Saturday, November 30, 2013

Here It Is: The Real Truth About Senior Missions

With the announcement in the Church News a few weeks ago that Elder Mike and Sister Rebecca Pinegar will serve as the new directors of the London Temple Visitors' Centre beginning January 2014, we are realizing that the sweet opportunity and magnificent blessing of serving as missionaries in the England London South Mission will soon be coming to a close. Though we are truly trying to remain focused to the end, we are beginning to reflect on the last two years and what an amazing experience it has been. It has been a time of joy, growth (sometimes fun, sometimes painful), love, hard work, more hard work, and many, many miracles and blessings. What a grand privilege!

Recently, one of our good friends, a senior missionary serving here on the temple grounds with her husband, commented that she wasn't prepared for how hard some of the adjustments would be when she came on a mission. She said she had really only heard about the joys and blessings when others she knows had come home and reported about their missions. She had never thought about the difficulties she might encounter. I'm  quite sure that's a very common experience, and she's not alone. Many, if not most, young elders and sisters, as well as seniors, come into the mission field with lofty expectations based on the reports they've heard before they came. But in defense of all those past missionaries (seniors and otherwise) who may have been a bit Pollyanna-ish in their reports, missions are a lot like giving birth. Once you are gazing at that beautiful new baby in your arms, all the morning sickness, fatigue and pain of childbirth becomes a distant - and gladly borne - memory. All you remember is your sense of accomplishment and great joy at being allowed such a privilege. Serving a mission is a similar experience.

Because Don and I are still currently serving, our memories of the hard times haven't been dispersed by the euphoria of success quite yet! So we thought this would be a great time to offer our official/unofficial list of truths about senior missions. I can't say that we are experts about senior missions. We have friends here on the temple grounds who are serving their third and even fourth missions. However, after being away from home for nearly 2 1/2 years now, Don and I have learned a few things we'd like to share. I also took the liberty of questioning several of our fellow senior missionaries about their experiences and have included some of their thought in the following list, too.

(Most of the) Senior missionaries in the England London South Mission
October 2013
Senior Missionaries:  Couples who leave their families for 
a little while so that others can be with theirs forever.

(or) What We Wish We'd Known Before We Came
  1. No matter how much you love your spouse, there will be times when being together 24/7 for a couple of years is just too much!  After jobs, children, grandchildren, church callings and other responsibilities have sent you in different directions for most of your married life, it is an adjustment to spend all your time together in much closer quarters than you are probably used to. Almost always, however, this leads to greater unity and a stronger, closer marriage than you ever thought possible. You will learn new ways to work together. This has certainly been true for us.
  2. No matter how old you are, or how much you think you've learned, you will have to learn new things.
  3. Just because you are called to serve in an English speaking country, do not assume you will know what is going on around you - especially if you serve outside your country of birth. There is always a learning curve. New places, new customs, new living conditions, new foods, new products, new words and accents, new traditions, and new ways of doing things will all take some getting used to. No matter where you serve, it is not going to seem like home for awhile. You are going to have to adjust and be flexible!
  4. You are going to get sick of the two suitcases full of clothes that you brought!
  5. Senior bodies sometimes have a hard time adapting to new climates and surroundings and you will most likely deal with some health issues (usually annoying, but not life threatening) that you didn't expect.
  6. There are no vacations on missions. Let go of any "Cruise" mentality you have - but that doesn't mean you won't have fun. You will have opportunities for some sight-seeing and free time.
  7. If you serve with all your heart, might, mind and strength, you will be tired -- often! And you will be busy - really busy.
  8. Serving a mission is a sacrifice. Sacrifices can be hard. You will have people who are depending on you to carry out what you have committed to do, even when you don't feel like it. It's all about service.
  9. You'll have to have the faith and courage to try things you've never done before.
  10. No matter what you thought it would be like, you will be surprised.
  11. There will be times when you miss your family - but this challenge is going to be easier than you think. Even though you won't be physically present for family gatherings and milestones, you can almost always Skype, and Skype can be just as good as being there!  Really!!!  And when you see how the Lord watches out for your family in your absence, it's going to seem more like a blessing than a sacrifice.

