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Monday, February 24, 2014

February 24, 2014 - Redwood City

Hola familia! I hope everyone is doing well! Is the weather warming up yet? We finally had 80 degree weather...no more coats I hope! 

So this week was full of breakthroughs! One of them was with an investigator named Velia who has been meeting with missionaries for 3 years. She's read most of the book of mormon and has been to church several times but has never committed to a baptismal date. We dropped her (stopped teaching her) for a few weeks when I first got to RWC but we started teaching her again when Sister Baird got here. In our last meeting we didn't have very much time so instead of the lesson we had planned we decided to just talk. I asked her what it is that has kept her meeting with the missionaries for 3 years and she pretty much bore her testimony that it was because she knew it was all true. I asked her what it was that was keeping her from being baptized and she said because she doesn't have the desire but that one day she'll do it. We decided to read DC 20:37 and mosiah 18 with her. We asked her if she had the desire to be forgiven of her sins, stand as a witness of christ, mourn with those that mourn, server others etc. and she said yes so we pointed out to her that she indeed does have the desire to baptized. She was shocked that she didn't realize her own desire! When we left she thanked us for helping her recognize her answer. We don't have a date for her yet but pray for her!

The other breakthrough we had was with Josefina coming to church! And she brought her whole family! We've been teaching her and her family for about a month and her dad is a member but she kept making excuses to not come to church on Sundays. We also started teaching her sister, Griselda, and her family.

Remember Oscar that came to stake conference last week? He's probably one of the most prepared people that I've ever met on my mission. He basically described the joseph smith story when he was telling us about how he's been looking for the true church with authority from god. He even said the word authority. We promised him that if he reads and prays about the Book of Mormon that he'll find it. 

Last night we invited our investigator Jesus (the other one that came to stake conference) to dinner with the elders and a family. The family invited 3 other non-members and it was awesome! Unfortunately, we had an appointment come up and we had to leave halfway through but when we came back the elders were teaching a super spiritual lesson about the restoration. Right when we got there we heard the elders bearing testimony of The book of Mormon and then they invited Jesus to be baptized. It made me so happy that we didn't even have to coordinate a lesson with the elders or ask them to teach him something when we left, they just knew exactly what to do! We must be on the same team or something :) 

Okay the last thing I want to share from this week happened when we were at the library working on my graduate school applications. We had been at the library literally ALL day. We got there at 10 and then stayed until 2. At 2 we taught a lesson with Oscar....at the library! After our lesson with Oscar I just really wanted to get out of the library but I felt like I should just finish one of my applications. It was a good thing that we decided to stay because that's how we met Nelson. I was just about to sign off of the computer and he tapped me on the shoulder. He asked if he could speak to us outside. We followed him into the hallway and he asked, with complete humility and sincerity in his heart if we would pray for him. He told us that he had been praying and he somehow recognized us as an answer to his prayers. I don't even know if he saw our name tags or how it was that he recognized us as people that could help him but it was really neat. We told him that we would pray for him and then we asked if he would like to meet with missionaries who will share a special message about Jesus Christ and he agreed. So the english elders got a new investigator! Another team effort :)

Wow I feel like this email was just a list of stories that happened so sorry if it was all over the place. It was a very stressful week but I'm trying to focus on all of the good things that happened! I'll share something I learned this week to finish....Acts 20:35 says that it is more blessed to give than to receive. It's something that I would have never believed as fully as I do now had I not served a mission. 24/7 we just give all that we have and it is the most blessed feeling in the world.

Well I hope everyone is doing well and I can't wait to hear from you all! Have a good week!
Mucho amor,
Hermana Billings

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

February 18, 2014 - Redwood City

First of all, thanks mom and dad for the valentine's day gifts! I'm convinced that I have the most loving parents in the world. And dad, I wore the princess bracelet all day on Friday. I got both of the packages the day that I was sick in bed so it definitely made my day! My goal was to go my entire mission without getting sick enough to miss a day of work but my cold from the rainy days on bikes finally caught up to me and I stayed inside for half a day. But I still woke up at 6:25 :) I definitely needed the rest but I got really bored by noon. We ended up going out at about 4 and I appreciated missionary work so much more that day!

