Thursday, December 29, 2011

Week 62: Christmas on the mission: Magical :)


Great News! Christmas was indeed, very merry!

It was a blast! They say you always remember your Christmases as a missionary, and I can testify that that will definitely prove true! We spent Christmas morning with the missionaries from the area below Peterlee, which includes none other that Elder Gerrand ( from south africa) and Elder Gravallese! My good friend, and previous companion.
We first cooked a magnificent English breakfast, complete with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans and toast! (The food being provided by Elder Gerrand) It was delicious! We then spent the next hour or so opening presents and shooting nerf guns (thanks to the Kenworthy family) and then we went to church...

After church we ate lunch, and spent the remainder of the time visiting families! We went by the Millers, and spent much of our time there, where we were able to skype/call our families :) It was so much fun. We had goose for dinner GOOSE! It was so good. We also opened some presents from the Millers. They included (to name a few) a language-learning book (For the Geordie language) a tie, some old fashioned mountain dew, etc...

Also! On the previous Tuesday, we had the HARROGATE MISSIONARY CHRISTMAS PARTY!! Complete with bowling, American food, Zone chants, Its A Wonderful Life, A mission photo, wally-ball, and a Christmas dinner! Every missionary looks forward to Harrogate P-day :) It truly is a blast :)

Oh and before I forget... I know you all have been wondering for quite some time now, so I thought I'd tell you about the best Christmas present I could have gotten this year...
MY BRITISH DRIVERS LICENSE!!!
I passed my driving exam!!! Wooooooo!!! AH! I was so stoked when I did :) I am just so thrilled to finally be able to put that all behind me :) The number of locations and countries that I can now drive in has increased dramatically! Out of everything I wanted for Christmas, THAT was the most desired :) Thank you all who prayed for me... It really helped!

Also good news! Another transfer just passed, and I will be staying in Peterlee for at least (and most likely only) 6 more weeks! I am stoked :) Peterlee is like my baby ha ha. I love it here, and the views are beautiful. I have never wanted to stay in an area another transfer so much before :)

The bad news is, Elder Gravallese is leaving and moving to a whole nother zone! So, we celebrated by going caving one more time on the cliffs of the north sea coast for P-day with him and his companion. WHAT A BLAST!

Well, that's just about all the news we have over this side of the pond. I wish you all a happy new year!

Love,
Elder Gabriel G. Spencer

PS Pictures!
Pic number one is of the gang on Christmas morning, just before we ''tucked in'' for breakfast :)

Pic number two is us opening presents!

pic number three is of me and Elder Smith Skyping our families on Christmas day at the Millers

pic number four is of us at the caves on P-day, epic shot of the week!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Week 61: Christmas is here!


Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!

This past week was fantastic! We had a great P-Day, a powerful district meeting, all complete with a...

BAPTISM!!!

Yes sir-ee!
Peterlee was once again blessed, for the second week in a row, with another addition to the Branch family!
This time, Norman, a VERY long-term investigator, finally took the plunge ;) Norman was originally referred to us by a member during our first week here in Peterlee. He has been coming to church on and off for about 10 years (according to himself) and finally felt ready to make the commitment. A little bit about Norman's history, Norman was one of the strongest of strong roman catholics, in fact, if you would have looked at him a few years ago, you would have said there was no way that he would even thing about joining the church! Norman has met the pope about 3 times, and used to personally work with Mother Theresa of Calcutta for many years. He often speaks of his friendship with her, and the advice and wisdom she gave. But overtime, he began to see flaws within the church he was a part of, and this caused him to seek elsewhere for truth... Which is why he decided to pray about Joseph Smith, and find out for sure if the message of the restoration was true. He received his answer, and although many people said it wouldn't happen, on December 17th, 2011 Norman entered into the waters of baptism, and made that covenant with his Heavenly Father! He was confirmed the following day :) Ah, how happy the branch was that he finally made that step! (Most of them considered him a member of the branch anyway) He was so happy, and he even finished off his baptismal service sharing his very own testimony :) (See first picture, he's the older one on the left) Norman was baptised by his very good friend, Paul, who was absolutely key to Norman's baptism. (Nevermind the funky moustache)
Now, what else!

District meeting was this past Wednesday, and boy was it an experience! I had originally prepared my district meeting with some scriptures in mind, but all throughout my preparation, it just didn't seem to click, ya know. Anyway, long story short. As we were waiting for our bus to take us to the meeting (which would be about a 40 minute bus ride) I began reading the Book of Mormon, hoping to gain added insights into what I was going to give instruction on. All of the sudden, my mind took off! I started reading in Alma 17, and so many new ideas and concepts flew through my mind and onto my notepad. I spent the next 40 minutes changing my entire lesson plan for instruction and focused on using the Christlike attributes listed in the second to last verse of D&C 4, to combat opposition in the mission field and to empower us as missionaries. I later found that with the story of Ammon in Alma 17, every single attribute was displayed by the misisonary, and as a result, he fulfilled his purpose. The lesson was one of the most powerful lessons I have ever taught, and each one of the missionaries in their testimony spoke about something that they were inspired with. I felt so humbled and thankful that the Lord opened my mind to help my district, and I am so thankful for the spirit in my life :)

Really quick, before I have to run to catch a bus, this past P-day was amazing! We invited some other missionaries and went to the coast of Peterlee in search of some caves around the area. It was fantastic! We found tons of huge caves (most of which didn't go back past 10 or 20 feet) and we even, to our surprise found a WW1 bunker that was hidden on the hills of the coast! It was so much fun and definitely one of my favourite P-days :) (See pics!)

Well, gotta go! Merry Christmas!

Love,
Elder Gabriel G Spencer

PS Second picture is of the sunrise of Norman's confirmation. Your can even see the coastline!

Third picture is on me inside the bunker!

Fourth pic is of me outside one of the bigger caves :)


Monday, December 12, 2011

Week 60: Another Baptism in Peterlee!!


