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Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31, 2014 - Redwood City

 Hello! When I first started looking back on this week to decide what to write it seemed pretty uneventful. Maybe that's because I'm comparing it to 2 baptisms from last week. But a lot of really good things happened this week too! Small things that w ill eventually turn into big things for, perhaps, future missionaries. 
Lourdes and Maria are both doing really well as new members of the church. They've both been invited by a nice family in the ward for FHE for tonight. It really makes a huge difference when the ward gets involved. We can't do everythign by ourselves! Especially things like FHE. Luckily this ward is extremely supportive of missionary work. Which is probably why it's the highest baptizing ward in the CSJM. 
This week the ward put on a movie night activity for recent converts and investigators. We watched The Testaments at the church on Friday night and passed out popcorn and nachos. Enrique, Jesus, Maria and family and Lourdes and family all came! It was a great turnout. We were talking to Enrique a few days before about the movie and I told him that he was going to cry. He laughed and rolled his eyes. He sat in front of us during the movie and sure enough I saw him crying at the end when Christ makes His visit to the America's. I didn't have the heart to make fun of him for it though...but maybe I will tomorrow at our appointment. Oh and speaking of our appoinment tomorrow, he's supposed to have a baptismal date picked out by then!
Before the movie night some of the English elders had a baptism so we invited Enrique and Jesus to come see it. Enrique had to work but Jesus came and he absolutely loved it! He leaned over to the member that was with us and said, "I think the next baptism will be mine!" Afterwards he couldn't stop talking about how amazing the baptism was. To me, it was honestly just another baptism. The spirit is always strong and I always enjoy baptisms but I'm sure I don't appreciate them as much as I should. Jesus on the other hand, seeing a baptism for the first time, was amazed. He just kept saying how wonderful it was. At one point he said, "It's so simple. I can't find anything wrong with it." Later, he was talking to the Spanish elders after the baptism and movie about how he really wants to be baptized now after seeing how it's done. One of the Elders told him that he should get baptized before I go home and Jesus agreed! Then I asked Jesus if he knew when I go home. He said no. So I told him that I go home in two weeks and his jaw dropped and he said, "Oi!" haha it was pretty funny. If he did get baptized before I leave I would be thrilled! But only if it's according to the Lord's will and timing. 
I can't believe that this week is already General Conference! Which means that we get to go to the temple! We'll be making the trip up to Oakland tomorrow. This last Saturday we got to watch the General Women's Conference and it was incredible! I loved seeing all of the 8 year olds there as well. What a great idea to include the younger generation. With all that they're being faced with at such a young age I think it's neccessary to start preparing them. Plus they brought the SWEETEST spirit to the meeting. 
Speaking of children, we helped in the primary this Sunday because they needed a piano player and the primary kids are just so innocent and cute! An older primary child was helping one of the younger children recite the 7th article of faith. The younger one would repeat what the older one was saying but when he said "We believe in the gift of tongues" the younger one looked at the older with the most disgusted look on his face and said, "TONGUES?!" Haha I can only imagine what went through the younger childs mind. Probably a gift box with tongues in it or something! 
Well that's about everything for this week. I hope everyone enjoys General Conference this weekend! I love you all and you're in my prayers!
Love, Hermana Billings

March 2014 Pictures

Redwood City 

Lourdes' baptism.

Lourdes' baptism.

Maria's baptism.

January 2014 Pictures

A couple zones helping out at the Christmas creche

Menlo Park zone! (Biggest zone in the CSJM)

quite the goose egg!
it's been about a week and now my knee is
just a pretty black and purple



me and my comp! (Sister Baird)

Yadira's baptism

Christmas Pictures 2013

Breakfast with Hermano Ruiz- better than a five star restaurant!
Camels at our zone Christmas breakfast....why not?

Melissa Burgueno's baptism
(Sister Bair came back from Livermore for the baptism)

Christmas at the Ruiz's 

Christmas morning with all my presents :)

A church right around the corner from our apartment put on the Christmas story. We helped with the costumes and set for about 2 months. It turned out great!

