Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Hello everybody!

Elder Thomas here :) It's been a crazy week, mostly because of transfers. At the same time, more doors were knocked, hearts were softened, and the Gospel was shared. I've begun to notice the many tender mercies that the Lord gives to me every single day. I've realized the work is kind of like golf: While there are many hard days with no signs of improvement or progression and you even want to quit, something good always happens and tells me that there is hope. Similarly, the Lord gives me something each day to remind me that He is there and that this is His work. My point is, there are miracles, revelations, and spiritual experiences that tell me why I'm here--even when the going gets tough. It has been a pretty overwhelming week here for many reasons. After recovering from a cold, I learned that a family friend was injured in the bombing in Brussels and that shocked me a bit. Please pray for the Empey family!

Anyways, back to transfers! Let's just say, I thought that March Madness was pretty unpredictable this year--until I got the transfers information...you'll be surprised to know that I am writing you from Witney! Yes, that means I will be here for at least 9 months, which is nuts! I don't know anybody who's served in one area for that long before, but I'm excited about it. I love this place, the people, everything! Elder Reynolds is also staying here with me so we'll continue to work these streets together for a while longer. I guess my work is not yet done here.

But wait, there's more!!!

Last Friday we did an Easter-themed district finding activity in Oxford, which went pretty well. Upon arriving, I got off the bus and saw that we had missed a call from President Gubler. Knowing that moves/leadership calls were that day, we went to a park and called him back. There I was shocked again when President told me that the area of Didcot was closing, the 2 Didcot elders were leaving, and that the Lord needed me to be the district leader here. That implies that the 2 of us will have to cover both areas now, without a car! But that's how it's going to be. The plan is to spend week days at the Witney flat and then travel to Didcot to spend weekends at the apartment there, which is still up and running. It's going to be crazy and I hope the Lord provides a way for us to strengthen both areas now. So not only will I be serving as district leader in the area where I began my mission, but I'll also be partially serving in the city that I began my mission. Crazy! Now our district consists of one American, three Brits, and a senior couple. President also told me to start learning and preparing to take the driving test here because my US license is only valid here for 1 year. At some point I might have to switch to the left side...

With Elder Phelps leaving Didcot, I had to say goodbye to him yesterday. He's been my best friend out here and we've been brothers since ever since the MTC and it was hard for us to part ways for now. All four of us had an Easter dinner with the Rathbones on Sunday and we thought a fitting name for the event was "the last supper". We had such a good time! My heart wrenched as I watched Elder Phelps say bye to everybody because eventually I'll have to do that as well! The Didcot elders even spent the night at our flat, where we had one last nerf war. It was epic! I'll really miss Elder Phelps though. He's a great friend and an even better missionary! There's a lot of good things in store for that elder.

We are doing a lot of knocking out here! Another member gave us a road to knock where we found a Polish couple who are really "cooking," or being prepared by the Lord. They're called Kamille and Monica and we plan to begin teaching them this week! There really is so much to work out here and we are excited to bring more people into the fold, and hopefully they're Polish! Polish people are cool.

Despite all that's gone on this week, my testimony of the Savior's resurrection has deepened. I've always loved Easter, but this one was very special to me because I understood and contemplated what it means. Although Easter chocolate is nice, especially cream eggs, Easter is a time of reflection upon Christ's triumph over physical and spiritual death. Spiritual death was overcome because of Christ's Atonement, and physical death was overcome because He rose again on the third day. I know that Christ really did rise again and still lives today. He also loves you and me and wants us to follow His example every day. I know the Church is true because I've asked God and He's told me. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

We have a very special opportunity this weekend to hear Christ speak to us through His servants during general conference. I hope we can all prepare ourselves and come to conference with questions, an open heart, and a willingness to follow Christ even more. This will be the greatest conference yet!

Thanks so much for your letters, packages, and mail! I'm so lucky to have so much love and support from all of you. Hope you've had a good Easter and have a great week! Talk to you later.

Je t'aime au revoir!

