Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Flying Colors and Mr. Miyagi

Hey, folks! Hope you're well. First of all, I want to thank you all for choosing to receive and read my weekly letters. When my mom told me that people actually read these, I was overjoyed! I honestly try every single week to include all my fun and spiritual experiences in hopes that it will uplift and help you in some way. I'm super blessed to have so much support from you whilst I'm out here serving the Lord, who has been especially good to me this week :) and what a week it has been!

This week:
-exchange with Elder Jensen from Sandy
-passed my driving theory test!
-painted the fence with Mr. Miyagi
-Philippino BBQ
-some unfortunate news
-had brownies and lots of ice cream
-loads of service mission is literally a dream come true. Have you ever had one of your dreams come true, and do you want more of them to come true? Then serve a mission! I just lived one of my dreams: I grew up watching a movie we all know called The Karate Kid. Personally, I've always dreamed of learning karate from an old man like Daniel Larusso was. Although I didn't do any waxing on or off, I did get to paint a fence with Mr. Miyagi. No joke! Our Vietnamese landlord wanted to paint our fence, so we decided to give him a hand and get painting. It took quite a while and it's still not finished, but Mr. Miyagi was generous. He bought us fish and chips afterwards (that's a real treat here in England). So I did indeed paint the fence with Mr. Miyagi and fulfilled one of my childhood dreams. Missions are full of surprises.

The reason why our landlord wanted to paint our fence is also the bad news... the mission office called us and informed us that the Staines House is being sold and we will all be moving out into two separate flats. That was some sad news because I love 4 man flats, but if that's what the Lord wants then so be it! We move out on November 1.

I had a spiritually awesome experience this last week. I took my driving theory test last Friday and was pretty nervous about the whole thing because time is running out and I needed to pass! But I walked into that test having studied as much as I could. I answered all the questions I knew but there were still 11 questions out of 50 that I had flagged and wasn't sure about. As I sat there trying to formulate in my head the most promising answer, I figured that I should just pray. So I did. I closed the prayer and then all of the sudden my brain went into ACT mode and I started using the process of elimination to narrow down the answers to a 50/50 chance. Then I just guessed, knowing that a passing score was at least 43. I then anxiously walked out and got my results and...

That's right, you better believe I passed!

Yeah, buddy! I passed with a score of exactly 43! I was totally psyched and I might have done a victory dance as I walked out of the building. I guess I didn't exactly pass with flying colours, but I sure felt like it. Then my righteous companion decided to take me out for a McFlurry to celebrate. He always makes good choices! It was a good day.

I want to elaborate on the spiritual side of that experience, keeping in mind that God makes up the difference after all we can do. I had honestly studied for that test, failed it once, studied some more, and some more, and some more. It's not an easy test at all! I did what I could and then asked the Lord to help me, and He was there. This experience, though small, really boosted my faith and deepened my trust in Him. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and He shall direct thy paths." I definitely attribute that miracle to God. I thanked Him for that tender mercy and then stood up, feeling like I was walking above the clouds because I felt so close to Him. He really is a God of miracles and we are His children. He loves and cherishes us, for we are His work and His glory. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

I sure do love you all, thanks for you prayers and support. I wish you the best as school is back in session and pray that you'll choose the right! Love ya!

Love, Elder Thomas


The joys of passing your theory test

Philippine BBQ... selfie with Wilbur!

Just driving my Meriva Turbo

Painting the fence with Mr. Miyagi

District meeting in High Wycombe

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Near Death Experiences and McFlurries

Hello! Or as my companion would say, Sveiki!

Hope you have all had a good week! I still can't believe how fast time is going by. Sounds like a lot has changed back in the home country with everybody either getting married, going to college, or starting school today. It's weird being re-plugged into the social pipeline of Facebook and being notified each time something happens. But best of luck to you all with your big changes!

Some highlights for you:
-went to Costco
-exchange with Elder Price from Layton
-Started driving!
-more African food
-beat Elder Senkāns in tennis
-got to play the piano in sacrament meeting

There have been lots of changes around here, too! First of all, I started driving this week. For those of you who have ever driven here in the UK, you can understand how I feel...that is, absolutely terrified. So one day I got behind the wheel, got myself comfortably situated, and confidently began driving. Things were doing great until I put the car into drive...remember that I'm driving on the other side of the road on the opposite side of the car and I haven't driven in a year. My body kept wanting to drift to the left side of the road. You can imagine the fear of the other 3 missionaries in the car! Somehow we made it to church and back alive, but now there's a running joke about how bad my driving is. Since then I've gotten the hang of things a little bit more, but I'm still slightly nervous about driving on these small roads. So yeah, I'm grateful to be writing to you today!

