Monday, May 20, 2013

My Visa is HERE! - 5/17/13

So my visa came so I am flying out on Monday [May 20, 2013] . I am supposed to be at the mission office at 10:30 and then we are going to leave to the airport. Our flight leaves Houston around 3:30 and then we fly to San Francisco. Then we fly from San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand. Then we fly from Auckland to Melbourne [arriving May 22, 2013]. So be around on Monday so I can call you from the airport.

Anyway, so yeah I'll call you on Monday. So be around! I love you!

Sister Baker

Houston Happenings - 5/13/13

Hello Family!!

Last Monday after P-day we went to see the family we have been teaching. The mom and son are SO ready to get baptized but the parents need to get married first. She doesn't have her birth certificate so she has been calling the Mexican consulate every single day. We left Monday telling her to keep praying for a miracle to happen.

Tuesday was super busy! We went to teach the seminary kids in the morning. We talked about the importance of scripture study and shared D&C 11:21 with them. It's something I've really come to learn here on the mission. You have to obtain the word, aka study, before you can declare the word, aka teach. AS we study each morning, we do our part and then when we are teaching we are given the words we need to say. If we didn't do our part in the morning by studying, we wouldn't be given that blessing of knowing exactly what to say. We were able to visit several less-active members of the ward Tuesday afternoon and help them to regain their faith and have a desire to come to church. That night we spent a lot of time finding. We were talking to everyone we saw and really focusing on finding new investigators. It was really successful and we made appointments with a couple of new people for this week.

Sister Baker and Companions
 at Zone Conference
On Wednesday we had a Zone Conference all day. It was absolutely incredible! President and Sister Ashton are such amazing people and I learned so much from them. We talked a lot about how we can increase our faith and reach our goals. THSM (Texas Houston South Mission) has a goal to baptize 1000 people this year. For the first couple of weeks that I was here we were encouraged to pray to be able to baptize monthly. Then President Ashton met with Elder Nelson and a couple of Seventies and they promised him that as we increase our faith and pray to see miracles that each companionship can baptize weekly. It's been a big change and requires us to exercise a lot of faith but we are seeing the Lord put people into our paths and we are beginning to see things happen. I know that it will take a little bit of time for this change to really take effect but I know that soon we will be baptizing every week. At Zone Conference we talked a lot about faith vs. doubt and about things we can do that will help us to baptize weekly. It was an incredible day and we were very spiritually fed.

Thursday morning we had our weekly planning session in the morning. Then we were able to go out and try to contact referrals. That night we met with Ronesha. We told her that we had really been praying about her baptismal date and we knew that she could be prepared to be baptized on May 18th. She quickly agreed and the spirit was really strong as we taught her The Gospel of Jesus Christ and talked about the baptismal covenants with her.

Friday was a REALLY long day because my companion was sick so we were home basically all day. It was really hard. I didn't know what to do with myself. I hated not being out teaching. I spent a lot of time just studying the scriptures. I am really loving reading the Book of Mormon and I learn so much from it every day!

The car after the crash.
Saturday one of my companions went to another area on exchanges so it was just two of us. We were able to teach a lot in the afternoon and we met a new family that is interested in the gospel. We get to teach them this Wednesday and I am really excited about it. After dinner we were on our way to an appointment when a truck backed into our car and crunched in the front. So instead of going to our other two appointments that night we had to spend a couple of hours filling out forms and getting a police report. Fun, right? I'm just glad that no one got hurt. 

Just a peacock wandering around
the neighborhood
Sunday was Mother's Day and it was great! Church was really great. Unfortunately Ruth and Daniel were our only investigators that ended up coming. We don't know why Ronesha didn't come. A sister in the ward went to pick her up and she won't answer. We tried calling her and we tried stopping by last night but we never got a hold of her so I have no idea what happened. It's really frustrating to not be able to get her to come to church. We’re pushing her baptism back a few weeks now until she can come to church a couple more times and show that she really has a desire to be there. After we called home and had dinner we felt like we needed to go see the Ruth and her family. Saturday we had fasted for them and prayed that there would be a miracle. Well, Sunday night we found out that we did get a miracle. Ruth told us that someone from the consulate called her and said someone had canceled their appointment so she will be able to take her spot so now she only has to wait 3 months to get her papers instead of 12 months! And she found out Sunday that she got a job so now she will be able to pay for her papers! Miracles!! Heavenly Father really does answer our prayers!

