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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

JOURNAL - February 21 - 27

Monday, February 21

What a great FHE tonight with the YSA! Tash gave a great lesson about fellowshipping new and less active members. For the activity Brother and Sister Cardenas did a cooking demonstration: potato taco, tomato salad, garlic bread and fresh squeezed lemonade. They wanted to show the students some inexpensive and easy things to fix - it was all really good! We had 12 members, 4 investigators, 4 missionaries (not counting us) and the Cardenas'. Everyone had a great time!

Potato Taco

Just a few of our cute YSA and the sister missionaries.

Thursday, February 24
Tuesday was a cloudy, rainy study day - nothing new to report. Wednesday was Institute at Birmingham. Today was a glorious spring day - sunshine and all! Unfortunately rain is expected for tomorrow:( 

We participated in a missionary discussion today taught by the Sister Missionaries here in Birmingham. They are amazing and always have someone to teach! Today it was Zsuzzanna, a very nice girl from Romania who is here as a nanny. She has such a sweet spirit, and has had some wonderful experiences with the Holy Ghost. She is going home for two weeks, so it will be interesting to talk with her when she gets back. Institute at Lichfield tonight was really nice. One sweet young man has been having trouble getting his mission application papers processed for the last 3 months. A couple of things have "mucked it up," as he puts it, but he has been assure it is in SLC and will be given top priority. He thinks the call should come next week. I certainly hope so!

I've felt a little "down" the last couple of days - not sure why. Sometimes we feel a little out of the loop.We love the kids and the time we spend with them - they are wonderful! But we have very limited interaction with other senior missionaries or adults. Brother and Sister Kleijweg are flying here from Holland in about 3 weeks to give us I&S (Institute & Seminary) training. We're looking forward to that.

But relief came today in the form of an email from Gwen Dodge. She shared a story/thought she heard at her Institute class and it was just the encouragement I needed to hear. The Lord knew exactly what I needed! So, I'm ready to pick myself up, dust myself off, and get on with the work!

Friday, February 25

Tonight was the Birmingham Institute Cultural Night activity. The attendance was fair, but everyone had a great time. Four continents were represented with reports and food from their culture. Our Chinese investigators did the food for China and it was delicious. We ate Vegimite sandwiches from Australia - actually wasn't bad. Europe did a wonderful nut, chocolate, raisin cookie - yummy. We did North America - kettle corn and rice krispie squares. We also taught them the Virginia Reel. It was a lot of fun

Saturday, February 26

Today was our first ride on the city bus. A one-way ticket normally is £1.80, but for us it was free with our senior passes. I must admit we weren't terribly brave. We took the bus to Birmingham City Center - a straight shot of less than 3 miles to a huge shopping center called Bull Ring. It was packed with people -  I've never seen so many people shopping. There are tons of stores - big and small - some in big malls, others just on streets with walking only access. Our main goal was to go to SpecSavers to get some piano glasses for me (I couldn't find mine when it was time to leave). Bradley contacted my optometrist for my prescription and emailed it to me.  The glasses were made in one hour and only cost £25 ($40.27). That is the lowest priced glasses they had. The most expensive I saw was £125. I didn't need an exam, but if I had it would have been an additional £10 (with a coupon). So far, socialized medicine has been good to us.

We enjoyed our evening listening to a live audio broadcast of the BYU/San Diego State basketball game on the internet. They won - go Cougars!

Sunday, February 27

Very nice Sunday, except we found out that probably neither of the dates we booked for a Birmingham Temple trip will work. Back to the drawing board for that one! We drove an hour to a multi-stake Fireside at Leicester Stake which was very nice. While there we met the couple serving with the Leicester CfYA - Tim and Ann Corbin - a very nice English couple that knew the Karrens from their youth mission days in England. They are submitting their mission papers this week and are very excited. Most of our YSA from Lichfield were there. A few of our Birmingham kids arrived just as the meeting was ending. They carpooled and one of the cars broke down on the way. A tow truck was coming, but they needed us to pick up two of the girls and take them home to Solihull, which we did. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

JOURNAL - February 14 - 20

Monday, February 14 - HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!

The Sister Missionaries called today and told us that our YSA investigator, Candace, didn't want to take any more lessons - such a disappointment! I wonder why? At least a seed was planted. I'm anxious to ask the Sisters what happened next time I see them.

I sure enjoy the mornings we get to study for our lessons. The lesson preparation seems to be getting easier. After study, we took a nice walk to our park. We had some left over pancakes and enjoyed feeding them to the water fowl and squirrels. One goose ate right out of Devon's hand. They are really used to being around people.