(or) Why You're Going To Cry When You Go Home
  1. You are going to learn and grow, and so is your family.
  2. You will receive divine help and strength as you turn to the Lord and ask for His help. You will also feel the strength of other peoples' prayers for you.
  3. You will be an inspiration to your children and grandchildren. You will have opportunities to build their faith through sharing your missionary experiences with them.
  4. Your knowledge and understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ will increase.
  5. Your faith in God and trust in His plan for you will increase. 
  6. Endless tender mercies will help you achieve success in your assignments.
  7. Working with a variety of people and personalities will provide you with a great opportunity to expand your comfort zone and your confidence. You will meet and make some fabulous new friends - and establish eternal friendships. 
  8. You will feel great peace and joy at times.You will recognize God's presence in your work.
  9. You will find out that your family can manage their own lives!
  10. The world will get smaller as you make friends from many nations. You will have compassion for the circumstances of others.
  11. Spiritual gifts will strengthen you - such as a greater ability to discern needs, to memorize, to speak in public, to love, or to endure.
  12. You will have the time you want to study the scriptures and focus on spiritual things.
  13. You will marvel at the effect that the gospel of Jesus Christ has on the lives of those who find it and embrace it.
  14. You will learn the worth of a soul.
  15. You will learn to love the people you serve and work with - deeply. You will wrap your heart around the people and places where you serve.
  16. You will feel God's loving arms around you as you serve Him.

Elder & Sister Anderson with the two of us and Elder & Sister Horsley.

Meet Elder (Tom) and Sister (Joan) Anderson from Smithfield, Utah. They arrived in London just this week. Their journey as senior missionaries is just beginning! They will serve here at the London Temple Visitors' Centre for eighteen months. They have sacrificed much to come and serve the people of England. They will work hard, they will even struggle, they will find joy, and they will be blessed. Of this I am certain. What an privilege and opportunity awaits them!                                ~Pat~

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lord of All, To Thee We Raise...

... This Our Hymn of Grateful Praise.

For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and starts of light;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind's delight,
for the mystic harmony,
linking sense to sound and sight;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For each perfect gift of thine
to our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
flowers of earth and buds of heaven.
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For thyself, best Gift Divine,
to the world so freely given
for that great, great love of thine,
peace on earth, and joy in heaven:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

In 1864, Folliott S. Pierpoint (age 29) wrote this beautiful hymn that has become one of the most beloved anthems of gratitude in the Christian world. Folliott was mesmerized by the beauty of the countryside that surrounded him. I can understand that. He was born in Bath, England and spent much of his life in Somerset and in Cambridge. The beauty of the English countryside can indeed be mesmerizing. I am sure that I will now forever see visions of England's beauty when I sing this hymn.

I love the simple, God-given blessings described by Pierpoint. His hymn doesn't refer to the houses we live in, the jobs we do, or the things we own, but it reminds us of the blessings available to all of God's children:  the earth and everything in it, the people around us, and most especially, the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We all have so much to be grateful for in, even in the hard times.

When Don and I speak in Sacrament meetings around Southern England, he often addresses the subject of gratitude. He relates that there are thousands of reasons for us not to be happy, or not to be grateful, but it is very simplistic to blame our unhappiness on the things that we lack. It's easy to focus on the things that we lack when we compare ourselves to others or when we believe all the advertisements we are bombarded with.

Elder Steve Snow said, "Pursuit of career goals, wealth, and material rewards can cloud our perspective and often leads to a lack of appreciation for the bounteous blessings of our present circumstances. It is precarious to dwell on why we have not been given more. It is, however, beneficial and humbling to dwell on why we have been given so much."

Our sister missionaries decorated the tables this year.

