Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Roller Coaster

Hey there! Or, as the proper English people say, "y'alright, mate?"

A lot of things have happened since you last heard from me. Last Wednesday Elder Baum and I boarded the roller coaster of Staines...n ot a real roller coaster--that would probably be against the rules, but that's literally what it feels like! Last week we spent the entire preparation day packing up this house so we could move out a couple days later. But there was some issues with the payment, so that didn't happen and we are still in the Staines house, unfortunately! Someday we will move out of this place. As of now, every room in the house is pretty much barren except for our study room, which has a couple chairs for studying and some custard creams for indulging. The other exception is "the creepy closet" upstairs. It's a small room that looks like a hobbit hole, but nobody ever goes in there and nobody ever comes out. 

We also had the task of preparing lunch for Specialized Zone Training this week! For some reason, every zone training lunch I've ever been to has been pizza. I'm not sure why, but it's always pizza! So we decided to shake things up a little bit and surprise everybody with Indian curry. We have some Indian sisters in the zone so they were a big help. Elder Baum and I were in charge of making enough rice for 25 people, so one night we had all our stoves firing on all cylinders. It was so much rice! I earned the title of "Rice King" and Elder Baum is now "Atomic Baum". 

The best part of the week was hearing from President Gubler. I'm telling you, you'll be lucky if you meet that man someday because he's so spiritually powerful. His testimony is rock solid and he pretty much slaps you with the Spirit. He taught us some of the things he taught us last year, like who we are and who Jesus Christ is. It was really good to have my true identity reconfirmed to me. There is so much to learn about the gospel. I really do know that we are children of loving parents in heaven. We've been reserved and prepared to be on this earth at this time and we have a purpose! That's what all of us need to realize. We need to remember who we really are! That's something crucial and it's also something we covenant to do each sacrament meeting. So when mom says "remember who you are" as you leave the house, you should probably do it!

That same night we had a very cool experience. Dan, one of our investigators whom we haven't seen for a while, met us at a member's house for a lesson. Dan is a friend of a kid in the ward who just got his mission call to Rome, so he's pretty young and really intelligent. We talked with him about The Plan of Salvation and it was super powerful. When we asked him to teach us everything we had just taught him, he was able to do it perfectly! We were really impressed! But the best part was the look on his face when we taught him about what happens after this life... he was fascinated. Man, I love teaching people about the gospel! You better believe that it's true. I'll also note that we didn't even find Dan. The member invited him to come to the mission call opening and we started teaching him there! Our members are on point in this ward, and that's how it should be. We had stake conference this week and we've got some great member missionaries :)

That's all this week from me. Please pray that Elder Baum and I will be able to make a breakthrough in this area and start baptizing this month! Thanks for your love and support! Love you all.

Love, Elder Thomas


Sunset in Staines

We have earned the title of rice kings!

Lunch was a success!

One of the 5 times we went shopping this week

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Moves Doctrine, Streaks Broken, and Divine Protection

It's that time of the month again...transfers! We knew we had to do something special for Elder Senkans's last day, so we sat there staring at each other until we came up with an idea. Almost at the same, we both whispered "Mcdonalds".... I'm just kidding, but that would have been really cool! But we did end up going to Mcdonalds because that's the only thing we could think of, sadly. Perks of having a car, though. The steps per day go down and the body weight goes up. Fun fact for you: there are no longer any Latvian missionaries on planet earth. Elder Senkans is the only one! It was totally an honor to serve with him. He finished strong, free of trunkiness! 

Yesterday I said hello to my new companion, Elder Baum (pronounced "bomb")! The big news is my non-american companion streak is now broken because Elder Baum is from Vernal, UT! I haven't had an American companion during the 14 months of my mission, but there's nobody I'd rather have break it than Elder Baum. He's in my MTC group and I know him pretty well already. I feel like he's just a bigger version of me! He loves sports, loves boating, loves adventures, and loves missionary work. I'm excited to work with him because he's a baptizing machine! Prepare for some pictures in white, because Elder Baum is here and so is the harvest. We have our Columbian friend Stefan on date for November 12!

