Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spring Has Finally Sprung!

It looks like May is going to come to a wild and crazy close here in Southern England at the end of this week. It's been quite a month for a lot of reasons - only a few of which I'm going to mention. Lots of things going on here on the temple grounds during the past few weeks that have kept us on our toes.

This Wednesday we will welcome three new sister missionaries who will be arriving from the Provo MTC. Sister Phermsin will be leaving to train a new companion in Kingston and our other three sisters (Cardona, Berati and Maughan) will each train a brand-new companion here at the Visitors' Centre. We are excited to meet them and welcome them to the Visitors' Centre!

We and our sister missionaries and senior couples have been busy teaching this month. Now that the weather has finally improved (some days) and there have been some holidays, we have seen an increase in visitors. Each morning we wonder who will come into the Visitors' Centre during the day and what their needs will be. It is such a privilege to meet the wonderful people from all over the world who come in. Many are members of the church and are just stopping by. Others bring friends and relatives to introduce them to the gospel and show them the temple. Some come onto the grounds just because they've see a sign or an article somewhere and are curious about the temple or the Church. We love to answer their questions. We love to talk about our Savior, Jesus Christ, and introduce them to our beliefs.

We have received news this month that the London Temple will close for ten weeks in September. The normal bi-annual two week shutdown for cleaning and refurbishing will begin on September 1st, but the temple is not scheduled to open again until Tuesday, November 5th. There are some issues with maintenance that will be addressed during that time. It will be a challenging time for the Visitors' Centre and our work is cut out for us. Our attendance normally drops quite a lot when the temple is closed. We will need to let people know that is a perfect time to come for a visit and receive personalized attention.

Along with all the missionary activity, we've had a lot of friends and family stop by during May. London seems to be a popular destination this time of year - and we have been the beneficiaries! As you probably figured out long ago if you've read our blog, senior missionaries are allowed a lot more leeway than young elders and sisters when it comes to seeing friends and family. They can't, but we can. Of course, our first priority is to serve our mission and fulfill the responsibilities we accepted with our mission call, but we do have a few more discretionary hours during the week than the young missionaries. That has been a sweet blessing to us "old people."

Just after the Berentes left at the end of April, we had a visit from Don's sister Colleen and her husband, Lon, who stayed in the Accommodation Centre for several nights. (See Come To The Visitors' Centre, May 14th).They spent some time in the temple while we fulfilled our Visitors' Centre shifts and attended a  day-long Zone Conference, but we were able to spend some evenings with them. Don also took a PDay and rode the train into London with them so they could all do a little sight-seeing.

About a week later our long-time buddies Mike and Pam Hannan (for nearly 50 years) arrived here after a three-day trek across the U.S. and back again. Mike's a retired Delta pilot so they were flying Space Available - and there wasn't any! They made it to Minneapolis but a baggage handlers strike in Belgium had diverted enough disgruntled passengers to London that there weren't any seats left, so they flew back to Arizona to visit a son, then returned to Utah and tried again. This time they flew through JFK and made it! We were so glad when they finally arrived!

We had a great couple of days visiting with them between our shifts and responsibilities. This time I took a PDay and drove with them to see the Canterbury Cathedral and an absolutely charming house in near-by Chartham that was built in 1420. What an amazing experience that was! Mike and Pam had known the home's previous owner well and were given a grand tour (with tag-along me) of this house by it's very gracious current owner. The lady and her husband have renovated this beautiful house and it is registered as an English Heritage site. The original walls (still standing) were made from mud, sticks and horse hair. Wow! To put that in perspective, the only people in North America at that point were the Native Americans and they definitely weren't living in medieval pre-Tudor homes. Columbus didn't sail the ocean blue for another 72 years after this house was built.

Mike and Pam with the owner of the Bedford House in Chartham.

Wouldn't I love to have a backyard that looked like this....

A modern wrought iron gate proclaiming the age of the Bedford House.
Because of their foiled travel plans, Mike and Pam only stayed a couple of days, but while they were still here our good friend and neighbor, Jeff Tanner, arrived and checked in at the Accommodation Centre. We had a great trip over to Hever Castle (just 20 minutes away) with Mike, Pam and Jeff, then all had dinner together that evening. Jeff's a pilot for Southwest Airlines, so he and Mike had plenty to talk about. Don and I quizzed Jeff for hours about all the news from Draper and Jeff gave us some great background about the history of our mission - the England London South Mission - where he served 23 years ago. What fun!

Don, Pat, Jeff, Mike and Pam

This week, Don's brother Paul and his wife, Gertrud, arrived Monday afternoon for a very short visit on their way from Germany to our niece's home in St. Albans, north of London. We haven't seen them in nearly two years and we were so glad they took the time to come. We had a great time with them at Hever Castle on a gloriously beautiful afternoon. It's one of our very favorite places in southern England. We were also able to tour the house not far from here where Charles Darwin and his wife raised their 10 children (seven of whom lived to adulthood). The drives to these two destinations were amazing. England is so magically beautiful at this time of year.
Gertrud and Paul with Don and Pat

The Hever Gardens - no picture can begin to do them justice.

