Sunday, December 27, 2015

¡Feliz Navidad! (#2)

From 22 December 2015

Luke 2:6–7, The virgin Mary with baby Jesus

Dearest Family and Friends,

I hope your holiday adventures are going well, and that you´ve all got good, happy plans to celebrate with family this week.  Here in Bosques we had a bit of a mix-up when the internet wasn´t working on P Day, so youll just get a short update this week.

Christmas time is the best, even though it definitely doesn´t FEEL like Christmas time in Mexico city, because we're still getting into the 70´s every day.  However, today we went through the temple as a mission (which was AWESOME and very special) and then had a fun activity afterwards which included tamales, Mexican ponche, skits, and a few musical numbers.  I´ll write more next week about the details.

The most important message here, is that this week we remember our Savior, Jesus Christ, and He should be the focus of all of our celebrations.  It´s wonderful to be with family, eat lots of food, give gifts, and sing at the top of our lungs, but at the end of Christmas Day, I hope we can all remember that the most important gift of all time is the gift Christ gave to us, which allows us to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father after we leave this life.  
I love you ALL, and I hope you know that I love you!

Lots of love,
Hermana Houghton

¡Feliz Navidad!

From 14 December 2015

Hermanas Bracamante and Houghton

Dearest Family,

FIRE!  Fire because this morning our building was on fire (literally), and because then a little later-on we were on-fire (not literally).  So this morning because it is PDay, we did our normal 2 hours of studies, and then packed up some exercise clothes, a soccer ball, and a couple other items and left the building.  Standing outside were all of our neighbors, wearing PJ´s and holding their cats and dogs (because everyone has pets here...).  We were a bit confused, until someone told us there was a fire.  Fortunately, since everything is made of concrete here, fires aren´t too much of a hazard, and it was put out in short order without anyone getting hurt or anything.  So after that we made our way to the "Zone Activity" which was a scavenger hunt that inlcuded activities like: "Contact someone in the street and invite them to be baptized", "make two baskets from the freethrow line", "knock on a door and sing a Christmas carol and share a short message about Christ", and pass out 3 "A Savior has been born" cards.  It was rather interesting, especially since the whole zone was contacting in the same area, but it was also awesome.  Miracles happen people.  

Speaking of miracles, yesterday we got to see the Dedication of the Tijuana Temple, and the sealing of the corner stone by President Uchtdorf and Elder Oaks.  It was really awesome, and a bit unprecedented (because usually they only broadcast dedications to the district of the temple being dedicated) because all of Mexico got to see it.  Also, the Tijuana temple is gorgeous, and its President is President Hinckley´s son, which is very special since so many of the temples in Mexico were built when he was President of the church.

Now.  You may be wondering what on Earth we are doing with investigators at this point and I have to tell you, it´s been an interesting couple of weeks.  Right now we´re going through a bit of a dry stage in which we are searching (high and low) for new investigators who are really prepared to receive the message and progress.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) there´s a bit of a time-lapse in between finding new investigators and their getting baptized because each person who gets baptized has to go to church 5 times before they are eligible to be baptized.  But, I love looking for investigators because you find them in the strangest, most unexpected places, and in very miraculous ways.

BTW Spiritual Thought:  Jacob 5 is awesome.  NO seriuosly.   Read it.  The Lord watches over His children, and it is such a unique blessing to be able to meet someone in the street, share a short message, and testify to them that as representatives of Jesus Christ, He sends us to touch the lives of certain people, and to let them know how much He loves them.  We are children of an EXTREMELY loving Heavenly Father, and He wants to help us in so many ways, we just have to let Him.  

Ok, that´s it for now folks.  

Lots of love,
Hermana Houghton

P.S. Christmas isn´t a huge deal in Mexico... but the 12th of December is!  (for more info on this Mexican custom, please google "the Virgin of Guadalupe")

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Tad Bit Late. . .

From 9 December 2015

It's December.  And yes.  WE have decorations :)

Dearest Family!

Sorry this email is coming a bit late this week, we had transfers, and even though I haven´t moved, and I´m still in Bosques with Hermana Bracamonte, on the weeks we have transfers, Pday is on Wednesday.

