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, January 29, 2012

JOURNAL - January 23 - 29

Monday, January 23

FHE - sooo much fun! Amanda gave a wonderful lesson about ways to show our love. Camie (our student chef) made some amazing homemade treats, and Tom divided us into teams for a rousing and gut-splitting game of pictionary. What a great mission!

Tuesday, January 24

We got a phone call this evening from one of our YSA who has been very distant lately despite efforts from everyone. He has been a member for less than two years, and was always very happy and upbeat until the last few months. He got very sick a couple of months before Christmas and has not seemed the same since. Tonight he called very distraught and wanted to meet with us. We spent two hours with him and the elders while he poured his heart out about the difficulties he has lived with. He is originally from India, but when he was younger he and his parents were living in England.  When he was 14 1/2 his mom and dad decided to return to India and left him here - on his own - saying he had no future in India and that he needed to stay here and get his education. He is one tough kid, but desperately misses family, and is so weary of being on his own. He maintains contact with his family, but his dad is adamant he stay in England. We listened, hugged, gave him a priesthood blessing, and encouraged him to return to more consistent activity with the YSA. They all really like him, but he has shut them out lately. I'm so glad he would confide in us and pray he will be able to endure this trial and regain the happiness he knew a few months ago.

Wednesday, January 25

We enjoyed district meeting today with the elders. Boundaries for the districts were changed with transfers last week and so this is a new district. As I looked around the table only 2 of the 8 missionaries were in our previous district. The district is made up of 3 pairs of missionaries from Harborne Ward and 1 pair from Sheldon Ward, with the district leader being one of the Sheldon missionaries. It is always good and renewing to meet with the missionaries. They are amazing, hard working, dedicated young people!

Devon gave a great Institute lesson tonight about the Proclamation on the Family. The kids were very involved with the lesson and seemed to really enjoy it. The two less active boys that came last week, came again this week - yippee! They are both great guys from great families - just very connected with friends outside the church. They have many friends at Institute, too, and seemed to enjoy being there.
The young man from India was also there and made a big effort to participate - something he hasn't done for a while. His heart is hurting, but it was a good effort. The YSA were thrilled to see and talk with him.

Thursday, January 26

We meet with the sister missionaries and a young woman some of the previous sisters had been teaching many months ago. She loves the gospel, but has a boyfriend who does not want her to follow the standards. For now the boyfriend wins...but she knows we care about her and will always be here if she  needs anything.

After that we met two of our cute YSA (Steph and Tina) at the cinema to see "War Horse." They called earlier and asked if Elder Tufts would like to go see it. I said...are you kidding??? It has horses! Actually we all really enjoyed it and were wiping our eyes and sighing at the end.

Friday, January 27 and Saturday, January 28

No Chill Night tonight (multi-stake activity at Leicester that we don't need to attend) so we decided to have a little get-away and go see Oxford. What an amazing place! Oxford is in the Cotswolds and so many of the buildings are made from the warm, yellow sandstone found in the Cotswolds; a contrast to the gray Portland limestone used in the buildings in London. Oxford University is the second oldest  surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although the exact date of its beginning is unclear, there is evidence of teaching occuring there as far back as 1096. Most of the undergraduate studies at Oxford are organized around weekly classes at the 36 self-governing colleges. Each college has it's own Coat of Arms.
The city is one amazing building after another - most of them part of one of the 36 colleges. The architecture is breathtaking to say the least.

Magdalen College
 Radcliffe Camera (Library)

You can sure tell Oxford is a college town. I've never seen so many bicycles! Everywhere you look you see bikes - either being ridden or locked up to bike racks.

Christ Church College is the largest college in the Oxford University system. It is also the cathedral church of Oxford. The college was establish in 1525 by Thomas Wolsey, the Lord Chancellor of England and the Archbishop of York. He fell from power in 1529. In 1531 the college was repressed. It was reestablish in 1532 as King Henry VIII's College. Henry VIII broke with the Church of Rome and acquired great wealth by taking over the monasteries in England. In 1546 he reorganized the college as Christ Church as part of the reorganization of the Church of England. Major additions have been made to the college over the centuries. Christ College has been the setting for novels and movies including Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and "Harry Potter."

