Monday, 31 March 2014

Birthday Week in Gloucester

Dear Everyone,
My Birthday Dinner! Thanks to my wonderful family for sending
me my favourite mac and cheese mix. Unfortunately,
we didn't have any macaroni noodles so we had Fusili 'n cheese instead!
 Gloucester Ward's spire in front of the building. It
makes this weird whistling noise in the wind.
Cheltenham may have stained glass windows
but we have a permanent sound feature!
So, this week has been another challenge. I think all weeks are but I guess that's a good thing in some ways. At least the weather has been nice. Also, I turned twenty. That's weird. My actual age birthday is in a different perspective though because mostly, we missionaries just think of our age in the mission. So it's funny that some of my leaders could yet be as young as eighteen but may have been in the mission field longer than me and I would think of them as older because of it but then I'm actually the older one-especially considering that I had experience at University that many of the young missionaries don't have when they come out. Anyway, the other Elders and the Sisters in Gloucester both got me some nice Birthday goodies and it was fun.

 We didn't do anything particularly exciting though because there was a Ward cleaning activity at the chapel and then Weekly Planning (because we had a trainng meeting in Birmingham and so couldn't do it on Friday like we normally do) plus three hours of study plus meals. That computes out to up to ten hours of stuff to do so very little time for actual missionary work (sigh).

This week I've had a dreadful itch/rash thing on my legs (and oddly, my ears). It's developed and gotten worse up to now so I have an appointment with a doctor in Cheltenham for this evening and hopefully he/she can get it fixed up (it's just the 1+ hour of travel time that's a bit tough) so I can get back to work (it's remarkable how hard it is to focus and work when your legs itch like there's no tomorrow).
Yesterday was English Mothers' Day which was cool. I don't know exactly why Americans and British people have Mothers' day on different days but it was nice anyway. The primary kids got to sing a nice little song and then they handed out goodies for all of the Sisters in the ward. Sisters Lambert and Muhlmann were petrified when they had to stand up to get their goodies handed to them across the faces of two of their male investigators. Also, it was a bit tough for our New Investigator K who felt that church should have been more focused on God than other stuff (mothers). We tried to explain that talking about Mothers and Service is really a good thing and acceptable for a Sunday but ya... He said he's not coming back because his Sabbath is Saturday. It will be fun with him. We'll see.
Last week as well, I got to go on exchange to the Forest of Dean. It was pretty swell. The Forest is a magical place and the Elders there are great. The whole District here is just fantastic! I love them so much!
In other news, my bike is really worn down and making lots of sad noises all the time. Also, I need a haircut. We're going down to Barton Street (where the Mosque is in Gloucester) because I miss all of the Muslims and Hindus from Coventry. For some reason, the barbers in Coventry were all from Kurdistan. I'm not sure if the one here is as well but they're definitely Middle Eastern so it's great! So, it's going to be a lovely P day of doctor and bike and barber shop visits! My favourite!
Anyhow, I love you all lots and am learning and growing loads! I'm so grateful for Grace! I got a hold of a great talk from Brad Wilcox on grace which was absolutely wonderful to read this morning for personal study...
Have a fantastic week! I hope to hear from you all soon!
Elder L.K. Houghton

A sling shot in a fishing pole box set thing. What do you
need a fishing pole for if you can just launch the bait???

Thursday, 27 March 2014

4.5 Days to Not Being a Teenager Anymore!

From 24 March 2014

Dear Everyone,
In case you haven't read the subject line to this email, 
I'm turning 20 on Saturday! 
How epic is that?!? 

For the weekly weather report: It's been pretty nice. Spring has more or less sprung and it's been warming up. The best thing is that it doesn't get dark until like 7! It's so great! I never appreciated that before being in England. It only rained once for real and then a bit more on Sunday sporadically too so it's great!

This week has been tough still. It's been really hard lately to find people to teach who will hold their appointments. They just keep flogging (not showing up) or cancelling. So it's been discouraging to find people who seem really great but then just vanish. But, we had an exchange with the Zone Leaders and I got to stay in Gloucester and see some cool miracles in finding including a man and his wife who were giving a chapel tour tonight but then they postponed to Friday.

Today we had Zone Preparation day as well here in Gloucester and it was great fun. It's nice to get together with other missionaries but weird because we've had Zone Conference and then Zone Meeting and then District Leader Conference and then Zone P day like a marathon and there will be no other meetings bigger than our District for three weeks. So Elder Bergquist is just dying with the fact that we've had so many meetings since he's been here but it is nice at the same time to be able to learn and meet together with others.

So... I don't have tonnes of time today (surprise surprise) but I am working hard and seeing things happen. It can be really frustrating that things often don't work out the way we would like them to and have them planned (e.g. getting two lessons cancelled tonight so we have to scrounge to find something meaningful to do this evening after P day ends among many many other things).  The Lord is teaching and guiding us a lot. It's really difficult sometimes but we are learning a lot in the process. Elder Bergquist is a champion and a very diligent and willing servant of the Lord so it's great to serve with him.

