Monday, June 19, 2017

croeso i cymru! (Week 44 Rhiwbina, Cardiff, Wales - Elder Mason)

Fellow BYU fans! What the heck is up?! Thanks for tuning into another episode across the pond! This last week has been a weird one to say the least! There were some high highs and some lower lows, it is so hard to leave an area. Honestly I thought it was hard leaving Swansea, but leaving Wylde Green was even harder, I'm so grateful for everyone in that ward, it really did become home to me and I made some amazing friends there, but I'm sure I'll grow to love this ward as well! Wales can't get enough of me I guess! And I've been out for ten months now! The time is flying!

Boy am I happy to have been transferred to Wales at least! The people here are so nice, even when they reject us they are nice. One guy yesterday opened the door and said he wasn't interested but he'd be more than happy to give us an ice cream bar. The people are just pleasant here. 

I managed to work my way over from Birmingham and switch platforms twice with two suitcases AND a bike, I definitely won a medal for that. Nah, only reason I was able to do that were some super helpful people that God sent my way to help me, I have no doubt about it that He sent angels my way to help me! I was greeted by elder Mason and we got straight to business! This area is so clutch! We have a university on the border of our area that we are gonna start using and the people are so friendly. The sun has been shining like crazy this week as well! It's been a warm welcome back to Wales indeed, literally it's like burning. 

We've had a lot of success for this first week of the transfer! We are currently building up a pool of people to work with, one of which accepted a baptismal invitation for the 29th of July! His name is Txxommy! We have a lot of work to do with him and the others so stay tuned. Every Friday is football Friday out here so we played some fΓΊtbol last Friday, I am still straight garbage at it, but it's all good cuz I redeemed myself at basketball, which we play every Saturday night. We got a nice 4v4 going, I only had church shoes to wear to it (semi-long/boring story) but I still balled out with some nice mid range drainage. We are like a 2 minute walk from the chapel so we are gonna start going a few mornings every week to ball out for an hour!

Just one other cool experience: so we went to visit the Gould family the day after I got here. They are members in the ward, and their 33 year old son passed away from cancer two weeks ago, leaving behind a wife and three kids. We were talking with brother and sister gould and as they asked about my family, I got to share a bit of my experience with my mom passing away. They asked me questions about how I dealt with it, if it ever gets better, and we just had a real heart to heart convo. Tears were shed as we shared testimonies. I shared with them D&C 130:2 which is all about eternal families. At the end of our visit, he asked me with tears in his eyes "do you think you were sent here to help us through this?" I've got such a strong testimony that  Jesus Christ leads not only his church, but his missionaries, I know that he inspired President Leppard to send me here and that the Gould family is one of the reasons I'm here. We attended their son's funeral, which had over 600 people present, on Saturday and brother Gould told me that he was so grateful that I'm here to help them through this. I've had some of my most spiritual and emotional experiences in the last week. 

This week for my personal studies featured chapter 2 of the ARP Manuel which is all about hope. Having hope that Jesus Christ can really heal us and cleanse us from sin and hope that we can live with our families and god again. In it, it used a scripture I loved! It's alma 32:27, which says "But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words." Gaining a testimony and strong faith can come from even simply a desire. I know that my testimony came simply from a hope that my family could live together forever, and that hope grew into what now is my testimony. Alma 32 is such a beast chapter as well!

mae'n ddrwg gennym ar gyfer yr hir e-bost! cael da wythnos! Rwyf wrth fy modd i chi guys! edrych at Grist ym mhob meddwl, amheuaeth beidio, nac ofna 

Elder Varner

side note: for the last sentence, translation errors may occur due to google translate

Sent from my iPad

pics 1-3: last pday ft the homie hill and a fam pic
pic 4-7: farewells to the ogradys and pj/sonia, the moreton fam, and the owens
pic 8: duces kinard!
pic 9: reunion with miner before he flies back to the promised land!
pic 10: sweet golf course we live near

pic 11: in the front, the homies kinnunen and langi, in the back we got your boy DV and elder mason




Monday, June 12, 2017

cardiff on the rise and grind! (Week 43 Wylde Green, England, transfer to Rhiwbina, Wales)

Family and friends,

What's on the up and up guys! I do have to start this out with some major bday shoutouts! Happy birthday this week to my mom, sister Halle, my brotha Jake, my grandma Alice, my cousin Troy, and my uncle Jeff! Sorry if I missed out on anyone! But I love you guys and hope you have a fantastic birthday!

