Monday, October 16, 2017

Cool and Flexible

Sister Nielson, me, Amy (awesome YSA member getting ready for her mission), Sister Parsons, and Sister Hahn in front of the display of our experiment just before taking it down yesterday.
My title today is what President Marsh's motto for the week has been. "Cool and flexible." As I mentioned last week, it has been a "loco crazy" week!

It all started on Tuesday evening, when 2 companionships of Sisters instead of 1 ended up staying at our apartment for the night before the big experiment started. The rest of the week, only 1 companionship stayed, and it was a party!

Day 1 of the experiment at the park (who is even a missionary
On Wednesday morning, we got to the institute building at UGA, ready to get started on the "Book of Mormon Experiment" we had all been anticipating for a couple of weeks. We spent the morning being trained on how to conduct the experiment and then went out to do it! For that first afternoon, we all wore street clothes (non-proselyting attire) and went by our first names (no nametags) which was really weird. I ended up staying in the background during that first day (putting papers on clipboards, collecting papers, etc.), but the next day, Sister Nielson and I were assigned to dress down again! By then, I was anxious to have some of the neat experiences other missionaries had been having while actually talking to people! You're probably wondering by now what exactly we were doing, so let me tell you. The Book of Mormon Experiment was all about getting people to read a single page of the Book of Mormon and come to know for themselves that it really is "Another Testament of Jesus Christ," as the title implies. A lot of our experiment focused on whether or not members, missionaries, or both are more successful at getting people to stop and read a page. Over the course of 4 days, over 900+ people read a single page of the Book of Mormon and became their own witnesses that it really is all about how much God loves His children. It has been a huge blessing for me to be able to participate in the whole thing (well, the half that I was there for) and I am excited to see what our mission does with it from here on out! (The people who were running the experiment left supplies for us to carry on doing it as a mission whenever we want).

The whole mission!
Santa Claus even brought us cases for our phones!

The next big, exciting thing is that we had a mission conference on Friday! For the first time in 3+ years, the whole mission got together, and a lot of things came out of that conference! We got flu shots, Santa Claus brought us all smartphones (one of the Assistants to the President literally dressed up and they played Christmas music and the whole shabang!), we learned about how to use Facebook (one of these days I will officially post something so you all know what to do about that), and now there exists a picture of all the missionaries in the mission! The conference lasted nearly 9 hours, and we got back to our apartment just in time for bed that night.

The beautiful Deitra!

Elder Sullivan, Robert, Elder Egan, me, Deitra, Sister Neilson
outside the Temple.

On Saturday morning, Sister Nielson and I got up and ready to go in time for a member to pick us up and drive us to the Atlanta Temple in Sandy Springs (1.5 hours away). We had a special opportunity to go do baptisms for the dead (if you don't know what that is, you should go to and find out) with Deitra, who got baptized the weekend before I came to Athens. It was wonderful to be able to feel the peace of the Temple and I can't wait to go again. Several people also mentioned to me that it might be the closest I ever come to swimming on my mission, which I thought was pretty funny. ;) No, really though. There is a special feeling of peace that comes when you are participating in the "turn[ing of] the heart of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers."

When we got back from the Temple, we mostly did the open house for the experiment over the rest of the weekend.

Well, that's pretty much it for the week. I love you all and hope you are able to have your own unique, special experience with the Book of Mormon this week!

Sister Houghton
Athens, GA

 The whole experiment crew. 

Sister Neilson, me, Sister Parsons, Sister Hahn, Sister Branson, and Sister Johnson after mission conference.

P.S.  from Mom:  We received this text yesterday--a parents' "payday!" 

Brother and Sister Houghton!  My name ifs Jeff Sheets, a BYU Professor.  I am in Athens, Georgia working on a special project for the Church, a Social Experiment with the Book of Mormon.  I had the privilege of working with your Daughter and her Zone on the project.  She did an amazing job and is such a wonderful missionary!  Just wanted you to know she is doing really well and blessing so many people.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

From Crazy to Downright Wild!