Love, Elder Thomas


A sunny day in Oxford

The countryside

One more from Blenheim Palace

Throwback to one day with Elder Phelps

Goodbye Didcot Elders

Games with the Rathbones

After the last supper

Bye Elder Phelps

Monday, March 21, 2016

Miracles, more opposition, and more police!

Hello friends and family!!

Hope it's been a good week for you! It's been a nice week here in Witney, but my days may be 
numbered...transfers are next week! I have a hunch that I'm leaving, but then again I've had that before. I wouldn't mind staying one more transfer here, but my work might be done here. Plus it would make it even harder to leave!

This week has been great! Like last week, we had a lot of appointments set up. Although the majority fell through, we were still able to do some good teaching. We had a lesson with Irene on Thursday and got to know her a bit and hear her story. She is a full time caregiver so it will be tough to get her to church, so we'll have to figure something out. But we taught Louise on Wednesday with Chris Lyon (member) and everything went well, but unfortunately she dropped us the next day. Thursday turned out to be a tough day! On top of Louise dropping us we got flogged by the other people we were going to see, which resulted in 5 straight hours of street contacting. I was so tired by the end of it! We figured that 5 hours of that wasn't super effective, so we decided to use a new strategy to find new investigators: working with members. We lined up some visits with the nearby members and asked them to help us find people ... much more effective! We are yet to see the fruits from it, but we have already received a few "referrals" from the members. Member missionary work is the way to go!

We did, however, see some great miracles in hour contacting adventures. We found a bunch of potential investigators, but one of the more significant miracles is a man called Bob Fiddler, who lives in a surrounding village. We were knocking some doors and happened to knock on his. He looked surprised to see us standing there on his doorstep, but he instantly recognized us as Mormons! As it turns out, this guy already has a copy of the Book of Mormon and is currently reading it! And he watches general conference! What?! I didn't know what to do when he told us that, I was baffled. Needless to say, we'll be teaching Bob this week :D miracles are endless in Witney!

I got to go on a really good exchange with the Zone Leaders on Friday. Elder Reynolds was in Reading with Elder Mayes, and Elder Stanley came out here to work with me. Elder Stanley is from Santaquin...a Utah brother! It was an interesting change to spend the day with somebody with the good strong "R" pronunciation. Felt just like home! Anyways, he's an excellent missionary. He's been out for 19 months so I was able to take a lot of lessons away from my short time with him. I learned to literally open my mouth to every soul I see wherever I am, so that's what I've been doing. While with him I had another encounter with the police. It was better this time though, I promise! We taught a woman on the street, found out she's a police officer, and got a return appointment with her. She's eager to learn more! It was great and all, but I can't seem to get away from the police...

Super awesome week! Worked hard, laughed, had fun, witnessed miracles, and even got to be the pianist in Sacrament meeting. They asked if I would be able to, and I always jump when I get the chance! I was a bit nervous, but it went well. Elder Reynolds gave a killer talk on family history work during the meeting as well, he's a stud.

It's been an AWESOME P day today. Nice and sunny. This morning we caught a bus to Woodstock, a historic town. Within is Blenheim Palace, a huge, impressive castle looking thing. We got to explore it all today with the Nyman's (senior couple) and the Oxford Elders, who were fresh from a baptism on Saturday. The palace was really fun, I love stuff like that and I learned a bunch. It's the residence of the Duke of Marlborough, and also the birthplace of Winston Churchill. Cool stuff!

This week I've learned that opposition has to occur. There will always be opposition--not only in missionary work, but in life. I've kind of been wondering why all the rejection and stuff is happening when we are doing everything in our power to bring souls unto Him, but now I realise that opposition is an essential element in spiritual growth. Everybody has and needs opposition! I have it, you have it, Christ had it, every prophet had it. The scriptures tell us of the opposition that Alma and the sons of Mosiah had, and it was immense! Alma was rejected in Ammonihah. We don't know all the details, but I'm pretty sure that he didn't plan on going back. But he did as he was commanded and returned to preach the true gospel! We just need to remember that we are on the winning team here. Satan's forces can combine against us, but God will always win. Every time! He has promised us eternal life if we endure faithfully to the end, so let us hold our way.

