Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Final Countdown

Hey Everyone!

I've have you know I've stared at this blank screen for about an hour now.. I'm just not sure how to start this email at all or what to share. Instead I just keep going through my pictures and saving more pictures to my USB looking at all the people I've met, things I've seen, and laughing and some hilarious vidoes. haha :) I can't believe I go home this week.. THIS week. No more saying "in a couple months" or "in a few weeks" nah.. right about now its a matter of days.. almost hours. I honestly don't know how to describe how I'm feeling.. I feel like I've never felt like this before.. So happy, so sad, so excited, so nervous all wrapped into one. #thisgurlsgotprobs
Last week when I wrote you all I had had a rough minute and I just remember praying that my last week wouldn't be stressful but would instead be filled with laughter and joy. And I can honestly say the Lord answers prayers. There were a lot of things that should have been discouraging.. Such as most appointments falling through, packing, that darn language thing :), etc. But it wasn't.. because so many hilarious things happened and I felt so much love from the branch members that it honestly didn't matter.

So.. hang on tight while I tell you some of our funny moments.
  • Wednesday after an appointment we went on an adventure to find a trailer park our investigator told us about that was "Behind the QT" that was literally the only direction she gave us.. But I'm up for any challenge. So right I go.. and I start seeing signs about a dead end.. Well when I finally get to the end there are cones with a sign that says "SMILE you're on camera" I start turning into a driveway to turn around and out of the corner of my eye I see heads.. everywhere.. All I can think is "Please don't let me companions see this.." But of course they did and screamed NON STOP. Turns out the gems that live in that house think decorating the front yard/porch in mannequin heads is the new chevron wreath. I'm not kidding. There was a head on each step.. all over the bannister.. and the grass. #classy. We then go the opposite direction and find the trailer park. SUCCESS. While trying to find a place to park so we can start knocking doors two more things happen. 1. We park the car and before we get out a man starts yelling at us from the top of the hill.. haha not even kidding. so then.. 2. We find the pool/park and decide to leave the car there.. only to see a naked kid about to skinny dip in the pool. All I can say is either Heavenly Father wanted me to have lots of laughs, or He didn't want me at that trailer park. I think it was the first :)
  • So then we are about to go to our lesson with Maria and we get a phone call where she screams and yells "Se le revento la fuente!" Aka... her sisters water just broke and she was on her way to the hospital. Haha OKAY! Direct translation.. "The fountain broke" haha oh my. 
  • We met Antonio Banderaz at Macaroni Grill. Okay we didn't.. But someone looked exactly like him! Crista took us to lunch and had convinced Sister Garcia Valle that he was the real deal. Crista almost made us all get a picture with him to go along with the prank.. haha it was a good laugh :)

Now that I hope you have had some good laughs, there are many others.. but those are better told in person :) I'll just take a minute to tell you about some of the sweet tender mercies and highlights I saw this week.
  • Christa Schmidt made me an afghan to take home in Georgia colors. I am so thankful for her love and I really just love her so much! The people in this horribly humid and beautiful state will forever be my family. 
  • I got asked to sing at a baptism about.. 30 minutes before it happened. I ended up convincing Hma Martinez to sing with me while Hma Garcia Valle played the piano. We sang I feel my Saviors love in Spanish, it was really sweet. I forgot how much I love to sing until recently, so its been really nice to sing and share my testimony with the branch members that way, after all.. its much easier than speaking :) 
  • We had a wonderful Family Home Evening with a cute family in the branch this week, the Romeros :) and then went and got some legit ice cream in Mexico. Aka Gainesville. so fun! 
  • I got to teach my last mission prep out here to the Reyes' kids. I'm really going to miss them. They are so sweet! 
Yesterday, I was sitting in Sacrament meeting by myself.. Well not really, I was with other members we divided and conquered :) And I was just listening to all the testimonies and I see President Ramirez just staring me down and then point his finger at me and tell me to come forward.. so.. I did. I mustered all my strength and courage and I went up there to bear my final testimony. As I was sitting there with tears starting to form I thought "Heavenly Father.. I can't do a second language and tears.. haha But I made it through. From what I've been told by many of the branch members another miracle happened yesterday. I spoke "perfect Spanish". I don't know what I said in Spanish.. I couldn't repeat it if I tired. I have no clue if I'll remember a word of Spanish when I get home.. but I will never be able to deny that the Lord qualifies who He calls and He will help His servants to accomplish is work. He really does call upon the weak and the simple to do His mighty work.

I am sad to leave these sweet people. I'm sad to leave the green trees. I'm sad to leave my friends. I'll be sad to take my tag off. But I'll be forever thankful for my time here, for the memories, for the Spirit, for the lessons, and for the love. I have learned so many things in all of my areas, but the thing I have learned the most is that God lives. There is a God of this world and He is our Father. He has a plan for all of us and if we look we will see Him guiding us throughout our lives. He loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. I know the Savior rose again, I know He is always at our side.

The Book of Mormon is my favorite book, if you haven't read it.. you really should! :) The Book of Mormon contains not only revelations of the prophets but personal letters to each of us in response to our prayers from our loving Heavenly Father, just like all scripture. Joseph Smith is the Prophet of the Restoration. He did see God the Father and Jesus Christ, and I am going to miss telling people his story all the time.
Thank you for all of your support these 18+ months. They have absolutely been the best and hardest times of my life, moments I will never forget, and moments I will always love.

I love you all and can't wait to see you soon! Hamiltons.. SEE YA THURSDAY!! :) I LOVE YOU!!!
Lets be honest.. I still have a lot to say.. but to save time I'll use the words of John..

" I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee but I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name." :)
Love!
Hermana Hamilton... JULIE
P.S. My homecomings are..
Utah: This Sunday 1pm 8945 South 1700 East, Sandy 84093

California: Aug 17th: 48950 Green Valley Road FREMONT, CALIFORNIA 94539-8001 (off HWY 680 Scott Creek Road exit) Sacrament meeting starts at 9am

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Countless



Hey Y'all!

