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...
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!

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...


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!

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 ;)

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!


Elder Gabriel Gaylen Spencer