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, March 27, 2011

JOURNAL - March 21 - 27

Tuesday, March 22

This week is off to a great start. Our lesson prep is well on its way, FHE was tons of fun last night, and spring is definitely in the air. The flowers are starting to bloom and the sun is shinning at least part of every day and sometimes all day - can't remember the last rainy day. It really is beautiful! And Mike continues to be stable. We rode the bus to the Bull Ring (city centre shopping malls) to go to the Apple Store. Needed to reset my IPad and didn't know how to do that. Turns out it is just a simple click. While we were there we did a little shopping. I found two new skirts and Devon got a new pair of pants. He was thrilled to find some ready made, not too expensive pants in inseam size 33 - hard to find that size at home. They are perfect!

In the late afternoon we met with the sister missionaries to teach Rita, a YSA aged investigator, and Sven, the German man we have taught before. Both are just hungry for the gospel and feel such a change in their lives since taking the lessons. Sven went to church for the first time last week and said he can't remember feeling so happy. Both have baptism dates scheduled. It's very exciting.

Wednesday, March 23 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALLISON - 10 years old!

We went to our first Missionary District Meeting. Seems we should have been going to these all along, but no one told us. Including us there was one sister team, 5 teams of elders, and the Zone Leaders. They had a great meeting, then took pictures, and went to McDonald's for lunch (we skipped McD's).

Then, in the evening, we had Institute at Birmingham. It was my turn to teach. There was a new YSA man there who was a bit of a problem in class - always had comments and usually not appropriate to what was being taught. I tried to be polite, but finally when he stated that he disagreed with one scripture, I just said, "Please see me after class," and went on. After class he came up to me to voice his opinion and right behind him was one of our returned missionary students coming to my aid - a knight in shining armor! The RM took over and handled the new student perfectly while I listened - did a much better job than I could have done. He sensed I would need help and came to my rescue - a true hero!
 Birmingham Institute Class

Thursday, March 24

Today was another beautiful spring day - blue skies and warm temperatures. I'm afraid it is just a tease - hear a return to clouds and cooler temperatures is just around the corner. Oh well, we'll enjoy this weather while we can. Had a nice time in Lichfield tonight, as usual. He have heard that the mission is expecting a new senior missionary couple to arrive in May, and that they might be assigned to Lichfield. So we are wondering if that will change our assignment to teach Institute there. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, March 25

The Elders assigned to Stourbridge Ward asked us to visit a recent YSA convert with them today, and we, of course, said yes. We had a nice visit with Tasha. She is the only active member in her family. She has been meeting with the missionaries and attending her home ward on a regular basis, and coming to Institute in Birmingham. We don't get to talk with her much at Institute so it was really nice to get to know her a little better. She rides the bus to Institute - an hour's ride each way plus a 15 minute walk from the bus stop to her home.

Stourbridge is a small city about 30 miles from our flat in Edgbaston. The one attraction they boast of is the Red House Glass Cone. Around the turn of the century making glass was a major industry with many glass cones in England. Today there are only 4 left. This one in Stourbridge has been restored and is now a tourist destination.
It is called the Red House Glass Cone because it is made of red bricks. It is huge, and one can only imagine the temperatures the workers endured while working in there.
The furnace was in the center with many working stations around the perimeter.
To the back of the glass cone was this canal. It was made so barges could bring coal to the glass cone. There is an inlet going into the cone so they could deliver the coal as close as possible.

Sunday, March 27

Yesterday we rode the bus to city centre again - this time for my knitting lesson. A sweet, young girl, Clair, gave me some great tips and instruction. I was mostly doing it right - just a few things learned that will hopefully yield nicer results.

Today was another great Sunday which included a nice (and needed) afternoon nap, and attendance at a fireside with President Ogden about missionary work. It was just what I needed. He spoke plainly about the importance of loving people and bearing witness of the joy the gospel has brought to our lives. I can certainly testify of that! I don't have the perspective of one who has lived without the church, but I can clearly recognize the influence and blessings of the church in my life. I receive frequent confirmation of the truth and goodness taught through the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is one of my greatest blessings! 

