We have been called to serve a CES (Church Education System) mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the England Birmingham Mission. Our assignment is to work with the Young Single Adults - ages 18 to 30 years - teaching religion classes, supporting their activities, assisting in the day to day running of the institute, and anything else as directed by our Mission President. Our 18 month mission begins on December 27, 2010.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

JOURNAL - January 24 - 30

Monday, January 24

Made our first trip to Costco today! It is exactly like Costco in the states, except brands and products are different, and it wasn't nearly as crowded. They were even passing out a few samples. We each had a hot dog and soda - yes, it was 1.50 (pounds). We also went to a store close to Costco called Wing Yip. It is a huge Chinese food store - about the size of Costco. We go there for just one thing - A&W Root Beer! We run a thing called the "Tuck Shop" at Institute on Wednesday and Thursday nights. The kids come directly from school/work to Institute and are hungry. So there is a nice supply of candy bars, chips, and sodas they can purchase for snacks. We also supply bread and cheese so they can make a grilled cheese sandwich in the little grill if they like. The bread and cheese are supplied by the Stake, but the other stuff is paid for by the kids. We make runs to Costco and Wing Yip as needed to pick up supplies for the Tuck Shop.

We also made a trip to Solihull today to get our debit pin numbers re-mailed to our England address. Seems they sent them to our Utah address the first time. They won't just give us the numbers - they have to be mailed. While in Solihull we made a repeat visit to the Apple store to have them show me how to download pictures from the Gospel Art Kit in my Scripture App. Technology is surely amazing!

FHE was great again tonight - about 20 YSA in attendance plus Devon and I. They had a nice lesson on being obedient, with some wonderful, insightful comments from the YSA. Afterward we had treats, and then played a game called "Sardine." They turn off all the lights, one person hides, and the others hunt around the building until he/she is found. Everyone had a good time.

Tuesday, January 25

We actually stayed home all day today - a first! Most of the day was spent finalizing our lessons and power point presentations for this week and doing laundry. By 4:00 pm we had "cabin fever," so we put on our coats and tennis shoes and went for a walk in the neighborhood. It was lovely despite the on and off drizzle. I've decided I don't mind the drizzle so much because with it comes warmer temperatures. After dinner we put together a little slide show with our pictures from the London Temple to show to the YSA this week. We're really not very tech-savy, but IPhoto makes it so easy.

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to really study the scriptures. They say the teacher always learns the most, and I can surely agree with that. I'm ashamed to admit that previously I did more "reading" than "pondering." The latter is so much better!

Wednesday, January 26

Such a thrill this morning to find emails with photos of Lori's and Stephen's kids - a real highlight even though a couple of kids had rather impressive "boo boos." Otherwise a quiet morning at our flat - cleaning and doing last minute prep for our lessons. Tonight was my turn to teach Doctrine and Covenants at Birmingham. There was a 19 minute video to go with the lesson. Devon said I got lucky! I think I was blessed! The lesson did go well, but I had way too much material. I still need to get better at keeping things simple. Our attendance was down a little from last week, but some came who hadn't been to Institute for many weeks, so that was good. Below are pictures of our class. By the end of the class there was a full row of seats at the back of the room - the late comers.

Tonight the Institute Choir class began - a small, but very capable group of 5 girls, 1 boy and a student conductor. They asked me to accompany them. They worked on a Sally DeFord arrangement of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." For a moment it felt like the good old days in Leona Valley Ward playing for our amazing Women's Ensemble. It made me realize how much I miss those days, those wonderful women, and the beautiful music we shared.

Thursday, January 27

Today was a day of highs and lows. The high - BYU beat San Diego State! Devon got up at 4:30 am to listen to the last 5 minutes of the game over the internet. Said he could hardly go back to sleep after the game. We read all the sports articles on the Deseret News web page. The lows - When Devon was looking through the Deseret News on line he found the obituary for a dear Highland Ward member, Jan Bronson. She had been stricken with leukemia almost two years ago. We can't attend her service, but thankfully we can send our condolences via the internet to her family.Also learned that a ward member from our Newhall years also passed away - Boyd Kirkland. That also was a big shock. Again, thanks to the internet (Facebook) was able to send condolences from so far away.

