Monday, July 30, 2012

Here's What We've Been Up To

Pat and I have now been serving at the London Temple Visitors' Centre (LTVC) for six months, so this week I thought it might be appropriate to share a brief summary of highlights from our service so far.  In many ways, it has been a challenging six months, though we are enjoying our assignment immensely.  Below are a few successes we've experienced:

*  A Cultural Affairs Committee has been established to schedule and promote activities at the Centre.  The Committee has representation from four of the closest stakes surrounding the London Temple.  Two Sunday night firesides and two Monday night activities are scheduled each month.  Most have been very successful.  We have had several occasions where baptismal invitations have been extended and accepted after firesides and activities. The Cultural Affairs Committee will be sending out invitations for ward choirs, other musical groups, and individuals to schedule Christmas performances to be held in the VC theatre during the month of December.

*  Visitors' Centre hours have been extended to 12-hour days Tuesday-Saturday (9-9), Monday evenings (5-8), and by appointment on Sunday.

* A tourist information website has been established for the Visitors' Centre. It can be seen on under "Things To Do." The Centre is listed as one of the top five attractions to see in Surrey. We also have a link with the Tandridge District Council website, as well as it's Disabled Access Places To Visit site.

* Surrey County has now approved installation of four directional "brown signs" on major roads leading to the London Temple and Visitors' Centre, which have also been authorized by the Church Temple Department. Highway Department engineers are scheduled to install the signs shortly.

* Beginning September 1st, a local public bus company will include the London Temple and Visitors' Centre on a new route connecting the temple with the communities of Oxted, Lingfield, East Grinstead and Copthorne, with further connections to Crawley and the Gatwick airport. This will be a great blessing to temple workers and patrons as well as visitors who do not own cars. Bus service has not been available for many years, and people taking the train have had to hire cabs from the train stations.

   The bus service has given us an amazing additional blessing. We have been turned down time and again when placing promotional materials in posts offices, libraries and other public places because it is "too religious." However, in making arrangements for the new bus route, the bus company manager required us to help with the cost of printing new bus schedules by paying for an advertisement on the back cover of all the new schedules. That means we will now have a full-color ad promoting the Visitors' Centre distributed by the bus company... to all area post offices, libraries, train and bus stations, grocery stores, and other public and community places. We are very excited about this unexpected tender mercy which we had not foreseen.

*Three articles have been published in area newspapers welcoming people to the London Temple and Visitors' Centre and explaining teachings of the Church.

* For four consecutive months, as a free public service, a regional community magazine with a circulation of 75,000 has published an announcement inviting people to the Visitors' Centre.

* New leaflets have been printed to promote the London Temple Visitors' Centre on ward and stake bulletin boards and in communities, where permitted. Smaller leaflets have also been given to the Hyde Park Chapel Visitors' Centre in downtown London for distribution during the Olympics.

*Beautiful new colored guest cards have been printed with postcard-like pictures of the London Temple and the Christus, with guaranteed Royal Mail return postage to obtain referrals from members and friends coming to the Visitors' Centre.

*At the request of the local Horne Parish Council in our area, we are meeting with council members and Crawley Stake representatives to discuss plans to landscape a piece of property across from the temple. They are planning to construct walking paths and benches to complement, on a smaller scale, those on the temple grounds. We are exploring how the Crawley Stake and our missionaries may participate in a "helping hands" project that may enhance the neighborhood and be good for public relations.

*  We have sent 600 emails and posted 100 letters to head teachers in outlying schools, inviting them to bring students to the Visitors' Centre to learn about basic teachings of the Church as part of their required religious education curriculum.

*  We enjoy being able to speak in Sacrament meetings and firesides across the temple district two or three times per month by invitation.  It is a blessing to attend different wards and get to know the members in various areas of the temple district.  We promote the Visitors' Centre and speak on gospel topics as assigned by local Priesthood leaders.

We hope these first six months have laid a foundation for greater things to come.          ~Don~

The London Temple


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Let The Games Begin!

We have a TV! While the young missionaries are expected to give up TV viewing for the duration of their missions, senior missionaries do not have the same restriction. I guess the reasoning is that if we haven't figured out how to manage our time by now, we wouldn't be on a mission. 

Well, we got the TV several months ago, thinking that we could watch the news occasionally. Turns out "occasionally" means hardly ever. We just don't have time to turn it on... but tonight we're glad to have it! The London 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies broadcast began at 9 p.m. tonight. The Visitors' Centre is closed for the evening and we are glued to the screen.

