Monday, February 29, 2016

More Miracles and Crazy Dudes

Hi everybody!

Another crazy week here in Witney. So much has happened this week and I don't really know where to start! You'll be interested to know that it isn't raining or cloudy right now. The sun is shining right now so hopefully it lasts a few hours because I miss it so much! My tan is long gone and I've become pretty pasty in the last few months. The weather is getting warmer though.

Good news! We saw the Rathbones this week and they are planning on going to the temple next month! They are so ready and so excited, and I am pumped for them. Unfortunately, I won't be able to go with them to do baptisms since the members are supposed to go, but hopefully I can go with them in a year or so when they go through. That would be cool.

Out here in Witney there is a real shortage of referrals. We probably get one every few months, so it's a real treat when we get one! We finally got one from headquarters so we set out to find him on Tuesday. His name is Oliver and he lives in an old English town called Sutton. Eventually we found his house but he wasn't in, so we worked there for a bit before heading back to Witney. Sutton is in the middle of nowhere and it was pretty fun to work there, even though it was full of stubborn people in big houses. Just thought I'd include this though since referrals are so hard to come by!

The best part of the week was the exchange with Elder Phelps. I cherish every moment with that Elder! We know how to work hard and have fun at the same time, which is the best. It was cool because I got to go out to Didcot, my "birthplace." We also went out to Wallingford (the promised land) where we gave out a few Book of Mormons (Books of Mormon?) and witnessed many miracles. While knocking I found a friendly cat and decided to get a picture with it, circle of life style. There are so many random cats out here it's nuts! That night we had a lesson with George and Maggie. They're from Egypt and have only lived here for a little while. The wife had only been here for a few days so half the time they were speaking Arabic, which was interesting. We taught them about prophets and they ate it up! High hopes for Didcot! We had a candle night after planning and I may have accidentally spilled some liquid wax on the rug...a good exchange though! Elder Phelps is a boss.

I can officially say that I've been spat at! One night we were walking back to the flat after a long day of work. We came around the corner and saw this crazy guy standing there. I've seen this guy a few times around Witney and even approached him one time, and he didn't take it very well. I guess he wasn't in a great mood that night because he started yelling and swearing at us. We asked him what was wrong, but then he started spitting at was weird. I can finally check that off the list though :)

It's been a good week. Elder Reynolds is so awesome, I love working with him! I feel like if he went to my school then I'd still be friends with him. We click that well! However, we felt like there is something missing in our companionship. We figured it might be the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, so we both felt prompted to begin a 40 day fast. This will be round 2 for me, but I plan on doing it with all of my companions in the field. I have a testimony of it because I've seen the fruits from it. I must say, it really transformed me so I'm ecstatic to do it again! Soon our companionship will be purified and we will be more effective instruments in the hands of the Lord. Super exciting! We started yesterday but I would love any of you if not all to also do a 40 day fast. No, it's not easy, but it's worth it. You simply fast from food for 24 hours and write down at least 10 disobedient behaviours that pokes at your spirit. Then fast from those things for 40 days. Pray for strength to stop those behaviours and you will be surprised at who you become. I know it works and I know we can choose to change!

I want to share my testimony that I know that God has a plan for us. He really does know all of us because we're his sons and daughters. He loves us! He works in the greatest ways. The Saviour will always be our best friend, we just need to let Him help us. I know that this Church is completely true and so is the Book of Mormon. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

I just want to thank you all for your love and support! Thank you especially to grandma for the package and the sweets, they are the best! Love you all! Je t'aime au revoir!


Elder Thomas


Cool little path in an old English town called Sutton

Trying to find a referral in Sutton

Outside my flat

Our bus stop on High Street

I'm famous on Google!

Candles with Elder Phelps

For Elder Wagaman

Elder Raveneau at home

Candace's racing bus!

Monday, February 22, 2016

6 down, 18 to go

Hey there!

Hello, everybody! Elder Thomas here. I hope your week has been full of miracles and happiness. It's officially been 6 months since I last touched that sweet American soil and left for Great Britain. It's been a hard 6 months, full of learning and working and changing. It's also been the best 6 months of my life. I've witnessed so many amazing miracles out here! These experiences have been in reply to many desperate pleadings with a merciful Father in Heaven. I have definitely learned that a witness comes AFTER the trial of your faith. With all these witnesses, I have so much reason to believe and trust in God. I can't even express how happy I am to be here in this blessed land...I love it so much! Still, it's amazing how fast time flies while you're out here. Anyways, to the good stuff!