FHE was nice, but attendance was down. The kids thought that was probably due to Valentine's Day. Still it was a nice evening - always fun to be with the YSA!

Tuesday, February 15

Today was Tuck Shop day. We turned in all the currency that we had from the sale of the Tuck Shop items (candy bars, soda, and chips), and went to Costco and Wing Yip to stock up on more items for the kids to buy. They like to have the sweets to munch on at Institute. The items are sold strictly at cost, so it is a revolving fund. When the goodies get low, we take the money and go buy more. We got a little turned around on the way home  - so hard to navigate and follow the GPS "lady" in the downtown area - especially since we don't know our way around there very well. But, we did finally get home with not too much frustration. We know when we are lost, and also know there is a twisted network of streets and lots of ways to get from point A to point B.

I think the Birmingham YSA budget for 2011 is finished - at least for now. We are still working out a date for a temple trip. Preston Temple (our Temple District) has no free Saturday's for the rest of the year for baptisms. We have approval from President Griffiths to see  if we can get a date at the London Temple, so I'm waiting to hear from them. We did get confirmed dates for both Birmingham and Lichfield to take trips to the local Church History Sites - we're really looking forward to that. Also, finally got the January monthly report for Lichfield Stake completed and sent in.

Wednesday, February 16

Enjoyed our walk and watched a huge, fancy helicopter land in the soccer field next to the police academy. Looked pretty official, but we didn't stick around to see who was boarding it. Did notice some new beautiful dark purple and yellow flowers in the park - yippee!

Birmingham Institute was grand. Two new engagements were announced. It was exciting news for all the YSA. There are a few other couples that need to take the plunge, too. We'll see.....

Thursday, February 17

This afternoon, while doing final preparations for my lesson tonight, the Sister missionaries called and asked if we could help teach another of our YSA female investigators - a sweet Hungarian girl from Romania who has been here for two years as a nanny. She came to learn English and somehow the missionaries found her. I couldn't go, but Devon did. He said it was a very special, spiritual hour. We have another appointment to help teach her next week. I'm excited about that!

Institute at Lichfield was good. I taught 3 Nephi 27, 28. I learn so much while preparing lessons. - this week some new insights about the atonement. I think the kids enjoyed class. They are always so sweet. Afterward we had a good time talking with two of the girls about places and things to see in England. They had some great ideas. When the weather gets a little better we will make an effort to see some of these places. For now, we are looking forward to our trip to Preston Temple tomorrow.

Friday, February 18

We had a nice drive to the Preston Temple. It is beautiful! The outside is polished granite - so pretty and majestic. It sits atop a hill in a rural area named Chorley, about 6 miles outside Preston. I can only imagine how beautiful it will be when spring comes.

Not only is the temple there, but also on the property is a fairly large stake house, and a complex that includes a Distribution Center, Family History Center, Accomodations Building for temple patrons, and the Preston MTC. In the middle of the complex is a parking lot.

We are standing in front of the accommodation building to take this picture of the Preston MTC, which is the two buildings pictured. To the left of the MTC is the Distribution Center and Family History Center, with the parking lot in the middle.
 This is the back of the Preston MTC - so pretty. The area with all the windows is the cafeteria. This is what you see when you drive up to the complex. 

Our room and bathroom in the Accommodation Building.

The fee for one night in the Accommodations is 22 pounds per couple, or $35.75. Not bad. They provide the sheets, blankets, pillows, and towels. The little kitchen has a microwave and little refrigerator, and is stocked with a few glasses, plates, cups, and silverware. On the main floor is a large, full kitchen and dining room, if the patrons want to actually cook something. I think some people come and stay the week. There is also a room with coin operated laundry machines. This is the first time we have stayed in temple accommodations, but we would sure do it again!

Just as we finished prayers and were crawling into bed (about 10:30 p.m.), our phone rang. It was David Arnold - a YSA from Birmingham. He received his mission call in the mail and was so excited to share his news. He will be going to the Geneva Switzerland Mission in June - same mission our son, David, went to.

Saturday, February 19
We woke up to a cold, rainy, windy day. We got up, ate some breakfast (bagels, fruit, and juice), cleaned our room and bathroom, and checked out about 9:00 a.m. While we were taking the above pictures of the complex, we noticed an Elder waving to us from one of the MTC windows. It was Sunni Atwal - a YSA from our Birmingham group that entered the MTC about a week ago. He is going to the London South Mission. It was so good to see him - big smile on his face and having a great time! He can hardly wait to get to the mission field and will be a GREAT missionary for sure!

