Tuesday, 25 June 2013

"Vince," "Chucking, " MoTab, Postponed Baptism, & Clean Kitchen!

Dear Family and Friend (on the blog)

Things have been a bit crazy. Hopefully you've seen the pictures I've sent of late as I'm now going to attach and discuss some more. 


First thing is my wonderful new bike who has tentatively recieved the name Vince. He's awesome, though I still cringe at his value in pounds and cringe even more when that gets converted to dollars. I hope and pray that that all works out. He's an XL and fits nicely. The mudguards are absolutely necessary as you can imagine and will see from a later picture of Elder Wood changing into rain gear during my first real bike ride in the rain. Because our area lacks in Public transportation and is too spread out and hilly to bike (much like Sonora) much, we get a lot of rides from members, especially our Senior Couple the Darracqs.

Elder Wood on this weird coaster rail park toy thing that was really cool. The parks here are awesome. This one is a bit out from Stroud and we don't have many near our flat but it's still pretty cool.

Our kitchen sink (post cleaning inspections). It's the only picture I think I've sent of our flat which is really quite dingy but is looking up since cleaning.

Our investigator Gareth who was going to be baptised had his baptismal date indefinitely postponed. This was quite heartbreaking as we were really praying and hoping that he would be ready. He hasn't yet received the answer that the Book of Mormon and Church are true and is stuck on a few things. The date of Jun 22 which we invited him to was definitely inspired though and he's progressing and will be baptised just not quite now. Our other real investigator isn't answering our calls (on the phone or at the door) and is worrying us as we'd only visited him twice in the one week we'd known him. So, we're working on the other people who need help and hopefully looking for more investigators.

I found the MoTab greatest Hits CD in our Flat! It's awesome because I can listen to it. I didn't think I'd miss music that much but it's nice to have those familiar songs. I'd totally thought of packing this exact CD too. It surfaced at a miraculous time as well and was definitely an answer to a prayer. Thanks to whichever sister (from the last 10 years in which our flat was occupied by Sister missionaries) left that there!

These two pictures go together. They are taken at the same time. It's remarkable because though it's a bad picture, it's still light outside at some time after 9! Also, not pictured and to the right is a barn where someone houses and feeds all the pigeons in the town. It's kind of odd and I'm still trying to figure out why it's there. It's funny to see the pigeons walk in and out of these little doors right outside our window.

The Liking Helmet of Awesomeness was a souvenir of our member friend from Cheese Rolling a while back. It's pretty funny. He's a great guy and always willing to help us with whatever we need.

Ducking in to a tunnel when it started chucking it (how English people say raining hard) as we biked through Stonehouse, a village adjoining Stroud.
I'd love to write more but am worried about time.  Things are going well and I'm learning a lot. I'm looking forward to your letters and hopefully writing some myself.
Elder Houghton 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Studying the Book of Mormon

New mode of transportation!

Dear Family,
This week has been crazy. Among other things, we had a really interesting lesson last night with our investigator-on-a-baptismal-date GM. He's got caught on some stuff with the Word of Wisdom which led us to see that he hasn't really received his answer about whether the church or Book of Mormon are true. It's a much more complicated situation than that and would take too long to explain so I won't here. It was an amazing lesson for us though. Elder Wood spoke by the Spirit so well! Words were put into our mouths. I said things that didn't make sense to me. At one point, we both got the prompting to have G say a prayer at the same time. I felt the spirit more strongly there than I think ever before. I felt that burning of the bosom and it was wonderful. The challenge is helping G to feel the same thing. I also saw G as someone who is just like me in many ways. He thinks and understands things the same way that I do and struggles with some of the same things I struggle with. I know that I was sent here to help him because I can relate to him in a way that perhaps someone else could not. I'm grateful for that opportunity and doing my best to utilise it fully.

This past week, I've been studying the The Book of Mormon. I'm trying get to a point where I can use the Book of Mormon to answer the questions of investigators and others with ease. Doing so will help them see that their concerns can be answered by the Book of Mormon and that the Book of Mormon is valuable and worthwhile for them to read and follow. The challenge for me is becoming accustomed to locating those answers throughout the Book of Mormon on the spot. Reading the Book of Mormon with that in mind though helps me to remember where particular verses are and learn how I can really rely on the Spirit in those situations if I am as prepared as I can be and worthy of his help and direction.
Great to hear that you're all enjoying Yosemite today! I've been using Yosemite as my landmark so people will get an idea of where I'm from. Today I met an American who knew where Sonora and Twain Harte were but other than that, Yosemite is kind of hit and miss. I often just end up telling people that they've probably seen pictures of Yosemite but might not remember them. The American I met today was actually at the Bike shop where I bought my bike. I hope the exchange rate was good today! I lost quite a few pounds (I'm skinny enough as it is) and don't really want to know the value in dollars. I ended up getting a Specialized (brand) Hybrid which I like quite a lot. It was a bit pricey but I've been told by everyone to buy a good bike and that I'll be able to sell it when I'm done with it--some people even take their bikes home at the end of their missions (we'll see about that...). I would have rather gone much cheaper and even thought of getting a really cheap bike (£100ish) but was convinced otherwise.* Hopefully this all works out. It is a nice bike so I did get a nice D lock with an £800 guarantee.
Note: I'm using English Spellings as much as I can.

