Monday, April 25, 2016

It all started with a phone call

Hello, friends and family!

Hope you are all doing well! I'll start off by having you know that this has been the craziest week of my mission. It's also been one of the most much has happened and so many miracles have been witnessed! You might not believe the turnout of these events, and I don't blame you--they are miraculous.

As you read, keep in mind that Elder Reynolds and I prayed at the beginning of the transfer and asked God how many baptisms he wanted us to have during this transfer. Each of us received an answer of 2, independently.

After our golfing excursion last Monday, we got back to work. The following morning we had arranged to go to a town called Thame, located on the eastern side of Oxfordshire. It's on the complete opposite side from where we are in Witney, so it's quite the journey out there! We felt like we needed to go there to work with some members, find former investigators, and also contact a referral we had.

This referral's name is Thomas, and he referred himself to be taught a few months back. Unfortunately, the Didcot Elders were never able to teach him, but we decided to try again since that is now part of our area. So we gave him a call--the call that started it all! He told us that he was being taught by some missionaries serving in a different mission, which is a big no-no. That surprised not only us, but also President Gubler when we told him! It turned into a big issue and it needed to be solved because Thomas was scheduled to get baptized last Saturday! The day of his baptism came but he called it off when he learned that he was actually supposed to be in the Oxford 2nd ward. He just needed some time to think. After some pondering, he felt that Oxford is the place for him to be. He is going to get baptized as a member of the Church into our ward this coming Saturday. WHAT?!?! I testify that this is really happening! And we haven't even met the guy yet! You know you're living right when you can get other missionaries to teach people for you :) Baptisms are fun!

I'm TELLING you, the Lord always prepares the way! Even when there seems to be no hope whatsoever, God always provides a way for us to accomplish His will. He sure does love His children, and I know that without a doubt. The Spirit led us all the way out to Thame and told us to contact this referral. Thank goodness we listened to the voice of the Holy Ghost!

It was a very rewarding week. On Friday we had another miracle: a former investigator called Julia gave us a call and told us she wants to get baptized. We met her in Didcot on Saturday and taught her the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Hopefully she comes to the baptism this Saturday and progresses towards her own baptism. It really has been a miraculous week here in Witney. This area will always have a special place in my heart.

Sunday was a great day as well. At church we saw the Rathbones, who were fresh from a trip to the London temple for baptisms. They were literally glowing and I could tell they had a very spiritual time. So proud of them for their incredible faith! Simon even blessed the sacrament for the first time and did a great job. Love that family! It was the perfect ending to a great week in the Lord's service.

The events of this week sure have strengthened my testimony and confirmed my faith that miracles do in fact happen. God works in mysterious ways, but His work will be done. I love serving Him and am honoured to be a full-time missionary. These times are the best!

For P day today we went to Oxford and got a tour of the Oxford Castle. Totally worth it! There is so much history here. If you ever get the chance to come here, I would definitely suggest going to the castle. It was awesome! Hope you all have a great week!

Cheers from Witney!

Love, Elder Thomas


Oxford today

At the top of Oxford Castle

Go England!

A gift from Brother Sutton

Brother Sutton and Brother Rathbone at the temple

Monday, April 18, 2016

Exchange miracles and GOLF!

Hello friends and family! 

Hope you're all doing well. I'm currently writing you from Witney, which is a great place to be, especially right now as the weather is slowly getting warmer and more predictable. I have just arrived at the library after a nice round of golf at the Witney golf course. The events of this week have confirmed unto me that this truly is God's work and he NEVER abandons ANY of His children, regardless of who they are. He cannot leave anybody behind because it simply is not His character to do so.

Loads of fun and loads of learning this week for Elder Thomas! While back home I used to be amazed at how much I thought I knew, I am now aware of how much I don't know and how much I have to learn. Every day brings new challenges and new learning experiences.

The week began with correlation with Brother Sutton! Many of you don't know Brother Sutton, but correlation is always interesting. You never know what's going to happen. Some correlation meetings end with McDonald's runs, some end with eating competitions, and in this case it ended with pool with the young men. You just never know! I'll miss that guy when my time comes to leave--which may never come! I've been here long enough to feel like part of the ward. I'm even being treated like a member of the Oxford 2nd Ward. We even have dinner appointments scheduled every single day this coming week. You know you've been in an area for a while when the members feed you every day :D

I got to exchange with a guy called Elder Johnson from Orangeville, Utah. I told him I was from Canada and he believed me for a whole 10 seconds, which was hilarious! I guess my accent has changed just enough to sound Canadian. Something to be proud of! Anyways, we worked in Reading and got stuff done! The day began with baptismal interviews, which are usually performed by zone leaders. I was the exception. Elder Johnson asked President if I could interview somebody for baptism and he said yes! I was pretty nervous, but I actually interviewed somebody for baptism!!! It was really strange for me to be alone in a room with a weird! At one point she asked me a question and I turned my head towards my companion to let him answer...but he wasn't there! The woman gave me a weird look but I just carried on. Gotta love the missionary life! All went well though.