After our short visit with Elder Atwal, we drove to Preston to try to find some Church History sites. It wasn't easy, but after driving and walking in circles for a while, we finally found what we were looking for.

River Ribble.
This is the site of the first baptisms in England. It is now a nice park, but in the 1830's there was no park or trees by the river.

Market Square in downtown Preston
This is the site where President Hinckley, as a terrified new missionary in 1933, reluctantly preached the gospel while standing on this stand. The original missionaries to England also preached on this same spot.

Sunday, February 20

Another cold, cloudy day in England. It is High Council Sunday and Devon was assigned to speak at Kidderminster Branch - one of the oldest branches of the church. Upon arrival I was asked to also speak for a few minutes. Thanks to a recent Book of Mormon Institute lesson and the hymn book, I was able to give a short talk - more than just a testimony. The branch is about a 40 minute drive outside Birmingham through beautiful English countryside. It always feels good to get out of the city. Kidderminster Branch is very small - only about 40 people at church and mostly elderly. They have one YW - a 12 year-old. But what a wonderful, friendly branch! We thoroughly enjoyed visiting with them!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

JOURNAL - February 7 - 13

Monday, February 7

Beautiful, but very windy day here in Birmingham. We bundled up and went for a walk in the park - felt like we really had a workout walking against the wind. It is a little warmer as evidenced by no ice on the pond at the park.

I LOVE SKYPE - we had a wonderful conversation with Emily and Marianne today. It really felt like we were spending time together. Technology is so amazing and my skills are slowly improving. I actually downloaded a free driver today so I could download Mormon Messages to my computer and use in class. High five to me!

FHE was great tonight. Brother Wills from the High Council did a presentation on Indexing to the YSA and they really caught the vision. Some were so excited we almost had to tell them to stop so we could go home.

I have been studying D&C 88 this week in preparation for my lesson. Initially I felt overwhelmed with the length of the chapter and all the info in it, but it actually seems to be coming together quicker this week - my prayers are being answered!

Tuesday, January 8

Arrived in Birmingham four weeks ago today. In some respects it feels like it was yesterday, in other ways it seems like we have been here a long time. Spring bulbs are starting to to poke through the ground - yippee! Spring is around the corner!

We found out that a principal who retired from Alpine School District with Devon in June and her husband have been called to England for their mission - Paula and Guy Fugal. They will be living close by in Sollihul and will be involved with Public Affairs. It's amazing to think that there will be three new retirees from Alpine District serving as senior missionary couples in England.

We decided to go to downtown Birmingham today and submit our applications for our free bus passes. Oh my goodness was it hard to find - so many little streets, turns, and a ton of cars and pedestrians! Turns out it is inside a big mall. We were so confused, but finally found it, had our pictures taken for the passes, and turned in our applications. The passes should arrive in about 4 weeks. The fees plus parking at the mall cost about 15 pounds - pretty expensive, but hopefully worth it - assuming we can figure out the bus system.

Wednesday, February 9

After morning study, we decided to take our walk but in the opposite direction we usually go (don't have a clue if it is N, S, E, or W - no one here knows which direction is north). Within a mile of our house we found this amazing old church. Fortunately it was open so we took a peek and some pictures.

Old Edgbaston Church is a fully functioning church.

All around the grounds are graves - most very old, but a few more recent looking ones.
 The inside was amazing with gorgeous stained glass windows all around the building.
The ropes you see hanging are to ring the bells in the bell tower.
 Nifty old stone wall
On the way home from our walk we found a community volunteer garden. They grow all sorts of vegies and fruit that they sell in the summer months to help fund their garden. They also make jams, jellies, and other goodies from the produce and sell that as well. Can't wait for summer!

I baked cookies today for the first time - snickerdoodles. Couldn't find anything like Crisco or Cream of Tartar, so I used butter and a little vanilla. They don't taste quite the same, but were good. The oven continues to be tricky, but at least I didn't burn the cookies. 

Institute at Birmingham went well. We had a big group - a little over 50. I accompanied the choir and taught D&C 88. Several of the kids told me they enjoyed the lesson. It's a blessing to have RM's in the class who help to get a good discussion going.

Thursday, February 10 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY CONNOR

The four member YSA Council Presidency from Birmingham Stake came over today for lunch and a planning meeting. The Stake has been asking us for our budget for the year, so we got that done. They have some fun activities planned including a Preston Temple trip and a Church History Trip to Gadfield Elms (we're really looking forward to that). 