After "killing' Elder Raveneau off, I went with the Didcot Elders to McDonald's for the second day in a row, unfortunately! The music there had sad, reminiscing overtones and talked about losing somebody, which wasn't helping me at all. So we went back to the train station and picked up Elder Reynolds, who was fresh off the train from High Wycombe. We took him to the chapel to play sting pong for Oxford District initiation, and then we set off for Witney! I was impressed how well Elder Reynolds has been able to adapt to a brand new area and a brand new companion. It was a hard change for me since I'd been with my trainer for the first quarter of my mission. I didn't really know how to lead the area at first, but soon realized something: I can do this. God really stretched me this week, and now I'm grateful for it. I'm different now than I was even one week ago!

Elder Reynolds is from Manchester and has been out for approximately 7 months. We don't have much in common, but we do have one thing: we both love God and want to serve Him to the best of our ability. That's all we need! We love to serve each other as well, and we already have a great companionship. We've witnessed miracles and he is already way tight with the Rathbones! Good things are in store for us!

The Rathbones are still one of the strongest families in the ward. They unknowingly bear their testimony every time I see them! Even though I already know it, last week I asked them to tell me their conversion story just so I could feel warm and fuzzy. They are so great, and never fail to feed us on Friday nights...Sister Rathbone makes perfect chicken fajitas!!!

We also had a zone conference in Staines on Friday, which required us to spend Thursday night in Oxford as a district. One thing led to another, and Elder Phelps and I ended up having a full blown wrestling match. It was so fun! I got thrown around like a rag doll at first since Elder Phelps is so built. Brother Rathbone said it himself: "Elder Phelps is an absolute tank." Luckily I still remember some technique from school, so I was able to hold my own once I got him on the ground. Yes, blood was shed, but it was just a carpet burn. Nothing too serious. Elder Phelps is the champion. Shoutout to my brother Luke, he's a real luchador (wrestler)!

At zone conference we heard from Elder Johnson of the Seventy. It was such a blessing to hear from one of the Lord's anointed. His calling is to preach the Gospel to everybody, and he magnifies his calling. With him, we broke down the phrase "teach repentance and baptize converts," which is our focus right now in the mission field. We also heard from President Gubler, who inspired me once again with his powerful testimony. I love that man!

Church this week was also a learning experience for me. Brother Lyon taught a very spiritual lesson in Elders Quorum, and I took some essential things out of it. I learned that it's not only important to pray, but what is also important is how we pray. Such a simple doctrine, but so meaningful to me at this time! So often, I find myself praying half-heartedly, not 100% sincere or humble. I found that we shouldn't counsel God when we pray, but instead we should seek His valuable counsel. I find myself asking God to do things for me and to make things as easy and as smooth as possible for me to go through. This should not be the case! God hates complacency, so we should too. We need to say "thy will be done" just as our Savior did while he was suffering. Since God knows us and what we need, then asking Him to help us do His will will be much more effective than asking Him to help us do our will. I think we can all improve on this! As we strive to change, we can be transformed into who God really wants us to be. Our true selves and our true potential. I know He is our Father and that he loves us enough to give us His Son. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen!

Thank you for all your emails and packages! I love you all and you are in my prayers. Have a great week!


Elder Thomas



One last bus ride for Elder Raveneau

Picked up Elder Reynolds looking very confused!

If we had stayed on the train, we could've gone to Elder Reynolds house.
(He lives in Manchester.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Transfers... RIP Elder Raveneau

Hello from Witney!

Hey everyone! It's been yet another crazy week in the mission field, full of miracles and great experiences. As a representative of Jesus Christ, I get a front-seat witness to many amazing things. I stand with thousands of others when I say I love serving this mission! There's nowhere I'd rather be.

It hit me that as of the 19th I'll have been out for 6 months. Only 18 months left--I'm a sister missionary now! It's gone by so fast I can't believe it. That scares me, because Elder Raveneau says it only goes by faster from here. Speaking of Elder Raveneau, he's "dying" today. His mission is over! He takes a train this morning from Oxford to Crawley where he will go through the temple and have dinner with President Gubler. He flies home tomorrow! I'm really going to miss him and he knows it. We've been together for so long that he's like a brother to me now, but I'm excited for him to begin the next chapter of his life. He's served a very honorable mission and I will definitely see him again sometime, but it's time to say "au revoir!"

