Monday, March 19, 2018

Happy Hard Work Holidays!

19 March 2018

The Winder/Fort Yargo missionary crew

Hello everybody! Every week I sit down to write this email, and every week I experience a "stupor of thought" as I review what's been happening and what I've been learning as a missionary here in Georgia. There are always good, happy memories, and hard, happy memories. Missionary work (ask anyone who has served a mission) is no easy thing, but it is always a happy thing because everything we missionaries do is centered on spreading the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as much as we can!

This week has been one of hard, happy memories. We talked with lots of strangers, found some people to teach, and a whole bunch of them decided not to be taught any more. There's agency (the ability to choose for oneself) for you! One of the hard things about being a missionary is that I know how much the restored gospel of Jesus Christ can bless any individual on the planet (and through them, their family and friends and everyone they know), but all I can do is invite them to learn more and act on the truths they are taught by the Holy Ghost. Ultimately, it is up to them to choose to have the peace of the gospel. It saddens me when the people we teach decide not to have that in their lives, but it doesn't change how much God loves them, so I trust he'll take care of them.

So far, this has been a very serious email. Let me tell you about a good, happy occasion from this week. Every Friday morning, we go help out at an adult day center, just working on crafts and then preparing the tables for lunch. One of the regulars there always asks us if we know who he is, and we always respond with, "Chuck Norris!" (His name is not Chuck Norris) He then proceeds to tell us, "That's right, I'm Chuck Norris! I'm tough, and I'm strong!" Well, on Friday we went through the same conversation and, when the room was unusually quiet for a moment, one of the workers there got him started singing the song "I'll Fly Away," which is a hymn (I'm not sure if it's Baptist, Methodist, or something else). The whole room was smiling as he sang, not one, not two, but three verses at the top of his lungs. As he sang that hymn, giving glory to God, the Spirit filled the room in a very tangible way. I was beaming as I hummed along.

Weatherwise, spring is coming but we get bits and pieces of winter every few days/hours. Georgia has lots and lots of flowers and, lately, we've had lots of snacks while out contacting and tracting because there are pecan trees all over the place! We even found a nutcracker in our apartment the other day, so now we don't have to step on the pecans to crack the meat out of the shells.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about the holidays of the week! On Wednesday, for Pi Day, I had a pot pie for dinner while on exchange with one of the Sister Training Leaders, and on Saturday, I made sure to wear green. We were actually doing some family history work on Saturday morning, and it just so happened that the family line I randomly chose to start working on was Irish! I was super excited, given that it was St. Patrick's Day.

Well, that's all for now folks! Missionary work is going and there's always lots to do. I love you all and hope you have a fantastic week this week!

Sister Houghton
276 Springdale Dr.
Apt. 7 
Winder, GA 30680

You'll never guess what I finally got around to...making pbebfernøddex! There are 3 containers in my cabinet,
1 of which is very well hidden and disguised as Gatorade. 

A Week of Work

From 12 March 2018

We found this sign in downtown Winder and had to take pictures with it.

Well, it's been a pretty usual week of work in Winder. We visited and taught a bunch of people and carried on the normal routine of missionary work.

The absolute highlight of the week was a lesson we had with one of our investigators, named M. She has been meeting with the missionaries for about 3 months now, and we have recently had some serious breakthroughs with her, just in terms of helping her understand what we're teaching. On Wednesday evening, we went over and let her choose a topic for us to learn about from the Book of Mormon. She chose hope, so we read the story of Alma the Younger with her. As we read about Alma's converting experience with the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Spirit was very strong, and M was able to recognize it. She didn't decide to be baptized right then and there, but it was wonderful to see how God teaches His children small and simply truths in small and simple ways.

I know this is relatively short, but that's really all there is to tell you about this week. I love you all and hope you are able to feel the peace of the Spirit at some point this week.

Sister Houghton
276 Springdale Dr.
Apt. 7 
Winder, GA 30680

Sometimes animals go tracting with us, and it's awesome. 
One of our ward missionaries turns 80 this week, so we were invited to a big party to meet some of his nonmember friends, but there was also a great chance to drive a cardboard car (a past-time of mine ;) ).

All the Sisters

From 5 March 2018
Athens Sisters + Sister Marsh

It has been quite the week, but before I tell you about it, I'll update you on transfers, because I've already been in Winder for 6 weeks now! Actually, it's pretty straightforward, because I am staying here with Sister Wagner. That's all of the update. Okiedokie.

Athens Zone @ the Temple
Tuesday morning got our week off to a great start when we had 3 new investigators by noon! One of them was actually a lady I briefly taught back in Athens who recently moved to Winder and loves reading about Nephi. She's older and may or may not be all there mentally, but I love seeing how Heavenly Father is aware of her and her needs. It's a good reminder to me that He is aware of all our needs! The other new investigators we found are the parents of a young family with such great faith in God. They each have an awesome perspective on the importance of families being centered in the gospel and so many good questions. As we talked with them, they kept having more and more questions, which they eagerly anticipate answers to. Sister Wagner and I are excited to teach all these precious children of God!

