Monday, May 26, 2014

9 Months Down!

Lots of lizard friends in Houston!
Kind of a sad title for the email. I don't want to count it, but you get asked about it every day so it's impossible not to! Definitely mixed emotions with that because I am realizing how short the time we have right now really is. But I am doing all I can to use it wisely! I was sitting on my bed this morning looking back at some pictures and just had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the experiences that the Lord is blessing me with. 9 months ago I was a completely different person, and I am happy that I can say I am changing for the better. I know that I am coming closer to the Lord and that my relationship with Him is continuing to grow stronger. I mean it has to, He's the one I have to rely on right now, the only one that will stay constant and always always be there. If I ever need support, all I have to do is fall to my knees and begin praying. How amazing is that? It is available to us whenever and wherever we need it. I am so excited to see what the Lord has left for me to experience in these next 9 months! There is lots of work to do!

This week we had Zone Conference, which is always incredible! The messages are somehow always exactly what we need to hear. One of the main topics was Where do you stand? We were given examples from the scriptures of those who chose to please men and those who chose to please God. How much better it is when we choose to think "I care what God thinks" rather than worrying about what men think. We are so much happier! We are free from the devastating and judgmental views of men and are uplifted in knowing that the Lord's view of us will always be positive, one with an incredible potential. I know that is something that I have been trying to be better at, putting aside the natural man and truly consecrating myself to the Lord and His will. He is the one that knows my heart, my desires, and the efforts that I am making regardless of what it may appear to be for others. At the end of the day we should be able to look at ourselves and be proud of our efforts because the Lord is pleased with them, not because it is something to be recognized by the world. So I was very grateful for all that we learned and for President's inspired messages. Hermana Baxter and I also had the opportunity to perform "If You Could Hie to Kolob" for Zone Conference and also in church yesterday. So that was fun. It makes me happy to be able to play the piano again, even though we don't have that much time to do it. I love music and the Spirit that it can bring!! 
Something great that we got to do this the Houston National Cemetery is in our area and they had a Memorial Day Ceremony. We were able to go and it was really cool. They had groups of Veterans and others walk and be recognized and there were American Flags on every single grave. It was so cool to see! It is really big and there are so many graves. We didn't stay for the whole thing, but it was a good experience to be there and just remember those who have fought for us to still be here today. I am so grateful for that! 
So it has been a good week, and this one will be too. Tomorrow we get to go to the temple! On my halfway day. What a great thing to do! I'm so excited! I love the temple!! I hope all is well with all of you and that you have a stellar week! You are all the best!!! LOVE YOU!!!

Hermana Hoj

Monday, May 19, 2014

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!


                        The Mother's Day party Mariachi band surprise!

Greetings from Texas everyone! I'm glad to hear that you are all doing well! Jake and Erin, I can already tell your baby is going to be the cutest little guy ever. I'm soooo excited!!! Sounds like everyone is managing to stay super busy, and I feel ya, the weeks are just flying by. But I am embracing the time while I have it!
This week I was told for about the eighth time that I look like Rapunzel from Tangled. Instead of greeting me as Hermana Hoj, someone said "Hello Rapunzel." haha so that was funny. I think Hermana Burnham was the first one to tell me that and from that point multiple people have said the same thing. haha sorry that was random but I thought I'd tell ya'll anyways.

THIS WEEK HAS BEEN AWESOME! There have been ups and downs, but mostly ups and the Lord is blessing us tremendously. M and J (the twins) went to mutual and came to church this last week!!! YAY!!!!!! Seriously makes me soooo happy!! They are so awesome and I am so grateful that we get to know them! Some other news that is kind of sad, yet happy at the same time is that A moved so we won't be seeing her anymore. It's good because she left the guy she was living with to stay with her aunt because she realized she wasn't happy there with him. So I'm so sad because I won't get to see her anymore, but I am also happy that she will be able to feel better about her life. 

