Monday, 25 November 2013

One Dark Night When the Sun Shone Bright, Two Young Missionaries Went Out To Find. . .

Dear Everyone,

Hopefully you appreciate that burst of creativity (the title of the post) from me. It's weird, as missionaries, we don't have tonnes of opportunities to express things in an artistic manner. Ok, we could if we tried but I don't very much anyway.
This week has been really tough for missionary work. We had four investigators who we thought were lined up to come to church on Sunday. Then, they all stopped answering the phone and none of them came to church. Also, it was the primary program and was by far the best Sunday an investigator could come to church and see because it was simple and beautiful and it really wonderfully invited the spirit. Then all of our plans for the upcoming week got thrown into disarray because we went from planning on having four progressing investigators to only having one (and she was one who didn't come to church). It's really frustrating to have the carpet pulled out from under you like that but I guess it's just an excercise in trusting in the Lord and doing things his way.
It's also been really tough because it gets dark at five every evening. The missionary work day doesn't end until nine though so that's four hours in the dark trying to be productive. Most people go home and stay inside once it's dark so there aren't people out to talk to. Also, some of those who are outside tend to be a bit interesting and/or drunk. It hasn't been that wet this past week but the cold is definitely sinking in. Thermals, gloves, a coat, and a hat are now necessary and will be for another 2-3 months. Because England has had one of the nicest summers on record, I hadn't really appreciated why so many English people are jealous of me being from California. Now, I know.

This is how Elder Houghton feels when he's riding his bike. . .
Last week we had a really cool Zone Meeting on using Family History for missionary work. I'm still a bit unsure of just how to get people interested and connected but it was really great and I've come to a greater appreciation of just how important our families are. Every person on this Earth has a lot of heritage and many people before them who need to receive the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ just as much as they do. It gives us a much better perspective as missionaries when we remember that the work which we are doing can really save people, not just help them live better or happier lives. It's a great responsibility that we have and a lot to live up to for members of the church but especially for those of us called to serve as full-time missionaries.
Anyway, I hope everything is wonderful with you all. My Thanksgiving dinner this year will be at a Ghanian home on the other side of Coventry (=40 minute bike maybe in the rain...) which should be pretty cool even if we are soaked through when we get there.
Other than alll that, things are really good. The Lord is really teaching me a lot through the trials that we're having. I'm seeing that I know very little and have tonnes of room for improvement in just about every aspect of the work in which we are engaged.
A few funny/cool things:
>My diet totally adapts to the place I live. When we eat at home and I want to cook nice, it is usually some Chick-pea (Garbonzo Bean)/chicken curry thing with rice.
>I'm keeping track of the countries from which I've met people. This week, I added Turkey, Iraq (Kurdistan), Gambia, and Indonesia. So far, I think I've got most of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa covered.
>We found out that one of the amazing members of the Coventry Ward who had to leave to finish serving a temple mission (sad day for us) when the temple reopened in London also translated the Book of Mormon into Punjabi. Woa! That's pretty cool. We totally didn't know that when he came teaching with us in Punjabi and he was reading from the Book of Mormon.
My time is short. Things are tough in Coventry but great. I am and we are learning a lot and growing so it's good even if I'm exhausted and no one is out on the streets to talk to us.
Elder Houghton