While the mom and dad swans are out finding dinner,
we're "cignet watching" - waiting for these 5 eggs to hatch.

How we love the tree tunnels!

These narrow one-lane roads are
very common in our area.

Gertrud and Paul in front of the Down House.

We also heard from Don's cousin Mike Gray and our dear friends Kathy Rollins and Joni Lusty at different times during the month. They were all in England but our schedules and theirs just didn't mesh. It was great to talk to Joni when she called from the other church Visitors' Centre in England at Hyde Park in London.

As the month of May comes to a close, we are aware that our mission experience seems to be gaining speed. The days are just flying by and there is so much more we plan to do to make the London Temple Visitors' Centre a great place to visit. Meanwhile, though, spring has sprung. The leaves are back on the trees. The beautiful songs of the birds have returned. The flowers are blooming and the rhododendrons all over the temple property are just beginning to burst out in all their glorious color. Life is good.                     ~Pat~

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Come To The Visitors' Center!

When was the last time you spent an hour or two in a Church Visitors' Center?  There are 19 of them - many located near a temple. Rome will soon have the 20th.  Do you know how many wonderful resources are available there to church members and non-members alike?  If you haven't taken your family, your friends, or even yourself to see the displays, kiosks, exhibits, movies or missionaries at your local Visitors' Center lately, you ought to!!

Visitors' Centers are a great place to recharge your faith, learn something new, watch a favorite church movie or the latest Mormon Message, be inspired, listen to the words of the Savior, take a peaceful walk around the beautiful grounds, or have a conversation with an energetic sister missionary. Parents:  this is a great place to take your kids. There are good things to be learned in a visitors' center.

The London Temple Visitors' Centre is not a large visitors' center, but it is filled with fabulous displays and exhibits. You can

  • Learn the history of the construction and dedication of the London Temple.
  • Listen to the words and teachings of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
  • Check out the display containing four videos about the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the British Isles
  • Explore Temples of the World  - an interactive kiosk where you can test your skill at the location of the 141 temples in the world, learn the difference between chapels and temples, find out what happens in the baptistry, endowment rooms, sealing rooms and Celestial Room, and learn the history of temple building throughout time.
  • Watch excerpts from the latest General Conference of the Church and find out about the lives of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.
  • Learn about the Book of Mormon and the promises attached to the first principles of the gospel, which are faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
  • Watch the charming "Homefront" TV ads from the 1970's and 80's. They'll still give you a lot to think about! 
  • Review The Family: A Proclamation to the World  or The Living Christ.
  • Listen to the remarkable, candid (and funny) descriptions of gospel topics by little children.
  • Strike up a conversation with a sister missionary from another country and learn something new.
  • Sit in on one of the more than 70 films and videos available to both teach and entertain. There are so many, many fabulous stories to choose from. They'll touch your heart and inspire you.

Other visitors' centers have displays and exhibits unique to their own locations. Next time you're in the vicinity, I challenge you to come to the visitors' center and bring your family or friends. Spend an afternoon or an evening there and see what you can learn! Pay attention to the way you feel. Miracles often happen.            

Lon and Colleen Stuart (Don's sister) with one tired Visitors' Centre Director and his wife....

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What Do You Love?

We had a little time to walk in Regents Park in London last weekend and happened upon the most beautiful Spring vistas and tulip gardens.

As we walked through the park, I found myself filled with gratitude for simple things. There are so many beautiful little blessings to see in this world of ours if we just slow down and take notice. What are you most grateful for? What fills you with feelings of love and appreciation? Here are a few of the things I love most about our experience in England.

Narrow, winding roads through the countryside
Sunny days
Tree tunnels
Thatched roof cottages
Serving 24/7 in a shared purpose with my eternal companion
Family - even more cherished than ever before
Dear friends - near and far
Lemon curd (food for the gods)
Swans on lakes
Flowering trees
Green space - a national treasure
A profound understanding that we have a Savior who loves us and
      died that we could live again
The restored gospel of Jesus Christ
The London Temple in all it's glory, especially at nightfall when the
      lights are coming on and the sky is a brilliant azure blue.
Planes flying overhead (weird, but true)
Saturdays when the parking lots are filled with coaches (buses) and cars
Night birds - their beautiful songs after sundown 
Red double-decker coaches
The joy of service
The peace of the temple grounds, it's paths, and it's reflecting pond
Our dear London Temple presidency and temple workers
Church employees who keep everything running smoothly - security, engineers, gardeners, accommodations
The Mission Office missionaries - every one of them
Our wonderful sister missionaries and senior couples
Ducks and ducklings
Rainbows over the temple after rainstorms
British humor
The hustle-bustle fun of London
British history and royalty
Window flower boxes
Castles and manors
My hard-earned drivers' license
Converts - people who we've watched transform and find peace and purpose
Families, ward and stake members picnicking on the temple grounds
Cornish Pasties
Fish and Chips with malt vinegar
Sat Nav (GPS) - couldn't function without it
Meeting people from all walks of life and much of the world