All of the missionaries that I've photo!
Me and my companion on Christmas eve at the mission wide breakfast

My Christmas present from Elder Peal

Perhaps the funniest picture of my entire mission! The elders were given this sled thing and somehow talked me into taking it for a ride around the library parking lot.
Elders, "hey sisters we have something we want to show you."
Sisters, "okay....what is it?"
Elders, "we'll only show you if you use it"
Sisters, "depends what it is...?"
Elder Perez to elder Barbosa, "see I told you they wouldn't do it"
Me, "I'll do it!"
Elders smile at their success and pull out a giant pinewood derby from their trunk
me, "umm I'm in a skirt"
Elders, "you'll be fine. we'll push you slowly"
And the picture says the rest....elder Barbosa is the one chasing me.
I only got a little scrape on my arm...but the picture of elder Barbosa sprinting after me was worth it!

Monday, March 24, 2014

March 24, 2014 - Redwood City

We had such an awesome week! So much happened that I feel like it's been 3 weeks since I've emailed. First off, Lourdes was baptized on Monday night! It was such a last minute thing but I'm so glad that everything worked out. She was confirmed at water's edge so that she didn't have to wait until the next Sunday to complete the baptismal ordinance. Let's just say the confirmation was an interesting experience. Maybe I'll share more about it when I come home.Just about her entire family came to the baptism and she had a lot of support from the ward members as well. Her granddaughter, Jocelyn age 9, hasn't stopped talking about baptism and keeps telling us how badly she wants to be baptized. Her mom said that she'd be fine with it but her dad won't give her permission. I really have no doubt that most, if not all, of the family will be baptized one day. And it all started with the baptism of Jose-Luis!
The next exciting thing that happened last week was Maria's baptism. TWO baptisms in one week! But I know now more than ever that this work really is not about the missionaries. Maria was prepared and converted on her own. Our job is simply to find those who have been prepared and are already ready and willing to accept the gospel. And since God is hastening His work, it seems like we're finding more and more people who are already prepared. We made sure to see her every day leading up to her baptism on Friday. On Tuesday, we assigned her to read the 3 nefi chapters when Christ is in the America's. I expected her to read one chapter at most but when we went over on Wednesday she had already read 12 chapters! She also came to Lourdes' baptism and was honestly the most prepared person for baptism that I've ever taught. Because she was already in the habit of going to church on Sundays, she was baptized a week after our first meeting with her and she was confirmed the following Sunday during sacrament meeting.
Honestly, preparing for the 2 baptisms took up most of our time throughout the week. The only other exciting thing that I can remembering happening was during service. On Wednesdays the missionaries help some wildlife organization with weeding so we take a small hike and weed for 2 hours. I never thought I'd like weeding but it's one of my favorite activities that we do during the week. Mainly because we get to be outside and we don't have to wear skirts! But anyway, I walked by a huge pile of sticks and heard the loudest HISS coming from the pile. I paused in my tracks and said, "Umm something just hissed at me" I couldn't see anything so I slowly backed away. Of course all of the elders wanted to see what it was so they surrounded the big pile of sticks and the hissing turned into rattling. Yep it was a rattle snake. It was hard to see because of all of the sticks around it but I did see it's rattle! The elders said it was coiled up ready to attack but it didn't have a clear shot because of all of the sticks around it. Thank goodness!
Anyway, I know this email is super short and boring but it really was an exciting week! Definitely one of the most exciting of my mission. I hope this email finds everyone well and happy :) Love you all!
Love, Hermana Billings