So I'm pretty sure my visa came and that I'm flying out next Monday (the 20th). I'm kind of freaking out! When I got on the computer today I got on my missionary portal and my flag was changed back to Australia! Just yesterday it was still the Texas flag! Then I got an email from Elder Mitchell (one of the Elders from the MTC) and he said that all the visa waiters in Oklahoma got their visas and that they are flying out next Monday, the 20th. Then I just got an email from Sister Adams saying that her flag changed too! So yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm leaving soon! I'll let you know more as soon as I can! Ah! I'm really excited but at the same time I am sad to be leaving Houston! So yeah, that's that.

Thank you so much for your love and prayers. It means the world to me!

All my love, 
Sister Lauren Baker

P.S. So the lady that was driving the truck that ran into us on Saturday, guess what her t shirt said?  "Ain't Nobody Got Time for That." It was awesome. I loved it. :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Houston Happenings - 5/6/13

Hello Family!!

Well, no visa yet. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE it here in Houston but I'm getting anxious to get to Australia, especially now that Annie and Lexie [Lauren’s cousins] are going. PRAY HARD that my visa comes soon. 

This week was busy, as usual. It's crazy how fast a week flies by when you're on a mission. To answer Dad's question, yes our area only covers one ward. Actually it only covers half of the ward. We have one half of the ward and the Elders have the other half. Last Monday night we had dinner with a part-member family. The dad and 8 year old daughter are both members but the mom isn't. She comes to church every Sunday but she has never been baptized and is still active in her Baptist church as well. We taught them the Restoration and challenged all of them to read the Book of Mormon daily and then to pray about it. We are praying that her heart will be softened and that she will have a desire to be baptized.

Sister Baker and Companions
Tuesday we had appointments all day and we were super busy. We got to visit a couple of the less-active members and encourage them to come back to church. We also saw our family and taught them again the importance of reading the Book of Mormon daily. The mom and son are so ready to get baptized. They come to church every week and they read and pray every day. The mom just needs to get the paper work so that she can get married. There's not much that we can do now except for encourage her to get the papers that she needs. 

On Wednesday we met a girl who is 23 and has 3 daughters (a 7-year old and 5 year-old twins). She is awesome! She is super friendly and nice and has a sincere desire to learn. We also met black lady that seriously reminds me of Whoopi Goldberg. She was raised in a Baptist church and is slightly crazy but she has a good heart and really has a love for the Savior. We were able to teach her on Thursday and Friday. She talks A LOT so it is hard to get through our planned lessons with her but that's okay. She is sincere in wanting to understand and it may take a little bit more time with her but I can picture her in white at baptism.

Every Thursday we spend the morning/early afternoon doing weekly planning. The rest of Thursday we taught some really good lessons and were able to spend a good amount of time finding people. We also had dinner with Ronesha at a ward member’s home. We taught her the Word of Wisdom and she was so willing to commit to live it. I love Ronesha. She is scheduled to get baptized on the 18th. Unfortunately she didn't make it to church this week because her car wouldn't work so we are praying really hard that she come this next week so that she can still be baptized on the 18th.

Friday morning I woke up with a bad cold and didn't feel great all day but you basically have no choice other than to keep working so I just took ibuprofen and faked a smile. Friday morning we had a Zone meeting. We talked about the importance of getting investigators to church and practiced inviting them to church. It was really good. Friday afternoon we went on splits. I went with one of the sisters in the ward and we were able to contact a lot of people and get a lot of referrals. Friday night we were able to see some former investigators who we have been trying to get a hold of since my first week here. We were able to read the Book of Mormon with them and set up a return appointment. Hopefully they will be ready to accept the gospel now since they weren't ready when they were taught before.

Saturday morning I felt better than I did on Friday but I had NO voice. Like, I literally could hardly talk. So needless to say, my companions had to do most of the teaching. We had our first lesson with with the 23-yr old mom. It went really well and the spirit was really strong. We taught the Plan of Salvation and it was exactly what she needed to hear. At the end of the lesson the spirit was right and we were about to commit her to a baptismal date. My companion literally had said, "As representatives of Jesus Christ, we have a special invitation for you..." But then one of her 5-year-olds ran into the room and said "Mom, Trinity (the 7-year-old daughter) just threw up all over her bed." Argh! So frustrating. That seriously happens all the time. We're about to commit them to baptism and something crazy happens. Alan [Lauren’s cousin and former MTC trainer] warned us in mission prep that it would happen and he wasn't kidding. It's so frustrating. Seriously, get out of the way Satan! Anyway, so we had to leave so she could take care of the mess but we have an appointment with her tomorrow and we are going to extend the baptismal invitation tomorrow.