Here we are again.. Monday.. The day to get me all ready and jazzed for the next week. The next week.. The last week. Did you read that? The LAST week. The LAST FULL WEEK here in Georgia. I get sick just thinking about it.. Not really. :) ha! Y'all are probably thinking.. She's gone Southern.. or as we often say it.. She's gone nuts! Well.. before I give you more reasons to make fun of me I'm going to move on now that this horrible introduction is written. Don't worry mom, I got a $100 letter in mind for you!
We had our district meeting on a ship.. And these props were provided. And since I'm going home.. It seemed only right for me to be captain in a picture :)
As I laid in bed last night and naturally couldn't sleep right away, I did what I often do on a Sunday night.. I thought about what I wanted to tell y'all from my week. I thought to myself "what was the theme of this week.." "what did the Lord really want me to learn this past week?" And the more I reflected and the more I thought about it a simple word came to my mind.. Countless. I don't often have my deepest thoughts right before bed.. Slash lets be real.. That never happens. But the more I thought of that silly 9 letter word I realized a lesson for my entire mission was coming to mind not just a weekly catch phrase.
This week was busy like most are. We were constantly running from this place to that place doing our best to be on time. Countless are the miles I drove. Seriously, I was in the car so much. I don't use my GPS all the time but while we were in traffic I decided to take a look at it and I realized for the times my GPS has been on and tracking my driving over the past 15 months I've had it I have driven enough miles/ driven so long to have driven for almost 45 days without a single stop. Not even kidding.. and that doesn't count the miles I drive without the GPS on.. Its amazing I can still get out of the car! Yuck!
We knocked a lot of doors this week, like always. We are asked to tract for 2 hrs a day right.. Sometimes its exhausting but I LOVE being in the sun so I don't complain. We had an experience this week where we were tracting and I noticed that we were going to a door of someone other missionaries told us to see lived. I decided to not tell my companions right away.. haha :) So Angelica answers the door (which we've never been able to meet her) and Sister Martinez does the usual and finally as Sister Garcia Valle is about to ask about her faith I asked her if she was Angelica because I recognized her voice from the phone. She let us right in and we taught the Restoration. The next day they didn't answer the door, so what did we do? Tracted of course! And actually met her cousin who was able to tell us Angelica had told her all about our lesson and found out her husband was coming home early and he said no. So that's why she didn't answer the door. We are now teaching both of them the gospel as well as English. :) Countless are the doors I knocked. Countless are the miracles I saw tracting. Really though, I couldn't even begin to guess how many doors I have knocked as a missionary..
Did I ever mention that the Amazon is in my backyard? There are SO many bugs and little critter-like-things right behind us and at night or right after the rain they roar. Its so loud we can't hear the people on the phone.. one of these nights I'll take a recording so y'all can hear it when I get home. Countless are the mosquito bites Countless are the bugs. Countless are the snakes and lizards.

We are still teaching English to Fagia, a sweet woman from Egypt. I love teaching people English because its always so fun and I love to watch them grow! This week in "payment" to us teaching her English she decided to teach us how to thread. Like thread eyebrows. Now that's a skill I never thought I'd learn as a missionary :) Countless are the random tidbits, facts, and skills I've acquired in this goodly land!
As I continue to make phone calls to say goodbye and to invite people to the fireside (where all the departing missionaries get to share their testimonies) I realize how much I love these people. I'd imagine this pure almost geeky kind of love I have for them will never go away. I will always love them. I'll love the ones with no teeth. I'll love the ones who literally saved all month so that they could feed us the nicest meal. I'll love the ones who pulled the car over and gave me money simply because they recognized me as one of "God's People." I'll love them forever. Its likely to them I will become just "one of the sister missionaries" that used to visit. But to me.. They will always be something much more. Countless are the people I've loved. 
FHE with Cristal at Belkis' house with Hma Bueno. Cristal has the short straight hair holding the cute baby :) 

Speaking of people I've loved.. Lets talk about Cristal :) The sweet amazing woman that we have been teaching my entire time in this area. We were able to teach her twice this week which was great. Monday we had our FHE/Dinner with her. It was a BLAST!! The kids were crazy and running everywhere but it really gave Cristal to become good friends with Belkis and Hma Bueno. Cristal said she wants to maybe do one this week at her house later in the week :) We taught her again on Thursday while Hma Garcia Valle was off on exchange. So it was Sister Kelly (speaks NO Spanish), Myself (speaks very little Spanish), and Sister Martinez. Giselle kept the kids entertained in the other room.. Anyways, so Hma Martinez and I taught about recognizing the Spirit and it went really really well. At one point I simply asked Cristal "why do you think we felt like we planned this lesson today?" She then went on to tell us of all the changes that she's been seeing in her children. Them praying, being happier etc.. Then she said "But what I hadn't realized before was maybe they aren't the only ones changing.. Maybe I'm changing too." Cristal came to church yesterday and I have never seen her happier. She shared with ourSunday School class how prayer has changed her life these past months and how she has never been happier than now, to know that God hears and answers her prayers. I love her. I love watching her embrace the gospel, there is nothing better. Countless are the prayers I have offered on behalf of those I meet, love, and teach. Countless are the prayers answered.
I had a couple hard days this week just because its really hard to not be able to say all that I want to.. teach how I know how.. and simply tell the people how much they mean to me. Its discouraging because I should know how to do this.. I mean I've been doing this whole missionary thing for awhile.. I should know how to do all this stuff you know.. but I can't because its in another language.. and I just want everyone here to know that I love them and its hard to not be able to fully express that you know? There aren't many things that have brought tears to my eyes.. but for these people.. for them to know I love them and for them to know that I love my Savior with all of my being.. Countless are the tears I have cried. Okay, not really. The tears aren't countless, but they're there. I feel a bit like Nephi I guess when he said that his eyes water his pillow by night for his people (2Nephi33).
the Anguianos!! :)
So as you can see, life has been a bit discouraging but still AMAZING overall. And I've come to learn a lot of things. One of them is whenever we need it, help is available. When I would feel almost like I was ready to throw in the towel because all of a sudden I couldn't say a phrase that I KNOW or I couldn't understand something that I know I've learned the vocab for.. Or whatever it was.. each time the Lord sent me something else to help me realize that I'm loved and I've made a difference. One of those was when we went to the Anguianos for dinner and it was like I blinked and I could speak again. And then they made me crepes like I made them for Christmas :) Another was when I was sitting in relief society wondering what the heck was going on and then we get a text from a member in English for me to know that she was going to miss me and that I had changed her life. Another came from a hug from a friend. Or tears in the eyes of another as she asked what I wanted for my last meal at her house. One came from Brother Beckstrand responding to me introducing myself by saying "My FAVORITE daughter!" or Sister Beckstrand saying "We talked about you just last night about how you changed our lives, why don't you talk to Bro. again and give him a good laugh, you mean everything to us." I've come to realize that countless are the ways to show love, its not just in a language or a gesture. Its seen in the eyes and felt in the heart.
Countless are the memories. Countless is the joy.
I love you all!
Hermana Hamilton

I came to Georgia for those types of experiences.

