Sunday, January 31, 2016

Week 23: Busy Busy Busy

Transfers today! Hermana Browning and I are staying here in West Lake Houston South (which was kinda a given because I'm training her) and we are so excited! We didn't see a baptism this last transfer, but we have a lot of people with the potential to get baptized in the next six weeks. It's so crazy that by the time I do get transferred, I will have been in this area for 6 months of my mission!

The best word to describe this week is busy. We taught a lot of lessons, and found 10 new investigators! The Talavera Family, the Ramirez family, and then 3 other old, single Hispanic men (haha classic). All of them seem super interested and we're excited to have them meet the members and learn more of the gospel!

Hermana Browning is improving a lot in her Spanish, and it makes me so excited and happy to see her start to be more and more comfortable in the lessons and talking with members and contacting Hispanics in the streets. She even bore her testimony in sacrament meeting yesterday! The gift of tongues is real.

One of our new investigators we found yesterday night. His name is Julian, and we had contacted him a few weeks ago, but never got a hold of him again. After our appointment fell through, we walked past his trailer and the light was on! So we knocked, he let us right in, and said he'd been hoping we'd come by. Apparently, we had just been coming by at all the wrong times. Anyway, he had talked with missionaries in Mexico before. And although they had taught him and informed him a little bit about our church, they never invited him to do anything. So when we gave him a Book of Mormon and invited him to read it, and invited him to church, and then to baptism, he was so excited! He recently got divorced, and says he feels really alone. We found him at just the right time. Well, more like the Lord led us to him at just the right time.

Elder Knudsen, the district leader, is getting transferred today :( He always had the best district meetings! We would do scavenger hunts, FHE-type meetings where we brought all the couches in and had a Christmas tree and everything, act out the story of manna when talking about daily contact. And his district meeting on Friday was no exception. We were talking about the commitment pattern (Teach, Invite, Promise, Testify) and he pulls out this rotisserie chicken. Then, Elder Wright had to commit Hermana Browning to eat a piece of chicken. Remember, she has a really bad phobia of bones in her meat. Oh, it was so mean. And so funny. But hey! After enough explaining and persisting and testifying and promising, she did it! It was a perfect example of us as missionaries committing our investigators to do things. Sometimes, they won't want to do it, but if we are persistent and powerful, they will soon understand that we are doing this because of our love for them and because we know it will bless them.

I am learning so much every day. It's crazy to think of who I was before, to compare that with who I am now, and then to imagine who I can become. The Lord loves us so much, and I am so blessed to be able to feel a little part of that love for the people here in Houston.

Con amor,
Hermana Baker
For FHE we helped the Serrano family decorate their Christmas tree, and then taught piano lessons. So fun!

Hermana Ferreyra was trying to teach me how to cook... It was a struggle.

A few weeks ago when Hna Browning was sick, I made these visuals for teaching the Plan of Salvation. We had so much fun teaching it to the Perez family this week, and then having races to see who could put it together the fastest!

I have become the master planner-maker.

Week 22: Happy Thanksgiving!

Sounds like you guys had a good thanksgiving! Thanks mom for sending all of the pictures! And thanks Nana and Jackie and Jill for the letters/packages. They make me so happy!

Thanksgiving on the mission was a non-proselyting day, meaning we just hung out at members houses all day. At the beginning of the week, we still didn't have any plays for Thanksgiving, but we ended up going to THREE Thanksgiving dinners. They were all very different and very delicious. The first was at the YSA branch president's house. He invited a few of us missionaries and some other members. Super yummy, classic Thanksgiving feast. Then we went to Marcos' house. He is 20 years old, was baptized in February, and we're helping him to prepare to go on a mission! He is the only member in his family, so we got to talk a little with his mom and friends. They are from Honduras, and fed us what's called tostones, fried bananas with lettuce and chicken and salsa on top. It was pretty good! And then that night we went to a less active's house and had Mexican food. By the end of the night I was soooooo fulllllllll.

