Monday, December 31, 2012

2013, Here We Come!

It's always with such mixed emotions that I face the new year!  It sometimes feels like I'm giving up something very familiar and comfortable to wander off into the unknown, but on the other hand, it's so exciting to contemplate what good things might be ahead. I'm praying for miracles! I'm sure there will be wonderful times and also challenges. Every year is full of both; but even the challenges will be good things as we pray and learn and grow in ways that are not even possible when times are easy.

As we walk forward into this new year, I take great comfort in knowing that there is a God in Heaven, that He loves each one of us with a perfect and individual love, and that He wants us to have joy. Yes, He allows suffering and pain and heartache and trial, but He is always there to lift us up and bless us if we will turn to Him and ask for His help. He is ALWAYS there. WE are the ones who stray. As I look back at the most painful, lonely and confused times in my life, I can see that when I humbled myself enough to turn to Him, He always helped me and guided me, even when I couldn't see it at the time. I have been so blessed.

I think we have probably included this quote somewhere in our blog before, but it is one of Don's and my favorites:
            "If our lives and our faith are centered on Jesus Christ
        and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently
        wrong. On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on     
        the Savior and his teachings, no other success can ever be
        permanently right."            -President Howard W. Hunter

The years fly by so fast - especially this past year. It has been a year full of blessings and opportunities that we never would have dreamed possible. Most years are like that - even the ones with big challenges. I am filled with gratitude and amazement. Every year is a surprise, each year is an opportunity.

And so with great enthusiasm Don and I wish you a 
with miracles, blessings, and new opportunities.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Frosting On The Cake

Sister Burrows, Jason Boyce, Sam King, Sister Casasola

On the evening before Sister Casasola and Sister Burrows were released to return home, they enjoyed an experience few missionaries get. Two young men they had taught at the Visitors' Centre, who were baptized independent of each other last Spring -- Jason Boyce and Sam King -- stopped by to say goodbye. These sisters had been serving as regular proselyting missionaries for several months and had not seen Jason and Sam for some time. Jason and Sam arranged to stop by the Visitors' Centre and told the sisters they had some special news to share. Unbeknownst to the sisters, both young men had recently been ordained Elders and both were submitting papers to serve full-time missions. They arranged to give the sisters the first discussion, and it was a sweet experience. We have known these young men from the time we arrived last January. They are wonderful young men, full of faith and enthusiasm. (For Sam's conversion story, see "Friendship and the Book of Mormon" - Oct. 6th blog.) The gospel has changed their lives forever, and now they want to share their new faith with the world.

How many missionaries have prepared someone to take their place, even before they leave their missions? These baptisms were wonderful for our sister missionaries when they occurred, but this surprise parting gift of seeing them ready to serve  missions was "frosting on the cake."    

Two more of our sister missionaries received a special surprise in December when the Britannia YSA Ward Choir from Hyde Park came to perform a Christmas concert at the Visitors' Centre. Playing the guitar for the group was a young convert, Harley Miller, who was introduced as a new member of the Church, baptized only the week before. Harley had completed a self-referral guest card with his name and email address, and Sisters Cardona and Howard (at our Visitors' Centre) had taught him several discussions on-line before transitioning him to Elders in the nearby London Mission, where he was taught further and baptized. Through their email chat lines, our sisters knew he was going to be baptized, but they had no idea that they would be able to meet him.  Teaching on-line through email or chat lines, our sisters have given lessons to people all over the world, then transitioned them to missionaries in their own localities so that they can be taught in person. Our sisters have learned that several of their contacts have been baptized and have even received pictures of converts via email, but to them, this unexpected personal meeting with Harley at our Visitors' Centre was also special "frosting on the cake."       

Sister Howard, Harley Miller, Sister Cardona

I should tell you that while these three new converts whose stories I've shared are all young men, all of our sister missionaries have been involved in some wonderful teaching and conversion experiences with both men and women at various stages of life. It is exciting to see the joy and purpose that come to each of these people as they gain an understanding of the purpose of life and their personal relationship with God.        ~Don~

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Day 2012

It's only noon at home and our family is probably still lounging around in pajamas, but it's been dark for three hours already here in England (it's totally dark by 4 p.m.) and Christmas Day is almost over. We hope you and yours are having a wonderful day together. We hear it's a beautiful white Christmas this year in Utah.