Sunday morning my voice still sounded retarded but not as bad as Saturday. Church was great! We had 5 investigators come which was awesome! After church and our meetings we went back to the apartment to do our studying. We had dinner with the ward mission leader and his family. After dinner we went to see Akin. He didn't come to church even though we had talked to him on Saturday night and he said he was planning on it. He wasn't home Sunday night so we haven't been able to get a hold of him. We are hoping to be able to see him sometime tonight.

I was hoping my cold would be gone by this morning but unfortunately it's not. But that's okay. I think it's on its way out. Hopefully. So yeah, we've had a busy but really successful week.

Send me hand written letters! My comps get mail all the time but I never have anything in there. Hand written letters are the best!

Well I'm about out of time so I've got to go! I love you all! Can't wait to talk to you on Sunday!! I know that Heavenly Father is very aware of us and that He helps us through our trials. In Mosiah 24:14-15 it says,

 "And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs; even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord."

We aren't promised that our trials will be taken away but that we will have strength to bear them.

I love you all so much!
Sister Baker

Everything here is so GREEN!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Texas Update - 4/29/13

Dear Familia: (is that Spanish for family? I think it is. I REALLY wish I knew some Spanish because we run into people who only speak Spanish ALL THE TIME and I just have to stand there and feel like an idiot because I can't say anything to them.)

Anyway, this week has been really good. I am kind of freaking out right now because I have felt really strongly all week that my visa is coming soon. Then I read in your emails that Annette said something about Lexie's visa maybe coming and then I just got an email from Annie saying that her visa came and that she leaves a week from today. So yeah, I'm basically freaking out and we are going straight to the mission office after this to find out about mine. Ah, freaking out. Breathe. 

Alright so update on the past week:

Monday was P-day so after we finished emailing and laundry and grocery shopping and all that fun stuff we went to the mall to pick up my companion’s birthday present from her mom. It was a Texas necklace from James Avery. Everyone here is OBSESSED with James Avery. I'd never heard of it before I got here but it is a silver jewelry store. They have some really pretty stuff but way out of my price range, especially on a missionary budget. Monday night we went to dinner at a members house. He works for Carabbas, the Italian restaurant (he is pretty high up in the business) so he brought spaghetti from there for everyone. It was so good! We also got to teach Ronesha on Monday. We taught her the restoration and she is progressing towards baptism. Unfortunately she didn't come to church again yesterday (so frustrating when we do so much to try to get them there) so we have to push her baptism back to May 11th. 

Tuesday morning after studies we had district meeting. I had to give a talk on the Atonement. I learned so much in preparing for that talk. I ended up using a poem that my companion wrote in the MTC. She's a really good writer. Here's the poem:

My Lord, My God, My King
By: Elizabeth Ricks

Oh my Lord, my blessed Savior
I ask thy help my faith won't waver.
Help me to be who you know I can become
Take my burdens make my sins undone.
I dedicate myself to thee and thy work,
Conveying thy love, a diligent clerk.
Help me to speak of thy words and will,
Sowing forgiveness, helping the restless be still.
Peace you grant and freely give,
You overcame death that we all might live.
Gentle and meek you condescended,
The beggar, leper, and sinner defended.
Bold as a lion you fight for us,
Brothers and sisters, children less than dust.
To thee we praise and thank God's lamb,
Everyday strength helping us to stand.

Beautiful words, huh? Anyway, after district meeting we had district lunch at Red Robbin to celebrate two birthdays. The rest of the day Tuesday was FULL of appointments and we had a lot of successful lessons. We also went to see one of the less active members of the ward. We are trying to get him to come back to church but I think it will take some time.

Tuesday night around 8:30 we went to meet some other sisters and I went on exchanges in Mission Bend (another area of Houston/Sugarland). I worked all day there on Wednesday with a different companionship. It was a great day! We were really successful and it was really helpful for me to see how another set of missionaries works and learn from them. I came back to Memorial Wednesday night.