Harry Potter fans should recognize this dining hall.
Inside Christ Church Cathedral 

Sunday, January 29

If Devon was writing this blog he would say, "Sunday as usual" and he would be right...except for one little glitch. When I tried to turn the light on in the bathroom the morning we were getting ready to go to Oxford, there was a flash and a pop. Now the lights in the ceilings in the bathroom, boiler room, guest bedroom, and kitchen won't work. The landlord is sending out an electrician tomorrow morning. Until then we are grateful everything else is working.

Monday, January 23, 2012

JOURNAL - January 16 - 22

Monday, January 16

Brrrr! Very clear skies the last couple of days and much colder temperatures. There's frost all over everything, and if the sun doesn't hit it, it doesn't melt - but it is much better than snow. Actually, I miss the beauty of newly fallen snow. They say that when it snows here everything comes to a halt. I'm told that since it happens so infrequently, they really don't know how, or have the equipment to handle it. So...I'm quite glad there is no snow.

FHE was good, although some didn't come - probably due to the cold. Waiting in the cold at the bus stop is no fun, and some have to take two buses to get there.

Tuesday, January 17

Not much to say about today except laundry and lesson prep

Wednesday January 18

Today was transfer day for the mission. We don't have to go to transfers, but since the elders needed a ride to the mission home, we went.  To our great surprise Elder VonBrughan and Sister Whitaker were transferred. It was a big surprise and disappointment to them,too. But they are great missionaries and made the transfer with smiles. I'm really going to miss them. Two of the missionaries replacing them were in Harborne a year ago - Elder Steed and Sister Hedemark - so it was great to see them again. Also a new pair of elders was assigned to Harborne - that brings the total to 8 missionaries in our ward - 6 young missionaries and us. Just shows how much work there is in our area. Makes me mad I forgot to take my camera to transfers! Hopefully I'll see them at another transfer and get pictures.

Institute was great tonight. I taught a lesson on the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage. I found pictures of the Hinckleys, Monsons, Eryings, and Uchtddorfs taken on or about the time of their weddings and used them in my power point. I also used wedding pictures of some of the YSA recently married and one of us. The kids loved them! Two less active boys came. They didn't go into any of the lessons, but hung around a long time after lesson talking with the other YSA. It looked to me like they were enjoying it. We didn't leave until almost 11:00 as so many YSA were having a nice time chatting.

Thursday, January 19

Time to clean the flat, iron shirts, and work on our next lessons. I admit..I'm getting weary of preparing lessons. Tonight was Stake Priesthood meeting, which meant Devon went to the meeting and I stayed home. It is a rarity that we don't go to something together. I treated myself to an evening of knitting.

Friday, January 20

Before Chill Night we went with Sarah (YSA Counselor) to visit a less active girl named, Sophia. She is so sweet and welcoming. She is attending university studying illustration. We had a bit of trouble finding her flat, but after a phone call to her, we realized we were just around the corner. I think she would be more active if getting to church wasn't so inconvenient. Hopefully the YSA will contact and encourage her - maybe even arrange to have her live with some of them next year.

Chill Night was great fun....well for most of us!
Devon was having a hard time with Bananagrams - not getting very good letters to work with. We played a couple of other games he had much better luck with.

Saturday, January 21

Today we went to another National Trust Historic Site - Baddesley Clinton. It was an outing planned for the senior missionary couples and was very interesting. The home was built by Henry Ferrers in the late 1500s. It passed from father to son for 12 generations (500 years) before being sold in 1940. The family were very strong Catholics during a time of great persecution in England of those wanting to remain in the faith. The house was a sanctuary not only for the family, but also for persecuted priests who were hidden from the priest hunters in secret hiding places in the house during the 1590s. It was a cold, windy day, so we didn't venture onto to grounds, but did enjoy seeing the house.
 The house is made from stone taken from a quarry on the property. It has been added onto over the years. The moat surrounds the house.
Inner courtyard. Notice the acorn shape of the shrubs on either side. This shape is representative of the Catholic faith. You can't see the stained glass windows very well in this picture, but they are original and represent various coats of arms.
This house has three priest hiding places. One was behind a fireplace, one in the attic, and one in the sewer. They were all very cramped, uncomfortable places..and in the case of the sewer you can imagine how awful it must have been. Both the priests and families hiding them would be tortured and killed if found.
The furnishing, rugs, and tapistries, though not original to the house, are beautiful antique pieces. The architecture, stone and wood carvings are original, and they are amazing.  
On the way to Baddesley Clinton we passed over this canal lined on either side with houseboats. Wouldn't that be fun!

