Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Happy Last Week of February!

From 24 February 2014

Dear Everyone,
First, to assuage any concerns that I have been able to ignore the mission rule of no swimming due to flooding, the floods haven't really been that bad at all. In fact, this week, half the days were like spring. Gloucester was never hit by any real floods, it's just that the big fields that are meant to absorb the flood around the city are totally full and the river is really high. It's actually gone down lately so things are ok. The Gloucester Cathedral is way bigger

than the church thing in the picture that was posted on the blog and also not surrounded by water at all. I don't even think that it's in Gloucester but I don't know the southern side of the city and it could be down there but I really really doubt it.
This week was really cool. There were many miracles but also challenges.
First, pictures.

1. I WENT TO ANOTHER COUNTRY THIS WEEK!!! The Forest of Dean Elders in our District live in Monmouth, Wales. I got this picture of the Welcome to Wales sign on the way in but it got mostly blocked by the insurance sticker thing on the windshield. Sorry! Fortunately, you can see that it says Wales.

2. There are many sheep in Wales. While not actually in Wales, this picture was taken when we had to slow down for sheep on the road (that's right, the Forest Elders have a car!) They are a lot closer than they look and I was going to go and touch one but they ran away so ya, I just pointed at them weirdly...

3. Elder Parham, who I was on exchange with in the Forest on Saturday turned 21 earlier in the week so the Sisters made him a Birthday cake. It's so epic. Hopefully you can see all the gummie bears in different stages of being destroyed by the lava. Also, I think you can see the Sisters in the background and Elder Decaudin's suit. They're great!

The French Family that we've been teaching came to church this Sunday! It was awesome. Miraculously, the Ward Music Coordinator had chosen to have a French Song from the French Hymn Book as the Prelude music. It is "Souviens-Toi" and it was really cool. I could sing it but I don't know what it all means. Hopefully they liked it. Their kids enjoyed primary which was really cool. Also, it's the first time that I've ever had a family that I've taught come to church. Ok actually, not really. But it is the first time where a family unit of two parents and more than one child came to church together. So it was really cool! It will be a slow process teaching them but hopefully things work out. Pray for them!
Otherwise, the week passed by quite nicely, we've had 3-4 days of absolutely gorgeous weather which has been great. The only problem is the 30 minute downpour that still happens randomly during the day after it's been sunny for most of the day... So yes, pretty much I will be wearing or carrying a waterproof layer for my entire mission! Someday, I'll count the calories that were spent on lugging that weight around.
This week in my studies, I've learned a lot about the Plan of Salvation. Really truly, it is all about our Heavenly Father's Infinite and Eternal Love for us, His children. The Plan of Salvation only makes sense if it is in that context. It is remarkable how most people haven't even an inkling of an idea of how much Heavenly Father loves them and wants the best for them. I'm working on living up to that infinite love He has for me and so trying to become a better conduit and messenger to share that love with others.
Elder Decaudin is great. I'm not sure if his English is better or if I'm just getting used to the way he says things but the number of times where I have no idea what he means per week has dramatically decreased since the first week we were together. It was never that high anyway and I can understand him just fine. Sometimes it's just hard to communicate complex ideas to which I don't understand the context. Also, there is sometimes a bit of confusion on his part when he doesn't understand what I mean or the context in which I am saying it (the other night brushing our teeth over the bathroom sink took an interesting turn-probably not helped by the fact that our mouths were full of toothpaste). His pronunciation has gotten a lot better though! That's a good thing. Elder Decaudin is great and I'm learning a load from him!

Other random news: We're going to the Gloucester City museum after emailing today. I still haven't been into the Cathedral but we'll have District Preparation day there in a week on "dodge day" (the day of transfer calls coming out as they come out on the infamous "dodge night").
I love you all lots! Have a wonderful week! Thanks for all the prayers and support and love. They really truly help a lot with the challenges that we face as missionaries.
Elder Houghton

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Finally Up & Going in Gloucester C!

