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, February 27, 2012

JOURNAL - February 20 - 26

Monday, February 20

Today is Zone P-day. The missionaries from our zone met at the Harborne meetinghouse at 1:00 for an afternoon of games, and taking turns on the computer for their weekly emails home. It was great fun! They are very competitive! They played chair football, and pulled out the YSA's ping pong and foose ball tables. They played a fun variation of ping pong with as many people as you have paddles for. They move in a circle around the table while taking turns hitting the ball. If you miss you are out. It continues until they are down to two people - one on each end. These players have to hit the ball and make a complete turn before the ball is returned back to them. Elder Olson, the ZL, was the champ.

In the evening we had a good turnout for FHE. Hannah C. gave a very nice lesson and Camie made treats - yummy, as always! Everyone loves it when Camie is doing treats - including us!

Tuesday, February 21

Today was Zone Conference at Sutton Coldfield. It's a long day - 10:00 to 3:30 - but so wonderful! They always serve Subway sandwiches, chips, sodas/water, carrot sticks, and big Snicker's bars for lunch. We all love it! It is really nice to get to see the other senior couples and chat with them. For the last hour we have "Final Testimonies." The elders and sisters that are going home before the next Zone Conference bear their testimonies. It is powerful, sweet, and very moving. There were about 10 this time. President Ogden commented that more than one of those missionaries had called him in the early days of their mission and said, "I can't do it. I need to go home." But they did do it, and you would never guess which ones could have said that. They are all so amazing and have such strong testimonies.

Wednesday, February 22

It's Institute and YSA Council night. One week out of the month the YSA Presidency has decided to have an inservice for the Ward Reps, and tonight is the night. We don't have any assignment other than to say the opening and closing prayers, and bring pizza for the meeting. The leaders are great! We went to Costco to get the pizza and arrived early to set up everything and warm up the pizza. It was an amazing meeting! We had a really good turnout at Institute and didn't lock up until after 11:00 as the kids were having such a nice time chatting.

Thursday, February 23

We slept in - very nice! Then I cleaned the flat and did laundry while Devon prepared his lesson for the mid-single group tonight. We've never been involved with this group. The senior couple who was their teacher went home in December. A new couple is here, but they haven't been asked to teach the class, so the stake has been using substitutes - tonight was our turn. There was a nice group of 4 women and 3 men. Three were divorced with children, the others never married and ranged in age from mid 30's to mid 40's. We enjoyed it.

Friday, February 24

I made snickerdoodle cookies this morning to take to some YSA we planned to visit. Also made a cute little note to go with the cookies that explained the activities for the weekend and invited them to join us. We picked up Camie about 1:00 to go visiting and shopping with us. The first girl wasn't home - in fact no one was home at her flat, so we didn't leave the cookies. Then we went to another flat to visit a less active brother and sister. They were not home either, but their flatmate was, so we left the cookies and invitation with him. Next we headed to Costco and filled up the cart completely with food for the weekend activities, plus a couple of things we wanted. Camie had never been to Costco and was excited for the experience. We drove to the church to drop off the food and then returned to the first girl's flat. This time she was home and we had a wonderful visit with her. She is from Scotland. She has attended the fine arts school close to our flat since she was 11 years old. She is majoring in ballet and has one more year left. She was thrilled with our visit and we enjoyed seeing her.

Came come, had a short rest, and then met some of the YSA at a local restaurant to celebrate the birthday of one of the YSA girls. It was a surprise and she was totally surprised! Quite a few kids came...it was very nice.

Saturday, February 25 - CONNOR'S BAPTISM DAY

Big day for our family. Connor is getting baptized. .Good thing it is also a very busy day for me here so I don't have time to think about what I am missing.

The YSA have been assigned to clean the Harborne meetinghouse in preparation for tomorrow's big "Invitation Sunday" - a day where members are encouraged to bring their friends to church. I've mentioned before how unkempt the building usually is. The members are good at many things, but cleaning up after themselves at church is not one of them. Since the assignment was from the bishop, I asked him if we could have some ward funds for a brunch before the clean-up (the YSA always come if you offer food!). He agreed, so we had a nice pancake brunch. They love pancakes, but they are different than the fat, fluffy ones we make at home.
 Pancake chefs Lucy, Stephanie, and Camie

They make them very large and thin...like crepes. They like them with sugar and lemon juice, and rolled up jelly roll fashion. I must admit I like them better than our usual fat ones, but I'm not too keen on the lemon and sugar. I also brought our traditional toppings - butter, maple syrup, raspberries, and powdered sugar. They had never had them with raspberries and that was a big hit. Two of our YSA - Camie and Lucy - were the pancake cookers and expert pancake flippers...well most of the time the flips were successful.

