Monday, December 28, 2009

This Email is a Roller Coaster Ride


First off, I'm typing this on kind of a funky keyboard, so excuse typos and errors. Secondly, from a lot of past missionary emails that I've read after Christmas, they usually say, "Wow, it was great talking to you guys last week and I really don't have anything else to say or add." Is that the case for me? Nope! I have TONS to write about, so "off we go!"

Well, like I mentioned on the phone, Christmas wasn't as fruitful as I had expected. No one was really interested in talking to us. We felt like Mary and Joseph looking for an inn, yet there was no room available anywhere. It was sad because we told everyone that we were sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a wonderful Christmas message, since he is the reason for the season. Yet, despite this, we still received chilly responses and door slams. It really made me ponder on how Mary and Joseph felt. Mary was the chosen vessel to provide the world with a Savior, the most important guest of all we would ever have here on earth. It must have been disheartening for her to be shut out, again and again, knowing that she held within her womb. I gained a greater appreciation this Christmas season for Mary and Joseph and how they endured trials and rejection.

We decided to go outside of Beeville this week and work some more rural areas of our area. Country roads are always a treat. You get the crazy farmers who moved to the country because they don't like people, so they don't really want to talk to you even though you just walked a half mile up their drive way to get to their house. Haha, but it's the life, we've have some marginal success on country roads in the past and it was long overdue for another visit. One one of the roads, we saw a pasture with horses and since people were rejecting us like crazy, we stopped for a second to pet the horses. I had to climb through this pokey bush to get close enough to the fence to pet it, but I managed. The horses weren't that exciting, so after 15 seconds, we went back to work. Well the next day, I had all these strange scratches on my hand, that are actually still there now. Turns out the bush must have been some sort of poisonous variety. That's what I get for wasting the Lord's time, I suppose.

On another country road, we started walking and about a quarter of a mile down, we met this little black, shaggy, dirty Shih-Tzu. He was so cute and it was quite strange to see a breed like this as a stray. The most popular dogs here in South Texas--without fail are--1) Chihuahua's 2) Boxers 3) Pitbulls 4) Dachshund's. Then of course, a mix containing any of those four are also common. I've never actually seen a Shih-Tzu on my mission, so it was weird. We kept walking and this little dog just followed us. He followed us and followed us. It was hilarious because this road had an influx of dogs not penned up and throughout the three hours that we were working that street, a total of 11 dogs and 1 cat were caravaning behind us at one point or another. I think the largest number of critters we had were 6 or 7. Well, Sprinkles--because that's the name I decided to call her--followed us the ENTIRE time. We must have walked 2-3 miles total and I felt so bad for her little paws. It reminded me of when we'd take Louie for a walk and he's so lazy, that even a walk around the block is a painful situation for him which requires a 2 week recovery. We would just refer to the dog as Sprinkles and eventually the dog recognized it's name. Haha, it was cute. Then random these other two white stray Shih-Tzus started following us. When we got back to our car, we felt so bad for the dog that we wanted to take her home, wash her and take her to a shelter. But we knew that we couldn't do that, so we just got in our car and drove home. That's when the saddest part of the tale happened, Sprinkles started chasing after our car wanting to come with us. I looked at Sister Call and we were both teary eyed. Seriously, it was semi ridiculous because we were both crying because we had gotten so attached to the little guy. I started crying even more because I was laughing at the fact that we were crying about the whole thing--laughing so hard that I was crying because I was laughing, but laughing because I was crying. We both started laughing, yet still we are sad. Oh well, I hope she had a home or found one.

Well, I sort of mentioned this to Steve, but we lost two of our investigators because of church! It was so sad because they were SO cool and loved what we were teaching them, but when they went to church, they both had a bad experience (because the Beeville Branch is a little crazy and does what they want, let's be honest), that they dropped us. In case you were wondering, Washington dropped us for that very reason too--well, there were tons of other reasons: depression, addicted to alcohol, doubts...but all in all, it was a good situation for him. But Sister Call and I were a little sad about everything because Church is supposed to be the thing that "gets them." The thing that they love, where they can feel the Spirit the strongest and gain a testimony about this church. But, we prayed that more investigators would come and have a good time.

Well, that leads me right into my next story about Charlie and Connie. This is an old--73 and 70-years-old, respectively--couple whom we met about a week ago. We set a return appointment with Charlie, who was fairly interested. We came back and his wife (Conception, or Connie for short) answered the door and said that they didn't have time, nor had Charlie read the pamphlet we gave him. We set another appointment for last Monday night. We drove there on Monday and sat in our car for a bit. "Do you want to go here?" I asked. "Not really," Sister Call said. I replied, "Yeah, I just feel like it will be a waste of time. They are old and I don't think they'll even be there, even remembered our appointment, or will even care." We were getting ready to go drive away and go somewhere else when I finally said, "No, I think we should go. Heavenly Father put this return appointment in our path, we need to just go no matter what will happen or if we get rejected. Jesus wouldn't miss his appointments." Haha, so with that, we got out and knocked on the door. To our surprise, they both answered the door and were waiting for us. We were actually a half our later and they said, "We thought you wouldn't come." We felt so surprised and shocked that they were waiting. We got to know them a bit: they are an old Catholic couple, but they don't go anymore. Charlie is hard of hearing because he had a stroke a few years ago, so he sits really close to us with his good ear facing us (and he has a constant buzz in the other one). They have 6 kids, all whom were born 5 years apart from each other. They have a family picture taken a few decades back with them and their last three children whom they refer to as "the second crop." They read part of the pamphlet and we talked about parts of it and also just about the Book of Mormon. That's all we taught, Book of Mormon: we explained it, read a scripture with them, and left them the introduction to read. Honestly, we didn't expect them to read very much--or where quite sure they understood completely about it or about our purpose--so the intro was a good place to start. After the lesson, we got back into our car and were so shocked at what had just taken place. They were so open, nice, and interested. Imagine what would have happened if we hadn't gone to our appointment? :(

Well, we came back two days later and Connie warmly greeted us. The book of Mormon was lying on the table, a sign of obviously having read it. She grabbed it and put it on her lap. We sang a Christmas song (where she joined us), said a prayer, then began discussing what she had learned from reading the intro. "Well, I didn't get to read much." We assumed that she just got the chance to read a few paragraphs. But then she started telling us blow by blow what she had read. It all added up until she started talking about Joseph Smith seeing angel Moroni and receiving the plates. Ok, clearly she read all of the intro and then proceeded into the testimonies of the 3 and 8 witness, and Jospeh Smith. Wow. But then she started talking about Nephi and his family. Her "I just read a little" wasn't referring to the introduction, but rather the entire book! She read into the first few chapters of 1st Nephi and LOVED it! Charlie can't read small letters very well, so he didn't get to read it, but they decided to go to the Optometrist to get him a new prescription so that he could read it. We were shocked. We then taught them about the Restoration, how God has always called prophets as part of his ancient order and how we need prophets today. We asked Connie, "Do you think it would be important to have a prophet today?" She said, "Oh yes! We need a prophet today. We are so wicked in this world. You know what I just watched on the Mexican news? In Mexico City, they just passed a law allowing gay marriage. You could see two men on the TV kissing and embracing each other. It was disgusting. It's Sodom and Gomorrah!" Ok, awesome. She definitely understood the need for a prophet today and accepted that God has called another one. After the lesson, we were so excited.