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Kangaroos & Miracles

From 19 November 2013

Dear Everyone,
     Firstly, the pictures. Sorry that these probably aren't the kinds of pictures that you're interested in at all but they're the only ones I take and I never thing about it until Monday when I'm uploading them. Last Monday, I found Kangaroo meat at Lidl where we usually do our grocery shopping. There were also Reindeer chunks next to the Kangaroo Steaks (and a funny quote from the member who drove us--> we're having Reindeer soon because "there's nothing more festive than eating Rudolph for Christmas!"). Anyway, here are the pictures of the Kangaroo in process of being cooked and then in the process of being eaten. It was actually quite tasty and nice. Not really tough like I'd been told it would be by an Australian missionary in our Zone (who made the claim that Australians are the only people in the world who eat their national animal (which, Elder Ramos pointed out, is not true; South Africans eat their national animal too)).
     This week has been full of miracles. One miracle was when we went to stop by a less active member of the church near our flat right before we got a ride to a baptism in Wolverhampton for Elder Ramos' Investigator. The less active member wasn't home but we had a few minutes so we decided to knock some doors. Not a single one of them answered and we got to what we both thought would be the last door to knock. The man at the door promptly invited us in and we got to teach a first lesson to this really neat Romanian family. Despite us saying we didn't need or want anything, they sent their daughter to the corner shop to get us Fanta and some cake things which we were then obliged to partake of (much to the chagrin of Elder Ramos who hadn't had a fizzy drink in four years (because he's really healthy, etc.) and reacted a little bit to the sugar rush). At the end of the lesson, we found out that the Romanian family had investigated the church before but their English hadn't been good enough and only their aunt (now less active) had joined the church. So basically, they are totally ready to receive the gospel and really willing to learn and act on the things we talked about. We're bringing a Romanian Book of Mormon today and we may have to go back and take back the one we left with a Romanian family we stopped teaching a few weeks ago so we can give it to the new Romanian family.
     Another miracle was some other missionaries in Coventry getting in touch with another former Investigator. She hadn't heard from missionaries in years and was having a rough time and then out of the blue, the missionaries call to see if there's anything they can do for her. Well, it turns out she lives in our area now and so we ended up teaching her. She is a single mom and has an awesome little son and she's really prepared to receive the gospel. She accepted an invitation to be baptised on December 14th and it's going to really bless her and her son! I'm so excited to get to teach her. We've only taught her once though so there's a lot left to go and many hurdles to clear.
     Third miracle was with another Investigator. He hasn't been in really good contact with the missionaries in the past and has been technically investigating for about three years now but can't make it to church because he works on Sunday. He has a testimony of the Book of Mormon (sort of) and wants to learn but so far, it's been sporadic and he's had about 20 first lessons with different missionaries. In our second visit with him, we decided to teach the Plan of Salvation. He hadn't really progressed in the past because he didn't see what else there was yet to learn. It was a tough lesson because his kids were being a bit obnoxious and there were other distractions but we taught some basic truths and he was saying things like "really?! God has a body? I didn't know that." So hopefully, our persistence pays off and he gets really going seeing the difference and the reality of the restored truths we're helping him understand. We'll see how it goes!
     There were many other miracles as well. Lots of learning experiences too. Elder Ramos is the best! Coventry C is amazing and I'm learning so much about how to be an effective missionary. We are learning and developing together and it's great! Things are really getting going and though there is a lot left to go, we are already seeing dramatic results. It's hard sometimes to get the momentum going and keep it going but it does work and the Lord is blessing us tremendously.
    Last Thursday, we had an awesome Zone Conference with Elder Timothy J. Dyches of the Seventy. It was really great. Lots of my questions and concerns about teaching and serving the Lord were addressed quite well and we learned a tonne. Elder Dyches shared some awesome analogies and ideas about how we learn to teach and then what we do to help our Investigators. Basically, we're like Surgeons. The Surgeon can help people with a disease but only if the person wants to be helped. So, it's our job to help them see that we know what we're doing, that it really will help them, and then to be an example of the end result as well. He also shared a really simple teaching model. It's just three things: Simplify/Clarify, Verify, and Testify. It's a lot more than that and it was really helpful for our Investigators. Anyway, the Zone Conference was in general awesome!
    In more mundane news, the weather is getting drearier and drearier. It is getting darker earlier each day and it's cold all the time now. This week we're supposed to get a major cold spell (down to -10 C = 14 F) with potential snow. We'll see how we cope. I hadn't thought that I would have to be getting all of my heavy cold gear out so early but I think the winters in England are a bit earlier than they are in California and Utah (where the worst months are January and February, not December and January). We'll see anyway. Mostly, it's just tough with the dark because if we don't have lessons or other plans, there aren't really people out who we can talk to and find. It will be alright and the Lord is providing for our needs so it's ok.
I'm running out of time but I love and miss you all lots and lots. I hope everything is great for you. I'm learning and loving and growing a lot and it's marvelous. Heavenly Father Loves His Children.
Elder Houghton
P.S. Hopefully you enjoy the title this week.

Monday, 11 November 2013

England is great. Elder Ramos is fantastic and hilarious. . .