This year, we have celebrated an entire week of Thanksgiving. Can anyone have too much gratitude (or turkey and pumpkin pie)??  On Sunday night, we were invited to join all the temple workers who are living on the temple grounds for a sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner. The Littlefields, Murdocks, and Strongs organized the feast and prepared the turkey and stuffing. Everyone else who attended signed up to bring a potluck dish.There was soooo much food!

Monday afternoon the missionaries from the ELSM Mission Office joined all of us from the London Temple Visitors' Centre for another delicious feast. Elder and Sister Horsley, our only senior couple serving in the Visitors' Centre at the moment, asked if they could prepare the whole meal themselves. Are you kidding me???  They didn't even want any last minute help in the kitchen -- and they made it all look effortless. I could take a lesson from them....  They've obviously done this before. Elder Horsley (Rick) was a cook for the National Guard in Utah.  Amy (our own Amy who is visiting us right now) volunteered to make all the pies. What a treat!

L to R:  Sisters Walmsley, Ylisaari, Namutamba, Phermsin, Maddocks,
McLaws, and Amy (Carpenter) Slade. We enjoyed pumpkin, pecan,
chocolate pecan, mincemeat, and apple pies - a first for some of our sisters.

Turkey and all the trimmings.

L to R:  Sisters Maddocks, Phermsin, Namutamba,
McLaws, Walmsley, Cates, Qumsiyeh, and Ylisaari.

Don, Amy, Sister Ottley (Elder Ottley behind), Elders Sparks and Wehrman,
President & Sister MIllar, and Sister Adams in the background.

Sister Horsley - still smiling, and enjoying
the fruits of her labors.

Friday night, I will get my turn to cook a turkey. Elder Tom and Sister Joan Anderson arrive Friday to begin their mission as the second senior couple in the Visitors' Centre. Since they fly out of Salt Lake City on the morning of Thanksgiving, we thought it would be fitting for us to show our gratitude to them by serving them the Thanksgiving dinner that they will miss at home. (And we won't mind having some leftover turkey.) So that makes three Thanksgiving dinners this week. Now that's something to be grateful for!

Parting thought for the week:  


Let's all give thanks.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

It seems that good intentions are not enough when it comes to publishing blog posts :)  Time has gotten away from us these past few weeks. We've been busy with some excellent firesides and programs, with transfers, departing missionaries, new missionaries, group PDay activities, training meetings, daily Visitors' Centre shifts, speaking assignments, the re-opening of the temple, and on and on and on....   So here's our photo journal of some of the things we've been up to in November.

A couple of weeks ago, we had a great PDay activity with all the sister missionaries and seniors serving at the Visitors' Centre. It turns out that we are only about 20 minutes from the 100 Aker Wood!  Yup, Winnie the Pooh was "born" just down the road in the Ashdown Forest.  A.A. Milne wrote his beloved childrens' stories based on his love for the area near the family's weekend retreat close to Hartfield, in Sussex.

It was a blustery day, but the rain stopped long enough for us to take
a walk through the beautiful (and sometimes muddy) woods.
Thanks to the Bridgstocks, we all had warm, dry feet in our "Wellies."

Sister Stewart checking out Eeyore's house.

Playing Pooh Sticks at the bridge.

Winnie the Pooh wasn't home :(

L to R:  Sisters Maddocks, Stewart, Ylisaari, Walmsley, and McLaws

We could have spent hours looking around this fun store!

Time out for hot chocolate and scones.

So fun to have Amy come along that day!

Our longtime friend, Catherine Fuhriman (we call her St. Kate) came to visit for a few days this month. She and Amy took off in our car and had a great time visiting the Harry Potter Studios north of London, Stonehenge, Hever Castle, London, and Dover. We got to take one day off and travel into London with them to visit Kensington Palace. It's one place I really wanted to visit before we leave London.  We made it!

Amy and Catherine in front of the Lodge on the temple grounds

I sure love the bright-colored corner flower markets in London.