Sitting in our flat watching the opening ceremonies, we've been told we're two of a billion people worldwide who are tuned in. AMAZING! It's a fabulous celebration of all things British. I'm struck by how much England has become my home during the past six months. I'm surprised by how the portrayals of British history and current events evoke such deep, personal feelings of appreciation and gratitude for this country. We've only lived here six months, but England has definitely found it's way into my heart.

We won't be attending any of the events or competitions. I don't know if we would have the energy to cope with the crowds even if we did have the time and money to go. Besides, the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympics were such a magical experience, I'm not sure anything could ever top those Olympic memories for me. However, we got to hold one of the beautiful official Olympic torches a few weekends ago, just before it was used in the torch relay - an opportunity made even more impressive tonight as we watched the final torch enter the stadium and light the magnificent new Olympic cauldron.

Holding the 2012 Summer Olympics torch.

Sisters Cabrera, Rodrigues, Corbett and Boman

What a sight, tonight, as the teams of 204 nations entered the stadium toward the end of the extravaganza! Countries who have long histories of hatred toward one other, countries torn apart by war and by natural disaster, countries old and new, all gathered together in one common cause:  to reach for new achievements and triumphs of human performance and endurance and strength and courage. The excitement, the enthusiasm, the energy of the competitors was contagious. And, for the first time in the history of the Olympics, every participating nation is allowing women to compete. 

As we watched the parade of nations toward the end of the broadcast, I couldn't help but reflect on the number of countries that are near and dear to my heart.  With the growing availability and ease of air transportation, the world is a smaller place. Traveling with Clog America during the last decade, we've met people from all over the world as we have participated in International Folk Dance festivals. In each country we've visited, the festivals have brought together groups from all of the world. Most festivals are much like the Olympics, except on a smaller scale and without the competition. They come together for a week or so, living in the same housing area, sharing their meals in a common center, traveling to outlying areas to perform together in the afternoons and evenings. Groups of dancers and musicians from anywhere between 10 and 70 nations converge at each festival to share their cultural heritage in music and dance. I have felt the passion of these groups as they recreate historic music and dances, as they tell the story of their culture and their nations. It made the introduction of nations personal for me tonight.

And then the United States of America arrived. Hurray!! So proud to be an American!

I loved seeing all of the teams at their finest tonight. All those countries, with all their differences, coming together in one great, united experience. Inspiring. I pray the events of the next two weeks will go off without a hitch. There will be winners. There will be losers. Hopefully, there will be nothing but glorious memories  of athletes who tried their hardest and did their very best and reaffirmed again the limitless capacity of the human spirit and body.

Let the games begin!                                                         ~Pat~

Friday, July 20, 2012

Now I Know Why

I have always wondered why it took soooooo long for God to send us all our children. We prayed for them for a long, long time.

Janet was born not long after our first anniversary. First children are always a miracle. Kristen arrived 2 1/2 years later after some work with an infertility specialist. That was a real miracle, too. Then, even after spending alot of time (and money) in doctors offices and hospitals over the next 16 years, we were never able to have that experience again. No more pregnancies, but we had a feeling that just wouldn't go away. We both felt strongly that there were other children meant for our family. It hurt as the years passed by. We enjoyed every minute with our daughters, but somebody was missing.

Jenn came into our family when Janet was 8 and Kristen was 6. We were thrilled! We brought her home from the hospital on our 10th wedding anniversary. There was no word to explain her arrival except miraculous. We loved her from the first moment we held her in our arms. The pain went away and life was full.

In time, that old feeling that somebody was missing came back... stronger. The years were passing and we were getting older. Why did we still have such a longing for more children? More doctors. More hospitals. More disappointment. More pain - for years. At one point, I began praying that God would just take away my longing because I couldn't stand it anymore. It's a good thing He didn't. He knew better.

When Janet was 18 and already a student at B.Y.U, Kristen was 16 and in high school, and Jenn was 10 and in the 4th grade, our world turned upside down. All that longing had put us in the right doctor's office at the right time and God worked another miracle. Two premature, very sick babies were sent by God to our family. Our first glimpse of Amy and Emily was through the sides of their isolettes in the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital. They had some problems. No problem for us. We loved them from the instant we laid eyes on them. The longing really went away this time. Our family was complete. We brought them home and hovered over them until they thrived.

Amy and Emily are 25 now. All our daughters are married and on their own. Once in awhile, I've looked back and wondered why it took God so long to answer our prayers. Just recently, my little brain came up with an answer. I don't know what God's big plan was. I'm sure he sent our daughters to us in the time and place that was best for them, in His wisdom. But I think I can see part of that wisdom. (If you want to skip the photos, the answer to what I learned is in the last paragraph.)

