Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Baytown the Bountiful.

Baytown is a land of milk and honey. Every hermana would be blessed to come and serve in the branch. I went on an exchange Mon-Tues in Liberty and I could just notice the difference as soon as I came back. Maybe it's my attitude? most of my exchange was spent knocking. When I came back to Baytown we still had 30 min, so we knocked a few doors. At the first door the woman home said she wasn't going to answer. We next contacted a woman who said she had met with missionaries in Brownsville, TX. Her next door neighbor claimed to be athiest, but had researched the church for a class project--He knew a lot. Not so much seeds planted, more like sprouts nourished.
Wednesday evening we had a lesson with Eduardo & Esmeralda. Eduardo is a less active son of a family in our ward. We had met Eduardo before when we had been at this family's home. One day, it was a Sunday, we had scheduled an appointment with another of abovementioned family's sons. We were starting a lesson with him when Eduardo and Esmeralda came to the living room and sat down. When you sit in on a missionary lesson, well, it's all downhill from there. :) It was just a brief lesson on the first two points of the restoration, but we asked for a return appointment and got it.
We first taught Eduardo & Esmeralda last Wed after the leadership meeting we had in Liberty. We taught the lesson in Hna's "Celestial" room (she hates when it's called that). The Celestial or Holy room has a paino, is painetd white and just has all these paintings of the Savior and super large print versions of the scriptures. I told Hna Morales that we should teach the lessons there because it just felt more conducive to the spirit. In the living room people were just walking in and out.
Our lesson this week was wonderful. Esmeralda was listening and a lot of family members were there participating. At the end of the lesson, I invited Esmeralda to be baptized. She started shaking her head yes and said, "I know my mother-in-law has been waiting a long time to hear this, but it's time. Me and Eduardo have been talking and we want to do things differently. I'm ready to change." Esmeralda was crying, Hna was crying, Eduardo was crying, Hna Morales was crying, and I was just beaming for joy. It was so funny though, at the end of it all, Eduardo says, "they don't call this the Holy room for nothing!"
Baytown really is an abundant place. Tejas is sacred ground. I can feel here that the field is white already to harvest. We had an awesome Hour of Power this week as well. We had given our member a list of 4 streets we had chosen a week prior and had her pray about them. She chose Mckinney Rd. Mckinney ended up not having any homes, but we knocked and of course, the LAST home we met a couple who had gone to church before and had been taught by elders in the past. We have a return appt.
In my LDM reading this week, I came across such an interesting phrase. I was reading in Moroni 3 and loved the following, Moroni 3:3 "In the name of Jesus Christ I ordain you to be a priest (or if he be a teacher, I ordain you to be a teacher) to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the endurance of faith on his name to the end. Amen." I loved that phrase, "By the endurance of faith." Hna Morales and I definitely had our share of "endurance of faith" days. We are constantly trying to find people to teach so this week we walked. We made a list of potentials, went walking to try and contact them. We wanted to be able to talk to all those we saw on the way. Almost no one answered, almost no one was interested, but we were so happy! We felt so happy to be missionaries. Our feet were sore, but our hearts were full. Baytown is a beautiful place, and I love it!
Te amo times a millz,
Hna Flores