From 9 October 2017
 Orange cupcakes are always a party.

Pre-exchange dinner at Waffle House. 

Okay, so it has been a pretty crazy, fun week! We went on exchanges, 

One of our ward members teaches dance at UGA,
so he taught us all a few things about tap dancing
 at the Ward Talent Fair!

had a Ward Talent Fair (Athens 1st Ward has some pretty AWESOME talents across the board), and even made bright orange and yellow cupcakes!

Also, a random gravesite from the 1800s
which we found in the middle of a
roundabout in a random neighborhood
while tracting the other day.
 I guess it is worth noting that we did do missionary work as well, so y'all don't have to worry that I forgot why I am here in Georgia. Probably the most exciting bit about this week has been preparing for the coming week! It's gonna' be wild!

First of all, we are doing a pilot program for a new finding initiative in our Zone. We will literally be the first missionaries to do it, so it should be exciting! The whole concept that we are experimenting with is about how we let people learn about the Book of Mormon. Some BYU professors and Missionary Department people will be training us on the whole thing in the next couple of days and then the experiment runs through Sunday! As of right now, all I know is that there are going to be a lot of missionaries in Athens next week, and we will have some of the other sisters living in our apartment for a few days. By next Monday, I should have lots of commentary on it all, so I'll have more to tell next week! 

The next wild thing happening in GANM (the Georgia Atlanta North Mission) is that we are having a mission conference on Friday! It will be the first one in over 3 years! Why are we having a mission conference? Well, probably because Facebook and Messenger just popped up as apps that we are now able to download onto our tablets (for those of you who don't know, our tablets are pretty strictly monitored and locked down to a lot of things). Also because we all have to get flu shots! Yay! Oh, and we might also be getting smartphones soon. That one is the most rumor-y. Although, I had a unique opportunity to speak to some Hermanas (Spanish Sister Missionaries) from the Georgia Atlanta Mission this week and their mission is definitely getting them, so there is a good chance we will be as well!

Last, but definitely not least, is that I have an opportunity to go to the Temple this Saturday! One of our recent converts in the ward is going for the first time (to do baptisms for the dead), so us missionaries get to tag along! I am pretty excited to be able to feel the peace that is always present on Temple grounds. :)

Ok. I think that is everything. Really, it has been a good week, and this week is going to be a true adventure (nobody really knows what is going on anymore in the Athens Zone, but that is okay!). I hope you all are able to find something new to try this week! I have found that new challenges really help me refocus on what things are most important. Try it sometime! :)

I love y'all!

Sister Houghton
Athens, GA 30605

And fall is coming! :)

Monday, October 2, 2017

"'The Devil Went Down To Georgia'. . .and he hasn't left!"

Fun preparation day adventures at a small zoo here in Athens!

Alright, so this week has been unusual in many ways. My title is only one of them, but it made me laugh, so I thought I'd share. A lady we visit every week told us this on Friday after a long, somehwat sad conversation about her dog who had passed away on Wednesday. Anyway...

Really, not a whole lot happened this week. We spent a lot of time driving, and did manage to see some cool signs along the way. One thing I love about the South is how open everybody is with their love for Jesus! On one particularly long, trafficky drive, we saw two great signs and just had to capture the essence of Georgia!

The best part of this week was definitely getting to watch General Conference on Saturday and Sunday! The two biggest themes I pulled out of it were the importance of the Book of Mormon and doing what God's prophet on the earth instructs us to do! Which, this year, is to really know ad have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. As a missionary, my understanding of the Book of Mormon has grown and intensified and I know the power it can have to help anybody in any situation! While all the talks (basically sermons) were powerful and good, my favorites were given by John C. Pingree Jr. (Heavenly Father has a unique plan for each and every one of us!), Stanley G. Ellis ("Hard" is good!), and W. Craig Zwick ("Look beyond what you see..."). I highly recommend reviewing conference over and over again. That's my plan for at least the next 6 months.