Exchanges were this week, and I went out to Dayton once again with Sister Casas. We taught a few lessons, but mostly did service helping this one lady clean up her porch. She literally lives in the middle of the bayou. Her house is lifted probably 12-15 feet off the ground, because when it rains the water rises up a lot. Sometimes she has to park her car a mile or so away, and BOAT to her house. So crazy! Anyway, while cleaning her porch we had a lot of fun catching lizards and such. I'll attach some pics :)

Saturday was another bike day! And another raining day! Days like these are when I feel most like a missionary :) So this time we were riding bikes on the busiest street in our area, when I hear a crash behind me. I turn around and Hna Browning getting up off the ground with her bike. We brush her off, and she has a scrape on her knee but it didn't look too bad. Pretty soon though it starts bleeding, so we ride faster to an investigator's house to get her cleaned up. And then it starts pouring rain. And then the dogs start chasing us. And people who drive by either look really confused or are laughing at us. Yay for missionary life! Luckily, we got to our investigator's house safely, and he was home and could help us out.

I think that about sums up the week! We taught a lot of lessons, found 8 new investigators, had a lot of the recent converts come out with us to teach, and all in all I would call it a really successful week! I've been studying the parable of the sower these past few days, and it applies a lot to missionary work. The ground in the parable is like the hearts of the investigators. Some are already super prepared and accept the word right away, some are not, and there are many in between with thorns or shallow roots. As missionaries, we are here not just to plant the seed, but also to prepare the soil, so that maybe somewhere in the future they will be ready to accept the gospel. It's amazing to see the work of the Lord roll forth.

Love you so much!
Hermana Baker
My cousin Brittany moved to Fall Creek, which is in my ward boundaries! (Too bad she doesn't go to the Spanish ward haha.) We got to eat dinner with her and her family and it made me oh, so happy.
Poor, poor Hermana Browning :(

Service in Dayton aka catch all the lizards and turn them into jewelry. SO MUCH FUN!

The house on stilts. She even said there usually are a few alligators, but we didn't see any this time.
Thanksgiving with Marcos Mejia and his family

Week 21: Mormon Hispanic Time

First off, about the title. On Saturday was the ward fiesta for "el dia de accion de gracias" or Thanksgiving. It was scheduled to start at 5:00 pm but since Hna Browning and I were in a lesson we didn't get there until 5:45. We pull into the church parking lot and there are four cars. FOUR CARS. Slowly, people start to show up. We said the blessing on the food at 6:30, but it really wasn't until 7 that most of the people showed up. Two hours late! That is what we call Mormon Hispanic Time at its finest.

Hermana Browning was sick this past week, so we spent all of Tuesday in the apartment. The poor thing literally slept all day. Some days when I'm super tired or super discouraged all I want to do is go back to the apartment. But never again. It was sooooo boring to be there all day. But it was good we took the day off because the next day Hna Browning was up and running again and we kept the work moving forward.

This week was New Missionary Training where Hermana Browning finally got her driving privileges and iPad! Yay! Finally!! At the meeting they talked a lot about extending commitments and making goals. Those are two things that missionaries do every single day, so it's best to get into the habit of doing them (and doing them correctly!) as early in the mission as possible.

Hna Browning, two kids from the primary, and I did a musical number in church yesterday. I played piano, one kid on the violin, and Hna Browning and the other girl sang "Grande eres Tu" (How Great Thou Art). It went really well!

I think in my last email I mentioned Erika, a lady we knocked into who let us right in! We had a super awesome first lesson, but then later that week she texted us saying thanks for our time, but she was going to stay Catholic. And we were so sad! But this past week we went back over anyway, and she let us in again. We found out she had told us to stop coming by because her husband is very Catholic and doesn't want their family changing religions. But Erika and her son Christian still were interested! So we taught her the story of Esther, and then fasted and prayed with her one day. She went to talk to her husband again at the end of the fast and..... He still hadn't changed his mind :( But we are not giving up! No way!