Monday, March 21, 2011

JOURNAL - March 14 - 20

Tuesday, March 15

I have been swallowed up with worry for our dear friend, Mike, and his family. The lesson I'm trying to prepare this week is about the brother of Jared and the simple, yet perfect faith he had in our Savior, Jesus Christ. It occurred to me this morning that my worrying doesn't help anyone - I need to be focused on exercising faith instead of wallowing in worry. I have assignments here that require my best effort; Mike needs my best effort; my best effort right now needs to be faith, prayers and work. It feels good to have a plan! We have good contact with Mike's family and although he remains very critical, tiny bits of positive are emerging.

Prior to Family Home Evening last night we helped teach with the sister missionaries - a nice man about 40ish. We have another appointment with him on Wednesday. FHE was great, as usual.

Wednesday, March 16 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY ERIC

A tough, tough day - Mike not doing well and Susan sick with worry that he was slipping away. I went to Institute with a constant prayer in my heart and wondering if I would need to go home. Then about 9 p.m. I turned on my email and there was a message from Lori that Mike had turned a corner, was doing better - stable enough to go to surgery.

Thursday, March 17

So nice to wake up to good news- an email from Lori saying that Mike was much improved. His vital signs are stable and he is responding to commands. Talked to Susan and she is better, too. Doctors are confidant he will survive. I'm so grateful to be saying prayers of gratitude today.

We taught with the sister missionaries yesterday and again today - that makes three times this week. They would like us to help them again tomorrow, but we have S&I training with Brother and Sister Kleijweg all day. They are flying in from Holland to train us and we are really looking forward to it.

Institute was great last night and tonight. We enjoy the YSA kids so much and they return the feelings. The Birmingham FHE group taught us a fun game on Monday - "Signs" - and we taught it to the Lichfield kids tonight. It will be fun to play it with our grandkids when we get home.

We found a free March Madness App for my IPad so Devon is in seventh heaven tonight watching a live broadcast of the BYU game. Go Cougars!

Friday, March 18

A wonderful, but very busy day with Elder and Sister Kleijweg. They gave us a lot of great information that confirmed the inspiration we received about two weeks ago as to where and how to focus our reactivation work. We have been primarily teaching and supervising activities. Our primary purpose should be to reactivate the less active YSA - something we need to have more involvement with. The Kleijwegs' direction will be very helpful. It will involve working and motivating the wards to work closely with their YSA representatives. We start Sunday with meetings with Solihull Ward.

Saturday, March 19

Today is the most beautiful day we've had since arriving in England - warmer weather, blue skies, and sun. We had a nice walk in our park and bought ice cream cones. The park was full of people - even a group of folk dancers. Met a cute senior citizen, Jackie, who was walking her two little dogs and pushing a third in a cart - he's too old to keep up with the other dogs. He looked proud as punch to be out for a ride.

Found out that Mike, had a heart attack yesterday. Thankfully, and miraculously  it resolved quickly with no residual effects. His ICU nurse noticed the unusual heart rhythm and took action quickly. He is making good progress, but has a very long way to go. Should come off the ventilator early next week. I'm so grateful for our international phone line and the ability to keep in close contact with those we care so much for at home.

While doing dishes this morning I looked out our kitchen window and saw this bird. I've never seen another one like it. It was so green and had a very bright red strip on his head. We thought it was some kind of parrot at first, but turns out it is a Green Woodpecker - common to England.
Speaking of birds, they sing all night long in the trees outside our bedroom - sometimes waking me up. They're not so cute in the wee hours of the morn!