Oh hey there!

It's me again, here to update you on my life. Its a good life these days :) I've got lots of stories and things to share so.. get excited! Really though its just been a really great week, I even did a few things I never thought I would be able to do so that's a bonus!

I'll start with something that is most on my mind, naturally. I have to say goodbye to these people soon. Its the worst and best thing all wrapped into one. Worst because I feel like my heart is ripped out each time I move to a different city let alone states away.. But the best because I'll then be able to call people whenever I want :) And I'll get to be with my crazy wonder fun family who I've missed. Georgia will always be home and the people here forever family. Its strange to feel the Lord preparing me to go home. For "everything there is a season" (Ecclesiasties 3:1) and my season as a full time missionary with a tag on is coming to a close. But its all good. I have no regrets and have loved every second, and will continue to do so for another 2 weeks.

Some of our Branch YSA. We teach them mission prep :)
I got a text in the middle of the week that said because I go home so soon I can call anyone from any of my past areas and invite them to my farewell fireside. So each night I end the day with a few phone calls to some of the people I love so much here. Those phone calls are just the best. I get all sorts of reactions :) And I LOVE hearing the Southern Accent again. (Please don't make fun of me too much when I use Southern phrases..)

Last night I called Sister Wooten, of course that name probably means nothing to you, but it means everything to me. She's from my first area, and when I got there she had only been to church a couple times in 30 years. She's a hoot and a tad crazy sometimes so truthfully I wondered if she would even remember me.. Well last night on the phone with her she proudly reported she hasn't missed a Sunday these last 15 months since I last saw her. That she's gone from reading 1 chapter of the Book of Mormon a week to 2 chapters EVERY MORNING and never misses, and she writes a summary for the sisters every day. When I saw her I used to always up her reading assignment so that made me happy to hear. She's almost finished with the Book of Mormon for a second time. She read to me the letter I wrote in the Book of Mormon I gave her and practically quoted my Christmas card, and just talked about how much she missed me. You're probably thinking why is she telling us this? The reason is it just made me so happy. Happy to know not only had I made a small difference, but that she was still doing well. She's the Gospel Principles teacher now too. I came to Georgia for those types of experiences.

 Our fun picnic! :)

We had a fun little picnic this week with Stefanie, her baby, Julieta, and other family members. It was beautiful! Its so green here its amazing :) My favorite part was the lesson we did. We taught the "Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith" and because there was one person who didn't speak any Spanish we ended up doing it in both languages. The Spirit was so strong, its like I can feel it now just thinking about it. Ivan had never heard the Restoration before and I'm always amazed to see the light that literally comes to their eyes when we quote the 1st vision. We then decided to give them a little preview of our special musical number and sang "Yo se que vive mi Señor" it was so amazing to see Stefanie start singing along to her little baby and see her family feel the love of God. It was amazing. I came to Georgia for those types of experiences. Another miracle was Hma Garcia Valle started talking and Ivan was just looking confused, then I realized oh.. its because she's speaking in Spanish and he doesn't speak Spanish. I waited but quickly realized Hma Martinez wasn't translating. It became one of those situations.. Sink or swim. Fly or die. So.. yours truly translated for little Ivan (Ivans not little btw... it just sounds better) Thank goodness I have a solid Gospel Vocabulary and she wasn't speaking too complex, otherwise we both would have been lost! haha

An Elder in our branch had to go home this weekend because of some medical things. Its always so sad to see your friends leave early.. Its hard enough when people leave at the end of a transfer. Missionary work is so hard and its always SOO sad when the body can't keep up with the demands of a full-time mission. The day he called us to tell us we hurried and got him some candy for the flight and went to wish him good luck. And then.. it rained for 3 days. Even Georgia didn't want to see him leave. Speaking of the rain.. its usually so hot here that I've really learned to like the heat and humidity.. On one of the rainy days it was like 70 degrees.. I was FREEZING and needed a sweater which of course I didn't have with me.. What has become of me? How will I ever survive Rexburg?

So somehow I forgot my planner at an appointment and then none of us were on the same page.. and out of no where we realized that we had scheduled 4 appointments the same night. Uh.. WOOPS! So that left us with having to do splits, we really didn't have any other option. It didn't take long before I already felt prompted that I needed to go to our lesson with Cristal and Hma GV said the exact same thing. The only thing was BOTH of my companions felt like they needed to go to the other appointment at the same time. Do you see the dilemma? Me.. not fluent in Spanish.. Going to our teaching appointment being in charge of the ENTIRE lesson with a member to just basically be there to testify and not let me be alone. Excuse me? 

Our companionship
So I did just that. I took Giselle to our lesson with Cristal and taught the whole time. It honestly still feels so surreal. Its amazing the things we can do with the help of the Lord. And its like I've said all along, I'm pretty mute a lot of the time (besides lots of laughs and smiles).. but NEVER when the Lord needs or wants me to speak. Giselle asked Cristal to recap her experience of how she met missionaries and how she's felt as we've been teaching her, and I was so thankful to be there. It was wonderful. She talked about the first time we came (my first day as a Spanish Sister mind you) and then just went through each lesson and how she always felt our love and felt something different. She said things really started to change after we had a lesson when we focused on her children and taught them how to pray. She said many days after that lesson she overheard her oldest son Dominique praying.. As he said the following she said her heart just felt so warm and she knew she couldn't turn back from what she'd been learning. He said.. "Padre Celestial, te damos gracias por las hermanas..." She said "You always say te damos gracias I knew he learned it from you. And then I just knew you were teaching good things. Everything you teach is making my home a happier place to be."  I came to Georgia for those types of experiences.