We taught them Saturday night and were planning on teaching them the Plan of Salvation. We brought Lorenzo Gonzales with us--the old man whom I love so much--and it turns out that he and Charlie are old friends! Lorenzo knows or is related to everyone in Beeville (having lived there his whole life), so he's a great fellowshipper. The entire time, he and Charlie were chatting up a storm and so it was hard for us to teach a lesson because apparently it had been a while since they saw each other last. But while they were talking, we talked to just Connie about 3 Nephi 11 which we left her. She LOVED it and, of course, read more than what was assigned. She told us that when she was in the Catholic church, she would read the things that they gave her and pray about it to know if it's true, but she wouldn't feel a thing. But she told us that when she reads the Book of Mormon, or prays about it, her hear starts racing and she KNOWS it's true. She calls it the "lost books" from other tribes; she explained to us that she recognizes this as a true record written by another people about Jesus Christ. They ate up all that we taught them and accepted a Baptismal date for January 30th! Lorenzo was awesome and invited them to come to church the next day. They were both impressed that Lorenzo was a member and was baptized a year ago. They agreed to go.

The next morning, we got to church and saw that their red Expedition was in the parking lot. "Oh no, they're already there. I hope they feel welcome inside." We got out of our car and then our pop Charlie and Connie from their car--Charlie in a nice green suit and Connie in a pretty black dress with a scarf. They went inside with us and were greeted by EVERYONE. After Sacrament meeting, they had to leave because Charlie's ear was buzzing, but they told us that they LOVED it and can't wait to come back and see us again.

Wow, that was a really long story. I have so much else that I want to write, but we JUST got word that President called our district leader and said that we need to make sure our area book is updated because he most likely is going to whitewash our area (most likely with Elders).....Oh my gosh, I want to cry. We are both depressed. The reason is because there's this weird member who's on probation who I guess was standing outside of our apartment door one night creepily staring at our window (we had no clue) and our District leader came home and saw him and yelled at him. He also has tried to visit us at our apartment before. So...just like in McAllen, another member has ruined the momentum. Wow, I'm so sad, I'm sick in my stomach. I was SOOOOOOOO excited for Connie and Charlie because they are so golden and excited to be baptized.

Wow. I'm sad. I hope I'm with Sister Call still, but that's very unlikely... But, I know the Church is true. The work will go forward.

Love you...I'll most likely see you in Loredo because I can't go back south that's the only other part of the mission where I could go.

Sister Burt

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas, Every One!


Ok, first things first. I want to call you guys at 7 pm my time, 6 pm your time. Is that ok? I hope may be at Grandma's, so if no one answers, I'll just call mom's cell phone? Kapeesh?

Beeville is great. I'm so glad that you got to talk to Sister Allred. She is super cool and I loved meeting her this past week. She said that she would call (she knows what makes missionaries' parents happy) and I'm glad you had a fun chat.

We had a baptism last week of a little 9-year-old girl named Belle. We decided to press forward with the baptism, despite her being the only one of her family ready to make this step. It was a good decision, a really good one. I had the opportunity to baptize a little girl in McAllen, but didn't feel it was right because I "didn't want to baptize just kids." But lo and behold, once I got transferred out of the area, I got word that the new missionaries went and baptized her anyway (and her sister who had turned 8 by that time). Missed opportunity, I guess, but I'm still so happy for those two little girls! They were so cute and the one was 10 and she was halfway through the Book of Mormon in just a month! But perhaps I'm too picky. But that baptism was good despite drama from branch members. President Ramirez forgot about it and walked in a half our late after many many phone calls. But the best part was that (nearly) the entire family was there! The grandparents, the mom (an investigator), and--the most exciting--the dad! He said that he would never step foot in the church. But it was great thing because he really felt the Spirit--I know it! During one of the talks, a member talked about the experience of her dad's baptism and how he used to shoot people and be a bad man, but when he was baptized, he came out of the water and said, "All my sins have washed away." The father's face was intense and watching her. During other parts of the baptism, he was so proud. Even his super naughty, 5-year-old, ADHD came up and sang "I am a Child of God" with his sisters and was an angel during the ENTIRE time and even during the ward Christmas party afterwards. I think that really impressed him. Despite all the craziness and starting late, I love baptisms. It really is true that in the "ordinances of the Gospel, is the power of godliness manifest." Not only to the investigators, but all present.

Let me tell you the story of a man named Washington. I was so excited to tell you last week about him, then his story got way better this week, but then it got sort of lame. BUT, I will tell you this story anyways (partly because I'm too lazy to write it down in my journal because it's so long, so this is an easy way to kill two birds with one stone). Alright, off we go!

Washington is this ex-Mexican mafia member from California. We met him one day while knocking doors in a city called Skidmore--a city which my old companion didn't like at all and refused to go back. SO!--the plus of having a new companion is that they don't have preconceived prejudices about certain areas. We were walking the meager streets and not having much success, until we found Washington outside of his house. Sister Call talked to him for a bit while I was knocking a few homes across the street (within sight and sound of course). I was done and came back and she was still talking to him. Turns out he just got out of rehab recently for drinking. He's a really big guy and probably wears a XXX-XXXXL. But he's really cool. We left because his daughter got dropped off--crying from being with her mom--but as we were talking, we both realized that we had the prompting to give him a Book of Mormon. We ran back and gave it to him (before we had just talked to him about it) and he was grateful. He was going to be in Houston for a while, but we told him we'd call him in 2 weeks.

Two weeks later, we called him and set up an appointment. But later that day, he saw us at Wal-Mart (it suddenly got SUPER cold and Sis. Call gets sick really easily so she needed to go and buy a hat really quick). He excitedly came up to us and talked for a bit--awesome. Later we taught him and he was so interested in the fact that there was a prophet today. He loved the Restoration lesson and was excited to find God again because he says that he has been searching for God his entire life and has been baptized in church after church after church, but has always fallen. He is really depressed about himself, he used to "have it all" in California and had so much money, yet it is all gone now and he is left with nothing but his alcohol. :( We left him a Restoration DVD to watch before we came back.

He called us a few days later telling us that he watched the DVD and totally related to Joseph Smith who was searching for the right church. That is exactly what he has been doing. He calls himself a "loser" and constantly tells us to "give up on him" because he's lost and going to hell. But, something told us not to give up on him and keep sharing the Gospel light with him. Occasionally, he'll call us when he's drunk and that's when he gets into "Wo is me!" mood. And of course, I'm always the one who answers the phone and talks to him for 20 minutes each time. I try talking him through things, but you can't feel the Spirit when you are intoxicated. So mainly, I just do it to not be rude and get him offended--because he's an entirely different person when he's drunk. Sad....

Once we stopped by for our appointment and he was drunk. We had another member with us and stepped in for 5 minutes, but were standing up on the other side of the room. Oh, I forgot to mention that he is no homeless because his wife as taken his home (which is "all bought and paid for") and doesn't let him see his kids rarely, if ever. But he's staying at this house with some girls who he was in rehab with, but they evacuated and deserted the place, but the landlord is nice and said that he could stay there till the end of the month. Anyways, the smell of alcohol penetrated every facet of the room and it made me sick. I've never been around alcohol ever, except at baseball games when they make you hand it down the rows to someone who bought it. Yuck...I'm always afraid it will spill on me. ANYWAYS, during that visit, he clearly was popping pill...there were his anti-depressant pills all over the floor and told us that he wanted to kill himself. Yikes. We got out of there as soon as we could. The Spirit URGED us to.