Amy, Colin, Emily and Josh just came to visit us in London. We had such a great time! Three of them were on their way to meet Clog America in the Czech Republic. We were their connecting city :)  They spent 10 days with us. Most of the time they were on their own. We dropped them off at the train station in the morning and picked them up in the evening. They spent several days running around London and going to plays together. We got to spend two P-Days and a Sunday with them while they were here and we had a lot of fun! We saw London with them one day, went to Windsor Castle another, and drove out to the white cliffs of Dover after church on Sunday. Even though it was hard to say good-bye, knowing that it will be a long time 'til we see them again, it was wonderful to have them here. We have a whole bucket full of great memories that make saying good-bye worth it. I have to remember what I learned from  Dr. Seuss:  "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

Sunday at the London Temple

Takin' the train to London

Say "cheese"

There are benefits to train travel

London, baby!

While both couples were wondering around London one afternoon, they were approached by a MSNBC news reporter and a camera man who asked what kind of computers they use. They had no idea that they would appear all across America a few hours later on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams! Here's the link. You'll have to cut and paste if you want to watch it. It's a news item about Orbitz:  

Victoria and Albert Museum -
almost as much fun as Disneyland.

On the museum grounds

Another trip to the
Hyde Park Visitors' Centre -
next to the museum

Happy Birthday, Colin!

A trip to Tesco - our favorite Target substitute.

Windsor Castle

The Carpenter's Arms

A windy Sunday afternoon at Dover 

Buckingham Palace from the inside

Dining at Buckingham Palace...

We didn't see the Queen, but we loved her palace

Now I know why God waited so long to send our family to us. While Amy and Emily were here in London, I realized that they are about the same age as most of our sister missionaries. It has been easy for us to learn to love and relate to both the elders and the sisters in the mission, in large part because of all the experiences we've had with Amy and Emily and their friends and their dance groups, particularly Clog America. We're really comfortable with this age group. Maybe God planned ahead for all of this and prepared us for the opportunity we are currently having. Now I think I know why.                  ~Pat~

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Yesterday Is History

July is already half over and I still want to write about all the great things that happened in June -- so please bear with me while I pedal backwards through June. Time is moving a lot faster than I am!

1. Our dear friends (family?) from Switzerland, Rolf and Caroline Schaller, and their kids, came to visit during the last part of May. We loved spending a day with them in and around the temple grounds. It's so fun to live just 1 1/2 hours (by air) from them and the rest of their family right now.

2.  Early in June, we organized a train trip into London with our sister missionaries. We wanted to visit the newly dedicated Hyde Park Visitors' Centre and spend some time learning from the missionaries assigned to that center. We received permission from our mission president to take our sisters for the visit, even though Hyde Park is just outside our mission boundaries.  (As directors of the Visitors' Centre, we are allowed to travel anywhere in our vast temple district, but the sisters are expected to stay within mission boundaries.) It was a great outing! Here are a few snapshots of the trip.

Leaving from our own little Lingfield train station

Waiting for the train

Sisters Boman, Rodrigues, Cabrera, Jones, Maughan, and
Cardona heading into London on the Southern Railroad

Making good use of our time on the train...

Elder Carpenter with our terrific sister missionaries

First view of Hyde Park Chapel
from the  South Kensington Underground exit 
Inside the Hyde Park Centre

Checking out the exhibits

Elder Brooks instructing the sisters

Hyde Park and London Temple VC sisters

A view of Big Ben on our way back to Victoria Station.

Heading home

3.  Our first senior missionary couple, Elder and Sister Terry, arrived on Tuesday, June 19th. We're so glad to have them! They are serving in the Visitors' Centre with us and filling shifts with the sisters. The plan is that this will give us more time for administrative duties. Hooray! They are a friendly, wonderful addition to the VC.

The Terrys

4. Mark, Janine, Christopher and Lauren Romney, our favorite cousins from Sacramento, Ca., came to stay in East Grinstead, near the temple grounds, and visit over the weekend during June. Since we couldn't make it to Bear Lake this year, they came here....  Well, not really:  they were on their way to France, but we're so glad they stopped over in London for a few days. We spent a wonderful day with them touring the Roman ruins in Bath and seeing Stonehenge for the first time. We had lots of time to talk and catch up on things during the long drive. It was so good to see them.