That's right, folks!! (see subject line)
This blessed area, otherwise known as 'Zions cousin', has once again added another member to the fold!!
On Saturday, December 10th, 2011 our good friend Kitty (14) entered into the waters of baptism!
Kitty was actually referred by her mother, Honour, who was originally found street contacting by Elder Brewerton! A nice interesting fact as well, Kitty was taught for the first time on Elder Brewerton's last night in Peterlee, where she was scheduled to be baptised on the above date! Ha ha I'm sure Elder Brewerton will be so stoked to hear that Kitty was baptised :) The service was unlike any other Ive experienced... Elder Smith and I arrived at the chapel about 3 hours before the service to prepare and the building mechanic/rep Brother Richardson had already been there for quite some time and informed us of some bad news... ''The water boiler is out'' This did not sound good to us at all. Especially with the fact that it was FREEZING COLD outside, and the water would be coming from underground, which would make it even colder. So, since I was the one performing the baptism, the tough side of me said ''Man-up! Its just a little cold water! Whats a little cold water compared to having Kitty enter into her first covenant?? Besides, back in the old days, that's how cold it used to be anyway.'' So, after exhausting all other options, we began to fill the font with unheated water (although we were also pouring pots of boiling water into the huge font, hoping it would take the edge off). After the water rose to about the first step, I dipped my hand in to feel how cold it would really be...
It felt like instant hypothermia. No joke. It was freezing cold. I was later told that the water itself was actually colder than the North Sea. So what did I do? I went straight to the phone and called up the Hartlepool missionaries (the neighbouring branch building) and asked them to start filling up their font ha ha. So, that night, we had the whole of the baptismal program at the Peterlee chapel, and then for the actual ordinance, we all took a 15 minute drive over to Hartlepool and performed the baptism! It went perfect, and Kitty was confirmed the following day :)


Other amazing thing that happened!
On Tuesday, the north zones met up at the billingham chapel for a specialized training meeting with President Lindley and the Assistants. We were instructed on several ways of being a bold missionary. These words inspired me, and by the end of the meeting, I was stoked and ready to get back and get the ball rolling! It just so happened that after we had gotten back, our first appointment was with Kyle, one of our investigators who regularly attends the Salvation Army Church. We had heard rumors that his grandparents were Salvation Army officers, specifically with the rank of Major (the bishop/branch president equivalent) when kyle opened the door, his grandfather Michael approached the door and talked with us for a bit. Eventually he let us in and we began discussing our religions. We found out that he was, in fact, the clergyman in charge of the Peterlee church and also that he had studied the LDS church while he was at university. We then asked him the big question ''While you were studying, did you have the opportunity of reading the Book of Mormon, and then asking God if the book was true?'' He informed us that he had read the book, however he stated that he did not feel there was a need to pray about the book itself. Now, going back to what we had learned from specialized training, President Lindley instructed us that at the end of each first lesson, we are to invite the head of the household to offer a kneeling prayer. So, with Michael, that's exactly what we did. It was a bit uncomfortable, but we invited him. After the head of the household accepts, we then are to tell them to ask specifically if the Book of Mormon was true. We did this as well. So Michael prayed (a most beautiful and sincere prayer) but FORGOT TO ASK THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION!! Now when this happens, President Lindley instructed us that we are to congratulate the prayer on a job well done, but then to invite them to pray again, specifically asking the question ''Is the Book of Mormon true'' Now this was one of the toughest, most intimidating things of my mission experience (it sounds simple, but in reality, its not) after he had finished his first prayer, I took a deep breath and said ''Thank you very much for that prayer Michael. That was wonderful. Now, if you could say one more prayer, this time asking Heavenly Father if the Book of Mormon is true, that would be great. Go ahead.'' And Elder Smith and I bowed our heads, closed our eyes, and waited for him to start. To our relief he did start, and this time he asked ''Father, is the Book of Mormon true?'' At that exact moment, the Spirit bore witness to me that the Book of Mormon was true, and that Joseph Smith is in fact the prophet of the restoration. Inexpressible joy filled my heart and the feeling of God's love pierced my soul as if Heavenly Father in his own way was telling me, his servant in the vineyard, ''well done''. I will never forget that moment :) As we were leaving, Michael invited us to attend the Sunday night service at his church, and we accepted. On Sunday we attended, and afterward were given a tour of their chapel :) I will forever be grateful for the witnesses of the spirit in my life :)
I know that God answers prayers, andI know that God loves me :) He loves all of us!
Also this week, we went caroling as a zone in Middlesbrough City Centre! It was fun! A bit cold, but we enjoyed it :)


Now I'm off to P-day! Elder Smith and I, along with the missionaries in the surrounding areas, are checking out some famous sea caves on the coast of Peterlee today! Its gonna be fun! :)
For those of you at BYU, good luck on your exams! (c)
Ha ha I cant say in jealous ;)

Love,
Elder Gabriel G. Spencer
PS After receiving several donations from the local branch (and lights from the Miller family) our Christmas tree is totally decked out! Check out the last pic!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Week 59: December begins!

Hello everyone, and Merry Christmas!
I hope you all are enjoying the spirit of the season as we approach the celebration of our saviours birth.
Things are really kicking up here in the England Leeds Mission, and we are all pushing so much harder to reach our end of the year mission goal!!! So everyone over here is working extra hard for these next few weeks :) I don't have a whole lotta time this week to email, so I'm going to have to make this one brief. I also forgot to bring my camera, so I wont be able to include any pictures... Sorry!

This past week was a blast! We taught some new investigators, some of which were members of the Salvation Army, which I had no idea was a religious organization until I came out to England! Shows you how much I knew lol. It was a great experience, they taught us about how their church started out, and we taught them a bit more about Joseph Smith and the restoration. We set up another time to meet with them, and we'll be seeing them again sometime soon :)

Also, we were able to teach this new woman named Elaine, and her 9 year old grandson Josh. They mentioned that they had not been baptised at all before, and we promptly invited them to make that covenant, to which they accepted! We are very excited to see their progression.

Things are definitely getting busy here in Peterlee with the Christmas season coming closer. Families are going out of town, the weather is getting colder (snow will be coming this week, which is my prediction) so its getting a bit tougher to get members out with us. But we will prevail!