Our main focuses are to build up our teaching pool and get some baptisms while building up our zone at the same time. A mission is all peaks and troughs, and our zone has definitely been in a trough lately. The good news is, we can only improve! So Elder Senkāns talked a lot this week about how to boost the zone, and I came up with a pretty good idea. The Elders who live with us have been working hard lately but haven't seen much success, but I felt like there was more they could be doing. I wanted them to give more, and I also knew of their love for McFlurries. I put two and two together and offered to buy them McFlurries if they could get a baptismal date this week. Apparently all they needed was a little bit more incentive, because they came home one night grinning from ear to ear and were delighted to tell us that they did indeed put one of their investigators on date for baptism! And yes, they enjoyed their much-deserved McFlurries. A little incentive never hurt anyone :)

The week ended with an awesome exchange with Elder Price. He goes home pretty soon so it was good to be able to do some work with him and get back out on the streets. I love serving with missionaries who've been out for a while because I just become a sponge and soak up all their wisdom and advice. It's good stuff!

The Lord has definitely been good to us this week. I wake up every morning and just can't wait to get to work and see what the Lord has in store for us. If you look closely, you can see the Lord's hand in your life everyday. It definitely increases your faith and connection to His power! I love you all!

Last week we went to Costco and it was good to get some Fro Yo and have a little taste of America. Today we're going to Guildford for some sports with the other Elders. These are good times.

Also, it's my wonderful mother's birthday this week, so be sure to wish her happy birthday because she's the best!

Quote of the week: "I'm just too blessed to be stressed."

Love, Elder Thomas


Random picture in front of a castle

A viking is mowing my lawn!

Guildford district meeting

Made some brownies and ice cream

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Halftime and Chicken Legs

Hello from the land of extreme diversity, sunny, airplane-cluttered skies, and miracles! I'm always blown away at how fast the weeks go by...although it's been quick, it's good to be writing to you once again. It's been such a good week! Here's some heavenly highlights:
-District Preparation day--chair football at the chapel
-Another MLC
-Phillipino party.
-Another Zone Training
-Using Facebook...?
-Nerf wars

My friend the Viking and I have been privileged to attend numberless meetings throughout the last few weeks. We had another fantastic MLC last Thursday, which means that there was another huge sleepover at our "duplex" on Wednesday night (those are always a good time). That also means that I again saw my good friend Elder Phelps! It's always good to talk to that guy about our adventures and remember sleeping on a hardwood floor for a transfer together. Good times! It was also my first time conducting a zone training. Definitely a learning experience! We sure do have a good zone over here in Greater London though...these new greenies are absolute fireballs and I love it! But the topic of all these meetings was online proselyting. Facebook to be exact! To be honest, I'm still a bit shaken up about being allowed on Facebook since I've been told not to for the last year. But I do believe that it will move the work forward a great deal. So if you missed it, that's why you saw a post from me :) a good thing about using FB is that the good habits we make now will be with us for the rest of our lives and will protect us from the dangers of the Internet. The best filter for inappropriate content will always be a converted, disciplined mind.

Alright, the members of this ward are impeccable! We almost always have a member with us when we're doing anything...they're just always hungry for missionary work! On two occasions we had a dinner appointment where somebody invited their friend(s) to meet us. One of these was on Sunday. A family from the Philippines invited us over for dinner, and we were surprised to find out that there were over 20 non-members there, and all of them were from the Philippines too! Complete heaven for any missionary. On top of that, we were fed traditional Philippino food, which is really interesting. I decided to go all out and try everything there. I was a bit nervous, but I don't regret anything. I ate some fish with the scales still on them. I ate what I thought looked like shrimp. I ate some things that I didn't even recognize. My friend James Sutton often said "some people often ask me: 'what do I do with chicken legs?' And I always say: 'wear slacks.'" Well, I actually ate chicken legs...feet and all! It was a bit tough to chew, but it wasn't too bad. Tasted like chicken.