As for Valentine's Day (which was supposed to be Enrique's baptism) we ended up having a change of plans. But it was still a really special day. Enrique finally told us why he wouldn't be able to get baptized and it's because his wife won't give him permission. Ever since he told her that he wants to get baptized she hasn't talked to him and she said if she finds out that he got baptized that she'll send the divorce papers in the mail. (she's in mexico). So we couldn't exactly tell him to go through with it...especially when we believe that families are the most important unit in the church. So instead, we decided to take him up to the temple on Friday night. He absolutely loved the temple and kept telling us that he felt like crying. The sisters at the visitor's center did a really good job and as we were leaving Enrique asked if he'd be able to come back another day and spend more time there. So although we didn't get to witness a baptism on Valentine's day it was still a really special day.

We had stake conference this weekend and 3 of our brand new investigators showed up! I'm always so surprised to see investigators actually keep their promise and come to church. they came to the Saturday evening session and sat with the other Spanish speakers and they immediately made friends. We passed out the headphones for translation to everyone only to find out that no one was in the room translating.....so I did it! I'm sure I didn't do a very good job but hopefully it was better than not being able to understand anything. It was actually a really good experience for me to learn how the spirit works. After the conference we went back in the chapel to talk to our investigators and one of the members was crying. I asked him if everything was okay and he said yes but that the last speakers words really hit him. I know he doesn't understand hardly any English so I was shocked that through my imperfect translation of the last speakers words, he could still be touched by the spirit so strongly. I learned that the spirit really is the teacher. It's not me. It's not my companion. It's not even our prophet. the spirit is what testifies of truth and it can even be done through imperfect instruments.

Just a side note from stake conference...one of the wards in our stake has 100 kids under the age of 3! Can you imagine having to work in the nursery in that ward?

Another neat lesson that I learned from stake conference is that when there is division you can know that it is the work of Satan. However, the overlying theme of stake conference was yoking ourselves to Christ (Matthew 11:28-30). Who wouldn't want to yoke themselves to someone who's perfect? It's like choosing to be on the team that wins every time. to me it's a no brainer!

I want to tell the story of how we found one of the investigators that showed up at stake conference.....We had an appointment with another investigator (rigo) one evening at about 830. It's always so impossible to find parking (which is another plus for bike days) so we ended up parking a few blocks down from the house. Before we got out of the car, like we always do, we said a prayer. I was the one praying and in the middle of my prayer I had the strongest feeling that we shouldn't go into our appointment. It was as close to a voice as I've ever felt. I stopped speaking and I couldn't even remember what I had already said in my prayer so I just ended it. Sister Baird looked at me kind of weird so I told her that I didn't think we should go to our appointment. She didn't even hesitate to agree with me so we left. We still had about a half an hour before curfew so we decided to go downtown and contact some people on the street. one of the first few people we talked to was Oscar. We've already met with him a couple times and he surprised both of us by showing up to stake conference and brining a friend! He said that he's been having a lot of dreams and that he knows he's supposed to meet with us. My first thought about why we weren't supposed to go to our appointment with rigo was because something dangerous was going to happen. And maybe it was. But as soon as we met Oscar, I felt like he was the reason why we were supposed to change our plans.

Francisco is another miracle investigator that we just started teaching. Apparently he was meeting with missionaries before and was about to get baptized but then he moved. We contacted him on the street one day. More to come with him I hope!

Last thing, I want to share some of the best advice that I got from a return misionera this last sunday. She told me that a lot of missionaries get sad when they have to go home  and they try to extend (haha that sounds familiar) but that when missionaries extend, they're really just putting off the blessings that heavenly father has in store for them. She said to not be said about going home but to recognize that the blessings from my missionary service "estan en juego". they're hanging on the line. they're dependent on my dedication these next two months. Finishing strong is just as important as starting out strong.

Sometimes I wonder why so many young men and women give up 18-24 months of their lives to serve missions. Missions aren't easy...so why do so many young people willingly choose to do it? For me the answer is in Acts 5 where it talks about peter and john getting beaten for preaching about Christ. then they're told not to do it again but they preach daily because they "obey god rather than men". And after they're beaten they rejoice for being counted worthy enough to suffer shame for Christ's name. It really is such a blessing to be counted worthy, however imperfect, to be a full-time representative of the lord.