These passings remind us of how blessed we are to be of good health and able to be here in England serving the Lord.

Friday, January 28

Today was errand day. We saw our doctor - Dr. Carolyn Harrison. She was very pleasant and efficient. Our "exam" consisted of blood pressure, weight, and brief discussion of our medical history. After that she gave us our prescriptions with a year's refill. We took them to the pharmacy on site, got all four filled, and walked away without spending a dime. Just one little glitch - they don't have Devon's BP med here in England, so he will try something similar for a month at which time he will return for a BP check to see if that needs to be adjusted. After that we made appointments for haircuts next week, went to the post office to mail some mission letters, and did grocery shopping. Then we decided to treat ourselves to lunch and a movie - "The King's Speech." Matinee prices for seniors are 5 pounds each, plus they validated our parking for three hours. Not a bad deal, and the movie was GREAT!

Upon arrival home we were greeted with mail. Hooray, our debit card pin number came! Can't wait to try out our cards! But the best mail was a package from home. I had asked Daryn to mail me my "warmer" - a flannel bag full of millet that I heat in the microwave and use to warm me up. Ahhhh! Thanks Daryn!!!!

Saturday, January 29

Today we worked again on our Institute lessons. About 2 pm we decided we need to go for a walk, so we bundled up and headed to Cannon Hill Park close to our home. What a neat place to walk. It is quite large and beautiful, complete with ponds with swans, geese, and ducks paddling around in the cold water. There were sheets of ice on top of the water, but the cold didn't seem to bother the little feathered folk. There is a little tea shop in the park, and a small cafe. They also have a movie theater with films from 15 minutes to full length. Some shows are free, some are in other languages with English subtitles, and there are a couple current feature films such as "The King's Speech" and "Black Swan." Interesting. We'll have to check it out more when we have more time.

Tonight was a "Farewell" for a young man leaving for his mission the end of the week. A large group of YSA met at the Harborne Ward and had pot luck dinner, dancing, and games. They really do enjoy being together! We attended for a while and had fun playing some games with the kids. Came home and was distressed to discover that my HP laptop seems to be on the fritz - big problem since we both use our computers so much. We'll have to get that looked at right away!

Sunday, January 30

Well it's official. My computer crashed - lost everything on my hard drive. Fortunately we downloaded my lesson and power point presentation for this week on a flash drive, so that was saved. About the only things I can't download back to my computer were a couple of old Sacrament talks I had given. We got some good advise about how to re-boot it ourselves, so that was accomplished. Situation could have been much worse, I guess. We plan to pick up an external hard drive to back-up all my data, so if it happens again I won't lose anything.

Church at Harborne Ward was very nice. Devon was sustained to the High Council. Dinner turned out great and I even used the "devil" oven to cook pork chops. We had a fun skype conversation with Lori's family and hope to at least talk with a few other families before the day is over. Oh, did I mention.....we worked on our lessons.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

JOURNAL - January 17 - 23

Monday, January 17

A day full of successes! We found our way to Birmingham City Center and back – no problem! Needed to go to the Apple Store to get an adapter for Devon’s Mac. The store is in a huge, three story mall with many familiar stores. We walked to the Birmingham City Council office (also in City Center) – found it, but were told that they only do business over the phone. So we sat in a corner of their office, on their phone talking to them. Also found the plug adapter needed for my PC, so now, except for no internet yet, our computers are up and running at home so we can at least do word processing from home. Also found the local post office and got signed up for our medical here in England. We will see the doc on January 28th to get our prescriptions ordered.

Cooked a delicious spaghetti dinner and didn’t burn a thing – another triumph!

Really enjoyed FHE with the YSA tonight. Attendance was down a little: 14 YSA, 1 investigator, 2 Elders, and the Cardenas – a couple from the ward called to help with home/visiting teaching the YSA in Harborne Ward. Had a great lesson by Sunni (who leaves for his mission to South London in 2 weeks), played a murder in the dark-type game, and had treats. The kids all had a great time and so did we!

