Monday, October 31, 2016

Week #17

Hello everyone, I hope you all had a great week this week! This week has been another interesting week. We were FINALLY able to get the bike fixed, but the following day, Elder Brady ran over an earring that pierced his tire and tube. (Yeah I know, we were shocked too as to how that thing held its form when he ran over it). So that put us on foot again for this whole entire week, which was really frustrating. But the Lord works in mysterious ways. I don't know why this is happening to us, but I do know that God has a reason for it, and all I can do at this point is trust in Him and go and do what He wants me too.

This week was full of miracles. One of which came while at an appointment with our investigator Judy, who has a date to be baptized and had been struggling little bit. She felt like she didn't "know enough" about the church and the gospel, which is definitely an understandable thing to feel as an investigator. But the wonderful thing about the gospel is, you're always learning no matter how long you've been in the church. When planning for her lesson that day, we planned to read in Alma 32, which talks about faith in comparison to a seed, and continually nourishing it to ultimately grow it into something beautiful. We walked into the lesson and before we said a word she said "before we start, I want to say something. I was reading in Alma 32 this morning about faith (it just happened to be where she was at in her reading of the Book of Mormon) and I want to be baptized on my birthday still, I'm going to do it". Her birthday is this Thursday. Elder Brady and I were taken off guard haha. It was a really neat experience for us. We continued on to have a wonderful lesson, and the spirit was very strong during the discussion.

Another really cool experience happened this week. We were able to hear from a General Authority, Elder Dyches of the Seventy, who came to our mission to speak and give a training and answer any questions we may have. We heard trainings from President Snow, Sister Snow, Sister Dyches, and Elder Dyches that day, and it was a very powerful meeting. It really helped me notice and recognize what I have been doing right as a missionary as well as what I can do to better myself and become a shepherd of Christ.

My final experience this week happened Friday. Every week on Friday, we take 3 hours out of our day to plan out the week and make specific plans for each investigator we teach. After that, we make individual and companionship goals for the week. One of my individual goals was for us to find a family to teach. We finished our planning session and ended with a prayer, and in the prayer prayed for help and guidance to do the things we needed to do to accomplish our goals. After that we went out and talked to people. While we were out knocking doors, we came across a man named Jeremy who is looking to find himself in his life and find a church that fits him. His wife is fully active and practicing in a different religion, and he didn't really agree with everything they taught. We talked to him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as well as God's plan for each of us. He was interested in our message and set a return appointment that next day. Before we left his doorstep, he told us that he had 2 kids and was married, and that all 4 of them would be there for the lesson the following day. We found a family to teach. When he said that it hit me, and I was overcome with a feeling of humbleness and gratitude to the Lord for hearing and answering my prayers, and doing so just hours after the prayer was said. That is something I've never experienced before, and it really touched me. I am eternally grateful for my Father in Heaven who loves you and I, and who hears and answers prayers. I have a firm testimony in that, that He hears and answers our prayers. He is always here for us, He NEVER leaves us alone. He knows us individually and knows what we need and what we desire. I know this to be true. I love my Father in Heaven and His son, our brother, Jesus Christ.

My spiritual thought this week comes from a devotional given by Michael Wilcox at BYU-Hawaii. In it he talks about prayer and receiving answers to them. He talks about a story in Mark chapter 6 where Christ feeds the five thousand, then goes to pray while the Apostles go out to sea. Christ prays a very long time sometimes, because He's the Son of God. The apostles were out at sea and rowing throughout the night, waiting for Christ to come, and He didn't come until the fourth watch. The Hebrew night was split up into four watches, 1st is 6-9 pm, 2nd is 9-12 midnight, 3rd is midnight to 3, and the 4th is 3-6. So these apostles were rowing throughout the night, waiting for their Master, and after Christ finished praying, He sat and watched the apostles rowing in the strong wind and struggling, but waited to walk out to see them. In this devotional, Brother Wilcox compares this to prayers. No matter how intently and sincerely we pray, sometimes it will take some time to receive an answer. That is because we worship a "fourth watch" God. Sometimes God lets us struggle a little bit, he has to let us get to the fourth watch. That really stuck out to me, because I have been feeling like i haven't received answers to prayers, or I haven't felt the spirit as much,, and its been hard for me. But this really opened my eyes as to how Christ sometimes works. Don't assume He's not there, He doesn't care, or He's not listening, because that isn't true. He cares, He listens, and He's there. He is always there. Sometimes we just have to get to the fourth watch. Brothers and Sisters, I know that God hears and answers our prayers. He is there for us every step of the way, no matter what. Keep pressing forward, keep fighting, and keep on keeping on. The Lord is there and hears your fervent and sincere prayers. Trust in the Lord and continue to show and strengthen your faith in Him, and those answers will come. 

