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, May 20, 2012

JOURNAL - May 14 - 20

Monday, May 14

Today was my long awaited appointment at the Thyroid Clinic to get my nodule checked. The woman we saw is pretty positive it is a routine nodule that needs nothing more than occasional checking. But to be sure, she did a needle biopsy. Hopefully I'll get the results before we leave for home. I'm not worried about it and the biopsy was a "piece of cake."

We came home, parked the car, and caught the bus to have lunch at Birmingham City University Brasserie - run completely by the culinary art students, one of which is our YSA. At one of the bus stops two other YSA hopped on. They, too, were going to have lunch at the Brasserie, so we all went together. It was really fun and the meal was FANTASTIC! Dessert was an amazing vanilla cheese cake with mango sauce - best I've ever had. I'm hoping Camie can get the recipe for me as she was assigned to the pastry kitchen today.

Then we walked a couple of blocks to city center and Devon bought a new suit and I got a new skirt. We went to Poundland (dollar store) and bought paper cups for YSA events, and ping pong balls at a sports store (the YSA love playing ping pong). We caught the bus home in time for a short rest and then met the sisters to teach Li, a young man from China who is here getting his masters degree. The lesson was good, though language is a barrier.

From there we went to the church. We were a little early for FHE, so I cleaned out the closet in the YSA lounge - what a mess. I have been wanting to tackle it for months, so I am glad it is finally done. We had a great lesson and discussion about faith, ate some treats, played a few competitive games of ping pong, and a game of stacking blocks. Everyone had a great time!

Tuesday, May 15

Spoke to several missionaries who have completed their mission and are going home tomorrow. What wonderful people and how I love them! Found out the changes in our district. We only knew of one change as Elder Christiansen is going home to Utah, but we were worried we might lose the sisters, too. As it turns out the sisters are staying, but the mission is taking back their car and they will now be on bikes. There is a shortage of cars for the senior missionaries. But the area the sisters live in is not the best, so their flat will be closed and they have moved to the Harborne C elders's flat which is on the outskirts of town. It will take them an hour bus ride to get to the church. There will be 3 Harborne B elders, which should be VERY interesting! Two are still "greenies" in sooo many ways.

In the evening we drove to Stourbridge to go to dinner with the Morgans and play a game of pinochle. We had dinner at a restaurant called Isha's - Kashmirian food. Okay...I have to admit I was worried. I'm not very adventurous when it comes to dining. This, however, was amazing. The waiter/owner was so patient and explained all the menu choices to us. The food was out of this world delicious. They showered us with attention and a free dessert. Sure hope we have a change to go there again before we leave.

Wednesday, May 16

Devon polished off his lesson this morning. It seems strange (and nice) to not have a lesson to prepare. So I spent the morning wrapping souvenirs for grandkids and deciding what to put in the box we are shipping home. I also was busy transferring files and notes from my computer to a flash drive I want to leave for the couple replacing us in mid August. I don't have contact information for them yet, but we are anxious to talk with them.

Today is transfer day which means we are needed to transport the new elder back to Harborne B. His two new companions were at transfers and so we brought the three of them and two bikes back to their flat. Crowded does not begin the describe how packed our little car was, but we made it! After that we picked up the sisters at their new flat and brought them back to the church where they were meeting Li for another lesson. We grabbed a quick bite from Waitrose, set up the tuck shop and classroom, and then the evening meetings began - YSA Council and Institute.

During Institute devotional Josh, our YSA president, surprised us with a beautiful slide show full of photos of the YSA, trips and activities we did together, and pictures of us. Shame on him for making me cry! Oh how I love and will miss these young adults!

It was a wonderful evening. After they all left, we finished a few last minute chores and then just looked at each other - our last Institute was over. We turned out the lights and drove home.

Thursday, May 17

The gas inspector made his yearly visit to check out the boiler. It works, but is old and not up to the new code. It needs to be replaced. Also the landlord's son and a couple of contractors came to take some measurements. They are planing to refurbish the kitchen (including putting in a small dishwasher), replace the boiler, and update the electrical after we leave. It's going to be really nice.

After that we hopped on the bus and rode to Bull Ring to pick up Devon's suit and buy a new tie. His suit is gray and has a very, very faint tiny purple stripe...so he decided he wanted a purple tie. I don't know if pink and purple ties are in fashion in Utah, but they sure are here - and, surprisingly, we both like them! We bought the tie at a store called "High and Mighty" - men's big and tall shop. Devon likes his ties long. After much debate, and looking at every tie in the shop, we finally purchased one. Then it was just a quick bus ride home.

Friday, May 18

Today was flat cleaning day - big flat cleaning day. I cleaned the oven, washed the inside of all the windows, sorted through closets, cupboards, drawers, and did laundry. Devon made a final run to Costco and Wing Yip for tuck shop goodies and refreshments for Institute Graduation on Sunday. In the evening we attended a stake high priest meeting and social. It was really good and we had a wonderful time visiting with so many great people.