Elder Smith and I are still keeping up with our goal of achieving standards each week! We got standards this week as well!!! The Lord is definitely blessing us (for some strange reason) and we're loving every minute of it :)

We should have another baptism on our hands in Peterlee very soon! We will keep you updated :)
I am planning on taking my driving test this Friday at 8:10am England time, which for you Utahns will be Thursday night, at 1:10am. Please pray for me... I have only taken a few lessons, and I'm going to need all of the help I can get. Most American missionaries do not pass their first time, so please pray!

Thank you for all of your love and support! I can certainly feel each of your prayers strengthening me and my companion :) I couldn't do half as well without them!!

Today is Zone P-day, and we're all heading to Durham Cathedral in the snow (if it hasn't melted yet) Its going to be fun!

I hope you all stay warm and well, happy and healthy! I'm thinking of you! (c) Merry Christmas!

Love,

Elder Gabriel Gaylen Spencer

Monday, November 28, 2011

Week 58: Happy Thanksgiving!

Do you wanna know something funny? Nobody celebrates thanksgiving over here... No, really, NOBODY! How tragic, right? Well, all I can say is that its a good thing that there were some American missionaries to save the day! (After all, it was the English who first started Thanksgiving!) And so how do missionaries celebrate best??? WITH FOOD!!!
Lots of food!
So much food, in fact, that there was not enough room within the lens of a camera to take a picture of it!
That's how much food!
All of the missionaries within the stake were invited on Friday night to the Stake President's house, where President Anderson and his family (also Americans, working in England for Jon Huntsman) cooked us an amazing traditional turkey dinner, complete with pumpkin pie and brownies at the end!!! It was magnificent :) The food was absolutely delicious and the company was even better :)
I hope your Thanksgiving meal was equally enjoyable :)
After that we all knows what happens after thanksgiving is finally over.... CHRISTMAS!!!
So we cranked that Mo-Tab Christmas music and started gearing up for the best time of the year!!!
We were so excited that Elder Smith and I decided to buy a 6-foot Christmas tree!!! (okay, well, Elder Smith bought it, I bought the lights and baubles for it) and we went to town! Oh boy you really have no idea how excited we are for Christmas as missionaries! Its going to be a blast! See all photos!



So you may remember how last week I mentioned how Elder Smith and I had made a goal to achieve Standards of Excellence for every week of the transfer? We accomplished our goal our first week together (last week) we are still very much on track! As of our very last appointment last night, we once again accomplished Standards for the second week in a row! And trust me, we ain't slowin' down!!!

Well, I think that's about it for the events of last week... December starts this week, and I take my driving test in about two weeks... So I'll have to let you know when to start prayin' for that ha ha. For right now, I just need to make sure I'm getting all of the small and simple points down in my driving lessons!
Merry Christmas!! (I'm going to be saying that a lot for at least the next month)
Elder Gabriel G. Spencer

Monday, November 21, 2011

Week 57: New Companion, New Adventure!

Heya, Peeps!
It was another foggy week over here in Northern England! Elder Brewerton has left to go near Leeds and Elder Smith has come all the way from Billingham (About 10 miles away from Peterlee) So far serving with Elder Smith has been a blast :) We've had so much fun, and in the short time that we've been here, we've seen quite a bit of success!
From our first day of working together, Elder Smith and I made some goals that we wanted to achieve for the transfer, one of which was to achieve Standards of Excellence each week of the transfer (a goal we missed by one week in Leeds). We also set a number of baptisms that we wanted to hit as a companionship. With our vision in sight, we hit the ground running and as a result, Peterlee has achieved Standards of Excellence once again! We had the most successful week yet, even with a transfer in the middle of it! So take that, opposition! :-P Satan doesn't stand a chance with Elders Spencer and Smith on the battlefield!
Hmm... Lets see, what else happened this week... Ah yes! You may have heard we started teaching a lady named Honour a few weeks ago? (You might not of, I don't particularly remember saying anything) well, on this past Monday before Elder Brewerton left we had a lesson with Honour and she brought along her 15 year old daughter Kitty to sit in and see what she thought. Kitty really enjoyed it, and was more than happy to accept the invitation to come to church! When Honour and Kitty came to church, they both LOVED IT! and Kitty in particular really enjoys reading the Book of Mormon! Which is great! We are planning on seeing them both tonight and teaching them further :) its so nice to have investigators who are excited to read the book and come to church! Talk about a breath of fresh air :) They are excited and working towards their goal of baptism on the 10th of December :)
I'll be starting to drive again! I'm signing up for driving lessons (not that I need them, just to tell me how to pass my driving test and what I'm doing wrong and stuff) so that's exciting! And I should be taking my driving test within the next 2 to 3 weeks. I'll let you know when to start praying for me! (Needless to say, I'll be very relieved when this whole driving license thing is over with)
Pictures!
#1 Elder Smith! We had district lunch last Monday, and here is the great and powerful missionary, eating Chinese! ha ha :)
#2 The last picture of me and my son, Elder Brewerton! Aw, they grow up so fast!
#3 Epic Fog picture, I call it ''The Rod of Iron in the Mist of Darkness''

Pictures!
#1 Elder Smith! We had district lunch last Monday, and here is the great and powerful missionary, eating Chinese! ha ha :)

#2 The last picture of me and my son, Elder Brewerton! Aw, they grow up so fast!

#3 Epic Fog picture, I call it ''The Rod of Iron in the Mist of Darkness''
Good luck in the cold everyone! (Its officially thermal-wearing weather over here in England)
Love,
Elder Gabriel G. Spencer
PS If any of you would like anything from England for Christmas, let me know soon, please! (c)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Week 56: The Fruit of Many Prayers

Hello everyone!
So, Ive got some big news! But I'll say it in chronological order just to build the anticipation... Muah ha ha ha!
First! On tuesday we had our quarterly Zone conference! This one was all about the temple, which was amazing! I learned to much about the symbolism of the temple, and especially the salt lake temple! Ha ha if you like I could probably give a few tours when I get back ;) See first picture, me and my good friend, Elder Gravallese at Zone Conference:)