But the big miracle of the week...On Saturday our zone decided to make a goal to extend as many baptismal dates as possible to help us reach our goals, and the Lord is so amazing!!!!!! We had a member with us to visit an investigator and we were planning on extending the baptismal commitment to him. We knock on his door, and no answer. He wasn't home. We were thinking for a moment and decided to try an former investigator that we had dropped awhile back. As we walk up to the door it was open, and she was sitting there with two men who ended up being her sons. One is visiting from Mexico and the other lives a few streets over from his mom. We began talking with them and they had some really interesting questions. The one from Mexico was pretty much doing all the talking, but he was amazed that there are so many youth all over that are willing to sacrifice time for the Lord and help other people. (He said that he sees missionaries walking around in Mexico all the time) We began teaching them the Restoration, and gave them pamphlets to look at. They wanted to stop talking for a minute after we explained the story of Joseph Smith and read it from the folleto themselves. After the lesson Hna Baxter and I were talking and realized that both of us were praying and praying and praying that the Spirit would touch them and that they would know that it was true. We looked over at the other brother (Jose) as he was wiping tears away from his eyes. The Spirit was so strong and you could tell they felt so peaceful. With our goal to set as many baptismal dates as possible I said to myself "There is no way that I am leaving here without extending a baptismal invitation." Hna Baxter and I looked at each other and we knew that the Spirit was strong and that it was the right moment to extend the invitation. We asked them if they would be baptized after they knew these things were true, and Jose said yes!! The other brother will be here for 3 weeks and then go back to Mexico, but he told us that he wants missionaries to come visit him there! Can you say, MIRACLE!?!?! The Lord is so good and he truly is putting those prepared people in our path. Please keep them in your prayers and ask for them to have the Spirit testify to their hearts.

Lastly, yesterday I was given the opportunity to speak in church on the importance of a personal testimony. I found out Saturday night right before bed, so I said a prayer to help me know what it was that I needed to say and went to bed trusting that the Lord would help me out. The next thing I knew, I was awake with ideas flooding my mind so I got up and started writing. I shared examples from the Book of Mormon of people who were great examples of faith and when confronted with trials they didn't deny what they knew to be true. (Go read these because I don't have time to expand on them all) The first was Jacob 7:5, Abinadi in Mosiah 17:9-10, Moroni 1:2-3, and Joseph Smith History 1:25. Such good scriptures! I shared my experience of choosing not to play games on Sundays and how I have seen my life blessed because of that. It truly is in those trying moments that we are able to gain for ourselves a personal testimony. How important it is to have a testimony that is strong, one that cannot be shaken!!! I love the gospel and I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!!!!

Have a stellar week, love you all!!!

Hermana Hoj

Monday, May 12, 2014

Long Time No See?!

Today at 12:01 PM
Hello there everyone! It was soooo good to see you all yesterday and I loved being able to talk with you. Glad to say that you are all still the same weird, quirky people that I love so much! Since I mostly told you everything that's been happening lately, this email probably won't be filled with as many stories. But know that all is well!

One miracle I forgot to tell you about. We found an inactive family a few weeks ago, but have mostly had contact with only the mom. There are 3 kids living with her right now. We went to visit them on Friday and her 15 year old daughter answered the door (the only one that we hadn't met yet) and invited us to come in. We sat down and started talking with her to get to know her and we asked her if she would want to come to the Mother's Day activity at the church with us that night. She didn't even hesitate, and said yes! We were able to find a ride for her and her twin brother to come with us! They are a little more on the edgy side, but they have big hearts and I'm excited to get to know them better. At first I think they were a little uncomfortable because they didn't know anyone, and there weren't a ton of the youth there. We had to leave earlier than they did because of our missionary rules, and weren't sure how they were feeling. Then yesterday, we were visiting a member family and were talking to her granddaughter who had been at the activity and found out that she had been talking to the girl and become pretty good friends with her. She really opened up to her and told her that when we came she felt like she was being given a second chance. We are so happy and so excited to get to work with them! They are so awesome and they are going to be such a great addition to the ward!
   The mariachi band at the Ward party! It was a surprise for the moms!
This week I am super grateful for the Priesthood. I was able to receive a Priesthood blessing this week and I am more sure now than I have ever been before that they are blessings directly from God. The things that were mentioned in that blessing were exactly the things that I needed to hear, and I felt so much peace, support, and comfort afterwards. I didn't give any specifics for what I needed in the blessing, but the Lord worked through him to give me the words that I needed to hear. I feel so blessed and I am so happy that we have such an incredible gift in this church.
I know with all of my heart that this is the true church, and through the opportunity to serve as a missionary I have been filled with joy more complete than any other. How blessed we are to have the gospel in our lives to lead us, direct us, support us, and help us return back home to our Heavenly Father. I know that it is the one way that we can get back to Him and I could not be more grateful for that. I hope you all take a moment this week to ponder how the gospel has helped you in your life and thank the Lord that He has given it to us. Love you all and hope that you have a good week! You are all in my prayers with all of the amazing things that you will be experiencing. LOVE YOU ALL!!!!

Con amor,
Hermana Hoj

Monday, May 5, 2014

Mosquito bites, sunburns, dirty feet, and a whole lot of miracles!

