Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Transferred. . .five minutes down the road, and things are taking off!

From 26 May 2014
Elder Houghton's new residence. . .a former mental hospital, turned apartments!

Dear Everyone,

     Guess what? I was transferred! Woa crazy. I got moved five minutes down Horton road to my new flat as I'm now in Gloucester A (I was in Gloucester C before). It's really weird and confusing for everyone and I still feel like I'm just on exchange with my new companion-Elder Hunter- who I have exchanged with not one or two or three but four times before. I've also already slept in the bed that I'm in now, eaten their food, and all such things. I already know the members (a huge plus as we're working with members loads now) but I don't know them so well that I can't build a new better relationship with them as the new missionary in their area. Gloucester A is the best! I love it loads and I'm excited for the new opportunities. The rest of the District got shuffled as well a bit. Elder Bergquist has a new companion in Elder Carlson. I'm struggling to stop thinking that it's still my area and I need to check up on things all the time. Sister Urbani got a new companion named Sister Davis who has only two transfers left. She was really sad to see Sister Muhlmann go (as were the rest of us and the ward) but it was alright (her Mom had sent her some Swiss chocolate which the Sisters didn't really want... all I can say is that Swiss chocolate is really different from English or American and it's really really good!). Elder Bergquist is doing well in Gloucester C with Elder Carlson as well. Elder Hunter and I have been in Gloucester the longest (we came in at the same time but he was a brand new missionary at that point) so it's weird that we're together and people know us but then don't know the other missionaries as well but it's ok. Elder Orr was transferred just to the Forest of Dean which used to be in our District. They have a car so they'll be picking us up for all of the meetings as they drive through. Sorry to overload you with the transfer stuff which is probably just a bit boggling as I throw around names that mean very little to you.

Long story short: I'm in the same ward but a different area in that ward. The members and missionary work are getting a lot better and things are taking off. It's the best! Unlike every companion I've had before, I've known Elder Hunter for his whole mission. He's Canadian eh. I'm working on the correct pronunciation of the word bag (it's not beg!) among other things with him and all in all we're getting each other out of our shells. It's great. Last night was hilarious (call-ins before nine-->I actually have time at night to talk/do something). It's going to be a great transfer as I'm learning to be a missionary but not take myself to seriously and also be myself. It's great!

Cool story: A while back in Gloucester A, the Elders got a media referral which was from some members in the states who referred a completely inactive (basically left the church because she didn't believe it when she was originally a member as a child) member and her nonmember husband who live here in Gloucester. The family in the states had taken them on a huge church history tour and they both loved it and felt the spirit and wanted to look into it. The Elders here had been teaching them for a few weeks and the wife recognised the spirit strongly while in church last Sunday. She decided there and then that it was the right thing to do and decided to go back to her church the next Sunday to tell the Pastor and everyone else that she had made that decision and she knew our church was true. Her husband wasn't as quick to come to that conclusion yet but it was miraculous and brave of her to make that decision and then just tell everyone at her old church yesterday. Last Sunday, they met and were fellowshipped by an awesome couple in the ward (all are in their late 50s/early 60s) who quickly built up a great relationship to the point that after the Sister in the ward came to teach with the Elders on the day before transfers, the LA/investigator couple invited them over for a chat on Friday. Great strides were made. These particular members have recently moved to the area after feeling that it was the right thing for them to do despite the commute to where they used to live for work. They felt that the Lord had planted them here but they weren't sure why yet. They were praying for missionary opportunities and then this amazing opportunity to fellowship and bring into the church some people that they had never known came to them. It is a testimony to me that Heavenly Father answers prayers-when they are truly in the name of Jesus Christ and aligned with His will. He wants us all to do missionary work and share the gospel and he will give us those opportunities to do so if we will but ask, seek, and knock. It's amazing. So, we're asking the other members in our area to pray for missionary opportunities and it's great.

