Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Terrorist Attack and Progress

Hey everyone, Elder Thomas here checking in from London! Such a pleasure to be serving here. If any of you know any cool facts about London, let me know because it will make it all the more interesting to serve here. I'd look up stuff like that, but that's a no-no for missionaries. So hit me up! I love this city and the people in it...there's simply no place like it.

As you probably already know, this week's been eventful to say the least! It's great to live here and all, but places like this seem to be where terrorist attacks occur most frequently--one of the risks of living in a big city, I guess. It was devastating to hear about the events that took place on Westminster Bridge last week, but the hand of God was prevalent! Our zone wanted to "give back" to President and Sister Gubler for all the hard work they do, so we planned to send them to the London Eye and then feed them dinner last Wednesday. I didn't know why in the moment, but we decided to bag the London Eye and just cook dinner for the Gublers instead. I now know the reason! Who knows what would've happened if we had sent the Gublers to the Eye (which is literally right next to Westminster Bridge)? It was also the first time we hadn't gone up to the river for preparation day. The bottom line is God protects His missionaries!

I've spoken to a lot of people over the last 20 months. Like, a lot. Out of all the concerns that people have, hands down the most reoccurring one is the question is why bad things happen. Definitely hear that concern at least once per day, but with the recent attack that number has skyrocketed because people are genuinely concerned for the world. When we speak to people with that concern, half the job is already done. All we have to do is turn them towards the answer to their questions because they just don't know where to find it. Of course, all of us know that the Book of Mormon contains every answer to every question, so we've been using that book nonstop this week! I've even began to just start reading the answers to all the Africans here the moment I approach them because they love scriptures and I just assume that they have questions on their minds. It's working pretty well! The Book of Mormon was written for our tells us how we should live in order to have peace in troubled times.

Got some happy news! After a lot of time on our knees in prayer and a lot of time on our feet at work, we have been blessed with a baptismal date. Olu is on date for May 6 and she is totally psyched! She was beaming as we explained to her why that day would be so special. The only other time I've seen her that happy is when we gave her a Book of Mormon. Her calendar is marked and she's on her way! I've never seen somebody so convinced that God has led us to them. She has a 3 year old son who she wants to send on a mission someday and she has a Spanish husband who is not particularly interested in the church...but we'll see about that.

Other random things from this week...

Got more sushi from Brother Ackesson.

TJ came to church.

Exchanged with Elder McKay (the Scottish one)

Stake culture party in Clapham.

Gave Books of Mormon to more barbers.

British Mothers' day was last Sunday.

Life is good! Love all of you guys. Enjoy General Conference! Cheers!

Love, Elder Thomas


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Higher Views

Guys, it's been a solid week out here! Seen God's hand loads this week and learned some really good lessons. I'm pretty excited to tell you about it today!

This week:
-exchange with Elder Reynolds (former comanion)
-exchange with Elder Rivera
-preachin in barber shops
-more sushi...kind of getting sick of it now
-got a new ward mission leader and he's a boss
-solid investigators--Olu came to church again!
-Sam's birthday

This week Elder McEwen and I literally begged for some solid people to teach...people that wouldn't just fizzle out. People who would survive until this email. And I'm here to tell you they were found! We have one investigator who works in a barber shop and he lets us come and teach him as he cuts hair. Since it's pretty hard to run away while getting a haircut, the customers are obliged to listen in and we've found a couple new investigators from that as well. One of the other barbers is interested as well. So I'd say we've got a pretty good setup over there! Hopefully we can baptize that place and rename it "the Mormon barbers". We've found a couple African families to teach this week as well! We didn't instantly become superstars or anything, but I feel that we were blessed with the Spirit in greater abundance. The Spirit is definitely the most important thing in this just makes everything tick! The Spirit's just cool. The Lord will always pull through for us. When it comes to trusting Him, I've learned to abide by the Nike motto: Just Do It.

