Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Great, Strong LDS Missionaries Around the World

When we came out to the mission field at the end of December, I thought I knew all about missionaries and missions because we had three sons go on missions and many relatives and friends go on missions, but I guess I never really understood the greatness of the service that each of these missionaries provides to members worldwide and to our Heavenly Father. Now we are here to witness it firsthand and it makes me want to thank the great parents and families of these missionaries for the way that they have been taught and the great examples they are of dedication.
When we came out, our son, Brian, told me that one of my main jobs would be to take good care of the young missionaries: To feed them, mother them a little, and help them out when needed. That has been a job that has been easy for me to do. We have great missionaries here in the Mitcham Ward. I have sent a picture of them, so I will tell you a little about them. We have two sets of missionaries that we work with here. Our District Leader was Elder Carlberg from Sweden until Thursday. He just went home and we will miss him. He has been a great example of service and following the letter of the law. His companion is Elder Holzel, from Germany. He has only been in the country for about 3 months, but has acquired a great command of the language in that short amount of time. The other set of Elders is Elder Binks, from Spanish Fork. He is an ex football star at Spanish Fork High School. His family has just moved to Ohio. He is the cream of the crop, so sincere, but still a big joker. He loves to pull tricks on everyone. His companion is Elder Jackson, from Northern England. He is an ex-professional Rugby player. He is a wonderful young man, who we have grown to love a lot. He has been here with us for the past 4 months. The missionaries come to eat at our house regularly, usually several times a week. No matter what I fix, they eat everything. It can be tacos, spaghetti, pancakes and scrambled eggs, beef roast and potatoes, pork chops and rice, fish and chips, or whatever. Everything I put out on the table disappears, even all of the green salad!!! Then of course, we always have ICE CREAM AND COOKIES. They love the fact that Kenneth is always prepared with dessert!
We also hear from the missionaries regularly when they don't feel well. They call when they have a cold, the flu, a headache, athlete's foot, rashes, a stomach ache, etc. They want to know if I have some medicine that will make them feel better or if I have some good advice on how to fix their problem.
We also get piles of shirts without buttons, torn pants, and other assorted problems with clothing. I do the best I can with a needle and thread, super glue, and some assorted iron on patches. Iron on patches here are not nearly as good as those in the states. Often I have to supplement the glue on those with a little super glue of my own.
We have been stressing cleanliness here and how it even helps you feel better both mentally and physically if your flat is clean. So quite often the Elders come to borrow mops, brooms, soap, cleaning products, the vacuum cleaners, etc. They say they have less mold on their walls now and that makes them feel better, so I hope they keep that up.
We love these young men. They are great examples of everything good. The work here is hard, but they are always upbeat and an inspiration to both of us. Included in the picture are two other missionaries that are in our District. They serve in Wimbledon, which is near here, but we don't see them often. They are Elder Roberts from Cedar City and Elder Christofferson from back east somewhere.
We are keeping busy, as usual. I did manage to go to Hyde Park to the Family History Center this week and I now have 10 names from my mother's side of the family ready to do temple work on. It is so exciting to me. What a great opportunity this is for me to be able to find these family connections.
We had our first visitors this week from home. Brent and Carolyn Russen (she was Carol Jeppson) from SLC came to visit for a few days. They got here on Saturday and left on Monday evening. We were so excited to see them. It was great to have good friends here to spend time with. We hope to see more of you in the next 14 months.