Anyways, when he was sober, we came back and he told us that we were like angels to him. That we sing and make him feel as if there is hope. He wants to change, but he's really getting to the lowest of the low. He didn't want us to come back, but we told him we were because the Atonement and Gospel of Jesus Christ could and WOULD help him if he just allowed it to. We taught him about the plan of salvation and he wasn't really paying that much attention. At the end, we were wrapping it up and I felt prompted to talk about baptisms for the dead. His whole family was involved in this mafia/gang/whatever, and he has had 13 cousins die. That is one of the reasons that he is so depressed: he doesn't understand why they all died, and he is literally the only one left. He feels responsible for it. After I told him about it, his eyes lighted up and his countenance changed. He had questions and was interested. Later he called us THREE times that night, telling us thank you for what we had shared about it. He said that ALL the other churches he went to, told him that his cousins were all burning in hell--that there was no hope. That's not entirely true and when he was brought the truth, the Spirit touched his heart and gave him that hope that will help him leave his despair behind. It was really cool for me because we really have to be in tune with the Spirit. We can't just teach a cookie cutter lesson to all because they all have different needs, problems, and worries. Once we discover what that is, we can then tailor the message directly to them.

Well, he came to church this Sunday. He shaved, got dressed, covered up his tattoos (including the one arm that is "dedicated" to all his family members). And he loved it and had lots of questions at church. He didn't even have enough gas to make it to Beeville, but I promised him before that if he would just come, the Lord would provide and way. And he did.

Well, we were so excited to visit him, until he called us drunk later that day....It's so sad. We don't really know how to get him to stop drinking. He doesn't even have money to buy it, just lame friends who talk smack about the church and don't want him to change. He ended up calling us three times that day drunk. During the second one, he talked about how it was that we could "really believe" all of it--the book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, etc. I told him how we could, but it was useless because it was impossible for him to be receptive to the Spirit in that state...but then he told me something that freaked me out. He said that the loves when "I" come over, specifically. That he is divorced and alone and that he feels God has sent me to help him, to comfort him. That when he was sitting next to me at church, he felt something. Oh dear.... so yeah, I tried to nip that in the bud by telling him that's NOT why we are sent as missionaries. That we are here to help him rebuild the relationships he already has--with his WIFE and kids. So yeah, he hung up and then called later saying that he didn't want us to visit, call, and that he couldn't come to church anymore.

SOOOO....I have no idea what we're going to do. He practically has the Bible memorized and accepts everything that we teach--when he's sober. That's the hard part. So...we'll see how it all plays out this week. Know this: I'm keeping my distance.

Anyways, I know the Gospel is true and that--if you really want it--it changes lives and WILL heal you. There are many called and few chosen, which is the sad reality of the plan of salvation. But, anyone can be one of the chosen if they just desire it enough: live the commandments and you will be happy.

Can't wait to hear from you all this week!
With lots of Christmas Love!
Sister Burt

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pictures from Zone Conference

Awesome Sister Miller telling a Christmas story.

Me with the other Elders in the 3 zones who got the "President's Challenge" award. Essentially, you have to memorize like 400-500 scriptures from Lessons 1-5 (really, you have to know the references for every single scripture in all the lessons) from Preach My Gospel. Then you take a test during interviews, if you pass, then you get this gorgeous plaque that says, "Remember" which is one of the two words in our mission.

Santa and Me. All the Elders got to sit on Santa's lap...but not the Sisters... :(

President and Sister Miller and me.

Us and the two other sisters in the "North." They are in Loredo.

Sister Call and I doing our "secret combination" sign...aka...the sign from "The Little Rascals." I love her. :)

After 5 months of waiting, I FINALLY got my English name tag.

There are the infamous Christmas bells.

Have the Days of Miracles Ceased?


Thank you so much for being awesome and an inspiration to me. I have everyone's Christmas package (and I'm SO excited for everyone to get it!) and should be sending that off this week.

So here's a funny story before I start things off. At the Branch Relief Society activity last week, it was a white elephant ornament exchange. I got these sweet golden bells, that are all connected on a chain. I think it's supposed to wrap around your tree, but I decided to wrap them all together and hang them on the door like we do back home. Well, they aren't the highest quality piece of work, let me tell you. They are plastic and most every time we shut the door--if I don't do it carefully, which I normally don't--a few of the bells will get stuck and break in half. The Elders stopped by this morning to give us something and as I was shutting the door, a bell broke. I said, "Every time I break a bell!" and right away Elder Buhler said, " angel goes to hell." Haha, it was so funny and a play off the quote from "It's a wonderful life." Ah good times. I hope that's not true though... :/ Because I've broken a few too many bells.

Last week we were blessed with a miracle of 14 new investigators and 144 contacts. Thank you everybody who prayed for that! There truly is power in prayer, I know that and I receive a greater witness and testimony about prayer every day here. It truly was a miracle from the Lord because the past few months, we have never been able to hit 140 and had between 1-4 new investigators a week (more like 1-2 every week, a good week was 4). It was bad, but I think that after being humbled to the dust, Heavenly Father had compassion on us and blessed us. We have a promise here in the Texas McAllen mission from our president call "20-20-2." Which means that if we contact 20 people per day, teach 20 lessons a week, then we will have 2 baptisms per month. I honestly can say that I've never had 140 contacts a week, while here in Beeville. White people are SO much different that Mexicans who just hang out outside and let you teach them. But, no matter. I know that 20-20-2 works because it is a promise from my mission president who is called of God, and "whether it be by my own voice, or the voice of my servants, it is the same." (D&C 1:38). I recommitted myself to actually live 20-20-2. The reason we aren't getting the two is because we're not doing the first 20! It's really not THAT hard to talk to 20 folks a day, I think I just make it hard. So I'm excited to see the fruits that will reap from my commitment to live this.

Zone Conference was this past week and it was amazing! Ah, as it always is. It was the Christmas Devotional as well, so there was a beautiful Christmas musical program that Sister Miller made. Sister Call and I sang, "Away in a Manger." Anyways, at the very beginning of Zone Conference, President Miller got up and started talking. He had Sister Call and I, and also another set of Elders stand up. We weren't quite sure what it was all about. Typically, the only time President makes people stand up is when they are in trouble and he's chastising them and calling them to repentance (haha, it's not a bad as it sounds, trust me). But this was quite the opposite. He was talking about 20-20-2 and saying that these 2 companionship's have not been experiencing the "2" of the promise even though we have been working extremely hard, teaching so many lessons, and "are very diligent missionaries." He started talking more and more and then promised us VERY specific blessings about what will happen to our areas in the next few weeks. He said that they are SO MANY prepared people here in Beeville that we will find and they will be ready. He promised us if we just keep working CHEERFULLY, that we will not only get the 2, but 3, 4, or even more. He also said that we had been called to serve with our companions for a very specific reason. In that moment, I had the revelation that I "will be in Beeville till the job is done. Till I have found and baptized those people who the Lord has prepared." It was very interesting because both Sister Call and I were forecasting that I would get transferred next transfer--seeing that I've been here 6 months. But I now feel contrary and am excited to see what the rest of this and the next transfers(s) have. I've had SPECIFIC promises from the Lord, witnesses by nearly all the missionaries serving in the North, and I know that they will come to pass.

As we followed his guidance and continued with a cheerful attitude--despite what was happening or had happened in the past--we were able to be firsthand witnesses of the Lord's miracles here in the Beeville area. Instead of the people we met being cold, rude, and uninterested, they were kind, inviting, and sincere. Doors flew open at nearly every street, usually the first doors that we knocked on a street were the ones that opened up. Definitely different that what I'm used to. What a miracle. I love the Lord and love his Gospel. All his promised blessing will come to pass--ones given in the scriptures, by the living prophets, and especially the ones given specifically to me--I know this with every fiber of my soul.