Not going to lie, being a Londoner is pretty cool! There's so much history and cool stuff to do here. Last P day was one of the greatest P days of all time. It was a mild and sunny day, so we couldn't let the opportunity pass us by. We assembled the district and together we ascended to great heights...that's right, we went all the way to the top of the Shard! 72 floors and about 800 feet above the ground proves for a really good view--you can see all of London from up there. I was surprised to see how small London actually is since everything is so packed together. I don't know if it's the same for any of you, but whenever I look out at the earth from such a high place, things just seem small. Not only do people and buildings and cars seem small, but my personal trials and setbacks do as well. Challenges and problems can often seem burdensome and overbearing as they loom over us day to day. Yeah, it would be nice if they would go away, but sometimes that's not God's will. We can't always control what problems come our way, but we can control how we view them. To see trials in their true light, we need to first see ourselves in our true light: as children of the most powerful Being in the entire universe. We have unlimited potential, but to reach it we must be tested with trials. He knows that if he can convince us to believe that we are just people and nothing special, then the rest of his job is smooth sailing. This is why it's so important to realize who we are. We've been chosen to be on earth at such a crucial time when the world and its values are beginning to "coast"--remember that you can only coast when you're going downhill. We've literally been reserved to prepare the world for the Savior's second coming. What a privilege! We are definitely choice spirits and we ARE special.

That's a lesson I've learned the hard way this week. There's a man here that has been coming to church lately. This man is a drug addict so he carries with him a smokey scent that fills up the entire chapel, he's not quite right in the head, and he's pretty disruptive! For lack of a better word, he is a crazy man! He's been taught by the sisters in the past, but for reasons we won't go into they decided to stop teaching him. Ever since, he's been our responsibility. Let me tell you: my charity, love, patience, humility, godliness, and brotherly kindness has really been tested by this man! He begs with us to meet with him but then listens to nothing we say to him. I've really struggled to not lose my rag with him! But through it all, he's a son of God. He and I are the same, so I have no reason to esteem myself as more than he is. The Spirit reminded me of this pretty strongly in sacrament meeting last week. Hit me like a slap in the face! Ever since I've really really tried to treat this man with the upmost kindness. We probably can't teach him, but we will always welcome him. After all, Christ's message has never been to go away. It's always been to come.

I know that Father in Heaven has a route in mind for all of us to reach our celestial potential and fulfill the measure of our creation. He can elevate our perspectives and He can teach us who we really are. He is a Man with a Plan and I love Him! And I love all of you! Have a great week!

Love, Elder Thomas


View from the top of the Shard

Waffles :)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Temple Service & Sushi

Good morning, friends and family! Today is a sunny day in London...probably one of the few we'll have this year! We have great reason to rejoice. 

This week has gone faster than Elder McEwen going down a slide...and for those of you who don't know, that is fast! It's been a good week, nevertheless. It's a massive blessing to be serving in a place like London. The best thing about it is how many people there are. I think I heard that the population of London is approximately 8 million, so we never run out of people to speak to! I've done more street contacting here than I have in all my other areas combined. It's pretty difficult to get the message out to 8 million souls, even with a few missionaries and the Book of Mormon musical being advertised on literally every bus. I'm considering bringing a megaphone to preach from the top of the Shard today, but I'm not sure how effective that would be. What we need is more messengers...we need the members!

We've made a special effort to serve the members this week. Since everybody in London is busy as a bee, including the members, it's often hard to get into people's homes. As we thought of how we could serve, I began to think about brownies. As often as that thought comes to my mind, this time it was convenient! It occurred to me that everybody loves brownies, especially Costco brownies. The nearest Costco is across the river, but that was no problem--we sent our senior couple! Pretty soon we had some fresh brownies on the members' doorsteps. It's done wonders! One of the members has had us over 4 times in the last week. He's told us his conversion story and we've helped him become more involved in sharing the gospel. He's also given us £150 worth of sushi...his wife works at a sushi place and comes home with all the leftovers from the day, so we get them! Funnily enough, just as I was typing this he called again to give us more sushi! Sushi's alright, but I wish I loved it considering how much we're given. Not sure what to do with all of it. If you have any awesome ideas about what we can do with it, let me know!

In zone training this week we were taught about how to involve the Spirit more in the work by purifying our own lives. Missionary work is only effective when guided by the Spirit, so the best way to become a more effective missionary (and son/daughter of God) is to live in a way as to allow the Spirit to be with you more often. If we are constantly doing things that drive the Spirit away, then the Spirit will rarely be with us. 5 things we can do to ensure that the Spirit is with us are: 
1. Have daily heartfelt prayer with Heavenly Father
2. Feast daily in the scriptures
3. Strive daily to be more obedient to God's commandments
4. Acknowledge God's divinity daily by recognizing and sharing miracles
5. Daily selfless service to another. 
I know that if you do these things each day you will find a greater abundance of the Holy Ghost in your life and you will have greater joy!