I could go on and on about that lesson but to save your eyes I wont.. But let me just say it was amazing and hilarious at times thanks to the kids :) Such as them trying to share their mexican hard candy with me.. mmmm yummy.. Children slobber and candy all over my face and hands..  Guess they are just getting me ready to be home around my great nieces and nephews :)

The last thing I want to talk about is yesterday and how it was such a great day!! To save some room and to make it so I can type faster I'll do some bullet points.
  • I was walking down the hall to Sunday School and then I hear my name.. At church no one ever says "Sister Hamilton" in English its always "Hermana Hamilton" but that's not what I heard.. I heard "Sister". So I look up almost confused and to my surprise there's Brandon and Jackie! Brandon is someone that we had started teaching a year ago in Johns Creek and then the Elders took over and he was baptized while we were still there. Jackie is his girl friend from the Johns Creek ward. :) He just moved up this way and this was his first Sunday in the congregation here. It made me so happy to see that he's still attending church and they both seem so happy. Once again, I came to Georgia for those types of experiences
  • As we were waiting for Sacrament meeting to start I see Cristal walking quickly into the chapel her hair still wet. Her baby was sick this morning and she wasn't going to make it.. But she said the baby stopped puking so she showered and put on a dress and came as fast as she could leaving the sick kids with Dad. Her and her 3 yr old made it just in time to hear us sing :) The members of our little congregation were so excited to see her and we're having a big dinner with her and her new friends from church tonight! woot woot!
  • So as I'm talking with Cristal I recognize a familiar face entering the back.. Lulu!! I literally ran. Literal running in the chapel. Don't do that at home kids! :) But I was just so excited!!! It was so good to see her and she looked so so happy!! :) BEST DAY EVER!! 
  • Our musical number went really well :) Sister Bennion (our mission presidents wife) played the piano for us and we got 2 other companionships of sisters to join us. It was great! It was cute how excited our members were. They don't ever get musical numbers so it was a big treat.
Well, I believe that's all I have for you :) I know what youre thinking.. FINALLY SHE'S DONE my eyes are KILLING me hahah :) But lets be honest.. I could talk and talk and talk.

I love you all!! Heres to another amazing week :)

Love,
Hermana Hamilton

P.S. If you would like a funny story.. We were at dinner and this sweet member talks sooooo fast. So I mean I understand most but not all becuase its sooo fast. Well she's swearing up a storm and being hilarious and I'm just listening because I can't repsond fast enough with her talking so fast. Well out of no where she asks Hma Garcia Valle if I can understand what she's saying. So naturally I respond saying that i can most.. HAHA oh my!! She was shocked! The look on her face was priceless. Hma GV explained that I would understand all of it if she didn't talk so fast but that most likely I was understanding most of the conversation. Next thing I know she is telling me her son is single and she would happily teach me how to make rice and beans and chile so we could have a happy life together. HAHA I love how shocked people get when they realized I followed the entire conversation :)

More pictures!

Tell Scott and Chelsea that while we were planning in the morning I tried to put on my ringpop to practice for an engagement ring like they said I had to.. but then I realized that it was not even on the ring... is that a bad omen? HAHA

Saying bye! 

eating Chinese.. its always a go to when you get sad news

me with Lulu :)


SIster Mitton and Garcia Valle using me as a pillow while we are waiting for our interviews with president at 7:30am

"Apply SON screen to avoid a SIN burn"




What up Family!! :)
Please take a second to take in that glorious church sign. :) I really think that is one of the things I will miss so much about the South. How on earth do they get so creative? haha 

We've seen a lot of miracles which has been a total blessing and overall I'm thrilled. Life's really really really great. Today I saw one miracle in particular that made me super happy so I'm going to share it first. :)
Once upon a time I had a roommate named Lulu.. who was from Marietta Georgia whose family went to a Spanish branch. And I tried to track her/her family down for 17.5 months so that I could see her. No luck. Sisters would tell me they saw her I'd ask them to give her my email, pretty sure they never did.. And alas.. no Lulu for Hamilton. Then this morning we were at breakfast with the Kings (la Familia Reyes) :) and Chi asked me to type my name into her Facebook so she could add me as a friend. She was then looking on my Facebook and said "Wait.. how do you know her?" Pointing to a picture of Lulu and I. We talked and next thing I know we're taking a picture and she's messaging it to Lulu who responds and they have a nice little chit chat. :) Lulu says she's going to come to church to see me. 17.5 months of searching TOTALLY worth it. I am SOO excited to see a face from home! :)
Other items of business that I have to talk about now so I don't forget. This is for you Paul, so listen up! I have learned how to make the best "Chile" ever. You are going to LOVE it. So.. You need to have the following ingredients ready for me when I get home so that I can teach you and you can love it as much as I do. Its seriously delicious on EVERYTHING. So.. 10 habaneros, 3 limes, 1 red onion, 1 bushel of cilantro, white rice vinegar, and olive oil. I don't think I'm forgetting anything.. And Heidi, yes I am getting lots of good recipes and learning so I can share :)