From 17 February 2014

Dear Everyone,
This week has been pretty good. We had our challenges and out setbacks and this upcoming week will be a bit tougher but it was alright and we saw many miracles. I think that things are finally up and going in Gloucester C. We have a lot of work and improvement to do and many many people to follow up with so there's yet much room for improvement but that's ok. It's a good thing that things are moving because the other teams in the District had really really rough weeks (illness, flogging, etc.). We have such wonderful missionaries in our District. It's great. They are the best and they are such good examples.
Some Miracles this week:
We found this middle-aged Polish man a few weeks ago. He said that he was going to Poland so we would have to make an appointment for after his return after he had to cancel our original appointment. I was thinking: "ya right!" and that it would just be another one of those people who is nice on the street but then just doesn't have the commitment to actually show up to a lesson. So, anyhow, I wrote a reminder to call him which I totally forgot about until the day that he got back and I saw the reminder. We called and set up an appointment but he lives out of our area (bummer!) but we had to go anyway because we made the appointment and the other team couldn't make it. Turns out that he had slipped on the ice in Poland and broken his ankle so he's basically immobile in his home until it heals=he can be taught all the time and isn't super busy like everyone else we meet. So, I was on exchange with Elder Orr from Gloucester A and we taught him a most solid and amazing first lesson. He was really receptive and open and wonderful and it was great. He committed to be baptised when he finds out it's true. It was great but then I think he had to go into Hospital and we couldn't get back in touch yet. Prayers that he answers the phone today please!
Like I said earlier, this week has been a bit tougher but it's been good. Today we were planning on having District P day after Emails and going to the Gloucester Cathedral and then getting food somewhere but we will see as one of the teams can't make it due to that illness. We shall see...
We've been trying to get member missionary work going in Gloucester. As in just about every area I've served in, there has been a bit of a disconnect between members and missionaries. So, we're trying to fix that and help the members trust and love us. It's really hard actually. Elder Decaudin is having to get a French Recipe for one lady in the ward among other things that we're doing. One of those things is to try to get into every member's home in our area to teach the PMG chapter 5 lesson to every member family in our area. It's about how to use the Book of Mormon to answer the Questions of the Soul that everyone has. So far, we've only been able to teach it once in our area-to the Bishop- but it went well and we have a few opportunities to teach it soon. I'm excited because other missionaries have seen great success from sharing the lesson and helping members share the Book of Mormon.

Gloucester Cathedral and flooding

The weather has improved slightly this past week. We had a beautiful almost spring day yesterday for a nice Sunday. Basically, Gloucester is on the verge of floods right now. Going out of the city to Newent feels like a tour of a big open swamp instead of a pleasant drive through the English country side. There are huge areas on the city boundaries that are under quite a few feet of water and the Severn is really really high.

Random cool thing:
Gloucester and London were the two options for the Capital of England a long time ago. They only chose London because the docks are wider there.
Time for Missionary Alphabet!
A is an Investigator who we found via M, his wife.
Beales. A family in the ward who all gave talks on Sunday (Mom, Dad and oldest daughter). Their talks were really really great and we're teaching them the PMG ch. 5 lesson later this week.
C is a Chinese lady found in Gloucester but lived in Cheltenham but then sort of lives in Gloucester so we are officially teaching her now. It's really confusing and weird. Word of Wisdom went well on Saturday but then she didn't come to church...
Decaudin, Elder. He is my amazing and wonderful companion. He is great and his English is getting better each day!
E (also in Coventry). A less active member we were working with. He's being ordained to be a priest on Sunday. Woot Woot!
F family-a really nice family in the ward who we are helping out. They're great!
Gloucester is the place to be!
I (in Coventry). I got word from Elder DeHaan that he's now super solid and would be baptised if he could be granted asylum. They're working on that.
J is an Investigator from Rwanda who is awesome and really intelligent. Great questions but the complicated answers take a lot of time so it's hard to teach him but he's great.
K is a LA man we're teaching. He's awesome and is working really hard to learn and grow in the gospel.
L is now in YW after her baptism on Saturday. She was taught by the sisters
M is from Sri Lanka via France. Elder Decaudin saw the French License plate. Long story short, we're teaching them in French. Well actually, Elder Decaudin is teaching them in French with a returned missionary who served in France and I occasionally pipe in with an incorrectly phrased question that they sort of understand. We have an appointment to teach tomorrow and we're going to read the Book of Mormon in both English and French so that they can improve their English (which is why they moved to England).
N, the father of a Hindu family that we got to teach once but they're very busy. Pray that they'll have time and we'll come at the right moment!
R is the Polish guy from above.
S is an Investigator. She's awesome!
Williams, Elder. One of our awesome Zone Leaders. He's great and funny.
Z, a white Muslim guy that we found and we're trying to teach.
Sorry not all the letters are filled in. I could find more but I don't have much time and ya, we still are going to need to do some work. There are more that I could include, it's just that they have the same first letters to their names as other people.
Anyhow, missionary work is hard and I'm learning a lot and trying to be more diligent. The Lord is really blessing us but that doesn't make things magically easy as we might like.
This week my study has been all over the place but I got some great insight and help from Heavenly Father on improving my skills and abilities and also helping the Gloucester District be amazing. It was good. Heavenly Father is really helping me and us. Elder Decaudin is great. We're learning a lot together. We don't have much time though so with that, have a lovely week everyone, you are great and I love you!
Elder Houghton

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Breathe. Repeat. Take Courage!

