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, October 31, 2011

JOURNAL - October 24 - 30

Wednesday, October 26

Not much other than the usual to report for Monday and Tuesday this week. FHE continues to be enjoyed by about 15 kids and us. 

Today is transfer day for the mission. It's always interesting to see who gets transferred and who stays. We don't usually go to Transfers, but the Elders from Harborne needed a ride to pick up their new companion, so we went. There will be the three of them together for a while - a little unusual, but they have a large flat and can accommodate one more with no problem. The new Elder is from Slovakia and is fairly new in the mission. Between the three of them they speak seven languages - pretty amazing. They are from Slovakia, South Africa, and France and are exceptional young men!

Today is Sister Clark's last day in the mission field - one more reason to go to Transfers. Both Sister Whittaker (in our ward) and Sister Baker (formerly in our ward but now in Solihull) are being assigned as trainers for "greenies," and both are a little stressed over the responsibility. I think they'll be great, but they're not so sure. I'm really going to miss Sister Clark. Those feelings are tempered with the knowledge she is returning to BYU, and we'll certainly see her again. She is taking a "souvenir" of sorts home with her - a bad cold. Unfortunately I think I may have picked it up, too. We'll see - it's early. Maybe I can "nip it in the bud."

  Elder and Sister Tufts, Sister Clark, Elder and Sister Henry

It was wonderful to see the Henry's at Transfers. They are serving in Hereford where Sister Clark also served for a while. They are a terrific couple from Spanish Fork - and, I might add, true blue BYU fans (so why are we wearing red?)! They were in a bad auto accident a couple of months ago - totaled their car and put Sister Henry in the hospital for several weeks. Thankfully she is recovering and they will be able to finish their mission.

Wednesday ended with Institute and the usual meetings. Brother McMorn, our new S&I Director, has a vision for an actual Institute building separate from the church meetinghouse - that is how it's supposed to be, but it takes money. Before it can be approved we need to have a certain number of  students attending Institute. Both he and Elder Donnaldson (our Area Seventy) think we could meet the requirement if we combined Birmingham and Lichfield Stake, so they are going to discuss the possibility with the two stake presidents. It would be wonderful, but is quite ambitious - we'll see.

Thursday, October 27

It's official - I have Sister Clark's cold! It's a rainy day, but despite the weather and my cold we are going ahead with our plans to visit Shugborough Estate - another National Trust property. This week is the last week before the winter season when the properties will have very limited visiting times. Shugborough Estate dates back to the mid 1600's and is about a 40 minute drive north from Birmingham. It is a beautiful, large country estate most recently owned by the late Fifth Earl of Lichfield - also a famous photographer who took, among others, the photos of the wedding of Diana and Charles.
Dining room.
The large art pieces on the walls are paintings of ancient Rome. They are set into the wall and are designed to look like windows looking out on Rome.
Dining room ceiling
Red sitting room - one of many elaborate rooms filled with art.
Guest bedroom where Queen Victoria stayed for a while when she was but a princess.
Servants quarters. You were very lucky to be employed as a servant to the estate. It guaranteed you three meals a day, a bed to sleep in, and a meager income. The servant were treated very well at this estate.
Back side of the large farm house on the estate. I've never see such a "wooly" cow. It was quite funny to watch it turn it's head and scratch the side of it's body with the tip of it's horn.
Couldn't resist this photo of a Berkshire sow with her 12 piglets - poor mama! "Mr. Darcy," the daddy, was next door.

The drive to Shugborough goes right past Ikea. I talked Devon into stopping there on the way home for a dinner of Swedish meatballs, mash, gravy, and peas. I wanted to prove to him that I could go in and out of Ikea without shopping - DONE!

Friday, October 28
Sick! Spent most of the day resting and then went to Chill Night with the YSA. We only had about 8 kids come tonight, but everyone had tons of fun playing games and eating treats. The Stake Presidency was there doing interviews, so various stake members were in and out all evening, watching us play games and sharing in our treats.