Welp, we don't have any investigators at the moment who are really progressing towards a baptismal date. The two progressing investigators we do have have some special circumstances where we can't set a date with them yet. But they are still doing great! And I hope that this upcoming week we can get a couple more people to start progressing in their knowledge and understanding of the gospel.

My ponderizing scripture this week is D&C 98:1 "Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks."

Isn't that the perfect Thanksgiving scripture?! There is so much to be grateful for, yet so much that we take for granted. So here's my little simple gratitude list for the day:

-The Book of Mormon and how simple it lays out the true doctrines of Christ
-The pleasant weather outside. It's perfect out there!
-The package from my family :)
-The Chick-Fil-A down the street and the workers who know us by name
-And most importantly the chance that I have to share the gospel, which has brought me so many blessings, with everyone that I see!

We are entering into one of my favorite times of the year. The holidays seem to bring out the best in everyone :) I hope you all have a great week! Love you so much!

Hermana Baker
This is Luis's cat. He let us missionaries name her! The elders tried to give her the name Adolf because of her mustache, so we ended up compromising and calling her "Addie"
This was the best smile I could get out of Luis.
I sure am grateful for these two and at how much they've continued to progress after their baptism! And also for Hermana Browning. She's so cute. :)

Week 20

Another week come and gone! I can't believe we're already halfway through this transfer!

Zone Conference was this past week. The whole meeting was focused on teaching more simply, boldly, and directly. We practiced teaching each other the lessons in under 5 minutes. It was a good eye-opener because when you have such a short amount of time, you're only going to say the most important things! Cut the fluff! It reminded me of what David A. Bednar said in conference... "When you can't do what you've always done, you only do what matters most." He was talking specifically about getting old, but I think it can apply here as well!

So Hna Browning has this phobia of not being able to eat meat if it's still on the bone. It grosses her out and she won't even touch it with a fork and knife. When she first told me that, my first thought was "It's going to be a long 18 months, Hermana!" That's basically all the members feed us! I don't know how, but somehow she went her first two weeks here without getting fed meat on the bone. BUT this week we went to eat with Hna Juarez and *duh duh duhhhhh* she dished us up plates full of chicken legs and chicken wings. There was no way out of it. I was nervous Hna Browning would offend the Hermana.. But she ate it! I was so proud!! And she didn't even look that nervous. Haha she said it was super hard though. To put it simply, missionaries can't be picky eaters. (Nathan, you better learn to eat your tomatoes and onions!)

Yesterday was la programa de la primaria. We have been going to primary these past couple Sundays to practice with them, because they needed me to play the piano. At all the practices we had, only 15 kids or so would show up. One week when it was raining, there were only 8 kids at church. But yesterday for the program I bet we had around 30 primary kids there, and they did so awesome! One kid got stage fright and started crying, but other than that I would call it a success! These sweet kids brought the Spirit so strong, and I don't know why but when the little 3 and 4 year olds speak Spanish I can't help but smile :)

Unfortunately, our most progressing investigator Israel didn't show up to church :( His baptism was scheduled for next week, but we are going to have to push it back. We have a lot of faith that it will happen soon, though! Just gotta keep working with him until something clicks!

One night this week we had an extra hour of no one to see, so we went knocking in a neighborhood and we knocked at this one house that had it's porch light on. Nothing. We knock again, and this time the porch light starts turning on and off really fast a whole bunch of times. Haha took us totally by surprise! I have never had that happen to me before! We knock one more time, just for kicks, and then they start knocking back on the door to us. Man, we couldn't hold it together after that. We were walking away laughing our heads off. Although I never met the person who lives there, I hope one day I will be able to thank them for making us laugh on a rather hard day. And then give them a pass-along card :)

On a spiritual note, this week as a mission we finished reading the Book of Mormon! President Drake gave us a reading chart so that as a mission we are all reading the Book of Mormon together. When I arrived we were in Alma. After reading Moroni 10 I took Moroni's challenge again, and prayed to know if the Book of Mormon is true. And, like always, Heavenly Father answered my prayer. Just because you've already prayed once about the Book of Mormon doesn't mean you can't pray about it again! And just because you've received an answer that it's true doesn't mean that you can't receive that answer again!

