Monday, 28 April 2014

Still Tough!

Bank Holiday!

Dear Everyone,
First of all, sorry that I didn't get an email out for everyone/the blog last week. It was a bank holiday so the library was closed and we had to use the computers at the chapel.

Secondly, sorry that there are no pictures. My camera is broken-rather pathetically in fact. It's just a little tiny piece of plastic on the battery compartment cover so that it doesn't close. I can take pictures but it's very difficult to keep the battery cover closed while doing so.

Ok, so the childrens' singing group is just about to start "What shall we do with a bouncing baby?" with rattles and jingling things galore. It's a bit distracting. I wonder if it will be "Three little men in a flying saucer" next or maybe "A hedgehog is very prickley." Nope, just "Row, row, row your boat."
This week has been tough for missionary work still. It can be really discouraging when things don't go as you'd like but that's life I guess. The Sisters found this really cool lady who apparently is going to be a golden investigator once we get to teach her later this week. Also, someone who we had a first appointment with cancelled but then texted us back to reschedule (this is a sign that she is elect and not just like all the other people with whom we set up appointmnets who cancel or just don't show up and then never answer the phone or our texts). However, she hasn't texted back to let us know what time would be good so we shall see...
We had Stake Conference in Cheltenham this weekend. It was really good. The Stake Presidency is new since I was in the Stake while serving in Stroud and they have a lot of energy and excitement for sharing the gospel. It was great. The theme for the Stake revolved around the vision that they had created: "We are a Bright and Blessed Beacon of a people, Bound by covenants, and Bringing souls unto the Lord." Then the conference focused on the four aspects of the vision (We are a Bright and Blessed people, We are a Beacon to the world, We are Bound to the Lord by covenants, and We Bring souls to Christ). So it was oretty awesome. Also, I got to see a couple of people from the Stroud Ward. It's interesting because between two member couples called to serve in Stroud, a father and his son who wanted to stay in the ward, and one man who felt more comfortable in Stroud's ward--all of whom live in Gloucester--half of the Stroud Ward is actually from Gloucester. I hadn't really thought of that when I was there.
This week, we will finally have our first coordination meeting with the new Ward Mission Leader (he was sick last week). I am really looking forward to it. Now that the Gloucester District is just the three sets of missionaries in the ward, we have an opportunity to be more focused and working on member missionary work (which could use improvement everywhere...). Hopefully we can get the ward to really know and serve along side us as we try to serve alongside them rather than being there but being largely out of the loop on the workings of the ward and having missionary work as a thing done by just the six of us. Anyhow, it should be good. By the way, I sincerely hope that everyone reading this blog knows the importance of getting to know the missionaries in their areas. You need to have them over to your home. Even if it's just fifteen minutes from 8:45 to 9 or if it's for a small bit of service. You need to know them before you can help them and serve with them. Pray for them. They need it and their Investigators need it. Live the Gospel! If members of the church aren't doing the things they need to to grow their testimonies and strengthen the church, then how can the missionaries ask their investigators to do those very things and be fellowshipped by the membership of the ward?
Anyhow, I love you all and I hope that the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is bringing the light to your life that you need to survive in the changing and dangerous world in which we live today.
Elder Houghton

Monday, 14 April 2014

Spring is in the Air!

The CofE St. Catharine's church across the street from our flat.
It looked nice with the trees and all.

Dear Everyone,

This week, I exercised mastery over my urge to respond immediately to emails by writing this, the general email, first. I don't know why I don't do this all the time.

Ancient Roman road in England

First, the random cool fact that our area boundary between Gloucester B and C (us and the Sisters) is an ancient Roman Road that originally went between the roman towns of Cirencester and Gloucester. Maybe the Romans can explain the cester being pronounced in Cirencester (which was the second biggest town in Stroud's area) and not in Gloucester! You can tell that it's really ancient and Roman by the fact that it's really straight (English Roads are the opposite).

Finally, a picture of my companion, Elder Bergquist
This week has been pretty good for missionary work. Transfers are this week which usually means that it's really hard for me to focus but possibly because I'm training and 90% sure I'll just stay and finish training, it's not been that distracting or worrying that transfers are coming. Mostly, I'm just worried about the new missionaries who will be coming into our District (as Sister Lambert is probably leaving along with Elder Orr or Elder Hunter (more likely the former) and possibly someone in the Forest of Dean). Also, there's the possibility that the Forest of Dean Elders will be swapped over to the Hereford District (which is just two Elders teams) so that the Districts will be more even within the zone (we have four teams and they have two and the Forest Elders live closer to Hereford than Gloucester). Also, we're getting a new Zone Leader which should be fun! 

Yes, this is four sets of Hush Puppies!
Can you tell which ones have been used for a year
(almost!) and which have only been out for six weeks?
Anyway, as far as missionary work in Gloucester C, it's been pretty good. We found a couple of fairly solid new people to teach who are sincerely interested and the others are moving along (though none are progressing as quickly as we'd like them to). Sad news was that the French/Sri Lankan family didn't come to church after solidly committing to do so in the best lesson that we've ever had with them teaching the Ten Commandments and the Doctrine of Obedience. It's frustrating when people just don't do the things that they need to do to become truly happy. The challenge I guess is helping them see the blessings in our lives and the lives of others so that they truly want to make the changes in their lives that will help them.