Thursday is weekly planning day every week so we are always in the apartment until about 2:00. We had to make both our weekly goals and then also do our monthly goals for May. It took a lot of time and a lot of prayer but we figured out what Heavenly Father wanted us to set our goals as. To reach the goals it is going to take A LOT of faith and hard work but I know that Heavenly Father will help us. There is no one that is as invested in this work as He is. Thursday we had some good appointments and lessons. We saw the familye have been teaching. The mother and father have decided to get married so they are trying to get paper work and everything for that. She can't be baptized until they get married so we are just kind of waiting at this point. Hopefully they can get the paper work because both the mother and son are SO ready to be baptized. 

Friday we met with several of the active members during the afternoon and it ended up being really successful. We got a lot of referrals from them and ideas of who we can see/teach. We also had some great appointments with our investigators and were able to see a lot of LARCs. (Less Active/ Recent Converts)

This is during the storm on Saturday.
 It doesn't show it super well but there was A TON of water.
Saturday morning after studies we went to help clean out the apartment of one of the men in the ward who died last week. It is a small, one bedroom apartment but he had a lot of stuff so it took a long time. We were there for most of the morning and into the afternoon. He had a piano and SO much piano music. Everyone said that he was really musically gifted. After we finished that we went out teaching. We taught Kathy the Word of Wisdom and keeping the Sabbath day holy and she committed to come to church! While we were in that appointment is started POURING rain. Like seriously more rain than I have ever seen. It was crazy! We went to dinner at a member’s house. When we came out of her house after dinner it was still pouring rain. We were going to try to go to Ronesha's for our appointment that night but the roads were starting to flood and we aren't allowed to drive through standing water so we weren't sure what to do. The zone leaders called us and told us that we were to go back to our apartment and call it a night. So we ended up being inside and done for the day around 7:00 pm. I've never seen such a crazy storm. Roads were flooding all over Houston. Apparently a couple sets of Sisters flooded their cars and ruined  them because they drove through standing water. :/  I tried to take some pictures so you could see how much water there was but it's hard to tell because it was through the car window.

By Sunday morning the storm was all cleared up and it was beautiful yesterday! We had to be at the church at 7:30 for Ward Council. Then church starts at 9:00. Kathy came to church which was great! Unfortunately none of our other investigators showed up. Even the ones who had members picking them up didn't come. Frustrating. But we do all we can do to get them there and ultimately they have their agency to decide whether or not they are going to come. After church we had missionary correlation. Then we went back to the apartment and had lunch and did our studies since we don't have time in the mornings on Sundays before our meetings. We had dinner with the family of one of the bishop's counselors. After that we had our first lesson with a new investigator. He is GOLDEN! He is someone that has definitely been prepared by the Lord. He is from Nigeria. He was raised Muslim but has been Christian since he was 21. He is going to school to finish his PhD right now. Yesterday we taught him the Restoration. He was super excited about everything and committed to read The Book of Mormon and to pray about it and he also accepted a baptismal date for May 25th!

So yeah, this week has been good here! Sounds like everything at home has been going well too! 

Well I am running out of time so I've got to go. I love you all so much! I will let you know as soon as I hear anything about my visa. I can't wait until it comes! I will be very sad to leave Houston but so excited to go to Australia! 

Me and my companions
 at the investigator devotional last Sunday.
The church is true. Heavenly Father loves us and answers our prayers. Christ's atonement gives us the enabling power to do things that we would never be able to do on our own. 
Love you all from Houston and back!

Sister Lauren Baker

Week 2 in Houston

April 22, 2013

This week has been great! I am seriously LOVING Houston! We've been seeing a lot of success this week and have had many opportunities to teach and I just absolutely love it! There is no better feeling than sitting in a lesson and bringing the spirit and seeing it change someone's life.

Monday was P-day and we spent the day emailing, doing laundry, washing the car, and grocery shopping. That night we went to a ward member's for dinner and had FHE with them. After that we went to see one of the Recent Converts in the ward. He has brain cancer and the family is having a really hard time right now. But we were able to teach them about temples and they are working towards being able to go to the temple in a year to be sealed together as a family.

