Monday, 10 November 2014

Happy November!

Dear Everyone,

November is upon us here in England. It's getting colder and darker and wetter each day but that's ok. We just need to get better at time usage. I'm going to try to do a bit of missionary alphabet here-we'll see how far I can get. I don't have a lot of time today though so here goes:

Cliff, a referral from Brother Limacher who we're hoping to teach soon
Elder Houghton (me)
Fonseca, Elder-an Elder in Walsall A from Cape Verde, a small island off the coast of North Africa. His celebrity Look Alike is President Obama.
G. The last initial of a couple that moved into the ward recently and they're having us for dinner on Thursday
Hiltons, Elder and Sister-the Senior Couple assigned to Walsall from St. George. They're the best!
Job, a really cool college student we met. He's super busy though so it's hard to set up to meet with him. He seems way solid though. Hopefully it works out.
Kim, a wonderful recent convert lady we're working with along with her husband. It's tricky for them getting to church but they're really nice people and things are going well.
Limacher, Brother-our Ward Mission Leader who is moving out over the next two weeks. We're way sad to see him go.
Marvin, this cool black buy we met and will hopefully be teaching tomorrow if it holds.
New Investigators-the people we're looking for every day but they're doing a good job hiding from us at this point
Strupp, Elder-the new Elder in Walsall
Tukuafu, Elder-my companion. He's great and he's from Tonga and we're still together
Walsall, Wednesbury, Willenhall, Wolverhampton, Wednesfield, Woodsetton-area names around and in the case of the first two, in our ward boundary. There are lots of W's for some reason...

I'll try to fill in the rest next week maybe. It's been a better week this past one. Transfers happened and I stayed in Walsall B. We are really needing more people to teach but they are super hard to find right now. Things are getting going though. Also, good things are happening with Less Active People we're working with even if it's slow.

I hope all is well wherever you may be!
Elder Houghton

P.S. Because there's no Thanksgiving here, the stores and streets have gone straight to Christmas. It's odd missing out on a holiday.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Craving Pumpkin Soup

From 27 October 2014
Houghton Family Tradition:  Pumpkin Soup on Halloween
Excerpts from Elder Houghton's report last week:

I'm craving Pumpkin soup as we speak. People are so confused about how we eat pumpkin pie. We'll see if the one American in the ward invites us over for Thanksgiving-often the Americans in a ward do that for their missionaries but we had none in Coventry and only one here...

We still have a hole in the ceiling from the leak and bathroom cork tiles that are warped like crazy-->can't shut the door properly and the tub leaks we think through the hole into the kitchen. Also, the light switching cord in the bathroom is wigging out and we don't have a functioning/clean toaster still plus the vacuum is fused to the wall and the floor is sloped. It's not the best place to live and more issues keep cropping up but we're alive and I'm not complaining.

I really do wish that I could zap some of the moisture from here over to you. I know if would be greatly appreciated on both sides. It hasn't been super wet lately but it's the constant threat and occasional downpour that are the issues. Drizzles are awful as well actually.

The axle or spindle (not sure what to call it) on the back wheel of my bike snapped on Thursday. I had to go get that replaced by the wonderful missionary-friendly bike shop people and I also bought a new pair of trousers plus a scarf and some slippers today (that should be all to keep me going through the winter!-the slippers are a must btw when you get home for lunch with soaked feet and trousers).

Things have been going this week. I was pretty discouraged toward the beginning of the week-way. Fortunately, I've got an always smiling companion in Elder Tukuafu. Most of the time that's a good thing. It's been really difficult to find anyone to teach lately. As it says in Preach My Gospel, Nothing happens in missionary work until you find someone to teach. It's true. To be fair, we are teaching quite a few less active members and recent converts and we are teaching a cool African guy and may be teaching the teenage girl eternigators (eternal investigators-an all too common breed of Alligator found in England) who aren't really eternigators yet. We shall see how it goes. We do have some good things to do this week-just not much that will likely increase our teaching pool (service, workover to help our Zone Leaders one of whom is stuck in the flat after an appendectomy, etc. etc.).