 The YSA did a great job cleaning. The building almost sparkled when we left!
Back row L to R: Devon, Amy, Stephanie, Sharoon
Middle Row: Leanne, Camie, Lucy, Sarah, Natasha, Jared
Front row: Judy, Kynna, Amanda (missing is Adam who went home before the photo)

A couple of the girls invited us to join them at a free concert this evening. So we met them at a local church in Selly Oak to listen to the Birmingham University Medical Student Orchestra perform. There were some modern, familiar pieces and also some of Beethoven's music. It was very nice...and impressive to realize that everyone in the orchestra was a medical student. A high rate of kids play musical instruments here - very nice!

Afterwards we came home and had a fun conversation with Connor on Face Time. Earlier in the day we also enjoyed Skyping with Brad, Jenna, and their darling kids.

I have to make a note that today was also the Coventry Quilters 2nd Annual Exhibition. It was held at the Coventry Chapel, was free, and had classes you could sign up for. AND....I missed it!!! We cleaned the building instead. Surely I earned some brownie points!

Sunday, February 26

Church was wonderful...and the building was so clean that Devon even remarked that the bathrooms smelled good! There was a good attendance at church with several non-members and quite a few less active members. The lessons and talks were all outstanding!

We came home and had a nice pork roast dinner. Early in the evening we went back to the church to get ready for the Multi-stake (5 stake) YSA Fireside. The theme was "Why I Believe." Two recent YSA converts told their conversion story and then our mission president, President Ogden, told his (he joined when he was 16 years old). The Birmingham Institute Choir sang for the prelude - it was wonderful - and one of our YSA girls sang a very spiritual, and original arrangement of "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus." It was so good that President Ogden was almost speechless. It was my pleasure to accompany her. There was at least 200 in attendance. We served danish pastries, eclairs (from Costco of course), and punch they call squash. The whole evening was outstanding!

Right before the fireside I received a phone call from JP - he has chicken pox! Poor kid. He's certainly had more than his share of trials. He's pretty discouraged. We'll keep in touch and have the YSA kids call him, too.

Sunday was finished off with some wonderful family time on Face Time. We have had a beautiful, almost spring like week. The sun has made some glorious appearances and a few little bulbs are starting to bloom.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

JOURNAL - February 13 - 19

Monday, February 13

Usual Monday including FHE. It is "half term" so many of the students were home which means low attendance at FHE. The girl who signed up for the activity also went home, so we decided to play "No Peekie" - a fun card game we play with the grandkids at home. We played it once before with the YSA, but that was many months ago, so it was new to many of the kids, including JP. It was so much fun! JP had the hardest time not cheating - we had to watch him like a hawk or he would peek at his cards. A couple of the girls said they needed to leave early, but were having so much fun they stayed till the end. I love FHE with the YSA!

Tuesday, February 14 - Valentine's Day

We had flat check this morning in Redditch and on the way home did a little grocery shopping. We worked on lessons for a couple of hours and then caught the #1 bus to Symphony Hall, and had dinner at a restaurant by the canal. We're checking out several restaurants and trying to decide which one to suggest the Senior Missionaries go to in March prior to the Osmond Brothers' Concert. After dinner we met up with some of our YSA girls to see a movie. Devon bought me flowers and we had a lovely Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 15

Today is the last district meeting before transfers - next week is Zone Conference and the following week will be transfers. As I sat in the meeting I was overwhelmed with the spirituality of these amazing missionaries. Here are these 19, 20, 21 year old missionaries - teaching and leading with such power. We attend the meetings, but we are participants - they are the leaders. It is such a sweet experience.

Institute was also good, though many students were at home due to the break. It was my turn to teach tonight - a lesson on repentance.

Thursday, February 16

Last flat check for this transfer - Kidderminister. They tried....but won't be winning the prize for cleanest flat. After the flat check we drove back to Redditch to visit a couple of YSA brothers. The youngest one has been attending church for about 6 months and comes to Institute whenever he can get a ride, but his older brother has not been active for quite a while - in fact we didn't know he had an older brother. The missionaries have been meeting with the boys and the older brother is starting to come out to church. So we wanted to drop by and visit and encourage them both.  It was a good visit.

