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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

JOURNAL - November 21 - 27

Monday, November 21

Cold, rainy day - but never mind. Sister Whitaker and Sister Louis picked me up this morning to go shopping for a traditional Indian outfit. Sister Louis knew of a shop that was having a going out of business sale, so I said, "Why not?!" 
It really is pretty, though not exactly missionary clothing. It will be fun to wear at home. I'm sure the grandkids will like it. The day was rounded out with flat check in Kidderminister and FHE.

Tuesday, November 22

The highlight of today was a dinner appointment with a less active family and the Elders in Harborne Ward. The family is comprised of a mom and three brothers in their mid to late 20's. A couple of the boys come to church once in a while, but we haven't seen them out to Institute or any activities. They are all finishing up their university studies. A very nice, friendly family. They really like feeding the missionaries, but don't seem to have much interest in coming to church. They're all good people and would be great assets to the church. The missionaries will continue to meet with them. You never know when a spark will catch fire.

Wednesday, November 23

We went to District Meeting this morning. Some of the elders are really struggling - especially the elders in one small ward. They attended the first Ward Council meeting they had in months and it was nothing but complaining from everyone about how bad moral was in the ward. The cancer of discouragement is so destructive. The elders are trying hard to change things, but it is really hard. We have one really active YSA from that ward and she complains about the same thing. 

Institute started tonight with YSA Council meeting. The presidency has decided to dedicate one meeting each month to "training" for the Ward Reps. Tonight was their first training night and I think it went well, especially for the first attempt at this kind of thing. Most of the Reps were there for at least some part of the meeting. Our attendance was very low at Institute...so discouraging. I always question "what am I doing wrong," but no one else seems very concerned with this one night of low attendance. Our presidency says that the colder weather, shorter days, and university demands all take a toll this time of year. 

Thursday, November 24 - HAPPY THANKSGIVING

I've been having a very "blue" week - won't elaborate on all the reasons as some things are best left unspoken. BUT...I'm determined to work this out! I'm starting today with a nice nap - haven't been sleeping well and when I'm tired I'm cranky. The nap was wonderful! Also wonderful was the Thanksgiving dinner at President and Sister Ogden's home in Sutton Coldfield. Most of the other senior missionaries were there. Sister Ogden cooked the turkey and stuffing, and the rest of us brought the side dishes. It was delicious!!! I think turkey dinner with all the trimmings is my favorite meal. It was also wonderful to be together as a group.

Someone on Facebook said they were thankful for a day that made them think about all things they had to be thankful for and I agree. Happiness doesn't come from focusing on the problems, but rather from focusing on the good things...and there are so many good things. I am grateful for a wonderful family (parents, sisters, husband, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins), good health, my lifetime association with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the many wonderful people I've met and associated with throughout the years, the amazing YSA and people we have met here in England, and so much more. Perhaps we should have days of thanksgiving more often.

Friday, November 25

Busy day. We did flat checks for the final three areas today - Solihull, Sheldon, and Redditch. Always glad to get them over. Transfers will be in less than two weeks and then it begins again. We had lunch at a nice carvery between flat checks - very nice!

Tonight was a multi-stake event in Coventry. Each of the five stakes made videos and submitted them. We had an nice ham dinner and watched the videos. Afterwards everyone voted on different categories for the videos and then presented the awards - much like the Oscars. It was fun, though disappointing that more of our YSA didn't attend - probably because no one organized rides. 

Saturday, November 26

Another nice nap today and I am feeling better! Tonight was the Birmingham Stake Winter Ball. A couple of our YSA girls have been working very hard the last four days putting up decorations for the dance - and it looked beautiful! The dance was scheduled to start at 7:30 and about 5:30 I got a frantic call from one of the girls saying that the photographer the stake had scheduled to take pictures of the couples couldn't make it and they asked me if I would fill in. I have a nice camera, but I'm certainly no photographer. But...have camera, will travel. I took pictures until about 9:30 when one of our YSA arrived and took over the duties with his camera. The dance was very nice. Everyone had a good time, the decorations were amazing, and the food was great, too.
Here are a few pictures from the dance.
Stake President Griffiths and his wife, Heidi
President Sagal, his wife, Carol, and their daughters Laura, Marietta, and Natasha.
President Wilkinson, his wife, Pat, and daughter, Laura. He is over the YSA.
Bishop DeSous and his wife, Ann from Harborne Ward.
Naomi and Joseph McMorn. He's our new S&I Director.
Owen and Sharoon
Kezia and Adam
Back row L to R: Laura, Sarah, Sarah, Lauren, Amanda, Tasha, Marietta, Beth.
Front row L to R: Josh, Jared, Adam, Yanos, John.

