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, March 27, 2012

JOURNAL - March 19 - 25

Monday, March 19

The sun just can't make up it's mind today. One minute is is brightly shining and the next it is cloudy. Oh spring "where art thou?"

Pretty disappointed in FHE attendance - it is quite low. The YSA say it's to be expected due to spring break on the horizon and the students having lots of tests and projects due. But that doesn't explain why the working kids are not coming. We encourage and announce it. Not sure what else to do.

Tuesday, March 20

Last day for flat checks this transfer - Woo hoo! We were pleasantly surprised. All three flats were pretty good - especially Kidderminister. I think they will get the award for cleanest flat. Not only was it clean, it was a big improvement over last flat check. Those elders have worked hard!

Wednesday, March 21

Today is district meeting. President and Sister Ogden are here because he is doing interviews with the elders and sisters. Sister Ogden brought the fixings for panini's. They were soooo good! I made a big pan of brownies and they were yummy, too. The meeting was good, as usual. We don't have interviews as we technically are not part of the mission - we are CES missionaries. I don't know if the other senior couples have interviews, but they didn't today.

We had a great training meeting for the YSA Reps at YSA Council meeting. I brought Costco pizza so we had a really good turnout. We also released the two counselors in the presidency and called two new ones. The president is getting married in July, but he will continue until the end of this term which is the end of May. We and the stake presidency thought it would be best to replace the counselors now and give the new ones a chance to get oriented to their duties, rather than replace everyone about the same time we will be finished. Besides, one of the previous counselors is turning 31 and the other is also the ward YW President and just too busy. No word on a replacement for us. That is worrisome! No one posted that they needed a replacement. I guess everyone thought someone else was doing it. It is very doubtful a new couple will be here before we leave, but hopefully a new couple will be here by fall. They could call a couple from the stake to do it...so we'll see. One thing is for sure - our time is quickly coming to the end.

Devon's lesson was very good, but attendance is also diminishing a little at Institute. Several factors seem to be effecting that, and there is not much we can do about it for this term. We are suggesting some changes for next year.

Thursday, March 22

Not feeling great today. Devon has a haircut, but I cancelled mine. I actually trimmed it a bit myself and it is fine for now. I'm very anxious to have a hair cut from my beautician at home.


The Morgans met at our house this morning at 11:00. We went to lunch at a pub by the University of Birmingham and then walked up the hill to the Barber Fine Arts Center for their weekly lunch concert. Today they had students performing recitals. Half the concert was a soloist accompanied by a violinist, and the other half was a saxophonist accompanied by a pianist - all very good! Afterwards we all went to Costco to do some shopping - the Morgans for themselves, us for the YSA temple trip tomorrow - and then we went to the meetinghouse to drop off all the food. After dinner, Josh, the YSA president, came over to review and revise the responsibilities of his new counselors - rather, vice presidents as they are now going to be called. Previously one was over missionary work and one was over activities, but Josh and the previous counselors think it best to not divide the responsibilities - everyone will help with everything. We'll see how that works. Currently the activities portion is lacking - maybe this will help.

After Josh left we had a nice telephone chat with Allison. She is so excited to be turning 12 and advancing to YW. As far as she is concerned, it couldn't come fast enough!

At 9:30 pm we got a call from the executive secretary from Chorley Stake. We had reserved a room at the stake center (which is on the Preston Temple property) to have our pizza lunch and indexing activity. Well, it seems he over booked the stake center and we cannot use the room! He suggested we use the kitchen and lounge area at the accommodation building, but I already asked to use that and was told we couldn't as we were not staying in the accommodations. Besides they don't have wifi there for us to do indexing. He said he would call in the morning and "plead our case." Not sure how this will work out, but I'm going to go to bed tonight relying on faith that it will.

Saturday, March 24

We were at the meetinghouse about 8:15 am to get things ready to load on the coach taking us to the Preston temple. The YSA all arrived on time (miracle) and we were on our way right on schedule. Brother and Sister Cardenas went with us to help chaperone. They are assigned to home and visit teach the YSA in Harborne Ward, so we thought they would enjoy this trip with them. There is also a wedding today of two YSA from the stake - Matthew from Harborne Ward and Sarah from Solihull Ward - so many of the YSA planned to go to the wedding. Still we had a very nice group on the trip.

