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