Monday, June 27, 2016

Football and Tender Mercies

Hi folks! Hope you're all doing well and making good choices. Thanks so much for your emails and letters of love and encouragement! It's the best!

I guess I'll start off this email the way any other conversation begins in England... with the weather! Honestly though, English people love to complain about the weather. I don't complain as much because I'm fascinated by it! It literally rained three different time whilst we were on one street. Go England! Down here on the coast the weather is really unpredictable, but I can always count on the salty ocean breeze greeting me each morning when I walk outside. It's pretty nice here in Bournemouth.

Speaking of Bournemouth, I've nearly been here two weeks! I'm still adjusting. Moving areas is tougher than I thought! Thanks to the amazing members and my awesome companion, I'm getting the hang of things. As I mentioned before, this "town" is huge! It's more like a city. I anticipated more elderly people, but there's actually a lot of youth here because there's a university. It's also extremely diverse

This week has brought more miracles and blessings!:
-Zone Training in Bournemouth
-First ever Bournemouth English Class
-Spoke more Spanish
-Random investigator came to church
-Played football (soccer) with a part member family
-Got 56 referrals

Some members and investigators don't speak any English, so we decided to give the English class a try. A few of the members came, but sadly no investigators made an appearance. But I really enjoyed teaching English to Hispanic people! It was a good service opportunity and I got to learn more Spanish in return. Never thought I'd be a language learning missionary, but I guess I kind of am. We'll get more people there next week! There are so many Hispanic people here and they love to hear the Gospel. They always light up when they hear that the Book of Mormon was set in their part of the world. Mexicans are plentiful, and we are teaching one called Jasmine who actually showed up at church! Unfortunately she came too late, but she's determined to come to the English class. We feel that she will get baptized.

Alcidaas, our Columbian friend, also came to church. It was good to see him there. He has an important phone call coming up this week and has invited me to be his translator.

We are working with a part member family and the children love soccer (called football here). So we decided to set up a big football game at the chapel, and the family came! We had some good fun and made some more friends. There are some things we need to work through, but we want to help every family in the ward to become more unified through the ordinance of baptism. I love families.

I'll leave you with a bang:
While knocking a road that the Spirit told us to knock on, we accidentally knocked into a member's home. After some small talk we expected him to carry on with his day, but we were wrong. He asked us if he could come knocking with us. As it turns out, this old man knows everybody in his neighborhood, so he took us to every single door and invited the residents himself to hear our message. He did this for over 2 hours.... obviously filled with the the strength of the Lord! He gave us over 50 referrals and we are set to teach a few of them. Members can do wonders--go knock a street with the missionaries! You will feel good and The Lord will bless you for it. I understand that it's pretty hard to knock a street in Utah without running into members, but be creative. There is no more important work than this and I'm touched that the Lord would bless me with such a calling. I cherish my mission!

It's been a good week and we are looking forward to becoming better instruments in the Lord's hands this next week. Love you!

Love, Elder Thomas


No pictures this week... :(

Monday, June 20, 2016

Service and Spanish

Hello everybody! Happy late Father's Day to all the Fathers out there. I especially want to send my love to my grandpas, Ben Thomas (earthly father), and my Heavenly Father for all they've done for me. I would not be here without them. Fathers are the best! 

Week one here in Bournemouth is officially done and gone! It feels like a really long week but it's gone by super fast. So much has happened. Here's some highlights:
-the whitewashing experience
-lots of dinner appointments
-did a bunch of service
-mowed a lawn
-spoke A LOT of Spanish
-went to the beach

The move to Bournemouth has been a huge change from Witney. I've never actually moved areas on my mission until now! It's been quite the adjustment with a new area, new ward, new people, and a new companion...I'm still trying to get my feet on the ground! We've been lost a few times and taken some wrong buses, but we're learning. Whitewashing is pretty tough as well. This is round 2 for me, but this time I'm leading the area. It's a big responsibility! I can't really complain though. Our flat is massive (2 bathrooms) and it's surrounded by golf courses :) so I'm alright.

The ward here is a huge blessing. Most of them are missionary minded and willing to let us into their homes. We had 4 dinner appointments last week, which is more than I'm used to! I'll try not to put on too much weight over here, but we'll see. In a couple months I might literally be rolling through Bournemouth. Ward council was also intensely effective. There are a lot of recently returned missionaries and a lot of part member families for us to work with and baptize. Exciting!

I also did more service last week than I've done in my entire life! The Bournemouth sisters had to move flats, so on Friday we spent ages moving everything from the second story into a van, then back up another 2 stories. It was a lot of hard work and we weren't even in service clothes. The office elders came down to help out, so I got to see Elder Donaldson, my MTC comp! Good times! Moving pretty much took the entire day.

On Saturday we had "helping hands", which is a Mormon service opportunity that I don't know much about. We were to paint stuff and clean other stuff at one of the local schools. I was surprised when we arrived--nearly the whole ward turned up! It was great to work alongside them and build some friendships. This ward is like a big family. We got to paint some tables, some benches, and I'm proud to say that I painted a gazebo. It was good to meet the members. Later that day we did some more service at another member's home. She needed her lawn mowed. I've been going through some lawn mowing withdrawals lately, so I was definitely willing to help out. And I loved it. Never take advantage of the smell of freshly cut grass, someday it might be gone.