Last week was a miracle. Have miracles ceased? I say unto you, nay (Moroni 7:29).

Merry Christmas!
Faith. Hope. Charity.
--Sister Burt

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Picture Time!

Sister Call and I at church! Oh I love her SOOOO much, you cannot even comprehend.Eating Dinner with the Ramirez. This was dinner #2 of 4.
Christian (pronounced Chris-tee-ahn) -- my favorite little boy in the world!
Cleaning Leandra's stove with Christian. This pictures was taken after he had already cleaned the stove for a half hour in his UNDERWEAR! This was also the day that it snowed here in Beeville, so it was 39 degrees outside if I remember correctly.
Cleaning again
He's really getting into it
THis stove I think had been outside for had leaves all in it. There practically was a TREE growing in there. But all we had was soap and water and rags. You do what you can.
It snowed this week in Beeville! Kind of.. it was just flurries and what not. But still! Here are the Elders enjoying it.
I sit next to this random white board when we study or plan. And whenever we are talking about random things, I have to draw it out for her. Can you guess what random converstations we've had over the past few weeks? Those are my attempts to draw Moses, Ramsees, the new Disney princess Tiana, and other things from memory. Random, I know.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dang, I'm a bit bummed. I just spent 20 minutes attaching all these pictures to different emails and sent it. Then I looked in my sent mail folder and it says that they never got sent. Bummer. This email may be a bit shorter than the rest because I wasted so much time already.

Anyways, things are going in Beeville. Last week was super rough. Only 2 new investigators, one of them was the daughter of an investigator that we've been teaching for a while and the other was one that we discovered through our own finding efforts. It's been rough. I blame the snow. Haha, and yes, I'm not lying. It did, in reality, snow here in Texas. Here in Beeville it was just flurries and such, but near Corpus is actually stuck. I don't know. Maybe if everyone could just pray for me and my companion that we'll find new investigators this week...We really have had a drought for a few weeks now and it's been quite sad because we're doing our best.

So I think I'm going to talk about my companion, Sister Call. She's so awesome and we get along SO well. We are always laughing, smiling, joking, and enjoying each other's company. Definitely a good match. She is from Seela (sp?), Washington and has been on her mission 6 months. She is such a spiritual giant, which I love and appreciate because I'm learning SO much right now from her in all aspects of the work. At first glance, you would look at her and think that she's your typical sister missionary, but she's TOTALLY not. Oh wow, she's hilarious and FUN and funny and the best! We both have SO many things in common it's crazy. For example, randomly she said something that had the phrase "Far From Home" in it. And it reminded me of that movie that Steven and I used to watch by the same title. I started explaining how he and I used to LOVE that movie, but it was SO strange because it really wasn't an exciting movie for kids. She started freaking out because she and her brothers used to watch that movie all the time when they were little too. Haha, I don't think anyone else I've ever talked to even knew what the movie was, let alone used to watch it all the time. It was a great moment. It's funny because we say all the time that we had practically the same childhood because we have a lot of moments like that.

Our favorite movies' just so happen to be the same one: Pride and Prejudice which delights me greatly. It's funny, we are both obsessed with the soundtrack. And I actually have it here on the mission, but I have never been able to listen to it because we have limitations on the music we can listen to here in this mission. Acceptable music needs to be one of three things: Hymns, Mo-Tab, or Classical Music that is over 100 years old. P&P soundtrack is clearly not over 100 years old. But I was mentioning to her the other day that I had it and then I had an amazing realization: there is ONE song on that CD that actually is a song that's over 100 years old. The track is titled something like "A Letter to.. (insert composer of the actual song here)." It's the SAME exact song, but just the tempo is SUPER slow. The only way I know that is because I was listening to KBAQ one day and home and heard it and freaked out because I love that song. ANYWAYs, so after we made that discovery, we hurried and put the CD in, put it on track 8 on repeat and listened that same song the rest of the night. And we were both ok with it. Yeah, that's how big of nerds we are together...but I love it!

We watched Mr. Kruger's Christmas with Lorenzo and President and Sister Ramirez. Golly, do I love that movie. SO cute. My commitment for everyone this week is to watch that video for FHE (and yes, mom, you do have it. It's in the DVD cupboard on the bottom shelf ALL the way to the right in a brown paper sleeve/case thing). It's so cute and fun. It was funny though because all those people are older (60s/70s) and at the beginning it had the credits and flashed, "James Stewart" on the screen and they all started gabbing like little hens, "OH! James Stewart!" "James Stewart!" It was funny to me, I guess I'm just one generation behind to really be enthralled.

Well, time for me to go. Maybe I'll try to send the pictures again. But I love you all and I know that this Gospel is true. I learned a good lesson from my friend Laura in an awesome letter she sent me about D&C 121 and in versus 7 and 8 talk about "enduring it well." A lot of times, we think that simply "enduring it" means that we've come off conqueror. That trials make us better. But let's be honest, there are plenty of trials that I've had that I didn't handle the right way; I didn't grow at all. The key is enduring them WELL, as D&C 123:17 says to "cheerfully do all things." We knew before this earth, that life would be hard, that we would have trials, tribulations, experiences that would push us. But I have a feeling that when we found that out, we jumped for joy--we were excited. Same with anyone who goes on a mission, no one ever tells you that it's going to be easy. Everyone says that it's going to be hard and yet, despite that, we still say, "Yeah, I know. It's going to be ok." And you know, I've found that as I change my attitude, am positive and optimistic about the work and the future, and am happy...that it is. Everything is all right. I love it. This Gospel really is a Gospel of peace and the plan really is the Plan of Happiness.

Merry Christmas!
Sister Burt

Monday, November 30, 2009

4 Thanksgivings and a Funeral


So Thanksgiving came and went...we were invited to FOUR Thanksgiving dinners and it was quite insane. By the end of the first dinner we were so incredibly stuffed and not wanting to eat anymore. But, you can't really say no to the invitations (especially when investigators invite you to their dinner!), so we went and sacrificed. So, I remembered to mark down everything that I ate that day and share with all of you:

Dinner #1: Elda and Robert -- our investigators. They were SO happy that we came and kept thanking us over and over again for coming. Their whole family was there and it was just sort of a come and go affair, but Elda was super sick that morning (she's old and immobile), but she waited to eat with us. She tried to eat a little bit of potatoes, but ended up getting sick from it and going to the bathroom to throw up... :( It was sad. But Elda and Robert and Mexican, so this meal was mostly traditional, with a few unique touches. I ate:

a crescent roll, turkey, potatoes, raisin stuffing (all of those things were topped off with ridiculous amounts of gravy), sweet potatoes, some WAY over-concentrated punch, a slab of pineapple upside down cake, and this not very tasty cinnamon Mexican cooke.

Yikes. And the worst part was that they served me my plate, so it was SO much food. But we faired off pretty well. Luckily we were riding our bicycles all day to work off the food.

Dinner #2: Beeville Branch President Ramirez and Clan. This one was "cafeteria style", serve yourself (which Sis. Ramirez ALWAYS does and I LOVE because she doesn't force anything on you). So I ate way less, but still a lot because President kept bugging me to get some pie with TONs of whipped cream... So, dinner #2: a small piece of turkey and gravy, yams, green beans, cranberry sauce, potatoes and pumpkin pie. IT was a super small plate though.

