Thursday, April 26, 2012


We've had some angels watching over us since we arrived in London. Kind and thoughtful people we've learned to love who have been there when we needed help - sometimes when we didn't even know we needed it!

The Kearls

First, there was Elder (George) and Sister (Myrna) Kearl. They were our "guardians" for the first few days, feeding us dinner, taking us to the grocery store, helping us track down lost luggage. They are the Mission Office couple for the England London South Mission and they pretty much take care of everybody in the mission, from the mission president to the 160 elders and sisters in the mission. They are from Canada and have a family of 11 children (with 2 sets of twins) and lots of grandchildren. We still see them most every day and love to take little jaunts to church, to the grocery store, or to dinner with them once in awhile.

The Knights
Next, there was Elder (Earl) and Sister (Connie) Knight from Bountiful, Utah. In the midst of winter, when Don was suffering from bronchitis and had taken a bad fall on the ice (with a resulting lump on his forehead), we heard a knock on the door of our little office one afternoon and there they were with a kettle of the most delicious soup, some hot muffins, and a fruit salad for us. We had been so busy we hadn't even thought about eating. What a treat, and what a lift to our spirits. It's amazing how a little thing like sharing what you have with someone makes such a big difference. Their kindness gave us new energy and made us wonder how many little things we could do for others that might make a big difference to them.

President and Sister Shamo
Then there is President (Lyle) Shamo and his wife, Tracy. They have been our heroes since the first telephone call we received from them before we had even entered the MTC in Provo. Filled with enthusiasm and passion for missionary work, President and Sister Shamo seem like Everyready Energizer Bunnies to us. President Shamo has had a powerful impact on us and on the rest of the mission. The first thing he did was find housing for us when we arrived. Not a small feat around here. There are a limited number of apartments (flats) on the temple grounds for temple workers, temple employees, and Mission Office personnel, along with a number of rooms that can be rented by temple goers on a nightly basis. While the nightly rentals are easy to reserve, the flats for temple workers/employees are in high demand and there is always a long waiting list. We have President Shamo to thank for arranging whatever needed to be arranged for our flat. We are so grateful to be living on the temple grounds. Our work is infinitely more productive now that we are close to the Visitors' Centre.

There is more that makes the Shamos heroes to us, though. They have been champions of the Visitors' Centre, and always available to give us support and insights when we need them, but they are never intrusive. In the same way, they are champions of the elders and sisters in this mission. They are vitally aware of what is going on throughout the mission and work hard to inspire and encourage all the missionaries.

Elder Turner and Elder Henderson

Two of the missionaries who work hard to assist President Shamo are Elder Turner and Elder Henderson. They are the "Office Elders."  They work in the ELSM office, here on the temple grounds. Our mission president and family live in a home about an hour from the temple grounds, but the Mission Office is here. Elder Turner and Elder Henderson regularly rescue missionaries, and they have definitely rescued us. They have a wealth of knowledge about everything a new missionary needs to know about England. They give all new senior missionaries (including us) their first driving lesson. They helped us figure out how to get Internet access in our office and in the different places we've lived (complicated in this country). They have helped us design announcements and flyers for VC advertisements,  move boxes from our shipment to our flat, find places to buy supplies for the VC and bookcases for our flat, set up audio and video feeds for firesides, find the best place to buy a bed, educate us about how to pick someone up at the Gatwick train station, etc., etc., etc. And they have been unendingly cheerful and patient. Elder Turner just finished his mission last week and has gone home to Belgium. We already miss him! They are both awesome young men.

Savannah Stevenson is another hero. A native Brit, she is the actress who plays Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the outstanding new Bible Videos that the Church has produced. . If you haven't taken time to watch the videos, please do. 

We had the opportunity to listen to Savannah speak and get to know her during two days of mission Zone Conferences in March. What a beautiful young woman, inside and out. She has a beautiful voice, as well, and is in the cast of The Warhorse, playing in London. She has an amazing story to tell about her life experiences and how she has met her challenges. She is a great example to us of someone who has been refined and tempered.

From the left, Sisters Cabrera, Corbett, Burrows, Barber, and Maughan.
Sisters Jones and Corner were in the kitchen when the photo was taken.

Our sister missionaries are also our heroes. This is a picture of the surprise dinner they made us the day after Mothering Sunday, the British equivalent of Mothers' Day. It was another one of those days when we were in our office working all day instead of taking a P-Day (Mondays are our designated day off). We had no idea what time it was when they called and said, "You are invited to come to the Accommodation Center in a half hour for dinner." It was delicious! The sisters had spent their PDay planning and shopping and cooking the most wonderful meal. What a special bunch of sisters we have.

Back row: Sisters Jones, Maughan, Burrows, Barber, Corbett, Cabrera, and Corner
Front row: Elder Carpenter, me, Elder Mark Lippert

This picture was taken after one of our sister training meetings. Every transfer (about 6 weeks), we have a luncheon or dinner for our sister missionaries after the meeting. Elder Mark Lippert, the young man in the photo, attended a few of our training meetings during March, though he is certainly not a VC sister missionary. He had received his mission call to Romania at the time, and actually just left for the MTC in Provo this last Monday, April 23rd. He is a true modern-day pioneer and definitely one of our heroes. When he joined the church just a little over a year ago, his family disowned him. They had been given a lot of anti-church literature by a friend/relative and they have spent the past year trying to dissuade Mark from being a member of the church. Mark really loves his family and has suffered a lot during the year as he has felt them pull away from him. Mark, however, has a powerful witness of the truth of the gospel and is convinced that he will be a better person and make more out of his life by living the precepts of what he knows to be true. He doesn't feel he can turn his back on the spiritual witnesses he's had. It has been a sweet experience to watch Mark grow and learn and become a strong, caring young man, despite the tremendous price he's paid. We know he has great things ahead of him.

Kristen, Amy, Janet, Jenn, and Emily

And last, but certainly not least, our daughters and their families. We love them so much! Elder Holland made a statement to our group of Visitors' Center directors and MTC presidents while we were in the MTC in January. I've thought a lot about what he said:  "No one ever asks the children when couples receive a call such as this."  

Our mission is a sacrifice for them. (Though we are certain that we miss them and their families a lot more than they miss us!) With gratitude, I will tell you than not one of them has ever said one thing about us serving these two missions that was not positive and supportive in every way. Maybe they were just glad to get us out of their hair for awhile :)  In truth, when we first received this call to the London Visitors' Centre and the surprise and shock were still fresh, our daughters were the ones who encouraged me and told me I could do it. 

We do miss them, and our sons-in-law, and our grandkids - so much. We are thrilled that we can communicate with them every week. We love to hear from them about what is going on at home. On a continuing basis, they let us know they are behind us in every way. WE ARE SO GRATEFUL for their love and support.

These are just a few of our heroes. It's likely that if you are reading this, you are probably one of our heroes, too. We appreciate and recognize how lucky we are to have good friends and relatives whose examples make us want to be better people. Thank you for your influence in our lives!     ~Pat!

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