Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Great Things Are Happening at the London Temple Visitors' Centre

As I look back over the nearly 10 months that we've been living in beautiful southern England, it amazes me how much has changed in that short amount of time. It is certainly true that the only thing certain is change.

In particular, lots of things have changed at the Visitors' Centre - including our missionary staff. When we arrived, the VC was being staffed by five energetic and faithful sister missionaries who had been on their own for a few weeks. They were doing a fantastic job of running the VC together, and in many ways they were our best teachers as we learned our responsibilities. (See Jan. 23, 2012:  How To Build Another Nest in 7 Days or Less...)  Four of those first five sisters have long ago been transferred to different parts of the mission, and some of them will even be heading home in December. Since we arrived, we've had fourteen fabulous sister missionaries serve in the London Temple Visitors' Centre with us -- so far. Our sister missionary staff has fluctuated from four to seven at different times over the intervening months, but as of this week we will are again working with five sister missionaries.

This photo is already out of date and it was just taken a week or two ago. Sister Rodrigues (front and center) has been transferred to the island of Jersey, and we have welcomed Sister Yapi from Paris, France.

Back row: Elder and Sister Terry, Pat, Don, Sister and Elder Horsley
Front row: Sisters Cabrera (Chile), Cardona (France), Rodrigues (Portugal), Reneer (Utah), and Howard ( Alaska)

Don and I with our newest missionary, Sister Yapi, from France

In addition, we are pleased to report that we now have two senior couples who are serving with us at the Visitors' Centre. Three weeks ago, on October 4th, our second senior couple, Elder Rick and Sister Vi Horsley, arrived from Midvale, Utah.

Elder Rick and Sister Vi Horsley

The Horsleys have adapted so quickly and are so easy to work with that it already seems like they have been here forever. Since their arrival, we are realizing how much we've needed their help! We are really grateful to have them! They are taking over a few of our administrative duties so we can focus on plans and preparations for the future.

One of the things that we are already working on is Christmas. Brother Grant Neale, a member of the Church who we've mentioned before, is a fabulous friend to the Visitors' Centre and is helping us put together a wonderful Christmas season. He has spearheaded a project to build a simple wooden creche to shelter the outdoor nativity scene that we have. He is also working with local wards to put together some evening programs at the Visitors' Centre during the month of December. He often helps out by manning the Visitors' Centre on Tuesday mornings while we have our Training Meeting. In addition, Grant's wife, Emma, is helping us find a Christmas tree and a few other decorations for the inside of the Visitors' Centre. We are most grateful to both of them for generously sharing their many talents with us on an ongoing basis. They have become dear friends and we don't know what we'd do without them!

Elder Carpenter with "St. Grant"
When we arrived in January, we initiated a series of firesides and Monday night activities. Ordinarily, we schedule two firesides and two Monday night activities each month. We have had some terrific programs and speakers throughout the year. Many thanks to all who have made our events such a success. Here are a few photos of recent events:

President and Sister George, who recently returned to our local ward in
East Grinstead after presiding over the Greece Athens Mission.

A highlight of our missionary service in the visitors' centre is observing the precious children who come in with their families. I think I've mentioned before how I love to watch the babies as their parents show them the statue of The Christus. Almost always, they tilt their little faces upward in reverence and admiration and they become very focused on gazing at the face of the statue. Yes, I know it's just a statue, but somehow I get the feeling that it stirs memories in their little heads and hearts. If it wasn't so irreverent and out of place, I would love to take photos of them and capture that sweet look on their faces.

We see children of all ages, shapes and sizes during the week. They spend time in front of the Christus, at the kiosks, and watch movies in our theatre. Here are a few fun pictures I took several weeks ago.

And last, but not least, I am thrilled to report that we were set apart this week as London Temple ordinance workers. When President Lowry, our wonderful temple president, asked us last week if we might have time to be ordinance workers on an occasional basis, as our schedules permit, we enthusiastically said "Yes!"  We have missed our previous temple callings, and as much as we love to attend the temple here, there is great joy in being able to officiate in the performing of ordinances, too. It's a great privilege and a blessing to serve in the house of the Lord.

Our kind temple president and his wife, President and Sister Lowry

There are great things happening at the London Temple Visitors' Centre. Now, if we could just get the county (shire) to install those "London Temple and Visitors' Centre" brown directional signs out on the roadways....