Also last tuesday, Elder Brewerton and I went out searching for some new people to teach... We were walking down an old darkly street, when I looked in a window and saw pictures of a family! So immediately I thought, hey! Lets go teach this family! We knocked... and they let us in! We taught for about an hour, and invited them to be baptised, and a mother and daughter named June and Courtney accepted the invitation! But wait it gets better, at the very end of the lesson, we invited one of them to pray before we left, and the dughter, 9 year old courtney volunteered! We gave her some ideas of what she could pray for, and this is what she came up with on her own:
''Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for my day.
Thank you for my house, and my bed, and my Halloween treats and money.
Thank you for my dog, and please keep him safe.
(Then she paused and thought for a little while)
... I love you very much God. You are my favourite person in the whole world. You are my number one.
... And my mom is number two.
But dont tell her I said that.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.''
One of my favourite prayers EVER! Ha ha the mom just laughed a bit and kissed her on the head :) Tender moment :)

Okay, next! I know you all are probably wondering... You've been hearing about it for a while and, well... as a result of much prayer and studying...
I PASSED MY DRIVING EXAM!!!
Ha ha yay! Miracles DO happen. And honestly, I could not have passed that test on my own. Divine intervention was COMPLETELY necessary as the test study material was pretty outdated and there were several questions I had no chance of studying for... So, the result? There were 50 individual multiple choice questions I had to answer in about 60 minutes... In order to pass, I had to correctly answer 43 out of the 50 questions... So I bet you can guess how many I got right? 50!
No, just kidding. And for those of you who guessed I got 50 out of 50, thank you for your incredible faith ha ha.
I scored 43 out of 50!!! Ha ha if I would have missed one more question, I would have failed and had to take the entire test again, with completely different questions! So thank you thank you for your prayers! As you can see, they worked!!! Now all I have left is to register for and pass my practical driving exam, which is the one where I drive with an instructor in the car... So that will probably happen in December, but I will let you know!
Next big thing,
The cold is really starting to roll into the coast of England these days, and when the cold comes off the North sea, we get tons of fog! And thats exactly what happened for the entire weekend! See second picture :)
One last big thing!
It was transfers last night, and there are some BIG CHANGES that have happened! First off, my baby boy, my second-born in the wilderness, my Canadian Companiero, Elder Brewerton is leaving the nest and going to Leeds to be follow-up trained! And coming to replace him and spend Christmas with me in Peterlee is Elder Smith, from American Fork, Utah! Its actually quite ironic, Elder Smith was also in my district and the most recent person I went on exchange with, which happened to be in Peterlee about 3 weeks ago! And now we'll be serving together! I am very excited to spend Christmas here in the coastal town of Peterlee : ) It will definitely be a change from celebrating Christmas in Leeds, but Im ready for it!
Well, here I am starting a new adventure! Wish me luck!
Happy Transfers,
Elder Gabriel G. Spencer

PS Funny thing, just happened to street contact into a Storm Trooper from Star Wars on Saturday... Interesting Experience. The white one of the left actually said to me he had read the book of mormon before, no lie! (See Third picture)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Week 55: A miracle in Peterlee, the first one in years!!




Hello every one!
Wow! So many amazing things have happened this past week! But where to start, where to start... Oh yes!
BAPTISM!!!
Yes, that's right! For the first time in literally several years, Peterlee Branch's own missionaries have been blessed to baptise and confirm a new member of the church! On the 5th of November, 2011, Chris was baptised by Elder Spencer, followed by her confirmation the following day by Elder Brewerton! It was a fantastic service, and many people attended, even several investigators! We found Chris through street contacting about 2 weeks after we had opened Peterlee for missionary work. Chris, however, was not quite ready yet, as it was an unfortunate time. Her only daughter was right in the final moments of her first pregnancy. So we got Chris's contact details, and she asked us to call around in about a month. Several weeks passed, and we were in the area of where she lived again for a different appointment, the person wasn't home, and I remember getting the distinct impression to look though the contacts portion of my missionary planner for the name Chris. We found the address, which we found out then was right across the street! So we knocked at her door, and said who we were, and she happily let us in! We taught for about an hour, and at the very end of the appointment, we invited her to be baptised in about 3 weeks, (November 5th). She thought for a moment, then said. Alright. Sounds good! And it basically went off from there! From that day forward, she read the Book of Mormon every day, and prayed every night! She willingly gave up her tea and coffee, and sacrificed part of her weekly Sunday lunch at her mothers home to come to church!
So by the time the baptism came, she was nervous, but ready to enter into that covenant with our Heavenly Father! She seems so happy now, always smiling :) Ah, it is so nice to find and teach golden investigators, would you say? I certainly would. :)
Not only that, but we were talking with some of our investigators after the service had been performed, and one of which, named honour, we had been teaching for a few weeks. Every time we invited her for baptism, she denied it, saying she wasn't ready yet. We felt very prompted after the baptism to explain to her the process that Chris had gone through to get baptised, which we did, and she seemed very positive about it. We then invited her to be baptised on the 26th of November, to which she gladly accepted! AH! Another miracle! We were very excited :)
Also last week, of course, was Halloween! We had our zone P-day and had a water-pong tournament. Elder Brewerton and I lost in the championship match with Elder Gravallese and Elder Mecham by ONE POINT!!! Arg. So close :-/ Ah well, it was fun! (see third pic)

Well that does it for this week! I was quite excited to send this email, actually :) So there! Hope you enjoyed it!
Love,

Elder Gabriel G. Spencer
PS Congrats to Zac and Sarah on their wedding! And congrats to Michelle on entering the mission field!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Week 54: Happy Halloween!

(North Sea looking from the doorway of the Peterlee Branch)

Happy Halloween!!!
I hope everyone has had a ghoulish and a ghastly Halloween!
We are here at the stake centre for Zone P-day, and we're going to carve pumpkins and play dodgeball and watch a film :)
And that pretty much does it for our Halloween Celebrations!
For tonight, our mission president has requested that we stay indoors after we finish P-Day, and do not go knocking/street contacting. Instead, we're supposed to go to members or investigators homes. So Elder Brewerton and I will be spending some of the night at the Miller's home, and the other half at member's homes. We're excited!
Last week was great, we found a whole slew of new investigators to teach as well, so we're going to be following up on them later this week!
We are progressing very closely our investigator Chris to baptism... So all of us, Elder Brewerton, Christine and I definitley need your prayers this week!!! So please pray!
Also this week, we had interviews with President Lindley during our Zone meeting! I was able to discuss quite a few things with President during the 10 minutes that we had, and I found some helpful insights that will help me and my area progress while Im here!
Not much else has really happened this week... However there are some exciting things happening within the next few days... So be excited for this next weeks email!!
Happy Halloween again!