This week is a bit slow for dinner appointments and I saw
this at Lidl this morning and couldn't resist.
Pictures of the final product hopefully next week!
Next week Reindeer.
Dear Everyone,
I can never think of a good subject for these general email/blog entries so sorry if it's repetitive or boring.
England is great. My companion, Elder Ramos (correction on the pronunciation: RAY-moss) is fantastic and hilarious. Missionary work is moving forward. I'm learning a tonne. Life is good. The weather is dreadful. The Book of Mormon is true. Jesus Christ Lives.
What more is there to say?
We've had a bunch of really great experiences this past week which have taught me a lot about trusting in the Lord and doing his work his way. I'd gotten into a bad habit lately of inviting people to be baptised "softly" i.e. "when you learn that these things are true, will you be baptised." However, that method hasn't been working very well because it's really hard to get people to really commit or see what they need to do to find out if it's true and why that's so important. This causes Investigators to not really make or keep the commitments that will help them build their faith in Jesus Christ. However, if they are invited boldly on the first or second visit (basically, as soon as possible) and given a date to prepare for, they are much more willing and able to accept and keep the commitments that will help them learn of the truth of the Restoration of the Gospel and the importance of their learning and living it to be temporally and eternally happy. We saw this with an Investigator this week who I will call "Frances" (which is the real name of a lady we met one day who told us that Frances is for a woman and Francis is for a man). We met Frances on the street and she has been to the church before when she was very young with her Auntie. She invited us to come and teach her so we did. On our second visit (not the first one, unfortunately, because of a situation which I won't elaborate on), we asked simply "'Frances,' will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptised on December 7th?" She said of course and was at church a few days later telling people that she was being baptised soon. She was reading the Book of Mormon on the train and someone asked (in a bit of a hostile manner) what it was and why she was reading it. She explained and felt the spirit as she did so. She feels the spirit strongly when we come to visit and really wants to learn and have that feeling always. She is wonderful. There are a lot of hurdles to clear before December 7th though so please pray for her even if you don't know her real name. It's also wonderful for us as missionaries because we are learning and growing and as we do so, the Lord is using us more and more. I have so much more to learn though. It's great to see the Lord preparing us slowly and surely to do his work the way he wants and needs it done.
Also, this week, I was prompted that I need to pray for people individually and by name a lot more. I realised, it would be hard to remember everyone I needed to pray for so I wrote a list. It ended up being quite a long list. It's quite a lot to pray for. Already though, I'm seeing that the Lord gives specific answers to specific prayers. It's wonderful and it's much easier to see the answers to prayers when you ask for specific things.
I love you all loads! I'm enjoying missionary work and everything. I hope everything is going well and things are wonderful!
Elder Houghton

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

We Are Working Hard, Being Obedient, and Having Fun. I'm Learning So Much, It's Crazy!

Dear Everyone,

Firstly, sorry that I didn't get a general/blog email out last week. I thought we were going to have more time to email but then we didn't. That was largely a consequence of something that happened a few days prior and seriously inhibited our mobility i.e. my bike got stolen. It's a big bummer. For now, I'm on a kids bike owned by the ward... I think that's what it is anyway. Mostly, it's just a big bummer because I put so much into my bike and now, despite me owning it, it's just totally gone. It really really stinks.

Coventry is amazing!

Secondly, Coventry C is amazing. The C is because there are five teams of missionaries in the Coventry ward (A-E). Despite the bike-stealing types, most of the other people living in Coventry C's area are wonderful. It's gotten really cold lately which is lame and it rains about every other day and is cloudy most others. Today isn't half bad despite the cold (which was tough because our District Leader found someone in our area and set up an appointment for 7 a.m. on P day--it went well despite the oddness of the time--my ears were basically about to fall off). I'm a bit apprehensive about using my cold weather gear since it isn't even really that cold yet and will get much worse. Ugh. The other lame thing is that it's beginning to get darker a lot earlier which really stinks. People don't really like answering the door after dark much so it's difficult.
Elder Ramos, from South Africa!

Thirdly, I got a new companion on Wednesday! His name is Elder Ramos (Ray-mos... mos with an o like open and an s like an s (not a zed)) and he's from South Africa. He's amazing. He's been out only one transfer less than me and is quite skilled and great at missionary work. He's basically the nicest and happiest person in the world and it's wonderful. We are working hard, being obedient, having fun, and having great success. All this and it's only been a few days. Things are going to take off! Elder Maligon left very little food for Elder Ramos and Elder Ramos is a bit health-conscious so I've included some pictures of the food he had for his birthday lunch yesterday (boiling eggs in spinach mid cooking). It's pretty great. We had amazing Indian food at the M's house (They are amazing!) later that night so it wasn't that bad of a birthday for him I hope.

