Monday, May 28, 2012

Senior Missionaries On The Loose

Last week we got to participate in a Senior Training Activity for the mission on Thursday, May 24th. So much fun! All the senior missionaries gathered from the four corners of the mission (as far away as Cornwall) and took the train into London for the day. We had plenty of time to talk and compare experiences.

Lingfield Train Station

All Aboard

Sister missionaries' day off!
When we arrived at Victoria Station in the heart of London, we transferred to the Circle Line on the Tube and traveled to the South Kensington stop. From there it was a short walk to the newly opened Hyde Park Visitors' Centre.

 With Pam and Arthur Brooks, directors of the  Hyde Park Chapel Visitors' Centre   
Training meeting at the Hyde Park chapel

ELSM President Lyle Shamo with counselor, Julian Jones
Great leaders!

Outside the Victoria and Albert Museum, next to the Hyde Park Chapel

Don at the World War II memorial wall

One yummy place to eat. Got to go back there again sometime!

Hungry missionaries
After dinner, we rode the Tube to the Hampstead Theatre to see the musical version of Chariots of Fire. I had forgotten what an inspiring story it is. The cast included LDS actress Savannah Stevenson. We loved the play!

On Sunday, President and Sister Shamo came to the Visitors' Centre as our guest speakers for our England London South Mission fireside. Their presentation was fabulous. Their combination of personal experiences,  video clips of early Church presidents, and stirring testimonies touched us all.

President Shamo on Sunday, May 27th at the Visitors' Centre

Visitors' Centre fireside

Sister Tracy Shamo

A perfect end to a wonderful weekend.        ~Pat~                                 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Comings and Goings...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 5 a.m., London Temple Visitors' Centre

This week was transfer week in the England London South Mission.  Thirty-three missionaries left the mission to return home.  Monday they all went sight-seeing in London. Tuesday, they were all in the temple for their last session in the London Temple before heading home.  Wednesday, I was awakened at 5 a.m. to the sound of a bus engine outside our flat.  Elders and sisters were packing their luggage on the bus to be taken to Gatwick Airport to fly home.  Some parents had already arrived to pick up their missionary sons or daughters.  It was fun to see them greet each other and walk arm in arm around the temple grounds.  Others from the British Isles or Europe will be heading home today on trains or busses.

Elder Carpenter & Elder Olsen
One of our departing elders might be of interest to all U. of U. basketball fans.  Elder Olsen from North Carolina just finished his mission and will be heading back to the U. of U.  He is a great young man who completed his mission working in the mission office.  He finished his freshman year at the U. before coming to London and word is that he is the person they are counting on to turn their basketball program around in the next few years.  He is a great example and is very happy he decided to serve a mission.

In the afternoon on Wednesday, after the departing missionaries left, 26 new missionaries arrived. Most came on a bus from the Preston, England MTC where they had just completed three weeks of training.  The only ones in this mission not trained in Preston are those who learn English as a second language, or those who receive special training to serve at the Visitors’ Centre.  Even Sister Maughan, our missionary from Gloucester, England (which is in our temple district), was sent to the Provo MTC for Visitor Centre training before coming here in March.  Sister Cardona, our newest VC missionary from Lille, France, also in our temple district, was trained in the Provo MTC as well.

With a mixture of anticipation, anxiety, curiosity and excitement, new missionaries
and their first companions are introduced to each other for the first time.

Our mission president, President Shamo, and his counselors interview each of the new missionaries before assigning them to their new companions and areas of labor.  They meet in the Visitors’ Centre, where they also have an orientation and meet their new companions for the first time.  It is an exciting time for them, and it’s been fun for us to witness the enthusiasm they have as they begin their service.

Dramatic changes caused by the new arrivals of course affect the entire mission.  In order to provide 33 trainers for the new missionaries (we used to call them senior companions to train new junior companions), many additional transfers have to be made among the other companionships in the mission.   And this has affected our Visitors’ Centre sisters as well. We had to say good-bye to two of our wonderful missionaries who have been with us since we arrived. Sister Corbett and Sister Burrows were both transferred out as proselyting trainers - and we received Sister Cardona from France. In two weeks, we are scheduled to receive a new missionary from Portugal, Sister Rodriguez. We will then be prepared to give tours in English, Spanish (Sister Cabrera), French (Sister Cardona), Portuguese (Sister Rodriguez), and German (yours truly).  

