Monday, September 29, 2014

Huntsville just keeps getting better. and better. and better

Hola Hola mi familia!

Oh mi bondad we have a new baby! AHHHHHH!!! I am soo soo excited!!!! I have been dying the past two weeks, just waiting for him to get here! What a miracle it was to see those pictures when I opened up my email this morning! Heavenly Father and His tender mercies...what would I do without them? I'm so glad that I was able to see the pictures and not have to wait another week! AHHH!!! I cannot believe it!! I AM SO EXCITED!!! Congrats to the parents! #teamhoj. You are going to be great parents. Keep sending those pictures por favor.

Well, like I said, Huntsville is just getting better and better. First big news of the week is that we got another set of Sisters up here! We are so so excited and so happy for that. Hermana Loo and I are still focusing on YSA and then we're going to be focused only on Spanish in the family ward and the other Sisters will be helping out with the English ward and YSA as well along with the Elders. It is such a blessing to have them here. We had been feeling like we were just skimming the surface of all that there was to do, and needed some help to pick things up. So President sent us another set of Sisters! Sister Hassell and Sister Lambright. They are sooo stinkin adorable. I'm so so happy to have them here! It was amazing, even yesterday at church you could just feel a renewed energy with the members. Things are going to start picking up here real quick I think.

We got to see Meet the Mormons! We went to a church building and got to watch it with a bunch of the missionaries! It is so good! Everyone go and see it! It was funny, enlightening, uplifting, just all around good. I loved it! 

                                The Giant Sam Houston Statue

Campus is going well too, we are just needing to follow up with a lot of people. Who would have ever thought it would be hard to just call people? There is never time! We have a few progressing investigators right now, and I am confident as we continue doing follow up that we will find those that are prepared. We have had a lot of really awesome contacts on campus though, inviting everyone to come to General Conference! So I'm praying that a lot of people will come! Matt has been doing really well too, as of last time I talked with y'all he has told us that he wants to go on a mission, he got the priesthood, a calling, his temple recommend, and set a date for his patriarchal blessing. haha so he is on top of it to say the least! He is so excited! It is so true that baptism really is the gateway to help us receive a whole lot more. We are going to the temple with him this next week for the first time! Yay!! Happy day!

Oh, I don't know if I told you this or not, but Lori and her family are moving down to Galveston this week. She has been doing so well and guess what?! She is now going on her 9th day without smoking! She is going to get there! I am so happy for her and so proud of her. I'm sure going to miss her and her family a lot. They are just wonderful.

Sorry this is seriously all over the place. (I blame the baby excitement) But, it was Sister Hassell's birthday this last week, so we decided to go out to lunch! I had my first real Texas barbecue!! We went to a place that was ranked #3 in the whole entire nation for their barbecue, and whooo those ribs were good! Y'all need to come back just to eat that. Wow it was good. It's a little restaurant run by a baptist church and it is wonderful!! I'll attach some pictures for ya. Then today, we were able to go to the Sam Houston National Forest and we did a 6 mile hike and it was so beautiful! We also stopped to take a picture with the giant Sam Houston statue. So again, I'll send pictures. 
Hiking in the Sam Houston National Forest
     The best genuine Texas barbecue! Why has it taken me so long to try it?