Love,
Elder Gabriel G. Spencer

Monday, October 24, 2011

Week 53: Embarking on a new year, hitting the ground running :)

Heya peeps!
Ah! Its finally come! And gone... I am officially a senior missionary in the England Leeds Mission! I sure don't feel like it though... Sometimes I feel like I'm still a greenie! We didn't have much time to celebrate my anniversary on Saturday, however, so we celebrated with some epic, urgent knocking! Elder Brewerton and I raised the stakes in our knocking by literally by trying to knock as many houses as we could within the space of 2 hours! We literally ran from house to house, collecting our composure each time a door opened! It was so much fun! And we knocked three whole streets within the space of the 2 hours we had!
I've received a few questions about some of the investigators we are teaching, including Chris, the woman we met a few weeks ago. Chris is doing great! She's still a bit nervous about baptism, which is great! It means that she is definitely taking it seriously! She came to church this past Sunday, and once again really enjoyed it! She is progressing very nicely towards her baptismal date, and is patiently awaiting her baptismal interview, which will likely happen within the next few weeks! She is still reading the Book of Mormon and praying each day, and she loves having Elder Brewerton and I come over to teach :)
Also this past week, I was able to go on exchange with Elder Patterson, from Michigan, who arrived in the field from the Provo MTC the same transfer as Elder Brewerton. Elder Patterson, however, was called to preach the gospel in the Chinese language, which he learned to speak fluently. There are many Chinese students studying at the University in the Middlesbrough area (where I was on exchange) and I had the opportunity to teach several Chinese students! (In English, of course) not only that, but Elder Patterson and I popped by a Ukrainian family, and I was able to once again teach in the Russian language! (They speak Russian in Ukraine) I was a bit rusty, and had to brush up a bit on my Russian notes, but it was certainly a fun experience, and the Inva Family was lovely :)

Funny story, so in the very beginning, after they allowed us into their home (which was for the first time) the father, Vladimir, started talking to me in Russian. I could understand most of what he said, but unfortunately I confused a couple words. The word crusc (croo-sk) means cup, in Russian, and its very similar to the word coffee. So I thought he offered us a cup of water, to which I happily agreed. So his wife got up, and began to make us something. Elder Patterson and I became very excited, thinking they were making us a Ukrainian meal. All of the sudden, I smelled the pungent scent of coffee. My heart sank. This was definitely an ''oh no,'' moment ha ha. About ten seconds later, Vladimir's wife comes out with a tray of four cups of coffee. It gets worse. Vladimir stands up (he is a very large man, mind) and very proudly describes what they have made for us. ''Ah yes, very expensive Italian coffee. If its too hot, here is some milk for you.'' Elder Patterson and I looked at each other, and then I said. ''Oh, no, I am fine, thank you.'' Vlad replied '' Niet, niet, it is tradition! Drink! Drink!'' ''Oh, no thank you, yesvini, yesvini.'' (Which means, I'm sorry, I'm sorry) The father, confused, looks at his wife, who thankfully shrugs it off and offers us water as an alternative. We gladly accepted. Ha ha TRAGEDY AVERTED! Elder Patterson and I definitely had something to laugh about afterward :)

Ah! not only that, but I had some of the best Chinese of my life! We had a tea appointment with one of the Chinese investigators preparing for baptism, named Yun Shen, who took us to a really nice restaurant in town called ''Mandarin''. Let me tell you... The food was amazing!!! There was fish, duck, chicken, pork beef, all complete with their own unique flavours and spices! Ah! It was amazing! I must say though, that the fish we had, could have very well been the best tasting fish Ive ever had in my life! It was amazing! And the best part... it was all paid for by our investigator! It wasn't cheap, either ;) Ah, it was exquisite :) See all the pictures for this week (I included a picture of the fish, after eaten)
Well, that's about it for this past week, now I'm about to head over to meet up with Elder Gravallese and have a proper celebration of the year mark!

Thanks for your prayers, love and support! I really appreciate every one's encouragement!

I just thought I'd give a couple shout-outs!
Special thanks to my beautiful mom, who emails me love each week without fail!
Special thanks to my inspired dad, who sends me letters that strengthen my testimony! Happy Birthday!
Special thanks to my fantastic siblings, who send me pictures of life, and to David, who keeps me updated on whats going on (not to mention, is taking good care of my car while I'm gone!)
Special thanks to the loyal Karstin Lake, who constantly updates my missionary blog!
Special thanks to my bbfff Logan Jones, who keeps me updated on the latest ''gossip'' ha ha
And a very special thanks to everyone who constantly prayers for me! I can testify that I can feel your prayers aid me in this work!
Take care everyone! Til next week!
Love,
Elder Gabriel G. Spencer

Monday, October 17, 2011

Week 52: Happy Anniversary, ELM! Elder Spencer hits his year mark!

Wow.... I cant believe its already been a year since I've left my homeland, set apart as a representative of Jesus Christ...

Does it feel like a year? Does it really? I dont think so... To be honest I still feel like a greenie ha ha. I'll have to celebrate somehow! Im not quite sure how yet, but I'll have to let you know in next week's email :)

So! Onto my week! Lets see... What happened last week... Hmm...

Ah yes! Chris! Chris is an investigator we found about a month ago, who we met on the street. When we talked with her, she expressed interest, but told us that her daughter was having a baby, and it was a bit of a stressful time for her. So we asked if we could come by sometime later in the middle of October, and she said yes! So we did! And within the first lesson we had with her, the spirit was felt, we invited her to be baptised, and she accepted! Not only that, but she also accepted to read the book of mormon everyday, pray about it, and come to church, all of which she has done thus far,and has thoughoughly enjoyed! She actually stated over the phone last night that, quote, ''Since that first day that you've been coming to my house Ive just been feeling happier and happier!'' Ah. Talk about a blessing from the Lord. We, as missionaries LOVE people like Chris. Ya know, people who keep their commitments, are excited about reading the book of mormon, and really enjoy coming to church. Those kinda people are amazing :) So Elder Brewerton and I have been saying many prayers of thankfulness for the opportunity to be teaching Chris, as we continue to pray for her progression :)

Also! I dont have much time, so Im going to make this last part a bit brief... We finally did it!!! We finally knocked the very same street that Billy Elliott danced on! Even his very house! Ha ha I even got some pictures of my dancin on his street as well... See the last two pictures :) From what the locals have said, nobody knows what happened to Billy, just that he up and left several decades ago ha ha. If you dont really know what Im talking about, see some of my earlier emails about the film and broadway musical ''Billy Elliot''. The filming spots and story location are in the area of Peterlee in an old coal town named Easington.