Sorry that I don't have any pictures to include with this email. I'll try to be better about that it's just that we're not supposed to take pictures during proselyting time so there's very little other time to take the pictures that I would eventually hopefully send to you all.

Anyhow, I love you all loads and loads and am looking forward to a great week!

Elder Houghton

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Visit to Wales, & Looking For the Elect!

From 17 March 2014
Cardiff, Wales
Dear Everyone,
In case you can't tell from the fact that I pretty much always start my emails with the weather, the weather is a really important thing and subject of conversation in England. People really do talk about it and it can be a good conversation starter. This past week it's been sunny like every day except it was foggy for a day and a half (both are rare phenomena in England). I hadn't thought fog was abnormal in England but it is pretty rare.
This week has been good but hard. We had a wonderful Zone Conference with the Europe Area President--Elder Texeira. IN WALES. That's right, we got to go to Wales. It was in Cardiff too which is in real Wales unlike Monmouth which is barely in Wales and full of English people where I went on exchange. So it was cool. We had time so we took the bus from Cardiff (Caerdydd) Central station to the chapel which was a ways off (instead of training directly to a closer and smaller station) so we could see Cardiff Castle. It was epic. Then on the way back, we had time so we strategically spread out and did Street Contacting in a big plaza area in front of the station for 45 minutes ish. It was great. I really liked Cardiff and would love to serve there. On a more spiritual note, Elder Texeira was wondeful and I learned loads and loads that really helped me out. I'm working on and was blessed with greater faith after the conference and it was awesome. I also got to see a few missionaries who I hadn't seen in a long time who are in my group but have been serving in Wales their whole missions (weird-some of them are only in their second areas and I'm in my fourth)
Our Investigators are progressing slowly right now. I just wish we could find some new ones. For some reason despite us working harder and more effectively than before to find the elect, the elect just aren't coming out of the woodwork yet. It's a bit frustrating but we are still working at it and hoping for miracles soon. It's also really frustrating when people give you fake addresses (45 and 38 on streets with that end at 43 and then have a restaurant where 38 would be) or just don't show up. I've definitely come to see how lying and wickedness really do keep people from receiving and being blessed by the truth which they need. So that can be a bit frustrating at times but whatever!
I've unfortunately used up a lot of my emailing time and I don't have a lot left so I've got to dash. I hope you all have a wonderful week and I love you lots and lots!
Elder Houghton
P.S. Random tidbit that I meant to mention:
1. We have a Nato base in our area!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Gloucester Cathedral and New Companion Elder Bergquist

The outside of the Gloucester Cathedral from inside the courtyard thing.

Dear Family,
Pictures first: 

American Money!

The District in the halls of Hogwarts cough Gloucester Cathedral for District P day on Monday

The main Hall in the Cathedral-it was weird. There are so many confusing pagan and other elements to the Cathedral and we were walking around and I just had a hard time understanding how they got all of it...
More pictures of the Cathedral to come eventually. My camera ran out of batteries so they are on someone else's camera.

Elders Bergquist and Houghton. Gloucester C Champs!


This week has been quite a whirlwind. We had transfers. I'm training a new missionary in Gloucester C. His name is Elder Bergquist and he's from Weiser Idaho. Pictures to come. 

Elder Decaudin and I at the Train station in
Gloucester waiting for his departure.

Because we knew I would probably stay and then found out where Elder Decaudin was going on Monday night, Tuesday was consumed with packing and saying goodbye to some special people for him and then Wednesday was consumed by the actual transfers at the mission office. Then it was District Meeting on Thursday, Weekly Planning on Friday, a leadership meeting on Saturday Morning and churhc on Sunday so Elder Bergquist hasn't yet been doing actual missionary work in the morning at all. 