Just to end, I want to share a few thoughts that I have had this week. There are always those days/weeks where you are reminded often of the weaknesses that you have. Your struggles, distractions, insecurities, imperfections...sometimes it all just dumps on you. You want so badly to do everything right, you want to give up the natural man and just submit to God's will. You feel like you are trying to do everything in your power to accomplish what you need to, but you also still feel as if you are falling incredibly short. You feel overwhelmed, confused, conflicted, and full of doubt. I have to admit that I felt a few of those things this last week. I felt that I was working hard and doing what I was supposed to be doing, but I still felt like I was missing something. But the problem was, I didn't know how to fix it! I would study and feel like I read something that could be an answer, or hear something that someone said that also seemed like it could be an answer, I would pray, and I would work, but still something was missing. I received an impression for 3 days that I should ask for a Priesthood blessing, not really knowing the reason why. After being hard headed and trying to do it myself, I finally decided to humble myself and follow the impression I had been given. It truly was such a blessing that I did so. I didn't give a reason why I wanted one except that I had felt prompted to ask for it. How my testimony grew in knowing that my Heavenly Father knows me and loves me. Through a worthy Priesthood holder I was able to hear my Heavenly Father speak to me and tell me exactly what I needed to hear. I think for me that was what I needed to do to show Him that I was in need of His help. I had tried doing everything in my power, but I needed to partake of His. I have a testimony that our Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ know us personally and love us more than we can comprehend. They know our weaknesses and our struggles, but regardless of all of them, They still accept us with open arms. They want us to come to Them with our weaknesses so that through Them we can be made strong, be made perfect. I know that is a possibility because of Jesus Christ. I know that I am in need of a Savior and Redeemer. I know that I am foolish to think that I can do any of this without Him, because I know that I can't! I know that He lives and that He loves us. 