Oh yeah, and that other picture, of the moon? Oh yeah, this was something that literally took my breath away, and I just had to take a picture :) This was a pic of Friday night, with the reflection of the moon against the North Sea. I love the moon :) (c)

Anyway, wish me luck this week! It should be a great one!

Love,
Elder Gabriel G. Spencer

NOTE from the Blog keeper: The attachments didn't work for me. I'll try to get them up later this week. :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Week 51: New Investigators Looking at Baptism!!!

Hey mom, I heard the last email didnt send, so I thought I'd send it again just to be sure. Thanks!
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

'Ay-up!

Hope yall have been havin a great week!

This past week was yet another transfer week! Elder Brewerton and I are staying together for another 6 weeks, and most of the district are staying the same as well. We've also recieved a chinese-speaking missionary in the Middlesbrough area in the district, because of the large number of chinese students getting baptised there :) His name is Elder Patterson, and he's from Minnesota. He spent 2 months in the MTC and come out knowing an incredible amount of Chinese (which really helps when Im giving a baptismal interview to a chinese student and I get to some difficult words, I can shout over to him in the other room and he can yell the translation back. I gave another chinese student, Sadie, an interview, which she passed and is ready to be baptised this upcoming friday in Middlesbrough!

On Saturday we had District Leader Council, a meeting where all of the district leaders in the Zone get together with the Zone leaders and discuss different matters and things that would ultimately improve the individual areas within the districts. About an hour or so before, however, Elder Gravallese was to take his driving test to get his british license before his year mark (which is something I'll be doing within the next few weeks or so). Normally, Elder Gravallese and his companion give me and Elder Brewerton a lift to these meetings so that we wont have to spend money on the bus. During his test, however, Elder Gravallese ran over half of a 9-iron golf club, which pierced his tire. So, we spent the next few hours at a car garage, waiting to get new tires for the car. After it was all fininshed, the car was fine, we continues on to the meeting, and Elder Gravallese will have to take his test again, hopefully not having to spend the £70 fee to do it ha ha.

Well, this next week, the weather is set to get much colder. Wet, windy rain is forcasted to hit, and its not much better living right on the coast for it as well... but oh well! I have a nice warm coat, some thermals, some gloves, and some very warm earmuffs I got in the mail last year (c) so I am ready for winter!!! (I hope ha ha)

The branch members in this area really love us, and are more than willing to feed us, which is very nice. LIke the Duncanson family, for instance. We were walking to an appointment last week, and as we walked past their house Sister Duncanson came out and shouted ''Elders!! Have you eaten?'' Unfortunately, we had just barely had a quick tea at our flat about 30 before. After we told her we had, she responded with ''Okay... Well what about tomorrow?'' Ah. We just felt so loved :) Things like this just make you feel happy to be a missionary :)

So, its about time that I sign off, but thank you for all of your prayers! And please, keep them coming! We really can feel your prayers helping us... and we need all of the help we can get!

Love,
Elder Gabriel G. Spencer

PS Sorry no pictures this week, I didnt do a very good job of getting my camera out. But I will this week!

Week 51: Driving test!

There was no general email from Gabriel this week, but he is taking his driving test this week, so pray for him!

Have a wonderful week!!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Week 50: Hogwarts, Baptisms, and Elder Gravallese? Only in the ELM... 5

Happy conference everyone! I hope you all enjoyed your spiritual top-up for the next 6 months! I know I did :)

SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED this week! So I'm going to try to fit it all into one tiny email, but your gonna have to try and keep up... so get ready... GO!

First off, one of my most memorable and favourite P-days took place this previous Monday. One of our investigator families, the Millers, offered to take us to see the majestic Durham Cathedral on our day off, and Elder Brewerton and I got special permission from President Lindley to travel outside of our zone to go see it. It was AMAZING! One of the most spectacular and beautiful structures I have ever seen in my life! We toured this catholic cathedral, which celebrated its 1000th birthday just last year, and looked at the many tombs and shrines that were scattered throughout the building (we weren't allowed to take any pictures of the inside of the building, kinda like with our temple open-house thingy) But one of my most favourite parts of the tour was where they actually filmed several scenes from the Harry Potter films within its walls. Inside the great hall, was literally, the great hall of Hogwarts (ya know, where they eat the food, do the house sorting thing, etc.) and outside was the courtyard, where they filmed a few other scenes (this was something I was actually able to take pictures of, see epic pic #1 and 2) After we toured most of the cathedral, we then had the option to climb the high tower of the building and see the sights for a small fee (which we did) and the views of the valley/city were breathtaking! We picked a wonderful bright and sunny day to go as well, which simply added to the splendour. Definitely something I wont easily forget ;)


Next! I just know that each of you will be pleasantly surprised when I say...

BAPTISM!!!

See? Told ya so :)

On this past Wednesday, I had the privilege of baptising the recently confirmed Jon Smith! I have the opportunity of interviewing Jon as a baptismal candidate a week earlier for the sister missionaries in the Redcar area. After the interview, he said that he felt I was a really sincere person, and he asked if I would baptise him! I delightfully agreed, and a week later the spirit filled the whole building as Jon entered into his first covenant with the Lord :) (See Pic #3)

Next! Are you keeping up?