This last week was a total rager here in Wylde Green, I don't know how it could've been a better week to end on! So I'll just include a few of the many cool things that happened this past week like...elder Kinard and I were about to go knocking doors in an area somewhat near the chapel when all of the sudden I felt like we needed to branch out and knock doors in an area we hadn't gone to in ages, so we were walking around in this random part of our area which we weren't too familiar with, and we passed a street called Hanson Bridge, I thought of one of my friends whose name is hanson and after a few minutes since passing it, I felt strongly we needed to knock that street. A few doors in and some guy with no shirt opens the door and said he was sleeping cuz he was sick, well we get talking and he's had some amazing experiences with the church in the past when he lived in Hong Kong, in fact he believed everything about the restoration and said his only concern was the question "why do bad things happen to good people?" Well we have the answer to that! We set up a time for this upcoming week to meet up with him, probably the most solid return appointment I've made on my mission.

Another kinda funny thing, we were walking to the train station and we started talking to this guy who is big into acting in local plays, turns out he is John Bytheway's (Mormon speaker) second or third cousin. We met with him later on in the week and it went pretty well, he gave us Indian Tonic Water. It was by far the worst thing I've had to drink on my mission, just acting like it tasted good and then he gave us a litre of it which we used to prank pj and aiden! 

We had district meeting in Walsall which was nice, did exchanges with elder hill which was fun as always. We were knocking doors and this 16 year old kid let us into his house and we were starting to get into the discussion when all of the sudden his mom walks in, pretty surprised to see two American missionaries in her kitchen, and she ended up politely kicking us out, it was interesting to say the least.

On Saturday I was asked to give a 10 minute talk the next day in church, usually I wouldn't stress to much over that, but when the topic is on the importance of Sunday school attendance, I had absolutely no clue where to even start. After a ton of preparation I think I did a pretty good talk, I should get a medal for giving a 10 minute talk on that. If you wanna read it email me and I'll send it to you!

Notable mentions:
-we did some service for brother Owen and his work which was cleaning out an abandoned house, which had a sick backyard. We left out scrap metal in the front yard and there were like 3 random guys with trucks who showed up and all wanted the metal. I felt like I was in the drug cartel for metal...
-it was week one of Japanese June for the young men so we had a culture night and ate a bunch of Japanese food!

Sorry for making you all read this far to find out the transfer info! So I'll be moving to Rhiwbina Wales tomorrow! It's right next to Cardiff which is the capital of wales. I'll be follow up training elder mason, from Utah, so I'm pretty excited! I was even more hyped to hear that the hoop sessions are unreal there because they have a full basketball court so I'm gonna be balling up even more! Can't hold me back!

Elder Saban said in the last general conference "When we are fully committed and “all in,” heaven shakes for our good. When we are lukewarm or only partially committed, we lose out on some of heaven’s choicest blessings." Don't be only partially in on following Jesus Christ! Be all in! Change whatever you need to change to be all in, blessings and happiness will follow as you commit to being all in, in all you do!