Much love!
Hermana Hoj

Week of Sept. 22nd - Texas A & M, prisons and A BAPTISM!!!!!!!!!!!! -

Hey hey hey!
 How is everything going over yonder in Utah?
What an amazing and beautiful week this has been!
Let's start at the beginning of the week. So like I told you I got to go on exchanges to Texas A&M this week! It is such a beautiful school/campus! We spent some time up at the institute there and we also went onto campus and contacted people. A lot of people are running to and from class so they don't have a lot of time to talk, but we set up 4 appointments for later on in the week, so that was good! A&M has a ton of traditions too. Everyone there says Howdy. No one says hi, or hello, it's just Howdy! How are y'all doin' today? It's weird to not say howdy, so that took me a second to get used to. I was also on bikes for the first time in my mission! That made me happy even though it was hot and I was sweaty. The football stadium is huge, and there are a tooooon of people to talk to. It's insane! So wonderful! That was a really fun experience to have. After exchanges I got back in time to participate in our LDSSA talent show. Wanna know what I did? I sung the alphabet backwards in like 5 or 6 seconds or something like that. Did you even know I could do that? What a strange talent to put on display. But, hey I'm weird and there ain't a thing you can do about it! haha it was a good day!
This week we have been doing a whole lot of planning and following up with people, because if we're contacting a bunch of people up on campus there is no point in doing so without following up with them. We made 2 display boards to take up on campus for general conference that turned out really well! I will send home pictures of it next week! We have on one board "If there were a prophet today, would you listen to him?" and then on the other one it's like a big reveal that says, "There is a prophet today, come and listen to him!" It's going to be awesome, and I hope that a lot of people have the desire to come and listen to general conference. I love being here and working with such great people. There truly is no other experience like Huntsville, Texas. It's the best place ever. 
We have had so many miracles this week as far as the Spanish work goes! And today we had two back to back! Everyone take notes on this story. Today we had an older couple from the English ward invite us over for lunch--he told us to bring 4 Book of Mormons in Spanish, we had no idea why, but we did as he asked! We got to their home and find out that he has people working on his home that he has invited to come in and eat with us--all four of them speaking Spanish. What amazing member missionary work!!! Ahh I was so happy! Neither of the members speak Spanish, but they saw the opportunity to do missionary work and they didn't hesitate! I was seriously so proud of them and so grateful that they did that! I was blown away! It was really sweet too, one of the men that was working for them said how grateful they were to be invited in to eat. He said we've been doing this for 20 years and no one has ever invited us into their home to eat with them. I know it was a touching moment for them too and we were able to give all four of them a Book of Mormon and invited them to come to church and the English classes we will be having. So, we are looking forward to working with them again! Then as we pulled away we checked our phone and there was a voice mail asking to call back. So we called this lady back to find out that she has an awesome referral for us! She had met a woman who had just moved here from Colombia that is very lonely, and she got her information for us to go by and visit her! So awesome! I was just overwhelmed by the small, but amazing miracles we had. So beautiful to be working on the Lord's side. Then after lunch today we went to the Texas Prison Museum! It was awesome. Remember how I told you there are like 9 prisons here in Huntsville? Well they have a museum for it! Did you know they had prison rodeos? Only in Texas...haha They have a bunch of things that inmates have made in prison--like jewelry boxes and a pirate ship made out of matchsticks, guns, shoes with compartments to hide things in, a chess board made out of soap, etc. It was actually really interesting. Oh, the things that we get to do in Huntsville. It's the best.
Who knew there was such a thing?!
And...the moment you have all been waiting for...Matt's baptism!!!!
What an amazing day it was!! Hermana Fletcher was able to come back too! (she was visiting her brother in Waco, Texas and was able to drive down for his baptism!) Matt's parent's also came, and the Spirit was so strong. His mom was especially touched, and even wants to come back for General Conference! On Saturday morning we sent him a text saying Today is the big day! How are you feeling? This is what he said back, "I'm feeling amazing, so comforted, and at peace really. I'm not really nervous at all, just anxious in a good way haha. I feel really blessed and lucky in a sense. Like why was I given this knowledge when everyone else in my family had never received it. It makes me very hopeful and thankful. I know I've been prepared for this moment, I've gone down so many other roads and this one is the only right one I've been on. I feel a lot of support, everyone's so excited for me and it's evident every time I see them. Y'all seem like y'all are always bursting with excitement when you see me, Elder Alvarenga keeps coming up and hugging me everytime he sees me, Sister LeBaron the past few days has been telling me exactly how many hours till my baptism are left, Elder LeBaron keeps telling me how happy he is, Krystin keeps asking me how I'm doing and encouraging me, the councilmen stayed at the YSA talent show to meet me and give me encouragement. It's overwhelming and I've never felt so at home in my life. Everyone else's excitement for me is just another testimony to how real this is, and it's awesome to see and feel it." Is that not amazing? He has such a strong testimony and it is such an inspiration to us all to see him do what he knows to be right. He is truly the most prepared person I have ever worked with on my mission--he has such a strong desire to learn, and he is so willing to change to conform with God's will. It has been such an amazing experience to see him get to this point, and I know that he has so much ahead for him! The baptism truly was as perfect as it could have been. He had asked me to speak on the Holy Ghost, so I felt so privileged to be able to do that, and I learned so much as I prepared for it. Watching someone enter into the waters of baptism truly is one of the most humbling experiences as you realize all that they have done to be able to do so. I was so full of joy and the Spirit overcame me. There is no better feeling than to know that the gospel has changed someone's life, that someone has come closer to the Savior. After the baptism he sent us another message, "So that was the greatest haha" Words really can't describe how great it truly was! I am convinced that there is nothing better in the entire world than being a missionary and being so closely tied to others' experiences and learning for yourself along the way. Sometimes I feel like I'm cheating because I'm getting so much out of this experience when I'm trying to give it all to others. Even though I'm trying to be the one giving, I feel like I'm the one receiving. But, I guess that's kind of what the gospel is all about. As we give up something good, the Lord always blesses us with something greater. It's just a matter of trusting Him and having faith in His promises. And as we do so, we will always be able to look back and say for ourselves, "So that was the greatest."