I love all of you. You are all blessings in my life. I pray for you and your well being. Until next week.

Elder Houssian

Some of the original squad from the MTC, Elder Rigby, me, and Elder Smith featuring Sister Gibson in the background (she's in my zone haha)

 We went to 7-Eleven and this dog looked like he was getting impatient waiting for his owner to get back into the passenger seat

I came out of the shower to find Elder Brady using himself and a blanket to make a tent out of himself

Member's made us some mean omelets, super good!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Week #16

Hey y'all. Another week in the bag! This week has been an interesting week. I got a new companion, Elder Brady, and he's a stud. He did a year at BYU and then came out on his mission and he's from Tucson, Arizona. He is ready to work and works hard which is good. 

So this week we had a little bit of a set back. Elder Brady got a flat tire on his bike after running over some glass, so we were on foot for a day and that night a member brought a tube over. Well we put a tube in and pumped it up, then went to bed. We woke up and it went flat again, so we spent the next 3 days on foot. After that we had another tube brought by, and that one wouldn't hold air either. So we came to find out there was a small metal spike in the tire which kept puncturing the tubes. So we continued on foot all week and we are getting a tube today. So that was fun.

On the flip side, with that set back, we were limited to what we could do. Elder Brady and I prayed for help to still be successful despite our limitations, and we were blessed to find 9 new investigators to teach in 2 days. It was definitely a blessing from the Lord.

My spiritual thought this week comes from Alma chapter 5, verses 12-13;

12 And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.
13 And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.

As I was reading in this chapter, these verses really stuck out to me, and I feel like they really apply to people whether you are a business owner, giving a training, or being a missionary. In this, Alma is teaching and, as it says, according to his faith he had a mighty change of heart. Then AFTER he had that change of heart, he was able to change the hearts of others. As missionaries, we have to have that change of heart, we have to build our testimony and become converted to the gospel before we can go out and teach and change the lives of others. As members we are all missionaries, so my challenge to you is to become converted to the gospel. Become converted and build your testimony so you can go out and strengthen others and change their lives. I promise as you do so, you will be successful and the Lord will be with you and bless you in your endeavors to serve others and help them grow in their faith and testimony. I say these things in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Thank you all for all you do. You are truly a blessing to me and I love each and every one of you. Until next time. 

Elder Houssian

 My trainee sleeping

 These pumpkins outside a member's house made my day!

 New Zone!
For your enjoyment, my pain face while getting shots in my toe before they took out an ingrown toenail #missionlife

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Week #15

Hey y'all! Another week has passed, as well as another transfer! It has been going by so fast, it's crazy! Well this week has been the first week in the mission for me that has be slow. And also Elder Webb and I were really caught off guard with an investigator and with transfers, which I'll get to in a minute!

First, our investigator Darryl (I just realized I've been spelling his name wrong this whole time, whoops!) was supposed to get baptized Saturday. We have been working with him for a couple months. He has been struggling with some things, but was ready to be clean for a week to be baptized. But sadly, Saturday morning we received a text from him saying he would have to postpone his baptism because that morning he broke the streak of being clean for a week. Elder Webb and I are pretty devastated, but we aren't giving up. Darryl can do this! We are glad he told us though, and we went and saw him that afternoon and Darryl is so motivated to be better so that he can enter the waters of baptism, which we are super excited to help him accomplish.

