Monday, February 25, 2008

Spring is coming to beautiful London, England!

The weather is starting to warm up here and we are seeing the sun for at least part of every day now. It is wonderful. We have had a very busy week doing fellowshipping, entertaining, studying, doing service, etc.
Last week, we attended the London Temple with our friends, the Perrys, from Prescott, Arizona. They have a car so they picked us up and he had planned to KILL TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE and do a little sightseeing while we were heading to the temple. The temple is actually quite a ways out in the country from here. It takes us about 45 minutes to get there on a good day.
We scouted out and finally found HEVER CASTLE, which is castle owned by Henry the VIII's second wife, Anne Boelyn's family (she was beheaded by Henry VIII). After Henry VIII beheaded Anne, he inherited the castle. He kept it and used it sparingly for several years until he had organized the Church of England so that he could divorce is 4th wife Anne of Cleve. As part of the divorce settlement, he gave her the castle and it has been in her family ever since. It is now part of the National Trust and is maintained by the English Government as a place for tourists to visit. We also visited Penhurst Manor House. It is located in some lovely old countryside. The family that currently lives there has owned the home for over 400 years. It is massive and such beautiful scenery can be seen from its hill top perch. The village that surrounds it is very old and many very wealthy professional people that work in London live here and commute into the city daily. We enjoyed seeing this old village.
The countryside around the castle and the temple is just what you think of when you think of England: Little narrow roads with hedgerows on either side, horses and sheep grazing in the pastures that are still incredibly green even at this time of year, beautiful rolling hills, big estate homes situated prominently on the farms, rock fences along the roadways, and old, old, old homes everywhere and most of them are in great repair. London is like a different country compared with the country which isn't actually too far away from the congestion of the big city.
The temple is located next to an historic old manor house that is currently being refurbished. There are also many buildings there that are used for housing for the temple workers. The cafeteria at the temple is marvelous. The chef there is from the South of England on the Jersey Islands. He is renowned for his great cuisine. He has tried to retire several times from being the cook here, but they keep calling him back. The temple is located on a large tract of land that is so beautiful. I would assume that it was purchased by President McKay soon after the 2nd World War. The land there now would be frightfully expensive. We think that the land around the temple would be at least 10 acres. It is landscaped beautifully with large trees, flowers, ponds, benches, etc. Located next to the temple is the Mission Office. We understand that Jan Ashworth's mother is coming to work in the office there in a couple of weeks. We hardly ever get to the mission office because it is so far away from us. There are two older sisters who work there plus to young elders. The mission president and his wife only get into the office about once a week because they live about 45 minutes away in their home.
We enjoyed our day out very much. It is good to occasionally spend some time with good friends and see some of the beautiful scenery here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Today in Jolly Old England!

It has been a really busy week so far so I am a little behind in getting this sent. It is very cold here and damp. We have been sick with the flu for several days, so we are a little behind with everything. The flu is really going around here and the whole ward is sick. In fact, they had a Valentine's Dance on Saturday and the only ones who showed up were about 8 women and Kenneth. Needless to say, Kenneth didn't want to dance at all so the women just got up on the floor and all danced together. Kenneth just sat and ate the refreshments!!! These women from Ghana in our ward really know how to cook. The food is delicious and lots of it. I was planning to tell you a little bit about the church here. Our building was built in 1887, at least the front part of it. It is four stories high with little steep stairs that are pretty hazardous. A chapel and cultural hall were built on the back of the old building. It is not in great shape. They seem to have the idea here that if something is old you can not throw it away, because it might become valuable again at some point. There is so much old junk lying around that it is unbelievable. Kenneth calls it an Archive here at the chapel. We have gradually begun throwing things away. We have cleaned up many of the classrooms and refinished all of the chalkboards. Our next project is to clean out the cultural hall and shampoo the carpets. The people in our ward are the best. They are very sincere and so very friendly. They suffer a lot of opposition here. It is hard to be a member of our church. Many employers don't want to give them Sunday off and everything here is geared towards the carnal and worldly things. Our youth are strong though, even though there are few of them. We have been teaching Seminary. We usually get about 6 students out each night. We teach it on every night between Tuesday and Friday. Kenneth has been working with the Ward Clerk to clean up the rolls of the ward. Last night, we were able to get rid of 20 memberships of people who have either moved long ago or have died in the last few years. We are systematically making visits and calls to check on addresses and phone numbers of people who at one time or another used to live here. We now have the missionary effort here running in high gear and we hope to see lots of results.
We hope you are all well. We miss seeing everyone, but at least we don't have enough free time to get too home sick. The four wheeling trip sounded like fun. We'd love to see all of the snow in Pine Valley. George Cropper (our neighbor) says that the snow is up to his hips at our cabin, but the cabin is still standing, so that is good news. I am attaching a picture of the London Temple. We try to get to it once a month. We went last month and are going down again on Friday. Cheerio!!!!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sunny England is Foggy today - AGAIN!