The Assistants truck now belongs to the Liberty Hnas! :) Exchanges with Hna Shannon!
Hna Morales SUPER wanted to go to Panera bread, so we did. She ordered a bagel. A bagel! P.s. Paner's autumn squash soup. THE BEST.
One big happy family! We were invited to Eddie Hndz's birthday party. Party hats and Pin the tail on the donkey game provided by Hna Flores' madre! Thanks mom. :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Where there is no vision, the people perish. This line from Proverbs has been the theme for my week. I must have a vision for the rest of my mission, just like I have a vision for the rest of my life. Over the course of a year here in Texas I've improved my gospel teaching skills, communications skills, and organization skills. Where I've been lacking is definitely my goal setting. Goal setting on the mission is so different than any kind of goal setting I've ever done. We had a leadership training this Tuesday in Liberty, TX and I just walked away from the meeting feeling so inspired!
Wednesday I had an amazing personal study session. I found a scripture in Haggai of all places that I love. Haggai 2:4, "...be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts". It was just a powerful invitation for me! I felt impowered, and recommitted to give him my all. During companionship study Hna Morales and I made a list of things we promised to do and asked Heavenly Father for help with other things. We promised to:
1.  Read, "Adjusting to Missionary Life" daily
2. Roleplay everyday
3. Write in our journals daily and write one thing we're grateful for
4. Work on 45 min lessons
5. Contact at least 5 people out of knocking
6. Ask for referrals from everyone.
I asked for help with our zone's goal of 4 member present lessons, 4 progressing inv, and 4 new investigators weekly, and help wtih not worrying about grad school applications. Definitely started those on saturday. Made the executive decision to apply for both Law school and the MPA program at BYU before I come home. This way my life is stress free at home. At least for a bit. :)
As far as people we're working with.
Right now we're working with
1. Hector
He's the husband of a less active woman who is coming back to church! He was supposed to be getting baptized this weekend, but isn't quite ready. He's working on getting a testimony of the Book of Mormon, and basically trying to strengthen his desire to read it. He comes to church every Sunday and we have really great lessons with him and his wife!
2. Esmeralda
She's the wife of a less active young man in our ward. We were meeting with her less active brother-in-law and her and her husband kind of just came in and sat in on the lesson. :) We have a lesson with her this week at her in-laws.
p.s. just a little fun fact.
We're getting iPads soon!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Looking Back on a Year.

I have been a missionary for a year and the joy I feel just makes me want to cry. I have experienced growth at such an accelerated rate and have changed my nature in such a short span of time. From this point on, I can read about my mission in my 10 year journal and have nostalgic experiences every night. I wish I could express myself as well as James E. Talmage (author of Jesus the Christ) to convey the amount of gratitude I feel for today. I feel very much like the prophets of old, blessed with a fulness of joy. Alma 26
Before my mission, I would ask return missionaries to describe what exactly made a mission, "hard." I'd never been able to get a good response. It's always been along the lines of, "it's hard to explain" or "you don't understand until you've gone." I would ask friends, "Is it hard because people don't want to listen? because you don't get to see your family? the difficult language? culture shock?" All these things were things I felt I could handle, things I had a pretty good grasp on. I love words and language, and I've always challenged myself to put into words difficult things, be it emotional, spiritual, or physical. I want to prove that things can be put into words. Now being out for more than a year on my mission I understand why this experience is categorized as difficult. It's difficult because these 18 months to 2 years have you grow at an unprecedented rate. You are "tried in all things." D&C 136:31-33
Heavenly Father saw it fit to send me to the Tejas Houston East mission to serve under President and Sister Crawford for a "wise purpose." D&C 100:4
"Therefore, I, the Lord, have suffered you to come unto this place;for thus it was expedient in me for the salvation of souls."
Notice however that it doesn't say who these souls are or if they are even at the abovementioned place... Who am I to limit God, to say that the Lord has sent me to Tejas for the salvation of simply the souls of those here. I am here for the salvation of my soul, my family's souls, my future children's souls. My mission--my decision to devote a mere 18 months of my life will have consequences in the work of salvation throughout lifetimes and eternities.
Sister Haynie and I were talking on the drive home from Kingwood on Tuesday about our missions. Sis Haynie and I have had similar mission experiences: a series of training, retraining, and "lifting" the mission. I cannot remember a time when I didn't want to serve a mission. I prepared myself for those typical to-be-expected missionary challenges so much so that they haven't been challenges. At points of my mission I have felt like a mother, a young women's leader, and sometimes a psychatrist & guidance counselor. :) It's been challenging.
Maybe some of you will remember, my farewell talk was all about how I wanted to learn to love, learn to have charity. My mother sent me a letter recently and she said, "Laure, do you remember your farewell talk? I think Heavenly Father is teaching you these things through your companions and your assignment." Charity is a hard thing for me. There have been times on my mission where I've felt like Heavenly Father has been asking me, "Do you really want this? I'll place you in the paths of missionaries who really don't want to be here..." After all, Charity is giving love when you don't want to give it. Months back I got a blessing from an Elder. I don't remember much about the blessing except for this one phrase that frequently comes to mind, "Have to humility to accept the weaknesses of others."
The phrase shocked me. Accepting the weaknesses of others is not something I was raised to do. You always worked faster, harder, smarter, better. I was taught to work at a fast pace, but not slopily. I remember Saturday mornings cleaning, vacuuming had to be done in a pattern. When I would dust my father would open blinds and inspect from all angles. To accept the weaknesses of others has been a tough pill to swallow, but I am improving. It's been a year in the making, and I still have a ways to go. It's been incredible to look back on the pages of my journal to see just how much I've grown.
I sometimes feel really selfish when I think back on my mission, or more so guilty. These 18 months are to be spent serving others, but I feel like the one who is benefitting the most has been myself.
A mission is challenging.
This is obvious. Why wouldn't it be? I understand now why describing the "challenging" is hard. We are individuals. A mission is personally tailored to magnify our talents and weaknesses to maximize our personal rate of growth. The challenges of my mission are the weaknesses the Lord has blessed me, Hna Lauren Marie Flores, with. Ether 12:27
We are starting week four of the transfer and I now have 20 weeks left. I can't even believe it. I'm thrilled. I love the branch, the members here GET it. They are so willing. We sat in PEC and I felt like I was watching the missionary broadcast. Families were mentioned, and the Branch President right away asked for times when he and his counselors could go and visit. The branch is just my favorite.
My mission is my favorite.
Hna Flores