Dinner #3: The Gonzlaes Family. We rode our "stallions" over there (as Brother Gonzales calls them). And they were already done eating, so Brother G asks if we were a "big hungry or medium hungry." We immediately shout, "Medium hungry!" glad that he was giving us an option. We should have said, Bite-size hungry because the plates he gave us were the biggest of the day! We ate: 4 huge pieces of turkey, stuffing, corn, potatoes, yams, and coke. Yikes. As I was eating the stuffing, he mentioned something about it that it had something special in it. I could already tell that it was made with something different so I just said, "Does it have kidney and liver in it?" He smiled and said, "Yep, and lungs, heart, and gizzard too. Yippee. Actually the stuffing wasn't that bad, but while I was trying to shovel down the potatoes, my body was just so full that it didn't want to eat anymore and I had to stop my gag reflex. Too much food and this was only dinner #3.

Dinner #4: Al and Nora Yziguirre. We went over there and at turkey, gravy, potatoes, biscuit, pumpkin pie, and yams. We got to pick what we wanted to eat, but I was just not feeling it at this point. SOOO full. Our investigator Tony was supposed to come with us to dinner, but when we went by his house to ride over with him, he wasn't' there. He called us at the beginning of dinner and said that he still wanted to come with Casey--his roommate who is a recent convert. Well, we gave them the address and told them to walk/ride down Hutchinson to the east side of town. We didn't' really think he was going to come, so didn't think much of it. We later stopped by and he said that he and Casey walked ALL over town on HUNTINGTON trying to find the address... :( Miscommunication. We both felt horrible.

But we survived and were really grateful for everyone and how much they wanted to serve us. It really was a Thanksgiving to remember.

I got rear-ended the other day by this lady in her truck. I was waiting at a stop sign to turn left and she just slammed into us. It wasn't that bad, the car's not in the best shape. My next and shoulder kind of hurts, but I don't know if it's from that or if it already was hurting. Hmm...

Well, let me just tell you about Tony real fast. So Tony just got out of prison in April. He was in there for assault or some kind. Well, he was roommates with Casey while he was investigating the church. He even was praying a few months ago that God would help him find the true church, then about two weeks later the Elders came by and he would RUN away from them. Every time the Elders came by, he'd bolt and avoid them. Then he and Casey moved into our area, and Casey said, "You know, the missionaries aren't going to go away. There are girl missionaries here." He was like, "Man, I can't get away from them." We stopped by to teach Casey one of his new-member lessons and saw Tony. We had heard from the Elders that he was super flakey and illusive, but we invited him to sit down and he totally did. That was the moment that completely changed him. Ever since, he has grown to love the Book of Mormon. He says that he reads it and the Lord helps him to clearly understand his word, clearer and easier than when he reads the Bible. He has a baptismal date for the 19th and is SO prepared. It's funny because he just wasn't ready when the Elders first stopped by a few months ago, but by the time we came around, the Lord had prepared him to accept the message of the restored Gospel. He was ready, he is excited to get baptized and knows that this Gospel is the true gospel of Jesus Christ. It's exciting to see that there are prepared people everywhere, it's just up to us to show our faith and find him.

Well, I'm grateful for this Gospel. Nothing brings me more happiness than learning about it, studying, and applying it my life and seeing my investigators apply it in theirs. I know that it is true and is the only way to have lasting happiness in this life and eternal happiness with God and our families in the world to come. It's hard and frustrating sometimes when no one wants to listen, but as Holland said, "Salvation never was a cheap. It never was meant to be easy." It's true, but as long as we keep following the commandments, praying, reading our scriptures, and helping others, we will be blessed and realize that the Gospel really is easy compared to all the alternatives.

Well, my companion was sick yesterday and not feeling to well right now, so I gotta go! I love you all! Thanks to everyone for all the letters I got that the family wrote me at FHE a while ago. You are all the best and I love you all so much!

Have a great week everyone! Merry Christmas!
--Sister Burt

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bowels Filled with Mercy and Compassion

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Well, transfers came and went and I'm still here in Beeville! But I'm ok with that because we have some amazing investigators who are preparing for baptism in the next few weeks, so I'm happy to be able to stay with them and help them along the way.

But Sister Bustillos got transferred to San Benito, which--according to my new companion--is the most scary, dangerous, ghetto part of the missions. Apparently, drug deals on the street in the middle of the day, gangsters, and stalkers are a common item there. I'm nervous for her because I love her so much. Plus it's a 60/40 Spanish/English area, so she will finally get the chance to use Spanish--something she didn't get to do here. But it's actually really sad that she's gone. I know that in my last email I was a bit complaining about how the "little" things were bothering us about each other. I actually feel really bad about the email I wrote you last week and I have repented of that and hope that you forgive me. That wasn't very Christlike to do at all.

But we drove down to Corpus for Transfers. My new companion--Sister Carly Jo Call--was there and actually was Sister Bustillos MTC companion. So they chatted for about 15 minutes together, while I chatter with different Elders (mostly, to our Zone Leader, Elder Jolly about the sweet game of Bang! we played the other day and how much we loved it. Haha). Anyways, when it was time for Sister Bustillos to go in the transfer van, I was so excited for her. We gave each other one more hug and then at that moment we both started getting teary eyed and she said, "I gotta go or else I'm going to cry." So she hopped on the van and I stood there with my new companion in the parking lot as the different sets of missionaries started pulling away in their cars. At that moment, I had the most intense pang in my heart. I can honestly say that it was saddest feeling I've ever had on the mission. That pain lasted the rest of the day and till the next morning during studies when I just started crying about it. What's ironic is that Sister Bustillos was SUPER homesick her entire time out--she's been out 6 months and it never really went away. While me, on the other hand, have NEVER once had one homesick feeling. I did my best to try to console her and help her, but by the last week or so, she wouldn't really confide in me because she knew I couldn't relate. Well, what's ironic is that I finally had that homesick, sad, heartbroken feeling for the first time. It's a shame that it happened after she was gone because I was finally able to know how she felt and would have had more compassion and empathy for her. It honestly felt like a breakup with her. :( But we're still best friends and will have some good times after the mission. But I learned a lot about the Atonement from this experience. Immediately as those feelings came, I thought of Alma 7:11-13 where it talks about Christ suffered all sorts of pains and afflictions, so that his bowels could be filled with compassion for us. My bowels were finally filled with compassion for Sister Bustillos, but unfortunately, a bit too late. But for each of us, it's not too late to repent and turn to the Savior. The amount of compassion that I was able to gain for my dear companion, is trivial compared to the amount that Christ has for her and for each one of us. I realized that in all things, we need to turn to our Savior, he knows us personally and individually because he literally suffered our pains. He knows to the fullest what it's like for us. Oh, how I love my Savior and wish that I could better serve Him so that his sacrifice isn't in vain. President Miller actually said it quite well in Zone Conference, "Christ didn't pay the price so that you can get halfway there, but ALL the way there."

Anyways, I have some bad news. It's a bit of a bummer actually. Last Monday night at about 10:25 I was looking at some pictures on my camera and was super tired and I accidentally pushed a weird button on the menu and it TOTALLY deleted all of my pictures. Yeah. Sad. I know. 9 months worth of pictures from the MTC and the field, around 600-800 or so. Gone. In an instant. But you know what. I actually wasn't sad about it. The Spirit really is the comforter (John 14:26) and comforted me in that moment. I have not been sad about the loss at all and I know that everything will be alright. They're just pictures after all. Luckily, Sister Bustillos was our "historian" for the past 4 months and she'd just take the pictures on her camera and then transfer them to mine. So we did that and I got about 400 random ones from my time in Beeville. Also, I've email and sent some home, so I'll just be able to scan those in back home. Also, when all my companions from the MTC and feild come home from their missions, I can just yoink their pictures. So not a total loss. But I was almost done with that memory card and was ready to retire it and put the full on in my suitcase. Oh well...

