Monday, 19 January 2015

Another great week in Wales (and some sickness)

Dear Everyone,

This week was off to a great start. The Senior Couple here (who are amazing!) has been working with a family so that we could teach the kids and other things were going well. A family we've been teaching (Mom+Dad+daughter) were both doing well on quitting smoking (and had been clean for 9 days last we were able to check). So, the first two working days (Tuesday and Wednesday went really well but then on Thursday I woke up with a bit of a sore throat. I quickly supplied my system with ample Vitamin C (say vih-TA-min not VIE-ta-min) but to no avail. I think I just have a weak immune system (not helped by spending all of Wednesday traipsing around Haverfordwest in dreadful weather (though I did stay dry and warm)). So, Thursday night, Friday and most of Saturday were pretty dreadful-It got really bad. I was up to doing a few things on Saturday and then church on Sunday but other than that I was just out-exhausted and miserable. But I think I'm getting better now! Hopefully I'll be all good tomorrow morning as I've still got it now (not too bad fortunately). Also, the weather was taunting me. The days I was worst were the nicest, sunniest, warmest days that we've had so far this year!

So, the first half of the week was good, the second half presented some challenges, and then it was over. I'm really excited for a branch activity that the missionary team is putting on as a fireside next Sunday focused on missionary work. We're trying to find the right balance of fun and spiritual (noting of course that it is both an activity and a Sunday thing). We collaborated really well with our new branch missionary/turning-in-mission-papers-soon-future-missionary plus the senior couple and us. It will be great and will hopefully get the branch up and going for a great year of sharing the gospel with the people of Pembrokeshire!

While I was sick and unable to sleep, I took some time to look through some of the many many old Ensigns we have in our flat. I read many articles. One in particular stood out. it was about a man who is a tour guide for Machu Pichu in Peru. He was disappointed that many of his colleagues had lost the sense of wonder and interest he had for the site because they felt like they'd already found and discovered what there was there and there was not much more for them. The man then compared this kind of disinterest with what people experience when they've experienced the blessings of the gospel but then feel like they've seen it all and stop being interested and excited. I realised how meaningful and important it was that there is just so much to learn from the scriptures and words of living prophets. As we live life, we are faced with new and greater challenges all the time but equal to the different trials and experiences we may have are the tools of knowledge and revelation that Heavenly Father gives us to help us address those needs that we have. The Atonement really is infinite-it covers everything in the past, present, and future. I'm grateful that there is so much to learn and gain from following the Saviour and keeping his commandments-we need not get bored or lose interest because there is just so much to gain each day!

All that being said, I love it here. There are challenges every day but that's ok. Things are happening in Milford Haven!

Lots of Love!
Elder Houghton

Monday, 12 January 2015

Greetings From Milford Haven

Lovely Milford Haven

Dear Everyone,

We've had an amazingly blessed week in Milford Haven! I love everything about serving here (except the boiler breaking down twice-->no heating or hot water-->relay race of kettles to boil enough water to have a sponge bath in our cold bathroom but it's resolved now and wasn't too bad anyway.)

Firstly, a story from my email to President Rasmussen:

(names Cl and Ce are different people-names omitted for privacy).