Saturday, May 19

Stephen and Andrea have arrived!!! Woohoo!!! We picked them up at London Heathrow airport and then headed straight for Stratford Upon Avon to start our sightseeing.
Outside Shakespeare's birthplace.
Trinity Church where Shakespeare is buried.
Anne Hathaway's childhood home (Shakespeare's wife).
Interesting scarecrow at Anne Hathaway's home. It's a potato with feathers that spins on the twine when the wind blows - very clever.

We came home, ate taco soup, and "hit the hay." 


Church was very good. We really enjoyed having Stephen and Andrea come with us and I think they enjoyed meeting our beloved YSA. After church we headed out to see the local church history sites.
At Benbow Pond - site of early convert baptisms.
Gadfield Elm chapel - oldest LDS chapel in the world. 
Old Corse church
Devon's 2nd great grandparents, Daniel and Esther Collett, were married here.
Stephen delivering "the good word" in the old Corse church.
Happy tourists enjoying the beautiful English countryside.

We arrived back in Birmingham in time to attend Institute graduation. There was a good turnout. The talks/testimonies were all great. I am very moved by the many wonderful expressions of appreciation we are receiving. They come from parents, stake leaders, and our wonderful YSA. Who says "parting is such sweet sorrow?" There's nothing sweet about it!  I remember how hard it was to leave home 18 months ago. I never expected it would be just as hard to say goodbye to our wonderful YSA. I'm going to miss them sooo much! At least when we left home I knew we were coming back. I don't know when we will see our YSA again. The next two weeks will be very busy with Stephen, Andrea, Brad, and Jenna coming and going - not to mention final packing, getting the flat ready for the new couple, and more goodbyes!

Monday, May 14, 2012

JOURNAL - May 7 - 13

Monday, May 7

This morning we went to Harvington Hall near Kidderminster with the Morgans and Elders Morrissey and Eppel. It is a moated medieval and Elizabethan manor house that now belongs to the Catholic Church and is famous for it's seven priest holes. It also has an interesting malt house and small chapel.The priest holes were hiding places for the priests during medieval times. The Church of England hunted down and killed any priests they found and the people who were aiding them. The malt house is where they roasted the grain used to make beer. Since it was a bank holiday here in England, it was Living History day at the hall and many volunteers were in period costumes telling visitors about life in Harvington Hall.
Front entrance - Harvington Hall
Side showing moat.
This priest hole was located under this wooden staircase. Two stairs were lifted up to provide access to the hole.
Delightful musical ensemble playing in one of the rooms.
Sweet volunteer showing Sister Morgan and I how to spin wool.
Medieval toddler walker.
Organ in chapel

We got home in time to fix a big pot of taco soup. Elders Christiansen, Ensing, Zundel, and Kramer came over for dinner. Today is Elder Kramer's birthday so we also had some angel food cake with strawberries, ice cream, and a candle. After dinner the missionaries rushed on to their appointments and we rushed to FHE. We had a good attendance and lots of fun - taught them how to play Shanghi. Boy were we tired after our very busy day!

Tuesday, May 8

Finished my lesson and made the power point to go with it for tomorrow's lesson. Also ran to the bank and post office. After dinner we went to the church to help a couple of YSA get ready for tomorrow night's activity at Institute.
Wednesday, May9
Today is our last District Meeting and the last one before transfers next week. Elder Christiansen is going home, so we will be getting at least one new elder in our district. Elder Hopkinson hopes to be transferred to fill his space, but we'll see. Everyone always speculates on who may be changed, but they never know for sure until Monday night before transfers.
Sheldon District
Left to right: Elders Christiansen, Choi, Merrill (Zone Leader), Zundel, Kramer, Hopkinson, Ensing, Tufts, Sisters Turnbow, Shorters, Tufts.
The lady in the picture is "Dorothy." It's a picture Elder Hopkinson found in the rubbish. Don't know how to explain why he even has it!
Stourbridge District - they meet right before we do and we all eat lunch together.
Left to Right: Elders Querubin, Collins, Merrill, Patch, Oakey, Morrissey, Pauly, Eppel, Morgan
Sisters Louis, Nelson, Morgan

My lesson at Institute went really well. The activity was so much fun. One of our YSA used to do fencing so she brought some nerf sabers and taught fencing moves to the YSA. They had a really good time!

Thursday, May 10

The Morgans went with us this afternoon to finish flat checks for this transfer. I'm going to call it a tie between the two sets of sisters. Both flats were excellent! We turned over all the extra supplies to the Morgans who will be taking over the task next transfer. They came back to our flat afterwards and we had left over taco soup, salad, and rolls, and then enjoyed a little pinochle.

Friday, May 11

It's time to type up notes for the couple that will be replacing us. Typing it all down makes me realize why I'm so tired! We really do a lot of stuff! Tonight was our last multi-stake dance, so we made a Costco run to get the food for the dance. We had about 270 YSA in attendance - pretty typical. There were three other couples there to help, although the YSA are always so well behaved we could handle it ourselves. Their biggest help is getting the YSA to leave after the dance and then cleaning up the building. For that, I am very grateful!

