Monday, December 18, 2017

A Truly Texan Week

I am LOVING Brenham TX. Let me tell you why!

The people here are industrious and kind, creative and principled. Most of them are converts to the gospel, so while they may have some small misconceptions, they have a zeal for missionary work and a love for the gospel. I love the people in this little branch.

Brenham is truly different than anywhere else I have served. Houston is really on a giant swamp, and at most any natural feature is 15 feet higher than the lowest point in town. There are no hills; the land is as flat as a mosquito infested pancake. That's a big part of why the flooding during Harvey was so bad.

To contrast, Brenham is in what is called “the Texas hill country”. It's really not much more “hilly” than anywhere else in the country, but it's a sight bumpier than Houston! 

While many of the buildings in town are pushing 100 years old, the city recently commissioned artists to come paint murals on the big, ugly, empty exterior walls and facades of the businesses in downtown. Some of the murals are REALLY cool - see the attached pictures - and it really brightens the otherwise dreary appearance of the shopping district.

Because of the industry here - oil, farming, manufacturing - trains run through town constantly. (I stinkin’ love trains, and our apartment is literally next to the tracks)

Much of our area is rolling hills - pasture for cattle or fields of hay. There are some wooded areas in-between, but not much. And what the members do with their property out here is just the COOLEST. They just have a different attitude about living and land.

A lot of the members build their own houses, and almost all maintain their own properties. They often live in a palacious farm house on 40 or 50 acres, on gravel or dirt roads 20 mins or so from town. Many of the members have animals ranging from the exotic like guinea fowl and ostriches to the more common cows and pigs. There apparently aren't any watershed laws here either, because half of the owners of these country properties dig a big pit to make a bass pond about 50 feet square - complete with tiny dock, of course. The cherry on top is that if you have something like 100 yards of consecutive property, you can legally fire a gun on it.

I would NEVER move to Houston, but Brenham is making me think hard about Texas!

And I admire the men here tremendously. They're all so talented and multifaceted! In our ward we have a rodeo roping star (our just released branch president), a gold prospector who was on that TV show a few years ago, a sculptor, and an equestrian specialist running a ranch with boarding for 50+ horses, whose wife is a renowned expert is some rare veterinary procedure involving horse fertilization - I think it's some kind of in-vitro breeding technique? 

The members here are the coolest!

But let me tell you about Blinn College - the only part of Brenham that I don't like. Texas A&M is an hour away from here. It's a good school, and somewhat difficult to get accepted into. Students there are called “Aggies”.

Blinn is easy to be accepted into. It doesn't have great academic accreditation. Students at Blinn are called “homies”. 

Get the picture?

There are parts of this town that are more 'hood than I was expecting - owing to Blinn college being here. A lot of our time is spent visiting people who have requested a free Bible online from and consequently, we spend a lot of time with people in sad situations who really don't understand (and sometimes don't care) how to change their circumstances. It's different than the urban poor I've seen so much of, but really the really the root problems are generally the same - alcohol, marijuana, lack of role models, and a twisted sense of sexuality.

And then, every so often, we get to go and visit a family out in the country, and the sounds and problems of the city are gone. The fog of car exhaust, weed, and cigarette smoke are replaced by the smells of hay and fresh air. What a blessing!

One night we made it out far enough that I thought I could faintly see the milky way for the first time on my mission. That same night we got to see an Armadillo! Apparently they're little menaces. I don't know about that, but they sure can run faster than I expected! That little bugger went into a loping gallop before I could get a picture of him.

Have a great week y’all!

Elder Derek Troy

P.S.  Allan got baptized! I found him and taught him most of his lessons, but got transferred and couldn't be there for his baptism. I heard it went awesome! No pics so far though, sadly.

Elder Troy happened upon a family member of a friend of our family.  Small world!

Houston Texas Temple after the snow storm of last week.

Elder Troy and his district made Christmas cookies for their neighbors.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

‘A snowball's chance in Texas’ OR ‘Congratulations! It's an Elder!’

Here is Elder Troy's new address if you'd like to send him a Christmas card or letter:

Elder Derek Allen Troy
1120 Green St, Apt #3
Brenham, TX 77833


Howdy Y’all! 

This last week has been INCREDIBLE!

I was complaining on Tuesday on the drive to transfer meeting (while I still didn't know where I was going) that I would be okay going anywhere in the mission but College Station. For those who don't know, that's the town where Texas A&M University is, and the last place I wanted to go. It's nicknamed ‘temptation station’! There are just so many distractions there I did NOT want to deal with. 