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Going home earlier than expected...

I just got done with having some of Sis Crawford's take on the cafe rio pork barbacoa salad. So delicious. I'm emailing today from the library in Kingwood, definitely a classy establishment. The libraries were closed yesterday, and we had MLC today so here I am. I got some worthwhile news this week. I will be coming home the last week in....JANUARY!!! As in I-won't-even-have-hit-17-months-yet. Yeah. Weird. That's just kind of how it worked out, and two weeks from my mission have been cut (MTC stay change, no going into the MTC on Christmas). I am kind of really happy about it though, I needed for this to happen for school and such, and this gives me more time in California before I have to head off to school. I hit my 12 month mark. yes, 12 months on Thursday. To think that I only have 4 and something months after that is kind of exhilarating. 

We had sisters training this week in Beaumont. Before my trainer left she gave me the addresses to all the chapels in the mission that I would ever "have to go to." I remember asking her, "what about this chapel?" and her answering back, "oh you'll never have to go there." Here, I am three chapels added to the list later. :) Besides the point, but Jess I kind of chuckled thinking about you. At sister's training I bore my testimony on how I have been able to recognize that the Lord has magnified my talents to bless the lives of others, but he has magnified my weaknesses to bless my own. 

I have been changed on the path of discipleship. I feel blessed beyond expression for my chance to serve as a missionary. There is no where I'd rather be right now than sitting in a light mint green library, sitting next to a young man rocking back and forth as he reads about "blu-ray discs" on wikipedia, NOT that I was looking. :) I watched these, "Introduction to Mormons" videos that the church just came out with, and I was just flooded with happiness. I felt like Heavenly Father's favorite child, and I just wanted to tell everyone, "I love my life!" These videos are so great. They explain how the church is organized, how important families are, how beautiful temple square is, and how important education is. I have never wanted to have access to a facebook account as badly as when I watched these videos. So please, post them in proxy for me. :) 

I am planning on being a powerhouse these last 4 and something months I have left. It is definitely a lot less time than I thought I had, but as my mission president is NOTORIOUS for saying, "we'll make it fit!"

I love y'all.
Hna Flores
Baytown hnas & sisters. Sis Haynie and I are still NOT companions. :/ BUT, we're STLs for the zone so, the next best thing. 
The Elders imitating us for how happy we were to get ice cream. rude. 
Bayberty (Baytown-Liberty) zone leadership unity. Galaxy themed planner decoration. classy. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Building up Baytown