So I would like to encourage everyone to pray about the Book of Mormon, whether it be for the first time or the 100th :) Everything in the gospel relies on the fact that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, so if you want to strengthen your testimony, I would suggest starting there. I have felt my testimony grow so much, and I know that a lot of that is because of the time I've spent pondering and studying the Book of Mormon.

Have a great week!

Love always,
Hermana Baker
It was Sister Thayne's birthday last P-Day so we threw her a surprise party!

 Wouldn't she make a cute missionary?!

Aaaaaaand we really took no pictures this week so here's a selfie of us emailing :)

Week 19

What a good week! (I know I say that every week, but it's true!) We saw a lot of miracles, met a lot of new people, and received a lot of inspiration.

Last Tuesday, it was only 2 and all of our appointments for the afternoon had already cancelled. So we had nothing set until dinner that night at 7. We had no idea what we were going to do all afternoon! We found a trailer park to knock, said a specific prayer to find someone new to start teaching, and Heavenly Father poured out the blessings. We found 5 new investigators in that trailer park Tuesday afternoon! First was a 16-year-old boy, then a mom and her son, then another family who had been meeting with missionaries two years ago and decided they were interested again! So we could have had a miserable afternoon knocking trailers in the rain, but instead we taught three really good first lessons about the restoration. We are really excited to continue meeting with these people to bring them closer to their Savior and making the covenant of baptism.

Hermana Browning and I made a transfer goal that we want to find a family who is super prepared for the gospel that we can baptize next transfer. Thursday we found a family that we thought was it! They had just moved here from Mexico a month ago and know zero English, and they haven't found a church to go to yet. The spirit was so strong during the first lesson about the restoration of the gospel, and they accepted a baptism date for in December! But then, just this morning we got a text from them saying that they aren't interested anymore. Nooooooooooooo. We will try to keep being persistent, but at the same time we have to respect their agency. And hopefully the Lord is preparing another family for us to find and baptize!

For exchanges this past week, I got to go to Dayton again! Sister Casas is the new STL, so she came to my area with Hna Browning, and I went to Dayton with her greenie, Sister Melton. We had so much fun! I love getting to meet other members and investigators, and hearing their stories about meeting with the missionaries. So many members here are converts!

Yesterday, instead of normal church services, we had regional conference for the southwest United States. (I don't really think of Houston as southwest, pero lo que sea..) It was super awesome! First of all, because our investigator Israel came! This was his first time coming to church in over 3 years, and he said he really liked it! Second of all, we received some really good counsel from those who spoke. We heard from Lynn G. Robbins, Linda S. Reeves, Lawrence E. Corbridge, and then Dallin H. Oaks. I learned about the power of simplifying, both the things of the gospel, and the things in our every day life. We might have to give up some good things to fill our lives with things that are better or best.Then Dallin H. Oaks talked about the difference between being active in the church and being active in the gospel. Being active in church basically means you go to the meetings. But being active in the gospel means you're continually growing, studying, learning, repenting, and meaningfully taking the sacrament. We need to be active in the gospel, not just active in the church!

I think that about sums up the week!  Me encanta estar aqui en mi mision y se que hay personas aqui que necesitan este Evangelio! Me encanta compartir mi testimonio con todos los que conozco, y puedo sentir mi testimonio fortalecido mas y mas cada dia. Les amo!

Mateo 16:25

Hermana Baker
All of these birds reminded me of the short story/movie "The Birds." So creepy....

A member, Fernando Torres, takes us to Panda Express every Saturday. This week he bought us the cutest panda stuffed animals!

Service! The second councilor in the bishopric had his house flood last weekend, so us missionaries got together and spent a day helping him out. We found a box in his garage full of these matching hats so he let us keep them :)
(Hna Browning, me, Elder Wright, Elder Edward, Elder Knudsen, Elder Barrett)