Athens Sisters @ Breakfast

On Wednesday, we hopped in the car with some Sisters in the branch above our ward and headed over to Sandy Springs, Georgia, where we had brunch with all the Sisters in the Zone and then headed to the Temple! I had printed 6 names that needed a certain ordinance done, and because of the timing of things, we (myself and some of the other missionaries) were able to get 5 of them done, which was a wonderful tender mercy to me. Also, the Temple is such a peaceful place. It was good to just sit and not have a care in the world for a short while.

From Wednesday night to Thursday morning, we stayed in the mission home in Lilburn (note to Levi: President Marsh may be challenging your position as primary popcorn maker and consumer). It was a good time chatting with other Sisters and President and Sister Marsh.

Then there was Thursday. We spent most of Thursday at a Mission Sisters Conference, where all of the Sisters in the mission got together for special trainings and whatnot. We did (no joke) yoga, coloring, skin care, and some more spiritual trainings on grit, grace, problem-solving, studying our Patriarchal Blessings, and "linking instead of ranking." Overall, I think it achieved the desired effect, and I personally walked away with lots of ideas to try applying in my everyday missionary work. On the way back to Winder, we stopped at a Dwarf House Chick-fil-a for dinner and by the time we were home, it was time to get ready for bed!

The rest of the week has been a wild blur. Here's the good news though: I have lots of pictures from this week. I'll attach a few of them. 😉

Well, I hope you all are having a great week and that everything is peachy! Spring has sprung here and everybody with allergies is feeling it real good. I love you lots!

Sister Houghton
276 Springdale Dr
Apt. 7 
Winder, GA 30680

Monday, February 26, 2018

Learning, learning, learning!

Homemade laundry detergent (the actual cleaner is white/clear, but the jars were purple and green, so it looks more fun!

Hello everybody!

Not too much craziness has happened this week, so there's not much to tell. However, I will do my best to share some tidbits I've learned in the past 7 days. First, I learned to not collect too many dishes. We were helping a lady unpack her mother's dishes into her mother's house, and there were about 8 boxes (2'x2'x4') of various dishes. They were great dishes, but I have promised myself I will never be a collector of dishes. Second, I learned that I would not make a very good mission president. During my interview with President Marsh this week, he had me try to answer my own questions the way he would, and I had nothing. That's why I am just a missionary right now. Third, I learned about a really good Mexican restaurant in Winder that is very close to where we live. It's called Speedy Burrito, and Sister Wagner and I have decided it is our new favorite. Fourth, I learned (at Stake Conference) about what a powerful impact the Spirit can have in helping people come to Christ. Several young single adult recent converts were asked to share their testimonies and experiences joining the church. Even though each of them experienced a lot of opposition from loved ones, they felt the Spirit and knew that they wanted it more than anything else, so they took the leap of faith to be baptized. Fifth, I learned how to make my own laundry detergent and other cleaning supplies at a Relief Society activity we attended with an investigator. The sixth thing I learned deserves its own paragraph. (I promise I learned a lot of other stuff this week, these are just the things which most immediately come to mind).

I think I mentioned this last week, but lately, I have been studying lots of addresses by President Russell M. Nelson, who is God's living prophet on the earth today. This week I have noticed a sort of theme, centered on where we should be focusing our efforts. Several months ago, I had the opportunity to talk with a member of the Quorum of the Seventy, and the only question I could think of to ask him was something along the lines of where/how should I be focusing my efforts in changing myself? Well, his answer was to be focused on the now, rather than the later. As I've been studying President Nelson's talks this week, I have been drawn to some key words. He talks a lot about focusing more on what we are to be than on what we are to do. So that's what has been on my mind this week, and I am going to be doing my best to get out of the rut of what I am to do, and center my thoughts and actions more on what I am trying to be and become. We'll see how it goes!

The week ahead is going to be full of exciting stuff, so stay tuned! I love you all!

Sister Houghton

The Birds are Back!

From 19 February 2018

 On Tuesday, a sweet family in the ward fed us only heart-shaped foods in honor of Valentine's Day
Okay, so fun fact about Georgia. Just about a year ago, when I got here, I was surprised by not only the number and variety of birds, but also how vocal they all are. Well, I didn't notice it, but the birds flew south for the winter and it was blissfully quiet for a few months. Somehow, I think they all arrived back at the same time, because this week they have been singing with plenty of volume each morning!

In other news, it's been a good week in Winder. We met some neat people and had some really great lessons with several of our investigators. The ward here is awesomely supportive of missionary work, so it often feels like there is a whole team of missionaries in the area rather than just the two sets of us. To me, everything we did seemed pretty normal, so sorry for not having any cool stories to share.

