Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Best Gift

Happy Christmas, mates!

You know, there's just something special about Christmas as a missionary. It's different than other Christmases. Maybe some of you RMs can explain this better than I can, but it's just different! If you came up to me a few years back and told me that I'd spend a Christmas in a small, remote village in the middle of England in the freezing cold, I probably would have told you how crazy you were because it sounds crazy! But despite that, and although I wasn't with my family, it felt right. It's not the location that matters, it's the purpose and the reason. So I think purpose is one of the reasons that Christmas is different here. Everyday kind of feels like Christmas as one of Christ's representatives!

We didn't get any snow here, but we were about waist-high in blessings this week! Here are a few:
-Exchange with Elder Brown from Arizona
-members made us feel like family
-we are teaching some people who are just downright ready
-we now have a 10-year supply of chocolate
-got to Skype my family

I had another really unique experience last week. I was stopped by a couple young men after stepping off the bus, so I stopped to talk to them. Usually when kids like that stop us they do something weird to impress their friends, but these kids did something really unexpected. The older one looked me in the eye for a few seconds, and then in all seriousness said "...are, um...are you Jesus?" I sensed that he was a bit disappointed when I responded no, but I quickly told him that I was one of his missionaries. He said he thought that was cool and then ran off with his mate. Elder Baum and I laughed about that all day, though! He must have been feeling the Christmas Spirit and my name badge must have confused him. Either that, or my Christlike attributes are starting to show :D

God has been teaching me a pretty profound lesson lately. As you know, we've been teaching a man from San Francisco who is WELL off. In a worldly sense, this guy has it all. However, he's been searching true happiness for a long time. Now that he's found it, he has been changing and the hole in his life is being filled. It's amazing to see God take a hold of somebody and mold them into something spectacular, and that's what's happening with this man. He has found what he's looking for and will get baptized on the 28th of next month. In contrast, we spent time with some members who don't have much as far as worldly possessions go. They live in very humble circumstances, but because of their faith their problems have been minimized and pure joy emanates from them. They have found "the Bread of Life" and "the well of everlasting water, springing up into everlasting life". They have turned their lives over to Christ, who has taken their yokes upon Him and has given them rest. These two circumstances have taught me what truly matters most and where lasting happiness is found. It can only be found in a testimony of Jesus Christ. Anything else is counterfeit and, frankly, short lived. Jesus Christ is the only source of peace. He is the best gift.

Thanks to all those who gave me those ornament-shaped letters for Christmas! They are all on my tree and it looks amazing. I'm so lucky to have such awesome people in my life! See if you can find your ornament in the picture.

Man, things are so good right now! Our trust is in the Lord and his blessings are upon us. These really are days never to be forgotten. I hope you all had a merry Christmas and I hope you have a happy New Year! And don't forget to set New Years resolutions!

Love, Elder Thomas


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The End of the Drought

Hey family! Hope you're all lovin' the Christmas season and spreadin' the Christmas cheer! 

Great things happened this week. The experiences over the past few days have been real turning points for me in my mission and my life. For starters, we were privileged to attend the temple with our mission president last Thursday. After a year without going through, it felt so good to go back and feast on the Spirit that was there. I didn't realize how much I missed the temple until I was actually inside! I got some great direction and counsel concerning the remainder of my mission, and I'm confident that I will be able to accomplish what the Lord wants me to do. Good things are coming. So that was the end of the temple attendance drought. 

One of those good things is our investigator, John Paul. He is firing on all cylinders over here and will be baptized on January crazy is that? We've literally taught him twice and he's basically ready to be baptized already. God has blessed him a lot recently. We're excited for him. Now I just hope I don't get moved to a different area in the meantime! Keep JP in your prayers. So that was the end of our baptismal date drought. 

We've had a few other extremely powerful teaches. We taught a recent convert's friend and we really tried to focus on her and follow the Spirit as we began teaching. The Spirit helped her to share some experiences and also helped us to understand her needs. In fact, the Spirit was so strong that she became overwhelmed, broke down and started crying. We sat in silence as the Spirit comforted her and bore witness of our message. Such a special experience! 

I love sharing these things with you! What a powerful week it's been. Christmas time is definitely an interesting time for missionary work and it is definitely not quite the same as the rest of the year. If you're like me, you feel a nice, fuzzy, warm feeling as the holiday season goes by, and I've noticed that others feel that as well regardless of their race, ethnicity, culture, background, or belief. We speak to many people each day and, interestingly enough, even those who don't believe in Christ have this same gut feeling! Their smiles are a little brighter and their loads are a little lighter. My solution to this can be found in the scriptures! They teach us that the Light of Christ "is given to every man, that they may know good from evil." You'll all agree that there is nothing bad in the slightest about Christmas. Everything about it deals with love and light and is therefore from God! It is the Light of Christ which gives us these feelings and helps us to know what is from God and what isn't. I'm grateful for the Light of Christ...He is the light, and we never have to walk in darkness without him. He has commanded us that we are also to be the light so that others may find their way to Him. This is the reason I am serving a mission and this I know to be true. In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. 

I truly hope this email has lifted you and blessed you in some way. Love you all so much! 

Merry Christmas all the way from London, England!

Love, Elder Thomas


Elder Baum, Dan (investigator), Callum, Cameron, Michael (potential investigator), and moi

The temple drought is over!

Tri-zone conference at the temple

Christmas banner contacting in Kingston

Saw Hyrum (member) on the bus

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

One Million Dollars

This week was utterly fantastic! Although the meetings never seemed to end, we got stuff done and things just sort of fell into place. Compared to last week, this week was a diamond in the rough! 