New companionships preparing to leave for their areas of service.

In a previous blog, we mentioned that the 160 missionaries in this mission come from 45 different countries.  It really is an international mission.  But then London is also a very cosmopolitan international city.   
We never know who we will meet at the Visitors’ Centre.  A few weeks ago the missionaries brought in a family of four from Nepal to be taught by our sisters at a Monday night activity.  Their children bore testimony to them about their feelings for the gospel.  The family is coming again this week, and they have a baptismal date set for next week.

Between training sessions on Wednesday, Pat had an interesting conversation with a new companionship serving in Crawley -- Elders Oscarson and Jones.  Elder Jones is from Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, where he said his small Mormon community is dominated by Romneys and Joneses. He said he had been thinking Pat looked like a Romney, but hadn’t said anything until she started asking him about life in Chihuahua.  They quickly connected, and Pat was able to learn more about Colonia Dublan, the town where her grandfather, Douglas Romney, was born.

Then Elder Oscarson surprised us by saying his brother in Monroe had been reading our blog.  He had been surfing the web and found our blog about the mission where his brother serves.  Amazing!  We didn’t know that anyone other than family and a few friends were reading our blog.  So, just for the record, Elder Oscarson’s brother, if you’d like to see a picture of your brother and his new companion, Elder Jones, here it is:

Elder Jones and Elder Oscarson

Some have left, some have just arrived. Some have finished their missions successfully and are heading home. Others have no idea what to expect during the coming two years. All of them are dedicated young men and young women, hoping to have an influence for good in the world.                       ~Don~

Monday, May 14, 2012

An Afternoon In London

We had to take a trip into the heart of London last week to see a dermatologist. Despite the doctor's visit, it was a rare treat. We don't often get away for an afternoon -- especially in the middle of the week.

Taking the train into Victoria Station

The rain had stopped for a few hours and even the sheep were happy for a respite.

The countryside in southern England

We arrived early for the appointment, so we decided to hop on the tube and check out the Church's new Hyde Park Visitors' Centre that will be opening next week.

Taking the tube

Near South Kensington

O.K., so we're not the only ones who are confused
when it comes to crossing streets...

Evidently everybody needs a little help.

The Victoria and Albert Museum on Exhibition Row.
You can see the Hyde Park Chapel two doors down.

The newly renovated Hyde Park Chapel and Visitors' Centre.

Even though the building isn't open to the public yet, when the Security Guard saw who we were, he was nice enough to let us in for a look around in the Visitors' Centre. What a beautiful building! It'll be open in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, but it will stay open permanently.

The Christus Statue
will be visible from the street.

The five story building will house
the Hyde Park Stake Centre,
the Visitors' Centre, the Mission
Offices, and a YSA Centre.

The posh street where we found the dermatologist.

The door to the doctor's office. Nice place!
Luckily, the doctor was as nice as the location.

Spring in London.

Who needs a cell phone?

While we love to spend time exploring London when we get the chance, it's always nice to leave the frantic pace and throngs of people and head back to the peace and beauty of our own neck of the woods.   ~Pat~

Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 13, 2012

Mother's Day. Two words that can make a woman smile, shed tears of joy, or want to bury her head in a pillow. Some years are wonderful, some years are hard, depending on where you are in your life and what's going on around you.

For me, this Mother's Day was magical. Truthfully, I haven't been looking forward to Mother's Day (or holidays, in general). We've been fortunate to have all our children around us over the years, and holidays have always meant family get-togethers - but not this year. I knew I was going to miss my family, A LOT, and with the 7 hour time difference, two daughters out of town, and everyone's different church schedules, I wasn't expecting to be able to talk to most of the family anyway.

Our drive to Brighton
Well, today wasn't anything like I had thought it would be. This morning we drove to Brighton to attend church. Almost all church meetings here (the LDS variety, that is) begin at 10 a.m., so we didn't have to hurry. It was about a 45 minute drive and it was a beautiful morning. Because of all the rain during the past several weeks, we appreciated every little ray of sunshine as we drove south -- and it was gloriously sunny. The fields were a patchwork of emerald green and brilliant yellow. As we crested a hill into Brighton, we were met with a magnificent view of the English Channel.
Today it was a shimmering sea of aquamarine.
The world can be such a beautiful place.