I love you guys and hope you have a lit week cuz I know I'm about to! πŸ˜˜

Elder Varner

pics 1-2: squad up
pics 3-4: scrap metal cartel
pic 4: the fells
pic 5: bruce robertson
pic 6: johnbytheways cousin
pic 7: sick church in sutton
pic 8: YM
pic 9: walmley golf club
pic 10: the pughs
pic 11: danny 

video 1: japanese june


Monday, June 5, 2017

i ain't done here yet! (week 42, Wylde Green, England)

Family and friends,

I can't believe it's flipping June already! That's so crazy! A big congrats to all the homies who graduated high school last week! This week had some ups and some downs, as does every week. I think one of the most applicable song quotes out there for my time here is "I've had the highest mountains, I've had the deepest rivers, you can have it all but life keeps moving", it's so important to just keep a good attitude about everything cuz we don't get to choose what life throws at us! 

The work for us this last week was a rough one, we had to stop meeting with a lot of our investigators out here because they either lost interest or wouldn't keep their commitments so this upcoming week is all about the rebuilding of our teaching pool! But I'm hyped! There's so much potential for this rebuilding time! I know that as we continue to work our hardest like we have been, and keep relying on god, good things will come!

We got to do exchanges with the Walsall Elders and the Zone leaders this past week. I went with elder scanlan for the first exchange in Walsall. He's from New Zealand and is such a beast missionary! We had to feed some lady's cat and she said if he wasn't inside we'd have to let him in, well the cat wasn't in the flat, so we went out to the front yard and saw a black cat, so for 20 minutes or so we tried luring this cat into the flat with snacks and stuff but we kept scaring it away, eventually we gave up only to realise that her cat was just hiding in another room and we tried luring in some totally random street cat...

The second exchange was with elder opheikens who is a beast as well. Me and him went to Wolverhampton where we got to knock doors and visit some less active members. We had knocked like five doors and then all of the sudden we had realised that we hadn't said a prayer to start out so we prayed and then bam! the next door we knocked was a really cool Christian family from Ghana that let us in and share the restoration with them. It was a really cool lesson and the kids were super in to it! The dad even called the Book of Mormon the word of god and prayed for us in the closing prayer!

Random funny story: we were standing outside someone's house waiting to go to a dinner which was around the corner, and all of the sudden this big African guy comes out of his house and says "hey are you guys from the Mormon brotherhood?" He then led a ten minute discussion, where only he talked, about how we shouldn't call anyone African Americans unless we start calling ourselves European Americans. To be fair, he was a cool guy in the end, and he acted all star struck when he found out I was from Orange County.

We had some sick dinners at members houses this week like the maces and the robertsons! This ward is amazing, transfer calls are next week. I'll be sad to leave if I have to, but I'm ready for something new as well. This upcoming week is gonna be great and I'm gonna work as hard as I can so I can leave this place with a bang! I ain't done here yet!

This week I followed the homie's lead, Trevor thompson, and started studying from the addiction recovery program Manuel and that thing is pure gold! The first step to overcoming any weakness, whether it be an addiction or just a weakness of ours, is to be honest with ourselves and with god. Ether 12:27 says if we humble ourselves before god, he will make our weaknesses become strengths, I'd encourage you all to take the harder path and recognise your weaknesses and rely on god, because he will help you if you have an open heart!

Have a great week guys, pray for the world, we all really need it at a time like this, that attack in London last weekend was tragic. Spread peace and love and remember that I love you guys! 

Elder Varner

Sent from my iPad

pics 1-2: squad goals
pic 3: maces DA
pic 4: the home boy ashwell
pic 5: the things we run into while tracting...
pic 6: reunion with campbell
video 1: frogs be like...
video 2: bday punches for elder kinard

video 3: tim tam slam!




Monday, May 29, 2017

good touches galore! (week 41, Wylde Green, England)

Family and friends,

I just wanted to start out by asking you all to pray for everyone affected by the devastating terrorist attack in Manchester this past week. These kind of attacks are always tragic, but this attack on the people of this country seemed a bit more personal to me this time, I've grown to love the English people and that kind of attack truly is devastating. Despite that tragedy and also feeling extra sick this week, I absolutely loved this last week.