The next thing is transfers. This upcoming transfer is Elder Webb's last, he goes homeNovember 30th. We wanted to stay together so bad so I could send him home after his last transfer, which would be so much fun. Other missionaries in the district and zone predict who will stay and leave, and Elder Webb and I both predicted that he would leave and probably go to North LV, and I would stay in our area and possibly train. It is very uncommon in our mission for the trainer/trainee to stay together after the 12 week training, so that influenced our predictions, but others also agreed with what we predicted. So Saturday hits and we receive our transfer doctrine. Our ZLs stand at the front and start calling off names, and they get to Elder Webb first between the two of us. They say "Elder Webb, you will be staying in Stewart Place" and then we got super excited and then they continued and said "and your new companion will be Elder Robinson"..... we were shocked haha. So then they keep reading off names and then get to me and say "Elder Houssian, you will be going to North to follow-up train"... so I guess I'm being transferred! I'm stoked to go and follow-up train (the Elder has been out for 6 weeks, and his trainer was transferred this transfer as well, so I go replace him for the last 6 weeks of training) and I've heard good things about this Elder so I'm excited! But I will also miss Elder Webb a lot and I'm bummed I can't send him home next transfer.

My spiritual thought this week comes from the talk "His Grace is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox. In it he quotes Elder Neil A. Maxwell's "Notwithstanding My Weakness". He says "Now may I speak . . . to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short. . . This feeling of inadequacy is . . . normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance. . . This is a gospel of grand expectations, but God’s grace is sufficient for each of us." Brothers and sisters, along with Elder Maxwell, I testify that this is true. God's grace is sufficient for all of us. No matter where we are or what we've done, we can always come back and God will receive us with loving and open arms. Christ is there with us every step of the way in life. He's not just waiting at the end, he's trucking with us through the joys and trials of life. He is picking us up when we fall and carrying us until we are able to get back on our feet. He died for our sins and suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane where he felt every pain, sorrow, sadness... everything. He knows how we feel and what we are going through. I know this to be true. Don't give up, keep pressing forward and turn to the Lord for guidance and help, and I promise He will help you get through anything that is placed in front of you, if you have absolute faith in Him. This gospel is true. I know it is. I know my Savior loves you and I, and knows each one of us individually and personally. Thank you all for your support, love, and prayers while I'm out in the service of the Lord. May God bless all of you in your efforts to continuously strive to live according to the will of our Father in Heaven, and may He watch over and protect each and every one of you. I love you all. You are in my prayers. I say this in His name, even Jesus Christ, amen.

Until next week!
Elder Houssian

 My zone normal picture except Elder Cook always flexing the big guns!

 Sweet sunset on top of the hill!

My dysfunctional zone (Romero and I hittin' the folks!)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Week #14

It's that wonderful time of the week! I hope all went well with everyone this past week. It's been a great week this week! This transfer is going by so fast, we are on our last week, and on Saturday I find out if I'm staying in my area or transferring! It's getting close.

To start out, everybody's favorite Polynesian family, Derek, Jaye, and Cui, are doing awesome. They are being very receptive to the spirit and our lessons. Last week we taught them about the Law of Chastity. As it turns out, Derek and Jaye have been together for 10 years but haven't been married. So right as we began the lesson, we start talking about it and Derek and Jaye interrupted us and said "we were talking about it last night, and we are going to get married on the 22nd of this month." Elder Webb and I didn't know what to say haha it took us by surprise for sure! But they are going to get married and then 2 weeks later get baptized. It's crazy! They are progressing so well and just soaking up our lessons.

I'm still trying to decide whether this next event I'm going to share with you is a blessing or a trial haha. Saturday afternoon, we had 3 DINNERS... We went to Derek and Jaye's house because their grandkids turned 1 and 2, and they had a huge party with over 100 people and lots of family and such, and of course, tons of food. So we eat a lot of food and then go to an appointment with an older couple, the McCurry family. We show up and Brother McCurry made us 22 pounds of ham. There was 4 of us and the McCurry's are in their 60's, so we have tons of leftovers. THEN we went to one of our member's houses to eat. They fed us T-bone steak. So from 4:30-6:30 we just drove from one place to the next inhaling food. It all was sooo good but after that, Elder Webb and I were exhausted haha. But we pressed forward and finished out the day!

My spiritual experience this week comes from Jaye, Derek, and Cui (sorry I'm talking about them so much)! We were on splits, and I was with Mitchell, who is leaving on the 25th for his mission in Chile. We planned to teach the Plan of Salvation, and we did. Once we got through the lesson I bore testimony on eternal families. I am so grateful and so blessed that I have my family forever. They mean more to me than anything in this world, and I'm forever grateful and humbled that the Lord would put me in this family and have us be together forever, because that is all I want. I love my family with all my heart. After I shared my feelings, we asked Jaye how it made her feel to know that she could have her family forever. She had tears running down her face as she told us how happy it made her and how much she wants that for her kids. We then asked Cui how she felt. She could only say 3 words before turning her head and getting emotional. The Spirit in the room was so strong, and we could see and feel it bear witness to everyone in the room, including Mitchell and I, that this work is true, that families are eternal, and they will have that opportunity to live together forever.