The outdoor ice rink is already open outside the Science Museum.

Harrod's is completely decked out for Christmas.

The store windows are captivating.

Outside Kensington Palace

Amy and Catherine inside the palace.

On the weekend Catherine was here, we had a speaking assignment in the Oxford 2nd Ward. It's one of the places Don has wanted to visit since we arrived. We drove to Oxford Saturday afternoon after our shift in the Visitors' Centre and arrived in time to take a bus tour past the famed and historic buildings of the University of Oxford.

You can tell this is a university town when you see
all the bicycles outside the train station.

High Street, Oxford

Broad Street, Oxford, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

Stone carvings at the Sheldonian on Broad Street.

Keble College

Through these hallowed doors...

What a stately city.

Flat boats for punting on the river.

One of the Oxford colleges.

The Bridge of Sighs

Meanwhile, back at the Visitors' Centre, it's been busy.  Our sister missionaries have put together several programs for different groups lately. The "Come Unto Christ" evening was a big success (see our October 21st blog post). This past Friday night, they put on a beautiful program honoring several of the local missionaries, explaining missionary work and presenting photos and letters from the missionaries to their families. We can't say enough about all our fabulous sister missionaries! We have been so blessed to work with each of the sisters who have served with us.

Musical number for missionary families.

A slide show for the missionary families.

Brother David Bridgstock was the speaker at our "Why I Believe"
fireside on November 3rd.

Last Sunday night, Elder Joseph and Sister Alisyn Boone,
retired U.S. Air Force Chaplain and former Provo Missionary Training Center President were our speakers.

Sister Rodrigues (second from right) completed her mission
and returned home last week, and Sister Stewart (right) was
transferred to New Milton. It's always hard to say good-bye!

On Wednesday, we welcomed our newest Visitors' Centre missionary. Sister Ritah Namutamba is from Uganda. We are so happy to have her! Though only a member of the Church for 1 1/2 years, she is already amazing us with her knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ and her love for those she meets.

L to R:  Elder Horsley, Sister Ylisaari, Elder Carpenter, Sister Namutamba,
Sister Carpenter, Sister Phermsin, Sister Maddocks, Sister Horsley,
Sister Walmsley and Sister McLaws.

But perhaps the most exciting thing of all during the past week is the re-opening of the London Temple! It has been wonderful to see the temple grounds filled with patrons once again. We have missed them! While it is true that there is a sweet and peaceful spirit on these grounds, we have missed the spirit and the enthusiasm and love that the temple patrons bring with them when they come here. We are so glad the temple is open and fully operational once again!                                          ~Pat~


Monday, November 4, 2013

Our First Wedding

Well, we've just had another "first" on our mission!  The first of all the sister missionaries who have served with us at the London Temple Visitors' Centre is married!  This past weekend, on Saturday, November 2nd, Sister Virginie Cardona married Alexandre Caby in Lille, France -- and we were lucky enough to be able to attend!!!

The story of Virginie's marriage is a dream come true. She and Alexendre were engaged almost three years ago, shortly after Alexandre found the Church and was baptized. Before they got around to setting a wedding date, they decided that it would strengthen their marriage if Alexandre were to serve a mission. Virginie determined that if it would be good for him to serve a mission, it would be good for her, too, so they both turned in their papers. Alexandre was called to serve in Australia for two years. Virginie was called to serve 18 months at the London Temple Visitors' Centre. She served her entire mission at the Visitors' Centre, never being sent out to another area of the mission. She was one of our most dedicated and successful sisters. In August of this year, Virginie returned to France at the end of her mission. Alexandre arrived in France about the first of October.

Virginie and Alexandre were to be married in the London Temple on November 5th. Perfect! We planned to walk across the parking lot to the temple to attend their sealing. Unfortunately, the London Temple was closed for repairs on the first of September and won't re-open until next week. Plans had to be changed. Their sealing was rescheduled for the temple in the Netherlands, but all sealings in the United Kingdom and Europe have to be preceded by a civil ceremony recognized by the government, so we were invited to attend the civil marriage in Lille.  Even though Lille, France is out of the England London South Mission boundaries, it is in our temple district, so it is part of the area in which Don and I serve and are allowed to travel. Hooray!