Friday, October 19, 2012


This week marks the HALFWAY point in our missionary service - if you count both our back-to-back missions together. That's a big milestone for us. We can't decide whether to be happy or sad, but one thing's for sure: it seems like a long time since we left for Washington D.C. a year ago last July.  So much can happen in 15 months.

At The Osborne House on the Isle of Wight

Serving a senior mission is sort of like having a baby. It's a fabulous experience, but it's a huge challenge! There's a lot to plan and prepare before the experience. At first, you don't really know what you've gotten yourself into. There are adjustments and learning curves. There is a lot of growth that takes place. Sometimes it's awkward and uncomfortable. Along the way there are plenty of things to whine and complain about. (We sure miss our daughters, their husbands, and our grandkids....) There are days that seem like months, and there are months that fly by as fast as a day. There are times when we wonder if we're equal to the responsibility with which we've been entrusted, but there is always a sense that we are a part of something magnificent and divine.  As the experience unfolds we see the hand of God and realize that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves. Looking back, we quickly forget any discomfort and marvel and rejoice at the miracle that we have seen take place. We wouldn't change a thing and we'd do it all over again - thanking God for the privilege.

Here's our brief "Gratitude Journal" of the joys and blessings we've experienced since we arrived in London. We're grateful for:
  1. Increased faith in God and trust in His plan for us   
  2. Love for England and it's people -- especially the missionaries and others we work with in the Visitors' Centre, Mission Office, and mission, as well as the visitors to our site, our terrific Temple Presidency, and the temple missionaries. So many wonderful friends and good people.
  3. Spiritual growth that has stretched us and strengthened our testimonies 
  4. The daily tender mercies and miracles that we so often take for granted
  5. Peace amidst turmoil in the world
  6. Blessings to our family. As we have served, God has watched over them.
  7. Sacrifice, which is a privilege.
  8. Knowledge and understanding - a chance to keep learning and growing
  9. The worth of a soul. Each of us is precious and unique in God's family.
  10. Joy in the journey - wherever it leads us
Our decision to go on a mission has enriched our lives with new energy, new experiences, new friends, new challenges, new sights to see, places to go, and things to do. It has brought the two of us closer together and has deepened our love for our family. We are so grateful for this privilege and opportunity.

“Serving a mission gives retired people a chance to use their talents and gifts again. They discover that they are truly needed, and as a consequence they find a powerful new sense of direction in life. They joyfully lose themselves in new experiences and opportunities for growth. The reward for those who serve is often renewed health and energy. When they go home, they are filled with the rich spirit of missionary work and a great love for the people they have served.”   David B. Haight

Monday, October 15, 2012

Beep Beep

New experiences and challenges are a common experience when you're a senior missionary. We've been here nine months now and we've had lots of 'em. That being said, I hope I just conquered the biggest challenge of our entire mission in England. Last Thursday (10-11-12), I finally passed all my tests and got my Official - British - Driver's - License!!

What's the big deal, you ask? Well, let me just tell you what the big deal is, in 8 easy steps :)

Within a few days of arriving in England, we were informed, quite simply, that as Americans, our drivers' licenses would be valid for a full year after moving here. It didn't take long to do the math and figure out that if we wanted groceries or anything else during the second year of our mission, we would have to qualify for and acquire a British driver's license.

For several months after that, I was just plain too busy to even think about it. Finally, sometime during July, the thought occurred to me that we were already halfway to our one year mark and I'd better get moving.

This step wasn't too hard. I sent my passport and some money to the government and received a "Provisional License" (learners' permit) a couple of weeks later. This allowed me to make an appointment to take the written theory test. The soonest appointment I could get was FOUR weeks later. Four weeks of nerves. Then, and only then, if I passed the test I could apply for an appointment to take the driving test, which takes another SEVEN week wait. Nearly three months to get through the process if I was lucky enough to pass everything the first time.

This is where the stress level multiplied. I think they make you wait that long on purpose, because that's when you start to hear all the horror stories. Everybody has one. For me, it was from other missionaries - both young and old - telling me about their personal nightmares as they tried to acquire a license.

Some of our young sister missionaries at the Visitors' Centre were assigned as drivers and had to get their British licenses. I watched them worry for weeks during the process - and for good reason. On the day two of our sisters took the driving test, one of them passed and the other one didn't. That was a tough day for all of us. One of our Mission Office elders tried and never did pass the test before he was released.

The senior missionaries' stories only made me more nervous. One sister who worked in the mission office before we arrived took the written test four times before she passed. Several others failed it once or twice before they passed. Some had taken it once and given up; some took the practical driving test on two or three occasions and failed each time (paying about $90 each time they tried).