We are so grateful to have part of our family here with us this Christmas - the best gift we could have asked for, since we'll still be here next Christmas, too. (More about their visit next week.)  We are absolutely loving our mission in Southern England and are so glad to be here, but that doesn't stop us from missing our family - especially at Christmastime. We're excitedly looking forward to Skyping with the rest of our kids and grandkids again tonight.

Our sister missionaries were able to Skype with their families today, too. It was fun to be in the Visitors' Centre as some of them talked to their families. We even got to say hello to Sister Cabrera's family in Chile!
The sisters are able to Skype twice a year:  on Mother's Day and on Christmas. One of the perks of being senior missionaries is that we can call and Skype as often as we want to.

We spent a few hours in the Visitors' Centre today. We made the decision to keep it open for a limited time - six hours - hoping that it would be helpful to someone. We had several people come in, mostly members. One man in his 30's stopped by and spent some time learning about Christ and about the Church. He had never been in before, though he lives nearby. He seemed to be lonely and searching for answers. He left us a gift of a package of cigarettes, a used book, and a pair of new shoes he had received which didn't fit him. We offered him a gift of a Book of Mormon and some pamphlets, but he was reluctant. He came back awhile later and some of our sister missionaries had a long conversation with him.

It is a privilege to be serving as missionaries at Christmastime. Although we thought we would serve in gratitude for all God's blessings to us, we have been blessed even more by our experiences here. We are always in His debt. We are strengthened by the examples of members and converts here, and have witnessed some sweet conversions. It is a joy to see people who have never known God humble themselves and change direction in life when they take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ and choose to serve Him and keep His commandments. Such miracles happen!

May the life and mission of our Savior, Jesus Christ, bless you and your family today and throughout the coming year.                           ~Pat~

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I Don't Know Why You Say Good-Bye, I Say Hello

The first three of the fabulous Visitors' Centre sister missionaries we've worked with left for home last week and are safe in the arms of their families once again. These three are some of the ones who were here in the Visitors' Centre to welcome us on the day we arrived last January. In many ways, they taught us how to run our visitors' centre. We learned so much from their example, their enthusiasm and their love for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each one poured her heart into the work and served faithfully and admirably for 18 months. Now each has earned the official title of "returned missionary."  That's great news!

Sister Casasola, Sister Howard and Sister Burrows -
three happy missionaries on their way home!

On the other hand, it's a little sad around here. We really miss them!!  We have learned to love them so much.  We miss their energy, their passion, their beautiful smiles, and the love they shared with everyone they came into contact with. It won't be the same around here -- but at the same time, it will be O.K.  They will always have a place in our hearts that no one can take, but we marvel at how quickly time passes and new opportunities come - both for them and for those of us who are still serving at the London Temple Visitors' Centre.

Here are a few things that have been going on during this last week:

1.  Our new sister missionary, Sister Ylisaari (pronounce oo-lih-sorry) arrived from Finland just a few hours after Sisters Casasola, Howard and Burrows left for the airport. She is delightful and is already conducting tours and helping with the many activities that are going on in the Visitors' Centre this month. It is always amazing to me how quickly we learn to love each new sister as she arrives or is transferred to our Visitors' Centre. Two more sister missionaries will arrive at the next transfer, in about six weeks. We will need them!

Our new missionary, Sister Ylisaari (left) with her trainer, Sister Cardona

Sister Yapi left the Visitors' Centre to serve in another area of the mission.
We are looking forward to seeing her at Zone Conferences and one of the three
Mission Christmas Celebrations here on the temple grounds this week.

These are our sister missionaries for the coming six weeks:
(L to R) Sisters Reneer, Cabrera, Maughan, Cardona, and Ylisaari.
Aren't they beautiful?

2.  More good-byes and more hellos.  Our good friends, the Bartschis, who have been serving as temple workers since before we arrived, left us this week to return to their family in Bountiful, Utah. Even though we didn't see them often because of our different assignments and schedules, there is an empty spot in our hearts now that they are gone. We know their family is excited to have them home for Christmas this year, though!