Also, on Saturday, we were blessed with the opportunity to move a family in the ward that we had been working with in Gloucester C because they have an inactive son and needed our support as well as the after baptism lessons for the husband who never got them after joining the church about three years ago. They moved from within Gloucester about a 20+ minute drive away (a serious commute for English people). Areas within the city have names but it's kind of hard to describe as it's different from in the states. Some day after I get home, I'll make sense of it to you.  Anyway, it was a pretty stressful move (massive rain storm on the day of after the nicest weather week in months plus a cat that they hadn't known was pregnant giving birth on the day of the move plus the moving van situation being a real hassle plus a Stake football activity so many of the Elders' Quorum were at that instead and couldn't help). Anyway, we managed the move with four Elders, a member of the ward named Brother Fisher who is awesome and always willing to help with everything, the Bishop and his wife (his wife stayed on the Newent end where they live as well and made lunch and stuff for everyone as well as helping with the unloading on that end), and four members of the family moving.  I've learned a lot about moving in the three moves I've done on my mission. The trick I think is in the planning and preparation that you do in advance of the actual move. It was tricky for the the family because they didn't have much time for that but they managed it. It did take essentially all day but it was good.

So anyway, things are going well working with members in Gloucester. We have a goal/plan of visiting every active family unit that we can (there are a few that we would need a car to visit) at least once a week for a stop by at the door (asking them to pray for something or reminding them about the month of invitation (June) or sharing a miracle etc.). The long term goal is to receive a member referral from each active family unit within the summer. I always kind of thought that referrals were up to the people giving them to us but I've come to realise that we actually have to do a lot of work to prepare people and help them know what to do and how to do it to give us referrals. As a start, the Elders in Gloucester C got a member referral yesterday and we've got one hopefully "in the oven." After attending ward council, member missionary work has kicked off and people are engaged and asking what they can do and it's great! I'm so pumped! It's amazing how the Lord uses us and our faith. As we change our desires to align them with his for the salvation of his children, he blesses us to be able to achieve them. It's fantastic!
Anyhow, time is limited as always but I love you all loads and hope you have a wonderful week and hope that you too are praying for and award of opportunities to share the gospel.

Elder Houghton

P.S. I still can't really fully use my camera so no pictures.
P.P.S. There have been two bike crashes in Gloucester A since I got here. Elder Hunter detailed the most recent one to his family like this:

"So Elder Houghton and I get along really well and I think these next few weeks will be really interesting. Just yesterday we were riding our bikes and he came to a quick stop in the middle of the side walk. I wasn't paying attention and... wasn't even holding on to the handle bars as I am too cool to do that and so I had only a split second to reach forward and grab the brakes. Unfortunately I grabbed the wrong brake which incidentally would normally be the right brake, but here in England the brakes are backwards. But I grabbed the front brakes and pulled hard. The back tire came up catapulting me through the air straight towards my gawking companion. There was definitely a guardian angel watching over me because I was going really fast and I should have flattened him. Instead I landed fairly lightly on his back and held fast too his back side. If only someone had been filming it,  fortunately neither of us were injured, besides a pretty crippling charlie horse, but nothing too life threatening. I'm not entirely sure how it all played out because it happened so darn fast, but somehow within a very short time span I was distributed from my bike too his and no one's the wiser." ​

P.P.P.S. New address! If you send it to the old one, I'll have to walk a few minutes to get it! This one should work but it's a bit confusing as there are a few roads around our complex, the crescent, which is a converted mental hospital (haunted and creepy but not really and a nice big flat compared to the tiny Gloucester C one--just to illustrate-we have two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a massive kitchen/living area, and a few closets while C has just a tiny living area and a tiny bedroom and a tiny bathroom with no space to do anything. Also, we have about three times the fridge/freezer capacity now! It's fantastic!)

3 The Crescent
Horton Road

Monday, 19 May 2014

Happy Summer!