I went to the Drs this week for my first "annual" skin check, since I had to have the mole and such taken out. Best and funniest response from Dr. Raman "Well good news. No cutting today!" Uh.. thanks? haha You could have just said "everything looks great!" So I'm all good and don't have to have that.. experience.. for another year :)
Okay so back to some real missionary stuff.. Like always the week seems like a total blur and I have no clue what happened what day or where to start. So let me start with the World Cup. I kept hearing about how it was opening up so many doors for missionaries all over the place and quite frankly I just didn't believe them. Because we always got one of two responses.. 1. NO response at all or 2. The games on can you come a different time? Cool. Well we were tracting on Saturday and this family answers the door I say family because I'm pretty sure there were like 5 people. And the game was on but the game put them in such a good mood they ALL came out to talk to us. First those 5.. then a ton of kids.. then Abuela.. then more.. and more.. haha Next thing we know we're all having to yell to talk because everyone is just so happy. We asked if we could say a prayer so the cute old Abuelo yells to have everyone be quiet so we can say a prayer with all of them. What?? Did that really just happen? Why yes. And yes I am still in shock. So that was my world cup miracle story and it actually was about the church, not just me getting a sneak peak at the game :)
Let me tell you about Elizabeth and her family because they are totally another miracle of our week. We got her information from other sister missionaries who tracted into her and her family, but the thing was I knew I had knocked on that door before. Mom, you know how I am about remembering numbers and such.. I just knew that address. So when we got there and I saw her son who we had met a few weeks before I remembered.. We had met him while his mom was teaching Zumba and I had the strongest feeling we needed to go back. And we had once but no one was there.. It was so amazing to see the Lord provide a way for us to meet them again and start teaching them. Its amazing how perfect His plans are.
So we taught them and they are just awesome! We were able to teach the family twice last week and are teaching them again tomorrow. They didn't come to church but lets be honest.. A lot of the branch members didn't even stay for all of it because of the World Cup haha. I was really thankful to be able to teach them and contribute in the lesson. Its always the BEST DAY EVER when I can actually speak and teach. Remember, some days the language is easy others its ROUGHSKIES! :) But most of all I'm thankful that the Lord provided us a way to go back again and teach that family.
One night we were tracting and a sweet woman Lucy. She let us right in and within a few minutes tears streamed down her face. She told us how we came right at her breaking point and she didn't know how much further she could go. She's so worried about her daughter who still lives in Mexico with her husband and baby and was just sad. A big blessing was that she was actually taught by missionaries a few years ago so she let us in right away because she recognized our tags. The Lords timing really is simply beautiful!
Let me finish off this gem of a letter with telling the story of the wonderful birthday party for the one and only Juanita :) It was our dinner for the night so that was awesome! :) haha I especially loved when everyone sang Las Mañanitas and things went CRAZY. I even took a video it was so funny. Then poor Juanita basically shoved her own cake in her face so that Hmo Tonini didn't do it to her. haha I also was attacked by cake and it landed in my eye. cool. Really though, I just love these people. I love that you can see that they are each others family. They are absolutely amazing examples of pure love and service and I learn so much from them. I cannot imagine my mission without them. If nothing else, I was here to learn spanish so that I could learn from their love and example.
I love you all!! have a great week!!!
Love,
Hermana Hamilton
P.S. Scott and Chelsea! Happy Anniversary and thanks for the marriage package.. HAHAH I LAUGHED SOOO HARD. #17months #classy :) I loved it. I didn't believe my companion that it was really for me. Very nice! :)

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Lord Hears Our Pleas.

Hey Everyone! 

(Warning: This email is long.)



Did you know that serving a mission costs $400 a month? Missionaries get to email home once a week which usually ends up being 4 times a month depending on where the calendar falls. That means each email I write should in theory be worth $100 because its all y'all really get to hear from me and my adventures. My emails are my "payback" for your support, whether its financial, emotional, or social. That's been my motto my whole mission (having $100 emails) sometimes I succeeded, other times.. Eh.. Last week I feel like it was more of a eh kind of letter. Which is fine because there were 5 Mondays in June not 4 so it was okay to be worth less :) HAHA Really though including today I only have 5 more Mondays. So I have $500 of emails to write.. I sure hope I'm able to pull it off. 

This week was really great. We saw a lot of miracles. Of course there were some challenges, as there always are, but this week I felt like I really learned a lot. I feel selfish sometimes.. I mean I'm here to help others to learn and grow etc but some days I feel like I'm not doing a very good job at helping them but instead am stealing the personal growth for myself. And that's what I want to share with you this week. Specific experiences I've had this week which gave me personal growth. All of which are centered around the statement: The Lord Hears Our Pleas. 

Lake Lanier for Pday!
Let me start with the miracle of fasting. There is such a great power in prayer and fasting, or as the scriptures call it "rejoicing and fasting." This power is so magnificent that to some it might seem unreal. I was so thankful to be fasting with a common purpose as so many of those I love, it really helped me to feel close to everyone and feel their love in return. We also fasted for some specific blessings as a companionship, one of them being to have someone come to church. 

We try so hard to help people come to church, we invite EVERYONE we meet. But alas.. no one.. ever.. comes. In Branch counsel a few weeks ago some of the members asked us "Elders and Sisters, do you even invite people to church? Why aren't they here?" And it basically crushed me. We really can only do so much.. Teach them the importance of it, promise blessings, share experiences, offer rides, etc. But in the end it has to be the choice of the individual. So Saturday evening while I was saying the prayer to begin our fast as a companionship I felt super impressed to ask that the Lord provide a way for Cristal to come to church as we really have done ALL that we can do. It was one of those moments where I really just gave it all to the Lord and asked not just for a miracle but asked for what seemed the impossible. Because I mean.. she hadn't returned a single phone call all week. Sunday morning came and we were in Relief Society waiting for it to start when one of the Hermanas asked us to help the new woman at the end of the hall know where her children should go. Still not thinking anything of it I smiled big and said we'd love to. As we opened the door to the hall I almost felt myself falling to my knees in gratitude when I realized that that "new sister" wasn't new to us at all, but was Cristal who felt prompted to come to church today alone with her 3 children age 4 and under. AND CAME. The Lord Hears Our Pleas.

We are currently teaching a mission prep class to some people in the congregation preparing to leave on their missions and its just awesome! This week we taught about how to be a "successful missionary" so naturally I've done a lot of introspection to see whether or not I would consider myself successful. I certainly haven't been a perfect missionary, I've made my fair share of mistakes, but overall I'm happy. Its funny because I went through each of my areas and asked myself questions like "did I do my best here?" "did I help SOMEONE here?" "did I fulfill what the Lord asked of me there?" "What was MY individual purpose being there?" Etc etc. and I felt like all of them I was able to give answers fairly easily except this last area.. I still sometimes wonder why I'm here, especially speaking Spanish. But then.. once again.. The Lord Heard My Plea and taught me.. 

President and Sister Bennion
My favorite people to work with as a missionary are members of the church. Those who come every week, those who haven't come in a few weeks, and even those who haven't come in years. If there's one thing I know, everyone needs missionaries. Why? Because the entire purpose of a missionary is to help others to feel of the love that God has for them. Too often we think the missionary purpose is simply to "find and teach and baptize" oh hosh posh. That's not it! Its to invite or help others to come closer to Christ and His love. To help them realize their worth and potential. Simply, to help them. 

I love Julieta. She is the sweetest woman and I especially love her daughters Yadira and Stefani. Yadira is wonderful, she's a single mom with 3 children and has basically adopted us as well. She's the one we call at the end of the month when we have one roll of toilet paper and no money (haha) and she's the one that calls us to see if we're hungry because she just made us lunch. Because that's what Hispanics do.. they feed you to show you love :) 

Some weeks ago Julieta had us over for dinner (she lives with Stefani and her family) and Stefani look a liking to Hermana Garcia Valle and I. :) We had a great time talking and she opened up to us about why she hasn't been to church in 11 years and doesn't plan on coming back.. We ate again with them this week and Stefani was SO excited. She had bought us hair stuff (which is making my hair NICE btw) and we had a great time! I'd been having a kind of rough day and I really was just recharged being there. And so thankful that she pulled me aside to say "Aug 6th comes way to fast. You need to start coming to see me more often. You can't leave yet. You hear me?" I just assured her that I'll get a real person phone when I get home and we'll be friends :) So to thank Stefani for her love and kindness and show her how much we cared we decided to heart attach her..