Marta, I miss being with my family most about home. That and the wide open spaces everywhere. The accents here aren't that bad at all actually, some regions are really bad but they're ok here. They do get easier after you've been here for a while. The funny thing is that in the MTC, we were all talking with English accents subconsciously but now none of the missionaries do. Stroud is a hippie town (and only the largest of many towns in our area) and it is quite diverse. C of E (Church of England) probably dominates as elsewhere. Other than that, it's like Sonora, lots of people with little or no belief and then a lot of "spiritualists" who offer free healings down the street from us Wednesdays at 3. Favourite part of being a missionary-don't know. One interesting thing is that I've sort of lost my past identity. I'm a missionary now so when people are rude to us or something, it's to missionaries and the church, not to me. It's kind of weird and there are other aspects. Basically, knowing that I will be blessed with the ability to eat anything that's put in front of me makes it all work. Nothing has been really disgusting. It's all pretty normal. Eating English is a bit different but it's not bad. I've got pictures down but have none to share today. Yes, it's really wonderful to know that people on the other side of the planet are thinking of me so thanks.
Tess: I just got your post-parade letter. I've been wanting to do a band pool party after the parade for years and am quite jealous. Nice job at sections. Elder Wood likes to tease me that I let my sisters be faster than me-it was a mistake to tell him. It's fine though. I'm glad you're an awesome swimmer and I am a tad jealous. Thanks for the advice on prayer-it's a good point. How's Tuolumne Pool? Tell Paul Hi and keep him in line for me please.
Levi: What's up Brother?!? I'm really missing my favourite Brother Levi! I'd love to hear what's going on and you're out of school so you can write me! Make sure your summer is productive though.
Mum: Thanks for managing everything for me at home. I missed your weekly email and hope all is well with the homefront.
Dad: Your preaching isn't all that bad. It's often really applicable and helpful so thanks and keep it up. Don't go crazy on the ward though. Also, I thought I would suggest that you can probably type an email and then print it if that would be easier than writing out and copying a letter. Thanks for it though. I would be interested to hear how Bishopping (sp?) is going--especially working with the missionaries. Make sure you use them!
I love you all and love to hear from you. Things are difficult but great out here--if it wasn't a challenge it wouldn't be worth it. Sorry my communication with you is so short. My typing speed is increasing. I'm hoping to get a letter to the Family out today in addition to one to mi hermana.
Elder Houghton
P.S. I'll get better at pictures. I promise! Comments on the last batch if any???

Monday, 10 June 2013

Finally, Pictures!

Dear Everyone,
Marta's graduation and our little
family left at home

Mom just sent me a picture of Marta's gradeeation (make sure you pronounce that with a Tuolumne County drawl) and it was like "That's way too small to be my family. . ."  And I just got a letter from Dad with included Family History addendum today in the mail.  The post code is GL5 1BG, by the way.  (There has been some confusion on that!) I think Dad's might have been wrong but it still got here.  I haven't sent much mail home as I've only recently gotten stamps and everything sorted out, and Pdays tend to go overtime so letters never get gotten to.  I have been getting weekly mail from Eliza as well though.  


Getting post is super exciting! Funny thing is that here it's Post, not Mail.  But we have the United States Postal Service and here it's the Royal Mail--weird.

This week has been pretty busy. We had a trainers meeting on Friday in Birmingham that we had to train to (that's right, we trained to the trainers meeting to get some training). It was quite an epic adventure and then we got off one train and realized that all the training teams in our mission's part of Wales were in another car on our train and all the other training teams near us were waiting at the platform for the train that we were transferring to. The meeting was quite awesome and we got some really helpful advice. It was particularly useful for me as it seemed to directly address my situation. 

Also, President Rasmussen touched on a few key points of missionary work that I made a push to really do in a teaching appointment that we had that night in Cirencester with our investigator G. He's been sort of floundering in his investigation of the church but is pretty solid overall. He wants the blessings of church life for his young family (and inactive wife who is now coming back). In large part because I pushed actually teaching what we are taught and trained to teach in the way that we are taught and trained to do it, the lesson was a success and we committed G to be baptised on June 22.

I definitely see that humbling ourselves and doing what modern prophets have directed us to do in Preach My Gospel instead of thinking that we know more than they do is a blessing because A. it works and B. We get the added help of obedience.  Preach My Gospel is an amazing resource as really it's the words of prophets written for modern missionaries. It is amazingly helpful and totally true. Living Preach My gospel is how one becomes a good missionary. 
Elder Houghton

Apparently, Luke found an SD card reader, because he's finally sent a number of pictures along!
A view of the Preston Temple from the Tow Path

 Helaman District (The Best missionaries ever!)