A last remembrance of Elder Decaudin. Courtesy of recent Converts who
wanted to say goodbye.
It's been interesting remembering all of the things that I've totally adjusted to.
They include:
  • non-square milk jugs
  • Sacrament Meeting not being first
  • walking a lot
  • using a public computer
  • having to greet loads of people at church
  • stressing and worrying about Investigators 24/7
  • knowing the missionary lessons (not that I know them perfectly or anything...)
  • wearing missionary clothes every day
Anyhow, it has been a good week. Investigators are stressing me out loads as they are all sort of on the edge and for some reason, lots of things change when a new missionary comes in-lessons just have a different feel etc. Also, we need to find more people to teach-that's kind of a constant and ongoing battle though and possibly the hardest thing to do ever-in the history of the world. But it's ok. Things are going good. It's nice training because you get to be comfortable making mistakes together and not have to worry about being perfect 100% of the time even though you want to be a good example etc.
I've been studying this week kind of all over for lessons and etc. and I realised just how much I have learned and grown since coming on a mission and being out for a while. I don't think I could even clearly define "the gospel" until my mission. Now, I kind of think it's interesting that many Christians think that the Bible contains the gospel but aren't able to actually say what the gospel is or how it works or how we can learn it. So it's kind of ironic realising that I was essentially in that position just a year ago.
My new companion Elder Bergquist is great! He's humble and willing to learn and work hard together so it will be great. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us but it should be good. Also, Satan is doing double time in Gloucester lately. It's been a really tough week for most of the teams in the District here so it's a bit stressful and difficult but trials precede miracles in missionary work I think so hopefully many miracles come soon.
Above all, Heavenly Father lives and He loves us. He cares about our well-being and happiness more than anything else. He wants us to experience the joy which he has and he knows that we will be able to do so only after facing the trials and challenges of life. I'm so grateful for that love and care which He has for me and for those that I am blessed to be able to serve!
Lots of Love and have a great week!
Elder Houghton
P.S. For anyone who has lost or otherwise needs my current address:
Elder Houghton
Flat 1, 4 Cheltenham Rd.

That's right, there was an American flag in the Cathedral.

 Shout out to my Sonora friend Tige Wingo!
This was a box from Elder Decaudin's cotton buds.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Going To Be A Trainer!

From 3 March 2014

The Gloucester District

Dear Everyone,
It's March! Month of my birth! I'm turning twenty! How crazy is that! I am so old!  The weather has been not that bad this last week! We only had to bike in the rain like three times! I'm going to the Cathedral where Harry Potter was filmed today! I'm going to a Chinese Buffet today too! Tonight is Dodge Night so we find out about transfers! The Bishop in Gloucester is really happy with the missionaries who are here right now! I'm not as exclamation mark happy as I seem from this first paragraph!
He keeps saying he's going to visit the Gloucester
Cathedral.  We'll see if he fit it in!
I was called last Monday late afternoon to train a new missionary this upcoming transfer. I'm apprehensive but it should be good. It's a little scary having no idea what he will be like or where he will be from or what language he will speak or anything. I'll find out on Wednesday! We get the Dodge call tonight at like 9:45 so I don't even know for sure where I will be training but odds are (like 95% and that 5% only because we're teaching a French family) that I will be staying in Gloucester and Elder Decaudin will go elsewhere. My money is on him going to Wales or the Birmingham area (Lichfield and Birmingham Stakes) but who knows? We have District P Day today going to a Chinese Buffet called Angel Chef and then the Cathedral. It should be fun. I'm really excited and stressed for transfers. AHH! It's always hard for me at the end of transfers to stay focused and energetic but it's ok. Only two more days to go. I can make it! The funny thing is that when people are called to train, they are told not to let anyone know but their companions. It's tricky though because you would have to lie and it's pretty easy to tell who will train. Some people thought I would and so they tried to get it out of me but it's been fun dodging the bullet. There are many ways to tell (going to the Trainers' meeting on Friday, planning on going to transfers early for the other trainers meeting on Wednesday morning, your companion acting like he's leaving and taking pictures with everyone (which Elder Decaudin did do but I think the other Gloucester Teams are oblivious still) etc. etc.) I've been really enjoying the fact that I think the other people in the District legitimately don't know (most people can't keep it a secret very well). On the other hand, I may just be fooling myself and they do know that I'm training and it's really obvious but it's fun either way.
The French Family that we've been teaching came to church on Sunday again. It was great. M, the wife, saw the Munch and Mingle after church last week (a rare occasion) and so she brought sandwiches to share with everyone. Then it was fast Sunday... So we ended up eating them with their family in the car park (breaking our fast early) after which we had real Lunch with a South African Family in the Ward. It was great. The ward is really happy with the missionaries right now too it seems and the Bishop made some positive remarks about how things are going with missionary work and wants us to call him at 10:30 to let him know what will be happening with transfers.
Also, on Wednesday night after transfers we are going to have a blitz night with a Dinner Appointment and then lesson with a really awesome husband of a member who we taught last Wednesday and is so totally going to be baptised! It's really exciting. There are lots of good things going for the upcoming transfer and I'm super excited!
Also, this last week I got to go on exchange with Elder Hunter who is in Gloucester A and is from Alberta just like his Trainer Elder Orr. It was great and Elder Hunter is wonderful. We have such wonderful missionaries in our District here. It's awesome and I love them so much!
I'm out of time but I love you all loads and loads!
Elder Houghton

 The first in a 11 part set of pictures that I've decided to call "The Many and Great Expressions of Elder Xavier Decaudin over Pancakes (which I accidentally used normal flour for so they didn't raise like they would have if I'd used self-raising flour like I'd intended but they were still good)."