So Beeville is good. Sister Wagner, a lady in the branch, actually said a good description about this area. She has lived ALL over the US and yesterday said, "You know, I've lived everywhere, and NEVER have I lived in a place where people are so devoted to their religions, where there are SO many churches, and also where there is so much focus and controversy about religion. Only here in Beeville." Yep, that pretty much explains my area right there.

Now onto the investigators: Leandra is doing well. She reset her Baptismal date and we have her on a no smoking plan. We actually stopped by and taught her a lesson this morning after we went shopping because she works crazy hours all week and it was really the only time we'd be able to see her and teach her a legitimate lesson without all her crazy little ones running around. Her children sang in the primary program a few weeks ago, her first Sunday coming and they sang. It was cute. She has a son named Christopher who is ADHD to the max! and he is always running around in circles when we visit them. We were teaching Belle, one of the daughters, and started by singing her favorite song, "I am a Child of God." At this point, Christopher was running around, screaming, being his crazy usual self. But once we started singing, the most curious thing happened. The instant her heard the words, he jumped on the couch, sat as straight as he could, and then started singing the song. It was like he was a little robot. But instantly after the song ended, he jumped up and started being a little hooligan again as if nothing happened. Leandra later told us how that really touched her. How since he'd been to church, the Spirit touched him and he was able to recognize it and sit down and sing the song. It shocked me as well, but really was a testimony builder for me that what we teach our children, even if it seems hopeless and like a waste of time, really does touch their hearts. They learn because the Spirit talks to them too.

Anyways, my time is up. I'll write more about Sister Call next week because seriously, she's a studette. I love her so much and we're already getting along SO great. Oh and pray for me. So far, we already have 3 dinner invites for Thanksgiving. I don't know how I'm going to do it. Last Thanksgiving I didn't have an appetite at all and it was the best. This won't be the case.

Love you all!
Sister Burt

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You've never had over-easy eggs?!


Today is one of the last days of this transfer! Sister Bustillos and I have been together 3 full transfers and are predicting that at least one of us is going to get transferred on Wednesday. We actually both hope that it happens because we both need a change. We are amazing friends and get along great, but we're getting REALLY irritating with each other right now. The little things are starting to get in the way. We're like best friends who spend 24/7 with each other and then just can't handle any more of each other (I can testify that that's true because that happened to me and Alex a few years back. After years and years of being constantly together, we just needed a BREAK!). Sister Bustillos and I are open and both recognize it. But, we;ll see what happens.

OH! Before I forget, it was brought to my attention by Brother Gonzales (who was informed by his sister) that the two dogs in "All Dogs Go to Heaven" are named Charlie and Itchy--not Charlie and Spike. Ooops. I still think it's funny. It's the thought that counts.

Anyways, I haven't done one of these in a while, but I have a few more "You Know You're a Missionary When..." moments. You know you're a missionary when...
--You start recognizing duplicate articles, pictures, and quotes from the Ensign.
--When you start thinking boys/men in the Ensign are attractive...

Anyways, Beeville is great! Crazy small town though. We were talking to a girl the other day about high school things and she says about 30 of the girls there are pregnant! Also, the JUNIOR HIGH just recently built a day care for all the kids that the junior highers have. SO sad! I couldn't believe it. I'm grateful for the law of chastity and members of the church that live it. It really does save us from a lot of trouble and pain. Poor Beeville girls! We actually were teaching a women whose 13 year old daughter was pregnant.

We had a baptism this week of Beyonce Gonzales! She was so excited and looked so cute in her little white baptismal gown. Sister Bustillos says that her mom was even crying when she was helping her get ready. It was really tender to be able to see the family, which a few months ago wanted nothing to do with the church, to work together to prepare Beyonce for her baptism. Then to see the whole family together at the church and so proud of her. The majority of the ward showed up and some investigators. The Elders even said that it was the best baptism that they had ever been to. The Spirit was really strong. After she was baptized, we watched the last 10 minutes of "The Testaments"--the part where Jesus comes and ministers to the people in the Americas. We had never shown that before at a baptism and it was the PERFECT choice! The Spirit was so strong and you could hear some people crying.

What was really cool was that this past week (before the baptism), Sister Bustillos and I gave the family this cool "The Living Christ" picture/picture frame that. The LOVED it and the next day, they had re-arranged all their furniture, put the picture on the wall, and also got out the Family Proclamation and other pictures of Christ that they had. They put ALL of them on the wall, along with pictures of the girls. It was really cool to see that at the center of this wall was Christ. Actually, whole wall was about Christ. It took our breath away when we walked in the next day and saw it. We love this family and I'm going to be so sad the day I leave them.

Update on Leandra: we went by and talked to her about her baptism. We asked her about it and she says that she just doesn't feel ready to be baptized. She doesn't want to get baptized and then go the next day and sin by smoking, lusting after another man, etc. She has a good point. Obviously if that happens, it's not true repentance. She's having marital problems with her husband right now and she loves him, but'm not quite sure what's going on with that whole situation. Every time we visit, he gets warmer and warmer to us, so I think one day he'll sit down and listen. Leandra has a good point because one of her adopted (but not really) sons, joined the church a few weeks ago and I guess he started smoking again, hasn't really changed his old ways. She says to us that HE should be the example to her, but knows that he is not. She doesn't want what happened to him, to happen to her. I asked her if she didn't know that the church was true and she responded, "Oh, I know it's true. I know 100% that it's true." But she just isn't quite ready to be baptized yet until she completely quits smoking. It's sad, but she loves us and still has us come over and teach her. I think that she will get baptized in December or early January. But Sister Bustillos is a SUPER picky eater and had never had over-easy eggs (don't ask me how we got on that subject with Leandra), so Leandra invited us over one morning at 11:00 for breakfast. We thought she was just going to make us the eggs. Not only did she have eggs, but she also had donuts, bacon, pancakes, and juice. It was crazy, but SO good. Now do you wonder why missionaries gain weight on their missions? Yeah. She knew that we ate dinner with the Gonzales family (who live just down the street) and asked us how much. We said three times a week because we were preparing Beyonce for her baptism. Leandra then says, "Oh, well, I would feed you more, but..." it was so funny. She felt like she had to one up them in some way. Now she wants to feed us all the time...yikes. Luckily, we just have breakfast/brunch once a week. Hopefully it stays that way.