Sunday, January 22

I was feeling rather discouraged this morning about a few YSA (fairly recent converts) that are becoming less active. It is hard with so many different personalities, interests, and goals. It is also hard when some of the active kids have known each other for years and are used to their "groups." We call, visit, sent texts, etc., but unless they feel a part of the "group" its easy to slip away. This problem, and the problem with transportation is constant. In talking with our family, it seems to be an issue in Utah, too. It shouldn't be a problem to feel accepted in the Church of Jesus Christ.

But...my heart was lifted when I got to church. There were about 28 YSA in our YSA Sunday School class, and a few others working in their Primary callings. A wonderful group of kids, including a less active girl, and two new YSA that have moved into the area. They were warmly greeted...now to just get everyone to be consistent in reaching out in friendship to them.

We came home and I fixed dinner - pork chop casserole, a Tufts family favorite. There is much we love about England, but their applesauce is not on the list. Since we love applesauce with pork chop casserole, I decided to make my own. So yummy and easy...why haven't I done this sooner?!

Monday, January 16, 2012

JOURNAL - January 9 - 15


Our last two flat checks were today - Kidderminster and Redditch. Had we know that our district was going bowling for P-Day today, we might have rescheduled, but oh well. At least they are over for this transfer. It seems that Sister Clark (who went home in October) and Elder Yaskell (from Redditch) are writing and planning to meet up in Provo this summer. So it was fun teasing/talking with Elder Yaskell about it. They are both great people and great missionaries. Time will tell if they will make a great couple, but I hope so!

We had a real treat arrive in the mail today. Mail is always a treat, but today we got four pages of well wishes from our Onstott family. They wrote them at the annual Onstott Family Christmas Eve gathering. It made our day!

Tuesday, January 10 HAPPY BIRTHDAY JENNA

Woke up to beautiful blue skies and mild temperatures - an absolutely gorgeous day. We took our first walk this year in Cannon Hill Park and it was lovely. Not too many people, despite the beautiful weather. But several people were there with bags of bread crumbs feeding the seagulls, pigeons, and geese. The birds were pretty excited. Before the day was over, the clouds had rolled in, bringing with them a light rain. I really can't complain about the weather. I just keep praying it stays this nice.

We had mail again today - two days in a row - WOW! This time it was birthday/Christmas presents from Emily - a CD of highlights of last year's BYU basketball season for Devon, and a calendar with family photos for me. The best presents ever!!! Thanks Emmy!
This evening was the first Institute class after Christmas break. Our attendance was lower than I had expected, but some of the students are not back yet. The class we have been assigned to teach is "Preparing for Eternal Marriage." Doesn't seem to be a very popular subject, but we'll see.

Today is pretty significant. Besides getting great mail, it is exactly one year ago that we boarded the plane to fly to England.

Thursday, January 12

Today is a missionary meeting with 3 districts: Stourbridge (our district), Coventry, and Redditch. I would guess about 40 missionaries in total. It was a great meeting. Later in the afternoon we rode the bus to the Apple Store in Bullring. I was having some trouble with my IPad cutting out on some programs - same problem I had about a month ago. They showed me what to do to reset and restore. Since it is a lengthy process (or so they said) we brought it home, followed their instructions and it seems to be working fine now. It is sure easy to get dependent on technology. We also went to "Poundland" (UK dollar store) in the Bullring to pick up paper goods for YSA events.

Friday, January 13

Made a quick run to Costco - more supplies for YSA events, a jar of Skippy peanut butter for Camie, and a few things for us. Then we went to Tesco to pick up the things we couldn't get at Costco. At 6:30 p.m. was another baptism for a sister the sister missionaries have been teaching. She was a "self-referral" which means she contacted the mission office and asked for the missionaries. She had a pass along card, looked up mormon.org, and wanted to know more. The mission is having great success with referrals from the pass along cards. We all need to be passing out more!