The English Channel is in the distance.
After church, we had a pleasant surprise - something that we haven't experienced before. The Brighton Ward bishop and his wife invited us to their home for dinner. What thoughtful, kind people! We appreciated their generous hospitality and the delicious dinner. What a treat!

The best part of the day, though, was still to come.  Unbeknownst to me, when some of our family got together a couple of months ago, they hatched a plan to send me something for Mother's Day. They mailed us an odd-shaped box that Don confiscated a few days ago when it arrived here. I got to open it this afternoon. It was the best gift ever!!!

The first thing I saw when I opened the box was a big piece of paper that read, "We all came for a visit, and we can stay as long as you want."  Then, I unrolled my "flat family". You might remember that last October when we were in Washington, D.C., we received a package from Kristen which contained "Flat Ammon" and "Flat Laina." We loved it! It was almost as good as a real visit from our two youngest grandchildren. Well, today I received the rest of the family! They had all made a life-size and smiling paper replica of themselves, then rolled themselves up in a tube.  Seeing all of them come tumbling out of that tube made me cry!  I unrolled them one at a time and taped them up on the walls all around our living room. Now our whole family is here with us! It is the coolest thing ever!

Of course, Don is wondering how long they're all going to stay. I told him that if he wants to, he can take them down after Father's Day....  Who knows, though. By then we may just decide to leave them there a whole lot longer. Seeing all their smiling faces looking at us is enough to keep me going all year!          ~Pat~

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Real Fortune Cookies

We have a New Years' Day tradition in our family. Many years ago, our neighbor, Eva Shiraki, from Monterrey, Mexico (who's husband was born in Japan) taught me how to make Chinese Eggrolls - from scratch. I don't quite know how that all came about, but she was a superb cook and her eggrolls were the yummiest ones I have ever tasted. They have become mandatory for welcoming in the New Year at our house.

Along with the rest of the dinner, we always have Chinese Fortune Cookies. Now we all know that Chinese Fortune Cookies are written to be very general and they could apply to most anyone, but I just have to say that the two that I chose on New Year's Day this year have turned out to be surprisingly helpful and practically prophetic.

Fortune Cookie #1: If you want the rainbow, you have to tolerate the rain.
In Southern England, we just had what the BBC reported as "the wettest April since records have been kept - for the last 100 years." Rain, rain, rain - nearly every day! And it didn't actually end until two days ago, almost two weeks into May. Much needed rain, to be sure: it pretty much ended the drought they have been talking about since we got here. Nevertheless, it has been soggy and dreary and c-o-l-d right up until this weekend. Everybody around here was getting pretty tired of it, me included.

Then the rain stopped and the rainbow appeared - right over the temple. What a sight!

 And, oh, what a weekend we are having! The grass and the walkways have dried out, the sun is shining, and everything looks shiny clean. I have been walking on the temple grounds in the early mornings (rain or shine) with a friend and this morning it was so beautiful. All the flowers on the temple grounds are either blooming profusely or ready to burst. Bluebells, azaleas, lilacs and more. We hear that the rhododendrons are going to be amazing in another week or so. Can't wait!

Today, Don's niece and her husband brought their three little girls to spend a few hours with us while they went to a temple session. They are living an hour or so north of us in St. Albans. We had such a good time with them.

One of our missionaries, Sister Cabrera has put together a garden tour for children, so she and her companions tried it for the first time today with our nieces. The weather cooperated and we wandered all over the temple grounds, enjoying every minute.

One of the girls' favorite parts of our walk was our new duck duo. During the winter we had one lonely little white duck who lived on the reflecting pool on the south side of the temple. Poor little thing used to quack and quack at anybody who came near it - just hoping for a friendly response. Our Chilean sister missionary named him "Pato." Well, that duck was heard, because a week or two ago, a uniquely Dalmatian colored duck flew in from somewhere and has become best buddies with Pato. They are inseparable now and we are all so glad to see them paddling around together in the pond and waddling along in the grass. They look like chocolate and vanilla together. We think love may be in bloom. It seems that even the ducks are grateful for the good weather now that the rain has stopped.