On the way there I called the accommodation office. The executive secretary hadn't called yet, so I explained our circumstances and asked if there was any way we could use their facilities. The sweet brother took pity on me and said yes! Only problem, no wifi - but they have a wonderful big kitchen with four ovens for us to heat up the Costco pizza. We handed out an LDS trivia quiz and LDS scatagories game I had prepared for the YSA to play on the bus - fun!

The morning baptism session was very efficient and very nice. Even with several girls with very long hair to manage we were out on time and headed to the accommodation building for our pizza. We had tons of pizza and everyone had a great and relaxing time eating, visiting, strolling the temple grounds, and visiting the Distribution Center. We didn't get to do indexing, but it was okay. After that we met for a nice testimony meeting. It was a little bitter sweet for both Josh and us realizing this was our last YSA temple trip.
Love these amazing young single adults!

Upon arriving back in Birmingham, we handed out the left over pizza and fruit, put things away, waited until the last YSA girl was picked up, and then headed home completely fatigued! It was a wonderful day - but also exhausting!

Sunday, March 25

Devon had a high council assignment to speak at Redditch Ward today, but first we needed to go by Harborne to turn in some receipts to the executive secretary and get a rather large reimbursement check for the coach. So we did that and made it to Redditch in time for Sacrament meeting. Upon coming home I put some dinner in the oven and then had a nice hour nap. After dinner the Morgans came over to play Wizard - they are hooked! It was relaxing and fun. We also enjoyed Skype and Face Time conversations with family this weekend. I don't know what I would do without that frequent contact.

Monday, March 19, 2012

JOURNAL - March 12 - 18

Monday, March 12

My morning was spent working on my lesson for this week - differences between men and women. should be interesting! The highlight of the day was FHE - as usual!

Tuesday, March 13

We did four flat checks today (a record), and it took a big part of our day. The sisters always have very clean flats. As far as the elders, well....some try harder than others, but the two sets of elders we checked today sort of missed the mark. The mission gave one pair of missionaries a new microwave a few weeks ago. It was more than a disappointment to see the inside covered with splattered food. That will not do! After flat checks Devon took me to a wonderful wool shop in Kidderminister and I bought wool for a new knitting project. Hopefully this project won't take a year to complete - it's a much simpler pattern.

After coming home I put the finishing touches on my lesson and power point for this week.

Wednesday, March 14

For District Meeting today we all met in the Harborne C missionaries' area. We enjoyed lunch together, including a pan of K-squares I made. Then each set of missionaries (5 sets including us) were given an address list of less active members in that area. Each pair of missionaries took their list and headed out to find the member's homes, hoping to find them at home. We went to four homes and only found one person home. Unfortunately that person was not who we were looking for, and he didn't know anything about the person we were looking for - must have moved at some time. We did leave messages and our phone number at the houses with no one at home. So, hopefully we'll get a call. Some of the other sets of missionaries had better luck.

We came home, had a light supper, rested a little, and then went to Institute. My lesson went well. Today is the YSA president's birthday. His mother made a big batch of yummy chicken and noodles, cake, brownies, little sandwiches, and chips to celebrate her son's birthday. It was all yummy!

Thursday, March 15

So tired today! We had two flat checks this morning. The Solihull sisters always have a very clean flat - love it. The Sheldon flat is pretty newly refurbished and actually won the award for cleanest flat during the last transfer period. But the new set of elders in that flat are not doing a very good job of keeping it clean. So disappointed!!! I am not going to miss flat checks when our mission is finished!

Friday, March 16 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY ERIC

Had a mammogram today - joy! Yep, it's the same as in the USA. I received a letter informing me of the time and date for the test - part of their routine screening process. It was all very efficient, especially given the number of women they were processing.

In the evening we went to Harborne Ward for a ward talent/variety show. It was so much fun. The talent was great - singing, dancing, violin, guitar - and there was lots of good food. The ward provided various cakes from "Sister Costco" and the members brought potluck "savory" things (chips, crackers, cheese, etc). The evening was wonderful...especially nice because there were at least 5 investigators there and they all had a great time.