Tuesday, January 18

Oh happy day! Both our international land line and internet are functioning at our flat! We've talked with several of our kids and left messages with those we couldn't catch. Also our banking cards are ready for us to pick up, but we probably won't get to Solihull to pick them up until Friday. Slowly things are settling into place - a good feeling. Devon can now navigate between our flat and the church without the use of our GPS. We stocked up on some more groceries and made taco soup for dinner. YUM! We've worked a lot on our lessons for this week, and I made my first Power Point presentation complete with video clip.

Another highlight is that we have had blue skies for the past two days! Even when the sun is out it feels cold outside - especially when the wind blows. We are grateful for warm coats and scarfs (thanks Emily!).

Wednesday, January 19

Lovely, quiet morning at home working on our lessons and cleaning the flat. Tonight was Institute in Birmingham Stake. It begins at 6:15 with YSA Counsel Meeting. I'm very impressed with the kids! They are on top of things, especially fellow-shipping the new and less active members. The first class starts at 7:00, then break/opening exercises at 7:50, and then the last class starts at 8:00 or so. Devon taught Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants. We spent a little time at the beginning of the lesson telling a little more about us - professions, where we've lived, how we met, how Devon met Elder Karren, and a little about our family. Then we passed around some family photos. Some of the kids recognized Daryn from his Mormon films - that's always fun. Devon taught section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants and it went well. Class ends at 9:00 then the kids just hang out for who knows how long? We helped put things away and left about 10:30. There were about 55 kids at Institute tonight, plus 2 new investigators that the Sister missionaries brought.

Brother Dockrill also teaches a class at Birmingham Institute each Wednesday. He lives a couple hours away from here, so he will spend the night in our extra room. Then tomorrow he can go over a few more things with us before we go to Lichfield Stake for Institute.

Thursday, January 20

We woke up today to beautiful, clear blue sky, which means COLD temperature. There was frost on the cars, and on the grass all day. At 4:00 pm the thermometer in our car registered 2 degrees C. Brrrrrrr! Fortunately we spent the day at home working on lessons and chatting with Brother Dockrill. Did a load of laundry that actually got dry in the machine - a first. We emptied a lot of water that had collected from condensation in the bottom of the machine. I guess that made the difference. Devon figured out he could listen to the BYU basketball games live on the internet. He just needs to calculate the time difference.

Drove to Lichfield Institute and back with no problems. I think we have figured out the round-abouts. They are all over and are used instead of stop lights and stop signs. You don't have to stop, just yield and merge. I taught Book of Mormon - 3 Nephi 15-17 - using my first power point presentation and think it went well. For the activity we all sat around a table and the kids told things about themselves - so interesting. They are a sweet and diverse group of kids. I am impressed with their testimonies, knowledge, and devotion to missionary/fellow-shipping work. We really are blessed to be here.

Friday, January 21

Today we went to Solihull to pick up our bank cards, go to the Apple Computer store, and Staples. It's a 30 minute drive to go about 8 miles. The streets are very narrow - sometimes only two lanes - and there are so many cars on the road - each with usually just one person in them. Talk about congestion! The Apple Store was in a huge, beautiful, modern mall. We did a little looking around and found a really nice department store called John Lewis. They had EVERYTHING - including an area with fabrics and yarn. I had thought about picking up a small knitting project, but since my knitting skills are limited I was hoping to find a store close that could help me. Well, prayers are answered! One of the employees in the yarn department of the John Lewis store is a YSA from Birmingham named Tonia. She said she would be available to help me with any knitting issues each Wedneday at Institute. Can my life be more blessed?! Now all I have to do is find time to knit.

After a yummy dinner of "Cowboy Casserole" we spent the evening working on next week's lessons. I love the Scripture application I have downloaded on my IPad! It is full of great helps for preparing my lesson, in addition to the manuals here in the apartment. The Tufts' have had another happy day in Birmingham!

Saturday, January 22

The YSA from Lichfield Stake arranged a trip for baptisms to the London Temple today and invited us to come along. They drove down last night and stayed at the Temple apartments (10 pounds/night). We decided to drive down today and meet them there. The London Temple is not our assigned temple. It's about 150 miles and a 2 1/2 hour drive away. We passed by some beautiful English countryside with lots of grazing sheep in lush, green pastures - no cows found! We enjoyed a meal with the YSA in the Temple cafeteria, took some pictures around the temple and thoroughly enjoyed the baptism session with the kids. I keep saying how wonderful they are, but it is so true. It was such a pleasure to be with them. They were anxious to get pictures of and with us, and all wanted hugs as we were getting ready to leave. It has been a wonderful day!