Elder X has been sending in, repeatedly, the same referrals on for people he taught when he was in Milford Haven. In the midst of those, whether from him or not, I don't know, we got one for Cl Jones in Narberth. No other address information was given at all and Jones isn't a helpful name in Wales. With the Galloways' help, we were able to find online two C. Jones near Narberth but none in Narberth itself. We couldn't see their full names-just C. I thought to myself that it was probably pointless to try to contact this referral. However, I felt that we needed to contact the referral despite the overwhelming odds that it was going to be a total waste of time. On our way back from starting an exchange in Llanelli, Elder Silva and I got off half way in a tiny town with a stop-by-request-only station. We then biked for about 30 minutes in pelting rain over steep hills to find the house. I am sure that missionaries would never randomly knock that door. With some difficulty, we found the house (which had a name and not a number). We knocked on the door (completely soaked as we were and looking probably like absolute fools to be out in the middle of nowhere on bikes as we were). A woman answered. Her name was not Cl but Ce Jones. We commented that it was funny to be meeting her after spending so much time looking for Cl. She invited us in but we couldn't go in as there wasn't another man present. She mentioned that the house next-door was where many of her ancestors had lived and that that was why she lived there in the middle of nowhere. I asked if she'd done much family history. She was stunned. She's been stuck at home with a bad back and can't work (she normally works about 35 minutes drive away near the chapel in Johnston) and she absolutely loves family history. She was so excited that we knew a bit about it and that we had appeared at her door. We were able to talk about Family History for about 20 minutes and told her about the Family History Clinic the Galloways will be setting up in February at the chapel. We asked if we could come share more about family history later (and then did on Sunday with the Galloways). It was a miracle! When we called to make the appointment, she was really excited and still dumbstruck by how we were able to meet. The Lord sent us there knowing what she needed and He had prepared her to receive us. He'd also prepared us with the planned clinic, a bit of knowledge about family history and how to use it in proselyting (thanks to a Zone Meeting by President P. (Coventry Stake President) way back when I was in Coventry), and the right spirit at the right time to become friends with her. She told us when we came to visit on Sunday that she wasn't interested in religion but gladly accepted an invitation to read the Book of Mormon (in Welsh which she speaks). A week before, I'd also felt prompted to have a chat with a member who lives in Narberth-somewhat near Ce. This member has three boys who attend the same Welsh-speaking school as Ce's daughter. We texted the member to ask her to pray for Ce as the Galloways drove us back to Milford Haven after the visit. Ce said we could come back any time she was available to talk about Family History. She's excited to attend the clinic and we have faith that as we continue to follow the spirit, she can be prepared and have her heart changed so that she would be interested in learning of the Restoration of the Gospel. The day before we went to find Cl Jones, I prayed fervently that I would learn how the Holy Ghost works in my life. I know that God answered that prayer and many others by arranging for us to meet Ce Jones as we did. I'm so grateful to be part of this great work!
*Many thanks to Mom, Grandma Houghton, Grandma and Grandpa Kemper, Eliza, and others for contributing a while ago to my "My Family" Booklet which I was able to share along with a complete seven generation fan chart. I felt bad because she'd had to do all the work herself and I was just showing off the stuff that other people have done on my family tree.

Tanker in Milford Haven
So, that is just one of many miracles. The weather hasn't been too bad. The days are slowly slowly getting longer and lighter and R+S are working on quitting smoking and will be ready to be baptised shortly after they do that! It was a miracle because they'd sort of backed off because they were afraid of trying to quit. I finally saw a big tanker manoeuvring in the harbour today (we always see them docked and it's kind of lame when they don't move) which I've been hoping for. We made Pitta Bread+Spaghetti sauce and some kitchen experimentation-->pizza sauce+chorizo+English mature cheddar pizza last night which wasn't too bad. I got a new battery for my watch (the substitute watch doesn't come out of my jacket easily so I can't see the time unless both hands are free (so biking and checking the time aren't compatible)). We started a Gospel Principles class on Sunday and it went ok-only a few wrinkles. We miraculously met another person who wants to quit smoking and needs our help with the stop smoking program (which R+S aren't using btw-they're doing it with another group which may be better in their case) right after teaching R+S. In the process though, Elder Woodruff got jumped upon by an energetic dog who had muddy paws-->long walk past lots of people. I really like the dog though (despite him using me as a urinal the last time we met...).

Things are going really well. I'm just so grateful for it all!

I love you all lots! Have a great week!
Elder Houghton

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Happy New Year!

From 5 January 2015

Hello Everyone!

It has been an exciting start to 2015 in Milford Haven. Things are going well. The weather hasn't been too bad and we had a most epic P day.  Here are some pictures of that to start out with.

Out on an adventure with the Williams and friend
Elder Woodruff and the peaks in Wales

On New Years Eve, we roasted a turkey that a member had given us for Christmas. We had to be in at 6 so it was the best time to do it. I must say, the turkey turned out great. Quite moist and tender-the best (and only) we have done. We stuffed it with onions and oranges (if we'd had celery, we could have used that too-that's all that I remember of my mother's amazing thanksgiving Turkey Preparations). 