Eggs boiling in Spinach a la Elder Ramos

Fourthly, we had Stake Conference this weekend. It was great. All three sessions were on Missionary work and the Stake President invited all the missionaries to every session (Sisters at Priesthood Leadership!). Our Stake President is really dynamic and energetic and I'm hoping and praying that, at least partially because of the inspiring messages that he and others shared, the members here will get more engaged in missionary work. It will be great. Also, when the Stake President found out it was Elder Ramos' birthday, he gave him £10 to get Pizza today. It was totally unexpected. President Rasmussen was also there at the conference and gave us a tip off that Elder Dyches who will be touring the mission next week may do interviews in missionary flats and that we are within range (we think that he only told us-none of the other teams-and that he's planning on using our flat...). No worries, both Elder Maligon and Elder Ramos are tidy and clean and I am (mostly) but we do have a bit of cleaning and tidying to do before next Tuesday. President Rasmussen also mentioned in his talk that he was on the phone with a Elder Gong, in the Presidency of the Asia area. He mentioned that there are actually wards and branches in China and that he was on the phone because many of the members of the church in China have been taught and joined the church elsewhere-especially our mission. It's pretty cool because despite China not being open to missionaries as everyone thought it would be by the time I came on my mission, I actually have taught a Chinese person (who is now being taught by the Sisters because he's in their area) who will return to China (probably as a member of the church as he's accepted an invitation to be baptised!). Someone in General Conference I think mentioned something about the fact that even in areas where the church is not allowed to preach the gospel, the Lord is sending those he has prepared to receive the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ to missionaries and others elsewhere.
Fifthly, this week has been great. We got a slow start with Elder Maligon packing and moving but since Elder Ramos came, we've added some New Investigators to our teaching pool and we're getting a good start for the transfer (which technically starts today). It's great! The lesson at 7 a.m. this morning was particularly great.
Sixthly, I'm learning so much, it's crazy! This week, I've been coming to realise that many of the things we do as missionaries are really focused on helping people develop the faith that they need to progress in the gospel. Faith is, after all, the first principle of the gospel. So this week, I/we've been working on focusing my/our teaching on helping people develop their faith in Jesus Christ. My own faith has been growing as well-it's awesome to see how so many of the things we do as missionaries can really help us in our own progression toward the Saviour.
Seventhly, this upcoming week is going to be amazing! I'm really excited for all of the work we have to do. The Lord has really put a great trust in His missionaries and it's a lot to live up to but it's wonderful. The Lord qualifies the called and guides us by the spirit to help Him do His work. I'm so grateful to be a part of His work.
Lots and lots of Love,
Elder Houghton

Thievery in Coventry

From 28 October 2013

Luke ran out of time to write a family email on 28 October, so I'll summarize. . .

He and his companion were the victims of typical Dickens'-type thievery--a small gang of "drunks" came upon them and their shiny new bikes, swung a few punches, and ran off with the bikes.  Luke says he's surprised that punches in the face don't hurt as much as he thought they would, and he's sad he got hit on the same side of the face every time--he didn't think to "turn the other cheek."  Luke's Mom is wondering if they need to implement "Stranger Danger" and "Self Defense" classes in the MTC  

But both Luke and his companion are fine, on foot unfortunately, and hopefully wiser for the experience.  

Luke's Mom  

It's the Lord's Work!

Letter from 21 October 2013

Dear Everyone,
The new jacket!
I'm never really sure what to title these general emails. Also, I mismanaged my emailing time today and despite thinking that I would have a lot, I now have very little left to write this email. It's pretty much always raining now... and my Patagonia jacket, despite many attempts on my part to waterproof it, is still not waterproof and is basically useless when the rain actually starts. Ugh. I think American waterproof is different from English Waterproof. So, I decided to get a new medium weight English Jacket. I think it may actually be French though. In the past four hours, it has been pretty waterproof though so I'm happy right now. We'll see how it lasts the week. Fortunately, it was pretty cheap. It also reinforced the fact that any missionary coming to England from the States should wait to buy a coat, trousers, shirts, suits, and basically everything else until he or she is here. I wish I'd followed that advice six months ago. Woa! Did you catch that, I'm rapidly approaching the 6 month mark. It dawned on me the other day that six months is a long time. I can't believe I've been out here for that long and I have a lot of work yet to do.
So basically, I feel really bad that this is so short but I'll just share a quick spiritual thought. I was reading in Alma today and came to some cool insights. From my weekly report to President Rasmussen:
"Today I made an interesting connection between Captain Moroni and Mormon which was quite insightful while reading in Alma. Basically, they were both amazing and did very important work but Captain Moroni was accepted and the people were blessed and righteous while Mormon was rejected and the people were punished and wicked. I was comparing their two situations and efforts and realised that neither was more valuable or more virtuous than the other. Both of them realised that it was the Lord's work, not their own and so regardless of the effects of their efforts, they were confident that they had done their best and it was in the Lord's hands. Now Mormon (who named his son after Moroni) is a name held for good and bad around the world and an angel named Moroni is on top of many of the 120+ temples around the world. Both of those names have major significance in the Church of Jesus Christ. That's pretty cool. I'm now working on becoming more like them and trusting in and relying on the Lord as they did."

So that's that. Sorry again that this is so short.
Lots of Love,
Elder Houghton

Luke was able to visit the Benbow Farm and Gadfield Elm Chapel--sites of early (1840) LDS missionary work and worship in the UK.
A painting at the Gadfield Elm Chapel

Elders Maligon and Houghton at the Benbow farm/pond