So we show up and.. they are home doing yard work! CODE BLUE!! So we make up the excuse of needing to use the restroom.. haha Classy. But while my companions were inside "using the restroom" they decorated the fridge and left the letter we wrote. We were about 5 min down the road and Stefani calls us. I don't think I have ever heard her so happy! :) Julieta saw us at church and said Stefani cried because she felt so loved and happy and asked Julieta to sign her up to feed us this week. Remember... Food=Love these days. :) I then realized something.. 

Is that the world cup at a restaurant?? Of course not.. :)
I am here speaking Spanish.. And yes I teach in Spanish.. I make phone calls in Spanish.. I testify in Spanish.. I talk to people in Spanish.. But sometimes its hard because I feel so limited.. And I  found myself wishing there was ONE person I was here for to touch their heart in English so that I wouldn't feel so limited by the language.. And then I realized the growth in Stefani.. And that she feels loved. And that is all I care about. That the people I serve know they are loved by the Lord first and then by me. And then to see that the Lord had given me someone to talk to and help in English (her husband doesn't speak Spanish so its only English there) made me realize.. Once again, He heard my prayers. Even the prayers and pleas in Spanish ;)

Now that I have absolutely written to much and talked your ear off let me just tell you of two more of my favorite experiences we had this week. :) Quickly, I promise!!

1. We taught Rosa and Lydia (they are sisters we are teaching) and all of their kids together. That's 2 adults and 7 children in case you were wondering. So we decided to act out Lehi's dream. It was awesome! We had a rope, blind fold, and a picture of Christ. Then we read scriptures outside and would blind fold the kid and have them find the "iron rod" it was the best! So hilarious! Then of course the kids decided it was our turn and did it to us too. I was basically tackled while being blind folded by an 8 year old, she was being good opposition to not get to the rod. HAHA 

2. Maria Luna (someone we tried to teach for awhile but couldn't get in with for over a month) let us come over yesterday morning to meet her daughter and requested we say a prayer for her daughter before she went back to Virginia (her daughter is in the Navy). So we talk and then they start telling us specifics to pray for and Hma Martinez takes notes because Hma Garcia Valle asked her to say the prayer. Out of no where Hma GV asks Maria who she wants to say the prayer and I'm thinking "uh.. I thought Martinez was going to do this?" And of course Maria responds "La Americana." That's me in case you were wondering.. She asked me if I spoke Spanish.. I told her I had only been learning for 7 weeks but I'd do my best. So I grab Hma Martinez's notes and of course they are in English! I can't translate that fast! haha Well.. The Gift of Tongues is real. I was able to pray for all they asked and actually express the thoughts of my heart and the words just came. It was such a miracle. And I think an amazing thing was afterward Maria said that if "the American" can learn to speak Spanish that fast she can learn English. haha So we now have appointments to teach her English and she gave us permission to use the Book of Mormon to help her learn it because that is how I've learned. Miracles all around! :)

Now I'm going to go and let your eyes have a break. I hope that was worth $100 in your eyes! :) 

Just know that I am thankful for all of your support. I know the Lord hears and answers our pleas. The answers often come when we are almost at our breaking point and to the edge between light and dark. But when we take a step forward, into the dark, He will immediately illuminate the way so we can walk that much more forward. Years ago I prayed to gain a testimony of the Gospel in another language. This week I finally felt my Spanish was "good enough" to use the footnotes and understand the references.. It was like the gospel just unfolded and I learned so much. He answers our prayers in His timing. 

The Lord Hears our Pleas. 

I love you!
Love,
Hermana Hamilton

Monday, June 30, 2014

"But I CAN tell you, you're being transferred."

Hello!! :)

Now now brown cow, don't get all sappy or worried that I'm being emergency transferred in my last area. That my friends, is not the case. On Transfer day President Wolfert pulled me into his office and said "Sister Hamilton.. I don't know if you know this but you're going to be transferred very soon. I don't know who your companion is going to be, but I can tell you that you're being transferred and your new companion will be a boy." HAHA Okay President! He then said he wanted to do a semi exit interview with me because I'd always be his missionary even though President Bennion will actually give me my real exit interview. So that was a fun marriage talk, he's requested to interview that lucky fellow haha Really though, it was such a blessing and joy to be able to talk with him about my mission, the miracles, and the personal growth I've had. He gave me a really really sweet blessing which I am also so thankful for. They leave today, which is a super bummer. We'll be meeting President and Sister Bennion tomorrow. I promised President Wolfert that I would listen to him and do what he says (for one month..haha) but that President Wolfert will always be my mission president. So here's to one month with the Bennions after 17.5 with the Wolferts! 

We've had a really good week seriously, the Lord blesses his new missionaries like crazy! Its like Hma Martinez got here and became our little good luck charm! All of a sudden a bunch of the people we are teaching actually are reading the Book of Mormon, we have tons of new individuals and families to teach, and we're busy. WHAT A BLESSING! I'm so happy! :) Hma Martinez was also born in Mexico but then grew up mostly in Texas. My first companion assigned to me that wasn't from Utah or Idaho, can we get a round of applause? :) haha She's just barley 19 and studied at BYU for one year. She's really funny and super sweet. We're having a lot of fun. Life's good! 

We taught Cristal again this week about keeping the Sabbath Day Holy. She's so wonderful! We haven't seen her in a few weeks but to our surpise she had read 14 chapters of the Book of Mormon. Umm Did that really just happen? Why yes. yes it did! She really has so much faith, I am so thankful to be able to teach her. 

We have had a lot of fun this week as Giselle Ramirez came back from her mission. Um.. She entered the MTC the same day I did.. and got home this week.. Weird? YES! SOOO WEIRD FOR ME! But she is SO fun! And comes out with us for lessons all the time so its a blast. And we're hanging out today. I feel like a real person with real friends. #blessing Between little miss returned missionary and Megan down the street I'm basically lovin' life and loving having friends visit! We've also made extremely good friends with our neighbor Shannon. She's a doll :) We do a lot of service for her so its awesome! 