We had an investigator, Israel, come to church. Israel is an old Mexican man who is 74-years-old. He is an old pal with President Ramirez, the branch president. PR has come with us to a few of his lessons which really helps. Anyways, we taught him a few weeks ago and then stopped by this week. We tried to re-energize him about studying with us and learning more about the true church. We were sitting on this old van seat teaching him, while he was lounging on the concrete in his garage. He's so old and animated. We love it. He ALWAYS comments about my eyes, which is weird because Sister Bustillos has these unique green/hazel colored eyes and EVEYRONE always comments about her eyes. But he always says stuff about mine. He has no guile, "You have very beautiful eyes, Sister Burt. Oh...and you too Sister Castillos (he can't remember her name). But they're not as pretty as hers." Haha. Also while we were talking to him that day, he randomly says, "You two make a perfect combination, you" (pointing to Sister Bustillos) "are black. And she is white." HAHAHAHA, we both started dying. Sister Bustillos is Mexican. Definitely not black. But she says she used to get that a LOT back home when because she LIVED at the beach, loved getting tan, has big lips, hips, and a booty. So yeah, it was funny though. Anyways, we hadn't seen him for a while and then Saturday night we decided to call him and he said, "I don't believe in this book. Where does it say apostles in the Bible! If I don't read it, I won't believe it." When I was talking to him, I was rolling my eyes. I told him that we'd be right over. So we called PR and he and his wife came over. We taught an awesome lesson (in mostly Spanish) and cleared up a lot of doubts and concerns. His main thing is that he used to follow this "apostle" in Mexico for 9 years and would cut their lawn for free, but then when he had a stroke and went blind (he's not blind anymore), the church wouldn't talk to him or help him out. So, he's a bit weary about prophets and apostles, but by the end, we settled his doubts and committed him to come to church (and his wife who usually NEVER listens to us). And then, come Sunday, he CAME! It was great! If we hadn't had made the decision to see him right then and there Saturday night, he never would have come. Now the main obstacle is that after church he said that "he didn't learn anything." Well, that's kind of expected when you walk in 5 minutes before Sacrament ends and are HARD of hearing. But we're working on that. :)

Anyways, things are going well. I don't have much to say this week. I'm excited for transfers but ready for a change. So we'll see if it comes. If not, then apparently I still have a LOT to learn.

I love you all!
Sister Burt

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

All Dog's Go to Heaven

Hey Everyone,

I got your package mom! Wow, that was really unexpected, yet I really appreciate it. Those were the things that I asked for a few months ago, but I just assumed you forgot. It wasn't a big deal, but lucky for me, I have the best mom in the world! (Poor Sister Bustillos has been asking her mom to send her some makeup and other essentially things since July and her mom still hasn't sent them :( ). Anyways, that's super exciting about Quinn and Claire. I never met her, but I remember you telling me that he was waiting for her and being super faithful by not dating any other girls because "that's not fair to Claire." SO cute. Tell them congratulations! It's funny because I told that story to Sister Bustillos (we know everything about each other's lives: all our friends, neighbors, hobbies, stories, etc. You get pretty close on the mission). When is the date for the wedding? I'm jealous. I want to go to Hong Kong! Lucky them!

This week has been really great! Beyonce Gonzales is getting baptized this week, so they're excited for that. We still eat dinner and teach at their house 3 times a week. It's been fun. This Saturday, they made chicken salads (which is as FIRST) for my companion because she is--according to Bro. Gonzales--a Veggie-saurus. We also got introduced to the rat that they have living in the walls of their house--his name is Ben and he's bigger than their cats. I didn't believe it at first, but it's true! The thing is huge and nasty. They also have these two dogs (of the many) named Charlie and Spike. Spike is a small little mutt with black and white spots and Charlie is a golden retriever. They are named after the main characters in the movie "All Dogs Go to Heaven." Haha, I loved that because I love Don Bluth movies and that one is a classic. But what's funny about Charlie and Spike is that they are outside dogs and like to follow us around. Sometimes we'll be tracting at night (it gets dark at 6:30 now...which is quite lame because no one lets us in now!), and Charlie and Spike will follow us and be our guard dogs. It's hilarious. They even followed us all the way to Tony's house a few blocks down and sat on the ground as we taught him a lesson on his patio. Good dogs.

We had to drop our blind investigator Pancho. All he did was drink, smoke, and complain and didn't have the faith to get up for church or do ANYTHING for that matter. He frequently told us that he's fed up with being blind and wants to just throw himself in the street and die. It's sad, but our time is precious as missionaries.

We have a different Mexican man named Moe Garcia who we are teaching. He works as a cleaner for this rich lady in this random street in north Beeville that has like the only 10 NICE homes in town. We contacted him as he was working on detailing his truck (the red leather on the inside was old and gross and he was putting new red leather polish on it). We shared the Joseph Smith story and he was in awe! "I've never heard that before." He thanked us for much for teaching him something new about God. We came back later and gave him a Book of Mormon and he loved it! When we call or stop by, he always tells us how he's been reading "that book that you gave me." One time when we called, he was so excited to tell us that he read the testimony of the 3 witnesses (he repeated it about three times) and also the testimony of Joseph Smith ("Joseph Smith. He was praying in his bed and an angel in a white robe appeared." He mentioned the white robe about three times as well, haha). Actually, we were tracting on that nice street a few weeks ago and started talking to this lady at her door. As we were talking to her (not interested), we saw this man walk by. He turned around and stared through the windows at us. We assumed it was her husband, but then we recognized it as Moe and he waved. Later he told us, "When I saw you at my boss's house, I jumped for joy to see my friends." He's so cute. He calls us his friends and always calls us at night saying, "I'm just so worried about you. You walk all day long and are tired. I'm just worried. Go home so you'll be ok." Anyways, he's cool, but hasn't been able to come to church yet. Next week will be the clutch moment for him because if he doesn't show his faith and come to church, there's really not much more we can do. Although, he does say that he knows our church is true because we have the Book of Mormon and that he actually learns things when we teach rather than when he goes to the Catholic Church. So, there's hope.

Ok, onto Leandra. I mentioned her last week and she's super awesome! We taught her the Word of Wisdom and we were nervous because she is a hard-core smoker. But she accepted it and wants to quit. The next day, she called us in the morning saying that she got the day off and wanted us to come over as soon as possible. So we went over and she was chewing gum and sunflower seeds and said that it's been hard, but she really wants to do it. She even passed up tea when he husband bought her some at the store and called him a heathen for buying that. We taught her one day about the Gospel and in the middle of it, she stopped us and asked what was going to happen to her mom, dad, and 3 nieces (who died in a car accident a few years ago). She then asked us what she had to do to go to the temple to be baptized for them. We taught an awesome lesson about temples and that just a few weeks after she is baptized, she will be able to go and do their work. She understood and accepted it. During that lesson, RIGHT as we were about to extend a baptismal invitation to her, her phone rang and it was her work calling her in. So she picked up and left. Another time, Sister Bustillos was in the middle of saying, "Would you be baptized?" when the TV in the other room, randomly turned on really loudly and drained the Spirit. It was sad. Another time we were teaching her kids and she asked us how many times she needed to come to church before she could be baptized? I was oblivious and told her the answer and then went back to teaching the kids! Haha, I was so out of it that I didn't even think to set a date with her right then. SO...FINALLY, after a few lessons of her saying, "So when I'm baptized, I'm going to..." we got the hint and set a formal date with her. Haha, Satan REALLY didn't want her to accept it because she's so awesome and also, we were a bit oblivious to the times when we should have asked her. We also set a date with her 9-year-old daughter. It should be November 28th, but since then she has expressed some doubts and concerns and isn't so sure she is going to be baptized. We haven't had the chance to sit down and talk to her about those (the way we found out was from the daughter who told us, "My mom isn't getting baptized anymore." WHAT?!). But she went to church this Sunday with all her kids and supposedly loved it. We should visit her tomorrow, so pray that all goes well because we love this family so much.