From 20 February 2014

Dear Everyone,

So this week, we have Zone P day activities in Cheltenham so our emailing time is fairly limited. Also, we're in a brand new library with school children singing rather loudly so I'm having a hard time focusing.(Elder Decaudin says: "I'm not sure all these songs are mission-approved.")

This week has been good but also challenging. We've seen a lot of miracles and cool things happening but we're also still struggling to find some solid people to teach. We got a miracle referral from some other missionaries who ran into the partner of a less-active member in our area. The challenge was making it to the appointment out in a little tiny town that we originally had no idea how to get there. Then on the bus ride back from a great lesson, Elder Decaudin taught me how to talk to people on a bus. basically it just involves a few simple steps:
Newent Library

1. Breathe
2. Repeat
3. It only takes ten seconds of courage but it takes seven seconds to get to the other place on the bus so count to three and then go to the predetermined person and start the conversation
4. Repeat steps 1 and 2

So basically, Elder Decaudin got a return appointment with this cool man named R so we'll be teaching him on Tuesday in the Newent library. It was pretty cool. Elder Decaudin is such a good example to me!

So on other fronts, I realised that I've never really learned how to do member-missionary work. It's always a challenge and I don't think it's ever perfect. On Sunday we decided that instead of going tracting and/or street contacting in the potential rain, we were just going to try to see every active member in our area who we didn't know or hadn't seen at church that day. It was a miraculously inspired decision! We now are going to be teaching one family who really needs the church to be more involved in their life/lives every week and we think it will have a really big impact. Also, after having had only one Dinner Appointment in Gloucester since being here (Thanks Sister Julke!), we decided to ask every active member family in Gloucester C to have us over to teach them a lesson about the Book of Mormon (the PMG ch. 5 lesson that my last Ward Mission Leader had huge success with on his mission in Scotland). So, we were able to talk to remarkably few members at church on Sunday but we have a lesson scheduled and the member who accepted immediately invited us over for dinner when we suggested it (a much appreciated bonus). So, now we have two dinner appointments scheduled for this week (a dramatic improvement from 1 in 2.5 weeks) and I think we're going to get things going with member work. I'm really excited! It's not even the actual food because honestly, it's a bit inconvenient to have to bike out to some weird place where there aren't going to be tonnes of people we can talk to but it's really worth it in the long run (I hope!). So the new strategy should be good!

With the new focus on member work in Gloucester C, we're looking forward to things really getting going here this upcoming week. Basically, all of our somewhat solid investigators had weird stuff happening until this upcoming week so now they're all available and should come to church and learn and feel the spirit and develop faith and commit to be baptised!

The weather has been pretty dismal this week. The Bishop pointed out last week that there were lots of pot holes on the road now since it had been raining so badly. I'll have to consuly my civil engineer father on the veracity of that statement as I thought that asphalt was pretty water-resistant but the roads are pretty bad-I had thought it was just the fact that January isn't the time of year to be fixing roads but ya, Elder Decaudin hit a pretty bad one in the dark last night and it sounded like his tyre might have popped but it was ok.

Also, our District is awesome! We have amazing missionaries and because one of them is Lactose Intolerant but loves Froot Loops like no other, upon instruction to bring cereal and milk for Zone P day today, we're going to have Almond Milk with Froot Loops and we'll have a Canadian flag!

I've been bad about pictures this week but I'll work on it.

Heavenly Father has been really blessing me as I try to focus more and more on the Saviour. I'm trying to apply the Atonement more in the work here. I've been realising that I'm not the most patient person which makes it tough but He's helping me with that too. It is His work and sometimes, we just have to let Him do it and make sure we don't get in the way.

I love you lots and lots and hope that you have a wonderful week!
Elder Houghton

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Wettest Month In English History is Now Over!

Dear Everyone,

The Wettest Month In English History is Now Over!

I did make a bit of a comparison between my prayers for sunshine and the fasting on the West Coast of the U.S. for rain. Also, I hadn't thought that the rain was that much worse than normal (of course not having experienced a normal January here). The only problem with the rain and cold and wind has been that, missionary work being an outdoor sport (yes, and I'm going to make a petition for Rio 2016 and 2018 in S. Korea somewhere), it is a bit tougher in the pouring wind and rain.