Of all the young elders and sisters, as well as senior couples, that I know who have taken the written and driving tests since we've been here, only about half got their license the first time through. Talk about discouraging! I really wanted to pass the first time because I just didn't have the time, energy or funds to devote to having to try again and again.

My hero was Sister Howard, from Alaska. She was transferred back to the Visitors' Centre in September after being in another area where she had not had a car for eight months. She had only taken a few lessons prior to that move. When she returned to the Visitors' Centre, she went right to work, passed her Theory test, then picked up a last minute appointment for her Practical (driving) exam the very next day and passed it. Amazing! Maybe there was hope?

My next step was to get philosophical. After all, I've been driving for 50 (yes, 50) years. The only accident I've ever had (knock on wood) besides taking out a little piece of the side of the garage when I was backing out (oh, alright, more than once...) is when someone ran into the back of my stopped car at a red light. I've only had a handful of speeding tickets, and I also managed to graduate with a degree from a four-year university. How hard could this be?

The title says it all.

That's when my education began. I got a copy of The Drivers' Theory Book.  Hmmmm: TWO inches thick. But with all my experience, I figured I could brush up on the rules pretty easily. Right? WRONG! After making a valiant effort to get through all two inches of that book, I decided the week before the test that I should take some practice tests. I was assured that there wouldn't be anything on the test that wasn't somewhere in those practice tests, so I took all of them - just for good measure. 20 practice tests (x) 50 questions each (=) 1000 practice questions. Imagine my dismay when I missed fifteen out of fifty on the first one I tried. Must have been a fluke, so I tried a few more and missed eleven, twelve, and nine. Yikes! How could I have such a struggle with those questions???  Maybe a few sample test questions will show you how:
  1. You break down on a level crossing. The lights have not yet begun to flash. Which three things should you do?  A. Telephone the signal operator, B. Leave your vehicle and get everyone clear, C. Walk down the track and signal the next train, D. Move the vehicle if a signal operator tells you to, E. Tell drivers behind what has happened. (Answers: A,B,D)
  2. You park at night on a road with a 40 mph speed limit. You should park: A. Facing the traffic, B. With parking lights on, C. With dipped headlights on, D. Near a street light. (Answer: B) 
  3. At a puffin crossing, which colour follows the green signal? A. Steady red, B. Flashing amber, C. Steady amber, D. Flashing green. (Answer: C)
  4. Which THREE pieces of information are found on a vehicle registration document?  A. Registered keeper, B. Make of the vehicle, C. Service history details, D. Date of the MOT,  E.Type of insurance coverage,  F. Engine size. (Answers: A,B,D)
  5. On a motorway the amber reflective studs can be found between: A. The hard shoulder and the carriageway, B. The acceleration lane and the carriageway,  C. The central reservation and the carriageway. (Answer: C)
  6. You are driving through a tunnel. There has been a collision and the car in front is on fire and blocking the road. What should you do? A. Overtake and continue as quickly as you can, B. Lock all the doors and windows, C. Switch on hazard warning lights, D. Stop, then reverse out of the tunnel. (Answer: C)
  7. You want to turn right at a box junction. There is oncoming traffic. You should:  A. Wait in the box junction if your exit is clear,  B.Wait before the junction until it is clear of all traffic, C. Drive on, you cannot turn right at a box junction, D. Drive slowly into the box junction when signaled by oncoming traffic. (Answer: A)
  8. You are driving on an urban clearway.  You may stop only to: A. Set down and pick up passengers, B. Use a mobile telephone, C. Ask for directions, D. Load or unload goods. (Answer:  A)
  9. At which type of crossing are cyclists allowed to ride across with pedestrians? A. Toucan, B. Puffin, C. Pelican, D. Zebra. (Answer: A)
  10. A Statutory Off Road Notifiation (SORN) will last: A. For the life of the vehicle, B. For as long as you own the vehicle, C. For 12 months only, D. Until the vehicle warranty expires. (Answer: C) 

A SORN? Dipped headlights? Central Reservation? Urban Clearway? Box junction? Puffins, Pelicans, and Zebras? Calling the signal operator at a level crossing? I have to say, I was starting to feel like Allice in Wonderland playing a game of words with the caterpillar:
       Alice:  Oh. Yes sir. How doth the little bumblebee improve each...
       Caterpillar:  Stop. That is not spoken 'correctically'. It goes: How doth
         the little crocodile improve his shining tail. And pour the waters of
         the Nile on every golden scale. How cheerfully he seems to grin,
         how neatly spreads his claws. And welcomes little fishes in with
         gently smiling jaws.
       Alice:  Well, I must say, I've never heard it that way before.
       Caterpillar:  I know. I have improoooved it.