Love you all! More exciting news to come next week. Cheers from Witney!

Love, Elder Thomas


#potato #whatwouldtheMormonsdo?

Photos of Blenheim Palace:

Monday, March 14, 2016

Less Actives & Police

Hey there family and friends!

Hope you are all healthy and happy back home or wherever you are. It's been another crazy week! As I write this, I look back at a week full of even more opposition...loads of it. Yet there have been so many blessings and miracles--it's sunny again today! The weather has been so good here lately, but it's still hard to predict. I feel bad for the weather man here.

So we had a bunch of teaches lined up for the week, but unfortunately every single one of them flogged (ditched) us. It was really hard, because I had super high hopes for all of them! However, we were able to make contact with Louise, who is currently our most solid investigator. We were supposed to meet with her on Monday, but we learned that she got a nasty case of tonsillitis and was in the hospital. No worries though, she lived! Hopefully we can line up some more solid teaches for this next week. Go Witney!

Lots of work with the members this week! We got to do service at the Suttons' on Saturday. I got to hit wood with a hammer--not because I missed the nail, but because we were literally destroying all sorts to use as firewood to give to the ward. It was so fun! I managed to escape with no major injuries. On Friday we visited the Matthews family. They are in a place called Shillingford and they live on the River Themes. Not by it, on it! They've got a river boat just like Candace. Really nice boat, too.

Friday was actually a really interesting day. We were just about to leave the flat when we got a call from ASDA (grocery store), telling us that they were outside with a bunch of food for us. It was from Elder Reynolds's family! Since they live in the UK, they can order food to be delivered directly to our flat. It was great! Pretty good birthday present for E Reynolds (turned 19 last week!). It feels really good to have a fridge full of food! Sometimes I just open it just to admire it for a bit.

We've been visiting Candace lately at the shop where she works, but she's been backing off from the Church a bit. It breaks my heart, but we may have to let her go for a while. We're not dropping her, just giving her some space for now so she can ponder about things. But sure enough, a miracle followed! While contacting we bumped into a lady called Irene from Uganda. She told us that she was a member of the Church, but I thought she was taking the mick out of us (pulling our leg). Turns out she got baptized in Uganda 20 years ago and she is now living in Witney. We found another member here that nobody even knew about! How many more are there? We are excited to work with Irene and she's excited to come to church again.

We did loads of tracting and street contacting this week. Hours and hours and hours! I enjoyed it though because it was pretty warm. One day we were speed walking to catch up to an elderly couple--who were surprisingly quick. After we talked to them, a police officer approached us and asked us a whole bunch of interrogating questions like who we were and what we do and loads of other stuff. We were really startled. First of all the police here are pretty intense, and second of all we've never had anybody actually come up to us! I guess there've been some complaints/concerns about us lately from the residents here because we chase people down. The officer told us to stop doing that, got all of our information, and then left! I didn't really know what to think, but if that's not opposition then I don't know what is! We were talking afterwards and reckoned that it would have been really cool to go to jail for the day, Alma and Amulek style. It's comforting to know that either way the Lord's work will move forward. Nobody can stop it!

In my reading of the Book of Mormon I'm in the story of Alma the younger. What a guy! I'm fascinated with the heavenly visitation that was shown to Alma and the sons of Mosiah, particularly what the Angel said. His last words struck me: "Go, and remember..." For some reason I just dwelled on that! But I feel like these words are very significant for everybody. Countless times in our lives we have been told to, and even covenanted to remember. We remember who we are, who He is, and why we are here. Every Sunday we promise to always remember Him, and in return we are promised the Holy Ghost as our constant companion. I think we should also remember the spiritual experiences we've had so we can go back to them when the path gets dark in the midst of trials. To act on this I would emphasize the importance of recognising and recording personal revelation and miracles. This shows that we love God and cherish His mighty miracles. I promise you that if you do this, you will have happier days and a more peaceful mind. I know that miracles are valuable and come from God, who will always be there for us.

Love you all so much! Thank you for the emails, it makes me so happy to hear from you guys. Good things to come here in Witney! Cheers, and have a good week!