Grant and DeAnn Bartschi
We have been blessed with some visitors this past week, too!  We always love to spend a few hours with people we know and love - and introduce them to everyone we've grown to know and love in England. Our dear friend, Cat Larsen came through and stayed for a couple of nights on her way back to the U.S. after some meetings in Germany. She lived with us for a short time after she finished law school and we haven't seen her for a long, long time. She served a mission in the Netherlands, so our sister missionaries loved meeting her. So good to see her!

Heathrow is the third busiest airport in the world - and HUGE!
We've spent a lot of time there recently - and we love it because
that usually means somebody's arriving!

Hyde Park Visitors' Centre with Cat Larsen

Next, my sister and brother-in-law, Marcia and Bill Aird, stopped by again and stayed in the Temple Accommodation Centre for one night. We had time to go out to dinner with them, and even got to attend a magnificent performance of Handel's Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall together.  Best early Christmas gift ever!

Inside the Royal Albert Hall

Curtain call


A view from our coach on the trip home

Her Majesty's Theatre

3.  December has been an exciting month at the Visitors' Centre, as well. Lots of Christmas activities and lots of people.

East Grinstead Ward Primary caroling activity

The sisters of the Lille, France stake Relief Society

Area Authority Seventy Elder Boutoille and his wife
also traveled from the Lille, France stake to speak at one of our firesides.
With a 2 1/2 hour drive, each way, under the Chunnel, we appreciated
their effort to be with us.

The Britannia Ward YSA choir from Hyde Park

Christmas Carol sing-along!

The Staines Stake Choir

The Manna Road Gospel Choir from Wandsworth

A musical evening with the Smith family 

The multi-talented Smith family of East Grinstead

5.  Christmas is just a few days away now, so if we don't get another chance, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! May the peace and love of our Savior, Jesus Christ, be with you.       ~Pat~

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Knew It Was Gonna Happen...

Caught in the act

Don came home tonight when the Visitors' Centre closed at 9 p.m. and said, "I'm hungry." Next thing I knew, he was rummaging around in the little closet where we keep our abbreviated food storage program and came out with a can of pork and beans. That's not so unusual, but what he did next was....  He poured it over a leftover baked potato and threw it in the microwave for a minute or two.  Pork and beans over a baked potato!  They call that a "jacket potato" here. They can be topped with lots of different things, but pork and beans and coleslaw are probably the most popular. When we first got here, Don kind of turned up his nose at such a combination, but it's happened -- we're quite at home here now and the jacket potato with baked beans cinched the deal. We're beginning to think like Brits!

One thing hasn't changed. We still think in dollars, even though we spend in pounds.  I guess that's because even though our outgo is in pounds, our income is in dollars. The bottom line is what's in our bank account at home.

Aside from the money, a lot of things that seemed so strange when we got here seem perfectly normal and even preferable now. I look for "biscuits" at the grocery store when I want a package of cookies. We put the "rubbish" in a "bin." Lately, it seems strange to say "GPS" when we're referring to our "SatNav." We're so comfortable driving on the left that it will be hard to change back to the right side of the road when we go home.  It took a good nine months to stop getting into the left side of the car to drive it. Now I think I'll have a hard time not getting into the right side of the car when I want to drive. Hmmmmmm....

What's next?                                                             ~Pat~

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Our Christmas Advent Calendar

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here!  We are having such a good time trying to bring the Christmas Spirit to the temple grounds - a place where you can already feel the Spirit throughout the entire year. Even so, there is something special about Christmas and it's arrived at the London Temple Visitors' Centre.

To be honest, this is a season that I have worried about off and on during the year.  From a personal standpoint, I knew it would be a hard time to be away from all our family - and friends - and the time and traditions that we love to share. Our hearts are wrapped around those special moments that happen when we are all gathered together and the Christmas spirit is present.