Things are going ok today. Sometimes, it's a roller coaster but I'm trying. It's always tough for me as well when I hit a time landmark (right now being between my 6 month left mark and my 18 month done mark). Also, transfers are coming up. Not sure at all what will happen. I've not been thinking about it much-probably the best I've done with thinking about transfers in my whole mission actually.

We did have a good District Meeting this past week. I decided that I didn't want to do all the training like I normally do (call it revelation!) so I split it up into four chunks and had each other team do 1/4 of it. It was great. They were supposed to each take 15 minutes and it only went 1:20 which is way better than I had feared it would be. The greatest success was with a missionary who has been dealing with a lot of challenges lately.  This Elder gave some pretty good training actually and stepped up quite well to the responsibility he was given. It was good. Hopefully I can help him have more of those types of experiences!

Lots of Love not sure I'm going to manage a blog email as we're way crunched on time today. Thanks for everything and the prayers. They are greatly appreciated!

Elder Houghton

Monday, 20 October 2014

Autumn is Here!

Dear Everyone,

It's getting colder and wetter and there are leaves falling. My bike is getting old and making new sounds and we have to turn the heating on more.

On Thursday, we had interviews with President Rasmussen. It was really good except for that it's during District Meeting so it was the District meeting of 1000 interuptions. Plus we had the Zone Leaders there so there were 12 people (biggest District Meeting ever!). It was great. We used my Lego stickers for a role play set up as well. Great fun.

We got home from interviews and the windows were fogged up at the house. Turns out the atht flexible tube/pipe leading to the Hot water faucet in the upstairs bathroom had burst and was spraying hot water everywhere in the bathroom (I'd guess for about 2-3 hours). It wasn't our fault at all-actually negligence on the part of our landlord from unresolved problems before. Also, the landlord did an awful job sending a plumber out. It's long story. So, we spent Thursday afternoon and evening dealing with immediate problems (condensation all over the house (literally everywhere-it was intense) and then having to sleep at the other Elders' flat because we had no water (no toilet, no drinking water, no shower). Then we spent all day Friday basically cleaning up from the ceiling collapse in the kitchen and the rain forest that the kitchen had turned into for the hours of the burst pipe=dirty water/rubble everywhere in the kitchen, lots of food stuff destroyed. It was a crazy few days. Also, there's supposedly a hurricane (which will be downgraded and just a bigger than normal storm really) coming to England tomorrow so maybe it was just to teach us how to do clean up work like that... It kind of put a major clamp on our week but we learned from it and survived and everything is ok.

Other than that, we're having District P day today and I've got to go. Thanks for the letters and everything. I love you all lots and hope all is well, you are in my prayers!

Elder Houghton

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Meet the Mormons!

From 13 October 2014

Dear Everyone (in the world... who reads my blog),
You should totally watch this movie:

For the Sonora Locals, it's playing in Manteca and Modesto. You can get tickets and see playing times on I really really wish I could watch the movie but I can't right now. Maybe someone will figure out a screening in the UK but we probably won't be able to go. I'm just hoping that we get to watch it once it is in DVD/online format(s). It just looks so so cool.

So, in other news, it's beginning to get cold and wet in Walsall! It's great but also a bit hard because we have to more aggressively prepare to adjust plans to unforeseen weather events. Elder Tukuafu is experiencing the wonders of England weather and being grateful that he didn't throw away the thermals that he brought with him (as he'd planned to do a few months ago when the weather was nice).

In other news, namely the Walsall Advertiser, we were in the newspaper for sort of participating in a walk put on by some ward members for polio-it was quite low-key but we got in the paper which was cool. Unfortunately, the bad luck I've had with newspaper people making errors in stories in which I've been involved has continued and Elder Tukuafu is now believed to be from Togo rather than Tonga. He's excited To Go back to Tonga at the end of his mission but that's the only way he's Togoing from here...