Also in Acts 5 it talks about a man named Gamaliel (I think) who points out that when things are of men then they come "to naught". It's clear that what Joseph Smith started was the work of God. Or else it would have come "to naught".

Well this has been a really long email home but I'll end with something humorous.... we had interviews with our mission president this morning and as I was leaving the room he lifted up his arm over my head to grab the door and hold it open for me. I thought he was going to give me a hug.....ooops. Pretty sure no one's face has ever gone more red than mine did at that time!!

Well I love you all and I hope you have a good week!
Love, Hermana Billings

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

February 10, 2014 - Redwood City

Querido familia! como estan todos? This week was fantastic! So much happened and I know I'm going to leave a lot out...but I'll do my best.

To start off, remember the rain that we fasted for? Well it hasn't stopped raining and biking around in it made me sick! I think this is my first time being sick on the mission though so I'm not complaining. Apparently receiving rain was more of a miracle than I originally thought. There was high pressure (or something like that) hanging over California for 63 days which threatened the crops that more than half of the nation relies on for food. Several churches and groups had fasted and prayed earlier in the month, but the very day that members of the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints joined together in prayer and fasting was the very day that rain began to fall. Pretty powerful right?

This weekend we had a special mission wide conference and Elder Cook from the 12 apostles and his wife came to speak to us. We all got to shake his hand! It's such a neat experience to meet an apostle of the Lord! The spirit was very strong and he spoke to us about the divinity of our missionary callings.

The morning before the conference I got a call from the assistants asking if I could speak at the conference. I agreed, not knowing when I would find time in our busy schedule to write a talk. Thanks for the heads up elders! By the end of Friday night I had completely lost my voice from my cold and I ended up staying up until midnight writing my talk that I didn't even know if I would have a voice to give! I was still pretty sick the next morning and my voice was about 8 octaves lower than normal, but at least I was able to give my talk! After hearing from an apostle of the lord I don't think anyone really cared what I had to say anyway :)

I'm still pretty sick but the elders were really nice to us last night and let us use their car. The elders in my zone, and in the entire mission really, are incredibly nice to the sisters. I think President Watkins must threaten them because he's really protective about sister missionaries. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that he has all daughters. Whatever the reason though, I'm not complaining!

So this week we got good news and bad news. The bad news is that Enrique told us he didn't want to be baptized on the 14th. We're not sure why because we haven't been able to visit with him since he sent us the message. We talked to him on the phone a few hours ago though and he said there was an emergency with his family and there are "muchas cosas" and "muchas problemas". We're not really sure what that means and why it would need to stop him from getting baptized on Friday. Especially since his family lives in Mexico. But we'll find out tonight at 7 so keep him in your prayers. 

Funny story about Enrique....the last time we were over at his house we invited some members over to come meet him. They were asking him about his experience with the missionaries and Enrique said, "I just don't get it! How do they know so much? This little girl (pointing to me) speaks as if she's lived forever. You'd think she's a grandma!" It was funny! And I realized that although we are teaching the basics and the very simple truths of the gospel, it answers questions that people have had for years and years. I've known these things since I was 2 years old! But he's just hearing it for the first time. That's why missionary work is so great!

The good news is that Lourdes told us on Saturday that she'll get baptized before I leave.  I didn't even ask her to, it was completely her idea! And it made me really happy :)

Some other goods news is that I talked to Blanca Lastra from Livermore. I don't know why but I felt like I should call her one night. I didn't even know if I was allowed to, but I did anyway because I felt like I should. She was so shocked and happy to hear from me! It was so great to talk to her! It turns out that she moved to Tracy and she's not meeting with the missionaries over there because she doesn't know how to get a hold of them. I asked for her address so that I could send them over.

Okay I have to end with a funny story...at least it was funny to us! Sister Baird and I were about to go into an appointment and it was about 630. She asked if we could go get chocolate at sees candies (right by our apartment) after the appointment but I told her no because it closes at 7. She said "ahh man. Well the natural man in me is hoping that our appointment isn't home then." We both laughed about it but then sure enough, our appointment wasn't home! So we decided to drive over to sees candies and get some chocolate before our next appointment. *side note: we had vacuumed the car a few hours earlier so that it would be spotless for the conference with elder cook* So as we were driving over to sees sister baird told me that she really needed to use the bathroom and she didn't think she could wait. I told her to think about something else....like how good the chocolate was going to taste. Then, out of no where she screams, "I'm paying!!" but I thought she said, "I'm peeing!" and I said, "You better not be!! We JUST vacuumed the car!" We had a good laugh about that one!

