Thursday, February 28, 2013


While we were in the MTC in Provo last year being trained to direct the Visitors' Centre, we were challenged to "bring the London Temple Visitors' Centre out of obscurity." We didn't know then what they were talking about, but when we arrived and discovered its history and location, we found out what they meant.

A few months ago a regional community magazine, UNCOVERED, caught our attention. When we learned that this magazine is distributed to 102,000 households, businesses, libraries, pubs and train stations in cities and towns surrounding the London Temple, we decided to be bold, prepare an article, and allocate some of our budget into advertising so we could have the Temple featured on the cover. We wrote an article inviting people to the Visitors' Centre, but we also wanted to give readers some insight into the history and basic teachings of the Church.  This was the result:

Yesterday, the magazine arrived.  We hope it helps "uncover" a local gem - the London Temple Visitors' Centre!                      ~ Don ~    


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Firesides and Activities

It's Sunday afternoon. We've come home from church and had a great dinner. Sitting at my computer, I have a beautiful view of a clear blue sky and the sun glistening on the white walls of the temple. Since the temple is closed on Sundays it is peaceful and serene all around the temple grounds today, quite a contrast to the cars and busses (coaches) full of people who arrived all day long yesterday. We love the bustle of Saturdays and we also love the peace and tranquility of Sundays!

This afternoon I have a free hour or two before our Visitors' Centre fireside tonight with Elder (James) and Sister (Lynette) Wood. They're a senior missionary couple from Idaho serving in the Staines Stake as YSA leaders. They're also bringing their YSA Choir to perform. It'll be a good evening.

Elder and Sister Wood
 We've had some great firesides and Monday night programs over the past few months. We already have several more scheduled for March, April, and May. It's a series that we began when we first arrived and it has been very successful. We try to schedule two firesides and two Monday night activities each month. We always look forward to them.

Besides the many Christmas programs we had in December, one Sunday fireside before Christmas brought a large crowd. Savannah Stevenson, who is the actress who portrays Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the new L.D.S. Bible videos was a guest speaker with President Julian Jones, counselor in the England London South Mission. Savannah is a beautiful young woman, inside and out, and was kind enough to share her testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ along with some of her experiences portraying Mary and in her acting career in London. Judging from all the photos taken afterward, I think the elders enjoyed the fireside the most!

Savannah  Stevenson (in the middle in green dress)
with missionaries from the England London South Mission
In January, one of our firesides was a presentation by Brother (Roger) and Sister (Sue) Matthews who are currently serving a temple workers here at the London Temple. They told us about their missionary experiences in Nigeria several years ago and had us sitting on the edge of our seats.

The other fireside we had scheduled in January was with President Roger Millar, our mission president. His topic was "Medicine, Miracles, and Prophets." President Millar is a recently retired heart surgeon. Unfortunately, a major snowstorm preempted our fireside and it's been rescheduled for Sunday, April 21st. We hope the weather will cooperate.

In March, our speaker on the first Sunday will be Sister Sahar Qumsiyeh who recently arrived in our mission and serves in the Mission Office. She took the place of Sister Karen Kae who finished her mission and went home to Arizona last week. Sister Qumsiyeh is a wonderful young woman, born in Jerusalem and raised as a Christian in Palestine. She joined the Church while getting an advanced degree from B.Y.U. in Utah. She also earned a Ph.D. in Ankara, Turkey.

Sister Qumsiyeh
On Sunday, March 24th, President Brian Martin, the other counselor in the England London South Mission, will give his pre-Easter presentation, "An 8 Day Walk With Christ." He gave the presentation last year and we've had many requests to have him return again this year. Personally, I'm very excited to hear him again.

The Visitors' Centre was a little quieter than usual during January with the cold weather and snow, but when you add all the firesides, Monday night activities, and our Sunday speaking assignments to the calendar, along with the regular day-to-day 9 a.m.-9 p.m. schedule of the Visitors' Centre, things are still pretty busy around here. We are tremendously grateful for our two senior couples, the Terrys and the Horsleys, and our sister missionary companionships who work so hard to keep everything running smoothly. They all do an outstanding job.