On the drive over with Elder Johnson, he joked that I would go to the College Station zone, to finish training Elder Taylor's (who just finished his two years of service) trainee. We both laughed, because this was very unlikely. I hadn't trained yet, and had never been in that zone, let alone district, so I wouldn't take over the area with a new trainee.

Well, It's funny how things work out! I’m now finishing the training of Elder Airth, from Rexburg ID in the little town of Brenham TX. For missionaries, there's a lot of funny culture around training. When you're on your first day in the mission, you're “born”. Your trainer is your ‘dad’ and when you finish your mission you 'die’.

I guess Elder Airth is my adopted son?

THANKFULLY, I'm not in College Station proper. 

Brenham is the home of Blue Bell ice cream (which is a big deal in Texas) It's also the sort of little town where more than half of the men wear cowboy boots to church every Sunday, and a good number of them wear bluejeans with them.

It's a branch (a congregation too small to get the funding and organization of a Ward. Congregations of 60-80 instead of 150-300) with a very cool, quirky old building. The property adjacent is a small pasture with horses. On our drive to meet with the rest of the district each week, we drive past cotton fields - something I'd never seen before.

I was just settling into (and enjoying!) this new rural area, when we had another shock:


This is the most it's snowed in Texas for about 20 years. We got a good 3 inches or so. Elder Airth and I took advantage of the opportunity and built a snowman with some neighbors. I finally had a good excuse to use the snow gloves I packed over a year ago!

I was sad to leave our 3 baptismal dates that we set in Westlake, but this area already has one at least! His name is Roy, and he has a 1947 Jeep pickup and likes motorcycles. We're gonna get along great!

Have a blessed week Y’all, and Merry Christmas!

Elder Derek Troy

Monday, December 4, 2017

A week of Blessings! And a transfer.

Hey Y’all! 

It has been a super blessed week here in Westlake! I'll be sad to see it go, because I've really enjoyed the members here, but I also enjoy the opportunity that moving gives me to reinvent and recommit myself. I won't know where I'm headed until late Tuesday morning.

This week has been Amazing. We had lessons with two investigators in different households, Delethia and Enedelia, who both accepted baptismal dates for Dec 30th! We gave Allan (who we set a date with last week) to the YSA (a congregation specifically for young single persons 18-30 years old) missionaries and it sounds like he's fitting right in! He'll be getting baptized on the 16th

To set three dates with three different households in two weeks is super blessed! I'll be sad to leave so that I can't see their conversions through, but I'm very happy to say this area is the strongest I've seen it.

Delethia's baptismal date was unusual. She couldn't meet in person before heading out to work, but we managed to fit in a meeting over Facebook Messenger's video chat feature. Can't say I've ever set a baptismal date over facebook before, but it was a super cool experience! 

I'm sad to say goodbye to Elder Simmons too, but I know the Lord has plans for me that can only be accomplished with my next area. I just hope I'm not on bike any more! Haha!

This week I studied a lot out of the Old Testament (my favorite) and read start to finish the books of Nehemiah, Ezra, and a few others. I studied specifically looking for the Sabbath day. It's unusual that we seem to be in a peculiar minority that keeps the Sabbath day holy and thus obtains its promised blessings. How can a city, state, and nation which claims (admittedly less often all the time) to be Christian ignore this member of the ten commandments?

Nehemiah 13:15-18 repeats what we learned in Exodus 20:10,  which teaches us that we should not do our labors on the Sabbath, nor require others to work on the Sabbath, nor even buy nor sell at all, for this requires others to work and profane the Sabbath. It's interesting that in Exodus, it goes so far as to teach that you shouldn't even make your cattle work on the Sabbath!

Before my mission, I had no problem pumping myself gas on Sunday, or buying something online, since it seems that nobody has to work to make those purchases, but with what we learn from Nehemiah I think I'll change that!

The Westlake ward finishes services at 5:30, so when we're driving home to change clothes and to go serve and proselyte, we drive past a dozen restaurants at dinner time each Sundays. It's unsettling to see several hundred thousand (maybe even a million or more?) people in this city go to church each week, and then an army of suits and dresses walking in at all of the BBQ joints immediately thereafter in what has become the southern tradition of Sunday dinner with the congregation. Truly this is the sin that The Lord warned Jeremiah against, when he cautioned:

“then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.”

I know that as we keep the Sabbath day holy, ‘turning from, nor finding thine own pleasure’ (watching the super-bowl/Sunday night football, anyone?) We will receive the blessings promised God's people (which is specifically the people who keep the sabbath in the first place, see Ex. 31:16-17) in Ezekiel:

‘I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father’  

Truly it is a generous God who blesses us all seven days of the week yet requires we completely devote only one to him. And truly it is a selfish and ungrateful man who cannot hallow the Sabbath once he understands this. I've committed myself to honor the Sabbath day for the rest of my life and invite you all to do the same.