Also, we got a member referral! It's so great and so rare here. A Sister in the ward just told us of a Former Investigator who needed help right now and had asked for a vicar on facebook after some tough things in her life. So, we're going over this evening and praying for the best. The odd thing was that we'd just been looking at her Teaching Record from when missionaries originally taught her in 2012 and thought we should go by some time and then poof, when we got the referral, we knew who she was talking about. It was great. Also, the Sisters got a member referral as well this week and a bunch of members got up in Testimony Meeting and testified of missionary work and how we have great missionaries in the ward! It was an answer to a lot of prayers and also a blessing for Sister Lambert who has seen a massive change in the relationship between missionaries and the ward between coming to Gloucester 6 months ago and yesterday which was probably her last Sunday in the ward.

 Dinner! It was pretty good. I've added quite a
few simple recipes to my repertoire lately.
As part of the attempted but ultimately failed diet to reduce the rash on my legs and arms, I was directed to eat vegetables. So, I bought a pack of root vegetables to roast and they were really good. This is Swede which is sort of like Potato but has a different taste. Also in the mix were parsnip, carrot, and onion which were all pretty good as well just the Swede is weirder!

The Weather this week has been pretty good-only rained once I think. The trees are all springy and great. There's one road we've been on a few times with lots of cool bright colors of trees/blossoms with Green, light pink, a dark red/brown, a bright purply pink, white, and then a few more greens. It's really nice. I don't think I've appreciated Spring and Sunshine so much in my life. It's great. I'm wearing short sleeves!

The Lord has really blessed us lately for our efforts. It's been really great because it's been feeling lately like we were working hard for no reason because nothing seemed to come of it. We would go and talk to everyone and make many appointments with people on the street only to show up at a fake address or call a fake phone number or show up to an empty house or something. This week, however, it's been really hard to find even the fake appointments but the people we have been able to teach were older potential Investigators who we had almost given up on because they were never home or didn't show for an appointment or something. I think the thing that I learned is that this is truly the Lord's work and we have to let Him do it without replacing His plans with our plans and desires. It's hard for me to do but it really is the only thing that will work.

Thanks so much for all of your prayers for me, Elder Bergquist, and everyone we're working with. They really do help. I've been meaning to start a more concerted effort to pray for our Investigators because I've noticed a real difference when we pray for them and when we don't.

So, have a lovely week and don't forget to write!

Elder Houghton
Probably the last picture together with the whole District as it is currently composed before transfers.  From left to right:  Elder Wrenger (Forest of Dean), Elder Hunter (GLA), Sister Muhlmann (GLB), Sister Lambert (GLB), Elder Haynie (RoD), Elder Bergquist (GLC), Elder Houghton (GLC), and Elder Orr (GLA).

P.S. Brownie points for anyone who can look at a map of Gloucester and identify the Roman Road/Area Boundary.

Monday, 7 April 2014

General Conference was great!

Dear Everyone,
A few things first:
1. Here's the layout for watching conference for missionaries in England. General Conference was great and inspiring and wonderful in every way. I'm so grateful that we have living prophets and Apostles on the Earth today!
Session      Time watched in England (all at the Cheltenham Stake Centre except for the Sun p.m. session)
Sat a.m.      Sat 5-7 p.m. live
Sat p.m.      Sun 1-3 p.m.
Priesthood   Sun 10-12 a.m.
Sun a.m.     Sun 5-7 p.m. live
Sun p.m.     P day if you have time and want to so we are for District P day today-at least an hour of it anyway
2. I received horrifying news that you may have been pronouncing Gloucester wrong this whole time. For the record, it's pronounced Gloster with the o making a bit of a relaxed ah sound and the er pronounced like an English person so it's between an American er and another ah. Hopefully that's clear. There are no ow's or au's in Gloucester! If you're unsure, I'm certain someone has made an audio of the correct pronunciation of city names in England that should help you out.
possibly, the culprit of the rash/itching

3. I'm on steroids! The itch/rash that I've been having for no clearly explainable reason has persisted (though fading in severity, it has spread to my wrists and then arms, temporarily to my face, and continues on my kness and lower legs as well as spreading up my legs). So, I'm on some prescribed steroids because my doctor is pretty sure it's an allergic reaction. The next step is allergy testing so hopefully this all works!

4. I got to go on exchange twice this past week and realised that I almost never mention the exchanges that I do. So, I was first with Elder Orr in Gloucester A and then had Elder Hunter here in C from Gloucester A so it was cool. This week, I will be exchanging with one of the Forest of Dean Elders but I think I will be staying in Gloucester C with the one who can't yet drive.
5. Transfers are next week! It's always extra stressful and exciting/hard to focus at this time as there's lots of "dodge" (information about transfers shared or discovered in sometimes less than totally honourable ways) going about and people always want to know their dodge before it comes.
So ya, this week has been a bit tough with two two hour treks/visits to the Doctor in Cheltenham and General Conference and stuff. In total, we went to Cheltenham four times (and in various modes of transport) so it will be nice not having to do that and having a totally normal week for a bit. Other than that though, it's been really good. Elder Bergquist is a champion. I really need to take more pictures so you know what he and I look like. I'll try to work on that. General Conference was truly amazing. I don't know if it's just because I am a missionary full-time that it seems much more alive and important and prophetic than it did when I was younger and just thought it was some nice good fluffy thing. In other news, it's raining today but otherwise we've had good weather lately so nothing to complain particularly badly about.
I love you loads and loads and hope to hear from you all soon. Please do write and email. Sorry if this one I'm sending is short as I don't have much time and never know what to write. I'll try to have time to do another round of Investigator Alphabet soon but there's no time today...
Elder Houghton