Buenos dias ! Como estan?
So....I get to see you on Sunday!!! WHOOO!!! How exciting right? Doesn't it seem like just yesterday we were doing this for la Navidad? Wow how the time flies....
This week has been one of adventure and miracles for sure. First off, transfers are this week but both Hermana Baxter and I are staying together! So we're excited for that! She is awesome and it has really been amazing to see how we have been able to help each other out in the time that we have been together. The Lord definitely put us together for a reason, and we are constantly learning from one another. 

                     My last picture with my first companion - Hermana Driesel
                                   She is headed home!

Here are some of the funny moments/adventures from the week and then I'll get on to the miracles. So on Saturday we walked for almost 4 hours and it was actually quite enjoyable! I got my first sun burn of the year, along with my first 12 mosquito bites. Man, they are absolutely awful here. I am sooo itchy! And my feet were absolutely covered in dirt. I'll send a picture. :) Also we got to mow a lawn too! That made me happy too. haha It's definitely getting hotter here, not too bad yet though. The humidity hasn't really come I don't think, but it will be here soon. Then all the pictures you get of me will be sweaty ones with my hair glued to my head. Get ready! haha 
                                        Post Tracting dirty feet!
                     This is what happens when a na├»ve Mormon Hermana
                     asks what that is sitting on their tv and they do a demo
                    for you right in front of the Elders! Classic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Now on to the miracles!!!!!!!!
Two miracles I want to share with you. On Thursday night, all of our citas fell through. It happens, and the Lord always has a plan. There was one family that kept coming to my mind and so we decided to stop by to go see them. She is usually really busy with school, work, or her kids, but we wanted to at least try. We knocked on the door and she opened up and invited us in. Her sister was visiting from Mexico and we sat down and started talking with them for a little while. At first I didn't feel like we were fulfilling our purpose and I was thinking maybe it would be better to go. But then the Lord blessed us with a moment to share a scripture with them. We opened up to Helaman 5:12 and testified of the importance of making Christ our foundation. We come to find out that her sister is an inactive member in Mexcio. We asked them how we can make Christ our rock, and she directly said that she needed to go to church. She recognized it and willingly admitted it too. I thought that was really incredible, and I think that she was really touched by the Spirit. I hope it sparks something in her to go back to church in Mexico. I know that our citas fell through for a reason and that we were directed there by the Spirit. I hope that we were able to help make a difference in her life.
This week we also found a less active member! She is from Honduras and has been here for a year without contact with the church. All of her family is still in Honduras, so she is here without them. She found the sister missionaries in another ward, but she is living in our area so we were able to meet her this week! We found a ride for her to come to church on Sunday, but she told us she had work and could only come for the first hour. Her name is A. She came to church for the first time in over a year! It was fast and testimony meeting yesterday and the Spirit was so strong. In the ward I'm in right now, people flood to the front to bear their testimonies and it's so awesome! I went up to share my testimony, and as I was sitting on the stand waiting my turn, A comes up and sits right next to me, ready to share hers as well. She went up and the Spirit was so strong. She talked about how her family is in Honduras and that she is here alone. She was scared to start coming to church again because she didn't know what people would think. She told us (the missionaries) she had work and could only come for the first our, and over the pulpit she said "That wasn't true. I was just scared. Now that I am here and have felt the Spirit today, I don't want to leave!" And she ended up staying for all 3 hours!! She is so incredible! To have the courage to get up there for her first time and share all of that is amazing. She is such an example to me. After sacrament meeting, the ward swarmed her and I know that she felt welcomed and loved. Church yesterday was all in all incredible! Later on in the day we were visiting some members and each one of them mentioned the Spirit they felt when A bore her testimony. It was a beautiful meeting. One of the members then said something that really meant a lot to us. He said "the two of you are doing great work here," and he thanked us. That really meant so much to me. There are so many times as a missionary when you feel like you are not succeeding. The adversary drills that thought into your mind again and again and again. He makes you feel worthless and that you are not making a difference, when in reality WE ARE!!!! Sometimes it just takes awhile to recognize the results of your efforts, but as long as we are striving to do our best, they always, always come. I am so grateful for the Lord and His mercy and love for each and every one of us. There are so many people here that I love so much, I want to spend all my time and attention on every single one of them because I love them all so much. I have no idea how that Savior does it, but what I do know is that He does. He never leaves our side and He is putting in all of His time and efforts to help us on our way back home. I am so grateful to be lucky enough to have that knowledge! Well, better go share that with Houston! Have a good week and I will see you on SUNDAY!!!! YAY!!!! LOVE YOU ALL!!!!

Much love,
Hermana Hoj