It has been an exciting, and kind-of crazy week!  We received a large stack of cards for the "A Savior is Born" campaign of the church (please see the website for more information), and so we set a goal to give out ALL of the cards we received during this month (before Christmas).  This means that we have to give out cards and contact about 6-10 people each day, and follow up on those who express interest in the video.  Fortunately, Christmas is awesome, and Bosques is a pretty good area for contacting because there are lots of people out and about during the day.  Other than that, the Elders we shared a ward with went home last week, and we received news on Tuesday that they won´t be replaced, so our area just doubled in size, and they moved our church building, so now we´re meeting about 30 minutes away from where we live (instead of 5 minutes).  Long story short, Hermana Bracamonte and I have a LOT of work to do, and it will be a very busy, cycle--full of walking and possibly running to get to all the parts of our area.  Fortunately, she has learned her Houghton lessons well, and knows what #2 (it´s going to be a very busy week) and #3 (It´s going to be a very busy month) mean.  

In other news, our investigators are all pretty new right now, but this last week we found some new ones that seem very promising.  I love teaching families, especially, because our message is so important for families, and can apply to them and help them in so many aspects.  Of course, it´s a message for every person, but it´s especially powerful when applied to families.  Also, I love living so near the temple.  Here in Bosques, the temple is only a 15 minute bus ride away, and that is such a blessing.  Even though we don´t get to go there too often, we get to invite people to visit the visitor´s center, see the Christmas lights, and learn more about Jesus Christ right around the corner at the temple.

Also, I love the Book of Mormon.  A couple of weeks ago, the President of the mission announced that we were going to read the entire Book of Mormon and Preach My Gospel as a mission over the next 13 weeks.  So I´ve finished 1st and 2nd Nephi, and this week we´re heading into the book of Jacob,  Basically, it´s the best book I´ve ever read, and every time I read it again, I learn something new about Heavenly Father, and His plan for us. 

my planner for this month!
Also, something else that I´m learning more and more as I serve a mission is how truly important the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  I realize that perfection is basically impossible to attain in this life.  If we strive for it, we are doomed to fail.  But with Christ as our mediator, we don´t have to be perfect, we just have to try a little each day to do a little better.  And one day, we will look back and realize that the little bit we changed every single day has changed us into completely different people.  That´s part of the plan.  

Merry Christmas to all.  Remember, please, the reasons why we´re celebrating this season, and do something to share your reasons with the world.

Lots of love,
Hermana Houghton

Hermana Bracamonte and I at the house of a member 
today (doing laundry and making pancakes!)

Enviado desde mi iPad---Just kidding.  I don´t have an ipad.  Ain´t nobody got time for that!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

This is What Happiness Looks Like!

From 30 November 2015

Dearest Everybody,

So.  Nope.  Mexicans don´t celebrate Thanksgiving.  And no, I have no eaten a single one of the 26 pies that were apparently made in my home, but here in Bosques we´re still happy smiling, and REALLY full of food.  I did discover this week that in Spanish, they call Thanksgiving "Acción de Gracias" or "Action of Thanks" which is kind-of an interesting twist to the usual name we use.  I do feel very grateful this particular Thanksgiving, because in a world full of loss, sicknesses, and sadness, I am SUPREMELY happy to have a happy, healthy, hardy family, and wonderful friends, and a truly magnificent message that I get to share with the people of Mexico!

Speaking of the people of Mexico, this last Sunday we were blessed to help out with and see the baptism of Leticia, and her two daughters Xenia and Uxkendal, which was AWESOME.  Really, it´s pretty amazing what miracles we get to see here in the mission, and this little family was an answer to prayer for Hermana Bracamonte and me.  I am SO excited for them and for all the blessings I KNOW they will receive because of their decisions to follow Christ and be baptized. 

On a different note, in order to have all the baptisms that we had planned for the past week or so, we had to work with the Elders in our ward not once, not twice, but three times to empty out the baptismal font using buckets, because the pump was out of order. Needless to say, it was a wet mess each time, and none of us came out dry, but the job got done, and we survived just fine and the chapel floor is just a little bit cleaner now.  