The Romneys

5. Our long-time neighbors and buddies from Cottonwood Heights, Mike and Cindy Ellsworth, with their friends, Bill and Christina Christensen, dropped by to see us before setting sail on a cruise of the British Isles. (We love being on the way to everybody's European destinations!) We had time to go to a temple session with them and out for dinner. Good times!

The Christensens and the Ellsworths

5. Some other faces we love are the ones that belong to President and Sister Lowry, the temple president and matron. They are truly some of the nicest, most genuine people we have ever met. We were warned about that before we arrived! The Lowrys are from Ireland and our neighbors in Draper, Bob and Jane Hyte, have known them since Bob was on his mission in Ireland over 40 years ago. 

We see the Lowrys often on the grounds of the temple. They are living in the Manor House while they serve in their temple calling for three years. Most often, though, we see their smiling faces and get a warm hug and a greeting from them as we enter the front doors of the temple each week to do work there. It's something we always look forward to.

The Lowrys

5. We had to say good-bye to our dear mission president and wife, President and Sister Shamo, as they prepared to leave to return to the states at the end of June. Tough! We have grown to love them and their untiring effort to strengthen the England London South Mission and it's missionaries any way they can. They have been real champions of the Visitors' Centre, too, helping us to make much more progress than we could have on our own. We will really miss them.   

Sister Rodrigues, the Shamos, and Sister Cabrera

6. Meanwhile, President and Sister Millar, from St. George, were being prepared to take the Shamos place, and they did so without a hitch. Amazing to watch one man give up responsibility for 160 missionaries one day and another man take it up the next without a skipped step. President and Sister Millar are full of new energy and ready to tend to this flock. We have already had Zone Conferences with the Millars and a personal meeting with them concerning the needs of our Visitors' Centre. President Millar is a retired heart surgeon and from what we've seen of him in action here in England, I am sure he was an awesome doctor.

President and Sister Millar - ready for action.

These are some of the great things that happened around here during May and June. Of course, not every day is great. We have crazy days, we get sick sometimes (confounded kidney infection...), we work long hours and never finish, we deal with "technical difficulties" all the time. But, in spite of that, we are having an awesome experience here. Do I still miss my kids and grandkids every single day? YES! Would I trade this experience in and go home if I could (which I guess I could, if I wanted to)? NO! We feel so blessed to be here, to be doing something useful as "seniors," to have learned to love so many new friends and this beautiful country, and to see how the Lord blesses and watches over our family while we're gone. We are grateful.    

Monday, July 16, 2012

To The Rescue

We have 8 new babies -- ducklings, that is.  They've been the first topic of conversation on the temple grounds this week - missionaries, employees, and visitors alike!

Do you remember awhile back when I described "Pato," the lonely, single, friendly white duck that has lived on the temple grounds since long before we got here? (May 12th, Real Fortune Cookies)  A photo of the temple just wasn't complete without a picture of Pato paddling around on the pond. He created almost the same effect in the photo as a beautiful white swan - very serene and tranquil.

The Manor House
Until recently, Pato was the only duck who had outfoxed the foxes that come onto the property occasionally. (Well, who knows how often:  I'm sure I'm asleep when they're out there prowling around.) In fact, just a few weeks ago, in the middle of the morning, several temple workers saw a fox trotting across the wide expanse of lawn in front of the Manor House with a stray mallard in it's jaws. The mallard had only moved in on the grounds a few days before.

I digress.... In our blog back in May, I mentioned how excited we were a rather homely looking black duck had flown in and become buddies with Pato. Turns out that they became the proud parents of eight of the cutest little ducklings last week. Our sister missionaries were so excited! Oh yeah, I know they grow up and can get annoying, but that doesn't matter right now. At the moment, they are a source of pure delight to almost everyone living, working, or visiting around here (except the gardeners).

Just a day after the new ducklings were first spotted, though, they became the source of high drama. Don hadn't been out to the pond to see them yet, so he took a walk out there late in the afternoon when things were quiet in the Visitors' Centre. A few minutes later, he came rushing back with the news that the little ducklings had gone over a small waterfall and were trapped in some water just this side of the culvert that leads down a drain. Immediately, it was Sister Cabrera (from Chile) and Sister Rodrigues (from Portugal) to the rescue! They grabbed a box out of our supply closet and found some rubber gloves in the cleaning closet and took off toward the pond. Gratefully, Sister Rodrigues thought to grab her camera, too, so we have some footage of what happened next.

Click on the three black boxes below to see the saga unfold:

Sister Cabrera heading to the pond.