Low and behold, the Christmas spirit can be anywhere you take the time to create it. And it is definitely here on the London Temple grounds. Christmas is a time of giving and receiving. Getting out of ourselves and serving those around us has been the key. Along with our regular responsibilities, we have been working hard to put together a performance schedule for the month of December. It's the first year anyone has tried something like this here, and it isn't as grand as the schedules at the large visitors' centers in the states, but we are so excited to see how it all comes together! We have several church groups and families who will be performing, interspersed with Tabernacle Choir Christmas performances from years past (on DVD in our theatre). Don went around to 8 or 10 churches of other denominations in the area and asked if any had a choir that might like to perform here. Five groups said they were interested, but none came through. We'll try again next year and hope to create a new tradition.

In addition, our dear friend, Grant Neale (see "Beep Beep" and "Great Things Are Happening at the LTVC") has been working even harder to get a new stable/creche approved and built for the nativity figures that have previously stood alone and lonely on a lawn near the Lodge. He also helped us arrange for a Christmas Lighting Ceremony last Sunday night - planning the event with us, finding soloists, suggesting refreshments, creating advertising, printing the program, correcting our American English (it's the "festive" season, not the "holiday" season, for openers) and so much more. Finally, we bought icicle lights to go around the outside of the Visitors' Centre and draw people in.

Now it's all coming together and people are coming to see the new Nativity scene and the lights and attend the events and performances we've scheduled!  We understand that we have the only outdoor Nativity scene in a couple of counties. It sits right outside the Visitors' Centre, just between the VC and the temple. We can look at it all day long through our large glass windows; and Salt Lake has installed new Christmas music in our centre that we can play both inside and outside. Music adds so much to the spirit of Christmas and our feelings of love for our Savior.

Here are a few snapshots taken around here during the last week. First, though, let me apologize for the quality of the photos. I love my little point and shoot, but it doesn't do Christmas lights and night activities any justice - so use your imagination as you view our pictures!

The temple engineers put up a row of Christmas trees and lights outside the Lodge:
our first indication that Christmas was on the way.

We were able to purchase a beautiful new tree for the Visitors' Centre.

We asked Emma Neale to oversee the tree trimming. She's amazing!
She helped us choose the color scheme and all of the ornaments and decorations,
then showed us how to make it look gorgeous.

Some of our sister missionaries helped Emma with the tree:
Sister Yapi, Emma, Sister Reneer, and Sister Cabrera

The finished project!
(Wish my tree at home looked this good,
and all the lights worked :)

Elder Gong's Origami Nativity that will be on display in the Visitors' Centre.
It's even more amazing in person.

Wayne Farnell, one of the temple engineers, built this stable
 for our Nativity figures on his own time.
It was exciting to watch it take shape for several weeks.
Wayne the Builder

The morning that the figures were place in the creche we all came out to watch.

Temple engineers putting the pieces into place.

Some of the engineering and grounds crew responsible for the Nativity scene,
with Brother David Atkin, temple recorder, and Don on the right.

On Sunday night, December 2nd, a crowd of about 300 gathered
outside the Visitors' Centre, in the shadow of the temple.

The lights were switched on!

Then the program began...

President Raymond Lowry, London Temple President, presented a short message.

A choir of temple workers, directed by Sister Collis, sang two numbers.

Jeanette Holt and her daughter, Gemma, from the Staines Stake, both sang solos.

After the program we served traditional mince pies and shortbread.
A lot of people came inside to warm up from the frosty cold.
A group gathered in our theatre and sang Christmas carols.

This is what our Nativity scene looked like Monday, the next day.

Then Tuesday we woke up to this!

It only lasted a few hours and melted quickly,
 but the first snow really did make it seem like Christmas!