Zone conference was also special because all of my companions who are currently serving were there! I rounded them all up and took a picture with of them. Then we had a group hug, and then I hugged all of them individually. Hugs are good! President Gubler calls them his "Mmmmm" medicine. Go give somebody a hug by proxy for me today. Thanks! 

President invited our zone to come and to service at the temple grounds yesterday. Our group got assigned to work in the front garden to pull weeds. So we did that for couple hours straight and then went home! I've never been happier to pull weeds in my life. Anything is fun when you're doing it for the Lord. It's such a privilege to serve at the temple--whether it's inside or outside. 

Our area is in better shape than it was last week. We now have a very solid investigator from Montana called TJ who has agreed to be baptized. He's reading the Book of Mormon daily, so now it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when! You all know how I feel about the Book of Mormon, so I won't go into my shpeel. Good book though. 

Love the Lord, love the work, and love sushi...kinda. And I love all of you! Have a great week, hope you're all excited for general conference in a couple weeks time.

Love, Elder Thomas


The London Eye

All of my companions who are currently serving

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Interviews & Screeching Chickens

Hey there! Loved to hear some of your responses from the video of the killer slide last week. Glad I'm still alive to joke around about it...The video of Elder McEwen coming down is soon to come!

This week has been lit. Got to make the trek all the way down to the Gublers' home for a zone training. It had been ages since I'd been there last so it was really good to go again. It's like walking into your house after you've been gone for a long just feels right and you get all those familiar smells. That's how it is at President's house and I promise they're good smells.

While there I had two interviews. The first was with President Gubler. Guys, he is such a good man. I probably sound really cheesy but he is literally one of the most Christlike people of all time. Even when I think I can't be more amazed, he does something spectacular that amazes me even more. In my interview I expressed to him my questions about how to combat anti-mormon literature and he helped me out loads. He taught me how to shut down anti-mormon arguments in a simple and powerful way. It all comes back to whether or not the Book of Mormon is true. There are loads of questions out there and people will always have them, but the real question is whether or not the Book is true. There is no question that God will answer somebody that asks--He will. The next question is if they are willing to receive that answer. That's basically it! President Gubler does it again.

The second interview I had was with the Savior. Now before your jaw drops to the floor, it was only a picture of the Savior in front of me. But His presence was definitely there. A list of questions guided the mind as the interview began and it was a moment of great reflection on my mission. I was definitely feeling the Spirit strongly and I got some good guidance on what I need to do next. From this experience and from the events of the week I've realized that my focus has primarily been on numbers, or results, and that is alright but it's not the best. My focus needs to be on Christ, and my faith needs to be in Him and not in outcomes. This nick of the woods is the most fertile place in the whole mission, given it has a seemingly endless supply of potential. Knowing that, I figured that if I'm not baptizing then I'm doing something completely wrong. I've become more and more tense as each day has passed and there have been no baptisms because my happiness was based on results and not commitment. There are a few things I do have, like a strong drive to work hard. I'm bent on working myself to the ground because that's just how I'm wired, but I just need to tweak a couple things to make sure that my focus is on my commitment and not in the results. Basically doing my best and leaving the rest in the Lord's hands and not worrying about the things out of my control. It's a tough lesson to learn, but everybody has to learn it. And I think a mission is the best place for it. God loves us enough to stretch us. He won't break us, but he will stretch us...a lot!

I feel like a bag of bricks is coming off my shoulders as I'm learning that lesson. We're just going to go out there and give it our all. If we baptize, then great! If we don't, oh well. As long as we can say we left everything out there then it's ok with me. That being said, I believe there are people out there who are ready and prepared to hear our message. We're going to go find at least one of them this week so be ready to hear all about it next week. I've learned from my emails to you that most of the investigators I mention don't even last 2 emails. I'm determined to find some people who won't fizzle out but who will be able to survive many emails! Be ready for thunder.