We made quite the journey down to the southern part of the mission for my driving test on Monday, singing songs on the way. I totally thought I was ready but again I failed...this time for not going fast enough! Gotta go round 3 now.

Crazy thing that happened this week. We have an old lady in the ward who has previously been banned from feeding the missionaries, for whatever reason. So we were super nervous when she invited us over for dinner yesterday! We felt fine for the first two courses, but then she brought out the rhubarb crumble and it about did us in. Elder Baum didn't even bother with it but I made a good effort to consume it...I didn't think I'd make it, but I'm alive writing to you today. God definitely protects His missionaries! 

I'm currently reading the Old Testament, and there's some crazy stuff in there. I don't understand some of it, but I do know that it is a testament of Jesus Christ the same way the Book of Mormon is. Everything God does in the scriptures is out of love for His children. Concerning the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asks God if he would destroy the city even if there were righteous people inside. God responds that even if there was one righteous soul inside, that he would not destroy it. God indeed loves His children, especially when they keep His commandments and honor Him. That's what we need to do and we will find favor with Him! I testify that you can find an answer to every question in the scriptures. Read them everyday--they will help you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Love you all so much! Love your letters!

Love, Elder Thomas


Bowling last week. Of course I got it!

See you at BYU Elder Senkans

Our duet in parting

Elder (The) Baum!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Blessings and Tight Spaces

Good Morning, my friends!

Such a fantastic week in the ELSM. I'm still not entirely sure what happened this week, but our zone has just taken wings. Our mission has a goal to get 31 baptisms in the month of October--which we are promoting as #31--and our zone is definitely pulling its own weight right now: almost every single companionship is teaching an investigator with a baptismal date in October, and the sisters here just baptized last week. So we are en fuego as a zone. Unfortunately we had to drop the Mann family due to lack of commitment, so we need to catch up with our zone baptismal date wise because we really want to contribute to #31. It's going to take a miracle, but it can happen... I've seen it happen before!

Such a good week though!
-exchange with the APs (Elder Tunnicliffe from York)
-exchange with Elder Gerard from Idaho
-DLC in Staines
-District Meeting at President's house
-Investigator bought us pizza

Today marks 1 week before Elder Senkans goes home. It's always interesting to be with a missionary right before they go home because they either buckle down and finish strong or get super "trunky". Fortunately, the companions I've sent home have buckled down, and so has Elder Senkans. It's been a total pleasure to serve with the only currently-serving Latvian missionary in the world and I've learned a ton from him! I guess the most significant thing I've learned is how to lose gracefully, since he beats me in literally everything we do. I guess this is my tribute to him. Paldies, Elder Senkans! Next time you hear from me I will have a new companion.

My exchange with Elder Tunnicliffe was absolutely hilarious. I haven't met many people as funny as that guy! But The APs are super busy so we didn't really get to teach anybody, but we got to help some missionaries out and stop at the temple, which is always a huge treat.

Elder Gerard and I had some good times walking the streets of London together, speaking to as many people as I could. It reminded me of the beginning of my mission when literally all we did was street contact! I love watching people as they hear the familiar "ring" of the gospel in their ears. Unfortunately, some choose to ignore the Spirit, while others accept it! All was well until we got back to the house, when I realized I'd forgotten the key when we had left. The other Elders had the car and weren't home yet and we were super hungry, so we weren't just going to let a forgotten key stop us from getting inside. With a lot of creativity and not a lot of thinking, we were able to find a way in! Elder Gerard boosted me up to get to a very small window in the kitchen. It wasn't low to the ground, so I was pretty nervous. After a lot of sucking in, I made it through the window, let Elder Gerard in, and we feasted on some much deserved pizza. We thought we were pretty cool. Missionaries make even the smallest of things super dramatic!

District meeting at the Gublers' was a fantastic way to top off the week. Afterwards there was lunch and yes, Sister Gubler made her famous heavenly rolls. It was sublime.

We had a lesson with an investigator called Sophie, who is best friends with a recent convert here. She's the one that brought pizza. So after dinner we had a really good lesson with her and she's really cool and really wants to know if the gospel is all true. It makes me so happy when people are honest seekers of truth--they are the elect who are prepared by God! 