Saturday, March 17

The elders are teaching a YSA aged single mom. She has moved into a "council flat" (government housing) and it needs some work. So we went with the elders to help put up curtains and a blind in her son's room. It was quite the project. We borrowed a power drill from a member, but had a horrible time because none of the bits were the right size. FINALLY, we got the job done, but it took much longer than it should have. Aftewards, the elders taught a very nice lesson about the restoration.

While we were waiting for her to get home we made an unannounced visit to one of our YSA who is struggling. He is such a nice guy, and we've become good friends. But he has some habits that keep him from progressing and it is frustrating for him. We love and encourage, but the rest is up to him.

In the evening we went to Solihull Ward for a farewell for one of our YSA young men who has been called to served in South Africa. He is the fourth young man from Solihull called on a mission this past year, and there are two others getting ready to submit their papers. Amazing!  They are serving in France, Dominican Republic, Taiwan, and now South Africa. We claim no credit for these amazing young men, but feel so blessed to know them and watch them prepare for this service.
Elder David Butcher

The Butcher family has double the excitement. David is a twin and his sister is getting married next week in the London Temple. He's thrilled to be able to be here for that event. He will leave for his mission a few days after the wedding. 

I have to make a note about St. Patrick's Day, since today is St. Patrick's Day. We didn't even realize it was today...no celebrations or mention of it as far as we could see. At the farewell tonight the only people wearing green were the two sisters missionaries from America! It is a much bigger deal in America than it is in the West Midlands for sure! 

Sunday, March 18

Crazy weather!!! It's trying to snow! There are a few large slushy flakes mixed in this morning's rain. Enough already...I want spring - no exceptions!

Today is Mother's Day here in the UK. We had lovely meetings including good talks about mothers, the primary children singing, and they gave each mother a darling pin made of three little ribbon flowers (made by some of our darling YSA girls). After church Devon took me out to dinner and then I had a nice Sunday afternoon nap - such a treat. In the evening Elder and Sister Morgan came over to use our internet and land line. Theirs has been ordered, but won't be installed for another 10 days or so. We had a good time visiting and playing Banagrams and Wizard. They are card players, so they caught on quickly and we had a good game.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

JOURNAL March 5 - 11

Monday, March 5

Good Monday topped off with a good turn out at FHE! We really enjoy this time with our YSA.

Tuesday, March 6

Finally finished the sweater I have been knitting for the past year! Most of the knitting was done whilst riding in the car. Fortunately, I like it! Do I want to start another one....hmmmm, not sure.

Wednesday, March 7

District Meeting today was really good. I made Chelsey's Nutella cupcakes for the missionaries and they loved them! We met the new senior couple - Elder and Sister Morgan from Florida. They arrived here yesterday and are assigned to be member and leader support missionaries in Stourbridge Ward here in Birmingham Stake. They are feeling a little lost. We can remember our first days and similar feelings. We had Brother Dockrill by our side helping us - they are on their own. We plan to go to their flat tomorrow to answer questions and help them figure out life here in England.

YSA Council and Institute were good tonight, and we had a good turnout of kids. These late nights are not getting any easier. Felt so tired after getting home.

Thursday, March 8

We had a lovely day today with the Morgan's in Stourbridge. They have a darling little one bedroom cottage. It's very welcoming and full of charm. They are happy with it. We spent a lot of time answering their questions and telling them what to do about their medical, phone and internet, banking, etc. I'm so surprised no one from the mission did this. We had an appointment to set up our banking the first day we were here, and Brother Dockrill helped us with the rest the next day. We gave Morgans a page of typed information to refer to. Then we all went to dinner at Frankie and Benny's followed by a trip to ASDA (Walmart), and Poundland (dollar store) for them to stock up on some supplies.