Here's the rundown:
-exchange with AP Cloward from Heber City
-an Elder in our zone went home this week
-Brazilian child of record baptism
-exchange with Elder Olson from Texas
-investigators are progressing
-got a new suit

Time just seemed to go by in the twinkling of an eye this week. In the Spirit of Christmas, our meetings focused on how we can better "light the world" as a mission by using social media, pass-along cards, and the Christmas initiative video (which, by the way, is brilliant). I still need to get in gear with it all, but Elder Baum has gone nuts with it. It doesn't matter where we go, he always manages to show that video to somebody...probably about 5 times a day. And that's why he's the brains of the companionship! To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if he went AP next transfer. I sure hope not, though, because I love serving with him. Shout out to the Bomb!

The AP exchange...I don't really know where to start. Some of the most interesting experiences of my mission have been during AP exchanges, so I always look forward to them. This time I was with Elder Cloward and we had a blast! I can't tell you how nice it was to be in a car again, but we were still super busy and we worked hard talking to everybody we could along the way. We played a lot of basketball with the other elders and some of the ward and it was fun, even though I'm really rusty. All 3 of the APs were high school ballers so they use that to their advantage. One of them, Elder Rivera, was absolutely on fire with his 3, lights out! At one point he got frustrated and in his anger started missing a few of them. At the end, we likened him unto Teancum, who also missed when he when he attacked Ammoron in his anger. That kind of cheered him up! Only on a mission would you liken a basketball game unto Teancum.

We had a great opportunity to get people out to a child of record baptism, and our investigator Dan actually came! The Spirit filled the room as the covenant was made and Dan definitely felt something. He might take longer than we anticipated, but he is on the right track. 

Our investigator Sophie has come to church 3 times in a row now. We are super proud of her!

The Huertas fed us dinner last week and it was the best food I've had on my mission hands down. Better than Cafe Rio, it was proper Mexican food made by a Mexican. She also gave us something called horchata, which I highly recommend. 

We had a miracle referral from America! John Paul is from San Francisco and he is living in Richmond for work. He's the CEO of a huge company and does just fine financially...probably a millionaire. We skyped in his counselor, who is a member from Georgia, and taught the first couple lessons to him and answered a lot of his questions. I've never taught anybody so humble and so prepared before...It's a dream come true! Hopefully we can get this man taught, fellowshipped, and baptized this transfer. He certainly is a miracle. Elder Baum and I feel like we just got a million bucks! 

So things are great. Investigators are progressing, Christmas is around the corner, and we're just ready to baptize. Please keep these people in your prayers, because I know God will carry us the rest of the way. This work is true and it is so exciting to celebrate the birth of God's Son. I'd encourage you all to read the second chapter of Luke sometime before Christmas and ponder about the true meaning of Christmas. Love you all so much and I hope you light the world! Happy Christmas!

Love, Elder Thomas


District leadership conference at Staines

Ballin' with the APs

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Fasting Miracles and Crazy Parties

Hey, folks! This week was one for the books!

Well, things are going great here in Staines. Although "Staines" sounds like a horrible place, it's actually not that bad. This week was honestly so great though...if I could give you some of these experiences, I would. It's just that great!

Our ward Christmas party was last Saturday night, and it too was one for the books. It has been a much anticipated event, as it was announced to the ward about 100 times. In young men's it was announced that it would be a "crazy part-ee, so ya'lls betta be there." It was a crazy party indeed! It had a Bethlehem theme, so people built some stables and we had a live nativity. Our bishop decided to go all out out by dressing up as a middle eastern guy with robes and all that. You'd expect somebody dressed like that to speak Arabic or something, but it was hard to mistake him after comments like "hey, what's up, dude?", or "how are ya, eh?" Gotta love Canadians...

Another crazy thing happened this week. We got a random call one day from a missionary in the London mission. He notified us of a new referral for us in Richmond, and his backstory is nuts! Apparently there is a member who lives in Georgia who is a counselor. He works with people by teaching them the gospel of Jesus Christ, and slowly helps them live the gospel. One of the steps is meeting with missionaries. And one of his students happens to live in our area! We haven't met him yet, but we will see him this coming week. 

This week we also had to kiss our car goodbye. Due to the increasing number of senior couples who need the mobility of a car, we sacrificed ours. So we had one last drive to the temple and it has been public transport ever since then! Losing the car is like ripping off a bandaid...hurts pretty bad. But the good news is we are now talking to loads more people by riding the buses everywhere we go. It just takes ages to get places.

Our week ended with a bang. As it was fast Sunday, we decided to fast for our investigators, especially the Huerta family. To be honest, our expectations were not that high as we walked into church, but the Lord gave us an awesome surprise. Although the Huertas didn't come to church, a less active lady and our investigator Sophie came to church, for the second time in a row! Sophie even bore her testimony in sacrament meeting...what investigator does that? Hearing our investigator bear sweet and sincere testimony is music to any missionary's ears. Sweet tender mercies! 

This week I've made an effort to pay attention to my feelings as I've read the Book of Mormon. I finished it again this week, and the feeling I get at the end of the book is the same every time. I remember reading it for the first time with my dad when I was twelve. The spiritual high that I got after reading it all those years ago allowed me enough physical strength to do the over 5 pull-ups, which was my record at the time. Even though I probably can't even do a pull up anymore due to my worn out missionary body, the spiritual strength I receive from that Book is something I need everyday. The Book of Mormon is true and will help you in every circumstance. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Merry Christmas, and don't forget to do the Christmas initiative on 25 ways in 25 days

Love, Elder Thomas