Saturday, October 29

Grocery shopping day to Tesco for our groceries, and to Costco to pick up refreshments for the fireside tomorrow night. That and some laundry was about all I could do.

Sunday, October 30

Made it through church and then went home to rest before the fireside. Tonight's fireside theme was "Why I Believe." Six YSA and Stake President Griffiths spoke about how they received their testimonies. One YSA, who has only been a member for a year, told her conversion story. The change in her life from piercings, alcohol, etc., and deep unhappiness to a fullness of joy that only the gospel can bring was amazing to hear. Most of us have a testimony that has developed "line upon line," but hers was sudden and powerful. About 50 attended the fireside, including 4 or 5 investigators and one less active YSA. The event was a huge success. We left at 10:00 with about 15 kids still there - hanging out and having a good time being together. Just as it should be.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

JOURNAL - October 17-23

Tuesday, October 18
This week had a rather different beginning. Actually Monday was as normal as usual until after FHE. We got home around 11:00 pm. Just as we had changed for bed we got a phone call from one of our girls telling us that her housemate was very ill and needed a blessing - no problem. We got dressed and left (in a rush) to go pick up one of our returned missionaries to help Devon give Hannah a blessing. Everything went very smoothly, until we got home (at midnight) and realized Devon had grabbed the church keys instead of our flat keys. One of our neighbors let us into the building, but there was absolutely no way to get into our flat. We sat on the stairs for a minute or two thinking about what our options were. We knew where the phone number for our letting agency was so we called them. Fortunately they have a night person taking emergency calls. In about a half an hour he arrived, picked the lock and let us in for a fee of 60.00 pounds. That is one mistake we won't make again!

Today was also the long dreaded day Devon was scheduled to take the driving test for his UK license. It is notoriously hard to get a license here - they fail over 40%, and it is rare to pass on the first try. He did good except for one little thing. The tester told him to "take the second exit on the left" in a round-about. The second exit on a round-about is usually straight through and you're supposed to get in the middle lane. Devon did that, but apparently because he said "on the left," Devon should have been in the left lane. He wasn't, so he failed him. Boo!!!! Devon was pretty disappointed - actually ticked at such a petty call, but that's that. He's rescheduled to retake the test on November 9th, but at a different location. 

Wednesday, October 19

Much better day! It's Zone Conference today at the Wyle Green Chapel in Sutton Coldfield - love some of these names! It was a good conference. We always love being with the missionaries. I especially enjoy the "parting testimonies" of the missionaries that are due to be released before the next Zone Conference. Today was special because Sister Clark and Sister Pope gave their parting testimonies - both wonderful beyond words! They are amazing girls! We're going to miss them!

Institute went well. Devon taught the Old Testament class for Brother McMorn, who was out of town, and I taught our Doctrines of the Gospel class. The attendance was good and the kids enjoyed being together. 

Thursday, October 20 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY LOGAN

We purchased National Trust tickets and decided we should use them. For an annual fee of about 63.00 pounds (for the two of us) we have access to hundreds of properties throughout the UK - most free, or for an additional small fee. Today we went to Hanbury Hall in North Worcestershire - about a 30 minute drive from our flat. It is an estate built in 1701- 1710 by a wealthy lawyer, Harry Vernon. Over the years the estate and mansion fell into disrepair, but has been lovingly restored and is amazing. We also enjoyed nice home baked treats in the Tea Room.
 Front of Hanbury Hall
Back of Hanbury Hall
Drawing room. The carpet is from the 1700's though not original to the house.
Guest bedroom
Dining Room  
 Original Thornhill painting on ceiling of dining room. There are other, huge wall paintings Thrornhill was commissioned to paint. Later he painted the ceiling in St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
Orangery and Mushroom House
Building that houses the delicate plants during winter (citrus, pomegranate, etc.)
 Parterre garden. The hedges are exactly 8 inches square and are trimmed by hand. There are other large garden areas, but this is by far the most ornate.