Elder McEwen and I are just swell. We're pretty happy right now. Our sisters are having a baptism this Saturday and since their investigator asked them to sing at the baptism, they tried to convince us to sing with them. I tried to explain to them why that wouldn't be so wise, as I'm about as good at singing as an octopus is at just doesn't work. Elder McEwen is about my same level. But somehow we got dragged into it...after a few practices we still sound like a bunch of screeching chickens. I hope the investigator doesn't get the wrong idea. But hey, "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." There will be no footage, however. Wish us luck!

Lovin the mission life & I love all of you!

Love, Elder Thomas


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Satan's Slide & Breakthroughs

Hello from London Town, folks! Happy March! Literally can't believe it's March already...February went by ridiculously fast. The mission goes too fast as it is, so the fact that Feb only has 28 days just doesn't help. Thanks to a few of you pointing it out, I've realized that I now only have 5 months left before I report back to the mother land. Gonna make the most of them!

First of all, I need to give you the run down on the London Peckham District. Since most of us share one very geographically small area, we see each companionship pretty much everyday even if we don't plan on it. Because of this, I've been able to get to know the members of my district pretty well! This is the closest district I've ever been in. It's made up of a lot of young missionaries--the total amount of time they've been on their missions combined barely amounts to how long I've been out. I love it though! The only problem is I can't really understand anyone: We've got a Scottish Elder whose accent is so thick he needs subtitles and 2 French sisters serving together who just speak French all the time. Then there's my companion whose accent isn't too bad, but I'm clueless when he comes out with his Yorkshire lingo. He's the king of British slang...we're working on it. The only people I can understand is Elder Rivera from Arizona and Elder Reynolds--and him only because he used to be my companion! Anyways, my point is we've got a pretty awesome district. If you ever want to see the gathering of Israel, come to the ELSM.

Despite his slang, Elder McEwen is a blast. One of the best things about serving with him is that he has a lot of motivation and self willpower. We share a really strong motivation to figure out what God wants us to do and then we do it. In my mission I've learned that problems in a companionship are more likely to surface when one companion wants to keep the rules and the other doesn't. Since Elder McEwen and I both strive to be strictly obedient, we don't have very many problems and we get along really well for the most part. Of course there is the occasional disagreement, but we abide by what the prophet has told us: "Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved." Elder McEwen's teaching me how to love more! That's probably the second best thing about serving with him...the best thing is when his parents order a cheeky Domino's pizza to our flat at night. Perks of having an English companion!

We have some good times, but sometimes things can be a drag--Like street contacting all day in the rain. That happened this week and eventually we just got tired of it. That day we were walking down the road, an appointment had just cancelled, and it was chucking it down. We weren't happy. But all of the sudden this massive hill seemed to appear out of nowhere, so we decided to go to the top and check out the view. At the top we noticed that there was a long, metal, steep, wet slide going all the way down. We had to do it! I went first and immediately regretted it. I can't really remember how it was going down, but at the end i felt like I had been punched in the ribs 3 times and then flung into a fence...which makes sense I guess. Then came Elder McEwen. As he got into position he expressed that he just didn't want to rip his suit trousers. He came flying down and tried to stop himself, but he ran into the fence too. He stood up thinking all was well, but then he looked at his leg and yes, his worst fear was confirmed: ripped trousers! Not only that, but his knee was shredded as well. Elder McEwen's slang became very very colorful and started kicking the fence for some reason. His anger has since faded, and now we just laugh about it. We got some good footage as well!

But enough banter, we've been so blessed this week! Brothers and Sisters, the fog has lifted, the curse has been broken, the ceiling has been shattered--we got some people to church and we found 8 new investigators! The ward has given us some people to visit and it has been really effective. We taught two less active Portuguese sisters and one of them came to church. The other one is trying to get work off so she can come next week. We had a powerful lesson with them and funnily enough, we all know the missionary that baptized them a few years back. He's in the Oxford ward. We also had an investigator come to church. She's a young mother from Nigeria and she's definitely searching for truth. Hope to put her on date this week. The best feeling in the world is when you see an investigator walk into the church on Sunday. So good!

The work is so good. Some days are better than others, but overall it's so good. I'm dead tired right now, but I wake up every morning so excited to see what the day has in store for us. I love London, I love Jesus Christ, and I love missionary work! Nobody can stop the work...the gospel will go forth until everybody has heard it. I know the importance of the message we carry and I'm grateful for the privilege it is to bear it. Love you all!

Love, Elder Thomas