Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Still in Stroud

From 15 July, 2013 

Dear Family/readers,
     This past week has been incredibly hot and humid. It's supposed to rain on Wednesday but that's the only break from a 2 week heat wave. It's pretty rough wearing proselyting clothes in the heat and sun. Then I thought of the missionaries in Africa, South America, SE Asia, and basically everywhere else where it is also really hot and humid and probably much more so than here. I guess I'll survive without too much complaining. That's one thing, the English always complain about the weather. It's never just right. There are jokes about "the great British Summer" and those words are always next to some rainclouds or something like that.
     Today I want to tell you about R. R is 79 (but tells us there's no way he's 79, he thinks he's 60 then ten minutes later insists that he's 50 this keeps going but he doesn't get much lower than 35) and many years ago was hit by a car at 60 mph and lost all of his teeth, was severely injured throughout his body, and suffered some brain damage. His wife is an inactive member named RL. We started visiting RL and R with the Darracqs so that we could keep R busy while the Darracqs taught RL and invited her back to church. R is not all there and really hard to understand, doesn't hold in his saliva very well, and it's hard to tell sometimes if he's joking or just not really understanding. He's also mostly deaf. It's pretty funny. We've been trying to convince him that he should come to church with RL. Though his mobility is limited, like clockwork he goes in to town every day to get his cigarettes, booze, and newspaper. He sort of hobbles and it must take ages but somehow he makes it. He won't come to church because he "would have to give up all the good things in life: drinkin', smokin', and chasin' women." It's a crack up to talk to him. He and RL are really generous though and give us treats when we visit and almost always send us away with some kind of candy. Last week we commited R to go without drinking and smoking for a week and promised that if he did it, his leg (which had been bugging him) would get better. He didn't quite make it through the first day and the next day we caught him in denial about the cigarettes in his pocket and (vodka) "just lemonade" in his bag. It was funny but also sad that those are the things that really bring him happiness (he thinks) and at this point he's basically trapped. R was the one we got all the beer and cigarettes from in the last email btw. We had to bring them back on Tuesday but we've been continuing to visit him impromptu because he's always home. With our encouragement, he now stops by the church to get some water on Sundays on his way into town but won't go inside though members greet him and he felt like "a movie star" when he got water last week. RL also came to church for about two hours (she had to leave right after the sacrament was passed to take care of R) and was a great contributor to the Gospel Principles lesson. She has the sweetest testimony ever! It wasn't just our visits though. There is also a recently returned missionary in our ward named A who has taken RL as his responsibility with a new one to one mentoring program that the Bishop has introduced (every member in a leadership position chooses and works with one inactive member/family) and has done amazing simple things to try to bring RL (his former primary teacher) back to activity. With our many visits, his visits, the Darracqs' best efforts, and a lot of help from the Lord, it worked and she came to church. By small and simple things are great things brought to pass. The lesson I learned this week was that it's often lots and lots of small and simple things that make it all work out in the end. It's amazing to see the hand of the Lord using his servants to do his work to rescue two wonderful sweet spirits who might otherwise have felt forgotten. They are awesome!
     In other news, today I bought my first English suit. Basically, all my American clothes are really baggy by English standards and I wish I had bought my clothes here like everyone told me to. Advice to missionaries going to England in the future: bring one suit and 5 white shirts (that's all that you'll need in the MTC) and a few ties and buy Everything else here. There's good quality stuff pretty cheap and you won't stick out like a sore thumb. The suit I got was a pretty good deal-there was a pretty good salesman. I liked him though and feel a little better about being sold because I think he deserves it and he was Scottish. He was so good that he convinced me I needed a new white shirt and cool tie too. I did avoid getting shoes from him and it was a three piece suit... It's kind of a challenge to have to always remember that even though a pound goes as far as a dollar, I'm getting charged $1.5 per £1 plus international transactions fees which really kill. I'm not going to go as overboard as other missionaries do though for clothes. I found some super cheap pointy English shoes too. They were £12 and my shoes are perhaps the worst part of my American ensemble so it will be alright. Pictures to come next week.
     Did I mention that the Stroud Ward is AMAZING! They are the best member missionaries and totally devoted to everything they do here. When I first arrived, it seemed really small and gimpy but through they are few in number, the Stroud Ward is huge in spirit. The ward dynamics are quite different from back home just because they are much smaller and more personal. I love them all so much! We had dinner at the Bishop's house the other night. He was called from an adjoining area. He and his wife are the best. Bishop Markham is also a musical super star and wrote the music for a full blown musical "Faith, the Musical" which many of the members performed in and brought to SLC a few years ago. They're still performing firesides throughout the UK. He's amazing.
     I'm still working on my photographering. It's harder than you might think to remember to take pictures of everything. I went on a spree yesterday afternoon though so here are a few English things from the flat.

First is me in the apron I found there and a cool English tie that I traded Elder Wood for.

Second is the house/series of flats(?) across the street from us with it's wind turbine.  (See the top picture on this blog).   Basically all the other houses on the street up from that one and ours are brick row houses (which are actually flats as well(?)).

Third is digestives. They are delicious and no one can explain why they're called digestives. They're just lightly sweetened wheat cookies that you can get plain or dipped (on one side) in chocolate. Elder Wood likes caramel/chocolate ones that you can find in a few odd places. These are just the cheap Tesco ones. The plain ones can also be used crumbled up for graham cracker crusts and the like. They're super!

     Like I said earlier, the lesson that I learned this week is that by small and simple things, great things come to pass and that it's not just a few small and simple things, it's often many many small and simple things. I'm working on doing the small and simple things that will make great things come to pass in our field of labour here in Stroud and in my life.

Elder Houghton

The Flat

A flag in the flat that is supposed to record its
missionary inhabitants.  A few holes in the record though.
A map of our "Greater Stroud" area

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