Well, the big day finally came and I took the Driving Theory Test. I was as nervous as I was when I took my first test at 16. Even though they promised there wouldn't be any questions that weren't covered on the practice tests, there were. Somehow I managed to get 50 out of 50 right on the first half of the test. Pretty proud of that.

There was no way to prepare for the second half of the test. Sheer luck. I was shown 14 video clips of hazardous traffic situations, filmed as if I was driving the car in the video. I had to click the computer mouse every time I saw a hazard so my reaction time could be calculated. If the hazard increased, I was supposed to click again, but too many clicks would disqualify me. Purely subjective. Too many clicks? Too few clicks? Somehow I passed that one, too.

Ten minutes after my Theory Test we were walking through the mall
across the street and Don snapped this photo. Do I look a little dazed?
I decided that the message in the card store in the background
 must have been put there just for me :)

Next came driving lessons. Yes, I felt like I was 15 1/2 years old again, but I now had a seven week wait until the appointment for my Practical Driving Test, so I might as well do something useful.

First, I took SEVEN lessons (spread out over 2 1/2 months) from an official government-certified instructor. Stuart is a great driving instructor who has taught a lot of the missionaries around here, and he knows how to help Americans change the driving habits that will cause them to fail their British driving test. There isn't nearly enough space here to go into all the differences, but the most difficult changes for me were to stop all hand-over-hand steering around corners, to figure out all the unfamiliar and confusing signs on the road, and to learn to rely on all three mirrors at each and every start, stop, roundabout, speed up, slow down, and lane change. The Brits are much more technical than Americans on the road.

Sister Hess, my driving lesson buddy from the Mission Office, with Stuart.

Next, I took two more lessons from Grant Neale, our wonderful neighbor and long-time friend and supporter of the Visitors' Centre.  He helps us out in so many ways at the Visitors' Centre, but none of his generous service has ever been more appreciated than the two times he kindly offered to take Don and I out driving to give me last minute instruction and encouragement for my test.  Along with everything else he does so well, he has had many years of experience as a police officer, and I have to say I learned as much or more in his two lessons as I did in the other seven. By the time we finished, I wouldn't say I felt calm, but I knew I was a lot more prepared and ready to take the final test.

Brother Grant Neale

The day of the Practical Driving Test dawned dreary and wet, which actually turned out to be a blessing. A British driving test lasts for exactly 38-40 minutes, and the rain gave me a reason to slow down a little. The examiner and I also spent about 5 minutes waiting for a slow train to pass at a railroad crossing. It seems I did a little less driving and I think I got off a little easier than I expected. I passed the test with only one minor demerit for forgetting to check my right mirror one time before turning right.What a relief! After three months of anxiety and worry, I had passed the first time. Hallelujah! I could hardly believe it was over!

Totally thrilled!
I woke up the next morning with the usual knot in my stomach that had been my companion for the past few months, then remembered I had already passed the test and I didn't have to feel that way anymore! What a feeling!

I'd like to thank all those who told me about their nightmares and horror stories. Looking back now, I can see that your experiences compelled me to work really hard and maybe even over prepare, but it was not in vain. Over three months, $600, and untold hours of preparation have come and gone since I started the whole process, but the coveted British Drivers' License is mine and I feel certain that I am a much better driver than ever before. While I must say I did not enjoy the process, I'm really glad I did it. Yes, the qualification process for a British license is grueling, but it does produce more qualified, polite drivers. I rarely ever hear someone get honked at here. Drivers are more civil, focused, and aware of what's going on around them. During the time we've been here, I can only remember seeing one fender bender in all of our travels (though I do here accident reports on the radio). I can see why Great Britain is one of the safest places to drive on earth.

Right now, I just want to celebrate the moment - and I am! -  but looking down the road (no pun intended), I know the challenge isn't really over. My greatest desire and continuing focus will be to finish out our mission and return home to Utah after two years without a single accident, problem or incident while we're here. Wish me luck!         ~Pat~

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"Topped Up"

In Great Britain, when you have a pay-as-you-go phone or Wifi access, you can take a little credit card replica with your phone/Wifi account number on it to any grocery store and "top up" (or add more minutes to) your account as you're checking out with your groceries. You can also "top up" online. Slick.