Sunday, January 23

Ward Conference today. We have a pretty big ward, especially by UK standards, and have a lot of YSA that attend our ward. Several hold callings in the Primary, YW, and Sunday School. One of our less-active YSA girls was there with her investigator boyfriend. A pair of young men who are taking the lessons from the missionaries also came. They were all at Institute last week and hopefully they will come again this week. After meetings today there was a baptism for a cute little 8 year-old girl in the ward. Most of the ward stayed to participate - very nice and supportive. They started in the chapel with talks, etc., then moved to the baptismal font, and back to the chapel for the confirmation. It's the sort of thing you can do with only one ward in the building. Ward members continue to introduce themselves and welcome us. Our challenge is to remember everyone's name - something we are struggling with. Thankfully they are all very understanding.

This evening we decided to try to phone some of the YSA that haven't been coming to Institute and invite them to attend this week. I don't know why I was surprised, but three of them said they would come for sure. We left messages with others, so hopefully they will call back. If not we will call them again in a day or two.

Talked to several of our kids yesterday and plan to call the others tonight. It's such a blessing to hear their voices and know all is well.

Monday, January 17, 2011

journal - january 10 - 16

Monday, January 10 – HAPPY BIRTHDAY JENNA – and Tuesday, January 11

Today is departure day. We actually had a quiet morning finishing up our packing. Unfortunately I’m still under the weather with a sore tummy. Devon and Daryn gave me a beautiful blessing with the promise that my health will return soon – exactly what I needed.

Daryn drove us to SL airport for our 4:50 pm flight to Paris. There are two other missionary couples on our flight – one going to Germany and the other to Prague. The flight was full with only the occasional empty seat, on time, and pleasant enough. We had a quick change of planes in Paris and then a short flight to Birmingham. When we arrived we were met by Brother Mike Dockrill – our wonderful, patient Institute Director (poor man is assigned to orient us to a whole new world). We ran a few errands to sign our lease, set up our bank account, and a quick trip to a market – then to our new home. Thank you Karrens! The “flat” is wonderful and stocked with lots of left over non-perishable food/laundry supplies, etc.

Brother Dockrill took us to dinner and then home for some much needed rest. We knelt in prayer – 2 exhausted people feeling very homesick, teary, and longing for any contact with our family.

Wednesday, January 12

Rough night! I’m still sick – yuck! Can’t eat – food sounds awful – spent much of the night in the bathroom. I’m waiting for the promise of good health. Brother Dockrill came back around 9:20 am to help us set up our phone and internet lines (unfortunately neither will be working until 2/19). Then he and Devon picked up our cute little car and did a little business while I stayed home and slept for an hour. When they returned we drove to the Mission Home (about 20 minutes from our home) for a meeting. It was transfer day and about 100 missionaries were there, including 3 young men who went to Timberline while Devon worked there – so exciting to see them! At the Mission Home we were able to use their computer to send a quick email to family and make a wire transfer of funds to our new UK account.

We came back to the flat for a light lunch of soup and toast and then left for Institute Class at Birmingham. We followed Brother Dockrill in our little car so we could start getting used to driving on the left and the tricky round-abouts (I have NO desire to drive!). Institute was WONDERFUL! We couldn’t have felt more welcome by the kids – all anxious to meet us and give us a hug. Our Bishop, Stake President and his counselor were there – also very welcoming and offering to help us in any way.

After coming home, we studied the instructions for our little washer/dryer combo machine, put in a small load of clothes (that’s all it will hold) and set it to run while we sleep. I think I am feeling better tonight – actually can think about eating food, but only able to tolerate small amounts. Hopefully sleep will come quickly and sustain us through the entire night – something we’ve missed the past two nights!