Dear Everyone,
I know it's not actually summer yet but it's been really nice here in Gloucester lately. We've had no real rain in about a week and it's been sunny and warm-too warm in fact. It seems like only a week ago I was bundling up with my jacket and sweater and scarf and hat and thermals. Whatever, it's nice. English people just hate the weather here. They exaggerate a lot as well about it. I did hear one funny joke though about the "Great British Summer" (envision puddle jumping). It goes like this: "When Noah built the ark, there were forty days of rain and they called it a disaster. If it rains for forty days here, what do we call it? ... ... A Summer!" But it's not really that bad and I like a bit of rain now and again.
I've forgotten to mention it but we meet a lot of interesting people when we go out and street contact. It probably doesn't help that we often pass a road that is made up mostly of care homes for disabled adults. One particular man we met seemed pretty normal. As we tried to give him a pass along card, we asked if he used the internet. He said, simply enough: "Don't believe in it!" and walked away quickly. Though the existence of God is in many ways more provable and important than the existence of the internet, I had thought that as a society, people these days did believe in the internet but then there's this guy who apparently doesn't. I was baffled! It was hillarious to take that interpretation of his rejection anyway. The other day the Sisters also said something funny. Back story after the quote. Sister Urbani: "You can eat the French Flag." Sister Muhlmann: "You can eat the German one too!" Sister Urbani: "But it's made of paper...(of the German flag)." So the story is that they made a cake and brought some to us and the other Elders during their dinner on Sunday night. Sister Urbani has edible Butterfly shaped French flags because she is French and Sister Muhlmann made little German flags on toothpicks because she is German so each piece of cake had two flags. It was hillarious! I don't know though, maybe it's not that funny in the retelling.
Church on Sunday was amazing. None of our few and far between investigators came but the other teams had lots of people there covering a variety of age groups. There were seven Investigators (plus one who is technically a member but her husband is investigating) in Gospel Principles and the ward was doing a fantastic job of fellowshipping them all so there were loads of members in the class as well. They all enjoyed church a lot and loved the welcome. One of the Sisters' investigators was in tears because she felt the spirit strongly and felt that it was where she was meant to be. It was a huge contrast to a few months ago when myself, Sister Muhlmann, and Elder Hunter came in and people didn't really mingle with missionaries or new members and investigators. It was great to see that our united efforts as missionaries to support, love, and get to know the members has been working out and people are getting way more involved. If nothing else, the missionaries who have been in Gloucester lately have been preparing the foundation for a great work. Transfer calls come out tonight and I'm not sure what will happen with all of us. There could be three leaving Gloucester or there could be just one leaving. We shall see! Regardless, I love the missionaries here and they are fantastic!
Elder Bergquist is amazing! He's the first companion that I've had since being trained myself that has been with me for more than six weeks so it has been good. He's a great missionary and friend and I've learned a lot from him. It will be interesting adjusting to a new companion who probably won't do my dishes for me or even want to share groceries. I have been blessed with very clean companions lately-fingers are crossed for the next one. It's been great working with Elder Bergquist and as I keep telling him, hopefully his next companion can correct all the weird things that he's inherited from his trainer...

We had Zone Preparation day today at the Cheltenham chapel and had lots of fun playing chair football (each person protects their chair from being hit-at whish point they are out) (also, a note in case you've forgotten that this is proper football) and then some volleyball in the sun. This Spanish Elder was hillarious when we were playing Volleyball. It's interesting as well that after my mission, I probably won't ever be in contact with so many foreigners. It's great to get to see the culture and see that Heavenly Father truly loves each and every one of us. As I mentioned above, evidence of that love is everywhere. It is in the tender mercies as well as in the trials of life. He is evident in the movements of the planets and the functioning of the world. He is evident in the words of prophets across time. He is evident in the millions of lives changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If this weren't the last but were the second to last dispensation, I wonder if people would look back on the record written of our time and find it not too different from the ancient stories of the Bible and the Book of Mormon. They might say-"If only they had listened and heeded the words of God, they could have been saved" just as we can looking back. Obviously, this is the last dispensation though and it won't work like that But, it is nice to look back at the history  of missionaries and prophets throughout time and to see that we are not alone-countless prophets and missionaries have gone before us-not to mention the leader of us all-Jesus Christ. I am grateful for that heritage!
Anyhow, I love you all and am anxiously awaiting June when I will get to skype my wonderful-in-every-way family (all six of them!). I love you all and hope that you are blessed with a spirit of peace and love as you continue on in the work of the Lord.
Elder Houghton

Happy Monday!