As you can see, I get to stay in Witney a bit longer, thankfully! I love it here. Even though this is the only area I've served in, I'm convinced it's one of the best area's in the mission and I'm so glad to be staying! We received the news about transfers on Saturday and I was pretty nervous, but that's the way it goes! My new companion is (drumrolllllllll)...Elder Reynolds! At first I thought he was definitely from the states, but come to find out he's from Manchester! I haven't met him yet, but I got to talk to him on the phone for a bit yesterday. He seems really cool! It will be nice to work with him and I'm excited to keep working hard.

We were out and about all the time last week because literally everyone wanted to say bye to Elder Raveneau. We had loads of dinner appointments and got our fair share of pounds (not currency). Yesterday we did service at the Suttons and then had dinner there with the Rathbones and a few other members. It was a total party, but it was also Elder Raveneau's funeral. Sister Sutton made a cake with Elder Raveneau's headstone on it, it was hilarious!

On Tuesday we had Specialized Zone Training with President Gubler and the stake president. I learned so much and felt the Spirit strongly as sincere testimonies were born. President Gubler taught us a lot about Lehi's dream of the tree of life, and it really opened my eyes to what the tree really represents. We know that the iron rod is the word of God, and the fruit is the love of God. We interpreted a picture that I've attached. If any picture is worth a thousand words, this one is! If you examine the tree closely, you will find a figure inside the tree. It's Christ! He is the word, the rod, and the light. He is the sure foundation, unlike the large and spacious buildings which have no foundation at all. You will notice that some of those who are holding to the rod and even those who have tasted the fruit (members) have their heads turned to the mocking crowds of the spacious building. On the other hand, others are relentless in protecting their faith and have both eyes on the tree, pressing forward steadfastly. This is the idea. We need keep moving, holding to the rod and focusing on Christ. At times the journey on the rod may seem like an incline, maybe even a mountain, but we must remain faithful to have a perfect brightness of hope! This picture contains the entire structure of the world. In the background are millions who are wandering aimlessly without the fruit because "they know not where to find it." In reality, any person who is not a baptized member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is lost. They may not realize it, but they are! This truth is what motivates me to serve, to find His lost sheep and lead them back to the rod, like the "men in white" did to Lehi when he was in darkness. My question to you is who are those men in white?

I was on a bus the other week when I received a strong feeling that I should talk to every single person on the entire bus. I really shrank at that feeling because even though the bus wasn't completely full, I was scared and didn't want to risk getting kicked off! The feeling kept coming back even after I ignored it. The rest of the day I was eaten alive by the fact that I postponed that prompting and that I had feared man more than God...I promised God and myself that I would do it the next day. Well, the time finally came and the feeling was there again, so I did it. Now this isn't a huge, impressive accomplishment, but it was definitely out of my comfort zone to cycle through the seats next to the people on the bus, sharing the message of the Restoration. Nobody was interested, but I showed God that I am willing to react to the promptings of the Spirit. I think this shows how God really stretches us to grow when we show him we are willing and ready to change. He is never complacent with complacency because complacency means no progression. It is the second greatest stumbling block, only second to pride. I know that through Christ not only our behavior can be changed, but our whole nature. I declare to you that God has a perfect plan for all His children. To accomplish this he has given us the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement, through which we can be completely cleansed from sin. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!

It's been a great week! Sunday was great: Candace came to church again, and Simon received the Aaronic Priesthood! He gets to pass the sacrament now. Woo!

Have a great week everybody! Je t'aime au revoir!

Love, Elder Thomas


The tree of life

Saying goodbye to Elder Raveneau

Selfie from Sister Nyman.  Spaghetti with my new companion.

The Rathbone boys... future missionaries!

Funny face!

At the temple last week with the Rathbones

Bus rides with the Elders

Monday, February 8, 2016

Stake Conference and the Temple

Greetings from Witney!

Hey everybody! It's been another crazy miraculous week out here. I've realized that I've almost been out for 6 months and I don't really know where the time has gone. Looking back on my experience so far, this mission has been more than I ever dreamed and imagined it to be. Outside of myself, I can't think of one thing that I want to change right now. I'm really trying to do things God's way because this is His work...and my way just never seems to work out!

The Rathbone family are members of the only true church on the earth today...and they know it. They are SO SOLID! I'm amazed at their progress and their firm testimony. They're already doing the most missionary work in the ward! Remember how they were found with "the Street Praying Initiative"? Well, we as a ward mission team felt like we should invite the Rathbones to do just that: pray for a street with a baptism. They accepted the challenge and began immediately! They have the faith, so it was only a matter of time until they got their answer. It didn't take long until we received news that Simon had a revelation while doing the dishes one night. He gave us 2 streets to knock and we are anxious to get out there and find, teach, and baptize these people. Unfortunately, we haven't been to the roads yet because we haven't been in our area at all this week :/ The Rathbones will also help teach and friendship the new investigators.