On Wednesday morning I woke up with a knarly cold and its lasted all the way til now. There were some hard moments in the last few days, but I had an absolute blast and it was cool to see the stuff that happened! So none of our current investigators answered the phone or their doors this past week so we were left with a lot of finding time. Elder Kinard's bike tire is flat right now so we walked everywhere, we wandered over ten miles last Tuesday alone in the lone and dreary wilderness of Sutton Coldfield. Now that might sound miserable, and in the moment it was, but we talked to everyone because we were walking rather than biking. We saw so many miracles from that and got so many "good touches" as my homie Trevor Thompson would say it! We left so many people with good impressions of the church and of Jesus Christ, hopefully one day that will lead to something!

One cool miracle we had was leading up to to a dinner, we had about 20 minutes to knock doors, and at the end we decided to do just one more. Satan didn't like that and he even put a devilish cat right in front of that last door. Courageously we pressed onward and the man who opened the door was interested in learning more and reading the Book of Mormon. It truly was a fourth floor last door kind of miracle, at least in the moment!

I got a kind of funny story this week, so we were walking near this playground where 15 or so chav kids who were all about 15/16 years old were just chilling in their natural habitat. Elder Kinard dared me to go up and yell out a gospel principle to all of them so we could do a bunch of invitations to learn at once so I went up to the fence surrounding the playground and yelled out "hey guys, who wants to talk about Jesus?" They all said no but we still got talking and once they heard our American accents they all slowly started gathering to the fence and then all of the sudden we had the whole group as captive listeners. Me and this one kid named Alex got in a good conversation about the restoration and basketball meanwhile the other kids were just pestering elder Kinard with questions about the law of chastity and questions of that sort. After like ten minutes we said we had to go and offered pass along cards and they all screamed and ran at us like we were handing out autographs. Then we told them we were all gonna take a selfie and they all screamed even louder than before, I got a pic attached because picture or it didn't happen...

We had all sorts of cool stuff this week like district meeting and district finding, it being in the low 80s for most of the week, dinner appointments, church, knocking doors, Sutton Park round 3, and more, but nothing too out of the ordinary. Despite some hard moments, I was able to remain pretty optimistic throughout the week which was nice. Having an optimistic attitude is a choice that we have to make day to day. Gordon B Hinckley said once "We have every reason to be optimistic in this world. Tragedy is around, yes. Problems everywhere, yes. But … you can’t, you don’t, build out of pessimism or cynicism. You look with optimism, work with faith, and things happen. Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for the sunlight through the clouds. Opportunities will eventually open to you. Cultivate an attitude of happiness. Cultivate a spirit of optimism. Walk with faith, rejoicing in the beauties of nature, in the goodness of those you love, in the testimony which you carry in your heart concerning things divine" We need more optimism in the world and less pessimism. Being negative will never get you anywhere, keep your head up and push through the hard times with faith and always look out for the good things in life, that's applicable to those who are Mormon and those who are not.

Well i gotta run so I can go get my jammer on in Walsall! I was down 12-0 last week and I came back and won 21-13! Haters can just fredette about it! I love you guys, congrats to all of you cool kids who are graduating this week, have a lit week and don't fredette that elder V loves you! Look unto Christ in every thought, doubt not, fear not πŸ˜˜

Elder Varner

pics 1-2: with the brotha danny
pic 3: chavs galore
pic 4: elder ey and athey
pic 5-8: countryside photo shoot

Monday, May 22, 2017

the boy who cried wolf (Week 40, Wylde Green, England)

Family and Friends,

What's on the up and up guys?! Hope you are all doing well, I miss you all loads so hit me up with an email if you haven't talked to me in awhile. I hit my nine month mark of being in the UK last week. I can't believe it's already been that long, sometimes it feels like i was living life back home a month ago and sometimes it feels like I've been out here my entire life. This last week was a good one, as always, it had its ups and downs but just gotta keep my head up during the downs and enjoy the good times!