Last but not least, I wanted to share a bit of a spiritual thought with y´all this week:  In the December Ensign/Liahona there is an article about enjoying the spirit of Christmas, and there was a part I really liked.  In the article a pastor of another faith was quoted from a radio interview talking about the changes he had seen in his faith over his lifetime.  He said that earlier in his life, he had treated prayer as a sort-of grocery list to Heavenly Father of all the things he needed.  However, as his faith and relationship with Heavenly Father grew, he began to realize that prayer is more like an opportunity to sit by the proverbial "fire" of spiritual peace and goodness that comes from being a bit closer to our Heavenly Father, and soak in the heat.  For those of you who don´t know me that well, I LOVE "fire salamandering" or curling up by the fireplace in Winter-time and falling asleep, and I loved this analogy.  So my invitation for you all is to spend some time in prayer this week and soak up a bit of that heat to keep you warm through the hard moments that are sure to pass through the coming days, weeks, and months. 

I love you all BUNCHES, and pray for you all the time!

Lots of love,
Hermana Houghton

The Angry Man from Panama

From 23 November 2015

                           Our area map!  Isn´t it just beautiful!
Dear Family and Friends,

First of all, I´ll explain my title a bit.  This week we visited (for the second time since I got here, don´t ask me why) an angry man in Panama (since all of the streets in Bosques are named after countries, he´s not actually from Panama, he just lives on the street called Panama...).  When we visit angry Panama man, we knock with the intention of talking with his son-in-law who lives there, and who was (at some point) contacted by the missionaries here, and expressed interest in talking with them.  So we knock, and out comes "angry Panama man" who proceeds to lecture and insult us.  Okay.  Now, I don´t share this story to complain, because really it doesn´t bother me too much.  There are plenty of people in the world who are rude to missionaries, but I have found as a missionary, that it is in these moments when we are being rejected, that I most feel the love that Heavenly Father has for each and every one of His children.  He doesn´t actually care what they say about Him, because it doesn´t hurt Him, but I know it makes Him sad to know that these people are so frustrated with life that they won´t even listen to His words when He literally sends people to their doors to share them.  But still, we go and we share and we smile, and we serve where we can.  We follow Jesus Christ, our greatest example, who was rejected and spit upon, and still walked on and proceeded to visit and bless all of the poeple.

Baptism of Camila (we didn´t actually get a picture
with her, but this was our "program")

In other news, we had a baptism this week, which was exciting!  AAannd today there was (apparently) an Earth quake today, but we didn´t feel it at all.  AAAaaannnd we emptied the baptismal font in our church using buckets this morning--that was an adventure!  

Aaaanndd, No. In Mexico, they don´t celebrate Thanksgiving, but we´re going to try to make a "pie" to celebrate the occasion this week.  Unfortunately, all we could find at the grocery store in the way of pudding was vanilla flan (it´s like a gelatin-ish type thing that is delicious), and they don´t have ANY pie crusts, so we´re going to attempt a "banana cream flan" which may turn out a little interesting...  In other news, the work continues here in Bosques, Hermana Bracamonte and I have all sorts of fun running around in Mexico, and trying to make ourselves useful, and we get to see a lot of miracles while we´re doing it.  It is an amazing time to be a missionary.  Oh!  And the weather here is still beautiful!  Sometimes it´s a bit chilly in the mornings (but we´re inside studying all morning, so it´s fine) and then it usually gets up to the 70´s during the afternoon.  Yep.  It´s beautiful!  

I hope you all eat lots of turkey, pie, rolls, and potatoes for me this week!

Lots of love,
Hermana Houghton

Sunday, November 22, 2015


From 16 November 2015

Birthday girl in her new coat, with pictures from home
Our baptismal date plan for the next 10 weeks!  Yay!

Dear Family and Friends,

Wow!  Time doesn´t really exist when you´re on a mission because the only important dates are when you get there, and when you go home.  But.  This week sure did fly by.  I´m not quite sure what more I can say except that we are working hard here.  Some days we go to appointments, visit a LOT of people, and get home and we're just bubbling with happiness.  Other days, it´s really cold and windy, and you walk around for hours and literally  no one wants to talk to you, and you go home and hit the sack early because you´re exhausted and sad.  But I think that´s just kind-of how life goes.