So we enjoyed an amazing spread for dinner that night (along with our green kool-aid/sugar overload) and then later made Turkey and Blackcurrant jam sandwiches (no cranberry relish...) which were great for lunch.

The best use of leftovers came the other night--Turkey Chow Mein.  

The Chow Mein​ and some Chicken Pies Elder Woodruff made me.  Isn't he the best!?!

So ya, things are going great here. Two branch missionaries were called so we now have a great branch Mission Team to work with. I'm way excited for that. We're going to start up a Gospel Principles class next week which will be really good. It was quite amazing because Elder Woodruff and I had talked about some things we wanted to do to help the branch and having a gospel principles class for the new and returning members was a bit part of that. Then the branch President called us in and had it planned out perfectly. It was great.

We had a cool experience earlier in the week when we went out to Pembroke Dock. It was kind of tough but things worked out. We biked out and the weather was pretty good but just as we crossed the massive bridge across the harbour to get to Pembroke Dock, it started pouring down with rain and was quite windy. We got to Pembroke Dock and we were completely soaked. We ended up leaving our bikes at a member's house (the same awesome member who gave us the turkey actually) and the Galloways (amazing Sr. Couple here) rescued us and took us back to Milford Haven. It is seriously so nice to have people take care of us! I'm so grateful for them! When we went to get the bikes, we arrived earlier than planned and were in a conundrum about what to do while we waited for the member to get back. We first set out in one direction on foot to contact some people in Pembroke but shortly realised that it would take way too long and decided to turn back and do some work in Pembroke Dock itself. As we walked back we came across two little boys who had escaped their house unbeknownst to their parents and were playing in the street-oblivious to the cars passing by. We were able to take the boys back to their parents nearby with the help of a kind lady passer-by. It was just small and simple but interesting to see how what we would have considered an illogical and inefficient travel plan turned out being exactly what the Lord needed us to do at that time.

We saw many miracles this week and it has been wonderful. It is amazing how closely God is involved in His work and in the lives of his Children. I love it so much!

That's all for now. Sorry to not have much substance but I hope you're all well!
Elder Houghton

RAWR!  This is a picture from Elder Woodruff's Family. They hunt Cougars (and he wants to go to BYU... I detect a bit of an issue there). I'm trying to get a hat out of this as well.  We Houghtons have our own cougar stories-
we just don't get to keep our cats.

Christmas in Wales 2014

From 29 December 2014

President and Sister Williams and their three children, of the Milford Haven branch, were wonderful hosts on Christmas Day.  They facilitated a much-appreciated skype session, and provided a delicious diner, Christmas gifts, an adventure to the beach, and follow-up communication with our family.  Thank you Williams family!

President and Sister Williams
The Williams Children

Christmas Dinner with the Williams Family
Opening gifts with the Williams family

The Williams opening the present we gave them.
  It was a cast turtle shell on a stand and a book called "Grain Brain"
which we oddly had in our flat... It was just to be funny.
The greatest part was the work we did to wrap it with
lego stickers and drawings by Elder Woodruff.
It was great. Sad to see that it had to be unwrapped though.
It was definitely a quality job... 

The Beach we went to at Christmas with the Williams.
A waterfall on the beach on Christmas day.
The cut on Elder Houghton's toe from his beach adventure.
Christmas Day with the Williams
Boxing Day Elders Woodruff and Houghton

The beach and Polar Plunge crowd on Boxing Day

Elder Houghton (the island in the background is
accessible only depending on the tide) at a beach
 in Tenby enjoying cold and rain.

Love you all and hope you have a great weekend. It was great to talk to (some of) you and I'll look forward to seeing you all very soon.


Nadolig Llawen oddi wrth Aberdaugleddau, Cymru! (Merry Christmas from Milford Haven, Wales!)