We have had a week and a half of beautiful sunny weather and now today it has turned cold and foggy again. Kenneth is trying to wash and dry our sheets. We have them spread out all over the house because it is too damp to dry anything outside. I'll tell you about our humble abode here. It is a row house about 75 years old. We have a small dining room and living room decorated in red and pink carpet. We have two red couches and BEAUTIFUL red velvet drapes. I feel like I am in Marysvale again, staying in a brothel. Some of you will understand that. Ken and I were always assigned to the Red Light Room when our four wheeling group stayed at the Old Pine Inn up there. We probably have about four hundred square feet on the main floor. We also have a hallway kitchen on the main floor. One person has to go in and come out before another one can go in. Upstairs we have a small bathroom and two bedrooms. We even have a bed in each bedroom now, so we can accomodate guests when they show up. Yesterday, our friends, the Perrys, from Prescott, Arizona presented us with a blow up mattress to put on top of our regular mattress. Wow, it was wonderful. It feels like a regular pillow top mattress from the states now. You are okay unless you fall out. It is now a long way to the floor.
We spent three days this week near Oxford with my family. We had a great visit and we were able to meet many extended members of the family at a big family birthday party. Kenneth made a good impression and now they all want us to come and visit them. We will do that periodically as we have time in the next few months. We also went to Blenhiem Palace, where Winston Churchill was raised. It is so massive that it takes your breath away. The grounds were so beautiful.
We are keeping busy here. We have a new responsibility added to our list. We are now teaching Seminary to add to our list of jobs. This year the curriculum is the Old Testament, so that will be a huge test for me because I have long tried to avoid that book. I guess this serves me right. I will have to learn it now!
We were able to watch President Hinckley's funeral at the Stake Center here. It was a great tribute to a great man. We are really excited about President Monson and his new Europeon Counselor, Pres. Uchtdorf. I think it will be a great help in proselyting over here. Too many people think that our church is an American Church and that we tend to think we are a little superior to the rest of the world. I think that this should soften that perception.
We are well and happy, although we really miss home and everyone there. We understand that you have had lots of storm there. We are doing our best to send it your way. Thanks so much for all of your prayers. We can feel the strength of them in our challenges here.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Good Report on England!

Life is very busy here in jolly old England. We are getting into a routine and getting to know places and people. Sunday is an especially busy day for us. We are very busy during the block trying to keep everything running and then we spend most of the rest of the day feeding and working with the Elders. They have bottomless pits for stomachs, so we are going through lots of food, but we love it and them. One Elder is from Ohio, one from Arizona, one from France, and one from Northern England. They are so awesome. They are such hard workers. The work here is hard, but they keep smiling and do great. The ward is wonderful. There are about 150 members who are active. I would say that about 90% of the ward is black. They are such humble, loving people. They seem very grateful to have us here. I am about the only person in the ward who plays the piano, so I get used a lot there. Kenneth is very involved in the
Bishopric. They rely on his expertise. We have had wonderful weather here mostly for the last couple of days. On Thursday, however, we had a major gale with rain and wind that was terrific. Two ships in the Sea between Ireland and England got blown over. They had to rescue the crews and passengers. There were also about 200 people stranded on the M 62 for over 24 hours. I was glad that we were in Southern England and not further north. We are spending a lot of time right now trying to get the Institute and Seminary students all signed up and attending those meetings. The youth seem to be very strong here, but there are few of them. I am helping out with YW. I am very impressed with those that attend. There are no fence sitters here. They have to be truly converted to be attend. We are well. We went to downtown London on Monday with the Perrys, a couple from Prescott, AZ that we were in the MTC with. We went to "Wicked" and ate dinner down there. It was so wonderful. We are going to try to do some exploring down there about once a month. By the time some of you come over, we will know our way around. The bus, train, and tube system here is amazing. We have all the hook ups right here in Morden, so it only takes about 20 minutes to get into downtown London, so we have a good location here.