Our momma duck couldn't figure out what to do.

Momma and Poppa would have followed Don anywhere with that box full of babies.

One little, two little, three little ducklings...

Our hero!

So, I think this qualifies as Sister Cabrera and Sister Rodrigues' service project for the week. What do you think?                                                      ~Pat~

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

One Year! Six Months!

We're celebrating two milestones today.

  1. A YEAR AGO TODAY, we entered the MTC in Provo to begin training for our CES mission teaching Institute in the Washington D.C. South Mission. Wow, that seems like a long time ago! What great memories we have of all the amazing students we met, taught, and learned to love so much. And what a grand time we had living close to Amy and Colin for a few months when they first arrived at Andrews Air Force Base and settled in Alexandria. It's funny how we've forgotten the stress of the worst traffic in the nation and teaching five classes each week in five different locations spread all over the D.C. metropolitan area. It was an awesome opportunity and experience to be able to dedicate our lives to serving. We stretched and grew, and we were so blessed. 
  2. SIX MONTHS AGO TODAY we were back in the MTC being trained and prepared to come to the London Temple Visitors' Centre.  The time has really flown. It's funny how the days go slowly, but the weeks and months fly by. Only 18 months left, and already we're feeling a sense of melancholy about the prospect of leaving this wonderful experience and the great people of England when it's over. We've grown to love them so much already. Good thing our family and friends are still in Utah. That's the magnet that will draw us swiftly back when it's time.    

We've found a new blessing to be grateful for while we're on our mission. It has something to do with this:  absence makes the heart grow fonder. In our living room (called the "lounge" in England), we have a wall of photos of our family in a bookcase. We had the pictures taken just before we left, last December. There's a little atomic clock on the top shelf, too, that keeps track of what time it is in Utah. We can see the smiling faces of our daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren anytime we walk through the room (which is on the way to the kitchen...). We love all those faces so much, and they tug on our hearts as we walk by. Those pictures make our family seem closer than they really are. That's a blessing.      

It seems that the family misses us, too. You'll remember the amazing package that arrived in the mail for Mothers' Day (see our post from May 13, 2012). As surprising as it was to have our whole family arrive in the mail, what was most amazing was that everyone in the family planned ahead enough to make those caricatures and get them to Janet (some mailed from the other side of the country) so she could package them up and send them far enough ahead to arrive in England well ahead of Mothers' Day. Now that was impressive. 

Well, they did it again. Kristen and family sent Don a giant-sized fun Fathers' Day greeting that's still hanging in our flat:

Then, just in time for Fathers' Day, we received a private You Tube video that all our girls (with Jenn's help this time) made just for their dad. He was very touched and so was I. Makes us cry every time we watch it. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.

If you want to see some funny old photos of the way we looked a long time ago (and some recent ones, as well) click on the box below:                 ~Pat~

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer in Southern England

Notice that the word "sunny" doesn't appear anywhere in the title of this blog post :) There's a reason for that:  this is the view out our window this morning and nearly every morning, unless it's pouring rain....

Gray, gray, gray skies, as far as the eye can see. Almost.Every.Day. It doesn't slow us down, though. We've pretty much learned to ignore it unless it is really pounding and flooding. Before we came, I thought the rain and gray skies and cool summer temperatures (rarely over 70 degrees) would be hard to adjust to. Nope. It's just the new normal. You put a sweater on and grab an umbrella before you leave home, then it's business as usual. And when the sun does come out for a few hours, you enjoy every single minute of it. It becomes the first topic of conversation wherever you go!  "Isn't it a lovely day?"  "Doesn't the sun make everything look brilliant?" (And it does.) Nobody takes the sun for granted.

Seems that we are having a very wet year here. When we arrived in January, Southern England was experiencing a drought that has plagued them for two years. There has actually been a "hosepipe" in place. What's a hosepipe, you ask? It's a garden hose with a sprinkler on it. It has been illegal to use them. Not that you'd want to with all the rain puddles around....

Things have definitely changed in the past few weeks. We've had the highest monthly increase in water levels in the aqueducts that they've ever seen. Now I'm wondering if we are hogging all the water that the western U.S. needs so badly right now. This April was the rainiest April in over 100 years in England, and June was the rainiest June ever since they started keeping records. We've been wishing we could blow some of this water across the pond and home to those fires in Utah, though we've heard that the worst is over now. We sure hope so.

June was quite a month, in many ways. We've had some exciting, diverse weeks since I last wrote, so I hope to write some individual posts - soon.  Stay posted.                                 ~Pat~