Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thanksgiving and the Believers

Guten Morgen!

Wow, another crazy week! Since they aren't big fans of Thanksgiving here, you're probably assuming that I just had cereal or something for the holiday. But if so, you have assumed incorrectly! When there's a will, there's a way, and such was the case for Thanksgiving. I was able to squeeze through the gaps and into the home of an American family for a filling Thanksgiving dinner. Also got to introduce a Tahitian missionary to Thanksgiving since he didn't know what it was. But I'm thankful for the people in my life, for investigators, for members who feed us and do missionary work, for wool socks, for custard creams, for ice cream, for the gospel, and for Jesus Christ. Thank you all so much for your letters and emails and prayers. On some days they make all the difference.

 I feel like I'm in the most interesting area of the most interesting mission...these truly are days never to be forgotten. Elder Baum and I decided to think outside the box and try something new this week. A while ago we were invited to a church called "The Church of Christ" in our little town, so this week we decided to go. We were assured that it was a very multi-cultural congregation, but it must've been a joke because the everybody there was pure Philippino. It was pretty funny! Their fellowshipping skills were off the charts as well. They swarmed us as soon as we walked in and I probably shook 100 hands. It was cool to be on the investigator side of things for once. We were hoping to get a chance to share our message with everyone and eventually create a Philippino branch, but our wishes turned out to be short lived since they didn't let us say much until the end. They put a camera on us and asked us a bunch of questions at the end. So don't be surprised if you see Elder Baum and I with some Philippinos on FB. It wasn't as effective as we though it would be, but it was so good to be around some strong believers. Their church wasn't all true, but the people were so good and they know how to have a good time.

Our investigators have been extremely blessed recently. We taught Dan over skype and read the Book of Mormon with him. He and his family will be coming to church next month. The Huertas, our Mexican family, have also made progress as a family and we taught them the Plan of Salvation last night. I don't know what it is about Mexicans...they too are natural believers. They all became sponges while we were there, soaking up every morsel of doctrine they could. With my grandpa passing away, the Plan of Salvation had a different light to it than usual and it really came to life. I'm so grateful for it. Hope we can keep teaching this family and eventually get them baptized. We're just doing our best to manage our time wisely and give everything up. The Lord takes care of everything else...all glory to God! 

Mission life truly is the kind of feels like a dream, but I love it. I've found that focusing less on myself and more on others usually leads to happier and more fulfilling moments, and greater success. Thanks for helping me so much along the way. 

The bad news is that today is our last day with a car. Tomorrow we will drive it to HQ and deliver it up unto the senior couples, who are in need of enhanced mobility. We trust that the Lord will somehow provide for us! 

Love you all!

Love, Elder Thomas


I may be away from home, but I never miss Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving lunch with the Kingston District at Nando's

A royal book

Hampton Court Palace

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Golf and Spiritual Bonfires

Evening, folks! 

It has been a pretty humbling week for us! Lots of ups and lots of downs.

We had a pretty interesting zone training last Thursday. Decided to try something that I'm pretty sure has never been done before. Our mission has been encouraged to read a talk called "Spiritual Bonfires" from 1992 October conference. A long time ago wolves were a big threat to travelers, and the only way to keep them away was to build a massive bonfire to scare them off. The talk teaches us that our best weapon of both offense and defense is our testimonies, which will also protect us from the dangerous, faith-destroying things that we face each day. So we built a bonfire outside our chapel and gathered 'round. Then we went around the circle and everybody shared their conversion story and their testimony. It was too cool and the Spirit was so strong that our fire almost went out. We love our missionaries so much! Everybody left that meeting on fire. Not actually on fire, but spiritually on fire. Best zone training of all time! And that's not even the coolest thing about it. The forecast showed that there would be no rain until 6 pm, which is when we planned to have our fire. And it was a 100 % chance of rain during that time as well. But when we went outside to check, there wasn't a drop of rain and it stayed clear until we went back inside. How about that?

In a meeting this week I heard a story of a guy who challenged a less active man to a bowling game in an attempt to reactivate him in the church. The guy had never bowled before, but he got six strikes in a row. Pretty tough to beat. He won even though the less active was a professional bowler, and he ended up coming back to church. Pretty sure that angels were guiding his ball! That being said, I decided to put it to the test. I'm no bowler, but I do love golf. One of our investigators is a golf fanatic and had previously invited us to go golfing with him. We decided to take him up, but on condition that he would come to church if I beat him. It was a pretty close game, and I probably would have won, but we didn't get to finish because he had to get back to work. Dang it! I felt like I played pretty well, but I could definitely feel some angels guiding some of those shots :) it was good to get back on the course though. 