I've been transferred to Baytown, TXI love Baytown so much, I say this about 15 times a day, and it's kind of driving Hna Morales (new companion) nuts. I know that this is where I'm supposed to be. We're working on building a teaching pool, and we're really focusing on improving teaching and refining our other missionary techniques.
Baytown is predominately English speaking, Latinos are a little hard to come by so our area is HUGE. It takes us 25-30 min on a non traffic-filled day to get from one end of our area to the other. In reality, our area covers three cities: Baytown, Highlands, and pieces of Crosby. Baytown kind of follows my area pattern: I started out in Pasadena 3, went to Broadway 3, and now Baytown 3 (although it's been renamed to Texas Branch). The are is surrounded by bodies of water, and there are country roads complete with livestock! There's also a historic district here that kind of reminds me of downtown Provo, and Exxon refineries takes up a huge portion of our area. It was awe inspiring to drive down highway 330 last night, and seeing the twinkling lights admist the blackdrop of the night sky. I feel so at home in the cozy little branch here, it's the perfect fit.
Hna Ivette K. Morales is my new companion! Two latinas together again! We laugh a lot. Hna Morales just got done with training, so she's being a trooper leading out the area. She was born in Lima, Peru, but raised in Provo. She's tiny, fun-sized, and full of excitement. Hna Morales doesn't eat food with her hands, no spicy food, and eats tacos with a fork and knife.  I'm just working on helping her love Baytown as much as I do. She's kind of ready to leave the nest. :)
On Saturday, Hna Rodriguez (our WML's wife) gave Hna Morales and I a ride to Broadway for Byron's baptism! I felt so satisfied. As I sat in the baptism, I reflected on how Heavenly Father knows me so perfectly. He knows what truly makes me happy. Baptisms are wonderful, but what really, truly makes me happy is a job well done. Leaving a mark, doing my best with the talents that God has given me, leaving my area better than I found it.
I left Pecan Park in a way so that other missionaries could also have success there. I decluttered the apartment, organized all materials needed for missionary work, left the area with a color coded map, a color coded ward list (& an updated one!), a color coded area book, a FULLY updated area book, and a members area book. I have left detailed records so that missionaries in the future can be the best they can be.
Byron's baptism was, "SOLD OUT" as Hno Zamora (Broadway 3 WML) described it. Everyone who had been there for Byron's lessons was there, the Maruns, the Marroquins, the Zamoras, Felipe and his mom, Saul, Emerson, and others. Oh & Maria (our amazing investigator) was there. Maria's daughter Itzel ran up to me and said, kind of ticked-ly, "I called you and you didn't answer." It broke my heart.
How I felt that day was exactly how I felt at the fireside months ago when I saw the members of Pasadena 3. Just a full/happy heart. I would love to have 6 months here in Baytown. Six months is just the perfect amount of time, just enough to get to know the members, build a relationship, know the area, build up the area book. Just enought to leave a mark and set things up for other missionaries in the future.
My first days in Baytown were spent cleaning, color-coding, and organizing. We cleaned up about 2 yrs worth of left behind, "someone-could-maybe-use-this" crap, organized prosleyting material, color coded a map purchased from the Baytown Chamber of Commerce, and then organized and color coded the Baytown area book. We also made an Hna Morales sized copy of our area map at office depot. It now hangs produly on our wall. Our area truly reminds me of the early days of Pecan Park.
Along with the area, I'm trying my best to help Hna Morales be the BEST misionera she can be. Just like with all my other companions. P.s. Hna Arcila is now a Sister Training Leader. :) She was so happy to tell me, and she's training. I feel like such a proud mother, or older sister! Speaking of STLs, President has finally made it so that we have two in each zone. We're not companions yet, but there are two! Sis Haynie and I are Bayberty's (Baytown-Liberty zone) STLs, and we live in the same complex. So great. I just want to see how much Hna Arcila has grown. I haven't really been able to talk to her, but I will definitely get to on Thurs when we go to Beaumont for Sister's training. Hna Morales has got the "hard" stuff down: the language, ability to talk to members, participating in studies, she's got that confidence down, now it's just a matter of helping her become a powerful teacher, a consecrated missionary--a preach my gospel missionary. Hna Morales shared the following scripture with me during companionship study and said, "I feel like this is what President is doing here." D&C 84:106
106 And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit, let him take with him him that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also.
We are seeing a lot of tender mercies in the area. Including finding Less Actives who know longer live at the location on the ward list, but happen to be hanging out there when we pass by. We also found a referral for the Spanish elders while going through the area book. These things are just signs to me that Hna Morales and I are on the right track. I just want Hna Morales to love the area as much as I do. It's my goal to get her there. RIght now she's kind of counting down the weeks. I really hopw that I'm NOT the one who will get transferred in 6 weeks. I just feel so at home here. I'm giving Baytown all that I have to give, the same I did with Pecan Park.
Te amo times a millz!
Hnita Flores

Last transfer's planner. :)
Hna Morales and I at transfer mtg!
Color coding our Hna Morales sized map of Baytown.
Byron got baptized! Hna Post, Hno Marun, Byron, and Me!
The new district! E. Rice (fresh from the MTC in Mexico), Hna Morales, Me (Mom, found that dress in our closet), and E. Owens (DL). Small districts = close-knit districts.