That's all for this week! I hope everybody is doing well and that you are all finding joy in the journey!

Sister Houghton
Athens, GA 30605

crazy spider webs

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Training Wheels

From 25 September 2017

 Our car didn't want to start yesterday (which is part of why we are sitting at a Nissan dealership for email time).
And Sister Nielson! :)
Apparently my group email last week got lost on the interwebs, so I apologize to anybody who was thrown off by that. It was such a good email too! If the title could have carried over, I would use it this week, but it doesn't. Maybe next time!

Alright, so the last any of y'all heard, we were gearing up for Hurricane Irma. It came and not a whole lot happened. All the missionaries in the Georgia Atlanta North Mission stayed inside for the day and we were all fine. The most that happened in Athens was downed tree limbs and power outages. In fact, the other sisters in our district lost power, so we had 4 of us at our apartment for the night. It was pretty fun getting to work together to still use our time productively, even though we couldn't go out at all.

Sister Johnson and me, stoked for a day of baptisms and contacting!
The next exciting thing that happened is that we found out Sister Johnson would be training this transfer, so I got to spend a day with Sister Thorn (my trainer) working in the UGA Young Single Adult Branch while our companions went to the meeting for *all the people who are training this transfer. (*You'll understand why this star is here later on in the email). 

Will got baptized!
That Saturday, Will got baptized! We were pretty worried when he didn't show up until half an hour after the baptism was supposed to happen, but our awesome Ward Mission Leader, Brother Ross (whose cousin is married to my cousin, coincidentally) helped us keep an eternal perspective and everything worked out! After the baptism, we got to go contacting for the rest of the day on UGA campus with a whole bunch of other missionaries for the UGA v. Samford football game. It was much less stressful than the first game we went to, mostly because I had a better idea of what was going on. We talked to lots of people and had a blast! Plus, this time, I didn't get sunburnt! :)

On Sunday, Sister Johnson and I were pretty stressed for two reasons. #1, Will didn't get confirmed, even though he was there for *most* of Sacrament Meeting (he did get confirmed yesterday, so now he's officially a Mormon!). #2, transfer calls were that night. Or so we thought. We waited and waited and waited. At 10:29, we got a text telling us that we would get our call on Monday morning. Normally, transfer calls are over by about 8:30 on Monday morning. So we waited. And waited. And waited some more. At 10:30, we got a call from a Utah number, which turned out to be President Marsh. (*This is where that little star comes in). What could President Marsh have to tell us? Well, let it suffice to say that my new companion's last area was the Missionary Training Center in Provo. Yep. I'm training, again! Except this time, I am doing the whole process, instead of just the last half. After President Marsh told me I would be training, we finally got out transfer call from the Assistants. Sister Johnson is training while opening a new area for Sisters in Gainesville, and I am still in Athens 1st Ward, also training! We were sad that we wouldn't be companions for longer, but we were also excited to see what these new companions would teach us!

Okay. Now you know all the stuff about last week. This week is coming up next!

By Tuesday morning, Sister Johnson had packed in record time for sisters (it only took her about an hour), and we were headed to the mission office. After the long drive to the mission office in Lilburn, we got to sit in on a testimony meeting for the departing missionaries (which included my trainer, Sister Thorn). Then, we finally got to find out who our new companions are! My companion is Sister Nielson, from Fruit Heights, Utah (that's by Lagoon, by the way). She is my first companion who is at least my height (in fact, we are the same height!) and she has a powerful testimony of Jesus Christ and the power he can give each of us as we turn to him. I have learned a lot from her already and we have only been companions for 6 days! She knows her stuff and we have been enjoying learning more about missionary work together.

Missionary life has continued since then! We find, we teach, and then we typically do lots more finding, but it has been a party! On Saturday, we got to go contacting before another football game (UGA v. Mississippi State, which are both bulldogs, by the way). Sister Nielson did better than I did, and we talked to lots and lots of people (again)! Afterwards, we got to watch the Women's Session of General Conference, which was stellar. I highly recommend that you watch it or read it (whichever you choose). If I wasn't sitting in a Nissan dealership waiting for our car to get fixed right now, I would tell you more about the highlights, but as it is, you might just have to look it up. :/

That's all for this week! I hope you are all doing well and that you are all choosing to be glad each and every day!