This weekend, it was our turn to get "topped up."  It was General Conference weekend. Hooray! What a blessing to be half-way (almost) around the world from home and to still be able to turn on our computer and hear the counsel of living prophets.  As I mentioned in April, it's a little more of a challenge with the different time zones, but I never take for granted the fact that we can hear every word of General Conference - in real time.

As a child, growing up in California in the "olden days," I remember the first time we were able to receive the Sunday morning session of General Conference on TV. It was in October 1953, and it was the first time any part of Conference had ever been broadcast outside the Intermountain west. It was such a marvel to me, even as a young child, that the experience is forever etched in my memory. To actually see a prophet and the apostles speaking on our little 12" by 12" TV screen!

Fast forward (and it was fast) almost 60 years to October 2012. Here we are in London, receiving all four general sessions on a live Internet feed and projecting it through the Visitors' Centre theatre projector - larger than life. It's an even better view here than a front row seat in the Conference Center, though we're missing out on the electricity of being on Temple Square with thousands of enthusiastic, excited church members. No problem. We are watching with our enthusiastic, excited fellow missionaries, a few temple workers, and several investigators. All the sessions are also being broadcast downstairs in the Accommodation Centre in the building attached to our Visitors' Centre. Most of the temple missionaries and full-time staff are gathered there, in an eating area much larger than our theatre. And as I mentioned in April, it's impressive to see the respect with which everyone treats these broadcasts. Without directions or suggestions from anyone, men come to all the sessions dressed in suits and women in dresses. There's a definite atmosphere of gratitude for the privilege of watching General Conference here.

In our time zone, we watch the Saturday morning session at 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The Priesthood, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning sessions are watched on Sunday. The Sunday afternoon session is watched Monday night. So between the two sessions we watch on Sunday, our Visitors' Centre missionaries decided to have a potluck dinner and invite the Mission Office staff to join us. We had a great dinner together! Even though the Mission Office is on the other side of the Accommodation Centre, we are constantly walking back and forth and working with each other during the week. Very few days go by without at least one trip -  and often several - to the Mission Office. We love the Mission Office missionaries!

Elder Gong, from the Mission Office, is
always available when someone's in need.
Those who helped
(Elder Eccleton with Sisters Howard, Cardona and Cabrera)

... and those who didn't .   J/K. - these guys did the dishes :)

Plenty for everyone.

Enjoying a delicious dinner together.

I predict this is going to become a semi-annual tradition.

I absolutely love General Conference weekend! It is my time to "top up" -- to focus on the things in life that are truly important, and to gain the wisdom, understanding and perspective that I need for the coming six months. It is a time for personal revelation. Some people take notes while they listen to Conference, some just absorb the messages, but each person who comes with an open heart takes away something that speaks directly to them, something that gives them hope, perspective, faith, gratitude, inspiration, correction, confidence, direction, or confirmation of truth.

Each person takes what is most important for their own life away from Conference, but since this is my blog, I get to share some of the messages that spoke to my heart:

  • Repentance will be the only panacea for the ills of the world.   - Elder Quentin L. Cook
  • Distancing yourself from the kingdom of God during a trial of faith is like leaving the safety of a secure storm cellar just as the tornado comes into view.   - Elder Neil L. Andersen
  • Sometimes our insistence on acting on our own timetable can obscure [God's] will for us. The Lord's delays are always calculated to bless.   - Elder Henry B. Eyring
  • If ye love me, keep my commandments, Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord.           - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland 
  • First observe, then serve.   - Sister Linda K. Burton, General Relief Society president
  • ...sad to say, we often even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, were an accomplishment or sign of a superior life.  Is it? I think of our Lord and Exemplar, Jesus Christ, and His short life among the people of Galilee and Jerusalem. I have tried to imagine Him bustling between meetings or multitasking to get a list of urgent things accomplished. I can't see it. Instead I see the compassionate and caring Son of God purposefully living each day. When He interacted with those around Him, they felt important and loved. He knew the infinite value of the people He met. He blessed them, ministered to them. He lifted them up, healed them. He gave them the precious gift of His time.  ...many of the deepest regrets of tomorrow can be prevented by following the Savior today.   - Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf
  • Testimony alone is not and will not be enough to protect us in the latter-day storm of darkness and evil in which we are living....  We should know the gospel is true and be true to the gospel.   - Elder David A. Bednar
  • Every prophet since Joseph Smith has emphasized the imperative need to provide all ordinances for ourselves and our deceased ancestors. Do you young people want a sure way to eliminate the influence of the adversary in your life? Immerse yourself in searching for your ancestors, prepare their names for the sacred vicarious ordinances available in the temple, and then go to the temple to stand as proxy for them to receive the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost.               - Elder Richard G Scott 
  • I have found that, rather than dwelling on the negative, if we will take a step back and consider the blessings in our lives, including seemingly small, sometimes overlooked blessings, we can find greater happiness.   - President Thomas S. Monson