Have a great week Y’all!

Elder Derek Troy

Elder Baker's Funeral (note the district's coordination, all wearing black!) 

A Parking garage we stopped at for pictures, to improve our moods after a car full of... hoodlums... yelled and swerved at us. Interesting how people behave when they know they can get away/escape. Anonymity does funny things to people.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Thanksgiving and visit?

CAUTION!  Gross pictures ahead.  I’m not sending the hospital videos he sent.  Look at your own risk…


Friends and Family,

No email from Elder Troy this week, just lots of pictures and videos.  

As you may have heard, we got a phone call on Thanksgiving morning from a member of the Church that he had taken Elder Troy to the hospital (yes, REALLY!).  Apparently, he and his companion Elder Simmons were playing touch football with some investigators and a few young men from church.  Unfortunately, the “touch” football went awry and his chin met another player’s head.  A complete accident.  A large gash was the result and he needed a few stitches to fix it.  Stitches done and a nice bandage later and he’s good to go to Thanksgiving dinner!

Last we heard he may have been transferred, so we do not know his new apartment address yet.  We will have more information when he emails this coming Monday.

Many of you have asked where and what to send to Elder Troy for Christmas.  He doesn’t need candy, ties or socks.  He told me to tell everyone that he’d LOVE personal letters and pictures from you all.  They are the best gifts you could send!  (If you just REALLY want to send something, gift cards to Walmart for laundry soap are most appreciated!)

The address to send any letters or packages is the mission home:

Elder Derek Allen Troy
Texas Houston Mission
16623 Hafer Rd.
Houston, TX  77090-4401

Thank you for your love and prayers for our son.  We appreciate you all so much!


JD & Terri

Post-injury at the Thanksgiving Bowl.  He’s already holding a towel over his chin.

Waiting to be seen.

Companion through thick and thin!  

Ewww.  Stitched up!

Later at a member’s home for Thanksgiving prep.

Those aprons are pretty cute!

Eating their hard work.

At another member’s home this week.

Parking garage somewhere in Cypress, TX.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Stacking Shenanigans

Hey Y’all! 

I know it's been a while since the last real group Email, so I'll make this one a little more detailed.

Call me the master stacker. I'm occasionally on the phone late into the night, planning and organizing with other missionaries. Elder Simmons will fall asleep on the couch sometimes, waiting for me. It's always a challenge to get him to wake up and go to bed once he's out on the couch - this man is the deepest sleeper I have ever met. I have come up with some elaborate schemes to wake him. 

I warned him that I was going to see how many things I could stack on top of him without him waking up. Turns out that's 11 boxes of various sizes, a suitcase, and a bicycle helmet on his head. Picture included. He didn’t wake up until it started to topple. (TO SEE THE VIDEO, GO TO THE FAMILY BLOG:  troyfamilytales)

I am still Elder Simmons’ companion for at least for the next two weeks or so. I expect to be transferred out then. I've enjoyed the three transfers here (my longest so far) and really enjoy the members here especially, but I'm excited for a change. I really enjoy the opportunity I have to reinvent and recommit myself when I change areas/companions.

We recently found an investigator named Allan who accepted a baptismal date! I'm excited for him - he's been reading his Book of Mormon like crazy - 13 chapters in 6 days - and has already come to church twice. He's set to be baptized on Oct. 16th.

We'll probably hand him over to the Sister Missionaries covering the YSA though, since he's 20, so he can get better fellowshipping with that ward. This will be the second baptism that I have set and given to the YSA sisters in this area :(

I feel like I'm really figuring out now what it takes to succeed. We're progressing people, I know I'm helping my companion, and I know I'm strengthening this ward - the young men in particular.

I haven't emailed so much lately because I'm starting to get into a rhythm. Each day flows efficiently into the next. Some of the experiences I'd had before which were then novel miracles are becoming every-day tender mercies. The Lord is so merciful and so good to us.

I've been pondering today 1 Nephi 17:6-7. I believe the Lord gives us our easiest periods in life (when we are happy/content and everything seems to be going well) right before our greatest challenges. Thus when we can see that we are most blessed, we have an opportunity to prepare for what is to come - in the case of Nephi, building a ship (when the ancient Israelites were miserable sailors and shipbuilders, according to our archaeological evidence) and crossing the perilous ‘great waters’. 