Sister Houghton
Athens, GA 30605

Part of the game crew last week

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Hurricane, a Prophetess, and a Baptism

Hello Irma! Don't worry, this was before we were supposed to be indoors for the rest of the day. Now we are in! :)
So, as many of you know, Hurricane Irma is pretty big. That is pretty much all we missionaries have heard about for the past few days. My area is only exeriencing a "tropical storm" (that means lots of rain and some pretty strong wind), but we may or may not have power when we get home today. My mission president is periodically letting us know whether or not we should be outside for a few hours at a time. It's fun stuff here in Athens, but I know it isn't so fun in other places, so Sister Johnson and I are praying hard for everybody experiencing the real storm. 

Now I will tell y'all about the Prophetess we tried to teach this week. And when I say "tried," I mean it. Basically, we went to teach this lady, and she spent over an hour telling us about all the revelations she has received and even acted out a few of them. Yep, it was a unique experience for us missionaries, and it helped remind me how grateful I am to have grown up knowing that I can receive personal revelation directly from God. We probably won't go teach her again, but that is one "lesson" I will never forget!

Really the best news of the week is that our investigator, Will, is getting baptized on Saturday! He is 15 and was the first one to show interest in the church in his family. His mom was baptized last month, right before I got here, and it has been a wonderful opportunity to get to know and teach them both. The gospel has helped them turn their lives around, and it is a privilege to be able to witness the peace the gospel has brought them. Plus, helping Will along his journey has really helped me see what missionary work is all about and given me a renewed sense of energy for what I do all day every day!

That's all of the big stuff for this week, but in other news, we had Stake Conference this weekend, and it was a wonderful thing! The Stake President called on a whole bunch of people to share their testimonies on the spot, and it made me ponder on what I would share if given that kind of opportunity to testify to thousands of people at once. The conclusion I came to is that I would want everybody to know my testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ. As part of Heavenly Father's plan for us, we all have to experience difficult, hard, things, but we do not have to go through those things feeling alone. Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can learn from trials and return to live with God again. Just thought I would put that out there for all the people who are not in my mission right now. :)

I love you all and hope you have a great week! I hope you will all take opportunities to serve those around you, especially given all the crazy disasters happening around the world right now. (Mosiah 2:17)

Sister Houghton
Athens, GA 30605

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Moonshine and M&M's

From 28 August 2017

Sister Johnson and I cleaned our car so well that we won gift cards for ice cream! Plus, you know how I love pizza (I didn't order it though, somebody got it for us!). :)

This is what Sister Johnson sent home this week in her group email, and I feel like it is a pretty accurate representation of how this week went, so enjoy!

"Sister Houghton and I had some pretty cool experiences this week, but before I tell you about them I have to explain the name of my group email.  So on Thursday evening Sister Houghton and I are just walking through a little neighborhood and knocking on some doors, you know the usual missionary work.  Well we come across this lady who is trimming some flowers down in front of her house, so we go up and start talking to her.  She knew who we were and everything and wasn't interested but she kept talking to us about the flowers that she was trimming.  She was telling us that she had good luck with the moonshine flowers:  Well at this point I am trying not to cry of laughter because in my head I was like, 'I'm pretty sure that moonshine is a type of alcohol??????'  Here we are as missionaries trying to share the gospel but instead we end up talking about alcohol, so classic.  [This was not intentional on my part, by the way.]  So then Saturday rolls around and Sister Houghton and I are store contacting.  So my companion goes up to this girl in the candy section and looks right at her and loudly [boldly] says, 'What's your favorite candy?'  No joke the girl turns around and walks away sooooo fast and blatantly ignores my companion.  Well Sister Houghton was in shock, you buys should have seen her face, her jaw dropped to the floor and she was super red.  I felt bad cause there are other people in the candy aisle so I just pretend that she was talking and me and I was like [after a brief pause in time], 'I would have to say my favorite candy is M&M's.'  At this point I can't keep it together anymore because I thought it was hilarious.  I was literally DYING!!  Like I had tears in my eyes crying because I was laughing so hard, and I couldn't stop.  It is a good thing that it was time to head home because I honestly could not stop laughing. . .especially because I kept replaying the whole situation in my head over and over again, which made it like twenty times funnier.  So Classic!!"