 My favourite socks--"Hedgerow" pattern from Aunt Greta

My district, mimicking the family's 2008 picture!

2008 Houghtons visit the Preston Temple!
 I got a kick out of Vim. It's like Comet.

The view of Lansdown from our flat (it's a road but it's not Lansdown road or street).  It's kind of a famous road
 in Stroud--on a coolish sunset night.

Elder and Sister Darracq, Myself, and Elder Wood at church 

Our collection of mugs all relating to the Royal family 
(mostly the silver jubilee but also weddings etc).  More
 than half of the drinking pieces we have are royalty related.

 Lansdown again from our window

 I'm going to try this for Sprite. We'll see how it goes.

 A swan at a park in Cirencester with baby swans. 
All Swans in England are the property of the Queen 
and are protected. They're kind of violent though.

The church in Yate. Towns vs. Cities vs. Villages 
are basically classified by how big their churches are.

Myself and Elder Limb on exchange in Yate (oddly, 
he had friends in the 51st Ward and I'd heard of him. 
He's been out a transfer longer than me and is the 
companion of our district leader.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

June in Stroud

Dear Everyone,

It's interesting how food is here. I went shopping at Tesco today (real Tescos are like big grocery stores-not corner marts-those are Tesco Expresses). You can get really yummy and quite sizeable fresh bread for 45p and a few other things really cheap like that but most things are approximately the price in pounds that they would be in dollars. My food budget is £35/week which was my target budget in dollars at BYU. We do get fed for dinner often which is a major saver. However, whenever we eat out, it can be a drag. Some things eating out are really cheap but others are quite expensive. The other day I got a really fresh cooked burger with onions cooked on the street outside a butcher shop for £2 in a little village called Tetbury-it was great but a little bit small. Also, despite people thinking Americans are really fat (English people think that Americans are all unhealthy and have loads of sugar and salt in everything), there's tons of fried food everywhere--much more so than in the states. There are always local "chippies" where you can get fried anything (fish and chips, battered candy bars, etc.). In the end, like America, you really choose how healthy you want to be. My companion is trying to loose a little weight that he's gained and is going on a caveman diet. It was quite expensive today and I had to help him out with some shopping. I don't think he knows what he's getting into/how intense the real caveman diet that I've heard about is (no seasonings or processed foods, etc.) but it should be fun for him.

This week, I was on exchange for two days and in travel for basically a third day getting to and from those exchanges. It was a bit lame because Elder Limb (the missionary I was on exchange with both times as our District is just myself and Elder Wood, our Senior Couple, our District Leader and his companion Elder Limb) and I have a combined total of just under 10 weeks in the mission field and the areas we were working in were... sparse. Anyway, the benefit was that on the way to and from Yate (where J.K. Rowling is from and Elder Limb lives) and Gloucester (where we trained to meet up), I got to see quite a bit more of our area. There are just a bunch of little quaint villages all over this region of hills, grass, and greenery (with sheep and cows and picturesque houses too). the villages all have a central church or two, winding and random narrow streets walled in by old stone buildings and skinny pavements (sidewalks). It was cool to finally get out to the other villages as there really are quite a few. It's remarkable how similar Sonora is to Stroud. We have the central city (called villages here because they're small) and then a bunch of outlying areas along windy roads in the hills. The difference is that Everything is more compact. I don't think I appreciated how small the cars are and how narrow the roads are in England. All the car brands are different. There's a bit of overlap but not much and many of the car brands here that we have in America sell totally different cars in the different countries (I keep seeing this ugly Ford convertible that looks like a sad VW bug). The weather has also been really nice here. I'm still working on a method of getting pictures to you so sorry again.

The work in England progresses slowly in comparison to what Eliza reports. We just picked up a new investigator so our total is up to four. It's interesting to see how Eliza's rapid fire get in, get them to feel the spirit and then drop them or teach and convert them contrasts with us here. Just getting past hello is a challenge--let alone getting on to teaching and testifying of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are a lot of Spiritualists in Stroud. Some people just love telling us how they commune with the Universe and have found happiness through accepting their place with some great everything. It's wonderful. Alternatively, there are a lot of pretty strong Christians who believe they are all part of the "Body of Christ" and have no interest in hearing about why God would establish exactly one true church on the Earth. Most aren't too bad once/if you get to talking with them and appreciate that we have a lot of faith to come and do what we do as missionaries. I think that part of their niceness comes from living in much closer conditions than anyone except the most inner-city dwellers in the U.S. People are used to walking around and talking to people they run into-even if most of them know who we are and are really good at ignoring us.

I've had some great experiences during Personal Study of late. I just wish I could spend all day studying sometimes because there's so much to learn. Also, Heavenly Father Answers Prayers! I was searching for some inspiration on how to get inspiration and got it in the moment of my need when I prayed for the help and guidance I needed. This is really His work and the way to get His blessings and help is to make your work His work. As long as we are focused on doing what he wants us to do, he will provide us with everything we need to be able to do it.

Elder Houghton