Well that's it for this week! I hope everyone had and has a good week and a happy valentines day! les amo mucho!
con amor,
Hermana Billings

Monday, February 3, 2014

February 3, 2014 - Redwood City

Today is my 16 month mark and I am definitely more sad than happy. I really hope that the next 2 months crawl by. The response from my mission president of me wanting to extend my missions was: "not a chance". There's still room for a change of heart right? I guess I'll be coming home April 16th after all.

So this week was by far the most successful week that I've had on my mission. We have been short on investigators since the beginning of this transfer so we decided that we needed to do something different to find more people to teach. We decided to double the standard of excellence of 20 lessons a week and teach 40 lessons instead. We had NO idea where those lessons would come from but something my mission president taught me is that the Lord blesses the missionaries that hustle. And He did indeed bless us for our efforts! We reached our goal of teaching 40 lessons in one week and as a result found 8 new investigators. We've met with a few of them for the second time already and have appointments with the rest of them this coming week.  We taught our 40th lesson about 10 minutes before curfew on Sunday night...but we did it! 

Since we didn't have 40 people in our teaching pool we decided to teach people on the streets. Normally when we contact people we ask to share a card with them or some other proselyting material. This last week, however, we decided to approach people by simply asking if they'd like to hear a message about Jesus Christ. Surprisingly people were WAY more receptive to stop what they're doing and hear a 10 minute message than they are to take a card. If only I had known that 16 months ago! I loved watching people be touched by the spirit as we shared the message of the restoration. Some people would be hesitant to agree to listen to our message but by the end of our discussion they were thanking us and asking when we could come share more of our beliefs another day. Such a miracle!

Even though most people were receptive to hearing our message we got a lot of fake addresses and phone numbers. Which is normal. But one lady told us that she lives in "the apartments on Dumbarton #3" We asked her which apartments and she said there was only one. Sure enough, we show up to Dumbarton on Saturday morning and the whole street is lined with apartment complexes. So what did we do? We started at one end and knocked on every single #3 apartment on the whole street. We didn't find her...but we did our best!

A few weeks ago our bishop read a letter from the first presidency asking the members of the church to fast for rain on Feb. 2 to end the drought that California has been experiencing. We joined in on the fast and sure enough it rained all day. Unfortunately that meant that we had to bike in the rain all day. As we were biking the 3 miles to church, soaking wet and muddy I asked Sister Baird to remind me why we fasted for rain. We showed up to church looking like wet dogs and left every single church bench we sat on with wet marks. By the end of church we were finally dry...just in time to get wet on our bikes again. But it's all part of the experience!

So to update all of your about Lourdes and Enrique...Lourdes decided the night before her husband left for Mexico that she wanted to baptized before he left. The problem was she had to work all day the next day and there was like a one hour gap that we were going to try and squeeze it in. Unfortunately it didn't work out because they got stuck at the doctor's office. But at least she has the desire. We're not sure if she'll wait for her husband to come back from Mexico (which could be as long as 6 months) or if she'll just go along and do it without him.

Enrique picked Feb 14th to be baptized and couldn't be more prepared! Even though he hasn't been able to come to church the last few weeks because of his community service, the ward members have been really supportive in coming to lessons with us to get to know him.

Something I learned this week that I wanted to share with everyone is from John 9:33 If something (or someone) isn't from God, then they can do nothing. All I know is that during my mission I've accomplished way more than I am capable of accomplishing on my own. Looking back on what I've been able to do is a testimony to me that this work really must be of God. He's the one doing all the work. If this gospel weren't true I'm sure missionaries would have messed it up a long time ago. Every now and then I realize that we're just a bunch of kids out here and the only reason we have success is because it really is of God. The message we share is directly from God. Otherwise it wouldn't be possible for 18-25 year olds to have such an impact on the growth of the church. Even everything that Joseph Smith accomplished was only possible because it was from God.

Well I hope everyone is doing well and I can't wait to hear from you soon! Have a good week!
Un abrazo,
Hermana Billings