Fortune Cookie #2: When in doubt, follow your heart.
This is some of the best advice I brought with me. There is so much to do here! I tend to be an organizer - lots of lists of things that need to be done. Projects that need to be completed. Things that need to be fixed/repaired/improved in the Visitors' Centre. Meetings to plan, talks to write, people to contact, places to go, things to do... you get the idea. While all of that is necessary, it isn't necessarily important. Instead of getting overwhelmed with everything that could and should be done, I often have to remind myself that it's the people that are important -- working with the sister missionaries, meeting and getting to know the people who come to the Visitors' Centre, spending time with the mission office senior missionaries and the temple missionaries, staying in touch with our family, and taking time for our marriage. When in doubt about how to spend my time, I should always remember to follow my heart.

Thank you, Chinese fortune cookies writers, wherever you are. You've given me something to think about this year.                       ~Pat~

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Little Bit of Heaven

We have been very blessed to have some visits from a few of our favorite people in the 4 months we've been here, and we're hoping to see many more. It's a little tricky to arrange our once-a-week P-Days so that we can spend time with those who come. In fact, we've been so busy we often don't even take P-Days -- but we've gotten away from the temple grounds a few times now, and we've seen some amazing sights! It's heaven to spend a little time with our friends and family when we are so far from home. And as we've taken some day trips with our visitors, we've discovered that southern England is truly a little bit of heaven, too. It is so beautiful here.

Waiting for the train to Victoria Station at Lingfield

Janet was the first one to arrive, in February, with her good friend and employee, Erin Roudabush. They ran a booth for Janet and Kim's business, Family Chartmasters, at the "Who Do You Think You Are" Family History Conference in the heart of London.  Poor dears ended up spending about as much time helping us move as they did sight-seeing. They arrived while we were still living in Ardingly and helped us move into the Lodge on the temple grounds. Thanks, Janet and Erin, for helping us get our upside down life organized. We were so grateful for your help!!

Inside the London Eye -- what a view!

A great day in London!

Erin and Janet at the "Who Do You Think You Are"
Family History Conference in London.

While they were here, Janet and Erin rented a car and took a two-day side trip to Taunton, in search of our Carpenter ancestors. Don's grandfather, J. Hatten Carpenter, had researched and written about Taunton and the "Trefusis" farm where his ancestors had lived. We actually have a "Trefusis" sign displayed in our house in Draper. Janet had an amazing opportunity to view land deeds and wills of our Carpenter ancestors. If you want to read more about her experience, go to

Janet in the Somerset Heritage Center in Taunton.
She found her 7th great-grandfather's will from 1721.
That's nearly 300 years ago!

On Sunday, Don and I made arrangements to visit the St. Albans Ward, north of London. Don's niece and her family returned to the U.K. and moved to St. Albans last August. They love raising their girls in England.

While Janet was here, we spent a Sunday with Don's niece Joyce and her
cute family. Thanks for a great time and delicious dinner, Joyce!

Next, our great friends, the Hannans came for a weekend. (So jealous of their free airfare - but so glad to see them!) Such a quick trip, but we managed to find time for another trip into London and also a few hours at Windsor Castle where Queen Elisabeth and the royal family still often spend their weekends.

Downtown London with best buds Pam and Mike Hannan.
Lucky them - free flights on Delta
Windsor Castle - two men in uniform

In March, Bea and Peter Kopp came for a weekend, too. No jet lag for them, though. Their flight was only 1 1/2 hours from Basel, Switzerland. We're so glad to live closer to our friends in Switzerland and Hungary! Even though they only stayed one night, we had a great day on the temple grounds with them on Saturday, then they drove to church with us on Sunday before flying home. What a great time we live in.

We always love to see Bea and Peter Kopp
 - even if they didn't bring all that Swiss chocolate!

The Kopps and the Carpenters at the Christus.

Last, but not least, my sister and brother-in-law spent a little time with us in April while they were touring London. We expect to see them again at Christmastime.

My sister, Marcia, and brother-in-law, Bill, came to see us on a Saturday in
April --  then surprised us and showed up again a week later. Good times.

We've heard that others are planning to stop in and see us while we're here. We sure hope so! After all, we are serving a mission at a Visitors' Centre. Come visit!