Thursday, January 13

Ah – sleep, sweet sleep! MUCH better night! Still zapped of strength, but feeling better today. It is our last day of assistance/instruction from Brother Dockrill – poor man needs to go home to his family. He took us to Sainsbury’s Market for grocery shopping. It has everything we could ask for, even some American products like Newman’s Own. Then back to Harborne Chapel (site of Birmingham Institute) for more instruction and teaching helps. Bought some delicious sandwiches from Penny at Pickles – a shop highly recommended by Karren’s –  and then headed to Litchfield Stake, about 30 miles away, for Institute.  We were going to follow Brother Dockrill, but with high traffic it was impossible to stay right behind him. Thankfully the Sat Nav (GPS) got us there with next to no problems. Their group of kids is much smaller – 18 attended tonight – but equally as delightful as Birmingham. Our only involvement with Litchfield will be to teach weekly Institute – sort of too bad.

After Institute we parted ways with Brother Dockrill. We thought we had our Sat Nav programmed to get us home, but apparently not! We got back to Edgbaston, but could not find our home. The biggest problem was that we didn’t really know how to program the Sat Nav. After about an hour and multiple attempts we finally found it! Tomorrow we will have one of the kids show us how to use the Sat Nav better. Sure don’t want to be lost again!


We actually slept in until 11:30 am – so nice after our late, stressful night of getting lost on the way. Today was much more relaxed. We sorted and filed bits of information we have been given since arriving. Our suitcases are not completely unpacked yet – that will be a project for another day. We did a trial run to the Harborne Ward while it was daylight to be sure we knew how to get there, then returned later to chaperone the monthly Birmingham Stake YSA Dance. There were about 400 to 450 kids in attendance from London to Scotland. Amazing! Birmingham is a central area so attendance is always good at their dances. Because the church building is so close to residential homes they stop the music at 11:00 and start shooing them out the door at 11:30. Then at midnight we lock up and close the gate to the property. There were still a few left visiting/goofing off in the parking lot when we left. I’m happy to report that other than one wrong turn (that was quickly corrected) we made it home without problems. We’re making progress!

Saturday, January 15

Wow – slept till almost noon again today. Guess I was more worn out than I thought. It’s our first “P” day – wore our jeans all day. We both commented that we think we’ve lost a pound or two – jeans seem looser, a good thing. Today was spent running errands. Found Ikea but most importantly found our way home with no problems – a big milestone! Some of the surroundings are starting to look familiar. Had our choice for dinner at Burger King, Pizza Hut, or Kentucky Fried Chicken. Devon chose Burger King – it was pretty good. Finally have our suitcases unpacked and ready to store in our little garage. We’re not going to try to put the car in there – seems way too small, not to mention it is so tight I don’t know how we would maneuver in and out. All the roads are extremely narrow.

Sunday, January 16 

Sunday services start at 10:00 in every ward in the Stake. Each ward meets in it’s own building – we meet in the Stake Center. RS/Priesthood is first, followed by Sunday School and then Sacrament Meeting. Since there is no Young Adult Ward, the YSA (Young Single Adults) have their own Sunday School class. It was taught by one of the YSA who did an outstanding job.   Hope we can do as well with our Institute lessons.

Totally burned our dinner – crock-pot chicken and baked potatoes! Diane said the oven was awful and now I believe her. Think I will try to find an oven thermometer and see what the temperature actually is. Can’t explain the crock-pot disaster since I left it on low. Anyway, we popped a couple of extra potatoes in the microwave, steamed up some fresh veggies, made a little salad and did just fine. I’m going to have to work at this cooking thing.

Had a CES Fireside Broadcast tonight with about 40 YSA in attendance. They forgot to tell us we were to provide refreshments. Fortunately there were biscuits (cookies) and squash (punch) left over from the dance on Friday, so we used that. Good thing the kids are very understanding.

The ward has asked us to speak in Sacrament Meeting in a few weeks, and the Stake RS asked us to do a presentation for the Stake RS Especially for Women’s event coming up February 5th.  And I still need to finish my lesson for next week. One step at a time. I’m trying to not get overwhelmed, but it’s hard. I’ve got to remember what they taught us at the MTC - KISS – keep it super simple!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Journal - January 3 - January 9

Monday, January 3

Today was the first day of CES/SI training. Several new senior couples have joined us for this training. They will do Preach My Gospel Training next week. We had excellent classes on how to make our lessons interesting and how to involve the students in the learning process. It was fun to be learning something specific to our assignment. Our primary assignment is to be missionaries and our additional assignment is to work with the Centers For Youth and teach Institute. It's interesting - we will primarily be doing our secondary assignment - but it all ties together as missionary work.