We got back to Birmingham just in time for our hair cut appointments. I've let my hair grow and I'm sick of it!! Devon would say..."what else is new?" I was really looking forward to getting it cut and styled - even took a picture of what I wanted. Yipes! It's awful! She put in layers and they don't blend at all. For now I'll just endure, but may think about going someplace else next time.

We had another appointment to visit a less active young man from Sheldon Ward tonight, but his mother call us and said he didn't want to meet with us - he's not ready to make any changes in his life style. Disappointing, but not surprising. It did open up the evening. So we hopped in the car and drove to Lichfield to be present for Sister Leticia Corner to be set apart for her mission. She was called to the California Anaheim Mission but her visa is delayed, so they are sending her to London South until the visa comes. It was wonderful to go to Lichfield again - I love it there. It's out of the city and so lovely. It was Institute night, so we got to see some of the kids and that was great also. But the best thing was to share that special experience with Tish. She's going to be a powerful missionary!

Friday, February 17

The mission ordered new microwaves for two missionary flats in Harborne.. The old ones were so old that the coating on the inside had worn through to the metal. The missionaries are thrilled to be getting new ones. The plan was to have them delivered to our flat and we would take them to the missionaries. The delivery service was supposed to call us and give us a four hour window for delivery. Well, we sat around the flat all day waiting for a call (which never came). We had given up when finally at about 6:00 pm the delivery man arrived - totally unannounced. I'm glad we were at home.

The day wasn't a total loss. Devon worked on his lesson and I wrote letters to the various YSA that have left for their missions since we have been here. 

Saturday, February 18

Today is the much anticipated Stake Ball Game Day. The Stake rented a gym at one of the local colleges for four hours today (noon to 4:00). The various wards put together teams for football (soccer), volleyball, and badminton. Our YSA had 3 teams - one for each sport. There were quite a few people there from the stake just to watch...it was tons of fun. I've never watched soccer much, but after watching them play I have a new found appreciation for the game. It is amazing how well they can maneuver the ball with their feet. Everyone plays it here from an early age, so they are all very good.

We also delivered microwaves to some very happy missionaries.

Sunday, February 19

I had an interesting experience at church today. They asked me to play for Sacrament meeting. Every week the ward is VERY noisy during prelude. Today was no exception. There was so much talking that I wondered why I was even playing. I had decided to play sacrament hymns for prelude and about five minutes before the meeting was to start I noticed the talking seemed to start quieting down. Within a minute or so it was totally quite. All you heard was the sweet melodies of the familiar sacrament hymns. It was so amazing! The power from those sacred hymns about our Savior brought a spirit into the room that was undeniable. I love music, and have felt it's power many times, but today was an especially sweet experience.

We were invited to have dinner with President and Sister Wilkinson today after church. They also invited Mahdi and JP to come as neither of them have family here in England. Unfortunately Mahdi couldn't make it due to a job interview, and JP just flaked out. We took another YSA with us - a young man whose family is from Pakistan and is seeking asylum here in England. It was a wonderful meal and a great visit - a real treat!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

JOURNAL - February 6 - 12

Monday, February 6

I made some lemon poppy seed cupcakes for FHE tonight. The kids really liked them. We can get Betty Crocker cake mixes here but they are over £2.00 ($3.15) per box. The types of mixes are limited - in fact no yellow cake mixes. But they did have marble, so I used that and omitted the chocolate bit. They really were yummy! JP and Mahdi were at FHE and had a good time, along with all the other kids.

Tuesday, February 7

Groan...flat checks begin again! This is something I will not miss after our mission is over. I do love seeing the missionaries and talking with them about their work with the YSA, but I don't enjoy being the "Cleaning Nazi." Today we went to the sisters in Solihull and the elders in Sheldon - both very nice and easy to check...and they seemed to love the Costco muffins we took as treats!

Then we drove to Burton-on-Trent to take Tish, one of our special YSA from Lichfield Stake, out to lunch. She is leaving for her mission to the California Anaheim Mission next Monday. We were supposed to go to her farewell party last Saturday, but were forced to miss it due to the snow. We wanted to see her before she left, so we decided to take her out to lunch. Her mother, Rae, also joined us. Tish has had a little "distraction" come her way since she received her call in the form of a new boyfriend. They are quite smitten. He is a returned missionary of only about 6 months and as such has encouraged her to go. I'm proud of her. She's a great girl and will be a great missionary!