Tuesday morning after we finished studying we had district meeting. We talked about obedience and miracles. Our obedience shows our faith and faith will bring miracles. That's what my companions and I are focusing on this week. We are trying to be exactly obedient so that we can see miracles happen in our area. We are making it a goal to have one baptism every week. It will be difficult but it's possible if we do our part and exercise our faith and leave the rest up to the Lord. After the district meeting we went to lunch together at a place called Sweet Mesquites (classic Texas BBQ). The elders in my district are really awesome and I learn a lot from them. Tuesday afternoon we were able to see the Vasquez family and teach them about prayer and following the prophet. We are only teaching the mom and her son now because the dad is not interested. He has serious Word of Wisdom issues and is not willing to try to change. The mom and son are awesome though! They are both so ready to be baptized. The son is going to get baptized this weekend if his dad will agree to it. His mom is ready to be baptized but she has never been legally married so she can't get baptized until they either get married or she moves out. We were also able to teach  another son on Tuesday. He is 9. He is getting baptized next weekend if all goes according to plan!

Wednesday morning after studies we went to the mission offices for interviews with President Ashton. He is such an incredible man! He makes me feel so good about myself and the work we are getting done but he also makes me want to work harder and be better. I talked to Sister Morten (the one in charge of travel) while we were at the offices and she said that as of now they still haven't heard anything about our visas. I'm really not all too concerned about it because I am LOVING Houston. I am willing to stay here as long as the Lord needs me too. But I'm also really wanting to get to Australia. I just trust in the Lord's timing. He knows better than I do and He has put me where He needs me.

On Wednesday we started teaching a woman who is 52 and the classic crazy cat lady. We have taught her the restoration and the plan of salvation. She has been really receptive to both lessons but is not in a hurry to make any kind of a change in her life so we are praying that she will have a desire to come to church and to commit to a baptismal date.

On Thursday we got to meet with Ronesha. We had already taught her the plan of salvation and we planned to teach her the restoration but she hadn't read the chapter in the Book of Mormon that we left her with so we changed plans and decided to read it with her. We read 3 Nephi 11 -  When Christ comes to the Americas. The spirit was so strong as we read with her and her heart was really touched. She accepted a baptismal date and she is going to be baptized on May 4th! I really love Ronesha. I have had a connection with her from the beginning. She is really serious about changing her life and I've seen such a change in her already.

Friday and Saturday were both really busy and we taught a lot! We were way busy all day! Wherever we went we ran into more people to talk to and to share messages with and it was so awesome to see Heavenly Father placing people in our paths. 

Last night (Sunday) we went to an investigator devotional. Missionaries bring their investigators the devotionals and the speakers are people who have joined the church recently and they share their testimonies and conversions stories. The girl who got baptized last weekend, spoke and she did awesome. The spirit was really strong and I know that many of the investigators that were there were really touched. I also got to see Sister Adams from the MTC there which I was super excited about!  

Sis. Adams and Sis. Baker at Investigator Devotional
So yeah, we're busy 24/7 and I love it! Houston isn't at all what I expected. There is tons of diversity and people from basically every ethnicity you can imagine—lots of black people, lots of Native Americans and lots of Hispanic people. I'm finding that it would be really helpful if I knew some Spanish.

Oh yeah, so I’m not sure if it was the Sweet Mesquites that we had for lunch or the dinner that we ate at a members house but I'm pretty sure me and my companions got food poisoning. We all got sick. Tuesday night in the middle of the night I got up and threw up. First time I've done that in 10 years. Not a pleasant experience. I felt a little bit sick all day on Wednesday but not too bad and by Thursday I felt fine. 

Also, Texas is starting to rub off on me, I've started saying y'all. Don't know how that happened so fast! 

I know that this church is true. I know that Houston is exactly where Heavenly Father wants me to be right now. He needs me as a missionary to prepare his children for the second coming. I know the Book of Mormon is true. My testimony of it has grown so much in the past two weeks. I have learned so much and felt the spirit so strongly as a read from its pages daily. I have seen it make such a huge difference in the lives of investigators too. I challenge all of you to pray and ask again if the Book of Mormon is true. You can't ask that question too many times and renew that testimony. A testimony of the Book of Mormon is essential because if the Book of Mormon is true then everything else is. It holds everything together. I know that Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. I know that he is very aware of each of us and is in all of the details of our lives. I know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ I can receive strength to do things that I could never do on my own. I am relying on the atonement every single day while I am out here. I have thought several times this week about how much serving a mission is going to prepare me for the rest of my life. It will make me a better wife, a better mother, a better teacher, a better disciple, etc. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I have to serve and the growth it is allowing me. 

Love you all to the moon and back!

Sister Baker