I'm learning a lot about how the Lord prepares people. You can't force the Gospel on them. If they aren't ready, they aren't ready. They only can be when the Spirit has been able to enter unto their heart and they accept it. Sometimes contacts are frustrating because we try to force and convince people of the truthfulness of this Gospel. But like the apostle Paul, he didn't speak with eloquent words, but with the Holy Ghost--as should we. We haven't been able to get into doors this week (we only had one new investigator and normally we have anywhere from 8-10 per week), but I'm not complaining because the investigators that we do have are amazing and progressing. I'd rather have 5 progressing investigators than 100 duds who don't do anything. I love that when we talk to people, we are just giving them a choice to use their agency. It's hard when you see a cute family or a struggling one and know that the Gospel can and will help them, yet they shut the door, ignore you, or say that they "are good." It's sad, but it's all part of Heavenly Father's plan. We are free to choose. As members of the church and missionaries, we are also free to choose how much of the Spirit we get. The Spirit doesn't have agency, but rather lives by celestial laws. If we do things that make us more worthy of the Spirit, we are immediately blessed with more of it. WE DECIDE how much of it we want. I learned this concept a few months ago when Elder Neilsen came to Zone Conference and it has resided with me still. If I want more Spirit, then I need to step it up and do more of the things that I know invite it: more scripture study, more family prayer, better prayers, nicer thoughts, kinder actions, more charity. It is possible and I hope that everyone this week, strive to do more things to make the Spirit a stronger presence in their lives. I know this is true and I know that the more Spirit we have, the clearer our picture, focus, and destination becomes.

I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!

Sister Burt

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pictures Finally

Us at Zone Conference in Sept.
Us with the Gonzales girls
We painted this sign for service. So cute.
At Stake Conference in Corpus

Us after a rain storm.
We also painted this GIANT tree inside of the Kids Kottage. THey have a Tinkerbell Play room, so we made it more fun. Not bad considering we just used random paint they had lying around. I'll send you the finished project!
Missionary Gieshas for Halloween
Us on Halloween. Too bad we had to stay inside! Oh well.
Me. I made my costume using a Halloween cloak the Elders gave us, and random ties for the kimono belt.
Leandra's daughter stole our camera while we were teaching and took this picture of us.

After those Amish!

Buenos Familia,

Ok, thanks for the Halloween card you sent a while ago! You're the best. And thanks for the dresses. Unfortunately they are too short for missionary work. I wore the black one to Stake Conference and felt a bit self-conscience because it was too short for a Sister. Oh well, if I got a lacy petticoat thing to go underneath it to make it longer, it would work, but I don't have time for that. Oh and Sister Bustillos wants me to RE-ask Steve if he knows her friend Allison Thacker who served in Poland the same time as he.

Ok, to first answer Mom's question that I have answered a billion times since I've been up here. No, we don't speak nearly any Spanish at all up here in Beeville. Sorry, that's just the way it's going to be. Although, we do meet a random Spanish speaker here every once in a while, although it's nothing much. We have a return appointment with a man named Jesus tonight, but that's honestly the first Spanish person we will have taught in months.

But hey, I may not be speaking much Spanish, right now but I might have to start sprucing up my Chinese! We got a referral from Salt Lake the other day and it was in Cantonese. His name is Wilbert Wong. We dropped by his place and the first time he wasn't there. His 90 year-old-mom answered the door and started speaking in Chinese and we didn't understand. All we kept saying was, "Wilbert Wong? Wilbert Wong?" She shook her head and waggled her finger at us and just slammed the door. Ok. We'll try again. And try we did. We weren't back and Wilbert was weed whacking his yard. We tried to have a conversation but he speaks very little English--which is a bummer because from the referral, he spoke to some Sister at Temple Square and is really interested in prophets. Unfortunately, the language barrier is putting teaching him to a stop. We're getting a Cantonese Book of Mormon and will just have to drop it by his house. That's honestly the best we can do right now.

We're teaching this awesome lady, Leandra, and her children. We come over in the day when the kids are at school and teach Leandra and then come back later to just teach the kids. She loves it SO much and KNOWs that what we are teaching her is true. She asks us so many questions and the answers we give are the ones she wants because the Spirit is telling her that they are true. But we were teaching the Plan of Salvation to the kids the other day and just got done talking about the Spirit World--prison versus paradise. We said that good people go to paradise and immediately one of the little girls says, "So does that mean that Michael Jackson will be there?" honey. It was funny. I really don't get the OBSESSION everyone (even TONS of little kids, especially this family) has about Michael Jackson right now. I mean, I know he died and such, but I guess I'm just so out of the loop that it doesn't mean much to me. But Sister Bustillos and I laughed about that, because it isn't the first time Michael Jackson has been brought up in a lesson. Haha.
We're still teaching the Gonzales family and their progress has been amazing. Even this last week, Geneva (the mom who purposely works on Sunday and doesn't believe in the church anymore) came to church (grudgingly because he husband couldn't), but at the end, she LOVED it. She told us later that night that she felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She felt better and knew that it was right. She even told Jesse--her husband--that she was going to get Sundays off from now on. That was one of the original ideas that we had when we thought about setting a baptismal date with their youngest--that through Beyonce learning and progressing in the Gospel, that Geneva would regain her testimony. It's been a long process, but it's happening and we're SO excited for them.

Oh so funny story. Last week, Sister Bustillos and I were working a street. I was knocking a door and heard some little kids inside singing "Beat it!" at the top of their lungs--obviously Guitar Hero. They were so loud that they couldn't hear the door, but the next thing I know, Sister Bustillos is running away saying, "Sister! The Amish!" We've had a few Amish sightings here in Beeville, but they're never in town. So I turn around and BARELY see this woman and another child in long dresses turn the corner...3 blocks away! She we start booking it because we've always wanted to teach the Amish. Of course, Sister Bustillos and I were sharing a bag of peanut butter M&Ms at the time and so we just shoved them into our mouth and ran as fast as we could. Imagine the sight: mouths full of M&Ms, trying our best to run, but struggling because our side bags are swinging all over the place. Then, Sister Bustillos starts laughing as we're running because I had this nasty wad of chocolate in my mouth and just spit it out. So we run and run and pass this house and almost get the corner. As we pass the house we both look to our left and there we see them....10 Amish people standing in the middle of the yard. We do a double take then we stop abruptly and act as though we always run randomly in the middle of the road. Then we try to play it cool and walk up to the mom and start talking. It was this Amish mom and her 9 kids. The oldest was 14, but most of them were youngin's. They were all dressed up in homemade Amish attire and were all so cute as they were playing around and jumping all over. One of the little boys had the bluest eyes, blond hair and seriously looked like a little Joseph Smith (suspenders and all!). We start talking and turns out that they just moved to town. We didn't really understand much why they were Amish, but living in town, carrying a cell phone, driving a car, etc. We told them we'd come back when their white van was there because that would mean the father was home.

Well, we went back yesterday and were so pumped to teach them because we talked about eternal families and gave them a Restoration pamphlet. The husband answered the door and immediately invited us inside. Turns out that they aren't really Amish anymore, but they "read the Bible a bit too closely" and as a result were kicked out of the community. They now live in town and still sort of live and dress the Amish way, but not really. But he is such a hard core, staunch Bible reader, that if you don't follow everything in the Bible, then he won't listen. For example, in the Bible is says that women should not wear jewelry, women should have plaited hair, or women shouldn't teach in church. We told him that women do teach in church and explained about apostasy and the Joseph Smith translation, but whenever we would say that, he would say that we are then "adding" to the Bible. Oh well, we tried and testified all that we could, but in the end, his heart just wasn't completely open. We quickly move on and find other investigators.

Halloween was a bit lame, we went in at 6 pm. Dressed up like Japanese Geishas and played BANG! with the Elders in the stairwell of our apartment. But, it was the first time I've been able to have time to play BANG or ANY game on my mission, it was fun.

But last week we had an AMAZING week. I know it is because of our focus on being diligent in all aspects--THOUGHT and actions. The Lord blessed us so much and I know this church is God's true and living church.

Love you all!
Sister Burt