Anyway, here are some fun insights from Mexico:  
1: Hot food is actually delicious.  Especially Takis de fuego.  (it´s a chip-kind-of-thing that´s really hot)
2:  The sun here is really strong, so when you´re in the sun it´s HOT, and when you´re in the shade it´s really nice.  I don´t know quite how to explain it except that shade is really good...
3:  I have lost my ability to speak English, and I can´t speak Spanish either.  I am speaking constantly in Spanglish.
4: there is no limit to how many people you can fit in public transportation.  One time, one of the zones here in my mission needed to go to the temple all together, so they rented a combi, or a van that´s usually a bit smaller than a 15 passenger van, and they fit 28 full-sized missionaries in it for a 1 hour drive.  Piece of cake.  Oh, and no one uses seat belts here...
5: J-walking is a habit I shall have to break one day, because cross-walks don´t exist here.

Yep.  That´s about it.  Hermana Bracamonte and I are working hard here, and we´re exhausted at the end of every day.  We´re looking forward to a few baptisms this week, which is AWESOME, and hopefully I will have more to tell you all next week!

Lots of love,
Last week at BunaVista: There´s Mexico

Empty bag from home grown and dried apples.
The birthday stash didn't last long!

'Tis the Season. . .to have birthdays!

from 9 November 2015

Maryela's baptism

Dearest Family,

Wow, what a week it has been.  Well, I´ll start by explaining the title here:  Saturday was Hermana Bracamonte´s birthday, we taught two people yesterday who were having birthdays, and this week I will be celebrating the completion of my second decade of life.  Sooo... Happy birthday to the world!

The work keeps chugging along here in Bosques, and this last week we were blessed to have a miracle-baptism, that I still have a hard time believing occurred (see pictures).  You see, a week ago, Maryela (the girl in white, who got baptized and confirmed this weekend) didn´t have a testimony, and wasn´t ready to put a date down to get baptized, but we sat down and talked to her for about 2 hours, and after that she was ready to go.  Her Mother and sister aren´t too far behind in making their decisions, but it was a really sweet experience to see Maryela´s desire to follow Christ and set an example for her family.  

In other news, we met 2 less-active members in the ward this week who live right next to eachother.  On the first floor of an apartment building lives Hermana Irene, and on the second floor lives Hermana Marta.  Yeeeeppppp.  For those of who who don´t know, those are my 2 names!  Unfortunately, no one in Mexico can actually pronounce the one name that I use as a missionary (Houghton)...  In other news, today we went ice skating for P Day, something I never thought I´d be doing in Mexico City, and it was a lot of fun.  It was almost as fun to ice skate as it was to watch the Elders TRY to ice skate :)  (They´re both from climates that don´t really permit winter-sports).  AAAnnndd that is what is happening in the life of Hermana Houghton right now.  

OH!  And spiritual thought for the week:  Heavenly Father doesn´t really care what color our skin is, what we´ve done in our lives, or who our parents are.  He invites EVERY person on this Earth to come unto Christ, and He commands His children (us) to invite them too.  He doesn´t want to lose a single one of us, because we are each incredibly important and valuable to Him.

I hope you all are having a lovely weeks, and learning lots of things and doing lots of good in the world.  Be safe and happy, and find someone to love and serve, ok!?

Lots of love,
Hermana Houghton

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Mish Life!

From 2 November 2015

Dear Everyone,

Wow.  It´s been a crazy week in Bosques, and every night when Hermana Bracamonte and I get home, we are pretty much exhausted, happy, and did I mention exhausted?  We have been contacting a lot lately, which is actually one of my favorite things to do.  It´s really awkward at first because you just walk up to random people and say "Well Hi, would you like to learn about how Jesus Christ can bless your life?" and they´re really confused for a minute, and then they get really excited sometimes!  Anyway, long story short, we´re busy, happy, and completing our goals, which is all a missionary can ask for in life.  
Also, yes, we did have Halloween and Día de Los Muertos here in Mexico.  Here are some of my observations and the things I learned: 
1: Halloween is not what it is (at least in Bosques) in the United States.  Yes, people decorate with pumpkins, black cats, etc. but they don´t really go out trick-or-treating of anything (at least on Halloween)
2: People DO go out trick-or-treating on Día de los Muertos (the first one) or November 1st.  However, this first day is designated to celebrate the children who have died, and the second one (Novever 2nd) is to celebrate those adults that have died.  Anyway, last night we were contacting some references we received, and there were a TON of kids and families running around Bosques, all dressed up with face-paint and fancy hair.  Also, they use face paint a lot more here, I think.  
3: Celebrating the dead is very different from traditional Halloween celebrations in the U.S. that celebrate creepy things like zombies and mummies, etc.  Here they´re just remembering those that have died, and it´s kind of special (in my mind) instead of just creepy.