Now that General Conference is over once again, the very best thing about it is that we can get "topped up" again and again. During the next six months, before the April 2013 Conference, I'll be listening to excerpts and talks online at as often as I need my faith, hope and perspective recharged. What better way to fill my mind when I'm exercising, driving, doing chores, or just wanting to feel inspired and uplifted? With laptops, IPads, and smart phones, I can get the message I need to top me up almost anywhere or anytime.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Friendship and The Book of Mormon

This article, written by Don, was published in the United Kingdom insert of the Ensign magazine last month (September 2012). Don wrote it about Sam King, a wonderful young man taught by our sister missionaries in the Visitors' Centre. We've watched a sweet transformation take place as Sam studied, received a strong witness that the gospel is true and chose to become a member of the Church. It's a great story, worth repeating:

Sam King, front and center, with the Gaule family on his baptism day.

"'You never know what will happen when you give a copy of the Book of Mormon to a friend,' said John Gaule, a member of East Grinstead Ward, Crawley England Stake. His sons Danny and Joe had been friends with Sam King since Sam was a seven-year-old attending St Catherine's Primary School. When the Gaule family moved to the village of Bletchingley, Sam lived just around the corner and began spending a lot of time at the Gaule home.

"'We often spoke to him about the Church, but he was not interested,' John said. 'He was like a son to us, so I went to his home and presented his parents with a copy of the Book of Mormon. I hardly knew his parents, but I didn't want to go behind their backs. They took the book, and several weeks later I asked Sam if anyone had read it. He said he didn't know, but he didn't think so. I thought that's the end of that, they will probably throw it in the bin.

That was five years ago. Sam was baptized a member of the Church on March 24, 2012 by John Gaule. Sam talks about his friendship with the Gaule family, the power of the Book of Mormon, and his conversion in glowing terms.

"'The Book of Mormon came into my household when I was only 13. My parents handed me the book but I never really touched it. To me it was just another book on the shelf. My parents had asked me to throw it away many times, but for some reason I just couldn't do it. If it had been any other book, I think I would have happily binned it, without a care in the world. But this was a book given to us by the father of Danny and Joe.

"'In July of 2008, I was taken on holiday by the Gaule family to Sri Lanka. This trip really strengthened our friendship and was my first trip abroad. The first time I attended the LDS Church was in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. I met some missionaries there from California and Ohio, and was intrigued to learn more about beliefs of the Church. I felt the openness of the members. It was testimony day and I felt the eagerness and happiness of the people who shared their feelings.

"'Last August, after receiving my college exam results, I went to a party to celebrate my successes. Later I began to ponder life and its purposes, the values and standards I had observed from the Gaule family, the love I had felt from them, and my thoughts about the Church. What happened next was quite unexpected. I felt an incredible sensation fill my chest and my heart. I had never felt so warm and happy in my life, and did not know at the time that this was the Holy Spirit urging me to learn more about the LDS Church. I decided to begin reading the Book of Mormon and I began to pray. After I had read only a small section of First Nephi, I knew that this book was true and was another witness of Jesus Christ.

"'About a month later I started talking to the Gaule family more about the Church. I am sure they were pretty shocked. I remember talking to my friend's mum, Felicia, and saying, "I want what Joe and Danny have." I knew that I didn't have what they did and this was the gospel and their membership in the LDS Church. I first met the missionaries - Sister Casasola, Sister Burrows, and Sister Allred of the England London South Mission - on September 19th. Being with them has been the most amazing half year of my life. We met at the Gaule home and at the London Temple Visitors' Centre, where they served. I strongly recommend anyone who is not in the Church to meet the missionaries and go to the Visitors' Centre. They will find a strong, uplifting spirit at the Visitors' Centre near the temple. The missionaries are incredible people and we have become fantastic friends.

