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, June 26, 2011

JOURNAL - June 20 - 26

Monday, June 20

What is it with Monday's. For the last few weeks it has been sunny and beautiful when we wake up, but by afternoon it turns cool, cloudy, and (in today's case) very rainy. We were at FHE and looked out the window to see torrents of rain coming down - something no one expected. Kendal gave a really great lesson on Faith, JP brought the treats, and Morella was in charge of the activity - a really fun game of UNO. We played on teams and had a blast.

I have to include the picture below. It was taken last Saturday at the Harborne Ward Summer Party. These are some of our cute YSA and the Sister Missionaries from Harborne. I love these girls - every one!!! (Please notice the sun is shinning - must be at the end of the party as it rained through most of it.)
Left to right: Sarah (recently returned missionary who served in Oakland, California), Sister Baker (from Oregon - amazing violinist), Kendall (student-just graduated in elementary ed), Morella (student in design), Leanne (student - not sure what), Kynna (fun, fun girl), Sister Clark (from Northern California - harp major from BYU).

Tuesday, June 21

Lesson prep day. We used to spend days in lesson prep - each of us preparing a separate lesson. For the summer session we are teaching one course which we team teach, thus making our lesson prep time much less. I also think we are getting better and faster at preparing. The best part of all this teaching is that we are building great files to be used as resources for future talks. Another plus - I'm not nearly as nervous about getting up in front of people.

Today is summer solstice - the longest day of the year. It is 9:35 p.m. and still light outside. The sun starts coming up about 4:00 a.m. I love these long days and hate thinking that tomorrow they start getting shorter.  Oh well - what can you do?

Wednesday, June 22

We have been working very hard to train and motivate the YSA Reps to magnify their calling, and it looks like we're making progress. Our YSA Council Meetings held each week before Institute are getting more organized and thus also more productive. The Reps are coming prepared to make a report on the fellowshipping/activities in their ward, and they are starting to coordinate missionary efforts with the Elders in their respective wards - some more so than others. We follow a printed agenda and stay pretty much on task. It is definitely a work in progress - slow, but making progress.

Friday, June 24

We have a nice, tiny garage that is locked and very secure. It is so tiny we don't park the car in it, so other than our luggage our garage is empty. We have offered the space to the university students to store their "stuff" over the summer while they are at home. Today Tina and her dad brought over two big boxes, Stephanie and her mom and dad brought over things last week, and Lucy is bringing over her stuff next week.

Tonight was the YSA Stake picnic. It was supposed to be sports and games at a park called Licky Hills. The day started out okay - cloudy, but okay. By 6:00 pm it was raining, so the event was changed to the Harborne building. What was to be a sports event turned into a "Friday chill night." They played a couple of game in the cultural hall, but mostly just chilled out and enjoyed visiting with each other. We have had cold, rainy weather ALL week - feels more like winter than the end of June.

I found an internet site to order Nestle's butterscotch chips from, and found a store in downtown Birmingham that sells Karo Syrup, so I made K-squares - so yummy - and shared them with the Sisters tonight. They loved them!
Sister Baker and Sister Clark

Saturday, June 25

I would call this "Marathon Day". We have been on the run all day. First was an appointment to teach with the Sisters. They received a text message from a less-active YSA that said he had some questions about the Book of Mormon. When we got to his flat we were surprised to learn that he was a young man who came occasionally last winter, but hasn't been to church in quite while. He's had his feelings hurt and had some non-member "friends" speak very negatively about the church. We (the Sisters and us) spent a tender hour answering his questions, and encouraging him to study and pray. He is going to take the lessons again, and start coming to church. It was such a sweet experience.

At 3:00 pm we and the Sisters, meet our three Chinese students at a Chinese Buffet in downtown Birmingham for a farewell luncheon. Two of the boys have been baptized, and the other plans to be baptized in October when they all return to school. They are just so cute and excited about the Gospel. They knew nothing about Jesus Christ before they came to school. It has been great watching them learn and develop testimonies.

At 7:00 pm we went to a farewell BBQ for Dave Arnold, one of our YSA boys that is leaving for the Provo MTC on Monday. He is going to the Geneva Switzerland Mission and is so excited. They had the usual BBQ items and also a pig - yep a whole pig! The YM President in his ward is a very nice man from Tonga who took the YM with him to slaughter, clean, and roast the pig! They brought it in (through the church) laid out on a board. Then they carved and served the meat. I hate to admit that I'm such a wimp...but I couldn't eat the poor little piggy - could hardly look at it, and I wasn't the only one! Still, it was a hit and reported to be delicious. Not something I sure didn't expect to see in England!