I hope everyone in WA, UT, TX, and elsewhere finds themselves with family this holiday season, and realizes that life does not have to be ‘til death do us part’.

God bless y’all!

Elder Derek Troy

Monday, November 13, 2017

A picture is worth a thousand words...

Dear friends and family,

We got word today from the mission that they are having a surprise Christmas party for all the missionaries the first week of December.  They’d like all the Christmas packages to be mailed by December 1st.  If you’re so kind as to send our sweet Elder a package or card, can you send it by December 1st so Santa can give it to him at the party?  

All packages and letters/cards can be sent to:

Elder Derek Allen Troy
Texas Houston Mission
16623 Hafer Road
Houston, TX  77090-4401

No letter from Elder Troy this week, but a few pictures and an unfortunate, spicy video tell a pretty tragic tale on their own.
Thanks for all your thoughts, prayers and letters to our son.

We love and appreciate you all!


JD & Terri


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Over the hump!

Short Update:

Things are going well here, yesterday was my half-way mark. Pretty wild!

This week has been great! We're all finding like crazy in the district right now. 

It's as warm here as ever. Elder Simmons and I are wishing the cool weather would have stayed! Biking is hard in the heat! 

Joseph finally came to church this last week. He's considering baptism. He came for the primary program and loved the kids’ singing!

Jasmine we're just waiting to have a solid date for her new apartment to get her a baptismal date. She's as sweet as ever!

This week I've been thinking about the Savior's instruction in the sermon on the mount:

Matt 5

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

The savior teaches us that to indulge in fantasies, even without action, is sin in our heart.

How many other sins do we commit in our hearts? If we play violent video games or watch violent movies, have we committed murder in our hearts?

Have a great week everyone!

Elder Derek Troy

Elder Simmons and Elder Troy at dinner out.  They were treated by a family in the ward they are serving in.
This is the box we sent to him full of all the things from home he likes and some items he may need too to celebrate his one-year, halfway done mark!

I had a baker make these and send them to him to celebrate his “Hump Day.”  Aren’t they so cute?!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

He's baaaaack

Family and Friends,

After three long weeks, we have a letter from Elder Troy!  He’s been sending short messages home, but didn’t have time to write a group email until this week.  Like many missions, the Texas Houston Mission has begun using Facebook for missionary work.  Therefore, Elder Troy had to resurrect his account and leave it open for people who would like to find him online.  He definitely did NOT want to be online because he was worried it would make him homesick.  Plus, it’s always a temptation to surf the web a bit.  Luckily, he’s obedient to the mission rules and it hasn’t been as hard as he worried it would be.  If you do go on Facebook and his account, please remember that he is only able to directly communicate with those who have questions about the Church or want to make contact with him as a missionary.  He won’t be able to message you back.

November 2nd is Elder Troy’s halfway mark or “Missionary Hump Day”!  He has been out a whole year already!!!  Can you believe that?!  We are celebrating it with him by sending a package full of things cut in half.  Haha.  I had some cookies made for him by a talented baker and he’ll get those in a separate package.  If you think about it, will you please send him an email or letter to celebrate his “Hump Day?”  I know that it would mean so much to him!

Here is his information again:

Elder Derek Allen Troy
2931 Barker Cypress Drive
Apt. 1212
Houston, TX  77084

Thank you for your love and support of our son.  We appreciate you all so much!

Much love,

JD & Terri


Hey Y’all!

It has been a great week in Houston!

The weather is FINALLY letting up. A cold front has moved in and it feels fantastic.

Elder Simmons and I are seeing great miracles as rewards for our efforts. We've been doing a Book of Mormon reading challenge; finishing the Book of Mormon in a transfer (six weeks) which is about 14 pages per day. It has been great for me to see the themes and movements rather than poring over details.

We’ve also seen tons of success with our investigators reading at the same time. “Bob" took a month to read 2 chapters, then suddenly read up to Enos in a week - which is about 125 pages difference! Same story with “Jane” - she took a month and a half to read 6 chapters, then in a week read to chapter 16! She's wonderful - she loves to feed us and is always so appreciative. I can't wait for her baptism in December!

This week our volunteering was with the local methodist church. We handed out flyers to remind people of the upcoming FEMA application deadline. We gave out 195 fliers in two hours and they've left us messages daily asking for more help since then - haha!

The pictures are from our service. 

These neighborhoods that got flooded the worst are just wastelands now. 90% of the garbage is gone, but there are also fridges that still haven't been emptied on the curb. The smell of sewage still lingers. A woman in a neighborhood we tracked out sold her two story house with attached garage and fenced backyard in a suburban neighborhood for $50k - which is about what FEMA is offering to people in that neighborhood to help them rebuild. Most of these houses haven't been visited by the homeowners in weeks. Whole streets are empty, with people planning on just leaving everything behind and moving. What a strange time for the Texas Houston Mission!

