Monday, December 30, 2013

Things We're Gonna Miss

Mission time just does not pass at all like normal time. The first six months of a mission seem to last twice as long as normal time. The middle of a mission lurches forward then halts depending on your experiences and responsibilities. The last six months fly by in triple time. At first, you measure mission time in months, then in weeks, then eventually in days, because it disappears faster and faster as time goes on. But nothing could have prepared us for the blip of time that has been the last 10 weeks. I can't remember any time in my life when days have come and gone so quickly.  We've wanted to savor every minute, but time is not cooperating!

Don and I have been living the "This is the last time we'll get to _ _ _ _ _ _  before we go home" challenge for several weeks now, but it still seems surreal that we will be leaving England in a week. It is really, really difficult to think about leaving the people and places we have grown to love so much. It was hard to say good-bye as we left home to come on our mission, but this time we know we won't be returning. Our boxes have been packed and shipped. We've already said good-bye to many good friends we won't see again before we leave. This is harder than we imagined!

Though we may be leaving England, it feels like a big chunk of our hearts will be staying here. There are so many, many  people and places and activities that we will miss. Here's the shortlist of things we'll miss that Don and I have compiled over the last little while. It is by no means comprehensive. Just heartfelt.

Christmas programs and all the firesides & activities at the London Temple
     Visitors' Centre
Dear, dear friends - both on and off the temple grounds
All the fabulous sister missionaries we have served with and love so much
Sweet friendships with senior missionaries - in the VC, in the temple, and in
     the mission
West Park Manor, their "MTC" and everyone there
So many people we have met at the VC who have touched our lives
The spirit of conversion at the Christus - the powerful narrative
The Peacock Pub
Knowledgeable, well-trained, courteous drivers
Dry British humor
The Lodge - where we live - with it's massive view of the majestic
      London Temple
The trains and the Tube
The temple staff and both Presidencies
Visiting different wards each Sunday and meeting with "the Saints"
The spirit and beauty of the London Temple grounds
Having a temple about 100 steps from our front door
Ducks, foxes, and swans
British accents - all of them
The Mission Office - the source of all wisdom!
The wonderful missionaries - past and present - of the England London
     South Mission
The beauty of the English countryside - especially hedges and gardens
     and pastures of sheep
British gardens, castles, and cathedrals
Tree tunnels
Narrow roads (I never thought I'd miss them, but I will!)
Coaches (buses) on the temple grounds on Saturday
Rainbows over the temple
The excitement of London - the Thames, Parliament, Westminster Abbey,
     Big Ben, etc.
London theatre - concerts, plays and musicals
Food - Authentic Fish and Chips, Cornish pasties, Yorkshire pudding,
     Sticky Toffee pudding, and Lemon Curd, just to name a few
Majestic village churches from the 14th and 15th centuries
British culture and history

So much to love. So hard to leave.

Just before Christmas, we received a sweet gift. In the midst of all of our angst about leaving England, Kristen emailed us a copy of our 7-year-old grandson's Christmas Wish List. It reminded us that we really are going to be excited to see our family again soon! It has changed our perspective about going home. Thanks, Ammon!


                                              Ammon's Christmas List
                                              1. Kung Zoo
                                              2. Kung Zoo little thing 
                                              3. Remote Control Helicopter
                                              4. A few Hero Factories
                                              5. 2 Bay Blades
                                              6. 1 or 2 Lego sets or 3 or 4
                                              7. A bunch of candy
                                              8. A Tomigatchi with a store 
                                              9. A stuffed animal
                                             10. GRANDMA AND GRANDPA!

O.K. - so we're #10, but we made his list!  Santa's going to be a little late, Ammon, but we're coming!                 ~Pat/Grandma~

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

We Wish You A Merry Christmas!

to all our dear friends and family!

Christmas is a magical time of year - no matter where you celebrate. We've had some sweet experiences in England this year.

We spent our PDay last Monday visiting Hever Castle with our sister missionaries, senior missionaries, and the Mission Office elders -- one last time. It is one of our favorite places to hang out. The gardens and lake are divine in the spring and summer, the Cornish ice cream is the best, and the fresh flowers and Christmas decorations in December are stunning. (Originally built in the 13th century, Hever was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn until she was beheaded and Henry VIII took possession of it. Later it was owned and beautifully renovated by the well-to-do Astor family of New York.)

L to R:  Elder Sparks and Elder Wehrman
Sisters Maddocks, Phermsin, Walmsley, Stewart, Namutamba and Ylisaari

L to R:  Elder & Sister Anderson, Elder & Sister Smart,
me and Don

There is a beautiful merry-go-round outside the castle at Christmastime.

We've had visits from people we love during December.

A Saturday temple visit from the Farnsworths

Me, Sister Marilyn Anderson and Sister Berati with dear friend Eva Fulop.

And we returned again this year to the Christmas Market we love in the heart of London near the London Eye.

I think I have a thing for merry-go-rounds....

The best place to be, though, around Christmastime in England, is the London Temple Visitors' Centre.
It's a treat to be there any time of year, but at Christmas, it's a special privilege. We have had some wonderful Christmas programs again this year, and the Christmas spirit can definitely be found on the grounds of the London Temple.