My thought this week comes from a talk given by Elder Quinten L. Cook from the October 2011 session of General Conference titled "The Songs They Could Not Sing". In this talk he talked about facing trials with faith, as well as the refiner's fire. A quote reads "There are many kinds of challenges. Some give us necessary experiences. Adverse results in this mortal life are not evidence of lack of faith or of an imperfection in our Father in Heaven’s overall plan. The refiner’s fire is real, and qualities of character and righteousness that are forged in the furnace of affliction perfect and purify us and prepare us to meet God." The challenges we face in life are hard, and are meant to be that way. But the Lord is there with us every step of the way. The challenges we face are making us into the person God wants us to be, and when we come out on the other side of the trial, we are made even stronger and have the ability to face more trials to come, but only if we put our trust in God and have faith that He will help us through them. Brothers and Sisters, I know this to be true. On a mission, I have seen and personally had so many trials, more than anything I could've expected. But with God's help, I've been able to over come them and in doing so, those trials are turning me into the missionary God wants me to be. No matter what the trial is, or how big/small it is, turn to the Lord, he will bless you. One of my best friends growing up, Elder Tanner Cook, is in the mission with me and when we were companions in the MTC we were giving an orientation to the new missionaries coming in to the MTC. Elder Cook was talking and said something that really stuck out to me. He said "God gives His strongest warriors his hardest battles." That stuck out to me and I have had that with me since. We are all God's warriors fighting His battles here on earth. I challenge you all that as you go through the ups and downs in life, to acknowledge your Father in Heaven and His hand in those ups and downs and thank Him for the trials and blessings He gives you. I promise that as you do so, you will have added strength beyond imaginable as you progress and ultimately return to live with Him again some day. I know my Savior lives. I know this gospel is true, and I know God's work is striving in the world right now. I love my beautiful family. They are one of the greatest blessings in my life. I say these things in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

I love you all! Thank you for keeping in touch with me, I love receiving updates and seeing how everyone is doing! I hope y'all have a blessed week! Until next time.

Elder Houssian

 The view from the hill around our house.
The members we lived with moved out, so I raided their huge shower this morning
Taylor again, she's precious!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Week #13

Hello y'all! What a wonderful week. I know that if y'all receive other missionary letters, they'll probably talk about General Conference. I'm jumping on that train and will definitely talk about Conference in my letter this week. Conference was a very spiritual experience for me. I felt the spirit in every session, the talks were amazing, the music beautiful as ever, and the whole atmosphere of Conference was so spiritual. I hope everyone's week went well!

Well to start off, as some of y'all know, I turned 19 last Wednesday!!! Thank you all for the packages and birthday wishes, it really made a difference on Wednesday!! I was expecting a birthday on the mission to be a lot different, like not waking up late and having your family there, then going and doing your thing for your birthday, having the dinner of your choice and just hanging out. But it was super fun! One of the families in our ward had us over for dinner and decorated their kitchen with balloons and streamers, I got to have whatever I wanted for dinner (I chose ribs) and then we had cake and brownies! I also was given some floral ties from a member of our ward who's family I've come to love and grow really close to! So overall it was fun, I got to spend it with other people I love, and I had the pleasure of serving the Lord on my birthday, which I was more than happy to do! I also had the privilege of going to the temple on my birthday to do a temple tour around the outside with one of our investigators, Darrel, who is being baptized on Saturday! Overall, it was a wonderful day! Plus the crazy amount of food I was sent for my birthday made both me AND Elder Webb happy haha. So thank you all!!

We received a referral from investigators that other missionaries in our district are teaching to go teach the mother of the investigators. We went over there and come to find out the father (Derek) is a member and is semi-active, and the mother (Jaye) and youngest daughter (Cuicani, we call her Cui) are not members. They are a wonderful Polynesian family! We went and taught them and they were very receptive and enjoyed our message. We then came back to teach and had the 3 of them there, plus another daughter of Jaye's was there with her boyfriend. That night we set all 4 of them (Jaye, Cui, the other daughter who's name I have no idea how to spell, and her boyfriend Isaac) with a baptismal date on 11/5, and they all accepted and are so excited for it. I am so excited to see this family make the progressing steps and be baptized, and then ultimately be sealed together as a family forever. It will take some work and sacrifice, but this family can do it and they're ready!