Later that night we were street contacting and taught a guy called Sergio, who is half South African, half Portuguese, and half amazing. He was intrigued when he heard our message and immediately wanted to know more. As we continued teaching, Elder Johnson and I both felt prompted to invite him to be baptized. Elder Johnson made the attempt but had a vicious coughing attack in the process. I tapped in and invited Sergio to get baptized on May 14 and he accepted!!!! All three of us were totally psyched out of our minds. Sergio is so excited. We decided that after his baptism, a more fitting name would be "Submergio." Reading is a miraculous place!

Now we just need that to happen in Witney. Elder Reynolds and I continue to do everything within our power to bring a change of heart to the people here. We have fasted and prayed for God's power and to have 2 baptisms this transfer. We believe that this will be the week. If not, then we begin the next week as changed for the better. Our faith is not in the outcome but in Christ. If we base our faith in outcomes, then we are not built on a firm foundation because we don't always get what we want! Our faith must be in Christ. If it is, then we can never be shaken because Christ is a sure foundation. God has an eternal perspective for each of us, and knows exactly what we need. "You can have what you want, or you can have something better". I know that God lives and is mindful of His children at all times.

Our week was capped off with a visit to Didcot and a spiritual bomb from Elder Reynolds. Didcot was...Didcot. We worked as much as we could there with the time that we had, and then went back to Witney. It was 8:30 on Sunday evening so we had 30 minutes left for a miracle. An unmistakable Spirit lead us through Elder Reynolds to a man called Dave. His heart was softened as we taught him the Plan of Salvation. We hope to see him again soon! Elder Reynolds has been so good at following promptings lately.

So it's been a pretty good week and a pretty good day! Unfortunately I got hit by some stinging nettle while golfing today, which explains where my golf game has gone...but it was totally worth it! But back to work now.

Thanks so much for all your support and encouragement. I love all of you and I pray that you will keep the faith. Have a great week!

Love, Elder Thomas



Monday, April 11, 2016

Brazil and Member Missionary Work

Hello friends and family!

Hope you have all had a good week! I love getting your emails and hearing about your lives. Emailing time is just the best! Packages are good too...thanks to Elder Burnett for the gift and thanks to the Anderssons for sending me godis! Made my week!

Just thought I'd start out by sharing some thoughts concerning this time of the year. The holidays have come and gone, and spring has sprung. While I admire the flowers blooming and the birds singing, I'm also reminded that this time of year brings perhaps the greatest sporting events ever, in my opinion. Between March Madness, the Masters, and Conference, it really is the holiday season for me! I have my dad to thank for keeping me posted on the latest updates from these events. I know I'm on a mission, but I had to dedicate this paragraph to this special time of the year!

Anyways, I guess this was my first official week as a district leader. It's a lot of fun but it's also a lot of work, and a lot of responsibility...(insert Spider-Man quote). For that reason and many others it's been another crazy, busy week in Witney! Several meetings caused us to travel all over the zone, but we were still able to do some diligent, effective work in our assigned portion of the Lord's vineyard. Our main focus was working with members, and the Lord helped us to accomplish that. As the months have gone by, I've learned that the most effective way to do missionary work is through the members. We got to help out with home teaching in the ward and taught some of our investigators with some of the members, which is the key to moving the work forward.

Even members in other wards have helped us! We got a call last week from the Ward Mission Leader in Swindon, which is in a different mission. He's called Rafael and he's from Brazil. One of his colleagues, who lives in our mission, has shown some interest in the Church. He was able to set up an appointment for us to teach her! That happened yesterday and it went great. We taught Kimberly and she invited us back to show her more about this wonderful Gospel, so we are ecstatic! Shortly after, we ran into a woman on the street and she told us she's a less active member! Not many people know her, but we are going to start teaching her as well.