I just know that God does nothing unless it helps His sons and daughters in some way. He knows His purpose and He sticks to it at all times. I've come to know this by hearing His word and reading His word, and from seeing the evidence of it in my life. He listens to you and loves all of His children. That's my testimony in the name of God's Son, Jesus Christ, amen.

Love you all so much! See ya later!

Love, Elder Thomas


Got my title of liberty

District meeting at the Gublers

Exchange with Elder Gerard

Elder Senkans' last preparation day. Cool flag!

Had President's house all to ourselves

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

You Just Don't Mess With Texas

Sveiki, Hola, Hello there!

Wow, what a week it has been! If I had one word (other than "fast") to describe this week, I would use "doctrine". I've learned so much about life and the gospel this week, and I have God to thank for it. Of course there've been lots of ups and downs, but God's hand and His word have been all over the place. I seemed to learn something new everywhere I went. Anyways, you already know how I feel about time by now, so I'll refrain from explaining how fast the week has gone by like I usually do. Some great things happened last week!

-Exchange with Elder Olsen from Texas
-MLC in Addlestone
-crazy member missionary experience
-driving test results

One thing I learned this week is that you don't mess with Texas. My exchange with Elder Olsen was pretty weird--not because of him though. He's a long, tall Texan, and what he lacks in cowboy boots he makes up for in stature. Our exchange was mostly talking to people on the street, but for some of the time we knocked a block of flats. Some guys opened the door and one was wearing a Spurs jersey, so Elder Olsen was able to connect right away. The guy wasn't interested, so we knocked the flat across the hall. As we did so, we could hear the group of guys in the flat we had just knocked. They were laughing and making fun of Texas and imitating Elder Olsen, and I reckon he didn't take a liking to it because he turned 'round and stared at the door's peephole. Apparently the guys were looking through because they all went quiet...then we packed up and left. You just don't mess with Texas...think twice if you're ever thinking about it. We had a few other strange encounters during our exchange that will forever be remembered. 

Monday was also a day that will never be forgotten. In our ward lives Jose, a very missionary minded Spaniard. To give you an idea of who he is, just picture a stereotypical Spanish guy, like you'd see in movies. That's him! Anyways, Jose does missionary work and Jose cannot be stopped. On Monday he introduced us to three different friends of his and we taught them all the Restoration. I even got to speak some Spanish to a couple of them. Teaching is much more fun than finding and that's when you really "lose yourself" in the work. We will continue to help these new investigators to embrace the gospel, but it's members like Jose--who's really nothing extraordinary--who move the work forward. We ended up getting 4 member present lessons that day, which is something to smile about here in the ELSM. All thanks to our amazing members!

Had my driving test on Friday. This is super painful to write, but basically I was super nervous and I failed! I think I really am ready, but my nerves just got the best of me so I'll have to take it again in the coming weeks. I'm planning to do the triple combo (me praying, the zone praying, and me fasting) to ensure that I make it next time. Ups and downs!

The highlight of the week was General Conference, of course. As a matter of fact, Conference is the highlight of my year! Many of my friends have already mentioned this, but there's nothing quite like Conference as a missionary. It is one of the most anticipated, looked-forward-to, prepared for events of the year. I can just tell you that the brethren who lead the church are inspired, no doubt. Those messages that you hear come from God and will carry us for the next 6 months if we read them, if we study them, and if we abide by them. So much talk revolved around the Book of Mormon, which I love. We are encouraged to read the Book of Mormon daily and are promised that if we do, then a "switch" will be turned on in our lives and we will feel the influence of the Spirit all the time. That's something we should all desire! I add my promise and testimony to that: when we read the Book of Mormon daily, we will grow, become who God wants us to be, and a switch will turn on leading to total joy. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

If you have the time, I'd love to hear what you loved most about conference! Let me know! Love you all!

Love, Elder Thomas


Exchange with Elder Brown from my group

Elder Senkans, moi, Sister Biesinger and Sister Moralez

Throwing it back to Buckingham Palace with Elder Reynolds

Elder Phelps and I reunite at MLC