In other news:  Today we had our Zone activity, and we played water guns (everyone got nice and soaked) and then we played broom hockey, ultimate frisbee, and (of course--this is Mexico) soccer.  It was a lot of fun, but I think I´ll probably be sore for a few days.  Fortunately, they also bought Little Ceasars (yep, that totally exists in Mexico) and each companionship sat down and ate their pizzas in silence for about 15 minutes.  BTW, missionaries are ALWAYS two things: Hungy and tired.  Period.  End of story.  And when you´re on a mission, you can eat a lot.  yep. 

Anyway, I hope you are all enjoying fall colors, cooler evenings, and preparations for Thanksgiving celebrations soon!

Lots of love,
Hermana Houghton

P.S. sorry, I let you all down on the picture front, I´ll try to do better next week!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Training in Bosques

From 28 October 2015
 Our last district meeting with Hermana Chavez (she was the only one who got transferred this cycle which means that all of the Latino Elders in this picture are going to finish their missions after this cycle--in their current areas--AHHH!)

Ok.  So apparently there was a hurricane, but no, it is not raining buckets and super-windy in Bosques. The weather has been a bit funky, but just a bit of rain and wind--nothing crazy. 
She´s here!  (by the way)  My "Hija" (daughter in spanish) Hermana Bracamonte has arrived (see attached picture).  She´s pretty awesome, and we work well together--it will be a fun 3 months.  Hermana Bracamonte is a fellow Californian, and she has Peruvian heritage, and speaks a lot of Spanish (which is a HUGE blessing), and has a great testimony.  Also, I´ve already got her addicted to the ice cream in Bosques (SUCCESS!)

Hermana Bracamonte
In other news, we had our first baptism on Saturday (of Angie) which was AWESOME!  It was a good way to finish a pretty tough 3-month drought of baptisms, and a good way to see off Hermana Chavez (she wasn´t super-excited to leave Bosques, until she found out what area she would be opening--Olivos).  In other news, we´re teaching some awesome investigators, and on Monday we had a spur-of-the-moment Family Home Evening with one family that we are teaching, and we talked about the Word of Wisdom.  It was quite exciting, mostly because Hermana Chavez and her new companion were staying with us that night, so there were 4 Hermanas in that lesson!  Now we´re down to just the two of us, but we get a lot done, and it´s exciting to teach and talk to all kinds of people in Spanish.  I feel very blessed to be able to be training right now, and I know this is another opportunity for me to keep working on improving my Spanish.
So that´s what´s happening in Bosques!  One bit of sad news is that we don´t actually get to go to the temple every 6 weeks because I guess there´s a rule that we can only go 4 times per-year.  But we still get to go SEE the temple all the time, so that´s exciting. 
Spiritual thought of the week:  1st Nephi 3:7:  We can keep ALL the commandments. All of them.  We just have to work at it, and bit by bit, we will accomplish the goal.  I encourage everyone to find something in their lives that isn´t in accordance with the commandments, and do away with it.  We can always work to improve.  As for me, I´m working on that whole "obedience with exactness" thing that´s SO important in missionary work.  Without obedience, we can´t receive the blessings of success. 
I LOVE YOU ALL!  Be safe and happy!
Hermana Houghton