Love, Elder Thomas


Hiding books everywhere we go!  :D

Ping pong in the flat!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Opposition, Success, and Haircuts

Hello friends and family!

It's been a crazy week! There's really no other way to describe it. A lot has happened...lots of opposition and lots of miracles! Both rejection and success were amplified this week because the adversary knows we are being purified as we continue the 40 day fast. Although rejection isn't exactly fun, I get excited when it happens because that means we are being tested, which means miracles are about to happen! Good things are happening in Witney...yes, I'm still here, but I love it.

To start off, you'll be interested to know that I got a haircut! Now, this wasn't just any ordinary haircut. My sweet mother sent me my very own personal hair cutting set, so I decided to put it to use this week. Elder Reynolds needed a haircut as well, so it was a win-win situation for him to go first: a win for me because I got to test it out on him, and a win for him because he got the first haircut! He turned out alright, but I wasn't so fortunate...a couple days later I cut mine. I'd done it by myself a couple times previously, but maybe I got a little too confident this time. At one point I thought I was using a number 3, but I forgot that it was on the shortest measurement (a zero?). Ended up shaving my hair clean off on the part closest to my eyebrow. At first I was devastated. I look like a total thug! Eventually I realized that I'm just here to work and be obedient, so I came to terms with it. Simon Rathbone touched it up for me with his razor the next day. I guess you gotta have one bad haircut on your mission, right? Oh well. 

Anyways, the opposition was fierce this week! We were yelled at, sworn at, ridiculed, ignored, and all sorts. Even the weather was against us--it snowed on us as we were walking to a teach one day! But through it all we were blessed with several new investigators! We found most of them by knocking the inspired streets. On Heather Close (street the Rathbone's prayed for) we found a woman named Louise. Louise has a 2 year old boy named Lewis and she also loves her family. The Spirit flowed through her as we testified of the truth of the Plan of Salvation and the Book of Mormon...she was touched. Our first appointment with her is tonight at 7 o'clock, and that Rathbones are coming! We are so excited. Miracles are happening here! We also found a man named Steve Thomas (awesome last name), whose brother had recently joined the Church. He is interested and we get to teach him this Friday. There is a lot of potential and a lot to work with in Witney right now. We are being blessed!

Zone Training was on Tuesday in Reading. It's so fun to see the other missionaries and learn from them. We got to be part of a group presentation on "Having Daily Contact with Investigators", which went well. I absolutely love hearing from the leaders of the mission...especially the zone leaders and President Gubler, even though he wasn't there. I got to study with President though--not in person, but he sent out an email with an annotated copy of his study of Jacob 5. It was awesome! I gained so much insight and understanding from his perspective, it was such an effective study! Jacob 5 really opened my eyes to the topic of dispensations and apostasy. If you recall, Jacob 5 is the big metaphor of the olive tree in the Lord's vineyard. All throughout time, God has been reaching out to His children in love by blessing them with the gospel to guide them and prophets to teach them. My love for God and the Gospel increased, as did my faith. I'm happy to be a servant in the Lord's vineyard to assist in His work!

I also got to work in the Rathbone's vineyard on Saturday. They want to put grass in their backyard, so we shoveled rocks into bags and pulled up trees...pretty fun! Elders Phelps and Feistl were there as well and we had a good time. Elder Phelps managed to uproot a tree on his own and one of the pruning tools looked like Kevin from "Up". Meanwhile Sister Rathbone was cooking ribs, so we had a feast after service! Sister Rathbone makes good ribs. Elder Phelps and I probably consumed a couple pigs by ourselves. So yummy. Elder Phelps never ceases to amaze me.

Well, that's about it for this week. It really is the Season of Miracles! I hope you are healthy and happy. Thank you so much for the letters, emails, and packages. They make my day! Shoutout to my brother Luke for doing the 40 day fast and to my mom for going through her knee surgery! Keep her in your prayers. Je t'aime au revoir!

Love, Elder Thomas


Where I went punting pre-mission

The Reading Zone

Zone training

Me and Elder Phelps


Haircut... all by myself  :0

Witney and Didcot Elders