After the baptism we set up for the monthly multi-stake YSA dance at Harborne. There really isn't much for us to do to set up except get the squash (punch) and cookies ready in the kitchen. We also always empty all the rubbish bins, and refill the paper good in the bathrooms (they call them toilets) pretty much before every event. The Brits are not very good at taking care of the building. The dance had the usual about 300 YSA in attendance, and they were their usual well behaved selves. Brother Hamilton from Lichfield Stake is our hero. He is there every time, without fail, to help chaperone. We usually have one other priesthood brother from our stake but no one from any other stakes. We've gotten to be good friends with Brother Hamilton. Tonight he was very interested in our opinion about what is happening with the primary elections in the USA (Romney against everyone else). We do get news channels from home on the TV, so we were able to tell what we know. After the dance we had a devoted group of YSA from our stake stay and help clean the building - bathrooms, kitchen, cultural hall, and vacuum. The dance ended at 11:15 p.m. and we were out shortly after midnight - not bad! When we left, the temperature was a chilling -1 degree C - looks like our warm spell has disappeared. I keep a little blanket in the car to wrap around my legs - wonderful!

Saturday, January 14 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY KATELYN

Slept in, worked on lessons, did laundry, and Skyped/Face Timed with some of our kids. A nice day!

Sunday, January 15

Devon had a High Council speaking assignment in Solihull Ward today. We count it as a blessing because Jonny, one of our YSA, also gave his farewell talk. He flies to the Provo MTC early in the morning tomorrow to prepare for his mission to Taiwan. His departure date was postponed 6 weeks due to visa delays and it looked like he might get another delay. But, thankfully, his visa and passport came on Friday. He is the third of six children in a very active family and is such an amazing young man.He has never been on an airplane before, so it really is a big adventure. We got to meet the new senior couple from West LA who are living in Solihull Ward. They arrived about three weeks ago. He is a lawyer and is assigned to work throughout Europe. She is not exactly sure what her assignment will be - nothing specific yet.

We arrived early at the church this evening to get things set up for the CES Broadcast. A nice group of YSA came and enjoyed the fireside, ice cream sundaes, and chatting with each other. Then Jonny's family and the Stake Presidency came and we all went upstairs to witness Jonny being set apart as a full-time missionary. I know he will be a great missionary! The really hard thing about sending these missionaries off is knowing that we won't be here when they get home - hurts my heart to think about that. I tell them all to come to Utah and see us. I hope they will!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

JOURNAL - January 2 - 8

Monday, January 2

We awoke early (thanks to alarm clocks), loaded up the car, and drove Howard and Edi to Heathrow to catch their flight home. Very sad saying good bye! Our ride back to Birmingham was uneventful and lonely. We came home and took down our cute little Christmas tree - time to get back to mission duties.

The students are still away, but we planned before the holidays to have FHE tonight just in case there was anyone who wanted to come. We advised the young woman who was doing the lesson to just prepare a short message as we really didn't expect anyone to come. But to our surprise a less-active young man also came. He has been in and out of activity for the past year. Hannah gave her lesson - a very nice message from President Monson about achieving the abundant life. Afterwards he spoke with us saying he had quit his job at a local pub, moved home with his dad, and wanted better things in his life - things that we talked about in the lesson. He joined the Church a couple of years ago, but I don't think he was more than socially converted at the time. Now he wants to build his testimony. Tonight's FHE couldn't have been better - it was exactly what he needed.

Wednesday, January 4

Met with the Elders and Sisters for District meeting. The meeting was a little different today. We all met in Stourbridge and were assigned to go visit less-active members. We were assigned an inactive YSA brother and sister to visit, but unfortunately they were not home. One of the YSA Reps from Stourbridge when with with us and we had a really good talk with her. So it was still a productive morning.