More news on the Rathbones! Now that they've been baptized, they really want to learn more about the temple. Even though they had only been members for 6 days, they picked us up on Saturday and we went! It was a 3 hour journey round trip but it was sooo worth it. We encountered some heavy traffic, however, when we got near London. Simon wanted to pray for the traffic to move, but things started moving before he could! Miracle! It was also scheduled to rain all day, but it stopped during the time we were on the temple grounds...yesssss! Anyways, some nice Sisters greeted us and took us into the cinema where we got to watch Meet the Mormons. I forgot how good that show is! I love Ken (Hawaiian last name)'s story, he's the coach of the Navy Football team. Imm loved the story in Nepal because she's explored all around those parts. I could see her as a kick boxer like the other lady in the show. And of course, David Archuleta's song at the end was "glorious." The Rathbones are excited to actually go inside the temple to do baptisms next month!

Lots of traveling this week. I exchanged with Elder Feistl in Didcot for a day and we got stuff done! He's a very hard worker and naturally efficient (German). He was baptized a couple of years ago and now he's out serving the Lord. What a stud. Exchanges are done differently now, though. Now both of us go to the District Leader's area so his area can be more of a model for the rest of the district. But I don't mind! You all know I'm a fan of 4 man flats...good times!

After our temple excursion we spent the night in Reading so we could be on time for Stake Conference the next morning. I didn't know what to expect because every stake conference has been in the turtle building in Bountiful, and it's always been full! This one was in a chapel, and it was actually pretty full. It felt like home! I was just talking to some other missionaries when, all of the sudden, THEE President Gubler himself walked in--he was giving a talk! I swear that man just glows with spiritual awesomeness. His talk was a spiritual bomb and just blew everybody away.

But wait, there's more! After the meeting, I learned that we were going to another meeting for new members with President Gubler and his wife, the stake president, and the Rathbones. It was pretty much a big testimony meeting and it was a dream come true! I got to hear the Rathbones share their testimony...what a treat. I'm here to tell you that there is nothing more moving and more powerful than a recent convert's testimony. They didn't know it was a testimony, but that's exactly what it was. President Gubler was surprised to hear that the Rathbones had already been to the temple. I said "I thought you meant six days, not sixty!" That scared him a bit, but I told him that they didn't actually go in. Still funny though.

If there's one thing I learned this week, it's to always bear testimony of Jesus Christ. Testimony, testimony, testimony. Whether it's from a prophet, a mission president, or a new member, pure and sincere testimony still has the same effect: brings the Spirit and touches the hearts of everybody present. I encourage you to bear your testimony daily! You are promised to have a stronger testimony and a remission of sins if you do this. I stand with my grandma when I say that my testimony is my most prized possession. I love strengthening my testimony because if it's not being strengthened, it's getting weaker. If you feel that you don't have a testimony, or that your testimony isn't where you want it to be, don't lose hope. There is always hope! Exercise your faith by partaking of the Sacrament. Study the Book of Mormon and pray...Every. Single. Day. Conversion begins when we move doctrine from the "not sure" file into the "I know" file. Pray for the reassurance of doctrine every day. Either begin now or keep working!

I testify to you that I KNOW that there is a God in heaven, and he is Heavenly Father. His love is real and perfect because He sent His Son to die for you and for me. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He has overcome everything, so let us rejoice! I know that I am His servant, His missionary, His disciple. I declare to you that you are never alone because your Savior is there for you always. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

It's been an AWESOME week. I hope this next week brings more miracles and more happiness. Sadly, this will be Elder Raveneau's last full week in the mission field. He goes home next Wednesday! I don't know what I'll do without him, I can't think of anybody else as my companion. He's worked hard, and what a finish! If my next companion is fresh off the plane, then I get to go to the temple one last time with Elder Raveneau next week, but that's not likely. It's been a great 4 transfers with this Elder, I'll never forget it!

Have a goooooood week!

Love, Elder Thomas


The London Temple Visitors Center

The London Temple

McDonald's in Cobham

At Ron's (our investigator) house.  Parrot, dog, Elder.

Sister Sutton's "Kit Kat Kake" for the baptism

Forgot to send this gem last week

Monday, February 1, 2016


Hey everybody! 

Hope it's been a good week for you. You know, there are lots of ups and downs on a mission, but I've found that the downs are worth it. Even if it's 99% downs, all I'll remember is the joy and miracles that occur out here. I feel like this last week may have been the greatest week of my entire mission! It will take a miracle to top's the stuff!

