Sunday, January 5, 2014

Thank you, England!

On Wednesday this past week, we welcomed in the new year in London at Parliament Square with a view of the fireworks and Big Ben as the clock struck 12:00. It was so much fun! Elder Arthur and Sister Pam Brooks, who direct the Hyde Park Visitors' Centre, invited us to join them and Peter and Wendy Wilson, senior missionaries, to celebrate the occasion with several million of their closest friends. I doubt we would have braved the crowds without their invitation - but we're glad we did! 

Ready to celebrate!

Parliament and Big Ben

People crowded into Parliament Square outside Westminster Abbey.

Happy New Year texts and photos to kids and grandkids

It's almost midnight.

Plastic cups and sparkling apple juice all around. Cheers!


Thank you, England! For us, the evening marked the joyous end of something very wonderful. We thought the fireworks made the perfect celebration for our last trip into London! We have completed our two-year mission, giving our hearts, might, minds and strength to this calling, and now head home for a long anticipated reunion with our daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren, extended family, and friends! Somehow, the New Year's Eve celebration turned out to be a personal celebration for us - signaling that it is time to stop bemoaning the fact that we have to leave England, and instead, look anxiously ahead to the coming weeks, months, and years. Dr. Seuss got it right when he said, "Don't cry because it is over. Smile because it happened!" How could we be anything but grateful for the experiences we've had and the people we will always hold near and dear? Yes, it will be hard to leave We will miss England and our life here terribly - but we are content. 

These are the tags we've been wearing for the past 2 1/2 years (counting the ones we wore during our CES mission in Washington, D.C.). As we are released, return home, and take off these tags, it will seem like something is missing! There is no experience quite like full-time service in  the work of the Lord.  It is hard work, but in the end it brings incomparable joy, peace, and satisfaction. A mission takes your mind off yourself and your things, and makes you extend yourself to others. That's a good thing in this competitive world of me, mine, and my entitlements. We are so grateful to have had these two years together here in England. We feel blessed -- that we have gained more than we have given.
There is so much fear, heartache, misunderstanding, and lack in the world. Many feel lost and lonely, even in the midst of vast crowds of people. From what we have learned, felt, and experienced, we know that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has the answers and truths that will calm troubled hearts, cast out fear, and bring lasting joy and peace. We have seen the light of the gospel change many lives. We have learned that true peace and happiness are not the absence of trials or conflict, but the presence of Christ in our lives.

If our feelings had to be reduced to one word at this time, that word would be gratitude.  How grateful we are to have been called to serve -- and to be blessed with the health, means, opportunity, and family support to be able to leave home and serve with full purpose.    

Tomorrow we will leave England to return to the U.S.A.  So many memories and reflections swirl around in our minds and hearts. This has been our home for two years. We love England! The surrounding countryside is majestic. The temple grounds are peaceful and beautiful. But mostly we will miss the people -- our sister missionaries, missionary couples, the office staff and temple missionaries, the good people of England, members, friends, and investigators. Our mission has been challenging and rewarding, difficult and exciting, draining and exhilarating. It has also been miraculous and inspirational. Thank you, England, for everything you have given us.

Americans, and people of all nations, owe a lot to the British people. Many of the basic freedoms, human rights, rules of law and our legal system are rooted in English soil. The Magna Carta (great charter) was issued near where we live in Surrey County in 1215 -- the first document forced onto a King of England by a group of his subjects, the feudal barons. This document led to the rule of constitutional law in the English speaking world and became a model that influenced early New England settlers as they developed their own constitutional documents, including the U.S. Constitution. Some of its language can be found in the Bill of Rights. Four copies of the Magna Carta exist in the world. The one best preserved is found at Salisbury Cathedral, which we visited early in our mission.

We are also indebted to the British scholars John Wycliffe and William Tyndale, who fought for freedom of religion and translated the Bible into English. Wycliffe, educated at Oxford, taught that the Roman church, without priesthood keys and authority, should not maintain political power over the people. Tyndale studied at Oxford and Cambridge and pushed to bring the Bible to the common people. Access to the Bible exposed the false teachings of religious leaders and weakened their unrighteous control and domination. A religious martyr, Tyndale was burned at the stake and executed in 1536. Without the great sacrifice and efforts of these British scholars, the world would not have been prepared for the Prophet Joseph Smith and the restoration of the gospel

We have been overwhelmed by how much there is to learn about the rich and varied history of this country -- from Roman ruins to factories and mills, from castles and manor houses to majestic cathedrals and humble cottages, from civil wars to world wars, and from the royalty of Buckingham Palace and Windsor to Parliament and the Houses of Lords and Commons. Americans have a hard time thinking back much more than 200 years, while England seems to have a history that can be traced forever! It boggles the mind. History is everywhere. There is so much history in the massive British Museum or Victoria &Albert that your mind quickly shifts to overload. We've learned how little we know, and how much there is to learn.

We have gained new appreciation and respect for our British ancestors in the Carpenter, Dana, Romney, Shore and related lines, and have chronicled our trips to their places of origin in earlier blog posts. These trips have meant a lot to us, as we have come to understand the hardships they endured to leave home and loved ones to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, tame the West, and establish new lives in a foreign land.

Additionally, we are grateful that our daughters and their families have been able to visit us in England during the past two years and participate to some extent in our missionary life. We have loved their letters and pictures, and enjoyed Skyping with them on a regular basis.  The active and visible support of our family at home has made a big difference in our mission.  Oh, how we love and appreciate each one of them!

As we anticipate our transition from missionary work to the real world, it seems that we have one foot in each world right now. Our bags are packed. We're almost on our way. There's only one thing left to do:  we will be speaking at tonight's "Why I Believe" fireside in the Visitors' Centre. Following the meeting, we will head for Heathrow Airport and a few days in Washington, D.C. before we head home.

Next Sunday, January 12th, we will be almost a half a world away from England, reporting our mission during Sacrament Meeting in the Draper Corner Canyon 3rd Ward at 1 p.m.  Is it possible for your heart to be in two places at once?  Oh,Yes!                               ~ Don and Pat


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