Well, I must tell you that we love to hear from you all. It is so exciting whenever we get an email from home. We love you and appreciate how all of of you have touched our lives for good through the years. Have a great week.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Shopping, Shopping, Shopping in London

We are doing well and keeping busy here as usual. You know, years ago, I used to think it was really funny how everyone here went grocery shopping almost every day. Seemed like such a waste of time. Back home, I only went about every 2-3 weeks. I would stock up and be done with it for a while. Not so here. We are just like everyone else over here. The refrigerators and too small and the ability to carry grocery sacks home on the bus is so limited that it seems like we are doing a little shopping every day. Kenneth gets a little put out with it, but he refuses to be embarassed by taking a rolling suitcase to the grocery store so that we can bring more home at a time. Occasionally, someone will take us to the store in a CAR and we go hog-wild and buy lots of food. Then when we get home there is nowhere to put it. Kenneth then has to eat a HUGE dish of ice cream or more out of the old carton so that he can fit the new
carton into the freezer. It is quite a process. We do have a variety of stores here. There are three big food chain stores here. They are Sainsburys, Tesco, and Asda (which is Wal-Mart owned and run). Tesco was just a small store in a few spots just a few years ago, but has grown into a huge chain and they have Super Tescos all over the place now. Asda is supposed to be like a Super Wal-Mart. They are not nearly as large here as they are in the States. Everyone here says that America has to have the largest and best of everything! They love the US, but like to make jokes about the way we do things there. I think that we have a pretty darn good system there. After being here for almost 4 months, we can see a huge contrast in the way that Americans do things and the way most everyone else does. Americans seem to have an ingenuity to find quick and good ways to do things. People over here don't seem to have the vision or a good reason to do
things better and faster. It takes a long time for anything to get finished over here. We love England, but have really grown to appreciate the great US of A. There are also many, many small shops in every town selling all of the same things that the big stores sell. Most of these stores are owned by people of Indian or Pakistani descent. They are very hard workers and work long hours. Unfortunately, many of the little stores go out of business, because it is so difficult to compete with the big box, chain stores so we see a huge turnover in those businesses.
Work here is very busy and rewarding. We finally found 17 frames to frame the art work that we had ordered for the church. We got those all framed and hung this past week. It looks so good. We are still waiting for two large prints to come from SLC, but all the rest are hung. WE are heading down today to clean carpets. We have a missionary open house in a couple of weeks so we want everything to look great. I am now trying t get up to courage to approach the Bishop here and ask him if we can paint the Relief Society Room. It is the most used room in the building and the walls are in pretty bad shape. Kenneth and Elder Perry have been working on the leaks in the roof and I think they have them all stopped up now, except for one place. They will work on that again this week. We are also working with several part member families. I think we are making good progress. I am teaching one part member family how to do geneology work using PAF 5.2 and They seem to be very interested.
The weather here is still cool and rainy. Occasionally we see the sun and we get really excited for a few minutes until it goes back behind the clouds again!!!
Hope all is well there. It is good to hear from you and hear about life there. We send our best wishes to all of you and tell you that the church is true. It is so great and wonderful to be part of the church wherever you go. The people here are so loving and appreciative to us. We have truly enjoyed getting to know all of them. It has been and continues to be a great experience. Lots of love, Ken and Barbara Beckstrom
PS We went down to London last week to last week and saw the play "Mama Mia". It was so good. We loved the music from ABBA. We also took a few pictures of beautiful downtown London. I am sending a couple of those to you. The London Eye is a huge ferrus wheel 437 feet tall that moves very slowly so that you can see the whole area for miles around.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ninty-Four Ethnic Groups in the Wadsworth Stake!

We are feeling great for a few hours here because the sun is actually shining. You never know for how long that will last, but we are enjoying it for now. It has been really rainy and cold for a few days, so we are praying for a little taste of spring. We even got in the mood and went out and bought us a little barbeque so that we can entertain all of our visitors, ward members, and the missionaries in our back garden. It is pretty primitive, but we think it will work and the food will taste good, just like home.