Last week I got to do exchanges again with elder hill, it's a lot of fun being in the same district as someone from back home, but boy is it weird at the same time. We had a good time knocking doors in the dumping rain though. We dropped off our bikes at a members house on Tuesday night and when we went to pick them up they invited us in to celebrate their son's birthday so we got hamburgers, root beer, and cake to end off that night! Rack up another tender mercy!!!

A member in the ward referred an older gentleman to us, named Jxxohn, we've visited him twice now, he's a nice old chap and he should be coming out to church with us this upcoming Saturday, he misses going to church and feeling that kind of community. We did a lot of finding but for the most part, our teaching pool hasn't been too great at keeping their commitments. It's kinda disappointing on Sundays when no one shows up, but I just keep my head up because I know we are working our tails off and the Lord knows that, good things are ahead!

We went to Sutton Park again to talk to people. Sutton Park is one of the largest parks in the UK and it's sick. We were probably only 150 yards into the park when all of the sudden we saw a group of cows just chilling like 15 feet away from us. We then started talking to some people when all of the sudden, and I swear on my life we both saw this, two wolves in the distance. The cows got all scared and stood up as well, the wolves or whatever they were then ran into the woods. I'm being completely honest about that, because everyone here has told us that there is no chance we saw a wolf in Sutton Park. I guess I'm just the boy who cried wolf.

We had a good lesson with PxxJ and Dxxanny about the priesthood. PxxJ is so hooked on family history right now! He spent like 7 hours at the family history centre this past week! His life is lit right now! Haha. We had some good DA's this past week, especially at the Robertson family! We had interviews with president and sister Leppard and also district meeting the same day. I love P-Leppard! He hooked me up with some sweet sections in D&C! Our district meeting/interviews got delayed like two hours because...they found an active WW2 bomb next to the Aston train station, which we go over every time we go to Walsall. They found it a few minutes after we left Aston last Monday to go to Walsall so we had to have the zone leaders give us a lift back to Wylde Green. They covered the bomb with tons of sand and blew it up but you could hear it all the way from Wylde Green. Those Germans are back at it again!

One really cool experience from this week was on our way to Sutton Park, and on the map I decided to go in the entrance of the park that was near a golf course (I love golf) but I felt pretty good about that route. On the way to the park on that route, we ran into a lady who broke down in tears as we talked to her about the plan of salvation, her mom had passed away recently. She didn't want to meet up again, but I know with all my heart she was touched by the spirit as we testified to her that she would live with her mom again. As we continued walking I felt like we needed to cross the street where we immediately ran into a young man named Rxxeece. When we asked when he'd want to meet up again, he said "well I'm free right now". It caught me off guard, but we got to teach him the restoration and at the end of the lesson, before we could ask for a return appointment, he asked "when can we meet up again?" It was an amazing experience. 

Just a quick ending: president uchtdorf gave a conference talk a few years back on self evaluation, and in it he said "In these simple words, “Lord, is it I?” lies the beginning of wisdom and the pathway to personal conversion and lasting change." When we look inwards and focus on where we can improve rather than pointing out the faults in others, that's when we will grow and improve. There comes no growth through pointing fingers. It takes humbling ourselves and asking the Lord to help us recognise our weaknesses and asking him to help them become strengths. He will certainly help, but never discourage. 

Well I hope you all have a good week! I'm excited for another week out here in the land of rain! Let's get hyped this week and let's get it! Love you guys! πŸ˜˜

Look unto Christ in every thought, doubt not, fear not 

Elder Varner

Sent from my iPad

pic 1: the homie hill
pics 2-4 and video 1: sutton park
pic 5: robertson DA, theres like three robertson families in this ward and they are all related
pic 6: boxing on someones door step with random gloves
pic 7: chillin with bowen

video 2: some of you will understand this, some of you are gonna be hecka confused



Monday, May 15, 2017

No Mormons! Happy Mother's Day (Week 39, 9 Months, Wilde Green, England)

Family and Friends,

What is on the up and up? It was so weird getting to Skype home again yesterday (shoutout to the fam ft Ben and josh)! To all those who weren't on the Skype call, you can ask my dad to see the video of it if you're interested, but it went well other than some technical difficulties! I really took family for granted back home but I hope you guys all know I really do love you!