It's been a pretty interesting week. We've had some good things happen but there have been continued challenges. I love living in the immigrant quarter of Walsall surrounded by Muslims and Sikhs and all sorts of Eastern Europeans but it can be difficult finding. I have a general rule not to seek after people who are wearing extensive religious attire (Massive beards and huge orange turbans or Bhurkas especially) so that whittles it down to about 1/3 of the population. I always did want to serve in the Middle East. I guess that wish was granted. It can be hard though.

I couldn't wait for the Ensign of the October 2014 General Conference so I downloaded the Audio onto a flash drive today and will be listening to it shortly.

So, there's lots of other stuff that happened this past week but I shall keep it short as I'm running out of time. The Gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives because it really truly works. I've seen that so many times on my mission. When we feel powerless, the Saviour has the power to help us. He wants us to be free from guilt and anguish so He has restored His gospel and taught the truth anew through a living prophet in our time. It's wonderful and it has changed my life and my eternity!

Lots of Love,
Elder Houghton

It's October!

From 6 October 2014

Dear Everyone,

This past week has been really good-quite busy as well though not in the ways we'd expected. I have an experience that I could share which was really interesting but I think I will save it for after my mission. It's about Kenneth Alfred Stone, the man I met in the temple at the MTC who was in the Walsall Ward until he passed through the veil to the Spirit World on Saturday morning. It was pretty amazing to make a small connection with him in this life and to be inspired by his goodness. I've written it all in my journal so you'll get to hear it in a few months.

General Conference was amazing! I love listening to the words of Prophets and Apostles who receive revelation for all of God's Children on the Earth. Please listen and learn: ... I just wish that the talks were all published so I could read them now instead of having to wait until the conference Ensign comes out.

This week, I went on exchange to Wylde Green C, the area that reopened this past transfer. It was fun as I went with an experienced Elder who is going home in December. We had a great time and I saw many miracles. The next day, I started an exchange with our Zone Leaders, one of whom came to Walsall with me. We ended up being dumped on with rain so we decided to walk instead of biking to Wednesbury. It was a longer walk than we had anticipated so we didn't have much time to do anything in the actual area. We did go visit a member of the church who lived on King Street and saw next to it Queen Street, unfortunately for my family history interests, the area has been fairly recently redone so there are no old buildings-just one old brick wall that would have been there when my ancestors lived on Queen Street in Wednesdbury. It was cool anyway. I think we're going to make a regular thing of going to Wednesbury on Wednesday. Wednesbury Wednesday it shall be!

Things are going slowly in our area with investigators-of which we have very few at the moment. But, we've been working hard and doing good things so I feel that we are doing what the Lord wants us to do and he's preparing us for something great in his eyes. So, we shall keep working and seeking out those who hunger and thirst after righteousness but are kept from the truth only because they know not where to find it. It shall be good.

In the meantime, the weather is getting darker, wetter, and colder. September was remarkably dry and warm (though it would be wet and cold by California standards) and Autumn has officially begun. It shall be good. I am wearing a sweater under my jacket today and will have to get out gloves, warm socks, and my scarf soon. It shall be good. I think missionary work is better in the winter here because people aren't so busy. It shall be good.

Hope everything is good for you. I look forward to your letters and will try to respond to those when I've got the time!

Lots of Love,
Elder Houghton

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

GQ a Redhead, High Five a Stranger, Introduce the Book of Mormon With Pictures

Dear Family,

So, it's been a good week. We've been really blessed and there are a few really good things coming through the pipe line despite the transfer week always being tough. Transfers were good. Elder Ruka went to Redditch which is just South of Birmingham and I got a new companion named Elder Tukuafu (say 2-ku-ah-fu) from Tonga. It's great. I've now had three companions from Pacific isles. Funny joke: I mentioned that my companion (then Elder Ruka) was from a Small island in the pacific and this American Elder I was talking to said that he was also from an island in the pacific. I thought he was totally joking but apparently he's actually from an island off the coast of Washington State so it was real-not what I was imagining when he said Pacific Island though. Elder Tukuafu is great though. His English is really really good which is just amazing. I can talk and explain things and it's just wonderful. I'm still getting used to being able to communicate openly with my companion. Elder Ruka was a great companion and I learned a lot from him about how your spirit and attitude often speak more powerfully than your words. He was obviously a good example of that. But it's good to get a fresh start with a new companion and get things really going. Also, the third area in the other ward in our district was reopened (Wylde Green where the mission office is A is the Assistants, B is the sisters there and C is the newly reopened area) so we now have five teams in our district! Woot woot! One of the assistants changed but other than that and Elder Ruka being replaced by Elder Tukuafu, everything in the district stayed the same.