This is a very interesting area that we live in here in South Eastern London. We live in Morden, the church is in Mitcham, and we do most of our shopping in Sutton or Collier's Wood near Wimbledon. This area consists of about 1/2 million people. There are a few white English people around, but mostly other ethnic groups. A lot of the people in our ward are from Ghana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Uganda, the Philippines, Iran, Guyana, Jamaica, etc. In our stake there are 94 different ethnic groups. It is a very diverse society here. Most people are here to get a good education, free health care, earn money to send home to their families, and to get ahead enough that they can sometime return home to their home country. Many of the people from Ghana are building homes there with the money that they earn here and will return there at some point in their lives if their country remains stable. Many of them have even left children or wives behind in order to come here and work or get an education. Most of the shops in Morden and Mitcham are owned and operated by people from India or Pakistan. They seem to be very industrious and work very long hours. They have a problem here in London that they call "White Flight". This means that most of the white English people move to the country as soon as they can afford to get out of London. There is a lot of petty crime in London and English people want a different life. That is considered to be a huge problem here.
The church grows slowly here. Many people in this area are difficult to teach, because they are not terribly committed or organized enough to keep their appointments. There are also many people not married to the person they are living with. People seem to be barely existing. Very few people here in London smile. They all act too stressed to be friendly or interested enough to talk to you or even say "hi". The missionaries work very hard and are so thrilled when we see success. We are planning a big open house called "The Mormon Experience" in a couple of weeks. We hope it will be a huge success. We are working hard to get the members to give us referrals. They are starting to get more involved so that is good.
We occasionally get out for a day to visit some of the old historic homes and castles in this part of England. They are so spectacular and the gardens are to die for. Of course, everything here grows without too much effort because of all the rain so it is unheard of to have to water or irrigate your garden. I am just getting ready to plant some tomato, lettuce, radish, and onion plants in some small planters in the back garden. We will see if they will grow!!! I am including a couple of pictures of an old historic home called Hampton Court that we visited. It is not the Henry VIII Hampton Court, but a different one that is a bit smaller. It also had spectacular gardens which we enjoyed very much.
Our lives continue to be very busy here. We finally received the paintings that we ordered for the church house, so we went to Sutton to buy frames and Kenneth and I hung about 13 of them this morning at the church. It looks so much better. We still have 6 more to hang. I need a woman's opinion on how to hang the rest of them so we will wait until the Perrys can come by and have a look.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Our English Family is Wonderful!

We are doing well here, however the weather is a bit mixed up. We had snow on General Conference Sunday and Easter. I'm not sure what happened here at Christmas time because we weren't here, but I think winter has come in the middle of April. It is cold today, but not snowing so that is good. WE enjoyed General Conference. We spent 14 hours at the Stake Center yesterday. We went at 10 in the morning and got back about midnight. It was a long day, but we enjoyed it a lot. This has been a special week. We spent Wednesday through Saturday visiting my cousins in Lechlade on Thames and Herefordshire. We had a wonderful time. Their hospitality was amazing. It is so interesting because these are cousins that I basically have known only through letters and a few short visits through the years, but it is like we are kindred spirits having always known them. We just immediately have
connected with them. It has been wonderful. I have four first cousins over here. Donald and Judy are my first cousins that we visited this weekend. Their mother was my mom's sister. Judy has never married, but Donald is married and has four children who are now all married except his daughter Hannah. We had a big family dinner with them on Saturday. Almost everyone was there. At the meal, Donald made a little speech. In it he said how much they all loved having their American cousins here and how we had become friends so quickly. I then tried to tell them how much we loved seeing them all and how comfortable we were already with them. I am so sure that my mom is so happy about the opportunity we have to be here and renew old ties with this part of my family. Of course, I had to weep just a little. Some of them were crying, too, so at least I didn't cry alone. We even had a good discussion about life after death and our beliefs with Judy.
We also talked about the purpose of the temples and family history work that seal families together for eternity. It was a great time. Judy is planning to meet me at the Family History Library at Hyde Park in a couple of weeks so that we can do some geneology. That will be exciting, too. I am sending a picture of my cousin Donald's home in Herefordshire, near Wales and a picture of our flat covered in snow from yesterday.