Saturday, May 12

Sun, beautiful sun! Perfect day for a baptism! We drove to Kidderminster for the Livvy's baptism. We met her a couple of months ago when she was first taking the missionary lessons. She is a professional jazz singer - beautiful voice and very talented. More than that, she is a beautiful person. She has had her trials, but she says the last few months since she started investigating the church have been the happiest in her life. She has met and made friends with several YSA who really love her. Her aunt and cousin are also members and good support for her.
Left to right: Sisters Turnbow, Shorters, Livvy, Elders Querubin, and Patch

Sunday, May 13

Another nice day! Church was good, but the biggest treat was the unexpected visit of one of our YSA that graduated from university last May. Miro is here for about a week. He finished his military obligation in Finland and will be leaving for his mission to the Alpine (German speaking) Mission. He is a convert of four years and will be an amazing missionary!

After church, Devon took me out to dinner as it is American Mother's Day. We went home for a little while and then came back to church for the CES broadcast. It, too, was wonderful and we had a nice turnout. Then we came home and finished Skyping with our own kids. We talked with almost everyone and even got a FaceTime tour of Daryn and Catie's new home. It has been a very nice Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

JOURNAL - April 30 - May 6

Monday, April 30

Today is the first sunny day we've had in over a week...glorious. It did give way to light showers in the evening, but the day was glorious. I heard a report on the radio that said April has been the coldest on record in England in 26 years....I believe it!

One of our YSA girls is a student in the Culinary Arts department at Birmingham City University. She invited us to have lunch at the university's restaurant today. She was in charge of creating the menu, ordering the food, and running the kitchen for the lunch event. There were five entrees and five desserts to choose from. It was amazing! The food was outstanding! It was very high class with pressed linen table cloths, napkins...the works. The waiters were all students practicing the art of serving and were oh so cute - best food and service we've had in a restaurant in Birmingham (admittedly, we don't go to the expensive places to eat). The prices were very cheap. We will definitely go again - wish we had known about it sooner.

FHE was really good tonight - I think I say that every week, but it was really good! Hannah prepared a great lesson that everyone loved, Sharoon brought the treats, and Yanos organized a really fun activity. He divided us into three groups and gave each group a large cardboard box and a roll of packaging tape. Our assignment was to build a bridge (using only those supplies) that would reach between two tables, and then see which bridge would hold the most hymn books. Team 1's bridge held 43 books before collapsing. Team 2's bridge collapsed rather quickly. Team 3 quit putting books on their bridge at 70+, and were declared the winners.
Team 3
L to R: Sister Tufts, Hannah, Tina

Tuesday, May 1

Another rainy day... It's also the beginning of our last round of flat checks. Elder and Sister Morgan are going to take over flat checks when we leave, so they went with us today as we checked Woodsetton, Stourbridge, and Kidderminister. It was pretty routine. The missionaries had made an effort and the flats looked pretty good. After I finish filling in the check list, I tell them if I find anything they need to clean. In one flat I mentioned how clean everything was, except that the inside door of the microwaver was dirty, to which one of the elders said, "Dammit!" - not once, but twice! We've chuckled about it all day. Winning the award for the cleanest flat is pretty important to some of the elders.


We picked up the Harborne C elders to go to District meeting - it was very good. After we drove the elders home we had just enough time to go home, grab a bite and gather up things for Institute. Devon's lesson went well. We had lots of YSA there including a couple who haven't come in quite a while. The activity was tons of fun - finger painting pictionary. President and Sister Ogden were there for our Advisory meeting prior to Institute and I had a nice visit with her after the meeting. We rarely get to spend time with them, so it was nice...especially as we will be leaving soon. They will be going home about three weeks after us.


Always so tired the morning after Institute. We ran errands and spent most of the day working on our next round of lessons. I have to teach "Intimacy in Marriage" next week. I have been dreading it, but after reading all the material I think it will be a good lesson.

Friday, May 4

Another day of flat checks. The Solihull sisters' flat was outstanding! They will be hard to beat. After coming home we spent some time calling about the bank mix-up. The rest of the day and evening was spent working on lessons.

Saturday, May 5

Grocery shopping, cleaned the flat, Skyped with family. The Morgans came over in the evening. We went to dinner at the Carvery and then enjoyed two games of pinochle. Well, the boys enjoyed the games...the girls lost!

Sunday, May 6

Absolutely lovely Fast Sunday. We had a new investigator at church - a young man from China who is here going to university. He is taking lessons from the sister missionaries and loving it. The YSA had a Break the Fast after church. We invited him to join us and he was thrilled - wants to come to everything! Our amazing group of YSA were very welcoming to him. They also did a terrific job of organizing, setting up, and cleaning up the meal. How I love being with these kids! Don't know why I'm so tired, but totally enjoyed a little nap and then more Skype/FaceTime with family - such a blessing!