Wednesday, February 8

We enjoyed lunch with Stourbridge and Sheldon Districts today - also had a great district meeting. Our weather has been so cold the last couple of weeks, but these great missionaries just keep going no matter what. I really admire them! Later in the evening it was Institute. After class the kids got together to practice their musical items for Stake Conference, which is about 2 weeks away. I wish more of the kids would sing in the choir, but for some reason there doesn't seem to be much interest, at least not tonight. We'll see if we can generate more enthusiasm...and if not, maybe guilt will work! At the end of the evening two of the girls (Camie and Lucy) came to me and said, "Sister Tufts, what can we do to help you?" Love, love, love it! They refilled all the paper products in the bathrooms, emptied trash, and helped with the clean-up in the kitchen. We love our mission, but cleaning up the building each Wednesday is getting harder and harder to do. I think/know we are the only ones who do it! Oh well, service comes in many forms!

Thursday, February 9

Our morning was spent in flat checks again. This time we did the Harborne missionaries - 3 flats. Harborne A and B are pretty close to each other, but Harborne C (the new elders) is way to the north - almost in Lichfield Stake. It took much longer than anticipated to get there and put us behind schedule. Our GPS system gets us to our destination, but often takes the most out of the way route, and this was the case today. You can't really rely on maps and directions from Google because there are very few street signs, so we use the Sat Nav and  hope for the best. "She" does always get us there.

In the afternoon we met the Harborne C elders to teach Angie, a convert of about 10 months. She is a mid-single age adult, but we have been with the missionaries many times to teach her. It's always a great experience. She recently lost a family member and has had some frustrations dealing with one of the utility companies - we had a good discussion about trials. She has a firm testimony so we usually end up teaching each other!

Friday, February 10 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY CONNOR

Woke up to a dusting of snow on the ground and very cold temperatures. Oh how I long for the sun! I made quite a few phone calls to less-active YSA and worked on my lesson for next week. I found a very inspiring video from Mormon Messages about the power of Christ's Atonement to save us from our mistakes and heal our broken hearts. Perfect for my lesson! 

In the afternoon we decided to go to a movie - a very nice break. The best part of the day was wishing our birthday boy happy birthday on Face Time!

Saturday, February 11

Sun, glorious sun! Not a cloud in the sky - but the temperatures are still in the single digits (C.). I spent the morning baking banana nut muffins. We are going to try to visit a less-active YSA today and I thought it would be nice to take a treat. I'm not sure exactly why she has stopped coming out, but I think she had her feelings hurt last year. She "chats" with me on Facebook, but always says she is "too busy with school" when I try to make an appointment to see her. So, we picked up one of our active YSA and dropped by for a surprise visit. We were very disappointed that she wasn't home, but we did leave the muffins and a note.

Sunday, February 12

Gloomy clouds are back. We met with one of the bishopric members prior to Sunday meetings to discuss the long list of inactive YSA and try to formulate a plan to contact them. It was a good meeting, but there is so much work to do! Church was very nice. After church we met with the Ward Council to discuss upcoming missionary oriented activities the ward and stake are planning. There is a big push in the stake and all of England towards missionary work. Harborne Ward has a great missionary plan that is off and running, thanks to the help of the three sets of full-time missionaries in the ward, dedicated leaders, and an enthusiastic bishop.

We slipped out of the meeting a little early to keep an appointment for dinner with the family of a new YSA. She just turned 18. She has been sort of hit and miss at YW. It's hard to break into the large group at Institute, and we thought it would help to get to know each other. We had a nice dinner and visit - it was a good thing...and her mother was really pleased!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

JOURNAL - January 30 - February 5

Monday, January 30

Another wonderful Monday! Worked on lessons, did a little grocery shopping, and went to FHE. We had a really good turnout tonight - the room was full. Elders Steed and Frimpong were there because they came to support JP. Everyone had a great time, except JP who seemed engulfed with depression again. He didn't participate, didn't want to talk, and left early...very discouraging for us, the YSA, and the missionaries.

Tuesday, January 31

We picked up Camie (our YSA culinary student) and drove to Woodsetton to have lunch with another YSA girl who is also pretty discouraged. She was baptized about 10 months ago and was doing just great until she went home to her mom's over Christmas. We enjoyed lunch and learned so much about her. She, too, has problems related to growing up in a dysfunctional family. She was in foster care from age 14 to 18. She is now living with her dad. He owns a pub and they live above it...less than an ideal situation. She seems to lack desire to do anything - church, school, work. I guess it seems easier to do nothing. She really enjoyed lunch and our visit and says she might come out to FHE and Institute. We will keep in touch and continue to encourage and fellowship her.