Sunday, November 27

We went to Sheldon Ward today with the YSA presidency. We planned a "munch and mingle" after church with the YSA from that ward in an attempt to get to know them better. There is one active YSA and many inactive, but five with potential. We contacted and invited them to come, and so did the presidency, but none came. Pretty discouraging! We did have a nice lunch of taco soup, homemade rolls, salad, and chocolate cake (the presidency all helped bring part of the meal), and spent the time discussing the inactive YSA with the ward rep and what we can do to fellowship them. The bishop was glad we made the attempt. I sent Facebook messages to them saying we missed them and three of them responded with apologies for not coming - so I guess that is progress.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

JOURNAL - November 14 - 20

Monday, November 14

It begins again - another round of flat checks for the missionaries. Today it was for the Harborne Sisters (Whitaker and Louis). They are great and their flat was nice. When I say nice I guess I should explain. All but one of the flats are old and could use remodeling. We have a check list we go though for each room. I must admit I'm pretty easy and we always take treats - this time cookies from Ikea.

We had a smaller than usual turnout for FHE. Several of the uni kids had "tons" of school work and so they didn't come. But we did have a very nice lesson and played "Scatagories" - so much fun! The young woman who gave the lesson shared these "beauty secrets" from Audrey Hepburn.

For attractive lips - speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes - seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure - share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair - let a child run their fingers through it once a day.
For poise - walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.

Tuesday, November 15

Flat check today for the Harborne Elders (VonBrughan, Anim, and Hudac). Usually they chat with Devon while I do the check, but today one of the elders followed me around the whole flat and was very interested in what they need to do a little better. He is a great elder, but sometimes I have a hard time understanding him. He has a strong accent (from Slovakia) and a stutter; but it doesn't keep him from expressing himself. He is such a nice guy - they all are!

The flat check was in the afternoon, so we spent the morning working on our lessons - AGAIN!

Wednesday, November 16

Today is Zone meeting in Coventry. I'm feeling a little under the weather, so we thought we would stay home, but...the elders needed a ride to Coventry, so we went. Really glad we did for two reasons: first, it was a great meeting, and second, we realized the reason the elders wanted a ride was because they were getting low on money for the month and didn't want to buy a train ticket. Missionary work has slowed down a bit as evidenced by fewer people to teach and fewer members going with the missionaries to teach. They say the slow down is due to the colder weather and the holiday season that is approaching. They talked about trying some new things and hopefully that will improve things. Usually the missionaries all go to lunch together, but the Harborne Elders didn't even want to spend money to buy lunch, so we just came home after the meeting. After we dropped them off, we stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant. It was sooo good and tasted like the Mexican food at home. I must admit I was a little afraid of what we might get, but I'll go back there again! They even served taco chips and salsa - a very small bowl with no refills, but still very good.

Got an interesting phone call from one of our YSA prior to Institute. She is a Ward Rep from one of the smaller wards. She told me she would be late, but that she wanted to make "an announcement" - a problem with the YSA she thought they should know about. She wouldn't tell me what it was over the phone, so we agreed to talk about it before we would have it announced. She didn't come at all, so now I'm wondering what it's about. Tried to call her, but no answer so I left a message. Will call her back.

We have a new YSA young woman that just moved into Woodsetton Ward. She was baptized in February and has moved to Woodsetton to live with her dad (who is not a member). She is wonderful and will be such an asset to Woodsetton Ward. We have three other YSA there - two (the reps) who rarely go to Sacrament meeting, and one other young woman who is very active. She is thrilled to have someone to sit with at church!

Thursday, November 17

Still not feeling very good and didn't sleep well last night. We had two flat checks scheduled, so we did those and then came back home. I went to bed while Devon worked on next week's lesson and his Sunday High Council speaking assignment.

Friday, November 18

Feeling better, but plan to take it easy again today. It's haircut day. There's a wonderful little sandwich shop, "Pickles," next door to the salon, so we had lunch there prior to our haircuts.

Chill night was fun - we played a very exciting game of Monopoly. I was the first one to go bankrupt and Devon was second. After a while the rest of the players banded together into two teams (basically boys against girls) for a very competitive game. It was tons of fun. When the evening was over we were surprised by the thick fog that had rolled in. I always envisioned fog in England, but this is the first time in almost 11 months we have had this kind of fog. It made driving an even bigger challenge. The kids said the thick fog was pretty unusual.

