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 😘

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! 😘

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 😘

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

ballidino (Week 38, Wylde Green, England)

Family and friends and fellow byu fans,
This week was one full of high highs and low lows. There were days this week that felt like they took weeks and then days that just flew by, thanks for tuning into another episode across the pond!

I'll start out with some of the good stuff: our district now includes me, elder Kinard, elder scanlon, elder hill, sister funk, and sister funk's greenie who will be coming in tomorrow. It's a pretty fun district and the next transfer should be a good one! We had district meeting last week and I gave a training on enduring to the end, following that we did some district finding in the Walsall town centre, me and elder hill were together for that. As part of district finding we did finding Bingo, I'll send a picture of an example of that kind of bingo sheet, but it's for talking to people. We talked to a guy who had the same name as elder hill, like his name was Ben hill, it was uncanny.

We had some good lessons this last week with some investigators, a good new person we are working with is a lady named Dyyenise, she is from Ireland, super cool, but didn't come to church yesterday, none of our investigators came to church which was kinda disappointing. We got flogged (where people bail on an appointment without telling us) a ton this week, left and right. It was hard not to get discouraged, and on top of that I've felt pretty sick the last week. I finally stopped taking lansoprazole on Saturday and i already feel a bit better which is nice, I'm going to the doctor again tomorrow so hopefully we will finally get somewhere. Any advice on just staying hopeful and positive would be very welcomed. I think I've managed to stay pretty positive through it all but there have been some low moments this week. As always, that song called balidino has helped me keep hopeful when it says "I believe that there is light up ahead", I've really been holding onto that.

Alright enough negative stuff, last p-day for our last one of the transfer we went to a really sketchy bowling ally in Walsall, it was only 5 quid (dollars) for two rounds of it, but it was super obvious why it was only that much, the bumpers would randomly come up, sometimes it wouldn't reload pins, it was a disaster but we still managed to have a good time! To fix one of the bumpers, elder campbell ran out to the middle of the lanes and some big worker came out and was ticked off. I believe That guy was a drug dealer I swear, we thing that the place is a money launderer.

We had plenty of dinners this last week with people like pj and Sonia, the ogradys, the poxon family, and the Owens. This ward is prime! We also taught seminary again which was fun as always. It's cool to be in a ward where we can help the youth, and there's a lot of them. The young men's president complimented us on how much our work with the young men is helping and it was just so nice to hear that we are making a difference with some of them. I know I loved going out with the missionaries back home before leaving and it helped me so much, so I'm thrilled to give back a little here. 

I really felt gods love this week in several hard moments. One moment where I felt this love was in a lesson and the person asked why we call god "Heavenly Father", and I teared up a bit as I bore my testimony that god truly is our father, that he cares about us so much more than we could ever comprehend, he loves us like a father loves his children because he is our father. Another moment where I felt his love was in church as we were singing "count your blessings". I was blessed to see things for a moment with a better eternal perspective.

For a spiritual thought I just really want to bear my testimony that god loves us so much, he's happy when we are happy, he's devastated when we are sad and discouraged, he wants to hear from us and we can really communicate with him through prayer. Even if you haven't spoken with him in months or years, he still wants to hear from each of you, his love is infinite. One of his greatest acts of love was giving his only begotten son, Jesus Christ. He wants us all to succeed and to come back to him to live with him forever. No matter how far you feel you are from him, if you turn to him he will be waiting there with open and loving arms.

I hope you guys have a good week, I'll try to do the same! Happy mothers day to all you mothers out there and mother figures! Shout-out to my grandma Alice and my grandma Jayne and also my step mom Joy who is awesome! Crazy that I'm skyping home again this Sunday! Love you all! I mean that! Have a lit week!