One more insane experience:
About a month ago, we saw a man walking down the street wearing a kilt and a captain america shirt. As crazy as this place is, you don't see that everyday. Elder Baum vowed to find that man and speak to him someday, but we just kinda laughed about it...until last week. As I was looking through our area book, I felt prompted to randomly call a random number of a less active. The man answered and told us he was free for a visit that very afternoon, so we went for it! We walked in and lo and behold, the man was wearing a kilt and a captain america shirt. It was him! Our jaws dropped so low that I almost tripped. God works in mysterious ways! 

We also taught a man named Dan from Arizona. Good to build up the church back in America!

On a more serious note, I received news from my family that that my grandpa passed away. That wasn't great news to hear, but I'm so grateful for my own testimony because that's probably the biggest things that has held me up lately. I have God and the Savior to thank for that. Sometimes things are tough, but you just gotta keep going! Looking forward to more success with Elder Baum! Love you all.

Love, Elder Thomas


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Craziest week ever

Hey there! Goodness, this week was literally the craziest week ever! Like, absolutely bizarre. Elder Baum and I have been moving non-stop ever since I sent this email last week. Though the work is not always necessarily physically exhausting all the time, it is definitely mentally exhausting. Sometimes feel like my brain keeps telling me to slow down so it can catch its breath. But I guess that's what sleep is for?

I bring glad tidings to you that we have finally wrapped things up with the Staines house! We "professionally cleaned" it and then handed the keys back to our Vietnamese landlords. The whole moving process has been a huge pain to be honest, but we are glad to have that out of the way so we can completely direct ourselves to preaching the gospel. To liken ourselves to the scriptures, we "delivered up the [Staines House] to [our Vietnamese landlords], and confined [ourselves] wholly to the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to the testimony of the word, according to the spirit of revelation and prophecy." (Alma 4:20) It will be good to get back in business and hopefully baptize a few people here with Elder Baum. It is the harvest, after all. Now we're just a bit concerned about staying on top of everything without our car, which we be taken away in 2 weeks due to the increase of senior couples, who need them. 

Went on an exchange with my friend Elder Rivera, one of the APs. Most of the day was spent cleaning the Staines House, but we also attended a baptism in London and I had to get us there. I'll just tell you now that I thought I was an ok driver over here until I drove us into was war! There was loads of stop and go traffic, so our nav tried to take us on the fastest route, which ended up taking us right next to central London. I was really surprised when I looked over and saw Big Ben and the London Eye...but anyways, we made it to the baptism on time and it was great.

Sunday was one of the best days ever. We got stuck in some traffic on our way to church from a community activity and arrived in the middle of sacrament meeting. As we walked in, a member grinned at me more than usual and ushered us to two seats he had "reserved" for us for some reason, so we sat down feeling pretty confused. I noticed we were next to two sisters, and when I turned to say something to Elder Baum I was totally shocked. There, sitting right next to us, was the one and only Haley Vanoverbeck! I couldn't believe my eyes, so I had Elder Baum pinch me. Haley's been studying here in London for the past couple months and she decided to surprise me by showing up at our ward. And I was definitely surprised to say the least! So I got to sit next to one of my best friends at sacrament meeting while I'm on my mission. How cool is that? A tender mercy indeed! Shout out to Haley for being awesome :D

Some of our investigators have plateaued in their progression lately, so we plan to create more specific and secure appointments with them and teach them in different ways. I've learned that most of the time it works better to help them see the importance of doctrine and what it can do for them rather than just hooking them up to the firehose of knowledge and letting it rip...although that is tempting sometimes! 

As I mentioned, we attended a memorial service for in our community last Sunday. It was a day to honor those who served England in the wars. Basically England's memorial day. I was surprised at how many people showed up, since most people only come to church on Christmas and Easter. And although we couldn't proselyte, the Spirit was definitely there as we sung hymns and listened to prayers together. One phrase from the ceremony stuck out particularly: "They gave their 'today' so we could have our 'tomorrow'." And isn't that true! We are blessed to live in a place where we can enjoy freedom to speak, freedom to act, and freedom to worship, and I'm grateful for those who have fought for the cause of truth. They really have given up their entire lives so that we can have a bright future. Definitely important to remember them. During the ceremony, my mind was also turned to the Savior, who also gave his life for our tomorrow. He was motivated by total love to offer himself on our behalf. Just think if He hadn't performed the would be bland, and frankly speaking, pointless! Jesus Christ is our only hope and our only way back home. We need to remember Him and His sacrifice if we want to make it. He is always beckoning us in many ways to follow Him. I know these things to be true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

It was a Sunday to remember! Love you all :)

Love, Elder Thomas


Elder Baum

Sunset in Feltham

The Thames

Look who I found!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Chinese Whispers

Hello everyone!