We are also teaching a Portuguese woman named Lilia. She doesn't speak too much English so we were a bit stumped as to how we could help her understand exactly what we say. I'm not exactly fluent in Portuguese, but one of our ward members is! He's from Brazil so we decided to invite him to teach Lilia with us. The language barrier was gone and Lilia understood so much more of our message, it was awesome! Hopefully we can put some people on date for baptism this upcoming week. Our goal this transfer is 2 baptisms and we believe we can achieve with the Lord's help! Member missionary work is where it's at...the miracles just keep coming!

To increase our power and our faith in God, Elder Reynolds and I decided to do yet another 40 day fast. We want to be better instruments in the Lord's hands, so we need to purify ourselves! Wish us luck as we do it again :)

Those are the highlights for the week!

I share with you my testimony about progression. Everybody loved Elder Holland's talk, but I really liked Elder Kearon's talk about refugees (there are many here) and Elder Oaks's talk about opposition in all things. Opposition can be daunting, but it has to affect us if we are to progress in any way. If we are to "press forward", there has to be something for us to press against! With opposite choices in everything, we are able to choose the right and become righteous. Satan's plan demanded no agency, no choice, and no progression while
God's plan included agency and progression and only demanded a Savior, who we know to be Jesus Christ. God's plan is perfect, and opposition is part of that Plan. I know we can endure any opposition if we trust in God and stay true to our faith. I know God's Plan is real and I know that Jesus is the Christ! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Thank you so much for your support! Love you all and hope you have a great week.

Love, Elder Thomas


Godis from the Anderssons.  I love bilar!  Thanks, Anderssons!

A potato from The Potato

Fish n' chips at the Suttons

Monday, April 4, 2016

Travels & Conference

Hello friends and family!

Hello! Elder Thomas here, coming to you from Witney! I want to thank you all so much for your letters, emails, and packages. I really am so blessed to have so much support and love from you all and I've definitely felt the strength from your prayers, especially during the last couple weeks and with all the changes going on. I continue to learn every single day, both from others and from the Holy Ghost, and in this case from the Brethren!

This week has been really great and really interesting! Definitely a bit different with two less elders in the district, but we are getting used to the change. We've got such solid missionaries here in Oxford, good things are happening and more good things are yet to come! Now that all the Americans are gone, I'm around British people 24/7. I don't mind it though, as long as they don't "take the mick" out of me for not understanding everything they say! Anyways, more baptisms will be happening here shortly.

Did a lot of effective work this week! We focused a lot on teaching our potential and former investigators and trying to bring the members with us to teach them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. You remember Bob from last week's email? We got to teach him the Restoration last Wednesday and it went pretty well. We had high hopes for him, but unfortunately he dropped us! That's the bad news. The good news is, we found some more Polish people to teach and we are continuing to teach the Portuguese family! They are total stars. They're familiar with the gospel because they knew the missionaries back in Portugal, but now their hearts are being softened and they are receptive to the Spirit. We got to teach a bit with Brother Sutton last week and they invited us back, so we'll see how it goes! Aside from baptisms, my favorite part of missionary work is definitely teaching, hands down. The Spirit never fails to touch the hearts of all who hear the message of the Restoration.

As you know, Didcot is back in our area! I never thought I'd go back there, but we spent some time there this week. The familiar sights and smells of Didcot hit me as we arrived and walked into the old flat where I spent the first days of my mission sleeping on the floor. Luckily I had a bed this time! We were able to get some work done and watch conference with some members out there. And of course we went to Caprinos Pizza (best pizza in the UK).

Sunday was a great day. We got to watch conference with the Rathbones, who are ecstatic to go to the temple this coming Saturday! I loved conference and I appreciate it so much more than I did back home. Now it's not just a reason not to do anything, but a reason to apply the words of the prophets into my own life and then act on it. I'm so grateful for our prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and I sustain him and know that he is called of God. God has been so generous to bless us with His words!

I also got to talk to my old companion, Elder Raveneau, yesterday. The Rathbones Skyped him while I was over there and I got to chat with him for a bit! Even though he is now Brother Raveneau and has a mustache, he'll always be my buddy. I must apologise for not taking a picture of myself standing next to my 2 companions during the Skype, I totally forgot!

I love you all so much and I want you to know that I know that God lives. He wants us to be happy and wants to communicate with us. He's blessed us with the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which will always guide us as we stay worthy of it. I know the Church and the Book of Mormon is true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

That's all for this week, more to come! Have a great week :)

Je t'aime au revoir!

Love, Elder Thomas


Caprinos Pizza in Didcot

Back in Didcot

Stay classy Didcot

Elder Reynolds and Spike, the Rathbone's cat