Monday, 27 January 2014

Hello from Gloucester!

Ready for a transfer!

 Dear Everyone,

So transfers happened and I got moved!  I was sent to Cloucester C (stuck with C it seems-I'd hoped to go A, B, C, and then D (Stroud A, Warwick B, Coventry C, and then Swansea or Harbourne D as there ae only two D teams other than Coventry. . .)) with Elder Decaudin.  It's great.

Gloucester is a wonderful place-especially for missionary work. The people are so nice!--You don't have to do a perfect approach to get people to not ignore you-they are just nice enough to stop and talk! It's still a City so it has the City feel and energy but it's significantly smaller than Coventry (I've been told that I came from the Concrete Jungle...) but not so small. Also, I've only seen one mosque. Let that sink in a bit. Now, let the fact that I haven't seen a single Hindu or Sikh temple sink in. This should take about ten minutes to sink in. It's quite different. I'm not sure if I'm in the same country. When I talked to my first person in Gloucester, I thought he had an accent from the North or something but it turns out that Gloucester people have a bit of a different accent from Coventry. It's weird. Gloucester is very different. It's quite clean and upper-middle class. It's also way more ethnically English than Coventry was. The ward is amazing! It's pretty big but not too big--tonnes of families. The members are all really friendly, nice, solid people who teach and fellowship and everything! I love it. Also, we have a super awesome district here. It's the three teams in Gloucester (A, B (sisters), and C and then the one team in the Forrest of Dean Branch (they have a car!)). They are all awesome, dedicated, and obedient missionaries. I love them all so much! The Forrest of Dean Elders are both American but other than that, I'm the only American. We have two Canadians in Gloucester A (eh), and then a Canadian and a German in Gloucester B. Gloucester District is going to be great! I'll get pictures out soon but don't want to go into detail before you can connect the faces to names. There's a lot to do to get things up and running but I think it will all go well.

Out the window of our flat, a beautiful church. If the
church wasn't there, you would be able to see where
another team of missionaries live in Gloucester.
All the teams live about a 5 minute walk from each other
which is just really weird.

My new companion, Elder Decaudin
(say it: duh-co-dahn without saying
much of the n at the end)
On Elder Decaudin:  He's from Rouen in Normandy, France and he just got finished being trained here in Gloucester so he's been out 3 months. His English is pretty good but we're still working on it and we have language study (a mixed blessing as it takes so much time). He's working hard at English and I'm getting to use some of the French that I acquired over 3 months at BYU. We oddly have like 7 people in the Gloucester Ward who served missions in France too-including both parents of an American family (sort of American--it's complicated).

So, this week has been good getting adjusted to Gloucester and a new companion. We have a lot of work to do and improve on and it should be good. I'm really excited for the future! I don't have much time to email but I love you all and hope all is well.

My new address is:

Flat 1, 4 Cheltenham Rd.

It's so much shorter than the address in Coventry so you can spend that much more time writing me!
Elder Houghton

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Coventry Transport Museum and a week in January!

From 20 January 2014

Dear Everyone,

Pictures first. Last P day after emailing, we went to the Coventry Transport  Museum. Coventry has actually played a really important role in the development of the automotive and bicycle industries. We saw some pretty cool stuff.

The 21 still runs from Wood End in our Area to Willenhall and it's the bus that goes by our flat to the church. Crazy that they've kept the number. Pretty cool. I'll have to get a picture of a modern double-decker 21 in Network West Midlands/National Express Coventry paint job.

The Second fastest car. In the world. Woa!

The Olympic torch. I think the plaque said it was made in Coventry.

 The Fastest Car in the World! We got to ride a simulator of the world record run which was pretty cool...

Elder DeHaan riding to an appointment... Just kidding. This was in the bike section of the museum.

We had to go way far out in our area to track down an address unknown file person in a tiny town called Barnacle. He wasn't there but we met this dog. 

Someone who was there cough cough made the comment that he looked like one of the current memebers fo the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I'll let you guess which one. So there's a picture of the view on the way out and also the dog we met while knocking doors in the area.

We often talk to people near this pond called the Swanswell Pool (Google Maps it!). Unfortunately, just as I was about to take this picture, most of the birds randomly flew off. The idea was to get a picture of the massive number and surprising variety of birds. They include:
Canadian Geese
a Farm goose
Swans (a whole family with about five mostly mature adolescents)
common ducks
weird black birds
other black ducks with cool feathers on their heads
Rats. Eww. we often see them scittering around the edge of the pond. It's gross. 

Also, I know that rats aren't birds... Hopefully you all caught that. There are just so many birds there. It's ridiculous. People feed them like crazy too...