What a treat to have Cheryl Fugal and her husband report to the MTC today. She was a teacher at Timberline Middle School with Devon.

This evening we had a treat! Emily and Marianne came to the MTC for a visit. Since they couldn't go beyond the lobby we went to Olive Garden for dinner and then visited in the MTC lobby for a while (actually they helped me download some "stuff" on my IPad). It was great to spend time with them!

Tuesday, January 4 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAROL

Was up most the night with fever and stomach flu - UGH! I don't think Devon got much rest with my ups and downs to the bathroom. I stayed in bed, missing morning class, but was able to attend the afternoon class. The CES instructors are so good - very valuable training on preparing and teaching our Institute lessons. I think this has been my favorite part of our MTC training and has given me confidence that I can be an effective teacher.

The best news today is that our Visas are here, so we will be leaving as scheduled on January 10. The only change is that we fly out at 4:50 pm instead of 8:30 am, and we have a direct flight (10 hr 35 min) from SLC to Paris, France. From there it is just a short (1 hr 30 min) flight to Birmingham. This seems better to me than the previous 3 hour layovers in Dallas and the Netherlands.

Wednesday, January 5

Last MTC day. Today's classes introduced the internet reporting system for Seminaries and Institutes, discussed other possible assignments we may be given (depending on the needs in each area), and studied a talk by President Eyring about having confidence in our ability to do the work we have been asked to do. We ended with a very spiritual testimony meeting. We have developed a special bond with those whom we have shared the last 10 days - amazing people all! We each have some level of concern for "what is next" as we are about to depart for remote places all over the world. I think the common feeling of uncertainty is one element that has bonded us so quickly. But the most important element is the testimony of the work we are about to begin and faith that with the Lord's help we can do it. So with tears in our eyes and hugs for all, we bid farewell. Oh how I would love a reunion with these wonderful people when our missions are complete!

We are back home for a few days, and ready emotionally for our mission. Catie fixed a wonderful supper for us tonight....and BYU beat UNLV! All is well.

Thursday, January 6 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY BARBARA

Busy day - laundry, went to the bank to get forms and review instructions on how to make wire transfers, picked up the prescriptions we need to take with us, calculated deductions for tax reporting for last year, picked up shoes at repair shop, remeasured bags to be sure we don't exceed the size limit, sorted and organized papers/info given to us at the MTC, started folding clothes in prep for packing, and Devon got his final haircut from his favorite barber, Dan.

This evening Daryn and Catie took us to dinner at Mi Ranchitos - a belated birthday celebration. That's what happens with December birthdays, but we don't mind at all!

Friday, January 7

Another full day of mission preparations. We started the packing and the weighing process. We are each allowed 2 check in bags not to exceed 50 pounds each; plus one personal item (lap top), and one carry on not to exceed 40 pounds. Preliminary weigh-ins look good - whew!

Tonight was our last Sisters' evening night out with Barbara, Linda, and husbands. Dinner and conversation was great. But.....can't say the same for the Pinochle game. The guys skunked us - 3 games to 0! Still it was wonderful to just spend time together.

Saturday, January 8

More packing and errands, although we are mostly ready. Seems the flu has returned - sore tummy and no appetite. Hope this passes quickly! All the Utah families came over for "Pizza and Pop" tonight. It was great to see everyone one last time before we leave - actually a little sad to say good bye. Everyone has promised to email and we will set up our internet phone land line in Birmingham as soon as we can. Jenna brought the new baby's ultrasound pictures over  - some in 3D. She's a cute little thing already and still has 17 weeks to go.