This week was popping, we had a good time despite most of our investigators being so flaky. This upcoming week we are gonna work more with members and seeking refferals and working with formers and cool stuff like that. Speaking of refferals, we went to visit an online refferal and when we got there, a sign that said "No Mormons!" was on the door, we knocked but they weren't in haha. We had to drop Axxlex from our teaching pool, it was really sad actually, his doubts overcame his desire to continue his journey. One of the hardest things for me is dropping investigators from our teaching pool because I grow to love them so much and it breaks my heart when they choose to stop progressing towards Jesus Christ. Our friends never showed up to church yesterday which was kinda rough, I wish people would just be honest with us and tell us if they are interested or not. But...we did have some amazing lessons this past week. One was with a guy named Clive, we were teaching him the restoration on his door step and he seemed pretty hesitant to keep listening to us, until we told him we have a modern prophet on the earth today, his eyes lit up like a little kid seeing the ice cream man, it was such a cool experience. We also met with a couple, Kxxeith and Dyyianne, they are in their late 40s/early 50s, and they are some of my favourite people I've met out here so far, they are so cool and genuine. Them and their daughter said they are gonna try to make it out to church this coming Sunday so keep them in your prayers!

Most people we run into here don't like America a ton but last week we met a guy named Rxxeece, with a stage name of Nikkyi Freece, he's a rapper and he was way cool, he loves the states, and didn't even ask us about the T-word, or in other words Trump. 

For those following my health extravaganza, I went to the doctor this past week and I'll be on omeprasole for the next 2 weeks to 2 months and if I don't feel better on it I'm in for lots of blood tests, but I just keep reminding myself that I need to trust in God's timetable. We ate at a place in the city centre called Mission Burrito, such good Mexican food! 

We went to Sutton Park, one of the biggest parks in the U.K., to talk to people and it was such a sick park! As we were walking to our bikes through this middle of nowhere part of the park, a car pulled up to us, there was three Islamic guys in there smoking weed and they told us to come over and talk to them. If that wasn't a red flag enough to get the fetch out of there, then them trying to convert us to Islam should have been, I must've thought I was in a different world because I gave them our number and didn't realise how stupid I was until we walked away.

Also we got to do exchanges with the zone leaders this past week, I went with elder o'peikens from Utah. We spent most of our time in Wolverhampton, boy I miss city centres for talking to people, it was so nice. When all four of us were walking into the city centre one night, I randomly stopped this young chav, someone who I usually wouldn't think of stopping, and he actually was receptive and said he'd be interested in reading the Book of Mormon. Goes to show that you never know who is receptive to hearing the gospel so don't hold it back!

I know this email is already long enough but I wanna end again with this quote: "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters--my dear friends--please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." When we have doubts, we can't feed those doubts by wasting our time looking into material that will destroy our faith. If a plant was dying, you'd water it, not put poison on it. It's the same principle for having doubts in the gospel, don't stop trying to grow your faith through scripture study and prayer. If you feel your faith is already gone, it's not too late to regrow that faith you once had, Christ is always there with open arms.

I fetching love you all. Look unto Christ in every thought, doubt not, fear not πŸ˜˜

Elder Varner

pics 1-2: skype is HYPE!
pic 3: prayer time!
pics 4-5: zone for life
pics 6-7: wolverhampton with the homie opeikens
pic 8: sutton park!
pic 9: nikkyi freece
pic 10: danny boy
pic 11: nick and alicia
pic 12: robertson fam
pic 13: birmingham love
pic 14: not welcome

vid 1: game of 21