2 -   SUNDAY        Christmas Light Ceremony  featuring Jeanette Holt,           soloist, and the London Temple Missionary Choir
7 -   FRIDAY          Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir (DVD) and               Norwegian vocalist Sissel
8 -   SATURAY      Hyde Park Britannia YSA Ward Choir and                     Instrumentals
9 -   SUNDAY       "WHY I BELIEVE” FIRESIDE with Elder Patrick                     Boutoille, Area Seventy & Sister Benedicte Boutoille 
10 - MONDAY      2012 First Presidency Christmas Devotional                    online broadcast 
14 - FRIDAY          Rejoice and Be Merry with the Tabernacle Choir         (DVD) featuring The King’s Singers 
15 - SATURDAY   Manna Road Gospel Choir from Wandsworth 
16 - SUNDAY        Staines Stake Choir with soloist Jeanette Holt 
17 - MONDAY       Christmas Carol Sing-Along - Come join in!
18 - TUESDAY       A Musical Evening featuring the Smith Family from                                      East Grinstead
21 - FRIDAY           Most Wonderful Time of the Year with the                 Tabernacle Choir (DVD) featuring vocalist Natalie                Cole
22 - SATURDAY    A West Park Christmas featuring the Bridgstock                                          Family and friends from East Grinstead 
23 - SUNDAY        ENGLAND LONDON SOUTH MISSION                         FIRESIDE with President Julian Jones and British                  actress/singer Savannah Stevenson
 o    (Films) Mr. Krueger’s Christmas, The Story of the Other Wise Man, Nora’s Christmas Gift, The Nativity
 o    12 noon - Once Upon A Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir (DVD) featuring Jane Seymour
 o    2 p.m. - Joy To The World with The Tabernacle Choir (DVD)
 o    4 p.m. - 2011 First Presidency Christmas Devotional
 o    12 noon - 2010 First Presidency Christmas Devotional
 o    2 p.m. - Christmas Mormon Messages and Stories
 o    4 p.m. - 2009 First Presidency Christmas Devotional
27 - THURSDAY   Glad Tidings with the Tabernacle Choir (DVD)                                         with actor Michael York and singer David Archuleta
28 - FRIDAY          Ring Christmas Bells with the Tabernacle Choir                              (DVD) featuring Brian Stokes Mitchell
29 - SATURDAY   Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir (DVD)                                      featuring  Audra McDonald and Peter Graves
 o    6 p.m. - Golden Days: A Celebration of Life (President Thomas S. Monson’s 75th birthday celebration)
 o    12 noon - 6 p.m. - The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos

If you happen to be in the area, stop in!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

They Made It!

I didn't really believe they would.  I know how it goes when you're flying Space Available - especially internationally. Iain's flight privileges with Delta Airlines have been a great blessing to him and Jenn, but you have to be flexible. Nevertheless, they'd been planning this trip since last spring. They had to wait to come on a holiday weekend that would give them a few extra days off. Thanksgiving weekend. One of the highest travel weekends of the year. Even though the flights looked good, I just couldn't convince myself they were really coming. Ahhh, the suspense.

Well, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, they got the last two seats on the flight out of Salt Lake to Atlanta. Phew! But the best news came a couple of hours later when they texted us that they were boarding the flight from Atlanta to London. Hooray! We picked Jenn and Iain up at Heathrow Airport early on the morning of Wednesday, November 21st - the day before Thanksgiving. They hit the ground running. There were a lot of things they wanted to see and do in the short five days they were here! On a few of those days we dropped them off at the train station and they found their way into London alone, but since there are weeks when we never get a P-Day, we were able to take a couple of the days they were here as past due P-Days and travel with them. That was so much fun for us! Just spending time in the car and on the train together was a treat. We had a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving!

Here are a few of the highlights of our time together:

On the train to London

There's so much to see in London that it's hard to know where to begin.

First stop: the British Museum

Part of ancient Egyptian history ended up in England...

Next stop:  Covent Garden. 

It looked like Christmas.

On our way to the theatre.

Sunday morning at the  Eastbourne Ward.

Monday morning at Stonehenge.

I love looking at the sheep almost as much as Stonehenge :)

Monday afternoon in Chawton at the home of Jane Austen

The time we had with Jenn and Iain went so fast and before we knew it we were taking them back to the airport. It was hard to see them leave, but we are so glad that they were able to come. I always have to remind myself of what Dr. Seuss said, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened!"  There really wasn't much time to think about being sad, though. Our mission responsibilities keep us plenty busy and right now all our Visitors' Centre Christmas activities are just around the corner. We'll take the sweet memories of their visit with us right into the Christmas season.                    ~Pat~