We talked to this guy on the street and he basically invited us to lunch at a really nice Portugese restaurant for lunch the next day after we told him we couldn't stay for dinner  that night as we had to go back to the flat because it was almost nine. He's from Bahrain and his daughter (who we met at lunch and who took the picture) is studying at Coventry University so he was visiting for a few days. He is super nice and wants to send me books on Islam and the American Missionary Hospital in Bahrain. Pretty much one of the nicest people I've met on my mission.  Note:  We did share with him the Book of Mormon and teach a quick restoration lesson. It was great.

Ok. So pictures take a lot of time. Sorry this is short.

This week has been good but also challenging. We've taught a bit but the people we taught weren't the most solid which was frustrating. Also we got flogged a lot (flogging is when people don't show up for their appointments). So basically, we worked hard and well but the work we did didn't have a big impact on people progressing in the gospel in Coventry C. We did find some really amazing people for other teams though! A while back we had a District Finding activity in City Centre of just talking to tonnes of people while the City Centre was busy for Christmas. Two of the people I found while on a mini exchange with one of our Zone Leaders were just totally not interested Chinese girls at Coventry University who barely gave us their phone numbers and seemed not interested at all. Then, the missionaries who are over their area got in contact and taught them and set them on a date for baptism on February 1st and they were at church on Sunday. Crazy. There were 12 Chinese Investigators (plus three Chinese Recent Converts, and one Indian Investigator) all of whom are students, at church on Sunday. We don't have many Chinese people in our area so they were all from Coventry B, E, and D but it was cool anyway. Basically, we as a district are going to baptise a whole ward of Chinese people to go back and prepare for the opening of China to missionary work. It's epic. While everyone else in the District teaches Chinese people though, we'll work on the Latvians, Eritreans, Nigerians, and Romanians in our area. They are awesome too.

Tonight we get the famous "Dodge Call" which shall be interesting. I don't know what's going to happen to me. Really anything could happen. I kind of want to get a fresh start in a new area but I don't really know. I like Coventry C and have learned a lot here. It's up to the Lord to send me where I'm needed. Kind of stressful and difficult to keep working in an area that you could be leaving in two days... but you don't know if you actually are leaving. It's just weird trying to explain to people that it might be other people who come to teach them but then it could just be us and ya... I just don't like the awkwardness of explaining it. Also, it's hard to tell members and others who you would want to say goodbye to because there's only one day between getting the information and departing... Hopefully it goes well. I am a bit stressed though. I'll let you all know as soon as I can about what happens.

I've learned a lot this week. Studying the scriptures thinking about how to teach and explain things to Muslims instead of just for myself puts them in a totally different light and teaches a lot that I think we all need to remember. Heavenly Father is teaching me a lot and helping me grow a lot too. I'm out of time though so have a great week!

Elder Houghton

Merry January. . .Books of Mormon in Tegrina and Persian!

From 13 January 2014
Selections from the Book of Mormon are available in Persian!

Hello Everyone,
This week has been pretty decent. It's been tough and things aren't easy but that's okay as we're learning a lot. Our teaching pool just keeps shuffling as we drop and get dropped by flaky and uncommunicative people. We're learning to adapt though. Also, we have a Muslim investigator who has read all of 1 Nephi since we met him 1.5 weeks ago and wants to read the whole Book of Mormon before we get in depth discussing things. We just have to trust in the converting and convincing power of the Book of Mormon because I don't think I'll ever be able to convince anyone that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Saviour of the world (which is the main sticking point with Muslims of course). So, that's a pretty great accomplishment (crazy thing, he just walked into the library and shook our hands. He's great. His name is I and he's from Eritrea. He's an Asylum seeker. That's actually pretty cool and crazy that I teach Muslim Asylum seekers (he's not the first)). Also, I've officially added Russian to the list of languages that we have taught people in (with translators of some kind or another). AND, we added Sri Lanka to the list of places we've met and/or taught people from. This list is quite long and exhaustive but there hasn't been much change as we've plateaued in Coventry having met people from most of the ethnic groups. Also, weird thing is that you can tell Iranians apart politically by whether they identify themselves as Iranian or Persian... A "Persian" guy lives in I's house and we met him the other day. Now working on getting Copies of the Books of Mormons (my hybrid for the plural of "Book of Mormon" as people argue for "Book of Mormons," "Books of Mormon," or "Copies of the Book of Mormon") in Tegrina (language of Eritrea) and Persian...
Transfers are rapidly approaching. Today is the day that training calls usually come out. Anything could happen with the upcoming transfers. Really anything. We'll find out next Monday night. For the next week I'm still in Coventry C with Elder DeHaan and I guess that's what matters for the present moment.
Sorry this email is so short and pictures are scarce. We'll work on getting one of me driving the world's fastest car--may have to settle for standing next to it--for next week. Thanks for all the prayers and support. I'm learning a lot and growing. The Lord has especially taught me this week that often, we don't have total control of how we feel the His love but we do have a lot of control over feeling His love by being a conduit and representative of Him to others. That was a great help to me. We really are happiest when we are serving and loving others. Now the trick is doing it!
I love you all a lot. England is great. I'm learning a lot and I'm changing a lot. Heavenly Father is really blessing us and there are many miracles.
Elder Houghton

Monday, 6 January 2014

Hello From Your Coventrian Missionary!

