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.