Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween Spooks!

The CTR pumpkin I carved.

Hello World!

It's been quite the week here in Athens! The first excitement of the week was going on exchange with the Sisters in the Braselton Branch. I got to work with Sister Lott (who has been out for 1 transfer now) for the day and we had a blast! We knocked on doors, taught some people, and, for our grand finale, taught seminary at 6:30 in the morning! Actually, somehow, my Book of Mormon study has been right on track with all of the seminary classes I've worked with, so we got to teach about Enos, who I had read about just the day before! Neat, right?

In the minivan headed to the follow-up meeting
(I drove on the way back from the meeting)

After teaching seminary, we met up with all the Sisters in the Zone to head to a follow-up meeting for trainers and the now 1-transfer-old missionaries. There was a lot of driving involved, but I did get to drive the Zone minivan (yes, we have one of those, just one, in the mission), which made it all worth it!

Our monster car and "costumes."

On Friday evening, Sister Nielson and I attended our ward Trunk'r Treat (at which there were tons of nonmembers for us to meet and talk with). One of our investigators was going to come help us decorate our car, but she wasn't able to make it, so Sister Nielson pulled together our pumpkin-spider-web-eating-monster car (see pic). I think she did a pretty great job! We also "dressed up" a little bit (not much), but I'll let you all decide for yourselves who we were. Our ward's costumes and car decorating skills were from out of this world- it was an A+ job if you ask me.

Image result for turning 20

Thanks for all the birthday wishes! I am no longer a teenager! Actually, I really did feel more like an adult yesterday, which was weird. We had a fun day at church, saw some members, and helped the Elders (#bikeprobs)! Sister Neilson surprised me by decorating our kitchen and the YSA Sisters managed to sneak a cake into our day, so it was basically a party all day! It turns out, the difference between being 19 and 20 is really only one day, but it is fun to look back on my teenage years now. ;D! 

The biggest spiritual highlight of the week was seeing my companion become a completely different person over the course of a few days. We set companionship goals (for finding, teaching, and just being around each other) last Sunday and the quality of missionary life has made an impressive jump in the past 7-8 days. We were working hard and I have been able to see the results of it, which has brought me a lot of peace and joy! I used to think hard work and peace didn't correlate at all, but now I know that they really do go hand in hand. As we allow the Lord to help our weaknesses become strengths (Ether 12:27) we really can bring about amazing changes in our lives!

Alright, well, I hope you all are having a great last few days of October! Happy Halloween tomorrow!

Sister Houghton
Athens, GA

Spiders in GA are huge and very colorful, but hard to get pictures of, so here is a seriously-edited picture of one I saw in Braselton the other day!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Hi Y'All!

Sister Wilde, me, Sister Parsons, and Sister Hahn between exchanges!
Hi y'all!

My week has been nothing too crazy. We got to teach some awesome people who are going through tough times, drive to far-away places, and even bike on some perfectly-temperatured days! Like I said, nothing crazy. In fact, probably the most stressful part of the week has been trying to figure out transportation. There has been lots of switching between the car and bikes this week in order to help the Elders in our area get their crazy bike situation figured out and to get to where we needed to be without using all of our allotted miles for the month. The good news is, that the weather for the past week has been 100% ideal for biking! Not too hot, and not too cold. Just right! I have been loving it!

I did have an opportunity to learn some fun, "southern" skills this week! One of the ladies we go visit each week, who is a member of the ward here, taught us how to make Wet Biscuits (which are dangerously delicious and not all that healthy) and Fried Pears (or Apples, but either way, it is a very similar situation) the way she grew up doing it in Kentucky. I took careful notes of the whole process so that I won't forget all the important details, don't worry.

Probably the most exciting part of my week has been studying Jacob 5 out of the Book of Mormon. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the Book of Mormon, Jacob 5 is a really long analogy about olive trees. I don't know how many times I have read it before, but it has always been one of those chapters I dread reading because I have never really fully understood it and it is just so long. This week, though, I decided to give it my full attention for as long as it took me to really get as much as I could out of it. Many sticky notes were used in the process of me trying to diagram it out, but in the end, I actually managed to learn a lot! The #1 thing I got out of it all was how much Heavenly Father does for each of us. Over and over again, the Master of the vineyard asked what more he could have done, and there was literally nothing more he could have done! That is just one of many lessons I saw during my 5-day study of the chapter, but I invite each of you to face a chapter of scripture you have always struggled with and try to decipher it for yourself. It will change your life in positive ways, I promise!

Alright, well I hope you all enjoy this last full week of October (the best one, in my personal opinion ;) ) and that you are able to recognize God's love for you as an individual this week! Love y'all!

Sister Houghton
Athens, GA 30605

By the way. . .Happy Mole Day! :D!

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