Next! Almost a year since we had first met, I was finally, once again serving alongside the Great Elder Gravallese!!! For those of you who don't know, Elder Gravallese and I served together as companions while being trained at the England MTC, and he is now serving as my Zone Leader! We had so much fun :) We talked about old times, new times, and I got to drive the Zone Leader's car for the day! Ha ha :) I really respect Elder Gravallese, and I am very thankful for the lessons he has taught me :) (see pic #4)

And then!!! General Conference happened! Elder Brewerton and I were blessed to have been able to was most of the Saturday sessions, (half of which were inside investigators homes on their laptops) Ah, I took down so many notes, and from which have made goals for how I would like to improve over these next 6 months! Its absolutely crazy to think that a year ago from this weekend, I was watching conference live, on the tele, as well as on the internet :) Last October's Sunday sessions still stand as my favourite of all time :) I loved it! (c) Ah, I love conference! And our investigators enjoyed it as well :)

Okey doke, last one!

In lieu of last week's attempts to achieve Standards of Excellence (we were SO close, we needed one more investigator at church) Elder Brewerton and I decided to reaffirm our dedication to achieve this goal, despite the circumstances of our tiny area. So we pushed hard... and did our best... and Sunday came... and even with our best efforts, we still needed two days worth of lessons, in half a days time. Things were looking grim. I was sitting in the Millers home as we were watching the Sunday morning session, and I asked myself what else we could have done... and then it hit me! We have two priesthood holders who were available after conference to go on splits with, and that's what we did! After conference had ended, we had two hours left until we had to be in, so we set up a game plan as to who we could see, and how long we would spend there. And by the grace of our heavenly father, we were so blessed to get the necessary lessons to achieve STANDARDS for the first time in Peterlee in quite literally several years!!! Also, it was Elder Brewerton's first time as well, the first of many, I might add :)

So, in conclusion, it was quite an eventful week, and now my hands are tired of the typing, but they are happy to type such great miracles! Thank you so much for your prayers (please keep them up) and we will continue to labor dilligently in the vinyard of the Master!

Love,

Elder Gabriel G. Spencer

PS we had a district meeting yesterday, and here is a picture of my whole district, minus Elder and Sister Shurtz (the Senior couple)

See pic #5


Monday, September 26, 2011

Week 49: Adventures with Kevin, the Star!


Happy Conference, everyone!

Can you believe its that time again already! Isnt that amazing?? I am so stoked for this weekend! I hope you are as well!

First off, one of the teams in my districts baptised!! The Middlesbrough team, comprised of Elder Spratt and Elder Taylor, baptised one fo their many chinese investigators on this past Friday! It was certainly a wonderful experience and I was so proud of them :) Not only that, but two of the other teams in my district also also baptising someone this Wednesday, which we are all excited for! Way to go teams!

Now for the Peterlee news... Elder Brewerton and I set our at the beginning of the week that we would accomplish Standards of Excellence for the first time in this area, and we really hit the ground running. One of the best miracles I wanted to mention was the best knocking success story I have ever heard!

So! Thursday night, Elder Brewerton and I were doing our nightly planning, when it came to our attention we needed to fin three more new investigators by the end of the week. So we concluded that we would go knocking. We tried out the good old Bluebell Method. We prayed about three streets to knock, and the next day set out to do it :) Fortunately for us, we enlisted the help of 20 year convert Kevin, who was off work for the week and volunteered to help us out :) So we walked up to the first street, following the map we had, and it didnt exist. There was a brand new development right were the street was. So we moved over to the next street we had prayed for... and it also didnt exist. :-/ But right next to us was, funny enough, the third street that we prayed for, and it actually excited. So me, Elder Brewerton and Kevin approached the nearest door to start knocking, when all of the sudden a thought came to my mind. So I said to my companion. ''Wait, is this the side of the street we should knock?'' He replied ''What do you mean?'' I told him ''Is this side where we feel or is this side where we are?'' He thought for a bit, closed his eyes and said a silent prayer. Then he looked up at me and said ''Nope, its the other street.'' and so we went! We knocked on the first house, and no one was home. We knocked on the second house, and the people were busy and asked us to come back at a better time. We knocked on the third house, and Mr. Palmers let us in! So we taught him (he's a pretty strong church of England member, but he's open minded) and then scheduled a time to see him again, and proceeded to knock. We knocked the fourth house, and no one was home. Then the fifth house, and our next new investigator Wendy allowed us to come in and teach her! (She's a bit older, no religion in particular, but is very intrigued about this idea of a modern day prophet, and is excited for conference) We left and continued to knock. We knocked a few more homes who were wither not home or set up a better time to come by, and then we got to Jame's house. James was our final new investigator of the day, who had never really thought about God, but nevertheless wanted to find out for sure! And so we taught him, and by the end of the lesson, he was scheduled to be baptised for the end of next month!!! Oh and his prayer at the end of the appointment, one of my most favourite prayers Ive ever heard :) It went something like this... ''Our Father in Heaven, thank you so much for these three people coming to my home today, and teaching me about you. Thanks for the chance that I have been given to finally find these things out, and thank you for the opportunity that I now have to be baptised. Please keep these gentlemen safe as they go home tonight. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.'' Ah! We loved it! All three of us were grinning so big when we left, we literally had to contain ourselves as we left his home before we shouted for joy!

Ah :) I truly love this work :)

So, Elder Brewerton and I are in for a treat today, we are heading off to Hogwarts to learn some good ol' defense against the dark arts! Expect some epic pictures soon :) We are heading up to Durham Cathedral with an investigator family who actually volunteered to take us up there and show us around, and so were both quite excited :) Expelliarmus!

And then its conference this weekend! Yay! Everybody better be taking some good notes and recieving some good revelation, okey doke? And hey, if any of you (c) would like to send me some of your favourite highlights, thoughts and commentary of conference in a letter like next week, I would love to read them :) Thank you for your love and support, and for you constant prayers! As you can see, they are definitely helping!

Love,
Elder Gabriel G. Spencer
PS Pic#1 Us with Kevin after knocking :)

Pic#2 Elder breweton and I did some service for one of the branch members! Diggin Holes! (And singing the Holes theme song)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Week 48: Finally! Feet in the Sand, Head in the Clouds!

It happened it finally happened!!

