even realized that I wasn't behind her. She said she was pretty shocked when she turned around and didn't see me. But we reunited just fine! The zone leaders found out and of course were really dramatic about it and gave us someone else's car from the zone. So now we're in full car :( At least for now. And seriously....I'm okay. I didn't even get a scratch or a bruise on me.
But anyway, I hope everyone has a happy thanksgiving! We've been invited over to a members house for thanksgiving with the spanish speaking elders. I'm not sure if we'll be having an american style thanksgiving or mexican....but either way I'm sure it'll be good. I love you all and have a good week!
Love, Sister Billings