What a great experience it turned out to be! We left Newchapel this past Friday with Grant and Emma Neal and traveled to Folkestone, where the Neals drove their mini-van onto the train and we traveled through the "Chunnel" under the English Channel to Calais, France.

Leaving the temple grounds with our trusty driver and great friend, Grant Neal.

The day was rainy (as usual lately).

Ready to board the Eurotunnel shuttle. It's about a 30 minute trip to France
compared to about 3 hours on a ship. 

The first cars in the queue entering the train.

It was a little freaky - and even confusing at first - to be riding on the
right side of the road again.

After a fun stop at the Cite Europe mall in Calais, we drove to Lille and checked into our hotel at the same time as Sister Billikee Howard and her friend were checking in. We invited them to come to dinner and had a great time catching up with her!

Inside the huge Cite Europe mall.

L to R:  Amy, Don, Pat, Sister Billikee Howard and
her friend Kathleen, and Emma Neal.

Saturday morning we had time to drive to Lille to see the beautiful old town centre and walk around.

The old town centre in Lille, France

Ahhh, France. Nobody knows pastry like you do!

Grant & Emma Neal,  Neil and Nora Waring and family,
Kathleen with Billikee Howard, and us. 

At 3:30 in the afternoon, we arrived to attend the civil marriage performed by the mayor in the town hall in the suburb of Ronchin, France.

Before the wedding.

Billikee Howard and Virginie Cardona with us
before the ceremony.

Little nieces and nephews carried the train of the wedding dress for the bride
as she entered the building.  So cute!!

During the wedding ceremony inside the city hall.

ELSM Missionaries:  Don, Pat, Billikee Howard, Virginie,
Sarah Maughan, Louise Paulsen.

The new Mr. and Mrs. Caby

Alexandre and Virginie

Following the civil ceremony, we all traveled to the LDS chapel in Lille for a program and refreshments. Elder Patrick Boutoille, an Area Seventy, and his wife, Benedicte, have been Virginie's adoptive parents for the past eight or ten years. They spoke during the program, along with the bishop and some close friends.

Nothing like a Jaguar to transport the bride and groom ....

Formal pictures followed the program.

The ELSM connection:  Neil & Nora Waring and their daughter,
Virginie & Alexandre Caby, Grant & Emma Neal, Louise Paulsen,
Sarah Maughan, Billikee Howard, Don & Pat Carpenter.

Virginie and Alexandre's reception was held just over the border in Mouscron, Belgium (also in the Lille Stake) at a beautiful restaurant. Following an incredible four course dinner of French cuisine, there were games and dancing until the wee hours of the morning, along with a dessert buffet (Creme Brulee, wedding cake, crepes with ice cream, profiteroles, and more) after midnight. Ooh la la! So much fun!

The wedding dance...

...was followed by a floor show...

performed for the crowd :)

The quintessential bride.

No explanation needed....

Amy and Don shared a dance.

Daddy-daughter time.

Dancing with the bride.

Other sister missionaries will soon follow in Sister Cardona's footsteps. Sister Kitzia Casasola will be married to Jeff Hoover in the Los Angeles Temple on November 30th. (We sure wish we could be there! We were sealed in the same temple.) Sister Sarah Maughan will be married to Richard Scott in the London Temple in April (and it seems strange that we won't be here to attend).

To see the sister missionaries we have worked with move on with their lives and find joy and happiness is a blessing indeed! Whether it is further schooling, a fulfilling job, or marriage, there is nothing sweeter than watching them find their path in life. We love our sister missionaries so much! Without a doubt, Sister Cardona's wedding will be one of our most favorite mission memories.         ~Pat~