"'I was raised by a loving and caring Mum and Dad, and I am grateful that they raised me correctly. But I need the Church in my life. I now know that there is a God, why we came to earth, and where we are going. I have learned to know about Jesus Christ from reading the Book of Mormon. I already have a loving family, but another family also loves me. I cannot contemplate what life would be like today without the Gaule's and the Book of Mormon. Their love and friendship kept me from throwing it in the bin, and I am so thankful.'"

Monday, October 1, 2012

Who Could Have Imagined?

They say you can't get involved in Family History/Genealogy without witnessing a few miracles. I'm here to tell you it's true. Something amazing has been going on around here.

I've been writing a book. At least, I was before we left on our first mission last year. Ten chapters mostly finished; eight chapters to go; several years of research under my belt. According to my notes, I've put almost 1200 hours into the project already, and it has been a fabulous project. It's a book about my dad's parents, but I've included chapters on their parents and grandparents, as far back as the early 1800's.

I packed all my research up and took it with me to Washington D.C. on our first mission, hoping to spend at least a little time writing. It never happened. Doesn't look like it will happen in England, either. I dragged all my files as carry-on luggage on all our flights when we came here because I couldn't bear the thought of the remotest possibility that an airline might lose all my hard work. Turns out, that was the last time I touched it. Our mission is busy and demanding and when we do have a few hours off there are people to see, calls to make, laundry to do, groceries to buy, and on and on. You get the picture.

BUT, in the midst of this two mission book-writing detour, there has been a miracle taking place. It's absolutely incredible to me, as I look back on the past several months, to see what has happened. Here's how it has unfolded so far:

It began with Sail Royal Greenwich. In connection with the London Olympics during July, a fleet of tall, old sailing ships arrived in London via the Thames and anchored at Woolwich (pronounced "Wool-ich") harbour. We happened to see an advertisement for short passenger cruises on these ships when Don picked up a discarded newspaper one afternoon on the train. This fleet of ships is somewhat newer, but very similar to the ships on which some of my ancestors (the very ones I've been writing about) immigrated from Great Britain to America.  Elder and Sister Kearl from the ELSM Mission office were just as interested as we were, so the four of us booked an early evening one-hour cruise during July. There were three or four big old sailing ships out on the river that evening. It was so exciting to step onto one of them and set sail towards the center of London on the Thames. Besides crossing the Greenwich Meridian and seeing the beautiful sights along the Thames (including Olympics venues) that evening, we got to explore the ship and imagine what it would have been like to spend six to eight weeks crossing the Atlantic Ocean with our families. Sobering, to say the least.

Part of the "Sail Royal Greenwich" fleet

On board our cruise.

Don got to help hoist one of the sails.

Sailing the Thames

A view of London

Next, we were able to travel to Sprowston, in Norwich (pronounced Nor-itch), about three hours northeast of where we live on the London temple grounds. We are asked to speak in a different ward several times a month, and on July 29th, we spoke in the Norwich Ward. It was wonderful to meet the good people who live there.

After church, we found the church in the little village of Sprowston where my dad's paternal grandmother, Dorothy Jane Culley, was born. I had already written a chapter about her in my grandparents' book. We visited the church where her parents and grandparents were married and where she was christened shortly after her birth. We know that it is the right church because it was the only church in existence in the village until long after those events took place. The church is not normally open on Sunday afternoons, but the congregation was holding an Olympic celebration that afternoon, so the church was open and we were able to go inside!

Dorothy Jane Culley
Born in Sprowston, Norwich, U.K. in 1834,
Willey Handcart Company pioneer.

St. Mary & St. Margaret's Parish Church, Sprowston, Norwich, England

A view of the Parish Church from the cemetery.

The entrance to the chapel.

The chapel that my 2nd, 3rd and 4th
great-grandparents worshiped in.

Such an incredible window for a small village church.

The baptismal font inside the church.
Several generations of my father's family
were christened there as infants.

On September 23rd, we drove from the London Temple to Pontypool, Wales - a trip of about three hours. It was a beautiful drive and so exciting to drive across the bridge from England to Wales. Sunday morning, before we had to speak in the Cwmbrn Ward (pronounced Come-brun), we drove a few miles to find the tiny little village of Trevethin, situated on the top of a hill. There we found the only church that was built previous to the time my second great-grandparents, John and Ann Rowland Shore, were married in Trevethin in 1848.  It was early in the morning, so we just walked around the outside of the church and took pictures. Just as we were leaving, we noticed a woman carrying keys and walking toward the church. We were thrilled to find out that she was coming to turn on the heat in the church for meetings later in the morning. She turned on all the lights and let us walk through the church!