We had an awesome zone training on Tuesday! More trains, more missionaries, and more learning. We've got a few new elders in the zone and it's fun to get to know them individually...a lot of them are recent converts of a year or so with amazing conversion stories. We learned that by being just 15 minutes off-schedule for something wastes time. In fact, if 15 minutes is wasted every day, it adds up to over 40 days of a mission wasted. I'm really conscious of my time now! I guess I have to in order to be exactly obedient. Our zone is the best, though. The leaders are fantastic.

We actually got to go on some exchanges with the zone leaders this week! After weekly planning on Friday, they came out to Witney. Elder Raveneau stayed in Witney with Elder Rivera and I went to Reading with Elder Mayes. It was nice to have a car for a day, even though I didn't get to drive. It was different to be with an American as well, since I've been living with Elder R. for the last 6 months. So we talked about American stuff, like Mcdonald's, and how expensive it is here. We tried to find a Subway to grab some dinner, but couldn't find it...Mcdonald's it was! Then we had correlation, which was really interesting. Let's just say not every member is as nice as Brother Sutton! It was a really fun exchange even though Elder Mayes shot me with a pin-tipped nerf bullet!

I woke up in the morning and it hit me that it was the 30th--the Rathbone's baptism! Elder Mayes and I rushed to Oxford where the font was being filled and Elder Raveneau was making his crepes for the lunch after the baptism. Then people started to show up, including the Rathbones. We got all dressed up and they looked beautiful--celestial, actually--in white. The program began and I got to lead the music! We were then dismissed to proceed with the baptisms. Simon was baptized first, followed by Kiefer (age 8), Quinn (age 10), and Imm. I was able to baptize Simon and Kiefer. It truly was the experience of a lifetime. I followed Simon into the clear, warm water. A teary Brother Sutton opened the curtain to reveal dozens of smiling faces. I was impressed with all the members who made an appearance! I baptized Simon and Kiefer, and then Elder Raveneau baptized Quinn and Imm. They were all so happy! Imm loved going last so she could watch her entire family enter the purifying waters of baptism and coming out completely and entirely clean. They are the world's cleanest family! I'm touched that Heavenly Father has trusted me enough to find this family, teach them, and baptize them all with the same companion. Looking back, He has answered all of my prayers. Long ago I prayed for a baptism with my trainer, and it has happened. I prayed that the Rathbone family would receive an answer to their prayers, and that has happened. God has been so merciful to me, even when I don't really deserve it. He's really watched out for me.

The Rathbones were confirmed in Sacrament Meeting the next day. They wanted the missionary who didn't baptize them to confirm them, so I got to confirm Quinn and Imm. Again, I cannot be more grateful for that. There is now a fire, a Spirit of missionary work, in the bones of every member in the Oxford 2nd ward. Remember that the Rathbones were found with the "praying for a street program." The Suttons prayed for a street, found Teasel Way, told us to go there, and the Rathbones were found. So far, the program is 100% successful. Many other members are now participating in this program, so there are more baptisms coming. I encourage all of you to integrate this program into your own ward. It builds ward unity, gives all a missionary mindset, and brings others to the remembrance of who they really are: sons and daughters of a Heavenly King. I know the Lord is in this work because He's told me and because I see His hand every single day. I love Him, and I love the Rathbone family. Brother Rathbone passed a Priesthood interview with bishop and will receive the Aaronic Priesthood in 2 weeks. They will go to the temple soon! I KNOW that God is there and that He loves all of us! I know that miracles happen.

It's been an inspiring week! These experiences really are precious to me and I will cherish them forever. As you can see, the floodgates are opening and it truly is the Season of Miracles.

Today is P day and it's been pretty fun! I'm letting Elder Raveneau do whatever he wants because he only has 2 P days left...whoa! Today Brother Sutton picked us up and took us to a forest in the middle of nowhere. We built a bonfire, roasted sausages, had hot chocolate, and went tree tippin'! Tree tipping is really fun! See video attached.

Shoutout to Elder Burnett with his success in Croatia! He's an animal!

Anyways, I love my mission! I pray that you will be happy, righteous, and courageous in all that you do. May we reach out to those in need. If we truly love somebody, we will share what matters most with them:  the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Have a great week! :D

#whatwouldthemormonsdo #seasonofmiracles #potato #brotherandsisterrathbone

The Rathbone family

The baptism

Sister Rathbone and Kiefer

The Reading zone

Our sisters work hard!

Shopping cart races

Bonfire for Pday

Brother Sutton making a bonfire

Tree tippin'