From 22 December 2014

Dear Everyone,

It's been a fantastic week. I was transferred. Leaving Walsall was sad. There are so many people there that I care for and love who are just wonderful and I'll really miss them. So, here's the rundown:
  • Monday: District P day in Wylde Green (the mission office chapel), get a call from President Rasmussen that I'm being released as District Leader, Dodge Night-Elder Houghton to go to Milford Haven (the area I've joked is the outer darkness of the mission for the past 19 months-oh boy how I was wrong)-not sure what to think-sleep
  • Tuesday: Pack and say goodbye to people in Walsall. We tried to start the Stop Smoking Program with the Slovaks but it fizzled mostly because of the language barrier. They did cut down a lot though I've heard.
  • Wednesday: Wake up early to finish packing, go to mission office early, baptismal interview for the Sisters in Wylder Green, see loads of missionaries (who I may never see again...), eat leftovers of pizza for the new missionaries, help get everything on the coach to Wales, board coach (2:20ish?), travel to Swansea via Cardiff, arrive at 6:40 ish and discover that we've missed our train, spend the night with Zone Leaders in Swansea
  • Thursday: train to Milford Haven (1.5 hours), get to flat, unpack a bit, and hit the ground. It was great other than that I got a puncture. Dinner with the Galloways (Sr. Couple serving in Milford Haven from Nottinghamshire)
  • Friday: Start weekly planning, go out to work again in Haverford West and but new intertubes (too many patches on the old ones), realise that my back tyre is worn out, find, and teach some, go to a traditional community "9 Lessons and Carols Service" at the main CofE church in Milford Haven-quite well done. The Galloways took us and it was a good opportunity to interact with the public though not much came from it.
  • Saturday: more weekly planning, clean chapel with members (the chapel here is new and small-perfect for the branch and I love it!), teach some more people (more on the people we're teaching next week)
  • Sunday: go to church with Galloways (~25 min drive), Church (awesome in every way-the members here are great), play the piano for the Christmas carol program after the pianist is unable to play (not my best performance but I guess it worked...), lunch with Galloways, teach a lady we found on Thursday with Elder Galloway, finish weekly planning, dinner and tidying in the flat, a tiny bit of finding (Milford Haven at 8:30 is a ghost town though).
Elder Woodruff on the train with some scenery
Some things:
  • My new companion is Elder Luke Woodruff. He found out my first name before I learned his so he told me to guess his name and then as I guessed gave me the hint that it was the same as mine-pretty funny. He's from Idaho and his Bishop's son was Elder Leavitt who was my home teaching companion at BYU who served in the Birmingham Mission. Elder Woodruff is the best! He's a super solid missionary and really knows why he's here. He's only been out for 3 transfers and all of those with his trainer in Milford Haven but he's the best. He's hilarious as well!
  • I'm in Wales! It's weird because a lot is the same but a lot is different. All the signs are in Welsh and English but it's tricky because Welsh is a load of w, ll, y, dd, and other stuff which don't sound like they do in English (the ll is something like a THL plus the S in Sid the Sloth). Some places are usually called by their Welsh names and others usually their English names. Milford Haven is Aberdaugleddau but we're in the Llanelli district (try saying THLHSANETHLHSEE or something like that). It's beautiful here though. the people are way way nice and friendly here.
  • The Branch is amazing!
  • Dobby Died in our area! That's right. I guess they went there for P day a while ago but the beach he died on is at Fresh Water West which is Sort of South West of the town of Milford Haven.
  • Milford Haven is a port. There's a way nice Marina and a bunch of oil refineries in the area-big big ships! Apparently in the summer, there are cruise ships that come to Milford Haven because it's very deep. It's really pretty being by the sea!
I absolutely love it here. It's only been a few days but it will be great I'm sure! I'm looking forward to skyping my amazing family on Christmas Day. It will be a really great Christmas!

Love you all and have a great week!
Elder Houghton

District P day from last Monday

Goodbye Wylde Green Sisters
 (Sisters MacKay and Leiss, me, and Elder Tukuafu)

The train stations here only have one platform
because the trains are so infrequent
Elder Maligon is training! I now have two South African
mission grandsons! I don't know how that w
orked out
genetically but it's pretty cool. Can't remember his name
exactly or see it on the picture but it's like Mtwetwe
or something. He's from Durban.
Elder Maligon in the right of the picture.