Friday, October 21 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANNILY

Our weather, though still pleasant, is getting colder. We can feel the sting in the wind. Devon needs a warm coat - the one he brought is more of a windbreaker. So we rode the bus to Bull Ring to find one. The best coat and also at the best price was at TKMax (TJMax in the US). We were thrilled to find one. 

Chill night  with the YSA was fun, as usual. All together there were about 20 kids that came and went throughout the evening, which lasted until about 11:30. Their favorite games seem to be Animal Signs and Bananagrams. They love visiting and munching on the homemade lemon pie and cookies brought by Camie and myself.

Saturday, October 22

Today and tomorrow are Stake Conference. Devon had a leadership meeting in the morning. I cleaned the flat. Harborne Ward was assigned to have a choir sing at the evening session and I participated in that. The meeting was wonderful, though I wish more had attended. 

Sunday, October 23

Good Stake Conference session in the morning. We met Josh and John (president and counselor of the Center) in the evening and drove to Nottingham together for a multi-stake YSA planning meeting. Josh had to drive as we are not supposed to transport anyone but missionaries in our car. Each year the five stakes (Birmingham, Nottingham, Lichfield, Coventry, and Leicester) meet to decide who is doing what as far as multi-stake YSA activities for the next year. The budget is also reviewed and any concerns discussed. It was a good meeting and gave us a better idea of how things and funding work.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

JOURNAL - September 10 - 16

Monday, October 10 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAVID

Sister Clark and Sister Whitaker came over today for P-day - so fun! We had taco soup and homemade rolls for lunch. Also made yummy cinnamon rolls. The sisters used our computers to do their weekly email and we had tons of fun playing Bananagrams and Wizard. Such a fun day!

Family Home Evening was great, as usual. Terry gave an amazing lesson and shared such a sweet testimony. He is a quiet young man in his early to mid 20's and has been a member for about 5 years. He doesn't come often to church, but he comes to all the YSA things. We asked him to be the FHE coordinator about 4 months ago and he's done a great job. The responsibility has really helped him to feel a part of things. He signed up to do the lesson a couple of times previously, but backed out at the last minute. I love Terry and so does everyone else!

Tuesday, October 11

Spent most of the day preparing my lesson for tomorrow. Will I ever get faster at doing this???
The YW President in our Harborne Ward is also one of our YSA. In fact, she is the CfYA counselor over missionary work. She asked me to come to YW tonight and take pictures of the girls.

Not sure of everyone's name, but the girls on either end of the back row are our YSA. On the left is Sarah and on the right is Gabriella (one of our summer YSA brides).
Most, but not all of the Harborne YM and YW.
Cute picture of Megan.

Wednesday, October 12

We went to District Meeting today. Elder Yaskell, the District Leader, asked us to come talk about working with the YSA. Two or three of the wards are having good correlation between the YSA ward reps and missionaries - the others seem to struggle with it. The really small wards struggle with missionary efforts in general. It doesn't help that our reps in one ward don't even go to church on Sunday. So, we had a really good discussion about ways to improve missionary efforts. The goal of missionary work is to bring people to Christ. I think that means everybody - non-members, less actives, and members. We should be an influence for everyone! We are encouraging the full-time missionaries to invite certain of the less active YSA to go teaching with them. When they do, the less actives have amazing experiences. We are also pushing the concept of every ONE finding and fellowshipping ONE - the old concept of "keep it simple." We are also trying to encourage the bishops to give a responsibility/assignment to every YSA. It helps when you feel needed and have a responsibility to motivate you. We are seeing amazing things happening in Harborne Ward and the missionaries in the other wards are anxious to see that kind of cooperative progress. Now on to some picturess from District Meeting:
Stourbridge District
Back row: Cauffman, Quilter, Tufts, Tufts, Clark, Whitaker, Yaskell (DL)
Front row: Von Brughan holding Querubin, Blatter, Anim and Collins (kneeling).
Me and my "girls" - Sister Whitaker and Sister Clark.