Friday, March 9

Seems like we spent all day shopping for supplies for the tuck shop and YSA activities scheduled this weekend. Tonight was the monthly multi-stake dance. It was attended by about 250 kids - again from all over England. The theme was "Rockin' 50's" and our YSA did a great job with decorations. For refreshments they made milkshakes - a big undertaking for such a large group...but they did it! We had plenty of milkshakes for everyone and they were yummy! We had two senior couples there (Morgans and Johnsons), and a couple of priesthood brothers - nice! Also had good help from the kids with the clean-up.
Sisters Tufts and Morgan at the sign-in desk at Harborne Dance

Saturday, March 10

Slept in after our previous late night. This evening we went to a concert at Symphony Hall in downtown Birmingham - Scottish Fiddle Orchestra. There were at least 30 violins, 10 violas, 6 cellos, 6 bass fiddles, 2 sets of drums, 2 flutes, 1 piano, 1 organ, and 6 accordions! Along with the orchestra were tenor and mezzo soprano soloists, 3 Scottish dancers, and a bagpipe band complete with drums. They played, sang, and danced a whole range of Scottish songs. Most of the men were in full Scottish dress, including kilts, and the women all had beautiful plaid tartan skirts. A few in the audience also were in traditional Scottish dress. The cute little old man sitting next to me sang and "jigged" in his seat throughout the concert. It was a wonderful evening!

Sunday, March 11

We were enjoying our YSA Sunday School class when the bishop called us out. One of our YSA girls was at the hospital waiting to be admitted for treatment. She has some health issues we were aware of, and was up all night vomiting. Her sweet housemate was with her and was very drained from the time spent caring for her both at home and at the hospital. We stayed with her until her parents arrived. Her dad give her a very sweet and spiritual blessing. After that we took her housemate home and returned to church just after the last meeting ended.

This evening was a CES broadcast. They are usually broadcast a 6:00 pm our time, so that is what we planned on. When we got there we realized the broadcast was already in progress - it started at 5:00 pm our time as the US has switched to Day-light Savings Time and we haven't...yet. Fortunately Devon brought his computer so he was able to show the broadcast over the internet. We had a nice turnout of kids and used the left over milk and ice cream from the dance on Friday to make milkshakes.

We invited the Morgans to come to the broadcast and then to our flat afterwards so they could call and Skype with their family at home. Their internet and phone are not connected yet. Sister Morgan is really missing her family...I can relate! They enjoyed it and we were glad to give them the opportunity to see and talk with their family. Hopefully they can have these services soon in their flat. I don't know what I would do without them!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

JOURNAL - February 27 - March 4

Monday,February 27

Sooo tired after our busy weekend. I guess all the YSA were tired, too. The only kids that came to FHE were the ones doing the lesson and activity. That's a first - and I hope it doesn't happen again!

Tuesday, February 28

We are both teaching at Institute this week. I'm teaching the Eternal Marriage class and Devon is teaching the Old Testament class for Brother McMorn, who is out of town. So most of today was spent getting our lessons ready for tomorrow.

I've had it with my hair! Hate it!!! So made an appointment at a different salon and got it cut today. It is much better, but not quite as I would like. I'm trying to not complaining - it is much better. I picked the salon because they had half off on your first visit. It's a very busy and nice salon on Harborne High Street. Don't know if I will go back though, as they are super expensive (half was £27.00). I still came home and did a little "trimming" of my own - can't figure out why they can't make the sides even!

Wednesday, February 29

It is interesting to me that in this, the shortest month of the year, we actually have 5 Institute classes. Both the 1st and the 29th fell on Wednesday. Wonder how often that happens?

Today is transfer day. Of the six full-time missionaries that are serving in our Harborne Ward, 1 "died" (finished his mission and went home - Elder Steed from St. George), and  3 are being transferred. So, we were needed to take missionaries and luggage to the mission office for transfers. I love going to transfer day because we get to see many previous missionaries we've worked with. We also got to meet some parents from England that were picking up their son. His mission was over. His mom found my blog and has been reading it. Guess I'm almost famous Here are just a few great missionaries who have served in Harborne:
Elder VonBrughan (South Africa)
Elder Frimpong (London)
Elders Fairbourn and Choi (both Utah I think)
Elders Hudec (Czech Republic), Christiansen (Utah), Collins (North Carolina).
Sister Whitaker (Nevada)
Sisters Louis (India) and Hedemark (Sweden)

These are just a few. It is an amazing blessing to get to know these wonderful young missionaries. Also, there were three other senior missionary couples there transporting missionaries, and it was good to see them. This transfer a record 20 "greenies" arrived - the largest number during President Ogden's time. Of the four new missionaries to our ward, three are greenies (two from Utah - one from  New Zealand), and one trainer, also from Utah. Truly nothing is as constant as change, and these amazing young people take it right in stride.