Monday, March 17, 2014

March 17, 2014 - Redwood City

Happy St. Patty's Day!! Wow I don't think I've ever had a week like we just had. We went from having a lot of progressing investigator's but no baptismal dates to TWO BAPTISMS planned for this week. They both seriously came out of no where and there is no other explanation than to say that God is hastening His work.
The first baptism will be tonigh at 7pm for Lourdes!! We just finished making the baptismal program and she had her interview last night. The reason why we're doing it tonight is because she wanted the bishop to baptize her but he's going out of town on Tuesday for about a week. She has been telling us for awhile that she's ready to be baptized but we wanted to make sure that she'd be able to come to church. She finally asked her boss if she could go in an hour early so that she could leave in time for church on Sundays. I think she was mostly nervous about asking him because she had to do it in English. But we wrote out a script for her and did lots of role plays to help her practice. We've been visiting her everyday this week and she is just a completely different person. I remember when we first started teaching her husband we would invite her to listen in on the lessons but she would always fall asleep before we even got to the opening prayer. Now she's the one inviting her family to come listen to our message every time we come over. She even invited us to go to dinner with her entire family. A dinner with 20 non-members is a missionary's dream!
I have no doubt that the family of Lourdes will one by one accept the restored gospel. We've had really spiritual conversations with just about all of her kids and the granddaughters absolutely adore the missionaries. The other day one of her granddaughters (Jocelyn age 9) gave me a card that said, "Thank you for teaching us about God". It was so simple but so sweet. She also told us that she wants to be baptized tonight but her dad won't let her. But one day soon I'm sure!
The second baptism will be this Friday for a brand-new investigator named Maria who just fell into our lap last week. She was referred to us by some members from a ward in San Jose. She lives in RWC but she'd been going to church with her boyfriend in San Jose. We set up an appoinment to meet her and the first words out of her mouth were, "What do I need to do to be baptized?" After finding out that she's been going to church on Sundays we decided that there's no reason to wait! We've been going over to her house every day to give her the missionary lessons and make sure she's prepared by Friday. We'll have only known her for a week by the time she's baptized! She came to our ward yesterday and made some friends so that she can attend church closer to her home instead of in San Jose. She's a perfect example of how missionary work is really not about the missionaries at all. It's the Lord's work and He knows who's prepared.
Other good news from this week is about Enrique. We stopped by to see how he was doing and he was so different. So much happier. He told us that he's decided to move on from the past and go ahead with baptism so that he can start a new life. We asked him how his wife felt about it and he said that she decided he can do whatever he wants since they only see eachother for 10 days every year. He also said that he doesn't care if it means he'll be poor, he's decided not to work on Sundays. And sure enough he came to church on Sunday for the first time in 5 weeks! We invited him to choose a date for his baptism so hopefully by next week we'll have something planned.
This week really was a great one! If only the time would slow down. But I hope to hear from everyone soon and I hope you all have a great week!
Love, Hermana Billings

Monday, March 10, 2014

March 10, 2014 - Redwood City

Hola! Another great week and it's only partly due to the amazing summer weather! I heard the most awesome quote ;this week that has completely changed my way of thinking: "Focus on scoring but not on the score". If we're focusing on doing the little things then the miracles will follow. I also realized that I'm not a missionary for 18 months. I'm a missionary and I"m here until I've accomplished the thing which the Lord has commanded me" (1 nefi 3:15). I just better accomplish all that he has for me to do within in the next 5 weeks is all!

This week, just like all the others, was really incredible. We got to go to the baptism of an 8yr old that we've been teaching. Although she doesn't count as a convert baptism it was a spiritual experience as always to see someone enter into the waters of baptism. Her parents asked us to teach her in hopes of getting her friends interested in the church. And it worked! We met two non-members at the baptism and they both agreed to meet with missionaries. 

Even though I said this week was incredible, I think I was more tired than I've ever been on my entire mission. And daylight savings on Sunday definitely didn't help. We came out of a lesson and the member that was there with us asked me how I was doing. I told him that I was REALLY tired. He looked at me and said that the greatest blessings on the mission come when you're tired but you decide to keep working. So that's what I decided to do. To keep working. But I'm still really tired haha.