Con muchisisisisisimo amor,
Hermana Hoj

Monday, September 15, 2014

"I'm Just Embracing Being Awkward"

Monday, September 8, 2014

Love Even Greater Than the State of Texas

Hola hola hola!
First of all, thank you for the card from the cousin camp out!! I loved it so much and it made me smile so big! I miss all of you, and thanks for thinking of me!
                                Hermana Loo and I on "safari" Texas style
We have definitely had many great moments this week! As you can see by my pictures, we went on a "Safari Ride" at one of our member's homes. They have 500 acres or so of land and so we stand in the back of the truck as he drives through it all! It's lots of fun. Brother Harris also used to be a professional boxer and he still trains people, so one of these P-days we're going to go back and he is going to teach us how to box too, so that is going to be cool! Honestly, Huntsville is a one of a kind place. I get to do great things here that I would never get to do anywhere else! Well basically you get to experience so many things on your mission that you would have never thought possible. I LOVE IT!!! 
                         Brother Harris and family - Our safari guides!
As far as missionary work goes, things have definitely picked up here since school started. And first off, Hermana Loo is such an incredible missionary! She is already teaching me so much, and she definitely has a lot of strengths that are my weaknesses, so I can already see some of the reasons that Heavenly Father put us together. He knows what He's doing! So we went up on campus almost every day this week to contact people and invite them to Institute and the classes we are having. We took up a board with a picture of Christ and the question "What has Jesus Christ done for you?" As people walked by, we would ask them to take a moment and write down their answer to that question on an index card and then we would tape it to the board. It worked really well! We got some really great responses! For example, one guy put "He gave me great hair," another said "A LOT," and then there were other really incredible ones like "He saved my mom from cancer" or "He blessed me with an amazing family and friends." We also had really amazing conversations with some of them, which would lead to them asking us more questions about what we do. We're excited to keep it up! It was so great to see that even if someone wasn't necessarily interested in listening to more, that they were still able to take a moment and think about what Christ has done for them. Helping others come unto Christ is so amazing! It's a lot of fun to work on campus. THERE IS SO MUCH POTENTIAL HERE!!! We are working so hard, planting lots of seeds, and I think within the next couple weeks we will see a lot more people wanting to learn more. 
                          Our "What has Christ done for you?" display
One miracle that happened this week was that we met with a less active Spanish speaking family and found out that the mom is the only member. The dad is Catholic and the kids were baptized Catholic when they were babies, but the parents decided that they could choose for themselves when they were older. So we got 3 new investigators from that!! We hope they will come to church next week and that we can teach them and help them reach baptism!
                               Some of our Amazing YSA friends!!!!!
Some other really great news....M is getting baptized!!! (He's the one on the very far left in the YSA picture) Oh my he is seriously too great--so so prepared it's unreal. So this week we taught him the Word of Wisdom and it was probably one of the best lessons of my entire mission because of the way he responded to it. He pretty much taught us. So we introduce the topic and ask him if he knows anything about it. He told us he did, that he actually just learned about it from his friend D (the member that referred him to us). He told us that this last summer he smoked every day and would drink too, however when he started meeting with us and learning about the gospel he felt as if he shouldn't anymore. He said each time he went to smoke or drink it felt wrong and he decided to stop doing it. Then two days later, D started talking to him about the Word of Wisdom, they read D&C 89, and he straight up stopped cold turkey! He told us that he doesn't want to jeopardize losing the knowledge he is gaining or slow down his progress by smoking and drinking! It was so incredible that he had already gained a testimony of the Word of Wisdom before he even learned of it. He told us he was with friends and they offered him something to smoke--he turned it down. Then a little while later they offered it to him again--he turned it down. Then they offered it to him a third time--he turned it down and left! He is so amazing and so prepared! I feel so blessed to work with him! Then he accepted baptism and chose to be baptized on September 20th, so please, please keep him in your prayers!! Isn't that the coolest story ever? He truly is sooo prepared. He is going up against so much opposition, but he is soaking in everything he is learning and he knows it is true! But what is even cooler is that he is applying it all too! We are sooo excited for him! Ahh. Missionary work is the most rewarding thing in all of the world. I am so lucky to be here!! I feel so privileged to work with such amazing people and to learn from them too. AHHH. Words can't explain to you the happiness that I feel right now. It's a marvelous feeling. I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!!!! And I love all of you too. Have a great week!!
                     At the Sam Houston State football game last week
With love even greater than the great state of Texas,
Hermana Hoj

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Are You Ready for some FOOTBALL!!!!!