On the way home we stopped at Cat's house (another YSA who lives in the same area) to see if we could catch her home. She is a good girl, wants to go on a mission, but is not very consistent with attendance at church or Institute. She wasn't home, but I brought some note cards with me and wrote her a little note.

Wednesday, February 1

It's district meeting today. The Stourbridge District meets in the morning and the Sheldon District (our district) meets in the early afternoon - both at our Harborne building. They enjoy lunch together between the two meetings. We had a great time with the missionaries for lunch and was able to set up all but one flat check appointment for the next couple of weeks. They love to have us there for lunch because we open the Tuck shop for them to buy sodas, chips, and candy bars at a pretty good price. Our meeting was really good, as usual.

It was my turn to teach at Institute - a lesson on dating standards. It went well, thanks to some fun group activities. The attendance at Institute was down during January - probably because so many of the students had exams, and the cold weather. But, tonight we had 50 kids there! It was great. After class they had a rousing game of football (soccer) in the cultural hall. JP came and had a really good time. He even interacted with the kids. Everyone had such fun that we didn't lock up until after 11:00 - they wanted to stay and visit so we just hung out till they were ready to leave.

Cat came to Institute and almost tackled me when she came in the door. She was so tickled to get our note yesterday!

Thursday, February 2

We slept in after our late night. Later in the day we made a trip to Costco and Tesco for some shopping. We take treats to the missionaries when we do flat checks and sometimes it's a challenge to find something. This time we are taking Costco muffins. They package them in units of 6 muffins and you get 2 units for £2.50. We settled on blueberry - hope they like them!

Friday, February 3

Did two flat checks today - Woodsetton and Stourbridge. I was pretty disappointed in one flat, but the other one was pretty good. The missionaries (especially the elders) are so funny. It is very obvious that they are rushing around right before we get there to get things cleaned up. In one flat the counters in the kitchen were still very wet! Some just clean out the middle. They will clean the sink and tub, but the edges are very dirty, or they will sweep the middle of the floor, but not the edges - same with vacuuming. It makes me laugh, and makes me wonder what it looked like before we get there. We do flat checks to get them to clean up, but also to look for anything that is damaged or broken. One flat had a leak from under the toilet tank. I don't know how long it had been there or why they hadn't reported it to the office. They were using a bucket to catch the leak. We made them call the office while we were there.

Tonight is Chill Night. We had a small turn out, but to our surprise both JP and the YSA we took to lunch earlier in the week came. We had such a good time!!! One of our active RM YSA's also came and was amazed at how much fun it was. Hopefully he will spread the word. We played Uno, chair football, and a "gut splitting" game of pictionary. The best thing is that EVERYONE had so much fun. JP was his old self - laughing, teasing, and having a great time! When we left it was -3 C. Brrrrrr!

Saturday, February 4

We had two important events we were anxious to attend this evening. A YSA baptism in Stourbridge and a farewell party for a YSA from Lichfield Stake who is leaving for her mission in a week. It started to snow about noon - just little, wimpy flakes. We didn't think much of it. But, by the time we needed to leave there was about 3 inches of snow. Still, we bundled up and headed out. We got about 3 blocks and realized there was no way we were going to make it to our destinations - each about 40 minutes from home. The roads were uncleared and very slushy - cars fishtailing all over. So we turned around and "crawled" back home. We called, gave our regrets and watched it continue to snow for several more hours. By the time it stopped we had about 6 inches. It was beautiful to look at!

Sunday, February 5

When we woke up this morning the snow was already melting. This is what it looked like out our window.

It was slushy getting out of our complex, but the main roads were pretty clear. There was a pretty good turn out at church, though many arrived late. To everyone's surprise, Elder and Sister Donaldson were there. They were in town yesterday on business, but due to the snow couldn't get home. So they stayed the night and came to our Ward for church.

After the meeting we had "Break the Fast" with the YSA. The rest of the ward is so jealous, but we just go ahead! I made a very yummy crock pot of creamy chicken, rice, and vegetable soup. Everyone loved it...especially on a cold winter day. Thankfully no more snow, but they say February is our winter this month - it's expected to continue to be cold. Maybe we will get more snow, but I hope not!