The real miracle came when some elders gave us a call and told us to visit a Columbian man who moved to Bournemouth the same day we did. So I gave the guy a call and all I heard from the other end was a bunch of Spanish! Fortunately I was able to pick out a few words, so we ran over to his house. Turns out he's living with a Columbian family. Their house is literally on the other side of Bournemouth so we pretty much ran to Columbia to get there. They let us in and we tried to teach them all, but the language barrier was too thick. None of them spoke a lick of English. Nevertheless, we kept trying to teach them. And then it happened: we were given the gift of tongues! My formerly-learned Spanish was recalled and Elder Gilbert--who only knows hola--began to understand the language and even chime in. It was crazy! Things became clear and we taught that family and are still working on them today. Colombians are the best and the gift of tongues is real! Who knew that Jr high Spanish would pay off. Bournemouth is full of miracles! The church is still true here.

I know from experience and can testify to all of you that nothing is impossible with the Lord's help. Whether it's adjusting to a new area or speaking Spanish, God will help you in all of your struggles if you just turn to Him. Turn to Him and come closer to Him by reading your scriptures every single day, praying, being like The Savior, and going to church. Do the basics! I know it works and I leave that testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Bournemouth is just as racially diverse as Oxford, if not more so. We found out that there's actually loads of Spanish speaking members and investigators who want to learn English, and there's also some English people wanting to learn Spanish! So we're going to set up an English class here soon and maybe a branch in the future. I never thought I'd be teaching in Spanish on my mission, but that's how it is here in

I love my mission! Thanks so much for your letters and emails. Love you all!

Love, Elder Thomas


Squinty eyes at the beach

Classic badge on the beach photo

Bournemouth beach

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

London, Elder Oaks and Transfers!

Hello everybody! Elder Thomas here. A lot has happened this last week and we've been literally all over the place. It feels like I was emailing you all just yesterday! Anyways, I hope you've had a good week. You'll find the events of this week interesting...

-Trip to London on Tuesday... so cool!
-Dual mission conference with Elder Oaks
-12 hour leadership meeting in Staines
-worked in a trio companionship
-saw Elder Oaks again
-exchange with Elder Watson from Scotland
-got moved!

The week began with our trip to London. Our route from the train station took us right past Buckingham Palace, of which I have photo evidence. We then made our way to the Hyde Park chapel for our conference with Elder Dallin H Oaks! Our mission and the London mission were there, and I've never seen so many missionaries in my life. It was fun to see old friends from the mtc, but the real fun was getting to sit at the feet of an apostle of the Lord and listen to the words of Christ. It was a life changing experience! The most profound thing that I learned is that the number of baptisms you have doesn't really matter. Although baptism is a desirable outcome of this work, we are really called to teach repentance. As long as I'm doing that and keeping the mission rules, that's it. Numbers don't determine success, but the condition of your heart does. What a treat it was to listen to one of the Lord's anointed! Others there were both mission presidents and their wives, President Kearon and his wife, and Elder Herbertson of the Seventy and his wife. Sister Kearon advised us to keep smiling every single day, so I've taken that to heart. The Spirit was so strong! I will never forget experiences like these. It was cool to be sitting in the Hyde Park chapel, where my family and I had visited just one year ago. I also bumped into Sister Croft, whom we saw there last year. She's still at the VC!

After a dozen trains, we got to a place called Whitton in Greater London. There I worked in a trio with Elder Whitehead from Draper and Elder Taochy from France (I love those Frenchies!). It was cool to all work together! That night we stayed in a 12 man flat... it was more like a house though. The next morning we had MLC (mission leadership council) and there was a lot of effective discussion about how we could improve as a mission. We have some really great thinkers in this mission, but unfortunately I'm not one of them!

Thursday was very interesting. We knew that Elder Oaks was scheduled to come speak in Oxford in the morning and we really wanted to go! He was speaking on religious freedom at one of the colleges. The only thing stopping us was our firmness in our callings: public affairs required that we take our badges off in order to go. Easy choice: keep the badge on, preserve the calling and don't go! The Oxford Elders ended up going so we just stayed in Oxford until district meeting. Eventually we had to storm into the college because the Oxford Elders had the keys to the flat where we have our meeting. We went inside to get the Elders while Elder Oaks was speaking but we were stopped by officials when they stopped our badges. Anyways, we saw Elder Oaks again!

Friday was the big day: moves calls. I was determined that I would stay in Witney for a year, but my time has now come. I have left Witney and come to a new place: Bournemouth! A lot of bittersweet goodbyes were said...the Suttons were tough. Brother Sutton came home from his camping trip early, just in time to say goodbye! The Suttons have been like family to me and they still are. I also had to say bye to the Rathbones, which was also a tough one. I will miss them so much and it was an honor to watch them accept the Gospel.