Devon taught at Lichfield Institute tonight and did a great job! I really enjoy our small group of kids there. Tonight we had 19 which included one new girl and two who haven't come for quite a while. Six of our very regular attending YSA were not there for various reasons. If they had come it would have been our highest attendance ever. Hope they all come next week! 

Friday, February 11
One month ago today we arrived in Birmingham. I think back on that day and it seems like eons ago. The Brits always ask, "How are you settlin' in?" I would say just fine!

We had a wonderful morning. The sister missionaries brought Candace, the YSA aged investigator from China, over for another lesson. Candace wanted to know more about Christ - she never heard of him before coming to England for school. So the lesson was focused on Christ, his life, and some of the things he did - including the atonement. Very nice morning! She will be back next week for another lesson.

After the lesson we went to Solihull to get knitting help from my YSA friend who works at the store there. While I was there I met a retired OB doctor and her anesthesiologist husband. She lived in Arizona back in the 60's and was familiar with the Mormons. She is a very devout Christian from Pakistan and we had a nice conversation. I gave her a "pass along card," which she thankfully received. It was the first card I've ever given out. It was so easy and natural. I'm glad I had one in my purse and will pick up some more to keep handy.

After my little knitting class, we went to the theater and saw "True Grit" - Devon's choice! He saw it and loved it before we left home and was anxious to see it again. Then it was home to make a couple of phone calls and work on talks/lessons.

Saturday, February 12
Sad news today. Devon's sister, Maurine, has been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. She has had concerns about a tremor she's had for a while. Still the diagnosis is a shock to us. She plans to do all she can to slow the progression, and we will pray for the same. I know she is in God's hands - that He loves her, and will take care of her. No one is more deserving of His blessings.

We had a nice hour long walk in the park today. Being Saturday it was full of people and families enjoying the park - a lot more people than we see on week days. There are signs of spring throughout the park - bulbs sprouting through the ground, buds swelling on the trees, and even the rare flower blooming. I can't wait for spring!

Tonight Devon will listen to the BYU/Utah basketball game over the internet. 

Sunday, February 13
Our beautiful, sunny day yesterday has vanish - today clouds and drizzly rain all day. We gave our talks in Sacrament Meeting - mine on gratitude, Devon's on family history and happiness. It is good to have that over. We both had nice Sunday afternoon naps and great Skype conversations with some of our kids - the highlight of our week! We will end the evening with lesson prep for next week's lessons. It has been a another great week!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

JOURNAL - January 31 - February 6

Monday, January 31

Beautiful day in Birmingham - blue skies and not too cold. We spent the morning doing some laundry and working on our lessons/talks. Part of my talk for the Stake Women's Conference is about keeping the commandments. I am amazed at how clearly I can identify what needs to be taught about this principle. We pray constantly for help from the Spirit - don't know why I am surprised when it comes.

The afternoon found us taking another walk at Cannon Hill Park. Today was a little warmer, but still we layered up to keep warm.
Look carefully - some of the geese/pigeons are standing on sheets of ice.
A view in the park.
Devon wanted this one added. It is a typical street in Birmingham - narrow streets, row houses/apartments, cars parked facing all directions on the narrow streets.
Our apartment building. We are the on the second floor of this end of the building. The small window on the side is our bathroom window. This is just one building in the complex. It has four flats in it. Most of the other buildings are 3 stories.

After FHE lesson, treats, and a game in the gym, we sat on the floor at FHE tonight and played variations of UNO with the some of the kids - just laughed and had a good time. More and more we are getting comfortable with each other. They are an amazing group from all over: Australia, America, Romania, Spain, the Netherlands, Africa and more - and of course England. Some are here going to school, others to work. A couple of girls are nannies. The young missionaries (sisters and elders) are very busy teaching YSA aged investigators and they come out to the activities, too. The YSA themselves are active with retention/activation to try to support and help everyone stay active. When we said we needed a new greeting message for our cell phone, it was decided they would make one for us - a little silly, but  cute! (I must brag that tonight's dinner was delicious - homemade lasagna. Maybe I'm figuring this oven out!)

Tuesday, February 1

Welcome sweet February. January always seems like such a long, cold month to me. February came in with milder weather here in Birmingham - absolutely lovely! Ventured into a different part of Birmingham today. A sweet single sister, Mary, in our ward invited us to lunch at her home in Kings Norton. With her good directions we found it pretty well. She prepared a delicious salmon lunch and we had a wonderful time visiting with her. 