Our evening was also spent in Stourbridge. Elder Knecht asked us to go with them to teach/visit with a YSA aged investigator. Her name is Sarah and she is amazing. She was a "self referral" which means she looked up the Church on the internet and asked to have the missionaries come see her. We explained the YSA program to her and she is very interested in coming. It was a great evening and we are excited to see her again.

Thursday, January 5

Let the flat checks begin. Transfers are coming up so we need to get them done. Today we did both sets of Harborne missionaries, and both did a good job cleaning. We found out that there will be another set of missionaries assigned to Harborne Ward - that will make 3 sets! Amazing! But Harborne is a big ward and can support another set of missionaries. Actually, most of the missionaries in the area want to be assigned to Harborne.


Today's flat checks were Woodsetton and Stourbridge. Always good to talk with the missionaries about the YSA they are working with. I'm a little under the weather, so afterward we came home, had soup, and I went to bed.

Then in the evening we went back to the church for Chill Night with the YSA. We had four great kids come, and we had a great time playing Wizard and Banagrams.

Saturday, January 7

Two more flat checks - Solihull and Sheldon. It is going to be hard to decide which flat gets the award for cleanest. So far three are in the running and we still have two more to check.

Tonight was another baptism for the Sisters in Harborne. A few months ago our Highland 23rd Ward sent us a Book of Mormon that had been signed by all the Primary children. They asked us to give it to someone special. Well, the book was given to an African family - Bureh, Hawatu, and their toddler, Brianna. Tonight Devon baptized Hawatu. She is so happy - just glowing. She has been waiting for Bureh, but said she could not wait any longer. She is a real sweetheart. I hope Bureh will be baptized soon. He comes to Church and enjoys the lessons with the missionaries, so we'll see.

Also at the baptism tonight was a young man from Poland. He has been in Birmingham about a month and met the Elders on the street one day. He ran into them again and said he had looked at Mormon.org and was interested in talking to them. He is YSA age (29), so we were glad to get to meet him. We invited him to Institute and the multi-stake dance on Friday, and he seems really interested. It was a great night!

Sunday, January 8

We had a wonderful Sunday. Most of the students are back so our YSA Sunday School class was full. I think they were as excited to see us as we were to see them! Our YSA President, Josh, and a YSA girl in Harborne Ward got engaged on New Year's Eve. They were at church today and were so cute - just glowing! Unfortunately for us, they are not getting married until the end of July. We will be home by then - hard to imagine - and we feel heartsick to think of missing their wedding.

The Sisters from Harborne and the Elders from Stourbridge stopped by our flat this evening - not sure why, but we enjoyed their visit. Elder Knecht is the DL and he and his companion, Elder Roberts, were here to interview a sister that is getting baptized next week.

This evening the YSA Presidency came to our flat for our annual planning meeting and review of the budget. We are mostly following the same format as last year, so it isn't nearly as hard to plan as last year when we were new. I'm pretty proud that we came in under budget last year - barely under but that is just how we want it to be.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

JOURNAL - December 26 - January 1

Monday, December 26

We're off again today to see the sights. This time we are headed to Wales. On the way we drove to the British Church Historical Sites of Benbow's Pond and Gadfield Elm Chapel, and then drove by the little old Corse Church were Devon's ancestors were married. We arrived in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, in the evening just in time to check into our hotel and get some dinner. Then we played Wizard in the lobby until bedtime.
Benbow's Pond
Gadfield Elm Chapel

December 27 and 28

Wales is castle country so that is what we toured. Cardiff and Caerphilly Castles on Tuesday, and St. Fagan's Natural History Museum and Castle Coch (the fairy tale castle) on Wednesday. We also enjoyed seeing the beautiful Welsh countryside. Then back to Birmingham.
Cardiff Castle
One restored, painted ceiling in Cardiff Castle - there were many - so gorgeous!
Inside Cardiff Castle

Our knights in shinning armor - well, helmets!
Just one building at St. Fagan's Natural History Museum

The above two pictures are both from inside restored Castle Coch.

Thursday, December 29

We decided to try to see one of the National Trust sites we had seen before,  but were very disappointed to find out only the grounds and garden were open - not the house. Seems a lot of properties are closed this time of year. They told us of a property that was open so we drove there. Indeed it was open, but it is not restored, so mostly we saw bare rooms - still it was interesting.