From 12 May 2014

Dear Everyone,
This will be really short. Sorry. I had to email a few people I don't normally email which was good but took some time.
England is great. Missionary work is hard but it goes on. The ward in Gloucester is great and our relationship/ability to work with them is increasing and I'm really excited for it all.
Yesterday was Mothers' Day and unlike most missionaries, I didn't call/skype home since my wonderful and fantastic in every way sister Hermana Houghton will be getting home from her mission in the end of May so I got permission to skype in June when we will all be able to be on. I'm looking forward to that and was more than a little jealous when Elder Bergquist got to skype his parents yesterday.
One cool thing:
The Book of Mormon is true! It is just so true and it is wonderful. I am so sad to see a world that is so far removed from God that they often do not listen to him anymore. The Book of Mormon is evidence that He Lives. He loves us! He wants us to be happy! He has spoken throughout history to declare his message of peace and joy through prophets. He invites all to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him. This is His work and His glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. I'm grateful to be engaged in that work even when I often feel inadequate or unsuccessful-to know that He is there and it is all real. I'm so grateful for all of that. I invite all people everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the Name of Christ if the Book is true. It works. I know it does. In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Lots and lots of love,
Elder Houghton

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Happy Cinco De Mayo! (from England)

5 May 2014

Dear Family,

Sorry again for no pictures. The Camera is still out of functioning order and probably will be permanently. I should probably work out a solution for that...

First of all, I added two conspicuously similar country names to my list of countries that I've met people from. One is Zambia and the other is Gambia. Both are English speaking I think so it's weird that it's taken this long to find them and that it's in Gloucester and not Coventry which is way more diverse. I'll have to check but I think there are more than 60 countries on the list at this point. Also, we are teaching no English people right now. Not many others either to be fair. Also, this isn't weird at all. I can count easily the people we've taught who are English and it's not very many.

We're half way through the transfer and time is flying. I hit the completion of 1 year on Friday (2 May). It's odd though because the day where I had a year left, the day that is the actual half-way mark, the day of being in England for a year/being out on my mission for a year, and the day of being in the field for a year are not the same day so I'm actually quite a bit more than half done (as the actual time as a missionary is a few weeks short of two years). Maybe that's just weird to me. I may yet take the opportunity to burn the trousers that have been making my legs itch (I think it's the teflon coating on the cotton) as a commemoration of being in the field for a year (Friday after this upcoming one) but we shall see.

Did I mention that Elder Bergquist is awesome? He has lots of spontaneous giggle fits and awkward weird things that he says which just brighten my day. Also, he loves doing dishes! It's great. I cook and he cleans and we're all happy. He's the first companion with whom I've lived the law of consecration (buying food together-a risky business but working so far). I will finish training him in just over two weeks time and I think at that point we will probably split but it is definitely fun in Gloucester C these days.
Mom just had to add this. . .she is happy to 
deprive herself of the mother's day call to 
facilitate sibling communication.  Really!

I just got permission from President Rasmussen to skype my family in June after Hermana Houghton has gone home rather than for actual Mothers' day so that should be great. I love my family so much. It's really strange that Hermana Houghton will now be off her mission for like a year while I continue on. I guess she'll just have that much more time to write me letters! (hint hint)

This week we had some cool things happen. Our investigator O, who is an old Jamaican ma,n said he would come to church on Sunday but just for Sacrament meeting (the last hour here). Then he came an hour early and got to sit in on the Sunday School lesson that we had been assigned to teach (shake up with Ward Mission Leader and Sunday School Teacher callings so missionaries are teaching it temporarily). It was great! He enjoyed church and said he would come back. He can't really hear very well so we're sure it wasn't what was said that touched him and we hope he felt the spirit strongly during the testimonies.

We've been teaching this awesome South African Family in the ward to review the gospel with the husband who was baptised a few years ago but never taught the after-baptism lessons. They're wonderful and I hope that our teaching has brought the spirit into their home. They're moving out to Newent in a couple of weeks which is still in our area but quite far away. Hopefully we still get to see them regularly!

The new Ward Mission Leader in Gloucester is great! The last one was great as well and I was a bit aprehensive when the new one was called because I hadn't met him before. Then he was sick and we didn't end up having coordination until this last week but it was great! We had planned on talking with him about a few things that we wanted to bring up but then he had already planned to talk about those things without us mentioning them. We are definitely on the same page! I'm really excited.

The Gloucester District is great. There's been a lot of drama with investigators lately in Gloucester but the missionaries here are still working hard and doing their best to invite others to come unto Christ. They are wonderful!

The Weather has been fantastic. I don't think it really rained last week. It probably did but it wasn't bad enough to notice. It has been a bit cloudy rather than being totally sunny but it's nice enough just not to have rain that no one is complaining.

Love you lots and have a fantastic week!

Elder Houghton