We said a bunch of prayers with people tracting. And a lot of them were in English so I loved that :) Because that meant I got to really express myself in prayer. One of them was a sweet family from Jamaica and they have already let the English sisters go over and teach them again. It was so neat to teach them twice and then see that they are actually still meeting with other missionaries. Soo cool! 

Blanca and Carlos are letting us come back and Blanca is starting to show more interest which is another huge blessing! So lifes good :)

I don't sleep.. like at all.. I'm having way bad insomnia. So if you wanted to pray for me to sleep.. I'd really appreciate it. I'm running out of things to write or clean in the middle of the night. 

Sorry I don't have a lot of time to email today.. there aren't enough computers for our tripanionship. But just know that I love you! I'm doing well, I'm healthy and happy! Lots of good coming our way. I'm really thankful for my companions. Especially Hma Garcia Valle, she is so helpful with my spanish and is such a good friend. She's awesome. And its going to be real helpful having two companions that had Spanish as their first language.

Well.. Love you all!!! Wish me luck meeting the Bennions tomorrow

Love,
Hermana Hamilton

One year older and wiser, too!


 Hello Hello! 

Today is my B-Day P-Day :) Which means we are just relaxing and hanging out, and soon we'll be heading out to see Sister Beasley and Sister Winegar. Sister Mitton and Sister Sullivan made me breakfast this morning which was super fun too :) 

My actual birthday (yesterday) was pretty uneventful if you ask me.. But it was really good too. Just a normal day for a missionary. Church, meetings, tracting, a couple lessons, and studies. Although it was a  huge bummer that virtually no one was nice to us the first hour we went tracting. I was so tempted to say "Can you please just be nice to me..? Its my birthday." But I didn't.. People were nicer when we tracted in the evening, a super old couple we talked to a few days ago were out on their porch again and were actually excited to see us so it was fun to sit down on their porch and chat with them for a bit. I got a package from the Grants and Mom and Dad :) thanks so much! YUMMY! 

To wake me up Hermana Garcia Valle jumped on me at 6:05 and sang to me this song they sing in Mexico to wake up the birthday girl/boy. It was hilarious even though I was totally out of it. haha She then made me a yummy "mexican" breakfast and decorated the apartment. It was a good morning! :) The Branch was really sweet and everyone said birthday wishes. We left church to find a completely decorated car :) Christa from Coal Mountain got my phone number from the internet and called me, it was the absolute best! She then passed it on to Momma Aeschbacher who sent me a nice text :) My little birthday miracle was when the Ramirez's pulled out a cake for my birthday and I realized it was an ice cream cake, my favorite. They had no idea which made the surprise even better. I was so thankful! I do love my ice cream cakes! 

I'm not exactly sure what I should talk about this week.. It was kind of rough if I'm going to be completely honest. But I mean it was really good too. Rough because it was one of those weeks when you really can't get in to teach any of the people you're teaching, so it makes the days really really long.Rough because you have days of long meetings so it moves your study schedule and when you get back your spanish is crap..(Just being honest) But so good because we did a lot of service, which always help you feel like you are making a difference.And good because we had a lot of fun and had some good experiences tracting and visiting members of the congregation. 

The week started off really awesome, monday night we had an awesome FHE then embarked on a journey to attend a Pentecostal Church in Spanish with one of the people we are teaching. Well, we showed up and to our surprise not only was Lidia there with her family but also another family. making a total of 3 adults and 5 children that we knew at the church. You're probably wondering why I went into such specific detail but its important I promise.. You see.. there were only 10 adults total in this little congregation.. Two of them being Hermana Garcia Valle and I.. Why yes if we include ourselves and those we know it was half the congregation and over half the kids.. To our neat surprise the Pastor totally derails what he had originally started teaching and then starts talking about how the Lord puts you in whatever church you're in to grow and that there is no need to ever change or attend other churches. Thanks bud.. Those families have let us come back but you can tell they are way more hesitant now.. so that was exciting. 
Tuesday we taught a part-member family when they had us for lunch. It was a lot of fun :) We ended up seeing them like 3 times this week as we did service for them. Yadira (the mom) made us the BEST food. I love her :) She's retired from the Army and is hilarious. I learn so much from her as she is always serving members in the congregation and giving all she can to those in need. I hope to always be willing to give all when others are in greater need than myself. 

Tuesday also happened to be the Mitton's birthday. :) So we had a lot of fun making her breakfast in the morning and then bringing her a "district meeting" package of lots of goodies to keep her entertained in our lovely missionary meetings. #classy :) Its really fun to have her so close. 
We are working closely with Chy, a girl in our branch who is about to put in her papers :) President Ramirez has asked that we teach her and her brother mission prep at their home once a week so we are going to start that this week and she's going to start coming out with us to lessons. She's really awesome :) I love that family! Her older brother gave us some awesome CD's from his mission, one of them is Spanish Christian music.. um.. That stuff is beautiful! 

Hermana Garcia Valle and I are both training this coming transfer, there's one more spanish sister coming in so we'll be in a trio for my last transfer. It was fun to go to the "new trainer" meeting.. again.. Training program round 4.. Guess I didn't learn it well enough the first 3 times? haha It was fun to have another  meeting with President Wolfert. There were literally NO sisters at the meeting so we went out to lunch with the senior couples :) I just love them!! So yup! there were 3 missionaries ? I don't know what to call them anymore.. They used to serve here but they have since gone home.. Anyways they came here to visit so it was fun to see them. Like seeing Sister Young, err.. Rachel, at church yesterday (my trainer)soooo weird! :)
So.. I think thats about it! Besides that just the same old same old stuff day to day. I hope you all have a great week! 

Don't forget about me and please keep me in your prayers! :) I'll try to decide what pictures to send. We take about 90 pictures on average each week.. so.. haha So I really am happy life is good, its just a little discouraging sometimes to not speak as well as I'd really like to and find people who are willing to come to church. But hey, the show must go on and there's work for me to do! :)

I love you all!!! 
Love,
Hermana Hamilton

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Love and Smiles!

Hey Everyone!!

Happy Birthday Week! :)  Once again I hope you had a great week! Overall my week was pretty fun and full of miracles, a few struggles here and there of course but all in all fantastic!
 