Devon has been stressed the last day or so because he couldn't locate the projector at Harborne Ward and he needs it for his lesson tomorrow. It was used on Sunday for our combined RS/Priesthood lesson, but we haven't seen it since. On the way home from Kings Norton we decided to stop at the Ward and make one more sweep of the building to see if we could find it - no luck! Just as we were leaving, a member from the High Council came. We exchanged casual greetings and then mentioned that we were there trying to locate the projector, to which he said, "I have it!" We truly see the Lord's hand blessing and guiding us in so many ways.
Wednesday, February 2

Rain today - not drizzle - actual rain. I had to use my umbrella. After institute the clouds were gone and there were stars in the sky. We had another lovely walk in the park today after study and lesson prep in the morning.

I read a story today, originally told by Richard L. Evans, about a man named Jack McConnell, MD. He was one of seven children raised by a Methodist minister and stay-at-home mom. Their circumstances were rather humble. Every evening at the dinner table his father would ask each child, “And what did you do for someone today?” Dr. McConnell said as children they were determined to do a good turn each day so they could report to their father that they had helped someone that day. Dr. McConnell calls this exercise his father’s most valuable legacy, for that expectation and those words inspired him and his siblings to help others throughout their lives. 

I really love this story and wish I had thought to do this with my children while they were growing up. Thankfully, they have all turned out to be wonderful, charitable people. Still, it is never too late to encourage love and service. I think now instead of asking my children/grandchildren how they are, I'll ask "And what did you do for someone today?" 

Thursday, February 3

Was up in the night feeling discouraged, anxious and worried about whether I am doing as good a job as the couple before us. It is hard to follow in their shoes and I worry about being compared to them. My fears are irrational, I know; still they cause me a measure of distress. I appreciate the words of support and reassurance from family members and have decided to put any distress aside. I know where the discouragement comes from and don't want any part of it.

The sister missionaries brought an investigator to our flat today to teach. She is a YSA aged young lady from China who is here going to university. The lesson was about Temples. Candice is not quite ready to commit to baptism, but did bear her testimony of the joy she has felt in her life since being introduced to the gospel and she wants to continue with lessons. She made an appointment for another lesson next week, again at our flat. It was a special experience for me especially since my lesson at Lichfield Institute tonight was about the gathering of Israel. I'm so grateful to be a part of it.

An interesting side note - one of the sister missionaries is from Sweden and the other from Scotland. But what is so interesting is that the father of the sister from Scotland grew up in Burbank, California - same place I did. She has been there many times visiting her grandmother. Her dad is Catholic and went to Catholic school in Burbank, so I didn't know him - still a very interesting coincidence!

Friday, February 4 

We got our first UK haircuts today from two delightful ladies at the shop recommended by the Karren's, and were pleased with the whole experience. My perm will be totally gone now, so we'll see how well I can manage it. We also found the Asda store. It's the UK version of Walmart and is actually owned by Walmart. It's a big store. Probably close to 2/3's of it was groceries, but they do sell some of anything else you could think of. Tomorrow we do our workshop at the Stake Women's Conference, so the rest of the day was spent working on our talks.

Saturday, February 5

Women's Conference was a big success! The turnout was better than they had hoped for and the sisters really seemed to enjoy the whole day. This was the first Women's Conference they have had - I think it will become an annual tradition. Our talks went well. Mostly it just feels good to have it over

A couple at Women's Conference today told us that because we are over 60 we qualify for free bus and train passes in England. We are really excited! We have to get some pictures taken and apply for the passes. They said it takes about 4 weeks to process, so we want to apply as soon as possible. We're anxious to venture out of the city and see the sights. 

Tonight we drove to Burton Ward in Lichfield Stake to attend a baptism for a YSA aged single mom. Don't know if she can come to Institute, but we invited her. Burton is an hour away by car. Thankfully our Sat Nav directions were good and we made it there and back without problems.

It is 10:00 pm here and Devon is listening to a live broadcast of BYU Basketball. He's such a happy boy! 

Sunday, February 6

Went to Church and didn't have to do a thing but sit and enjoy it. Well, that's not completely true. I ended up staying to accompany choir practice as their accompanist didn't come today. I enjoyed it, except I don't have my piano glasses - couldn't find them when it was time to leave Utah. It is a considerable problem for me - may look into how much it would cost to get a pair here.

We were happy to leave the road construction in Utah County behind when we left, but guess what - we have to drive through it here daily! At least it keeps people employed!

Enjoyed talking with David and Ethan yesterday, and Skyped today with Brad's and Lori's family, and Marianne. Don't know what I would do without internet and our phone!