Sunday, March 20

Attended church at Solihull Ward today - Devon was the High Council speaker. We met another senior couple serving with the Addiction Recovery Program. They are from Sandy, Utah and arrived about a month ago. This is their 10th mission. Some were summer missions, but still amazing to have served so many. We had a great meeting with the YSA from that ward and then with the YSA Rep., Bishopric, and Missionaries to encourage increased involvement from the ward in YSA activation. It was a great meeting with everyone excited to become more involved.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

JOURNAL - March 6 - 13

Monday, March 7

I can't believe it - two sunny days in a row. I didn't even need my coat this afternoon; but then I did have on a T-shirt and two sweaters, not to mention my warm stocking tights! Yesterday was a nice, quiet Sunday with Church meetings and study for our lessons this week. This morning was more study and lesson prep, then we made a trip to Costco. We needed to order a sheet cake for the birthdays at Birmingham Institute this Wednesday. The YSA leadership decided they wanted to celebrate birthdays once a month - something new - and we think it is a good idea. While we were at Costco we bought a memory foam topper for our bed. It's not a bad bed, just HARD. We wake up with sore hips every morning, so we're hoping this topper will remedy that. I can't wait to go to bed and try it out!

FHE was fun tonight. Including us, there were 17 people in attendance . Two of the kids have birthdays this week, so after the lesson we each take a turn saying something about the birthday people. It's a really nice tradition. Then we played a game where you close your eyes and someone (the werewolf) "kills" people off. There are other little twists, but "killing people" to knock them out of the game and then trying to guess who the werewolves are is the goal. It really was fun - really!

Tuesday, March 8

I decided I wanted to try making yeast rolls - brave undertaking considering the oven in our flat. I used my mother's great recipe - no Bosch mixer need, just a regular hand mixer and refrigerating the dough overnight. The yummy results are pictured below.
We made our second bus trip to Birmingham City today. The prism in my new classes was not right so we took them back. No problem. The new ones will be ready on Friday. Found a fun street market with rows of fresh produce, fabric, and other stuff. Also toured an old church next to the shopping area.

Thursday, March 10

Institute lessons went well. It always feels like a weight has been lifted when they are over. But then in a couple of days we are back to preparing again. We have discovered it is a big help to listen to previously taped Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants discussions on BYU TV. We are able to get them over the internet and they really have some great insights. We of course have seminary and institute manuals, and other resources that also are big helps. I really like teaching with Power Point presentations. They are pretty easy and fun to prepare, and I think add interest for the class. There are so many wonderful clips from the CES website and Mormon Messages. I try to use them whenever I they are appropriate for the lesson.

Big mail day - got two packages, both items we had ordered. The first was a book from Deseret Book, Jehovah of the World of the Old Testament (we will be teaching OT in the fall), and a cribbage board. We haven't had time to play a game yet, but I hope we can soon.

Friday, March 11

Today we heard reports of the awful earthquake in Japan, and the tsunami that followed. We watched previously recorded news reports on the internet and are so saddened by the death and destruction. I think it will be a while before we know the full extent of the disaster.

We arrived in England exactly 2 months ago today. I'm glad those first two months are over. You wouldn't think England would be much of an adjustment, but it was harder than we anticipated. That being said, we are - as they say here - "settling in" and liking it!

Tonight was the big monthly 5 stake dance at Harborne Chapel. Birmingham Institute is responsible to facilitate them. We had about 300 kids show up - not as many as last time. It went well, and we were able to lock up and leave by midnight.
Dancing in the cultural hall
Mingling in the lobby

Saturday, March 12

We are old pros now at taking the bus to Birmingham city center. Today's trip was to pick up my glasses and check out the train service from Birmingham to London (the train station is at city center). We are planning a trip to London next month and are told the best way to go is by train.

While we were downtown we found a cute little knitting shop. I think I will sign up for a one time Saturday class to learn how to read patterns, and improve my knitting technique. The girl running the shop is YSA age, so who knows - maybe this will turn into a missionary opportunity!

We played our first cribbage game today (I won!). And - by the way - we love the memory foam topper on the bed. No more sore hips! YIPPEE!