One thing I love is playing sports. You know that in many sports there is a halftime. In sports like soccer, football, and basketball, halftime often consists of a halftime report, or the statistics of the first half. Based on the information, coaches and players will examine, study, analyze, and evaluate their performance and will tweak some things in their strategy...sometimes even changing their entire game plan. Halftime truly is a critical time in the course of any game or event. I hope you can see my transition coming! Folks, I'm here today to tell you that it's halftime for me. Yes, believe it or not I have been on my mission for an entire year! I was privileged to address you last August in sacrament meeting the week I left for England. I was very excited to come here, but I never would have imagined or dreamed of what has happened throughout the last year. It's been life changing. It's been soul-stirring. It's been miraculous! Now, at halftime, I have taken some time to look in the rear view mirror at this quick last year. I stand at the top of a mountain, looking down at the spiritual ascent. Much has changed in the last year, no doubt. God has changed my heart completely and he has molded me. He is the pilot of my mission and I trust Him completely for He is able to do more with me than I ever could on my own. There have been ups and downs, but God has been there the entire time. I have many people to thank: my family, my friends, my Savior, and my Father in Heaven. It's halftime for me, folks! And it may be halftime for you as well--you're halfway through 2016. Does the opposer seem to be on top right now? Do you need to evaluate your performance? I soberly testify that with the help of God--our coach--you can always come out on top. Every time. You can and will win! His team will always be victorious. Let us follow His game plan and keep his rules. I love this mission and testify of the truthfulness of this church in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Love you all! Have a great week!

Love, Elder Thomas


Elder Phelps and I reunite! It was glorious!



Philippine BBQ

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Big News and Fufu


Most of you are probably really confused about why I'm emailing on Wednesday, but don't worry--I have the answer! We had a big mission leadership council (MLC) last Tuesday and it was fantastic! A big concern was that we spend most of Sunday evenings inside accounting for our zones while families are walking around aimlessly outside. So we decided to move accounting to Monday mornings and to move Preparation Day to Wednesday. Pretty big change, but it's not a problem.

The week!:
-lost at tennis again
-MLC (with breakfast)
-exchange with the APs with Elder Rivera from Arizona
-exchange with Elder Garnett from Texas (greenie)
-Specialized Zone Training with President
-District Leadership Council (DLC)
-saw Elder Phelps
-ate lots of ice cream
-lunch at the Gublers'

But wait there's more!

We are the chosen ones! Our mission has recently taken on the area book planner on the iPads, and now on top of that we are the pilot mission in Europe for online proselyting. Translation: we will now be using Facebook. It feels weird since Facebook is someone I left behind to serve, and now I'll be using it to move the work forward. Our whole mission has the last month half of our missionaries have finished their missions and brand new missionaries have taken their places. And now we are a digital mission...apparently it's possible to Skype our friends and families into our lessons with president's permission! It's a new age in missionary work and it's pretty exciting. Members will be teaching lot more now, and it could be you!

With all these changes, we were asked to go to the Lord and inquire of Him if this was His will. I did so and can testify that the Lord is guiding this mission and has great things in store. There is a harvest for this blessed land and it has arrived! It's a great time to be a missionary, no doubt. This confirmation gave me a lot of comfort. Ice cream is also a blessing when adjusting to a new schedule.

With all the meetings this week I have been drinking from the fire hose of knowledge. President Gubler has taught us some serious doctrine this week and has born his powerful witness numberless times. He's is sooooo connected with God and it's amazing! I learn so much from him. Through him, the Lord has revealed to us something called the Mission Training Plan, which brings us closer to Christ through faith, obedience and works. Each day we strive to achieve a goal in each of those categories. I'm taking this seriously and my faith has grown to a whole new level. It definitely works!

Sunday was a special day. Not only was it fast Sunday, but it was the first Sunday that we had the whole evening to get to work. And boy did we see great things...the Lord was good to us! On that day things started to click for one the less actives, we were spiritually fed, and we saw miracles in the evening. A potential investigator opened the door and told us that he was busy eating some fufu, which is traditional African food. He was shutting the door when I told him I had never had fufu. He paused, let us in, gave us some fufu and we taught him about the Book of Mormon. A nice tender mercy for us :) God is so good and I believe that we can get a baptism this transfer! I'm confident in Him about that.

So I want to talk to you about my favorite book. No, it's not Harry Potter! It's the Book of Mormon and it's very special to me. It truly is one of a kind! Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon has the power to bring us closer to God than any other book on earth. There is a library in Oxford which contains every single book that has ever been published in England. No matter how much wisdom those books contains and no matter how wise their authors may be, NONE of those books can do for us what the Book of Mormon can. Research was done at the Yale library (the 4th biggest library in the United States) to find out how many of those 4 million books claimed to have been brought forth by an angel. The search commenced and concluded, and guess how many books there were with such a claim? Just one. That's right, it's the Book of Mormon! And we have access to it! I will be forever grateful for the blessing and privilege it is to drink from those pages each day. It fills my life with Christ and is my motivation. The Book of Mormon is true! I want you to know that I know it. If you don't, then you can. That is my testimony of the Book of Mormon in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. Love you all!