It's worth it though because we did see a lot of progress with Jesus. He came to our lesson and handed me his pack of cigarettes and asked me to throw them away for him. Which I gladly did. Then he asked if we'd be willing to fast with him so that he doesn't smoke or drink coffee anymore. I didn't even know he knew what fasting was! So the 3 of us fasted yesterday and he came to all 3 hours of church. He has AA meetings every night until 10 and that's where the temptation to smoke is the strongest so he asked us to fast until 10 with him. After his meeting he called us and he was SO happy that he didn't have a single cigarette. We said a prayer on the phone together to end our fast and told him to keep up the good work. So keep him in your prayers!
Oh we also talked to him about baptism a lot this week. He told us that a lot of other churches have asked him to be baptized. I asked him why he though that was. He said that he always felt like they wanted to count him as another member of their church. I asked him why he thought we want him to be baptized in our church. He said that with us it has felt completely different. He said that he feels like we're actually trying to help him  become a better person. He accepted the invitation to be baptized. For "someday" in the future. Hopefully that day will be sooner rather than later.
A few days ago I met a girl on the street named Yahira. I walked up to her and asked her if she believed in Jesus Christ. She said she did. I asked her what she was doing to follow his example. She said that she goes to church every week. I then asked her is she would furthur follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized. She completely shocked me by saying, "You know, I've actually been thinking that it's about time I get baptized" Who says that??? People who have been completely prepared by the hand of the lord, who are looking for the truth but don't know where to find it and are just waiting to be invited to be baptized. We asked her if we could send some missionaries to her home to help her prepare for baptism and the elders are now teaching her and I have no doubt that she'll be baptized very soon!
Yesterday I realized that my biggest fear is to come home from my mission and forget my testimony. We met an RM yesterday who has completely apostasized from the church. He wasn't contentious at all but just told us the reasons why he's decided to go on his own path. All of the reasons were the typical things you'd read in anti-mormon literature.  He pretended to be "happier" on the path that he's taking but all I could see in his eyes was pure sadness. I even told him that. Based on how I feel right now about the gospel, NOTHING can shake me from it. It's surprising to me how much stronger my testimony of the BOM gets every time I bear testimony of it. I was bearing testimony of the BOM to a less active last Monday and I felt like I had talked myself into furthur recognizing the truthfulness of the book. I even paused during my testimony and said, "Wow. It really is true." Even though I've always known that it's true, sometimes the realization of the truthfulness just hits me out of nowhere.
Well I know I only gave an update of one investigator but nothing big or exciting has changed with the others this week. Lourdes told us, again, that she wants to be baptized next week but she didn't come to church. I just don't want her to be less active right after her baptism so we're going to wait until she's more in the habit of coming to church. Enrique is still slowly progressing but didn't come to church. OH!! Velia set a baptismal date for March 29 but she didn't seem super set on it. And she didn't come to church. But the fact that she agreed to a baptismal date was definintely progress.
So I think that's all for this week! We just spent a few hours at Stanford with some of the missionaries in the zone so I'll try and send some pictures. Love you all!
-Hermana Billings