So, Elder Tukuafu is really great. Here's a picture of him from a newspaper article before his mission. 


You can tell it's him because he's the only boy in the pictures. He says it's because the other guys in his (lds) high school didn't really want to be involved in things so he always was. It's funny!

Elder Tukuafu is really funny and happy all the time. It's great.

In other news, we're building great relationships with ward members and leaders and finding opportunities to teach which is great. We received a referral from a woman who wants to learn and come into the church. After meeting with her the first time, we gave her a plan of salvation leaflet and in the next visit, she had studied it thoroughly and read all of the additional study scriptures. So, it was awkward trying to teach because she already knew and understood everything-there were just some things that were new to her. It was actually quite a challenge to teach based on that because I was so unused to it but it's also really amazing! We're really excited for her. She couldn't make it to church so pray that everything goes well over the next week and general conference and everything!

Other than that, there's a young teenage sort of recent convert we were told to visit. His family is awesome. Not sure why they didn't join the church when he did a few years ago but they haven't had contact with missionaries in a while. So, we came and we get a fresh start. They offered to feed us so we're going for dinner and a lesson tomorrow. I'm really excited. They are great! We have a number of less-active people we're working with as well and they're doing alright-two came to church on Sunday and brought their non-member grandson. There were more people at church than ever before while I've been in Walsall-even though none of our actual investigators came.

So ya, things are good and I'm learning a lot. We're going to hit the ground hard this next week (yay!) and it should be great! Also, the Zone Leaders started challenge week-three challenges per day and then points at the end. Today it's:

1. GQ a redhead
2. High Five a stranger
3. Introduce the Book of Mormon using pictures

We're going to win and also convince the other teams that we're not competing so they shouldn't either... Muahahaha! or, convince the Zone Leaders to make a prize for the District that gets the most challenges completed. We shall see...

Love you all and hope the September-October shift treats you well. Keep up the prayers, we always need them!

Elder Houghton

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Another Week!

From 22 August 2014

Dear Everyone,

So, this week has been pretty good. On Friday, Alex was baptised by Elder Ruka and then on Sunday she asked me to confirm her. She is 13, really funny, and loves animals. Her testimony is really strong-especially considering that her father passed away just five weeks ago. She's awesome! It was really great for her and for the ward. Preparing her for baptism and having her interview and everything took up most of the energy for the week (it's remarkable how much we had to do actually). The ward here in Walsall is really great though. They are supportive, friendly, loving, forgiving, and amazing in just about every way. I'm grateful that I get to serve here.

In other news, Peter #1 flew home to Poland on Saturday and Peter #2 didn't show for our lesson (we were late though so it's probably our fault). We did talk to lots of Polish people in that area though (we'd brought Wojciech, the awesome Polish member here-I love him so much!) while we were there. Turns out Peter #1 wasn't really sincere anyway or at least that's what I think Wojciech was explaining to me (Peter #1's English is much better than Wojciech's which isn't very good). It's really funny being in a lesson with the two of them and Elder Ruka and realising that I'm the only one who actually speaks English and I still have little understanding of what's going on. It's great fun and a really good learning experience though-they remind me to slow down a lot. The Book of Mormon is great though for non-English lessons because we can read it verse by verse and stay on the same page about what's happening.