Our own Sister Walmsley, along with our other wonderful sister missionaries, have done a lot to add to the Christmas spirit at the Visitors' Centre. A few months ago, Sister Walmsley organized a ward choir in the local ward (East Grinstead). This past weekend, on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, they performed hour-long programs at the Visitors' Centre. Don and I were lucky enough to participate. We love singing in ward choirs - especially at Christmastime!  There is nothing like Christmas music to touch your heart with love and gratitude for our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Sister Walmsley designed the program for the choir concert

L to R:  Elder Sparks, Sister Walmsley, Sister Stewart, NIcki Wilkes, and Elder Wehrman
wowed us when they sang "Hark To The Bells"

Sister Rashida Charles narrated the program with charm.

The East Grinstead Ward Choir sang.

Our piano virtuoso, Sister Ylisaari, accompanied the program.

Sister Walmsley and Elder Wehrman performed a guitar and flute duet.

Miah Neale and her grandfather, David Bridgstock, sang one of my
very favorites:  "In The Bleak Mid-Winter."

Sister Walmsley sang "The Christmas Song."
Move over, Nat King Cole!
Ah, the sweet sounds of Christmas!

On Christmas Eve, we were able to check off one item that's been on Don's Christmas Wish List for a very long time. Ever since he attended one in Basel, Switzerland in the early 1960's while he was on his mission, he has wanted to take me to a Christmas midnight mass. I've never had the energy to take off and go with him after organizing big family get-togethers on Christmas Eve and preparing for Christmas Day. 

This year was different. We are alone for the first Christmas in our 46 years together. We decided to attend Christmas midnight mass at the Gloucester Cathedral. At about 11 p.m. Christmas Eve, as we traveled the narrow, dark and deserted roads leading into Gloucester, I was beginning to think it was not such a grand idea -- but I was wrong. It was amazing!

The Gloucester Cathedral is a part of the Church of England. The first section was built just before 1100 A.D.  It is also the cathedral used in filming three of the Harry Potter movies. What a grand old building it is!

Gloucester Cathedral on Christmas Eve

The first visitors begin to arrive.

It was inspiring to see a couple of thousand worshipers come together to honor the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. We enjoyed the music, the scripture readings, and the sermon. The Cathedral choir was angelic. There's something about listening to a choir when the acoustics are impeccable and you are in awe of the intricate architecture all around you. My very favorite part of the service however, was when we joined voices and sang Christmas carols as a congregation. Inspiring!

Inside the Cathedral before the service began.

Magnificent architecture. How did they do that nearly 1000 years ago???

Now as we celebrate Christmas Day once again, we wish everyone we know and love a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS. May your sweetest wishes come true. Don and I are so grateful for you in our lives. May the commemoration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ be at the center of your celebration this year!                       ~Pat~

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Love Knows No Borders

Sally DeFord has become one of my favorite religious music composers of late. I've been lucky enough to sing several of her arrangements in one choir or another over the past several years. Her words and music inspire me!

Last weekend, "Enchanting," a wonderful little A Capella choir from Peterborough (and points beyond) came to perform three programs at our Visitors' Centre. Brogan Casbon is the director. Brogan and her husband, Tony, have become dear friends during the past two years. The performances were outstanding, start to finish. We loved having "Enchanting" fill our Visitors' Centre with the sweet sounds of Christmas.

"Enchanting" performed at the Visitors' Centre last weekend.
L to R:  Talulah, Brogan, Jess, Adan, Mel, Sharon and Jane

One of the group's musical numbers has been floating through my head all week -- the one by Sally DeFord. Part of the song goes like this:

     From lands of the sunrise
     From isles of the sea
     Though oceans divide us
     And miles lie between
     Come gather in spirit
     With shepherds of old
     'round Bethlehem's cradle
     Our Heavenly King to behold.
     For love knows no borders
     And love knows no bounds,
     Rejoice ye together
     For Jesus our Savior is born.

     His love knows no borders
     Nor color nor creed
     No rich and no poor,
     Neither bondsmen nor free
     And we who receive him
     Must love without end
     And carry his tidings
     Of peace and good will
     To all men.
     For love knows no borders
     And love knows no bounds,
     Rejoice ye together
     For Jesus our Savior is born.

What a message. At this time of year, the hearts of good Christians everywhere turn to Jesus Christ and his example, his life and his love. It's a tough ol' world out there, and it's hard to have love for everyone. Even in the best of situations, we struggle to get along with each other at times, but if we are really working at becoming like our Savior, we must be working at loving others.

To quote President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (April 2012), "Forgiving ourselves and others is not easy. In fact, for most of us it requires a major change in our attitude and way of thinking - even a change of heart. But there is good news. This "mighty change" of heart is exactly what the gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to bring into our lives. How is it done? Through the love of God.... The more we allow the love of God to govern our minds and emotions - the more we allow our love for our Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts - the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ."

