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 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!