Since the beginning of February things have been getting busier again each week. We know from our experience last year that attendance will be increasing again right away and continue to increase throughout the spring and summer. In fact, this coming week is "half term" holiday while British schools are out, so we expect a lot more visitors each day. The following week will be French week and a huge coach will come once again with members from the Lille, France stake. We love to see them come. They are devoted saints and all come three or four times a year together, staying to do temple work from Tuesday to Friday.

We're looking forward to the coming months and we're ready!       ~Pat~

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Taking Things For Granted

As I was walking back from the Visitors' Centre to the Lodge this afternoon, I realized there were birds singing all around me on the temple grounds...  in February! What a beautiful sound! I looked up to see if I could spot any of them in the trees and realized that the sun was shining brightly and there were big, fluffy clouds in the sky -- the brilliant white kind. What a sight! I almost missed it while I was walking along all wrapped up in my thoughts about some responsibility or project I was working on. What else have I been missing?

Don and I take that walk many times a day as we go back and forth between the Visitors' Centre and our office in our flat. A year ago, when we arrived on the temple grounds, I took myriads of photos of the beauty here. Photos of the temple at all times of the day and night, photos of the airplanes coming in for a landing over us (which we don't even hear anymore), photos of the lawns, photos of the architecture, photos of the flowers, photos of the ducks. I would have taken photos of the fox, the deer and the rabbits if they'd held still long enough.

Today I realized that it's been a several months since I've taken a single picture on the temple grounds - so I walked through the gardens and took some. It made me stop and focus on what was around me. Is that what it takes to appreciate our surroundings? It's just a regular, ordinary day today, and the trees are still bare, but I do appreciate the lush, green lawns and the birds singing here in February. It's such a spirit lifter. It gives me hope that Spring will come. Though we may get more snow, and we absolutely will get more rain, today I'm enjoying the beauty of the moment. It's amazing how comfortable and complacent we can get.

February 14, 2013

I love the thoughts of the main character, Emily, in the play Our Town by Thornton Wilder, when she's allowed after she dies to pick one day out of her life and re-live it. She chooses her 12th birthday and goes back to watch herself with her mother in the kitchen of her home. It makes her sad to watch and realize just how much life should be valued "every, every minute."  When she asks the man who has accompanied her whether anyone ever realizes how precious life is while they are living it, he responds, "No. The saints and poets, maybe -- they do some."

This mission has given me many great opportunities to appreciate the things I've often taken for granted. That's a good thing! Maybe that happens more as we get older, or as our circumstances change, or as we humble ourselves and realize where all the good things in our life come from. Whatever the reason, it doesn't hurt to stop once in awhile and take a look around and see your surroundings with a new perspective -- then give thanks to the One who has provided it all for you.

I guess it's appropriate, on Valentines Day, when we focus on the people that we love, to ask ourselves, "What have I been taking for granted?"                                       ~Pat~

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hello and Good-Bye

On Tuesday, January 22nd, Sister Phermsin (pronounced pear-m-sen), our second sister missionary from Finland, arrived at the Visitors' Centre. She is a delightful young woman who was born in Thailand and immigrated to Finland with her family when she was five years old. She was converted to the Church about two years ago and has a strong testimony and desire to share the happiness and perspective that she has gained with others. We are fortunate to have her at the London Temple Visitors' Centre!  What a great group of young women we have.

Sisters Reneer, Cabrera, Ylisaari, Cardona, Maughan, and Phermsin
Just a week later, we had to say good-bye to two more of our favorite sister missionaries as they successfully finished their eighteen months of service and prepared to return to their families. Sister Cabrera is back in Chile, and Sister Corbett has returned to Utah. We were so blessed to have them at our visitors' centre, and it was tough to see them go. They are such talented, good young women. We learn to love each one of our sister missionaries so much as we serve together day in and day out, and we don't know when we will get the opportunity to see some of them again. What a blessing it is to be able to communicate and keep in touch by email and on Facebook. We are excited to see where their dreams take them! They will brighten the world wherever they go.

Sister Cabrera and Sister Corbett 
One last day together at the Visitors' Centre
We've also said good-bye lately to some of the temple missionaries who we've spent time with and lived around here on the temple grounds. We have grown to love them, too.  Several more will be leaving in the next few months and we know it's going to seem awfully lonely without them. The mission and the temple staff are in a constant state of flux! I guess that means we'll be learning to love new senior couples who we have yet to meet. And we've been told that we will be receiving four additional new Visitors' Centre sisters in the next 3 months. Now that's something to look forward to!