We shall see what happens this upcoming week though. We don't have many teachable investigators at the moment but we have some Less Active members we need to meet with and some finding to do. Hopefully we'll have time for it all. Transfers are this week as well so it will be interesting as always to see who goes and who stays and who the new companions are. I've got news that Elder Bergquist is training though so I'll have a full mission grandson! Woot Woot! Also, my Mission Cousin Elder Wrenger who has been in the same zone as me for all of his mission except one transfer (he keeps following me everywhere!) is training so it will be cool. If Elder Smart is there at transfers, we'll be able to get a four generation family photo! It's all just great. Technically, I'm not supposed to know about who is training but ya...

So, anyway, it has been a good week. It was great to be able to participate in Alex's conversion and change to following the Saviour. There is still a lot of work to do to strengthen her and her mother in the gospel and help them build up their testimonies. It will be good though and the ward is really supportive and encouraging.

Anyhow, I've got to get going but know that I love and pray for you all and hope all is well!
Elder Houghton

P.S. I'll  let you know about transfer news next week!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Seven Months Left. . .

I didn't have my camera with me so I couldn't send pictures of the farm visit I mentioned last week. It was fun.  Here is. . .
a gruff billy goat (a guard goat actually)

chief of the pecking order (only one tail feather though was a bit sad...)
Elder Ruka with a horse

me with a horse

Dear Family,

I wouldn't have noticed until Mom pointed out to me that it was mid September that time is flying so fast. I have heard that my group of missionaries will go home on April 15th or something if that's a Wednesday so I've got just a few short months left of full time service as a missionary. That being said though, I am looking forward to the opportunities which I will have once I get back home to continue serving and spreading the gospel.

We've been really blessed this week to meet some great people who we either are teaching or will be teaching shortly. It's been tricky lately with finding in our area for a number of reasons so it's really great to teach some new people! One of them is a wonderfully prepared Polish man named Peter (Peter #1 for future reference). He was doing really well and we had met with him a few times but then he didn't come to church on Sunday. I think the key though is his awesome Polish member friend Wojciech ("Voy-Check") who we are working with to help him with a few things. Once he's receiving all of the blessings of the gospel, I think it should be easier for Peter to accept everything and keep all of his commitments. We also did a bit of the groundwork for some Less-Active member work we will be doing soon so that was great. There's a story behind that:

We arranged with a man in the ward named Brother Woods to come to his home to go over the ward list and figure out who is who. Brother Woods has been in the ward since before it was even a branch-he and his wife were the first members in Walsall. He's now quite old but his mind is all there and he has a fantastic memory. We went over the ward list and he highlighted some people that we ought to search out. It was interesting though that he kept repeating a few phrases about some of the members he had known:
  • "I thought she'd be underground by now."
  • "Well, if he's still above ground, he's definitely worth a visit"
  • "If you see her, tell her Stan Woods gives her his love"
  • Also just the general of him and his wife calling each other poppet (spl?) and just generally being fantastic old English people. From him: "Oh come on now, let's have a hug" and then getting a tiny bit of a friendly kiss... It's great. He winks at me when he comes into Priesthood with his trike walker when I'm at the piano (I've been enlisted and I'm enjoying it quite a lot-we even have music practice of a hymn each Sunday in addition to the opening song). Anyway, it was just great fun being with some very very English old people.
A few funny things:
  • One of the localities just south of Birmingham City Centre is California. I've never heard of it other than seeing it on the map-some of the locality names aren't really known (In Coventry, we lived in "Paradise" but no one ever used that locality name). So anyway, it's out of the Zone so I'll never go there unless I get transferred to Harborne ward but it's nice to think that if I need to get to California, it's just a bus ride away.
  • At a pub we passed somewhere, there was an advertisement on the little chalkboard easel thing that many pubs have: it said "Special Deal: Buy Two and Pay for Both." funny funny
  • I bought six ties for £3 today at a stall in the town centre market thing in Walsall. I got them so that we can have district unity ties (companion ties are so 2013!). Kind of awkward figuring out how to include the sisters in that district unity...
We had some wonderful training at Zone Meeting on Thursday as well. Our Zone Leaders are fantastic! It was a wonderfully uplifting spiritual experience.