Guess what! We FINALLY got on the beach this past Tuesday! Ah! I was so excited :)
Felt like home :)

For our district P-day (preparation day where all members of the district meet up and do something together) here we decided to play some sports on the beach, and we LOVED it! It was sunny, (we prayed for sun) it was warm (for England, anyway) and we ate at Pizza Hut! All of the district thoughouly enjoyed themselves, and we all got to know eachother that much better :) And better yet, check out these pictures! (See Pics 1, 2, and 3) Definitely one of my favourite P-Days :)



Following that, Elder Brewerton and I got back into the swing of things, and were blessed to find 8 new people to teach! We are quite excited about following up with them, and helping them to come unto Christ! On Saturday, I was given the privilige of conducting a baptismal interview for one of my teams investigators, Martin, inpreparation for his baptism this Saturday. And he passed! Another blessing.

Im also currently working on getting my UK license so that I can drive in the UK after my year mark (President Lindley has asked me twice now ha ha) But its such a long process! Kinda expensive, too... But once I get it, its good until Im 60 years old, so that'l be good :) So pray for me to pass my driving tests! (They are brutal over here!)

Also on this past Saturday, I had the opportunity to Kebaptise my second-born in the wilderness! (If you have forgotten what that means, it means eating a Kebab, which is minced lamb meat with spices, for the first time in ones life) And this son actually enjoys it! (Elder Dundee wasnt too fond of it :-/) I was so proud of Elder Brewerton :) Here he is, sitting next to Elder Spratt (who was a witness at the Kebaptism, and also paid for it) Congratulations my son! (See Fourth picture)

Well, now we're off to our Zone P-day, where we're going for a hike on some random hill, and playing capture the flag on it :) Dont worry, I'll get some great pictures :)

I love you all! Christ Lives! He is our saviour and redeemer. Through Him, we can live with our families for eternity, use His atonement to become clean, and return to live in God's presence after this life :)
I testify to all who reads this that the same organization and authority which was set up by Christ himself has been restored to the earth through a living prophet. I testify to you that the Book of Mormon is evidence of this, and that if we simply read it, ponder it in our hearts, and ask in faith, that we will recieve and answer from our Father in Heaven, by the power of the Holy Ghost. I bare my solemn witness that these things are true.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Love,
Elder Gabriel G. Spencer

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Week 47: Mission Tour with a General Authority!





Heya peeps!
Its Elder Spencer here! Just sayin' a friendly hello and giving you an update! This past week was great, we found a steady number of new investigators to teach, scheduled some people for baptism, stayed in a day while Elder Brewerton threw up his guts, and worked our butts off on Saturday and Sunday to make up for it :) There's no better feeling than your head hitting the pillow after a long, hard days work for the Lord :) So where to begin....

Ah yes, I went on my first exchange with my new district! This time I went with Elder Farstad, from Norway! Sound familiar? That's cuz he is! He was one of the first missionaries I went on exchange with back in Leeds, around November time, and now he is once again in my district! He has improved so much since the last time I was with him, and he has become a very effective missionary and teacher :) (See first pic)

Next, we had our first Zone meeting in Billingham on Wednesday, and is was so fun to receive instruction from my old friend and first companion, Elder Gravallese, who is now one of my two zone leaders :) Its the smallest zone in the mission, but I can already tell we will be closely unified ;) (See second pic)

Elder Brewerton became pretty ill this past week, and was suffering from the flu for about a week. He is doing much better now, and he is working harder than ever. I thought I'd get a better picture of him this time, so here ya go (See third pic)

Fun story of the week, Elder Brewerton and I were taking a rather long bus ride to Stake Conference this past weekend and we noticed that there was a TV monitor at the front of the bus, switching between the different cameras placed throughout the bus. Elder Brewerton and I were sitting at the very back of the bus (the only seats that were left when we got on) and notice that one of the cameras it would switch to were directly behind us... So I got a bright idea... Free advertising! I held up a pass along card in front of the camera, and so every time it switched, it would go from the door of the bus, to the driver, to the middle of the bus, and then to a picture of Jesus Christ saying ''Faith Brings Hope'' we thought it was rather funny, and so did some of the other passengers. Remarkably however, when we got off the bus at our destination, we were stopped by this lady who got off with us, and asked us if we were from the ''Church of the Latter Day Saints'' we said yes, and she mentioned how she had friends who lived in Orem, Utah and how she loves the churches take on families! When we asked if we could could teach her, she respectfully declined, but she asked several question and felt uplifted as a result! Ha ha 'bus contacting' works!! We decided to take a photo, so see if you can spot our impromptu ad somewhere in the picture (See fourth pic)

Yesterday, we had a wonderful opportunity to receive instruction from a general authority, as part of our annual mission tour meeting! Elder Donaldson, from the Area 70 instructed us on faith, and how to allow the Lord to do His work :) Elder Brewerton and I both received some mighty-fine ideas as to how we could improve our teaching abilities and our area of Peterlee. We also were instructed by his wife, Sister Donaldson, the York Stake President, and President and Sister Lindley, who had just returned from a mission president's seminar in Denmark. The whole day was just a spiritual feast, and we all were so uplifted and excited to get out there and to be proper instruments for our Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ!

One of the most useful things I learned was how sometimes we just need to get out of the way and let the Lord take over. Elder Donaldson mentioned that ''if you are ever feeling inadequate in your calling, don't worry. You are! But the Lord knows this, and that's where His grace comes into the picture, it is after all we can do that the miracles happen, it was after the children of Israel put their feet into the waters of the Red Sea that if finally began to split.. it was after the brother of Jared built the boats, discussed, and had no idea what else to do in order to receive light and air into their boats, that the Lord gave him the answer and helped him receive the stones for light... We must realize that this is the Lord's work, it is HIS glory, and we are here with the privilege perform our callings and to aid Him in the salvation of the souls of those around us, and in turn, our souls... Are we inadequate? Yes. Will the Lord have compassion on us as we keep the commandments? Yes. Is it up to us to make everything happen? No. But that is why we are to pray as though everything depends on the Lord (because it does), and work like everything depends on us. And then, we let His Spirit do its job.''

It was a wonderful day, and I am even more excited to be about our Father in Heaven's business at this time!

I hope you all are just loving life as well! I'm off to play football on the beach for P-day! Yay for sun and sand!

Love,
Elder Gabriel G. Spencer