Also at 7:00 pm was a birthday BBQ for one of our YSA girls, so we left the farewell BBQ when we could and went to the birthday BBQ. She is the only member in her family, so we really wanted to support her. The BBQ was wonderful, but after the Chinese buffet, and the other BBQ we had pretty much no appetitite! In their back yard was a wonderful treat - they had sweet peas in bloom, one of my favorite flowers.

We were so exhausted by the time we got home, I can hardly remember falling into bed.

Sunday, June 26

Suddenly it is summer! Warm and wonderful. I am told to expect this for the next couple of days - wonderful! We went to church in Woodsetton Ward today with the YSA Presidency. They are a small ward on the outskirts of the Stake with very few active YSA. We had a munch 'n mingle afterwards with the YSA, the Bishop, and the Elders. I think everyone enjoyed being together. There was also one YSA non-member there. Two others we thought were coming didn't make it. Still it was a nice event. At 7:00 pm we met at Solihull Ward to participate in setting apart Elder Arnold for his mission. It was wonderful to be a part of such a special event and brought back fond memories of President Anderson setting us apart last December.
Elder David Arnold (red tie) and his family

Sunday, June 19, 2011

JOURNAL - June 13 - 19

Tuesday, June 14

Glorious sunny, warm day today - don't know why I felt down and overwhelmed this morning. These feelings creep in every once in a while and I question if I am doing enough. Devon says I'm just a "worry wart" - and he is right! We decided we needed to go for a walk and also do a little grocery shopping. So we "killed two birds with one stone." We rode the bus to Five Ways shopping area where we walked around a little and then did our grocery shopping at Tesco and rode the bus back home. It was great to be out in the sunshine!

Wednesday, June 15

We have been working hard with the YSA leadership regarding fellowshipping the less-active YSA. Four wards in our stake have active YSA groups, but three wards are struggling - even the reps don't come to church on a regular basis much less take part in fellowshipping. We have been discussing the problem with the YSA Presidency (an amazing group of strong kids) and together have come up with a plan that involves a team approach between the full-time missionaries and ward reps. Today we went to a missionary District Meeting to enlist their help. Love the missionaries! They are willing to try anything that will promote missionary work, and gladly agreed to help the reps that are struggling. We are encouraged with the progress towards making YSA Council Meetings more effective. Tonight's meeting was great! We had an organized agenda, the ward reps that were present gave good reports, Steph, the YSA secretary, presented some great missionary goals for the YSA, and there are lots of good activities coming up. It feels like we are moving forward as a team and that is good!

Thursday, June 16

We met with the rest of the full-time missionaries from our stake and that went well. We have seven wards in the stake. Our ward, Harborne, has two sets of missionaries assigned to it - one is sisters, the other is elders. The rest of the wards each have one set of missionaries. These eight pairs of missionaries are spread out in three different districts. So if we want to present something to the missionaries assigned to our stake we have to go to three different District Meetings. It can be a little time consuming, but worth the effort.

With the arrival of the new couple to take over Lichfield, our responsibilities have changed. Since we won't be going to Lichfield anymore, we have been asked to help with missionary flat checks. Once every six weeks we make appointments to go to the flats of the eight pairs of missionaries in our stake and grade it on cleanliness and general condition. We drove to the Mission Office today to pick up our packet of instructions and several bags of cleaning supplies to distribute to the missionaries. It kind of reminds me of our dorm parenting days when I did weekly apartment checks. Transfers are next week and after that we will begin the flat checks.

Tonight was our last night at Lichfield - very sad for me! Thankfully we will see them at the dances each month and occasionally for other events. I will also continue contact through Facebook with many of them. We enjoyed going to dinner with the Johnson's (new Lichfield senior couple) prior to Institute and spent more time orienting them and answering questions. We spoke with the Stake President before we left and were thrilled to learn that the application to make Lichfield an official Centre for Youth will be put in the mail this week.

Friday, June 17

We had a little free time this morning, so I rode the bus to the knitting shop in downtown Birmingham, while Devon went to the driving range - good therapy for us both. Then we made a trip to Costco and Wing Yip to restock the Tuck Shop at Institute - spent over 100 pounds on candy and soda. Wing Yip is a huge importer and the only place to get A&W root beer - which the YSA love!