Sunday, March 13

Church is always great and to top it off tonight was the CES Fireside with L. Tom Perry. It was really good! There were about 35 kids in attendance - not enough, but those who were there enjoyed the Fireside and visiting with each other.

We found out today that our good friend, Mike Rawlins, was in a very serious dirt bike accident yesterday and is in Intensive Care with multiple fractures and internal injuries. Things like this make it so hard to be so far away. Our kids have been good to notify us by email and we can call to get updates. And, of course, we can and will pray!

Monday, March 7, 2011

JOURNAL - February 28 - March 6

Tuesday, March 1

Monday was a typical, quiet day of preparing lessons and FHE in the evening. Today was a typical cold, cloudy day in the UK. We spent the day in jeans - so comfortable. We had a nice walk in Cannon Hill Park. When we came home we discovered that someone had hacked into our gmail account and sent emails to most of our contacts. We've never had this happen before, but decided we needed to take action. So we opened a new email account, transferred everything over, let everyone on our contact list know of the new address, and deleted everything off the old account. I hope this solves the problem and doesn't cause our friends/family too much inconvenience.

Thursday, March 3

Wednesday night's lesson at Birmingham Institute and Thursday night's lesson at Lichfield Institute went well. Sometimes it's hard to know what impact the lessons have on the students, but they keep coming, so I guess they are enjoying it. We had our monthly YSA Advisory Meeting in Birmingham on Wednesday with the Mission President and his wife, Stake President, S&I Director, YSA youth leadership, Zone Leaders, and us. We discuss investigators and less-active YSA and who is fellow-shipping/teaching them. Thursday morning as we were discussing the youth with Brother Dockrill (S&I Director) it was suddenly clear to me that we needed to pursue a different direction to help activate/strengthen the less active YSA. We are so excited to discuss our idea (which I don't think was "our" idea, but rather inspiration) with the Stake President and hope he will agree with us about this new focus. We have mentioned it to a couple of elders and they think it's a great idea...so we'll see.

Friday, March 4

Devon couldn't find his scriptures after we returned home from Lichfield Institute last night and has been worried sick over them - couldn't sleep very well. He's got so many notes/references/etc. in them that it would be a real tragedy if they were lost. We did our grocery shopping this morning. Very happy to report that we are finally familiar with the store and can find almost everything we want without asking every clerk for items. After that we had our hair cut - both happy with the results. Then we headed out to Lichfield to look for Devon's scriptures, and sure enough, there they were just where he left them in the Institute room. What a relief! Then we drove to Tamworth to meet up with some of the youth from Lichfield for dinner. The Tamworth YSA Reps. brought a less active girl (which was the purpose of the dinner) and we all had a great time. She said she would try to come to Institute. We will keep in contact with her and hope she comes. Another less active YSA girl that has been to Institute two times also came to dinner. She seems to enjoy attending YSA events, so we will keep encouraging her. All in all there were eleven people to dinner: 7 YSA, 2 elders, and us. We all had a great time and a great dinner.

Saturday, March 5

Today was a five stake YSA Volleyball Tournament. Well over 100 YSA came from the five stakes (Lichfield, Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, and Nottingham) to Lichfield to play volleyball from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm for the chance to win the tournament and take home the trophy. Birmingham had won it for the last two tournaments, so expectations were high. But in the end the trophy went to Coventry. Each stake entered two or three teams, depending on the size of the stake and number of YSA. Below are pictures of the teams from Lichfield and Birmingham Stakes. There were lots of other YSA in attendance cheering on the teams.
Lichfield Stake
Chris, Tish, Rebecca, Amy, James, and Alex
Lichfield Stake
Peter, Harriette (in front) Oliver, Catherine, Sarah, and Nick
Birmingham Stake
Johnny, Nathan, Kynna, Tina, Lucy, and Christian
Birmingham Stake
Japinder, Lauren, John, Joe, Sarah, Miro, and Kezia
Birmingham Stake
Daniel, Josh, Stephanie, David, and Tasha
All just GREAT kids!!!