Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Another Week!

From 22 August 2014

Dear Everyone,

So, this week has been pretty good. On Friday, Alex was baptised by Elder Ruka and then on Sunday she asked me to confirm her. She is 13, really funny, and loves animals. Her testimony is really strong-especially considering that her father passed away just five weeks ago. She's awesome! It was really great for her and for the ward. Preparing her for baptism and having her interview and everything took up most of the energy for the week (it's remarkable how much we had to do actually). The ward here in Walsall is really great though. They are supportive, friendly, loving, forgiving, and amazing in just about every way. I'm grateful that I get to serve here.

In other news, Peter #1 flew home to Poland on Saturday and Peter #2 didn't show for our lesson (we were late though so it's probably our fault). We did talk to lots of Polish people in that area though (we'd brought Wojciech, the awesome Polish member here-I love him so much!) while we were there. Turns out Peter #1 wasn't really sincere anyway or at least that's what I think Wojciech was explaining to me (Peter #1's English is much better than Wojciech's which isn't very good). It's really funny being in a lesson with the two of them and Elder Ruka and realising that I'm the only one who actually speaks English and I still have little understanding of what's going on. It's great fun and a really good learning experience though-they remind me to slow down a lot. The Book of Mormon is great though for non-English lessons because we can read it verse by verse and stay on the same page about what's happening.

We shall see what happens this upcoming week though. We don't have many teachable investigators at the moment but we have some Less Active members we need to meet with and some finding to do. Hopefully we'll have time for it all. Transfers are this week as well so it will be interesting as always to see who goes and who stays and who the new companions are. I've got news that Elder Bergquist is training though so I'll have a full mission grandson! Woot Woot! Also, my Mission Cousin Elder Wrenger who has been in the same zone as me for all of his mission except one transfer (he keeps following me everywhere!) is training so it will be cool. If Elder Smart is there at transfers, we'll be able to get a four generation family photo! It's all just great. Technically, I'm not supposed to know about who is training but ya...

So, anyway, it has been a good week. It was great to be able to participate in Alex's conversion and change to following the Saviour. There is still a lot of work to do to strengthen her and her mother in the gospel and help them build up their testimonies. It will be good though and the ward is really supportive and encouraging.

Anyhow, I've got to get going but know that I love and pray for you all and hope all is well!
Elder Houghton

P.S. I'll  let you know about transfer news next week!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Seven Months Left. . .

I didn't have my camera with me so I couldn't send pictures of the farm visit I mentioned last week. It was fun.  Here is. . .
a gruff billy goat (a guard goat actually)

chief of the pecking order (only one tail feather though was a bit sad...)
Elder Ruka with a horse

me with a horse

Dear Family,

I wouldn't have noticed until Mom pointed out to me that it was mid September that time is flying so fast. I have heard that my group of missionaries will go home on April 15th or something if that's a Wednesday so I've got just a few short months left of full time service as a missionary. That being said though, I am looking forward to the opportunities which I will have once I get back home to continue serving and spreading the gospel.

We've been really blessed this week to meet some great people who we either are teaching or will be teaching shortly. It's been tricky lately with finding in our area for a number of reasons so it's really great to teach some new people! One of them is a wonderfully prepared Polish man named Peter (Peter #1 for future reference). He was doing really well and we had met with him a few times but then he didn't come to church on Sunday. I think the key though is his awesome Polish member friend Wojciech ("Voy-Check") who we are working with to help him with a few things. Once he's receiving all of the blessings of the gospel, I think it should be easier for Peter to accept everything and keep all of his commitments. We also did a bit of the groundwork for some Less-Active member work we will be doing soon so that was great. There's a story behind that:

We arranged with a man in the ward named Brother Woods to come to his home to go over the ward list and figure out who is who. Brother Woods has been in the ward since before it was even a branch-he and his wife were the first members in Walsall. He's now quite old but his mind is all there and he has a fantastic memory. We went over the ward list and he highlighted some people that we ought to search out. It was interesting though that he kept repeating a few phrases about some of the members he had known:
  • "I thought she'd be underground by now."
  • "Well, if he's still above ground, he's definitely worth a visit"
  • "If you see her, tell her Stan Woods gives her his love"
  • Also just the general of him and his wife calling each other poppet (spl?) and just generally being fantastic old English people. From him: "Oh come on now, let's have a hug" and then getting a tiny bit of a friendly kiss... It's great. He winks at me when he comes into Priesthood with his trike walker when I'm at the piano (I've been enlisted and I'm enjoying it quite a lot-we even have music practice of a hymn each Sunday in addition to the opening song). Anyway, it was just great fun being with some very very English old people.
A few funny things:
  • One of the localities just south of Birmingham City Centre is California. I've never heard of it other than seeing it on the map-some of the locality names aren't really known (In Coventry, we lived in "Paradise" but no one ever used that locality name). So anyway, it's out of the Zone so I'll never go there unless I get transferred to Harborne ward but it's nice to think that if I need to get to California, it's just a bus ride away.
  • At a pub we passed somewhere, there was an advertisement on the little chalkboard easel thing that many pubs have: it said "Special Deal: Buy Two and Pay for Both." funny funny
  • I bought six ties for £3 today at a stall in the town centre market thing in Walsall. I got them so that we can have district unity ties (companion ties are so 2013!). Kind of awkward figuring out how to include the sisters in that district unity...
We had some wonderful training at Zone Meeting on Thursday as well. Our Zone Leaders are fantastic! It was a wonderfully uplifting spiritual experience.

We performed a musical item for the ward of hymn 220 which went well. Miraculously, I hit the D acceptably after struggling to do so in practice during the men only verse. It was really nice. Sacrament meeting was fantastic and things are great.

Alex Sutton will be baptised on Friday. She's 13 and an amazing investigator. She's been ready to be baptised for a while but her father passed away a few weeks ago so it's been tough for her mother and everything. Really sad and I've learned a lot about grief and the pain of dealing with death. Alex is doing fine though-it's just that someone didn't update her teaching record so we have to make sure she is taught and willing to live all of the commandments in the missionary lessons and prepared for her baptismal interview. It will be great for Elder Ruka as she's asked him to baptise her. Should be great!

I love you all lots. Sorry this email isn't spiritual as it ought to be. I saved a really cool experience in a video that I made (look forward to Elder Houghton's cooking show episode one coming soon) but which I will have to send on the micro SD card because videos are too big to send via email. It was quite a miracle (and involves Peter #"2). It has been a great week though. The Lord is blessing us tremendously and His work is progressing here! I'm so grateful to be a small part of it.

Elder Houghton

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Running Out Of Subject Lines. . .

Dear Everyone,

Sorry I'm running out of good subject lines for these emails. Let me know of any suggestions. It's kind of tough trying to be original about 100 times.

Some Highlights from the week:
  • I went to Wednesbury (pronounced like Wednesday) where I have a lot of family history. We were only there for a bit to have dinner with our Ward Mission Leader and we popped into a bike shop to see if the guy there had a used bike that would work for Elder Ruka. He was way too pushy about selling the too good to be true only used bike he had so we made an exit. Other than that, it's fairly small and there's a decent bus station which is cool. Haven't seen much else.

  • I learned from our Ward Mission Leader that Street signals (red=stop, green=go etc.) were invented in Wolverhampton, which is a hop on a bus away.

  • I made some delicious food from Cape Verde that Elder Fonseca (one of the other Elders in the district) taught me to make on exchange. It's great and filling and perfect in just about every way-had leftovers for breakfast this morning.

  • I bought a Lego Minifigure sticker book so spice life up with last week. Sticker books are the new thing in the mission.