Saturday, November 19

Still some fog this morning, but much less. Made a batch of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for the YSA event tonight. It was a trick to find canned pumpkin here, but one of our YSA did an internet search for me and found that Waitrose stocked it. Fortunately there is a Waitrose close, so we picked up a couple of cans of Libby pumpkin a coupe of weeks ago. Also did laundry and a good flat cleaning - love when everything is clean!

We rode the bus to city center to pick up our tickets to a candlelight Christmas event we had ordered over the internet. We were aware the much talked about "German Christmas Market" had started, but didn't have any idea of how massive it was, or that the building where we had to pick up the tickets was in the middle of the market. I would say it is like Swiss Days in Midway on steroids! We didn't have time to look around - just picked up our tickets and headed back home to get ready for evening YSA event. We'll go back and check things out on a week day and hope there will be less people.

Tonight is the farewell party for Lauren - our very special YSA from Australia. She has finished her nanny job and will be flying home on Friday. Her mother is here for 2 weeks to tour England with her. We had a nice group of kids come to say good-bye. We are really going to miss Lauren!!!

With Lauren and her mom, Annette
Some of the YSA at the farewell party

Sunday, November 20

Devon's talk went well. This evening we went to Lichfield for a multi-stake fireside with our Area Authority, Elder Donaldson. It was a wonderful fireside! I sat in the small chapel and thought how blessed I am to be in the company of so many amazing young adults. Elder Donaldson's talk was inspiring - the spirit was so strong. Also, it was wonderful to see and visit with the Lichfield group of YSA. In one word - it was PERFECT!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

JOURNAL - November 7 - 13

Monday, November 7

Today was a nice Monday, as usual; worked on our lessons, laundry, and getting things ready for an anticipated very busy week. I always mention FHE because we enjoy it so much with the YSA. We have such a nice group (mostly from Harbone Ward) that come faithfully and enjoy the evening with us. The young woman who signed up for the lesson called about 2 hours before saying she couldn't make it, so Devon prepared a lesson from PMG (Preach My Gospel).

Tuesday, November 8

Zone Conference was today at the Wylde Green Chapel by the Mission Office in Sutton Coldfield. Elder Donaldson and his wife were the main speakers. It was really good although lasted longer than usual. We gave the Harborne Elders a ride over. They are on bikes and are always very grateful to get a ride!

Wednesday, November 9

This is a red letter day - Devon passed the driving test for his UK license! Oh happy day!!! He scheduled this test in Cannock - a smaller community in the Lichfield Stake area. When looking for a date to repeat the test this center had the first appointment, so he took it. The tester was a very nice, relaxed man. Devon said it was so much different than the first test. He is very relieved to have it over. Totally it cost about 300 pounds ($483)! At least it is a tax deduction.

We found out today that the equalization plan that went into effect for senior missionaries in September will finally go into effect for us in January. It's been such a problem figuring out who would help us set it up. We are CES missionaries and as such are separate from the Birmingham England Mission. It has been quite annoying, but at least it is finally getting set up.

Institute was good - 55 kids.

Thursday, November 10

Rain off and on the last few days, but the temperature has been rather mild - I'm so grateful! I must also mention the short days we are having. Since we turned the clocks back a few weeks ago, the sun is up about 7:30 am, and it is dark by 4:30 pm. Unfortunately, the days will continue to get shorter until winter solstice on December 21st.

We drove to Kidderminster today to visit a recent YSA convert, Becky. She is going to church and doing great, but unable to attend Institute or other YSA activities due to her work schedule and lack of transportation. It was really good to visit with her. She is hoping her work schedule will change in January and she can come to Institute. Transportation is a continual problem for the YSA in the small, outlying wards and we don't see any solution in site. We try to visit and encourage, but even the YSA Reps struggle.

Friday, November 11 (11/11/11)

Today is Veteran's Day here and in the USA. They sell little red poppies that everyone pins on their shirts, just like at home, except a lot more people wear them here - in fact most have a poppy. It's nice to see.

We did a big shopping at Costco today to get ready for a very busy weekend - and we had a list from both sets of Harborne missionaries of things they wanted from Costco. Elder Anim from Paris wanted a whole box of Snickers candy bars (48). Hope he doesn't get a tummy ache!