After delivering the missionaries to their flat, we had time for a little rest and dinner before heading to the church for Institute. Our lessons went well and there was good attendance.

Thursday, March 1

Went to see our sweet Dr. Harrison this morning. Their system is quite different than ours. I signed in on a computer in the lobby and then in a few minutes was called in by Dr. Harrison. She does everything herself - no nurse or medical assistant. I noticed a lump on my neck last Sunday. She thinks it's a benign thyroid nodule, but to be sure I am having an ultra sound and some labs done. We'll see how long it takes to get the US appointment. Notification of the appointment will come in the mail, and I'll return tomorrow for the blood test. I'm not worried about it. On the way home we stopped at Frankie and Benny's for their breakfast special. It was good, but I miss good old hash brown potatoes.
Came home from my doctor appointment to find a letter! That's a real treat - we don't get letters as everything is over the internet. The letter was from Sister Corner (YSA from Lichfield that is in the London Mission waiting for her visa to go to the California Anaheim Mission). She is doing well - adjusting to the missionary life and schedule. 

Friday, March 2

Yesterday was St. David's Day - the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales. The celebration is in remembrance of the death of Saint David. Tradition holds that he died on that day in 589. The date was declared a national day of celebration within Wales in the 18th century.

St. David was born towards the end of the fifth century. He founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn (The Vale of Roses) on the western headland of Pembrokeshire, at the spot where St. David's Cathedral stands today. David's fame as a teacher spread throughout the Celtic world. His foundation at Glyn Rhosin became an important Christian shrine, and the most important center in Wales. The date of his death is recorded as 1 March, but the year is uncertain - possibly 588. As his tearful monks prepared for his death, St. David uttered these words: "Brothers be ye constant. The Yoke which with single mind ye have taken, bear ye to the end; and whatsoever ye have seen with me and heard, keep and fulfill."

So, in honor of St. David's Day, Chill Night was held tonight at Camie's house (she is our culinary student from Wales). Not many came, but we had a great time and ate yummy Welsh Cakes Camie made - delicious!!! Devon especially loved them because they had raisins.
Left to right: Ruth, Camie, Leanne, Stephanie, and Lucy

Saturday, March 3

This weekend is Stake Conference. Devon's on the High Council so he went to the afternoon leadership meeting. I stayed home to clean the flat, finish laundry, and take a very nice, though short nap - such a treat! We had yummy fajitas for dinner and then went to the evening session of Conference. The chapel was full and the meeting was very good. 

Sunday, March 4

Stake Conference this morning was amazing! Our YSA choir sang and two YSA young men gave terrific talks. I'm such a proud "YSA mamma!" I love that they had to come ask me how they did after the meeting. We had a visiting general authority - Elder Teixeira and his wife from Portugal who both spoke along with brief remarks from President and Sister Ogden. All the talks taught simple truths of the gospel and it was very powerful: don't reject faith...choose to embrace it; do not come to church looking for what you will get, but for what you can give; "we are obedient not because we are blind, but because we can see" (Boyd K. Packer); repentance needs to be a daily process...not just when we sin; what we give away, always comes back.

We saw Elder and Sister Skiles at Conference and enjoyed visiting with them. They are the mission office couple and they told us we needed to be thinking about our flight home in June. We need to decide which airport we want to depart from and arrive at. It hadn't occurred to us that we had a choice, but guess we'll research it and see where we can get the most direct flight. Elder Steed, who just flew home to St. George, went from Birmingham to Amsterdam to Portland to SLC to St. George! That would be a nightmare!

After church we ran home to grab a plate of homemade cookies and headed out to visit a less-active YSA girl. Unfortunately she was not home, so we left the cookies with a note. We've had good response when we leave cookies - hope it works again this time.

We came home and made a Tufts' staple - pork chop casserole. At home I make it with Campbell's cream of chicken soup, but the Campbell's cream of chicken soup available here is made here and is not the same! So I made my own using chicken bouillon and it was pretty good - better than the English Campbell's soup.

We've had beautiful, spring-like weather this week - until today. It is cold (3 degrees) and raining - almost snowing. Still, it has been a wonderful week! We'll top it off with Skype and Face Time with family.