I must admit that at times over the last few weeks I have felt the stings of adversity's arrows in the form of doubt in my ability as a missionary, worry about "things" and people left behind, finances, etc. - but today he continues to zap me with the flu. Was unable to go to Church - a big disappointment! So many good people I wanted to say good bye to. Not much I could do about it - really needed to get feeling better for our big flight tomorrow. So today was rest, fluids, chicken noodle soup -  what I would tell any patient who called me for advise.

We did go out to Lori's for dinner and birthday celebration for Natalie and Katelyn this evening. Lori fixed a great dinner and I was even able to eat a little - hope my appetite returns tomorrow. Natalie started Young Women's today and is on cloud nine, Katelyn was her usual, charming 3 year-old going on 15 year-old self, and Hayley played the piano beautifully for us. It was a great way to spend our last evening.

I feel ready, though admittedly tender at heart, to leave tomorrow. I'm taking my favorite companion with me and the love, prayers, and well wishes of so many people. That's a great comfort!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Christmas day was one of the best! It began with the annual Onstott Christmas Eve festivities last night. Forty-five family members enjoyed a great lasagna dinner, singing carols, nativity play, and of course a visit from Santa (played wonderfully by Natalie). Devon, Emily, Marianne, and I spent the night at Monson's and enjoyed watching the kids have Christmas morning. The rest of the day we made visits to our other Utah families. Emily had to work noon to 10 pm, so Devon, Marianne, and I joined her for a free ham dinner at her hospital. We also had a nice phone call from Stephen in California. This is my kind of Christmas!

Two more nights in our home before we check into the MTC. For the most part we are ready. President Anderson is coming over tomorrow night to set us apart at 5:00 pm. Most of our kids will be here to share that experience with us. We went out to dinner with the Karren's and were given a ton of information to help us in England. I must admit it was overwhelming. A day or two later this scripture came to mind: Mosiah 4:27 - "for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength....be diligent." That brought me comfort because I know I can be diligent. A week ago we went to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert with our dear friends, Dick and Myrna Graff. They recently returned from a mission to Guatemala. Their encouragement and excitement for missionary service was very reassuring.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Journal - December 27 - January 2

Monday, December 27

Finally, this day has arrived. We arose, finished last minute packing, ate a light breakfast, did one last walk through to be sure things were in order for us to leave, loaded the car with our bags, and pulled away from our home with tender feelings in our hearts. Our dear neighbor, Sue Fullmer, waved us good bye from her front room window, but otherwise our departure was pretty uneventful. I think Dexter (the dog) thought we were headed out to Church. Little did he know new people would be spending this night and many in the future with him (not to mention their cat also).

We were warmly greeted at the MTC. The senior Elder who met us at the curb said, "You're about to enter heaven." Two sweet young Elders helped carry our bags to our second floor couple dorm room (which is very comfy and efficient). Today was spent in orientation and meeting the 27 couples and 4 single sisters in our group. They come from all over the country, are going to places all over the world, and assigned to a variety of different types of missions. We are the only couple headed to England. I would guess that about 6 couples are assigned to learn languages from Norwegian to Cambodian - so glad we will be English speaking!

We left home feeling somewhat alone as we headed south to Provo, but it didn't take long to feel a part of this new missionary community. Everyone is so friendly and united in their love of the gospel and desire to serve. It is a place filled with joy and we are thankful to be here.

Tuesday, December 28

Our first full day of instruction. We have amazing, young returned missionaries teaching us how to teach the gospel. The biggest problem for Senior Missionaries is keeping it simple. We tend to add too many details and make it confusing. We are reminded to stick with the basics and then answer questions as they come. We did a little practice teaching today with other senior couples. Tonight we have prepared a lesson plan and will each take turns teaching tomorrow. I can't believe how hard this is and find myself in total awe of the young missionaries and their ability to do this.

We attended the weekly Tuesday evening devotional. Seniors get the first few rows (they are so good to us here). The opening song was "Called to Serve" - a booming rendition from an auditorium of committed missionaries - WONDERFUL! Equally as moving was the special musical number by the missionary choir: "Behold the Wounds in Jesus' Hands" (a song first introduced to me by a dear friend, Lynda Court). It was as inspiring tonight as the first time I heard it. Following that was a wonderful talk by Elder Lowell M. Snow from the 2nd Quorum of the Seventy. He spoke about our purpose as missionaries - to invite people to come to Christ. His wife bore her testimony and reminded us that as missionaries we preach, but it is the Holy Ghost that does the teaching - so true!