Tonight was the monthly multi-stake YSA dance at Harborne. We had about 300 kids attend. After the 500 in September, it seemed like a small group. They were well behaved, as usual, but it took nearly an hour to get them to vacate the building - always such a struggle. Our YSA were lined up with brooms, vacuums, supplies to restock the bathrooms, etc., but we couldn't get the cleaning started until the others left.  Our YSA have gotten so good at helping with clean up after everything. The building is generally not cared for well - except for our YSA who have earned a reputation for cleaning-up after themselves. I'm really proud of them and grateful for their help!

Saturday, November 12 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY EMILY

We met the YSA at the Stake Center at 8:30 am, and boarded a bus to go to the London Temple for a service project on the temple grounds and baptisms. Brother and Sister McMorn (our S&I Director and his wife) and President Wilkinson went with us. Our area is assigned to the Preston Temple, but we couldn't get a date there. We started trying to get a date shortly after we arrived last January, but no go. So President Griffiths, our Stake President, gave us permission to go to London. They had today open and we took it. The YSA were thrilled to go to London as they have been to Preston several times. It took 3 hours each way, but was well worth the drive (and cost of the coach - very expensive). The temple grounds are large at London. We divided into groups and worked several areas weeding, cleaning the pavement, and raking leaves. After our service outside we changed into our Sunday clothes, had lunch in the Temple cafeteria and then did baptisms for about 250. It was the first time at the temple for two of our YSA. Tasha was baptized a little over a year ago, and Madhi was baptized about 6 months ago. It was very special for both of them - such great kids!!! All in all a great, though exhausting, day of service outside and inside the Temple. Thankfully, we have already booked dates for Preston Temple in 2012.
 Sister McMorn, Daisy (her cousin), Kezia, Amanda
Bradley, David, Sharoon, Jonny
Camie, Marietta, Stephanie, Darren
Betty, Alex, Tasha, Michael (the tall, cute guy is Elder Tufts!)
Joshua and Madhi with Laura in the background
Jared, Jonny, Sarah, Laura

Sunday, November 13

Can't believe how tired I am today. Enjoyed church, came home, fixed dinner, and then took a nice hour nap! This evening was our last CES Fireside broadcast of the year. The fireside was great and we had a good turnout of kids. They are so cute and really enjoy being together - and we love being with them!

Monday, November 7, 2011

JOURNAL - October 31 to November 6

Monday, October 31 - HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Our friend, Cheryl Fugal, shared this information about Halloween and I thought it was really interesting, so I've decided to record it in my blog. Thanks Cheryl!

"It’s thought that Halloween likely had it’s origins in the pagan festivals held around the end of October in the British Isles. In the year 835 AD the Catholic Church made November 1, a church holiday to honor all the saints. Although it was a joyous holiday it was also the eve of All Souls Day, so in Medieval times it became the custom to pray for the dead on this date.

"Another name for All Saints Day is 'All Hallows' (hallow is an the old English word for 'saint'). The festival began on All Hallows Eve, the last night of October.
"According to an Irish legend, jack-o-lanterns were named after a man named Jack who couldn’t enter heaven because he was a miser. He couldn’t enter hell either because he played jokes on the devil. So he could only walk the earth with his jack-o-lantern until judgment day.
"In England and Ireland lanterns were traditionally carved from turnips. In Scotland the thick stem of the cabbage plant was used.
"The wearing of costumes originates in Celtic tradition. People thought that when they left their homes on Halloween night they would come across ghosts so they worn costumes to avoid being recognized by those ghosts. Halloween used to be a time for making mischief in parts of England so it was called Mischief Night."

FHE had a rather low attendance tonight, probably because it is Halloween. Still those that came had a great time - bobbed for apples, carved a couple of pumpkins, and played a fun game trying to pick up a bag with their teeth.

Tuesday, November 1

I happened to call the sister missionaries with a question and randomly asked if there was anything we could do for them? As it turned out they had an appointment to teach a wonderful investigator named, Maria, but the ward member that was going with them just called and cancelled - so, we went with them. What an amazing experience! Maria is a very educated woman who recently decided she wanted to find a church. She was raised in another faith, but has not been practicing that faith for a long time. She has been reading the Book of Mormon and feels such a peace and honesty in it. She wants to learn more and wants to pray about baptism. She is so easy to talk to and teach.

After the lesson, we drove to Costco. Sister Whitaker was wearing a darling, very warm pair of boots and I wanted to get a pair. It's always so hard to find shoes that fit, but these boots fit perfectly. They came in US sizes so it was easy to find a pair. They are not only cute, but very warm - will be wonderful when the cold weather hits.