(Notice the lack of grass in people’s yards - they were underwater too long)

Elder Derek Troy

Elder Troy and his companion Elder Simmons

New Facebook profile pic.

Mormon “Helping Hands” service group.

Group mission picture.

Elder Simmons next to debris in the trees at the food waterline
An appliance left to rot.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Feeling at home

(NOTE:  The video he references is too large to place here.  It is on Facebook.)


It was another great week on bike in West Lake!

I'm really enjoying this ward. I really feel “at home” here - more than any of the other wards I've served in.

Last week we had a big thunderstorm. Elder Simmons and I needed to go out and do some finding though, so we went out in it. We got soaked, haha! Video included.

There's also a picture here of our new district, and the service we went and did at the temple. 

There are some rumors that we have finished cleanup, because Houston has a mandate to demolish any houses that haven't been cleaned out yet; as a public safety hazard.

Have a great week Y’all!

Elder Derek Troy

Monday, September 18, 2017

A looooooong time...

Friends and Family,

Here is the latest letter from Elder Troy.  The flood waters have receded enough so he is now back in his apartment.  If you’d like to write him, the US mail is finally operating normal.  His address is:

2931 Barker Cypress Drive
Apt. 1212
Houston, TX  77084

He doesn’t think they’ll be mucking out houses for much longer, but they will be doing service related to the hurricane “for a looooooong time.”  We recently sent him a few respirator masks for those remaining muckings.  He’s happy to share one with his new companion so they can go all in.  He’s really hoping another hurricane doesn’t hit because he can’t take being cooped up that long again.  haha

Thanks for all your love and support of our son.

Much love,

JD & Terri


Hey Y’all! 

So it was another exciting week here in the field. I have a new companion, Elder Simmons, from Alpine, Utah. He's great!

This transfer, we’re just covering the west lake ward, and we're on bike! On cool days and at night, it's great! But when it's hot...Anybody who knows me well know i sweat way too much already. So biking is interesting.

“J" and her boyfriend “T" are two of our investigators and they both have baptismal dates. “J” is doing awesome, she came to church this week even. “T" not so much. We haven’t seen him in a bit, and we're appropriately concerned.

Service feels like it's wrapping up somewhat. There’s still weeks of work to do, but anyone that’s willing to take help seems to have already gotten it. The missionaries I’ve been serving with have improved SO MUCH. They’ve been working so much harder this last week, for whatever reason. Some of the neighborhoods around us are suing the city. Apparently the engineering firm that made the reservoir told the city to not give building permits within a certain area, but the city gave out permits anyways. Unsuspecting homeowners then lost everything.

We had zone conference this week with the whole mission, and my trainer is training AGAIN. This is a pic of him and I with my two “brothers".

This is also a pic of us eating at conference, with my MTC companion Elder Chamberlain at the table. My new companion is giving me rabbit ears haha.

Have a great week Y'all!

Elder Derek Troy

Monday, September 11, 2017

Rallying around one another

Hey Y’all! 

It was another big week here in Texas. Much of the week was spent helping people with their houses (I took the time to take a couple of pictures personally this week that I think do justice to the scale of the disaster) and we also had a big event!

People are really rallying around each other here now. All differences - race, income, language - are set aside for now. Flags are flying on every street in solidarity. It’s really very moving to see huge flags waving over piles of debris 8 ft or higher. I imagine it’s a bit like what Francis Scott Key felt like.

We can drive through 95% of our area now. The water has generally receded.

This week “C" was baptized. It’s awesome to see some fruits for our labors! She has been super easy to work with. She has such a sweet spirit, and loves us and loves the gospel. Her baptism was super interesting haha. She has Multiple Sclerosis so some adjustments had to be made. She legit thought she was going to drown at one point hahaha.

We also saw a funny sign today for a Chinese Shool while driving!

God bless from Houston TX!

Elder Derek Troy

The product from “mucking” a home out.  
For the most part, the waters are beginning to recede in most areas.  Yay!
It was like this block after block. A big double trailer garbage truck with a claw comes by and grabs everything.

Mountains and mountains of debris line nearly every street in Houston.  A woman searches for a place to pile more garbage.

A member of the ward, Elder Labbee and Elder Troy with “C” at her baptism.
P-Day shenanigans.  Barely got up in time for the photo timer!


The school may need a bit more practice before it teaches others!