George Shore
The son of John and Ann Roland Shore
Born in Pontypool, Wales in 1849,
Died of Black Lung Disease in Ogden, Utah 

Directions to Pontypool, Wales

The area surrounding Trevethin, Wales.


Trevethin in both English and Welsh. All pupils in Wales are
now required to study Welsh throughout their school years.

The church in Trevethin, Wales where George Shore's parents were married.

The chapel of St. Cadoc's Church in Trevethin

St. Cadoc's Church

Our oldest daughter, Janet, is responsible for a few more genealogical miracles that we've experienced since we've been here. She has become very interested and worked extensively on Don's paternal grandfather's line during the past several years. It shouldn't be surprising (but it is) that the Carpenter line also comes from southern England - also in our mission!

Don's grandfather, J. Hatten Carpenter, was born in Devonport, England. Thanks to Janet's research, we were able to find the street that he was born on when we spent a weekend in and around Devonport and Plymouth. Since Plymouth is a five hour drive from the London Temple, and we had been asked to speak in church and also present a fireside on Sunday, July 22nd, we were able to spend two nights there. On Sunday afternoon after church, a wonderful couple who belonged to the Plymouth Ward - Ron and Lorena Telford - took us on a personal tour of the Barbicon and the waterfront in Plymouth, as well as the nearby port area of Devon. It was a beautiful day and such an exciting experience to see where Don's grandfather had come from.

Joseph Hatten Carpenter
Born in Devonport, England in  1861,
Died in Manti, Utah at the age of 103.

Beyrout Place, Devonport, England

Plymouth, England

Our drive took us past the site in Plymouth where the first pilgrims set sail for America in 1620.

The Mayflower Stairs

The first pilgrims set sail for America at this site

On Sunday, August 12th, we were on the road again, this time speaking in the Taunton Ward. Well, Taunton just happens to be the birthplace of J.Hatten Carpenter's father and is less than four miles from Bradford-on-Tone, where all Don's Carpenter grandfathers were born back to the 1600's - nine generations back from him. Wow. We found the Trefusis Farm which land records substantiate belonged to those grandfathers, one generation after the other, for about 200 years. Such a thrill!

Bradford-on-Tone is a beautiful place

The Carpenter homestead for 200 years

The church in Bradford on Tone where seven generations
of Don's grandparents worshiped.

The church in Taunton where Don's 2nd great grandparents
were married

We have discovered the home of J.Hatten's mother's family, only 30 minutes from us, where Don's grandfather lived for some time as a youth after his father, a Congregational minister, died.  Here he attended a school for ministers' sons. J. Hatten's mother, Elizabeth Link Hatten, also died in the home. It's in Croydon, about 10 minutes from our favorite (and only) Costco. It's another piece of his family history puzzle.

52 Friends Road in Croydon

There are still a few more family history sights we hope to be able to visit while we are in England. They are also part of the history that I have already included in the book I'm writing, so I'm hopeful we'll get there.

Actually, the miracles really began on our last mission. (See That We May Remember and Give Thanks, November 2011)  Just the weekend before we left Virginia, I was astounded to learn that the 3 Civil War battlefields on which my dad's maternal great-grandfather, Nathan Nye Coy, fought were within an hour of where we had been living the past five months. We dropped everything and drove to see two of them late on Saturday afternoon. By the time we had found them, it was too dark to find the third one, but I was overjoyed to have walked the ground my second great-grandfather has consecrated by his service to his country. The day after Thanksgiving, on the morning we left to drive back across the country to Utah, I discovered we would drive within 10 minutes of the 3rd battlefield, so we made a quick detour and saw it, too. Nathan Nye Coy was also one of the ancestors I had already written about in my grandparents' book....

All these serendipitous experiences have brought Don and I to understand that there is a "spirit of place" - a greater understanding that comes to you after you have visited the location where something important took place. Those experiences have become real. It's as if the ground speaks to you there. What a rich blessing this has been. Such a tender mercy, a bonus blessing, that has come from serving these two missions:  none of these experiences planned ahead, just discovered along the way.  Who could have imagined...?  Certainly not me!

Is it a coincidence that we were called to serve a mission in Southern England? Or is it an incredible blessing attached to the family history work that we have been involved in?  My opinion is firm, but you be the judge.