So anyhow, this week has been one of those weeks for breaking down before building back up again. I was sick on Tuesday and thought I had recovered sufficiently so was excited to exchange to Cheltenham with one of our awesome Zone Leaders, Elder Gorouhi (don't even ask how to pronounce that one as I don't know...). We had a marvelous time and I learned loads. The one thing is that most Zone Leaders stay warm and dry in their cars but not these ones! We were out in the rain and cold all day and it was epic. I cannot even say how awesome it was to learn all the things I did and get the chance to take them back to the rest of the Gloucester District. After that exchange (Wed to Thurs), I headed up on a mini-exchange for a baptismal interview in the Forest of Dean. Unfortunately, it was in the English part of the Forest so I still haven't been to Wales but it was a really amazing experience as well. Then we got back in time to get to bed and then wake up on Friday for Weekly Planning and then another exchange with Gloucester A and the newest missionary in our District, Elder Hunter who is one of two Albertans who are two of the three Canadians in our District (the other is from B.C.). That exchange was epic and we both learned a lot as well-including the most successful and amazing door-knocking experience I've ever been part of (and it was only like the 8th door knocked on his mission so it was great) and more biking in the pouring rain out to Brockworth (home of world famous cheese-rolling). So then, I was sick again with different and worse symptoms on Saturday evening and worse still on Sunday. Then I got a Priesthood Blessing from Elders Orr, Hunter, and Decaudin after church and felt much better-not quite enough to risk the cold and wet for Sunday but I'm now miraculously at 95% and excited to have a real work week ahead of us. It should be good. Heavenly Father has really blessed me! I'm so grateful! Also, I hate hate hate being sick! I'm chowing down on Vitamin C and doing all sorts of other things that my parents have been telling me to do for years (and, note, have been doing thus far on my mission (lest there be any unnecessary chastisement from the parental health advisory council (Dad!)).

Some cool/weird things:

1. The man who wrote the Star Spangled Banner was born in Gloucester... or something like that anyway.
Gloucester Cathedral, of Harry Potter fame

2. Much of Harry Potter was filmed in the Gloucester Cathedral. We should be going there some P day soon...

3. We found a French Family to teach after Elder Decaudin noticed their French License plate and decided to knock.

 The Gloucester District + Zone Leaders who came to District Meeting.
Back Row: Elder Williams (Zone Leader, Arizona I think, Cheltenham
A), Elder Hunter (Alberta, Gloucester A), Elder Parham (Arizona,
Forest of Dean), Elder Haynie (Utah I think, Forest of Dean), Sister
Muhlman (Germany, Gloucester B. Also, there should be two dots
over the u...), and Sister Lambert (British Columbia, Gloucester B).
Front Row: Elder Orr (Alberta, Gloucester A), Elder Gorouhi
(Zone Leader, Germany, Cheltenham A), Elder Decaudin
(France, Gloucester C), and Elder Houghton (Californ-I-ay,
Gloucester C).

4. The Gloucester District is AMAZING!!!

5. I got to add a language to my"List of Languages that People I have Taught have Needed Materials in Because they weren't Totally Fluent in English"--Portugese while on exchange in Cheltenham. Also, the "Department for making ridiculously long names for lists of things that I make up when I'm not at a public library so my time isn't as constrained as normal" got a metaphorical funding increase this week because we're not emailing at the 2 hour limited public library.

6. Elder Decaudin almost got killed by a hydroplaning Volkswagon while I was on exchange with Elder Hunter.  BTW, Elder Decaudin is doing great. His English is getting better and I can understand him better than at first (His English was pretty good to start out with). We're learning a lot together and he mostly avoided the illness. He's also really really funny which is good because I can be a bit boring.

The glasses!

7. My vision has been going blurry so I got glasses ----------->

8. I realised that my diet changes dramatically depending on the area and companion. Also, a member fed us this really good and easy Pasta dish that I'm going to make some time this week. Perfect Missionary food!

9. Number seven was a joke but the glasses were £1 at Primark!

10. I have mastered Pancakes. They are great but require a bit of pre-planning to have time to make. 

Ok, I'm going to add some pictures before things get too crazy. I'm really loving having a bit of extra time...
(Me trying to remember the codes for letters in French which Elder Decaudin is lacking because he's using an English keyboard:  é0233 ñ0241 ç0231 û0251 ô0244)

By the way, I sent the wrong address earlier. The correct address is:

Elder Houghton
Flat 1, 4 Cheltenham Road

Ok, so this week has been a really wonderful week for study and learning. I'm studying Matthew and learning a lot from the Saviour's example as a teacher and servant. It's really good.

I love you all loads and loads! February should be a bit warmer and less wet hopefully! Also, this week should be much better for missionary work!

Elder Houghton

It's a shame because we don't eat Hot Dogs from Cans in America! I don't know why but they label a lot of things as American style that aren't American at all...

Feel free to include that in the blog in some form...