I arrived and got my new companion about an hour ago and we are happy as can be. My companion is Elder Gilbert from New Zealand and he's huge! He played rugby back home. So far I haven't had any American companions!

So sorry for the short emails and the lack of responses today! I've never moved before and it's really crazy. I'm excited to be working right on the coast! Thanks for your support and your prayers, I feel them every day. Love you all!

Love, Elder Thomas


Going to London!

On every bus...

The gates of Buckingham Palace

Elder Phelps!

Elder Wagaman goes home soon

The district

London underground

The whole mission

Had to!

Bye chapel

Ready to roll!

One last sponge cake

Bye Sutton family

Bye Rathbone family

Bye Elder Reynolds

Hello Elder Gilbert!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Bus Miracles and Bloodshed

Good afternoon, everyone! Hope you're all enjoying the summer. School is out!

It is a most beautiful day in Witney. You'll be amazed to hear that it's warm and sunny in the UK right now-- although we tend to get all 4 seasons each day over here. The events of this week have brought a lot of spiritual growth. One's faith is tested every single day out here, which is where the growth comes from. This test of faith is also known as an exercise of faith... very similar to a physical exercise! And like any physical exercise, a test of faith can either tear you down or build you up. Ultimately, you decide what happens. It's essential to test our faith every day by doing things not just to check them off the list, but also remembering why we do them.

Highlights of the week!:
-exchange in Oxford with Elder Barrett from Scotland
-amazing miracle while bus contacting
-Blenheim Palace today
-more egged!
-more miracles!

Our faith has definitely been tested this week! For some reason, the people of Witney have become a bit vicious. The opposition began a few weeks ago and hasn't let up yet. At first it was excessive swearing, which is bound to happen occasionally, then last week it moved to actual threatenings, and this week we got some minor physical abuse! Yesterday we were walking back from a member's home when these guys drove by in a car and chucked a UFF (Unidentified Flying Food) at us! It was a real fastball, hitting Elder Reynolds squarely in the arm. It turned out to be an egg. Fortunately, it didn't hit me--a big thank you to my companion (bodyguard) for keeping me out of harm's way. But that's what companions are for, right? Surprisingly, the egg was moving quick enough to draw blood from Elder Reynolds. We got him all bandaged up back at the flat though. All this opposition isn't necessarily fun-- yeah we were hungry, but we didn't get that egg in the ideal situation or speed... and it was fast Sunday. But now we can compare ourselves to Alma in the city of Ammonihah on a whole new level! Can't wait to see what next week brings. We're doing our best to "fear no man"--or food for that matter.

We've made a really diligent effort to speak to people on buses lately. Bus contacting used to be a big weakness for us, but it has become a real strength. When I came into the field I was terrified at the very thought of talking to somebody on a bus! Now it's almost second nature. Elder Reynolds and I take every chance to open our mouths to proclaim the Gospel, especially on public transport! The Lord gave us a huge blessing from it on Saturday. One day, a young man sat down near us on the bus. We got talking to him and invited him to hear our message. We asked him when we could come and share more with him, and his reply was: now! So we got off the bus, went to his house and taught him the Restoration. The Spirit was intense, especially during the First Vision. The Holy Ghost testified of the message to all 3 of us and it was unmistakeable. Sadly, the young man chose to discontinue learning, but it's experiences like those that I'll always remember. I love miracles! God is good.

Our focus is still on finding people to teach. We spend a lot of time contacting, knocking, and working with members because our area desperately needs investigators right now!

The exchange with Elder Barrett was so good! He is he most genuine missionary I've ever met and he's got a powerful testimony. Some cool things happened on our exchange! We committed one of their investigators to church (and he came!) and we met a 103 year old woman while knocking. Met a lot of foreign people as well. I'm pretty sure I've spoken to somebody from nearly every country on earth now! Oxford is such a diverse place.

I've been tracking my daily walking distance each day since Christmastime. According to my Fitbit, we walk an average of 6-7 miles a day. Some days we only walk 3 miles while other days we get up to 12! I always make sure to write down the distance at the end of the days so I can add them up at the end of my mission to see how far I traveled on foot throughout these 2 short years. Believe it or not, I'm coming up on 1000 miles since Christmas. My goal is to get to 5000 because that is the equivalent of walking all the way back to Utah.

The Rathones are doing great. We're currently knocking "Bluebell Way", which is Teasel Way's twin road. We hope to find a family consisting of an English mother, a Thai father, and two girls :D

Thomas Baker is still strong in the faith. He goes to FHE on Monday nights, is receiving the New Member Lessons, and is preparing to receive the Priesthood.

Next week is going to be the bomb: We have Elder Oaks in London, then a conference next to Heathrow airport, and then moves calls for transfers on Saturday. Could be my last week in Witney! :) :( We'll have to wait and see.

Love you all so much, have a great week!

Love, Elder Thomas



Lake at Blenheim Palace

Goofing around at Blenheim Palace

Pondering at Blenheim

Blenheim Palace

The grounds at Blenheim