Wednesday, December 29

Happy Birthday to ME! Warmed my heart to be remembered through text messages, phone calls, and emails from some very special people. Found out today that Brad and Jenna will be having a GIRL!

Today we taught our first gospel discussion - The Restoration - and it went fine. Thankfully we had a nice senior couple to practice teach. Tomorrow we teach The Plan of Salvation, so the last two hours have been spent in preparation. There are no formal lesson plans We develop our own from a basic outline of gospel principles. We have to find the scriptures we want to use and come up with "thought provoking" questions to ask our "investigators." It really is a lot of work!

We slipped out of the MTC today to go to the Utah County Health Department for hepatitis vaccinations we each needed before we leave for England - one more thing to cross off our "to do list." Our Visas are not here yet - they told us to check back on Monday.

Thursday, December 30

Woke up to new snow again this morning and bitter cold weather. Devon's thrilled to be able to listen to the BYU basketball game on the radio tonight. Our classes were good. Today we taught about the Plan of Salvation. I think, with time, we could get pretty good! We are practice teaching Elder and Sister Despain from Colorado. They are the parents of 9 children and will be going to Georgia to serve. We have met so many wonderful couples. Dinner was the best we've had so far - citrus salmon and rice pilaf - yummy! After the BYU game we went to the gym - walked a mile, and exercised on the elliptical machines. It felt GREAT! We desperately need exercise after sitting in class all day and eating 3 full meals a day. Devon says it is like going to Chuck-a-Rama three times a day!

Friday, December 31

Class today was focused on teaching less-active members and it was wonderful. A few couples will leave our group now and go their their missions. Most of us will be staying for 3 days of training in specific areas (CES, PEF, etc.) We bid farewell to those new friends and the young teachers we had this week. Next week will be new teachers.

After pictures we packed a few things, including our dirty laundry, and went back home. We had a wonderful dinner and evening of cards with Gwen and David Dodge - such amazing and dear friends! So grateful we could spend the evening with them. Then we went home for the night. Dexter was ecstatic to see us and admittedly, we were pretty glad to see him, too.

 Saturday, January 1

Happy New Year! We slept in this morning in our home. Enjoyed breakfast and the morning with Daryn and Catie. We helped them move things around in hopes that they will feel comfortable in our home while we are gone. So grateful to have them there watching over everything for us. Did 4 loads of laundry and ironed Devon's shirts. Then we headed back to the MTC for dinner. It feels good to be back here.

Sunday, January 2

We were assigned to attend Fast and Testimony Meeting in one of the International Branches at 8:00 am. Most of the young Elders and Sisters attending were from the Pacific Islands and Asia. What sweet and powerful testimonies. Most had no English language when they arrived here. It was amazing how well they could express their testimonies and love for each other and the Gospel. At 10:00 am the first Sunday of every month is Mission Conference. Sister Breinholt, wife of President Breinholt from the MTC Mission Presidency, said a missionary assignment is a "season of joy." I can see that in the faces of the wonderful people here. Afterwards we retired to our room for a very welcome Sunday afternoon nap.

Being Fast Sunday, the cafeteria did not open until 4:30 pm for dinner (no breakfast or lunch) - and then it was only scheduled to be open for 1 hour. It hasn't seemed crowded in the cafeteria up to today - probably because people come in shifts. But today, there were long lines of hungry elders and sisters. Thankfully, there was plenty of food for all those hungry missionaries including BYU Creamery ice cream again.

At 7:00 pm we attended Sunday Evening Fireside for all the missionaries. The talks were great, but what I was most impressed with was the missionary congregation singing "We'll Bring the World His Truth"...."We are as the army of Helaman, We have been taught in our youth. And we will be the Lord's missionaries To bring the world His truth."  Such power and conviction in those beautiful young people!

Believe it or not, Sunday night is "Movie Night" at the MTC! We watched two films - The First Vision and the Restoration of Kirtland - in one large room, and there were two other similar films in another large room.

So ends our first week as missionaries - happy and so grateful to be here!