Well howdy!

How is everything going for all of you this week? Sorry I'm a day late...labor day...and I don't have as much time as usual to write you today, but I will do my best to get everything out that I need to! It has been quite the week, very busy and crazy, and wow have things changed since we last talked!!

                       Goodbye to Hermana Fletcher - She is headed for home!
                                   It's beautiful in Huntsville!!!
So first thing is first, I am still in Huntsville...taking over after only 5 weeks which is crazy--what's God thinking right? haha, but I now have a new companion! Hermana Fletcher is going home, so my new companion is Hermana Loo! She is seriously sooo adorable. We already get along so well! And we have our work cut out for us! She is an English Sister that has been in YSA wards her whole mission so she is going to be helping me so much with that, and I am going to be helping her learn Spanish! It's so exciting! She was a visa waiter for Brazil and began learning Portuguese, but she decided to stay in Texas and now has been changed to Spanish! We are seriously so excited for the work up here. There is so much to do!! She is 22 years old, and she is from Oregon. She came out the same time I did so we are going to be helping each other so much. We are seriously SO excited. I already know that she is an incredible missionary so I feel so blessed to get to work with her. 
                    Hello and welcome to Huntsville Hermana Loo!!!!!!

So much has happened this last week...first of all, Sam Houston State started, so we have been on campus talking to people a lot. It's so much fun! Oh and guess what? We went to their football game! haha it was sooo weird, but fun at the same time. President came up to us at a meeting and asked us "So, can you go to football games?" Sister Fletcher and I looked at each other and were just like...I dunno.... and he said "I think you can. That's where the people will be. We need to go where the people are and be a part of the community, right?" So that was really strange being there, but we are definitely being seen, and we were able to talk to some people too. We also went downtown yesterday. That was the first time I had been downtown, and it was great! Because it was labor day there weren't very many people down there so we just kind of walked around and took pictures. So that's kind of the fun stuff I guess that we did this week! It was a good last week with Hermana Fletcher and I am going to miss her a lot, but I am excited for what is ahead!

                       Our first Sam Houston State football game

                      Deserted downtown Huntsville on Labor Day

Miracle moments from this week. Matt is still awesome and is still progressing tremendously! We taught him about family history and temple work this week, and after the lesson I couldn't really tell what he was thinking. So I asked him and said something like, "How are you feeling about all of this? Is it weird?" and he said "No, it makes sense. I think it's kind of weird that I don't think it's weird. It's just another thing to try to explain to my parents, but it's really great." We found out later that week that his dad was going to drive up on Sunday to come to church with him, and I'm not going to lie, I was a little scared! But the coolest thing ever happened! Both of the speakers in sacrament meeting had been assigned the topic of family history and temple work, and their talks were incredible! I think that was an answer to his prayers that they were able to speak and explain that so well while his dad was there, and I think his dad ended up enjoying church! Such a great miracle. I love just the simple, small miracles that God provides for us. Those little tender mercies are the best!! You always have to keep your mind, eyes, and heart open to see them--they really are everywhere! God is good--just a reminder. :) 
I am just loving being a missionary. I never want it to end! It was so weird being with a companion that was heading home, and I don't ever want it to be my turn to be in that place! (Not that I don't love you all, the mission is just really amazing!) I think it was exactly what I needed to help me realize that I really need to give it my all the rest of the time I am here. I feel that I still have so much to do, but I know that won't come without work on my end of it. Please keep the people of Huntsville Texas in your prayers! It's so exciting being a part of the Lord's work and watching people change their lives to become disciples of Jesus Christ. What a blessing and a privilege it is to be serving in the Texas Houston Mission.

Love you all!

Hermana Hoj