Dear Everyone,
The official Coventrian
Coventrian may or may not be the right thing to say but it's epic and I saw it on a canal boat next to the road we take to church (check the canal next to the Northern bit of Swan Lane in Coventry, you might be able to see the boat on google maps streetview...). Note from Mom:  I tried and could see houseboats, but not the name. . .Fun anyway to get a feel for the area!  I did find this picture of the "Coventrian" houseboat.  Also, I'll highlight all the "great"s in thus blog.  I think it's been a good week!
So, this week has been good. It's nice to get out of Christmas/Holiday mode and back to work. We still had New Year's eve and day in the middle of the week and they kind of slowed things down a bit but we did get going. Some wonderful things/learning experiences happened this week. I'm really short on time today so I may not be able to properly express how great it was.
1. We had an exchange with the Zone Leaders. I stayed in Coventry C with Elder Graydon who is Irish and learned how to really find and be a full time servant. It was great and wonderful. We found more Potential Investigators on that day than any other before that on my mission. The cooler thing was though that the next day back with Elder DeHaan, we found even more (so it wasn't just Elder Graydon but what we learned and changed). It's great!

2. Because of a goal Elder Graydon and I had to find Return Appointments, we had a return appointment with this cool Muslim guy named an Arabic form of a bible name (most bible names have Arabic forms so it's interesting translating what the Muslims have in the Qu'ran to the names that we know). If anyone could find a table of the equivalents between the Qu'ran and the Bible, please send it to me. I need to know who Suleiman is but others are easier (Musa=Moses, Adam=Adam, they have a different name for Eve, etc. etc.) The great thing was that while in this appointment, the Lord taught us HOW TO TEACH MUSLIMS!!! It was so great. Basically, the first thing is realising that we can teach Muslims. That is huge as most missionaries here just don't/can't do it because there is a bit of a different approach and they tend to actually believe what they say more than Christians do and know more of their doctrine than the average Christian/atheist. Really though, we should be able to use that to our advantage because the focus on actual doctrine will help them see the truth of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ (half the challenge is helping them see that we are different and unique from other Christians and we don't believe and practice as other Christians do). The key to teaching them though is that they must have an understanding of the doctrine of the fall of Adam and Eve and the agency of Man and then they will be able to understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the necessity of a divine sacrifice and Saviour. Another challenge is teaching all of this while not accepting the Qu'ran as the Word of God but also not making it a contentious/confrontational encounter. It's tough but it's going to work. We have a lot of development and practice yet to do as well. This seriously opens up so many doors! It's great!  For a feel for how the gospel can impact someone who has been Muslim, go to this site!
3. We had Interviews with President Rasmussen on Friday. He taught me some great stuff and helped me with the approach to teaching Muslims (we had the revelatory lesson the night before). Basically, the other key is helping all people see that God is their Loving Heavenly Father and He wants all of us to become like Him. Other than on that subject, President Rasmussen taught me about how to really trust in the Lord. My new Motto is to trust in the Lord because it's 100% him and then work like it's 100% me. That has seriously helped me so much. He also asked me to compare the desire I have to share the gospel with people and get return appointments on a normal day with what it would be like if my family was going to be killed if I didn't get a return appointment by the end of the day. I was taken aback at first. Then he said that the difference was that I loved my family more than all of that and the key was to try to love all the people around me as much as I love them because as missionaries, we really are saving eternal lives (which in fact are more important than mortal lives). So that was a good thing for me to think about and try to improve. I've already started to see a change in my desire to share the gospel with everyone we see and meet.
So, all in all, this past week has been a pretty mission/life-changing experience. I have seriously learned so much and grown so much and felt the spirit so much. I'm so grateful for that! Heavenly Father is really blessing me and us. Also, in case anyone didn't notice, I passed my 8 month mark on my mission. That's 1/3! I can't believe I've been out that long. I have so much more to learn and grow and so little time. Oh boy.
Anyhow, I'm basically out of time. I love you all a lot. The weather is dreadful but at least it's only getting dark at 4:45 p.m. now!
Elder Houghton
P.S. Please pray for J, an awesome Latvian Investigator who is so prepared! It's great. Basically, we answered tonnes of questions for him yesterday and it was super. I'm so excited! We have a lot of other people to pray for but I don't have time to write about them now.