  • Church was wonderful yesterday. Just fabulous. I have a bit of a better knowledge of who people are etc. so it's great. We'll be singing in sacrament meeting next week as well which will be cool.
  • We had a fantastic Zone Conference on Saturday and we were visited by an area seventy from the Netherlands and his wife (Elder and Sister Boom (pronounced Bohm)). It was perfect for my needs and I learned loads and felt the spirit strongly. I don't think I could survive without the spiritual upliftment that comes from the meetings we hold regularly. They are vital. Just a few of many amazing highlights:
    • "God Loves us too much to leave us the way we are."
    • The man who asked the Saviour "Carest thou not that we perish" was just about the worst question in the world to ask. Who on Earth cares more? We just need to stay in the boat and trust in the Lord
    • The Area Seventy powerfully told us (with a bit of an accent) "When you Elders get home, don't touch those video games. We are preparing for the Second Coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ and we cannot afford to dabble in addictions" (not an exact quote at all-it was like that but better). One of the sisters in my district almost leaped up for joy and asked him to get someone to say that in general conference so her brothers would hear.
    • From Sister Boom: Jenna and the Problem-Maker -a story with great applications to missionary work.
  • I bought a new pair of shoes from a closing down store. Yay cheap shoes!

  • We randomly met up with a woman we're working with at a farm. There were chickens, horses, a sheep, a cow, a mean guard goat, turkeys, ducks, geese, the whole shibang. It was pretty cool. Elder Ruka loved it (maybe in part aided by the fact that they don't have sheep, turkeys, horses, goats, or cows in his country) as did I-I suddenly wished I could have been raised on a farm- and it was good to interact with this lady in a positive way (she's had a lot a lot a lot of stress and challenges lately).

I've run myself out of time but I love you loads and look forward to hearing from you soon!

Elder Houghton

A Week In Walsall!

Dear Everyone,

It's been a major week for learning/growing/changing here in Walsall for me. A few quick cool things that I'd like to share.

When we were in Preston at the MTC, all the missionaries got to go to the temple. While there, I sat next to a very old man who could not really hear, speak, or see. One eye was covered by blackened glasses, and he had an earpiece that looked like it was implanted into his head. He moaned and mumbled a bit while I was there and I was sincerely amazed that he was in the temple performing saving ordinances for others when was in such a physical state himself.

On Sunday, he was sitting in front of me in the combined Priesthood/Relief Society fifth Sunday meeting. It took me a minute to figure out where I knew him from but then I distinctly remembered him as the man from the Preston temple that I'd sat next to him. I learned his name and got to give him a glass of water when he motioned that his cup was empty. The Lord taught (or retaught) me a few valuable lessons.

1. Heavenly Father knows and loves each one of his precious sons and daughters.
2. The Lord is mindful of each of us and wants us to have uplifting spiritual experiences that will teach us and help us come closer to him.
3. Sometimes the purest forms of service are sacrificing everything we have to do the work of the Lord.

Anyway, it was really wonderful.

In the meantime, due to a number of complicated events, spiritual roller coasters and etc., I think I now understand and have come to love Elder Ruka a lot better now. He is such a wonderful person. He's really given a lot to come and serve the Lord and give all that he has-he's really relying on the Lord in many many ways and the cool thing is that it works. His spirit is strong and can connect with many people who would be stand offish toward me. So, things will be better and easier now I think-mostly due to a change in perspective on my part.

Some Pictures:

Elder Ruka
My desk is a mesk!

Our area map
I made pancakes yesterday and there was leftover batter
for toda--woot woot!
Also, we had District P day today and I meant to take loads of pictures. It was pretty fun. We had a game of tossing grapes into companions' mouths over a net, blowing malteasers across the floor with straws (once against your companion and then once as a big race) and then volleyball and then pizza. It was great fun. Also, though the Assistants are in our district, they have P day on Saturday and so can't come but the Zone Leaders came so it was all great with four sets of missionaries (three isn't quite enough for volleyball. News is that they will reopen the second Elders' area in the other ward (where the Sisters and Assistants are) so if I stay, I'll be in a district of five teams! It will be great. Our district is amazing here. The Sisters assigned us some code names: we've got a seahorse, a panda bear, a polar bear, a brown bear, a sun bear, a black bear, and two penguins. It's pretty hilarious.

Anyhow, sorry there's not much of substance here. This Saturday is ZOne Conference and there's an area authority coming for our session of the conference (Lichfield/Birmingham Zones) but not for the other ones (muahaha!). Or so the penguins told me...

You all are great and I hope all is well. I'm looking forward to letters soon. I got some this past week and they were great!

Elder Houghton

228 Sandwell St.
West Midlands