Saturday, June 18

Today is the annual Harborne Ward Summer Fair, so, of course, it rained off and on all day - until the event was over and then the skies were blue! They had expected about 160 people but more like 260 showed up. They had encouraged the ward members to bring non-member friend, and they did! It was wonderful! They had a BBQ and lots of games throughout the building. I think everyone had a great time!

Sunday, June 19

I had a wonderful experience today. Last week's Institute lesson was on managing financial resources. I taught the first half of the lesson, which was on tithing. During our discussion about how much and who should pay, one of the YSA asked if people on disability were expected to pay tithing. He has been a member for only a couple of years and is autistic. We give him lots of encouragement, but he struggles to feel like he fits in. Sometimes his comments are a little strange and I wonder just how much he understands and agrees with. The answer to his question came from both the YSA and myself and was that all people need the blessings paying tithing can bring - and so yes, people on disability should pay tithing.

Today at church I watched (without him noticing) as he awkwardly handed two one pound coins to a member of the bishopric and said, "I want to pay my tithing." It was such a sweet confirmation that we are making a difference in lives. I love this work!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

JOURNAL June 6 - 12

Wednesday, June 7

Monday and Tuesday are always lesson prep, laundry, grocery shopping days - the slower days of our week and this week was no exception. Tuesday was a little different in that we had the cable hooked up for our new little TV. Not sure there will be much time to watch it, but it will be nice to catch up on the news. We get the Fox channel so Devon will enjoy keeping up with that.

Tonight at Institute we posted the photos from our Gadfield Elm trip last Saturday. Later in the evening we noticed the picture below had been added.
Lauren Sticklen, a talented, sweet girl from Australia, drew it! I can't tell you how much it made my day! It is a real treasure!

Thursday, June 9

We thought tonight might be our last drive to Lichfield Institute, so I made K-squares to take for treats. We had dinner at our favorite little pub in downtown Lichfield (great omelets, salad, and chunky fries). It was so yummy! Met Elder and Sister Johnson early to show them how to set up the classroom and the Tuck Shop, then went over how to do the reports and lots of other stuff. They are trying to figure out this CES mission - quite different than the proselyting one they did in Taiwan. They asked if we would teach another week and we quickly agreed. We love spending time with the Lichfield YSA  so we'll gladly have another week with them! We got about half way home and Devon said, "We forget to get out the K-squares." Dang! They were safely tucked in a cupboard in the church kitchen. Rather than go back for them, we called the girl in charge of FHE and they will use the treats then. Oh well. it was a good thought!

Friday, June 10

We went to the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley today. Birmingham played a big role in the Industrial Revolution here in England. That area was nick-named the Black Country because of all the soot from coal mining. It was a hard life. The museum is actually lots of old canals, houses, and stores that were relocated and restored. There are people in period costumes all over the village and in the homes to tell you about the history. Also there is an actual museum with wonderful exhibits of things made during that era. It cost us 11 pounds each for admission and another 5 pounds each to take the canal ride - but, our tickets are good for a whole year. That's a great deal! Warwick Castle, and Stratford Upon Avon are the same. I'll post pictures and tell a little more about them after I finish reporting on our week.

Tonight was the monthly YSA dance at Harborne. Again, about 300 YSA from all over England and some from Scotland were there. This time the YSA had a sign-up sheet for clean-up duties. It was wonderful!!! Everyone pitched in and we were out of there in good time.

Saturday, June 11

Solihull Ward YSA had a 25 mile bike ride and BBQ today. About 15 kids did the bike ride and another 15 (including us) showed up for the BBQ. The morning weather was great for the ride, but light rain arrived for the BBQ. They held a plastic tarp over the BBQ while they cooked the burgers. It was fun and I think everyone had a good time. Other happy news today - another of our YSA couples is officially engaged. Tasha and Joe plan an August 27th wedding in the London Temple. Yippee!

