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~

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