The highlight spiritual experience of my week has been from my personal study of Elder/now-President Nelson's conference addresses since he became an apostle. My favorite talk thus far was from April 1988, titled "With God Nothing Shall Be Impossible." It has been a great reminder to me of how, really, anything and everything is possible if my faith is centered in my Heavenly Father and His purpose to help all mankind find "immortality and eternal life" (Moses 1:39). It's a very encouraging thought for me as a missionary, since I strive to do what some people consider "impossible" every day!

I hope you all will find enough faith to do the impossible this week and see miracles happen in various aspects of your lives. I love you all!

Sister Houghton 

Last Monday, after I emailed y'all, we had a Sister's Preparation Day doing tie-dye,

A Wild Ride In Winder!

From 12 February 2018
Taco Bell in the Georgia Atlanta Mission

Zone Nerf war
Although I never rode in a taxi this week, we did drive A LOT. Let me explain:
  • Monday: After I emailed y'all, we drove to Athens for a nerf
  • war with the zone (no guns, just PVC pipes + our lungs) and back. Then we biked for the evening.
  • Tuesday: I got to ride to Athens again to begin my exchange with Sister Germann back in my old area of Athens 1st. We only saw 1 person I knew, but it was an interesting experience to be back in such a familiar place, and we drove plenty!
  • Wednesday: This drive was from Athens to Lilburn for a lovely zone conference. In fact, it was probably the best one I've had on my mission! We learned about getting contact information, righteous judgment, pride/humility, being bold, obedience, and the importance of fellowshippers. All in a few short hours. Then we drove back to Winder! 
  • Thursday: Sister Wagner and I left the mission (with permission) for some doctors appointments just below my last area. In our journeyings, we met not one, not two, but three sets of missionaries from the Georgia Atlanta Mission. It was interesting to get a glimpse of the GAM culture. 
  • Friday: really where all the driving ends. We stayed pretty close to home for most of the day since we had to do our weekly planning.
After biking in the mist
  • Saturday: Back to the bikes! In 100% humidity/mist and rain! 🚲 Actually, it was pretty awesome. People tend to be nicer when they see us out in the rain. Although, I think I have developed a new facial expression from trying to see while having water fly at my face off the road.
  • Sunday: Still on bikes, but we did manage to get to and from church in cars. I'm telling you, this ward is awesome!

So now that you know my whole transportation situation, you may be wondering what I actually did this week. Well, as I mentioned, a significant portion of my week was spent driving, on exchange, at zone conference, biking, and at doctor's offices. However, when we weren't doing those things, there was lots of other work getting done. For example, we went out and knocked doors, taught lots of lessons, and as a result of daily contact, one of our investigators who has been nervous about coming to church actually came! Yay! And she loved it! Basically it's been a wild ride in Winder!

Spiritual highlight of the week: At our zone conference on Wednesday, President Marsh informed us that Elder Andersen (of the Quorum of the Twelve) wants all the missionaries in the Southeastern US to focus on knowing the New Testament as well as we know the Book of Mormon. Accordingly, I have started a new study of the New Testament and found so much good stuff in there! Mostly, I have been impressed by how much our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, want us to find peace in this life and the life to come. That is why we have the gospel of Jesus Christ, is to help us find peace. Study up and let your soul be filled with the peace the Savior can help you find!

I love you all and hope you have a great week!


Monday, February 5, 2018

Week 2 in Winder

The Winder Ward missionaries (Elder Parrish, Elder Judd, myself, and Sister Wagner)
Hi everybody!

As I think back on this week, it doesn't seem like all that much has happened, but really, we've been pretty busy! With what, you might ask? Well, we had some meetings, interviews with our mission president, lots of lessons to teach, family history to do, and people to find. It's been peachy!

The highlight of my week has been our visits with 2 of our investigators, B+K. They are such seekers of truth and have a real desire to figure out whether all this stuff we are teaching them about is true. Part of why teaching them is so great is that we haven't done it alone yet. Obviously, as missionaries, we always try to teach with the companionship of the Spirit, but on top of that, one of the families in the ward, has become almost like family for B+K, who are at a rough stage in their lives. The S family not only has them in their home for every teaching appointment, but also allows them to live in their camper trailer in their front yard. Brother S is in the Winder Ward bishopric and thinks in a way very similar to B, so he answers almost all of his questions. Sister S treats B+K like her own children by doing everything she possibly can to help them with whatever they need. Meanwhile, the S children beat us to saying hello to and welcoming B+K when they arrived at church yesterday! "If all [families] had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto [the S family]" the world would be a much happier place for us all to live in! Anyway, I am excited to continue working with B+K and for them to find the answers they are looking for in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I'll let the pictures explain the rest of my week!

Sister Houghton

District Meeting!