Wednesday, November 2

Still not feeling well. Devon went to District Meeting while I stayed home to put final touches on my lesson for tonight and rest! Took all the drugs I could before my lesson and still had a major coughing spell in the middle of it - too much talking for my throat and voice. Oh well, other than the coughing, I think the lesson went well. We had a very successful Advisory Council meeting. Love seeing progress!

Friday, November 4

I'm feeling better, but now Devon is starting to get sick, so we stayed in most of the day. I caught up on laundry and house work - also made some banana nut muffins to take to Chill Night. We only had about 10 kids at Chill Night, but it was soooo much fun! President Griffiths was there hanging out while his son was in a Seminary meeting. He played Bananagrams and Uno with us and had a ball! Also Elder Donaldson, our Area Seventy, was there for the Seminary meeting. He and Brother McMorn (our S&I Director) watched us play games and ate muffins and brownies. It was really a fun evening!

Found out some hard news today. Lori, our daughter with six beautiful children ages 13 to 1, has been to two different orthopedic doctors for opinions regarding her back pain. Both agree she needs back surgery NOW. I was hoping it could wait until I was home, but that is not an option. Without it she is facing serious nerve damage. It has hit me hard to think I can't be there when she needs me, and I know she is concerned about how things will work out, too. After tears, prayers, and thought, I realize I must put it in the Lord's hands to inspire family and friends to fill my spot. Her siblings have assured me they will come to the rescue - still my heart aches to be there!

Saturday, November 5 - GUY FAWKES NIGHT

Guy Fawkes was involved in an attempt to blow up the House of Lords in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. He was part of a group that wanted to bring Catholicism back to England. His job was to guard the gunpowder stored under the House of Lords. Someone tipped off the guards and Guy Fawkes was captured, tortured, confessed, and sentenced to die by hanging. However, he jumped from the gallows, prior to the hanging, broke his neck and died. Many communities celebrate this event every year on November 5th with a huge bonfire where they often burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes. This event is followed by a big fireworks display.

Today also happened to be the five stake YSA volleyball tournament. They have them twice a year, and this time it was in Leicester (about an hour's drive from Birmingham). There have been three tournaments, that I know of. Birmingham won the first two and Coventry won the last. Each of the 5 stakes can assemble as many as three teams and the games go on all day. The final round was between very evenly matched Birmingham and Coventry teams. Birmingham won the first match. Coventry won the second. The third and final match see-sawed back and forth going into extra points. But in the end Coventry won. I was really proud of our kids. They played hard as a team and showed great sportsmanship.
L to R: John, Jonathan, Kynna, Lauren, Amanda, Sharoon
Back row L to R: Darren, Tom, Owen, Joseph - Front row L to R: Stephanie, Hannah, Lucy.
L to R: Josh, Jared, Tina, Kezia, Lauren, Jonny.
 Above: our three teams. Below: most of the Birmingham YSA that were present.
Back Row L to R: Stephanie, Tina, Lucy, Tom, Hannah, Jonny, Tristin, Erin, Jonathan, Darren, Sharoon, Jared, Joseph, Jared, Andrew - Kneeling row L to R: Josh, Lauren, Kezia, Amanda, Lauren - Front row L to R: John, Kynna, Sarah, Laura, Owen, Marietta.
After the games, we went with the kids to grab a bite at KFC/Burger King. Some of them went to one of their houses and set off backyard fireworks. We just went home. While driving home we could see fireworks going off in many communities around the motorway. 


Devon is officially sick. All the shouting and cheering at the volleyball game didn't help either of us. He got up and drove me to church, then went back home to sleep. Church was great! After Fast and Testimony meeting the Harborne YSA had a "break the fast." I was assigned to bring bread, so I made a half recipe of Arlene Keysor's good French bread (two large loaves). That has to be one of my favorite recipes. I use my Bosche mixer at home, but here all I have is a hand mixer with dough hooks. They work surprisingly well and the bread was a big hit. I mixed it up at home, and baked it in the oven at church, which was sort of mean as the smell of freshly baked bread was throughout the building. There were probably 20 YSA at the meal.

In the evening we met the sisters and elders at the home of two of our less active YSA from China - Diana and Ian. Sister Louis from  India was in charge of the dinner. We had tomato curry over rice, fried potatoes, hard boiled eggs, some kind of Indian tortilla-type large flat cracker, and chocolate chip cookies (guess what I brought?!). The elders had to leave after dinner, but we had a nice lesson by Sister Whitaker and then played a card game. It was really fun. Today we also enjoyed talking with Matthew and hearing all about his birthday, and Skyping with some of our other kids and their families.