Friday, December 30

We drove to Preston to do a temple session. It rained all day! We were all pretty glad to get safely home - especially Devon who was driving. It's about a 2 1/2 hour drive each way. On the way home we drove through Manchester - Howard's mission area. Many of the sights were familiar, but of course many things have changed.
Manchester Stake Center

Saturday, December 31

Today we drove to Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeares birth and burial place. So interesting to see the room where he was probably born. We also saw a couple of houses his daughters lived in and his wife's, Anne Hathaway's, childhood home. It is amazing to realize you are walking in something build in the 1500's.
Back of Shakespeare's birthplace.

Then we came home, had dinner and a relaxing evening together. We did manage stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year.

Sunday, January 1 - HAPPY NEW YEAR

We had a regular schedule of church today. Enjoyed a nice meal together at the flat, then Edi tackled the job of packing for their return trip home.

I can't express how much we enjoyed the Winberg's visit and how grateful we are that they came. I'm afraid we would have been pretty homesick without them here. With them we were busy and having a great time every day. Christmas is about being with family and Edi and Howard are certainly family to us!

JOURNAL - December 19 - 25

Monday, December 19

Busy house cleaning day getting ready for the arrival of our dear friends, Howard and Edi Winberg from Canada. My heart was singing all day in anticipation of their arrival. FHE was good, though a small attendance due to most of the student going home for the holidays.

December 20, 21, 22

Winbergs arrive! We thought about taking the train to London to meet them, but because the holiday prices were outrageous, we drove the car to Heathrow and parked in their long term parking instead. It end up being much cheaper than 4 train tickets this time of year.

Howard and Edi's flight was right on time. What a thrill to see them again! After many hugs we made our way to the underground tube where we took the Piccadilly Line to South Kensington, and then changed lines to Bayswater Street station. It was just a couple of blocks walk from there to our studio rooms. The rooms were pretty basic, but clean and had all the necessities.

We decided it would be best to keep Winbergs up until bedtime so they could adjust to the time change, so we caught a bus and headed into Central London where we picked up our London City sightseeing passes, and then went to Harrods to see all their cool/expensive stuff. Their Christmas window decorations were elaborate, but strange...more of a winter theme than Christmas.

After a good night's sleep we awoke, ate our cold cereal and pastries and then headed out to see the sights. For the next two days we enjoyed touring the Tower of London, Westminster Abby, St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Thames River Cruise, Churchill War Rooms, and the Royal Mews (where the royal carriages are kept - very interesting). The evening of the 21st we saw a play - "Million Dollar Quartet" all about a jam session with Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. The music was great and the show a lot of fun. The evening of the 22nd we met our good friends, Cheryl and Ken Fugal who are serving a Family History mission in London, for dinner. Also great fun!

Friday, December 23

We checked out of our studio apartments and retraced our tracks back to Heathrow to get the car. Then we drove to Windsor Castle for a tour. Unfortunately it began raining - not just a mist, but a heavy downpour, so we didn't get to see it all. But we enjoyed seeing the state rooms and especially loved seeing the Chapel of St George. Many recent monarchs are buried there including the current Queen's parents and her sister, Princess Margaret. Also interred there is King Henry VIII. It is ironic that he desperately wanted a huge monument built for him, but it was never completed and so he is buried in a plain wooden coffin under the stone floor of the chapel with other royals. I reckon it's about what he deserved! After our visit to Windsor Castle we headed for Birmingham.

Saturday, December 24

Today is a resting and shopping day. We enjoyed watching "The Christmas Story" movie with Howard and Edi - they've never seen it before. We also taught them how to play Wizard - love that game!

Sunday, December 25 - MERRY CHRISTMAS

Sister Louis and Sister Whitaker came over before church so Sister Louis could Skype with her family in India. They are several hours ahead of us. Because it was Christmas, we only had Sacrament meeting for an hour at Church. Later Sister Louis and Sister Whitaker came back so Sister Whitaker could call her family on our international land line. They stayed and had dinner with us. Both us and the Winbergs were able to either Skype or talk on the phone with our kids. It was a good day!