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Last Week of Training

From 19 October 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Random Internet Browsers,
I hope you´re having a gorgeous day, and it´s not too hot or cold where you live!  One thing I´ve learned since coming to Mexico is that people complain about the weather EVERYWHERE.  Not just in Mexico.  It doesn´t matter where you live, how beautiful or temperate or awful the climate is, people will ALWAYS comment if it´s hot, if it´s cold, or if it´s rainy.  Lately, here in Mexico, it´s been a bit like Fall, and everyone has pulled out their jackets and sweaters for the special occasion.  But that´s enough about the weather.
This is my last week of training, and it is sure to be exciting!  We are hoping to get in a few baptisms before the month is out, but we don´t have a ton of control over whether those baptisms happen or not, so we WILL see!  Right now we´re teaching a family of a mother and her two daughters, an 8-year old girl whose parents aren´t members (but she wants to get baptized like her older sister), a golden investigator who works at a buffet in our area, and several others who are newbies and I don´t really know yet .  We´re also still teaching a bunch of recent converts (about ten).  AAnndd then we´re also talking with some less-active families (ten plus), and of course all of the active members in the ward, who we try to keep up with!  It´s very exciting, and really these people are awesome, and I love talking with and teaching them! 
We didn´t do much for P Day except laundry, clean the house, buy food, and take naps, but Hermana Chavez and I are looking forward to making our last week in Bosques together count! 
Thanks for all those who are sending me mail (snail and email) and keeping me updated on life back in the states--I love to hear from you!
Ok, spiritual thought for the week:  KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS!  LIke the prophet Thomas S. Monson said in this last conference!  It´s incredibly important that we remember these commandments that we have, so we can continue on the correct path to happiness in this life and in the next.  I have a testimony that obedience to these commandments truly brings blessings, and I know we can do it! 
I send my love back to you all--be safe and happy, and don´t forget to pray!
Lots of love,
Hermana Houghton

P.S.  P Day next week isn´t until Wednesday

P.S.S. This is Armando, one of our Recent Converts, who fed us this entire pizza last night!  (BTW, fun fact: The worst thing you can do to offend a Hispanic person is to not eat their food!)  Fortunately, it was delicious, because he´s an awesome cook!

P.S.S.  This is Princessa.  Don´t show Belly (our cat at home), or she might be jealous, okay? 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Training! (for real this time)


Life is good in Bosques.  I survived my week-long chocolate fast as well as Fast Sunday--no food for 24 hours--(BTW, I think I´m hungrier, and I have to eat more on the mission than at any other point in my life) and now, we are fasting from English.  For a week!  Strangely, it´s harder for my companion, who speaks fluent Spanish, than it is for me.  But she also helps me a lot, and I´m hoping to polish things up because I will be training in two weeks.  (It´s official because President Anaya told us on Tuesday that we will both be training.)  Anyway, it´s been a crazy week, and we´ve worked HARD.  
Image result for mexico city lds temple visitors center
We´re currently teaching 8-10 investigators, keeping up with 10ish recent converts, and also reaching out to contact people, find new investigators, and visit Less-Actives in the ward here.  So we´re very busy, but having a lot of fun too, because people are awesome and wonderful and occasionally crazy.  This week we got to go to the Visitor´s Center at the Temple for the first time with some investigators, and that was really cool.   

Image result for mexico city lds temple visitors center
One important spiritual realization from the week: When we are on consecrated ground or in sacred places, it´s easier to feel the Spirit and the love of our Heavenly Father.  That´s why we´re always commanded to "Stand in Holy Places".  I feel so blessed to have the Mexico City temple so close-by, and to be able to visit the grounds and the visitor´s center as a missionary.  Also, scriptures are awesome, especially the Book of Mormon.  I LOVE it, which is why I´m on a mission preaching about it in Spanish, in Mexico!  

Okay, now for the funnies:  today we went to buy tacos in "Shakira´s tacos" which is owned and run by some members of the church who live a ways up the metro line.  We came across about 12 Elders who had a similar idea today, consumed a large amount of meat and grease and hot-sauce, and breathed fire for a bit.  (see tacos pictured below).  

Also, we have a cat that lives in our apartment building, and we call her Princesa--she reminds me a LOT of Belly.  

AAaaannnnddd.  That´s all I´ve got.  I hope you´re all having fantasmical weeks, and you´re finding time to get in your prayers, scripture study, and all the other important things in life.  

Lots of love,
Hermana Houghton

One of the guards of the communities we walk into all the time. 
He always asks us "Where are your umbrellas?"
whenever we enter--it´s hilarious!