Hope you've all had a good week. This is one of my favorite times of the year! The leaves change, the weather is usually nice, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means there's good food coming our way. So I'm a pretty happy missionary right now, and I'm still on an emotional high from passing the driving test last week. Shoutout to Elder Phelps for passing his as well!

Another shoutout is needed to my awesome companion Elder Baum! I've never worked with anybody as hard working as this kid, he just wants to do what God wants. He truly is the Baum. As crazy as this sounds, we saw his family this week! Don't worry, it wasn't his immediate family. Some of his distant relatives are scattered across our zone, so this week we set some time aside to go visit them as they are all non-members. The first one answered the door and was about to shut it when she saw our badges, but then Elder Baum blurted out that he was family. So she did what any family member would do and let us in! It was a pretty cool experience for me, not to mention for Elder Baum. 

Exchanged with Elder Yang from Taiwan last week. That guy is a cooking legend! He literally can cook anything. So he taught me a couple tricks, and some Mandarin chinese at the same time. Ni Hao! We've got another Elder from China in the zone whose English isn't very good, so Elder Yang is able to translate for him a lot of the time. I guess you could call it Chinese whispers.

Our zone is starting to catch fire, and we've been able to do some baptismal interviews this week! Since President Gubler lives pretty close by, we coordinated with him to have the interview at his house, followed by dinner. Elder Yang cooked for us and he did not disappoint. 

So many other good things happened this week. We had MLC in Epsom. President Gubler recently returned from a training in Budapest with some great new tools for us to use! We're getting ready for the Christmas Initiative and we're going to be using baptismal calendars to help investigators get moving.

The Juerta family...we've been unable to contact them for the last few days, so we hope that they are still reading the Book of Mormon. Last we heard, the dad was taking it to work with him and had read quite a bit of it. But there's a division in the family regarding our message. Half believes it and half isn't interested yet. We'll try to teach them this week.

Dan has been busy with school, but we should be able to teach him this week.

On a more random note, this week we got locked out of our flat and had to be creative in getting back inside. I've gotten pretty good at that! 

I've learned that to each of us God has given unique talents and abilities, which we can and should use to help others. The Book of Mormon tells us that we are all given spiritual gifts so that we can be of benefit to our brothers and sisters. While others may have gifts that we do not have, we must be grateful for what we do have and strive to develop those gifts and talents. Sometimes it's hard to know how valuable something is until you lose it! For instance, this week we were knocking a road and we spoke to somebody who did not have a was interesting. So today I am grateful that I have a nose! Let's be grateful for what we do have...after all, it's almost Thanksgiving! 

Thanks for all your help, everyone. A lot of you have told me that you pray for me and for other missionaries. We really do need that strength, so thank you. I pray that you will find some lost sheep as well! Sure do love you all. 

Love, Elder Thomas


Dinner at President Gubler's house


Most of our group

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Move and the Mexicans

Hello friends!

I apologise in advance for the super short letter today, but I have a good excuse! Today we made the journey literally halfway across the country into the land of Burgess Hill to take driving test number 3. I'm here to tell you that I passed...indeed! I was super nervous, but my prayers and fasting combined with other missionaries and yours did the trick. Definitely a testimony builder. As a matter of fact, I had several experiences this week that strengthened my testimony...I hope they'll strengthen yours as well.

We had the big move this week, from the Staines house to our new flat in Sunbury. This occupied the majority of our time, so we hardly had any time to do any finding. Nevertheless, the Lord helped us to plan effectively as to allow us to keep our area alive. And we were blessed abundantly! That divine help alone was also a testimony builder. 

We are still teaching Dan, the 18 year old legend. We hope to baptize him before his friend leaves on his mission to Rome, and then send him out on a mission as well. He's super solid, so keep him in your prayers!

We are teaching a family! They are solid and we love them for many reasons. 1. They are don't find many here in England. 2. They are extremely solid and they've been prepared by the Lord. 3. They live on the same road that the Staines house is on...where we just moved from. Crazy, right? We showed them the First Vision video and the Spirit it brought nearly knocked the house down. I can't recall another time where I've felt the Spirit as strongly as I felt it that night in that house. After the video I looked up and saw one of the sons with tears in his eyes. I assure you that the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is real and Joseph Smith is a prophet. He saw God and Jesus Christ. They spoke to him. And the church they have established on the earth is this very church we get to be a part of. That's just the truth. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Pray for the Juerta family! We're gonna baptize them!

Farewell from Elder Thomas and The Baum! Love you!

Love, Elder Thomas



The Indian folks who came to the trunk or treat

Super cool spiritual thought with the Holt family

Watch out... there's a Baum in my car