Sunday, June 12

Rain, rain, rain! Church was great - did I mention it rained?! I'm beginning the realize we may not have summer this year. They say it's like that some years, but I'm still holding out hope for sun - it is glorious when its here!
Streets in the Black Country Living Museum

There were a lot of school children also there on field trips to the Black Country. This boy is playing with a period toy. The hoop is attached to the straight metal piece. It's harder than it looks to keep it going.
This cute couple bought and moved this old two room house, brick by brick, and restored it to it's present condition. The fireplace is burning coal and they are roasting four potatoes on a spinning device hanging in front of the fireplace. The bedroom is in back of the fireplace wall. Notice the doily-like paper hanging from the top shelves.
 These "doilies" are hand cut out of old newspaper and placed on the shelves. It is typical for the time. 
 There is an authentic 1940's fair ground set up with period games and rides you could pay to ride.
This swing was part of the fair. Each rider pulls, in turn, on the rope she's holding to make it swing.
 Many canals were built to transport the coal and limestone. At one point Birmingham had more canals then Venice. There are still lots of canals in the city.
 There is a massive tunnel system for the canals.
 Inside one of the tunnels.
We rode on modern barges like the ones on the right. In the old days they would get through some of the tunnels by "legging it." Men would lay on their back on the barges and push them along with their feet against the walls of the tunnels.

Monday, June 6, 2011

JOURNAL May 30 - June 5

I think I'll just hit the highlights of the week. Our day to day routine is about the same each week: Monday - FHE; Tuesday - lesson prep; Wednesday - Birmingham Institute; Thursday - Lichfield Institute; shopping and chores in between. I really enjoyed the study and preparation for our lesson this week on the Holy Ghost. I'm sure I learn more than the kids do! Friday was a big shopping day at Costco in preparation for the Birmingham YSA trip to Gadfield Elm and Institute Graduation.
 Saturday morning we met at Harborne Ward at 8:30 a.m. for our much anticipated YSA trip to Gadfield Elm. We followed the format set up by the Karren's last year and it turned out to be a wonderful day.  Our first stop was at Malvern Hills - a little over an hour's drive from Harborne. Elder David Head, a senior missionary, met us there and was our private tour guide for the day. This is the highest mountain in England. It just barely qualifies (officially) as a mountain and is significant in church history. Many times Willford Woodruff hiked up the hill to meditate and pray. He makes many references in his journal to his experiences on Malvern Hills. Brigham Young and one other apostle are also know to have spent time on the hill. 
 Half way up Malvern Hills
 Walking to the top of Malvern Hills

View from the top.
Our next stop was Ben Bow Pond. It is fed by a natural spring. Sometimes the water is all the way up and by August it can be almost completely dry. This is where Wilford Woodruff baptized many new English converts. His journal said he cleaned the pond and had to dig it out a little to make it deep enough to baptize in. Today it is owned by a non-member family that keeps this spot in good condition for the many visitors that come each year.
Relaxing at Ben Bow Pond
This is the Gadfield Elm Chapel - oldest LDS chapel in the world. Originally it was owned by the United Brethren Congregation. Wilford Woodruff was invited to preach to their congregation, which he did, converting and baptizing about 600 of their members including their preacher. They gave the building to the church and within a few years they all immigrated to America. The building was taken over by other individuals and over the years fell into disrepair. Eventually it was purchased by a group of LDS members in the early 1980's. They restored it to its present condition. The extra stone needed for the repair was found at an old building that was being torn down. Likewise the benches inside were found at an old church and date to about the 1850's.
Upstairs there is a small attic room with information about some of the United Brethren converts. On one poster was information about Daniel Collett and his wife, Ester Jones. They are Devon's 2nd great grandparents who immigrated to America after joining the church here in England. There is an amazing special spirit in this room where we enjoyed a wonderful testimony meeting with the YSA.

We also enjoyed a great BBQ and watching the YSA play English football. It was a wonderful day!

Sunday, June 5

Tonight was Institute Graduation. We had 3 students graduate - 2 from Lichfield and 1 from Birmingham - but lots of students received certificates for completing the courses offered this year. After graduation there were nice refreshments catered by "Sister Costco" - what would we do without her?! We got to meet the new senior couple, Elder and Sister Johnson, who are taking over Lichfield Stake. They are from Snowflake, Arizona and arrived earlier this week . We will be meeting with them again next week to help orient them. Tonight it was nice for them to get to meet some of the people from Lichfield. I must admit....I'm really going to miss the Lichfield YSA!!! We were not given a choice about it, which is a good thing - I would hate to choose between these two great groups of kids!
Birmingham Institute YSA
Lichfield Stake YSA