We had a lot of fun welcoming Paul Smart and his wife Annie to the England London South Mission this week.  Before our ward and stake were divided several years ago in Draper, Paul was in our ward and then served as our Stake Clerk. This week we got to greet them on the day they arrived here and also had dinner with  them the same night. They will be living and serving as family history missionaries in central London for the next eighteen months. We probably won't see them often, but it's nice to have them in the ELSM!

Time flies and now we are already almost half-way into February. Good things are happening. Last week we had a fabulous fireside by Elder and Sister Matthews (current temple missionaries) who spoke about their experiences as missionaries in Nigeria. Amazing! They kept us on the edge of our seats.

We have several more firesides and activities already lined up for the next few months. We are really looking forward to them already. It is good to be into our second year now. We can look ahead and see what will be needed a little better than last year at this time. With half of the Visitors' Center Directors being released a couple of weeks ago and an equal number of new directors just starting their two year missions throughout the USA and around the world, it's nice not to be the new kids on the block this year!

For now, we're glad we're not the ones saying hello or good-bye!          ~Pat~

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Last week we were invited to speak in the Canterbury Ward in the southeast corner of England.  We met the bishop of Canterbury, Michael G. Pemberton, a kind and humble man, who was very gracious and said he appreciated having us come.  He especially liked Pat's talk on family history.  The ward was friendly and welcoming, and we enjoyed being there.  The congregation  in Canterbury was small, but the spirit was strong.  As we travel to different wards nearly every week, we are always surprised and grateful for the warm greeting we receive at the door and the many members who go out of their way to welcome visitors. It always reminds us that we could do a better job at home.

After sacrament meeting, we went to Canterbury Cathedral, seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Right Honorable Rowan Douglas Williams.  This massive and historic cathedral is the Mother Church for Anglicans worldwide, including the Episcopal Churches in the United States and Canada. The Anglican Communion consists of over 70 million members in more than 160 countries. The Archbishop was not there, but we didn't really expect to meet him.  England's first Archbishop was Augustine, the Catholic monk sent to England as a missionary by Pope Gregory in 597 AD.  I can't imagine how many million people have climbed the worn steps and walked the uneven floors of this important centre of pilgrimage.  It reminds me of how I felt when walking through St. Peter's Basilica  in Rome, Notre Dame in Paris, the giant Blue Mosque in Istanbul, the large Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, or even the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  So much history, and so much tradition!  We Americans often have a hard time thinking past 200 years.

Couldn't help but wonder about all the generations who have entered
this building in Canterbury since 1550 A.D.

No, that's not a cigarette. I found a lollipop in my pocket :)

Eva and Pat

The cathedral in Canterbury

Inside the cathedral.

It is incredible to consider the work that went
into creating the magnificent stained glass
in the cathedral.

Canterbury Cathedral is a working church, with a world-renowned choir, where services are held every day. While we were there, we heard part of an organ concert echoing through those hallowed halls. As we walked outside, the cathedral bells were ringing from the tower.  That is one of my favorite sounds in Europe, and takes me back to my mission in Switzerland.  I would love to attend a Christmas Eve midnight mass in Canterbury -- perhaps next December.

On Thursday night last week, we took Pat's friend, Eva, visiting from Hungary, and used some P-Day time to attend a concert at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the historic church at Trafalgar Square in Central London.  St. Martins is another Anglican church, built in the early 13th century - nearly 300 years before Columbus discovered America. The original church was torn down and rebuilt in the early 1700s. We heard the English Concert Orchestra and Concert Singers perform Classics for Pleasure by Candlelight, with pieces from Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, and Mozart,  including Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah.  It was very peaceful and soothing -- just what we needed for a change of pace.

Outside St. Martin-In-The-Field

The acoustics in St. Martin-In-The-Field make it
a favorite site for music recordings.
As we have visited many churches and cathedrals across southern England, we have reflected on the long history of religious belief here and the number of people through the centuries who have prayed and worshiped in these grand and beautiful edifices.  Though modern-day England is experiencing the same diminishing priority to worship as America and many other countries, there is a wonderful heritage of faith in this land. We are glad to serve here as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.          ~Don~