Monday, March 3, 2014

March 3, 2014 - Redwood City

Wow today is my 17th month mark! And it is also the first day of my last transfer as a full-time missionary. I am honestly hoping for the time to go by super slow. But either way, I've already commited to the Lord to not let a single moment go by.
This last week was great! FOUR people that I helped teach in Gilroy got baptized on Saturday! We weren't able to make it to the baptism because we had other appointments so I don't have any pictures. But Sister Champlin brought me back a program. The four baptisms were all from the Fuertes family. Do you remember them? Their daughter (who was a member) commited suicide in the summer and the ward really reached out to their family afterwards. Since her death, most of the family was in church every single Sunday. I'm so happy that they were able to turn such a tragedy into something so great. The same night as the Fuertes family baptism, the parents of Stacy Gaddis (12 yr old girl baptized in Del Rey Park Ward while I was there) were also baptized. I didn't teach Stacy or her parents so you probably don't know who I'm talking about but I saw them progress as the elders were teaching them and I'm so happy for them! It's so interesting that their 12 year old daughter was the one who brought them to the gospel. Hearing about all of these baptisms in Gilroy made me REALLY REALLY miss Gilroy. I love RWC too, but my heart definintely is still in Gilroy.
Other good news from Gilroy is that Margarita (who went to Mexico and then came back right before I left. Gave me the glass swan. Read Alma 29 for us. Had the troubled son named Francisco. hopefully those ring some bells) set a baptismal date for next Saturday! I'll definintely be going down to Gilroy for that one!
As far the investigators here in Redwood City.....We hadn't seen Lourdes for awhile so we decided to stop by her house last Monday night. She told us that she wants to be baptized next week! I swear it came out of nowhere! She said that she's ready for the change. She used to come to church every Sunday with her husband but now that he's in Mexico it's harder for her to be motivated to come. We told her that she can be baptized as soon as she starts coming to church more regularly. She said that her biggest fear of being a member of the church was that she'd have to give talks in front of people. I told her that she doesn't have to do anything that she doesn't want to and that my mom, who is the biggest example to me of how members of the church should act, has never given a talk (at least that I know of). She felt a lot better after hearing that and agreed to come to church so that she can prepare for baptism. I can see how it would be intimidating to think that after baptism you have to all of a sudden be a perfect member. We tried to explain to her that it's just a step by step process and it's a personal commitment between herself and God. It doesn't matter what everyone else expects of you. God's opinion is the only one that matters and he just expects progress. Not perfection. Anyway, our lesson with Lourdes went long so we were running late to our next appointment. We had walked to Lourdes' house expecting to leave in plenty of time for our next appointment. We ended up running (in skirts!) about 3/4 of a mile to our next appointment! I'll be honest....I enjoyed the run! Even though we showed up to our next appointment out of breath and sweaty it was definintely worth it! And it's a good thing that my companion is a runner :)
Speaking of running, it's been raining almost every single morning when we go running and I love it! The rain here must be warmer or something!
We also had some awesome (and one not so awesome) experiences with Enrique. We also hadn't seen him for awhile because our last set appointment had fallen through with him. We decided to stop by on Wednesday night and when he opened the door he got a huge smile on his face and said "I knew that you would come tonight". We asked him how he knew and he said that God told him. He had been having a hard time because his wife really wants to go through with the divorce. I don't know if the only reason for the divorce is him wanting to get baptized but I"m assuming that there are other issues. He said he just doesn't understand why he feels so good when he learns about our church and our beliefs but that his family and friends keep telling him that it's such a horrible thing. He told us that he knows he'll be getting baptized soon but he's scared to set another date because he feels so bad for not going through with his last date. He said that he thinks it'll be sooner rather than later because he had a dream about his dad who died when Enrique was 18. In the dream, his dad was waiting for Enrique to do his temple work. Well, he said "baptism in the temple". Enrique said that ever since we taught him about baptisms for the dead, he's known that he needs to be baptized for his dad.
Unfortunately, some more things came up with Enrique's family this weekend and he couldn't handle it. When he didn't show up to church we sent him a text asking where he was. He told us that he didn't want us to look for him anymore because God had forgotten about him. So we left in the middle of church to do exactly what he told us not to. We found him in a car with a friend outside of his apartment. He had been drinking but I don't think he was super drunk. As soon as he saw us he started crying. It broke my heart to see an old man cry like that. He told us that he's losing his family and everything that he's ever had and that he feels like God forgot about him. After talking for awhile, we finally helped him realize that he had asked God to help him change and make him become a new man. Just like a cottage needs to be torn down in order to build a mansion, God was allowing him to suffer so that he could become a new and better man. We convinced him to go home, take a shower and meet with us tomorrow (today!). He seemed a lot better once we left and he couldn't stop thanking us for coming. As we were leaving he said, "You're right, I know God didn't forget about me because he sent two of his angels to comfort me".
This week we had a lesson in McDonalds with a memeber and one of our investigators. (When there's not a woman in the house we can't go in so we teach a lot of lessons at the library and McDonalds). During our lesson a lady walked up to us and asked, in spanish,  if she could meet with us another day. I'm not used to people being the one walking up to us and asking to learn more. The Lord really must be hastening His work!
Here's the funny story of the week....we were driving home from the despedida last night with a member and our investigator. I was sitting in the back with our investigator and he just kept asking questions about our missions, the church...everything! He asked if we could get dinner (cenar)  but I thought he asked if we could heal (sanar). So I thought it was a perfect opportunity to explain the priesthood and how Jesus Christ healed the sick and raised the dead etc. Once I saw the confused look on his face I realized that he had said cenar. haha leave it to a missionary to jump to conclusions like that! We were even fasting so I'm surprised that the first thing that came to my mind wasn't food.
Well, that's about all for this week! I hope that everyone is doing well. Cuidensen mucho :)
Love, Hermana Billings