Elder Varner

Sent from my iPad

pics 1-2: last pics with the crew
pic 3: 'merica! 
pic 4: the new squad!
pic 5: the homie ben hill ft random hippie ben hill
pic 6: THE COOLEST VIEW EVER which we ride past every morning
pic 7-8: DAs at PJs

video 1: swing still on point

Monday, May 1, 2017

#stayingforafourth (Week 37, Wylde Green, England)

what's good guys,

thanks to everyone who emailed last week. you guys are the best and I love you all! So transfer calls came yesterday and I'm...staying another transfer with elder Kinard! Third one with him and fourth in this area! Elder Hill is getting elder scanlan, he was here a few weeks ago if you check out my older emails. And two sisters are moving into the district. Elder Campbell is going to the promised land of wales, and I was called as DL for the district, which I'm both excited for, and way nervous for. But I'm excited for the opportunity to grow and help others and also be humbled. This upcoming transfer should be LIT!

I was expecting to leave this area so I'm pretty excited to get another one here. We worked super hard this last week and we found eight new people to teach for this upcoming week and a few of them are wayyy solid. More to come soon on that! We did a lot of knocking doors this last week and it went a lot better than usual. During district finding I went knocking with elder hill and we played this game where the other person tells you a word to say while talking to someone on the doorstep, so the first one for me was the word grape. This lady answered and I opened by saying "how are you doing?" She responded. And I went in to complete the challenge and said "that's grape!" I don't think she even noticed, but that game keeps me way more enthusiastic while at the door. I had several really cool experiences this week with following promptings so I thought I'd share one, so we had like twenty minutes to knock some doors and we had to pick which end of the street to start on because we wouldn't have time to do it all, I felt like we should knock on one end of it and the first door we knocked, the guy invited us to come back this week and he was pretty interested in the Book of Mormon. I'm so happy that I was able to not only recognise that prompting, but also act on it. As elder Rasband said in conference, act on every prompting. 

We got to play volleyball with all the youth on Tuesday night which was a blast, this ward is amazing, and the youth are so cool. I could stay here my whole mission and I'd be loving life. Before volleyball we also went with elder Bowen and opiekens, the zone leaders, to a sweet dessert place which is coincidentally called "Sweet!" We also found an amazing chicken place called Piri Fino! It kinda reminds me of the Habit from back home but chicken instead of burgers! Being in there reminded me of all the times I grabbed grub with the homie chad boberg before the mish! Also a major bday shoutout to him this week! And to my cousin dallin! Hope you both have baller birthdays!

The weather was flipping weird this last week. We had all four seasons, it was hot sometimes, and then it snowed. On Tuesday it was pretty nice in the morning and then we were walking up to the train station later on, and it started snowing/hailing so hard. I could hardly see in front of me. It felt like the blizzard in monsters inc at the end. But overall I'd pick snow/hail over rain any day.

I gave a talk in church on missionary work and how there is no better service than sharing the gospel with others. Every fifth Sunday in this ward is missionary themed so I spoke, elder kinard spoke, and elder vieter spoke! Again I love this ward and the members in it! We had dinner appointments six days last week and again this week! Shoutout to all the people who fed us last week: the masons, pj/Sonia, the fells, the hammonds, Danny, and the OGradys, and the Pughs! The only bad thing that's happening is my stomach is just awful, I'm never actually sick, but I always feel crappy and the lansoprazole isn't doing much, but I'm seeing the doctor next week so hopefully it'll get figured out soon. I just need to have faith and patience. I think of when Jospeh smith was in prison, he had done nothing wrong, but was in some of the worst of conditions. He asked God where he was hiding. He felt so alone and so abandoned. Then the lord told him "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment" and "know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever." We all have trials in life, we all have times where we feel like we are totally alone and there is no hope, but because of Jesus Christ we can endure those trials and eventually everything will work for good for us if we are faithful. Enduring to the end is the hardest thing we are asked to do, but we aren't alone.

Much love to you all from the happiest missionary in England,

Elder Varner

pics 1-3: the crew in its final week
pic 4: FHE with the masons
pic 5: the ogradys
pics 6-7: "sweet!" with the homies opeikens and bowen
pics 8-9: sick views
video 1: monopoly champion 

Sent from my iPad