We had the opportunity to attend Zone Conference this week. We combined with another zone and had some trainings given by the APs and MSTLs, as well as our Zone Leaders and STLs. President and Sister Snow also gave trainings. These trainings really helped me and opened my eyes as to how I can better enhance my time in studies. They were all wonderful trainings and focused on different aspects of the mission that are very important. I really took a lot away from the trainings given, and it was also great to see other missionaries I know that aren't in my zone! I was also given the wonderful task of leading the music. I didn't realize that something so small could actually impact me. As we sang and I led the music, I was in the front and I was able to hear the voices of all the missionaries singing at me. The power behind music is real, and I felt the spirit as we sang. These missionaries that I am blessed to serve with really have the power of Christ in them, they have that true power and I was able to feel it while singing. It really was a great experience. 

Another spiritual experience I had this week was with an investigator named Michelle. She is the God-sister of a recent convert. She has heard the missionary lessons before, but hasn't been too interested. We had a meeting at the Bishop's house called a Cottage Meeting, which is kind of like Family Home Evening. Anyways, she was there and she really felt the spirit. She was emotional and enjoyed the lesson and the experiences shared. So the next day we went on splits, and Mitchell Butcher and I went and taught her. When we came in and begin talking, we could see she had had a change of heart. She is slowly becoming more receptive to what we have to say. We planned on talking about the importance of prayer and reading the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon. After we said our opening prayer, I felt prompted to share a personal experience I had growing up where I turned to the scriptures and found an answer to prayers. I turned to that scripture, which is found in the Book of Mormon, and it is Alma 5:45-46. As I told the experience, I could feel the spirit and saw that she was feeling it too. After reading it, I bore testimony of the power of the Book of Mormon and how it can change her life. I had to fight back the tears as I told her that this sacred book can help us with any problems we need, and that it is the word of God. She started to tear up and the spirit filled the room. It was so powerful. After bearing my testimony, we invited her to read and pray about it, and promised the blessing that the spirit would give her knowledge and let her know of the truthfulness of these divine scriptures, and she accepted. We were overcome with joy and expressed our love and excitement for her. It was a very powerful moment.

General Conference was amazing. I wish I could put into words the feelings I had following the sessions. My spiritual thought comes from David A. Bednar's talk, where he spoke about knowing the Savior. He asked the question: "Do we only know ABOUT the Savior, or are we continually striving to know HIM?" Then he spoke about 4 things we can do to help us know Him. We need to exercise faith in the Lord, we need to follow the Lord, we need to believe the Lord (not just believe IN Him, but believe HIM), and serve the Lord. As we serve others and love others, we serve and love God. He loves each and every one of us and wants us to be the best we can be. Brothers and Sisters, I testify of the truthfulness of what Elder Bednar has said, we need to continually be striving to know our Savior, and as we do these 4 things and continually strive to live the commandments, I can promise He will bless you and you will feel the spirit more abundantly in your life. I pray that we will all look to the Lord for guidance and added strength and deny ourselves of all ungodliness, and in doing so receive the fullness of blessings that our Father in Heaven is waiting and wanting to shower down upon us beyond our capacity. My challenge to each of you is to heed the words of the prophets and apostles, to take these words spoken by Elder Bednar, a true apostle of God, and apply these things to your lives. The happiness that awaits you is beyond anything words can describe. I know my Savior lives, He is risen. I say these things humbly in the name of my beloved Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, amen.

I love all of you. Thank you for the thoughts and prayers that are sent towards me and the missionaries throughout the world. The Lord's work is striving, and the prayers for missionaries throughout the world are helping to carry the work forward. Until next week my friends. God be with you!

Elder Houssian

 This is Taylor, she is the sweetest little girl ever
 This is the ghetto bird (cop helicopter) that was searching for people and spotted us up (put the light on us) haha it was super quick so I was lucky to get the pic!  These things fly around all the time!
 Pano of the Valley at 7am
Our zone combined with North spoons along with APs, MSTLs, and President and his wife