We performed a musical item for the ward of hymn 220 which went well. Miraculously, I hit the D acceptably after struggling to do so in practice during the men only verse. It was really nice. Sacrament meeting was fantastic and things are great.

Alex Sutton will be baptised on Friday. She's 13 and an amazing investigator. She's been ready to be baptised for a while but her father passed away a few weeks ago so it's been tough for her mother and everything. Really sad and I've learned a lot about grief and the pain of dealing with death. Alex is doing fine though-it's just that someone didn't update her teaching record so we have to make sure she is taught and willing to live all of the commandments in the missionary lessons and prepared for her baptismal interview. It will be great for Elder Ruka as she's asked him to baptise her. Should be great!

I love you all lots. Sorry this email isn't spiritual as it ought to be. I saved a really cool experience in a video that I made (look forward to Elder Houghton's cooking show episode one coming soon) but which I will have to send on the micro SD card because videos are too big to send via email. It was quite a miracle (and involves Peter #"2). It has been a great week though. The Lord is blessing us tremendously and His work is progressing here! I'm so grateful to be a small part of it.

Elder Houghton

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Running Out Of Subject Lines. . .

Dear Everyone,

Sorry I'm running out of good subject lines for these emails. Let me know of any suggestions. It's kind of tough trying to be original about 100 times.

Some Highlights from the week:
  • I went to Wednesbury (pronounced like Wednesday) where I have a lot of family history. We were only there for a bit to have dinner with our Ward Mission Leader and we popped into a bike shop to see if the guy there had a used bike that would work for Elder Ruka. He was way too pushy about selling the too good to be true only used bike he had so we made an exit. Other than that, it's fairly small and there's a decent bus station which is cool. Haven't seen much else.

  • I learned from our Ward Mission Leader that Street signals (red=stop, green=go etc.) were invented in Wolverhampton, which is a hop on a bus away.

  • I made some delicious food from Cape Verde that Elder Fonseca (one of the other Elders in the district) taught me to make on exchange. It's great and filling and perfect in just about every way-had leftovers for breakfast this morning.

  • I bought a Lego Minifigure sticker book so spice life up with last week. Sticker books are the new thing in the mission.

  • Church was wonderful yesterday. Just fabulous. I have a bit of a better knowledge of who people are etc. so it's great. We'll be singing in sacrament meeting next week as well which will be cool.
  • We had a fantastic Zone Conference on Saturday and we were visited by an area seventy from the Netherlands and his wife (Elder and Sister Boom (pronounced Bohm)). It was perfect for my needs and I learned loads and felt the spirit strongly. I don't think I could survive without the spiritual upliftment that comes from the meetings we hold regularly. They are vital. Just a few of many amazing highlights:
    • "God Loves us too much to leave us the way we are."
    • The man who asked the Saviour "Carest thou not that we perish" was just about the worst question in the world to ask. Who on Earth cares more? We just need to stay in the boat and trust in the Lord
    • The Area Seventy powerfully told us (with a bit of an accent) "When you Elders get home, don't touch those video games. We are preparing for the Second Coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ and we cannot afford to dabble in addictions" (not an exact quote at all-it was like that but better). One of the sisters in my district almost leaped up for joy and asked him to get someone to say that in general conference so her brothers would hear.
    • From Sister Boom: Jenna and the Problem-Maker -a story with great applications to missionary work.
  • I bought a new pair of shoes from a closing down store. Yay cheap shoes!

  • We randomly met up with a woman we're working with at a farm. There were chickens, horses, a sheep, a cow, a mean guard goat, turkeys, ducks, geese, the whole shibang. It was pretty cool. Elder Ruka loved it (maybe in part aided by the fact that they don't have sheep, turkeys, horses, goats, or cows in his country) as did I-I suddenly wished I could have been raised on a farm- and it was good to interact with this lady in a positive way (she's had a lot a lot a lot of stress and challenges lately).

I've run myself out of time but I love you loads and look forward to hearing from you soon!

Elder Houghton