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 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.