When I think back on the past two years, one of the things that stands out most is what we have learned about love. We've learned it from getting to know the people who've come into the Visitors' Centre from all walks of life. We've learned it from our wonderful sister missionaries and senior couples. We've learned it from the temple workers, the full-time temple employees, and the Mission Office missionaries. And we've learned it from people we have met in the wards and stakes in Southern England. As we've connected with people and learned their stories, their joys, and their sorrows, we have gained so much from their examples and experiences, and we have truly learned to love them.

Two people who have taught us a lot about love are Grant and Emma Neale. We are fortunate that they live just down the road from the London Temple. They have been so amazing in the love they have shown all of us missionaries at the London Temple Visitors' Centre. They and their extended family actually have four missionaries living with them right now, as well as a young man in their ward who just received his mission call this week. We call their home the "West Park MTC." In addition, Emma is the one who created and decorated our V.C. Christmas tree both last year and this year, and she has generously taken me on several shopping trips to some great destinations when I needed to take a break from one stress or another. Such fun! And then there's her husband, Grant. We call him "Saint Grant" around here. When Don and I first arrived in England, he was already helping out by taking charge of the Visitors' Centre once a week during our training meetings. He helped us get our feet on the ground and gave us so many good insights into how things work here. He was one of the forces behind our successful quest for those "Brown Signs" that give directions to motorists trying to find the temple. As a former police officer, he has taken nearly every one of our Visitors' Centre missionaries out for countless driving practices and taught us all how to pass the driving test (not something that comes easily around here). He hasn't allowed any of us to pay him for his time yet, either. He has also helped identify fireside speakers and performers at the Visitors' Centre, and in addition to all of that, he has the funniest sense of dry British humor. He always makes us laugh! Now, that's love in action.

Emma and Grant

There are so many good people in Southern England -- and in the world! I am reminded of my very favorite Mormon Message on YouTube is called "The Civility Experiment." You can find it at
It's a true story that was filmed on the streets of New York. When we take the time to listen and truly get to know people, it is easy to find something to love in nearly everyone we meet.

"Love is the only force that can erase the differences between people...." (Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley)

Don and I have a little framed message that used to hang in our home in Draper. We brought it with us to England and it will accompany us home when we leave. It reads:

The best use of time is love. 
The best time to love is now.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Another Christmas Season Has Arrived!

Is it just me, or are the years really passing faster and faster? It seems that the world is revolving faster than it used to - though scientists say it's only milliseconds a year.  Nevertheless, the Christmas season is already upon us once again!

When I saw the temple engineers putting up the Christmas decorations on the temple grounds a few days ago, I had to stop and remind myself that summer is indeed over and so is fall. We have had beautiful weather this year. No complaints! In southern England, there are still a few brilliantly colored trees whose leaves haven't fallen yet, and the grass stays green all year long, but the weather has definitely turned colder. They say we will have snow next week -- and that's quite unusual this early in the winter. Lucky for us, we had our annual Christmas Lighting Ceremony last night - and the weather cooperated. We're so grateful!

With many thanks to the temple engineers and gardeners, Grant & Emma Neale, Don, David Bridgstock, and the Visitors' Centre sisters, the London Temple Visitors' Centre welcomed in the Christmas season last night!

The engineers began assembling our nativity creche on Wednesday

Thursday Joseph and Mary returned.

A short homecoming journey.

There may not have been room in the inn, but there is
room at the London Temple Visitors' Centre....

The best engineers and gardeners ever!

Sister Ylisaari and Emma Neale begin their magic on our tree.

Sister Ylissari with Sister Walmsley .

Amy was here to help with the garlands.

Amy, Emma, Sister McLaws and Sister Namutamba
working in our theatre.

With the decorating finished, we focused on the outdoor programme (or program) for Sunday night.

David Bridgstock was so kind to set up
his personal sound system for us.

A reception was held for our VIP's: our good friend Kenneth Harwood of the local
Tandridge District Council, our new temple presidency and their wives,
our mission president and his wife, our senior missionaries,
and Elder Chris Charles of the Seventy and his wife.

Don with Kenneth Harwood, a wonderful friend of the Church
here in Southern England.

A crowd of more than 400 people gathered to wait for the lighting.

The program included remarks from a few dignitaries and some beautiful
Christmas music from the Hyde Park Britannia Ward Young Single Adult Choir.

Don conducted the programme.

The countdown. 10-9-8-7-6...

Let there be lights!

The sweet view from the Visitors' Centre at night.

Lights greeting the cars that enter the temple gates.

Many people stayed around for a jam-packed Christmas Carol sing-along
in our Visitors' Centre theatre following the lighting ceremony.  Our sister
missionaries circulated with 8 huge trays of brownies, shortbread, and
Christmas candy. People were glad to come in and get warm!

It was a beautiful evening and a great way to begin the Christmas season! Now we are looking forward to all the programmes coming up at the Visitors' Centre during the next several weeks.

Please excuse this hastily prepared .jpg of our December Advent Calendar for the
London Temple Visitors' Centre. For further information, visit LDS.ORG.

Let the Christmas Spirit begin!                                 ~Pat~