The big, exciting news for the day was that one of our YSA, Jonny Chan got his mission call and will be going to Taiwan. He enters the Provo MTC December 6th. He's very excited and a little in shock. He'll be a wonderful missionary! CfYA Council Meeting and Institute were great tonight - 56 kids, including two we haven't seen out for a long time. They really enjoyed it and said they plan to keep coming to Institute and going to church. It was a very good, though exhausting, day.

 Friday, October 14

Busy day on the road today. It started with flat check in Redditch at 10:00 am. After that we went to Kidderminister for another flat check. That completes our round of checks for this transfer, but next transfers are in two weeks, so the process repeats. Between checks we had about 30 minutes so I had Devon take me to a knit shop in Kidderminister that I read about. I'm impressed! It's much bigger than the one in Birmingham and their prices are much less. The owner is very friendly and an experienced knitter, so if I ever start a new project that's where I'll go to get the yarn. We grabbed some yummy Big Mac's to eat in the car while we drove back to Birmingham arriving in time for our much needed hair cuts. I'm growing mine out and it is driving me crazy. Oh well - another adventure! We had a nice supper of left over taco soup and salad, rested a little, and were back at Harborne at 7:00. The sisters were meeting some less active YSA there and we thought we would need to unlock the building for them, however, the YM/YW from the stake were there for an activity, so the doors were already open. We visited for a few minutes and then drove over to Solihull Ward for Pete's farewell party. He leaves for his mission to the Dominican Republic on Monday. I took Chelsey's Nutella cupcakes and they were a hit!

Birmingham YSA called to missions this year: left to right - Dave Arnold (Geneva Switzerland), Pete Wilkinson (Dominican Republic), and Jonny Chan (Taiwan). All three are from Solihull Ward.

We also had arranged to meet (at the farewell party) the new CfYA supervisors/trainers for our Mission and two other missions in England. Brother and Sister Jolliffe returned from service as mission president in New Zealand in April and have just been called to this new position. They are from Wales, but he works at the church offices in Solihull. It is exciting to think that we may actually have some meetings with other CfYA senior couples to share ideas and experiences.

Saturday, October 15

We woke up, showered, put on our jeans, and stayed home all day. We worked on our lessons for next week (we are each teaching a lesson), Devon finished his Sacrament talk for tomorrow, I did some laundry, and we had nice Skype conversations with some of our kids. To end the day we listened to the BYU football game live over the internet. Happy day...they won!! It was worth staying up to 12:30 am, besides the other tenants upstairs were having a house warming party and it was a little noisy. We have new neighbors across the hall - two girls about 30 years old. We were invited to pop in for "drinks and chatting" but we decided to pass (not a hard decision). The music was pretty annoying in our living room, but thankfully, we couldn't hear it in our bedroom.


I woke up at 2:00 am to loud laughing/shouting and banging in the landing area between our flat and the one having the party. It seems the party had moved to the landing right outside our door. I put on my robe and poked my head out the door and said shhhh. One scantily clad girl in the group said, "We're just leaving," so I closed the door and went back to bed. The noise on the landing lasted until almost 3:00 am. Arrrgh. Sure hope this doesn't become a pattern. It is just NOT acceptable! I wonder what the tenants living downstairs thought?!

We drug ourselves out of bed at 8:00 am, showered, and ate some cold cereal before heading to church. We went to Solihull Ward first to listen to Pete give his farewell talk. His talk was great - he is ready for his mission. Still it is a tender time and he was very emotional. We left quickly to get over to Sheldon Ward where Devon was assigned as the High Councilor speaker. Sheldon is a very small ward, but has a great bishop and great members. We always feel very welcome there. The mission office couple attends that ward, so it was great to see them. After coming home I had a short (20 minute) nap and then Skyped with some of our kids, ate dinner, and had a nice, relaxing Sunday.