Hence the subject line.  Also, you should all meet Sister Johnson someday.  She is hilarious and we have all sorts of fun together every day!

Really, the only other exciting thing that happened to me this week is that I got to ride a member's cargo bike!  It was super neat and she uses it to transport herself and her 4 children under the age of 7 around town every day!  At 11 feet long, that thing is just plain awesome!

That's all for this week.  Sorry if the formatting turned out super weird on this one.  I hope you all have a wonderful week!


Sister Houghtons
4315 Lexington Road, Apartment 12-F
Athens, GA  30605

Contacting on campus.

How to Survive Humidity 101

From 21 August 2017

We have to go back into the heat?

When you help a member clean and they get you Sonic milkshakes afterwards- yay! 

It can't be done. Just kidding! It can. Anybody can survive humidity. Although, sometimes, it is necessary to stop and try to figure out how to breathe water. And then you have to make yourself drink some water, even though you might not have the slightest inclination to do so.

Ok. So this week has been really warm and really humid, and somehow, we got to spend all the hot parts of the days outside and the cool parts inside, but that is okay, because I found some sunscreen and got to be really friendly with my water bottle.

UGA campus on the second day of classes! 

Last Tuesday after district meeting, Sister Johnson and I had the chance to go to the University of Georgia campus to contact people at a booth put on by the YSA Branch Sisters! There were 12 missionaries talking to people, and I learned that I have a lot to learn about street contacting. Luckily, I will have plenty of chances to learn because we will probably be doing that at least once a week (for anywhere between 3 and 6 hours at a time) while I am here! Fun times!

The things you find while tracting...
Other than that, we did a lot of the same missionary work that is pretty normal. We knocked on doors, helped with some service projects, and taught a good number of new people! Actually, on Thursday, we had spent the greater part of the day outside knocking doors and pretty much nothing good had happened all day. We were tired and not very excited, but we decided that we were going to be happy anyway, because that is what missionaries do! We made it through the afternoon and went to our dinner appointment, which was refreshingly not stressful (food + young family + good video = happy dinnertime). When we left, we headed to an appointment with a lady who had been referred to us by two sets of Elders. Upon our arrival, we didn't really know what to expect, and when we sat down, it looked like she might want to bash, but it turned out that she was super open and really interested in understanding where we are coming from. She committed to read and pray about the Book of Mormon and we even got a return appointment for this week (those are rare things here)! As we drove to give the car to the Elders for the next day, we were overjoyed and decided that it was a blessing resulting from our hard work earlier in the day. Moral of the story: choose to be happy and patient and life will get better over time!

The next cool thing that happened this week was yesterday when we got to church. As we pulled up, we saw President and Sister Marsh (Mission President and his wife) standing outside our building talking with someone. Well, that someone turned out to be Elder Costa of the Seventy, who decided to visit (of all the wards in the mission) Athens 1st Ward before heading back to Salt Lake! Sister Marsh introduced us and we had a pretty powerful Sacrament Meeting with him there, even though his whole talk/focus was not really related to missionary work. Good stuff!

Well, I hope you are all having a wonderful week and that everybody is ready to start heading back into the school year! Don't die in the heat or humidity and drink lots of water! Also, don't look at the sun too much today. Unless you have cool eclipse glasses. I'll send pictures of mine next week (thank you members!)

Sister Houghton
4315 Lexington Rd
Apt. 12-F
Athens, GA 30605