"Two people can do long as one of them is the Lord."
~President Gubler

Love, Elder Thomas


Went to the mission office! Saw Elder Donaldson there.

The London Temple

Exchange review with Elder Rivera. We're on pretty "good grounds" with each other.

Dreaming of being an office Elder

Illustrates mission life perfectly

First time eating Fufu

District meeting at the Gubler's

Our study

Monday, August 1, 2016

Celestial Glory!

Hello everyone!

What a fantastic week! Hope you're all well! I love hearing from each and every one of you, it sounds like everybody is happy and righteous--just what I like to hear :) Hope you're enjoying the summer while it lasts!

First of all, it's August and I can't believe it. I can't believe that I left that sweet American soil nearly a year ago for this blessed land of miracles. So much has happened and I've learned so much, but it's gone by so fast! By far the fastest year of my life, and it's been one for the books. Fortunately, I've been able to write in my journal every single day since I've been out. It's fun to look back sometimes and live some of my experience again. At the year mark it will be cool to see what I did a year before that. These are blessed years!

Alright, here's the rundown of my new life: once again I'm in a 4 man flat and it is a total blast! We've got me, Elder Senkans, Elder Wilson (from St. George and in my group), and Elder Mee (from Manchester and knows Elder Reynolds). The day before the new missionaries came in, we guessed which new missionary would be coming to the Staines house with us. Out of 33 new missionaries, I totally guessed that Elder Mee would be coming here because I already knew a little bit about him. So Elder Mee knows that he's supposed to be here! 

The ward here is fantastic. Everybody is willing to help us out and do missionary work. We've got a Canadian bishop and our ward mission leader is from St. George! We work well together and are excited to see great things. 

The Staines House is magical. It's famous for having three floors, or the "three degrees of glory" as we call them. The first floor has the kitchen, Elders Wilson and Mee live on the second floor, and of course we live on the third degree. Hence, Celestial Glory. We've got it good though. My new address is 2 Dorset Way, Twickenham, Greater London TW2 6NB. Every morning we run to the nearby park and play lighting for exercise. It's been really hot lately, so I have an extremely awkward collar tan from my shirt.

I've got a 6 foot 4, car-driving, tennis-playing, joke-telling, Latvian-speaking, scripture-quoting companion. Elder Senkans is so awesome, and I love serving with him! Really hard worker and great sense of humor, and we've got a lot in common. All he wanted to do on Preparation Day last week was play tennis, and I soon found out why: he's got skills and he whooped me! He is currently the ONLY missionary in the world from Latvia...he's unique. I'm learning loads from him right now! He goes home in 2 transfers so I'll have to get the hang of things quickly around here. 

I've certainly been stretched this week with the added responsibility! Being a zone leader is quite the load and I'm still getting used to it. It's a great opportunity for me to serve others though. I loved helping all the new missionaries in the zone move into their new homes and get settled. Crazy to think that I was in their shoes not so long ago. They've got great things coming! 

We have absolute confidence that we can give the Lord at least one baptism this transfer. Leon, one of our investigators, came to church with his family yesterday! Leon is progressing and is working towards baptism. It's been great to jump into an area where the work is really moving! 

For some reason, my studies this week have revolved around prayer and faith. I learned that praying with faith means that we are willing to work for the answer that we seek. Right after the "amen," we must be on our feet serving others and being the answer to somebody else's prayer so that ours aren't in vain. That's how we show the Lord our faithful desire to obtain answers. I also read a scripture about God's blessings: he blesses people immediately when they keep his commandments. He immediately begins to change their hearts. I have seen and experienced this on my mission and can testify that hearts can indeed be changed! As I pondered on that, I figured that if I am blessed immediately, then I should give thanks immediately as well. So that's my resolve for this week: give thanks by a prayer in my heart immediately after seeing the Lord's hand, for I know I will see Him in this work. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Next week's going to be nuts! We've got a mission leadership meeting, then a district leadership meeting, then zone training, and then an exchange with the assistants. I'll return and report!

Love you all! 

Mīlu atā!

Love, Elder Thomas