Thats our girls day at the mall!! :)
The week started off SO RIGHT on last P-day at the Mall of Georgia. The first store we walked past was H&M and we both said how much we love that store so we went in even though we were supposed to be finding something for Hma Garcia's dad. Well as we were just looking at all the cute clothes I see someone I recognize trying to sneak up on me.. So I turned around and saw that it was Sister Winegar! She's serving in Dacula right now and her companion is.. Sister Beasley! The four Sisters (another companionship came with them) got permission to leave their area and come to the Mall of Georgia which happens to be right across the street from our apartment. BEST DAY EVER!! So the 6 of us just roamed the mall and had the best time ever. It was a real answer to prayers because I had actually had time to read Sis Beasleys email home last week which talked about her Great-Grandpa passing away and I really wanted to see her so I was planning on calling her that night, and instead Heavenly Father let us all "bumb" into each other at the Mall of Georgia. We all really had the BEST time ever!! Sister Winegar and I walked off at somepoint to go get a snack and walked to the store the sisters were supposed to go to.. and they apparently didn't stick to the plan. No big deal, we'll call them, right? WRONGO. Missionaries have only one phone per companionship.. And us dingbats didn't think to see if either of us had a phone.. #missionaryprobs haha So we wandered the Mall for over an hour periodically asking random people to use their phone but of course Hma Garcia and Sis Beasley don't answer. haha #storyofmylife It was a lot of fun though. At least we had car keys :)
 
Service and the World Cup.. what could be better? :)
We had a lot of other really cool miracles and fun experiences this week! Let me list a few:
  • We were able to teach Lidia and her family again and her daughter and nieces LOVE us. While we were knocking more doors in her neighborhood we actually knocked on the door of her sister who said she'd love to have us come and do a lesson about Chirst with them as well :) Now whenever we go to that neighborhood we get swarmed by the kids in those families. Its the cutest thing!
  • We did service at a Methodist church helping them get ready for their Vacation Bible School. It was cool to see how excited the members were to have us there helping. We helped to decorate and Hermana Garcia and I were put in charge of painting the windows to look like a cartoonist version of a jungle. It was a lot of fun! We're going back this week to help some more :)
  • The elders met a woman tracting and asked us to go back and see her. Blanca let us right in and a few minutes later her husband Carlos came home. Carlos LOVED the message we shared, we left them a Book of Mormon and when we came back the next day Carlos had already read a chapter in it and prayed about it. <--Wow! They just recently got here from Mexico and have two little kids, its such a cute family! They couldn't come to church this Sunday because they had to work but we are going to see them again tomorrow and are hoping to get them to come to church.
  •  We are teaching a young single mom named Claudia. and I do mean young.. She's 23 with 3 children.. Uh.. I'm going to be 23 on Saturday. Anyways.. not important :) Claudia is the sweetest thing, and absolutely loved the Restoration. I was surpised to have been able to teach half of the lesson in Spanish. Her daughters are absolutely precious! They came to our Branch Fathers Day party this weekend and I think they had a good time :) Unfortunately the baby got sick so they also couldn't make it to church. But she's been texting us scriptures all morning, so I think that's a good sign :)
  • We had a legit fiesta this weekend. Spanish Branches know how to party! haha It was Hollywood themed and everyone just seemed so happy. I love these people! I'm able to comminucate much better these days which is a HUGE blessing. So its all good :)
  • We were at the Tonini's this week (our Relief Society President) to help get things ready for the fathers day party and.. Hermano Tonini told us that he refused to turn off the TV when he answered the door. As I walked in I saw a little blessing.. just for me.. Its called the World Cup. You heard of it? Spain vs. Holland :) OYYYYY so good! I mean I didn't watch the game obviously.. :) but any time I heard yelling I of course took a glance or 8 :) I LOVE soccer!! Its the big talk everywhere we go. I hope USA does well today! 
So yea, its been a really great week. We found a lot more people to teach which is really nice, life's always better when you have more people to visit. 

So, my Spanish.. Its coming along :) Some days are better than others.. Some days I feel like I don't even know how to say my own name.. Others I just talk and talk and talk.. Its strange. I study grammar non stop, and just in the past like 3 days I feel like its finally starting to sink in and I'm able to construct sentences in all tenses SO much easier, which is a huge blessing. Of course its started to come when I almost hit my breaking point.. haha 

The absolute biggest miracle happened yesterday around.. 1pm when I spoke in Sacrament meeting. Lets be honest.. I was NERVOUS. I know what you're thinking. You? Nervous to speak in public? Not possible.. And I didn't think it was either but I was SO nervous it do it in another language! We were so busy all week I didn't have time to practice it at all. I had only read through the completely translated thing once, I mean I knew what it said because Hma Garcia helped me to translate the parts that I couldn't and I had done all of my prep-work/studies for it in Spanish.. but ya.. 

To make a long story short, as soon as I got up there and just started talking I wasn't nervous at all. It was such a blessing! I ended up speaking for a little over 15 minutes, not even kidding! I left the end of my talk open ended so that I could finish it in any way that I felt that I should. Which I'm not going to lie was probably a huge risk haha However, to my surprise as I finished what I had prepared and started to speak without a script words kept filling my mouth and I just kept teaching and sharing my testimony. I would look over at Hma Garcia as I was talking to make sure I was even making sense and she always had the biggest grin on and would just nod her head to let me know I was doing it right. It was one of the coolest experiences ever! The Spirit really can do miracles when you are willing to follow. There is no way I could have done that, having only been learning Spanish for one month without the Spirit of the Lord. 

That would be our "Zone" aka all the missionaries I serve around. And that would be me and Sister Spainhower making the picture much more entertaining :) 
Once again I am reminded that the Lord qualifies who He calls, but it is always in His own timing and His own way. I am amazed daily at the love He has for all of the men and women on earth. His love is perfect and His love will work miracles in our lives if we allow it. 

I love you all!! 
Love and Smiles,
Hermana Hamilton

Pictures!

Christa!! :)
Sister Parker and I at Zone meeting :)

The Shinkles!
Mall of Georgia :)
 Our Fathers Day party with the Branch :) Just having fun taking pictures on the red carpet 
Sister Paulsen and I

Sister Anguiano :) She had her twins a few weeks ago :)

Road trip!

When you go to the middle of no where.. Aka North of Commerce GA.. Its not uncommon for dogs to swarm the car once you park. And this was my new friend. I named him buster :)