Monday, July 28, 2008

Oh, how these Elders live!

Famous Old Pub in London
Elder & Sister Beckstrom with Sister and Elder Perry in front of Christie's Auction House

We are well here and keeping very busy. The weather has turned very hot and sticky and we are struggling to stay cool with no air conditioning on public transportation, in the church buildings, or in our house. The only place where you can go to get cool is to Asda, a subsidiary of Wal-Mart. Their stores are air conditioned. Sometimes I just want to go and sit in there for awhile. It feels like you have taken a shower and forgotten to dry off almost all day long. We are praying for a little rain so that it will cool off a little. The grass is all dying here because no one waters. They just depend on the rain coming every few days.
We have a new assignment. Many of our Elders here live in pretty messy and often dirty conditions, so we have been assigned to inspect and teach Elders how to clean apartments once a month. We have about 8 flats to inspect so it takes us almost a week to do them all with all the traveling that goes along with that.
We pack up our bottles of bleach and sponges and head out. We are trying to teach that cleanliness means being a little closer to having the spirit in their lives. Many of them haven't quite got that figured out yet. The first visit we help them clean and repair wallpaper, shower curtains, holes in walls, broken tables, broken chairs, leaking taps, broken doors, etc. and then on subsequent visits we expect that they will keep things clean and repaired or better still just don't break things at all. It has been quite an experience. It is nice to get to know all of the Elders better, but a little difficult to be the disciplining parents to all of these young men. I think we will set up a reward system this next month, with the cleanest Elders getting a prize each month. These young men will do most anything for food, especially home-made food so we will give that a try.
We are still doing a lot of visiting, attending meetings, preparing lessons and talks, helping to organize Relief Society and YM and YW activities, help part member and inactives to return to church, and any other thing that we are asked to do. Life is interesting and challenging and that is good.
We did take an evening and went out with our friends, the Perrys, to have dinner and go to the movie "Mama Mia" on Saturday. It was wonderful. We loved the ABBA music and the beautiful scenery from Greece. It was nice to have a break from reality. Sometimes that gets hard to take. WE are really blessed to have the Perrys here to socialize with. They have become really great friends to us.
We hope you are all well and happy. We think of you often and of all the good memories that we have made through the years of knowing and associating with all of you. Keep being the great people that you are.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A lovely July in the United Kingdom!

We are enjoying a nice cool July here in London. The weather has been cool and damp all month long and I love it. I did go out and buy a few summer shirts because I didn't bring many with me and so far I have not been able to wear them. I wear a jacket every day. I will not feel too bad if it stays this way all summer long. It is really lovely, really!!!
This has been a fun week. We have done our usual meetings, visiting, preparing lessons, teaching lessons, and feeding the Elders, but we have had a couple of special treats this week. One of the Elders that we had come to know here in Mitcham in the spring was Elder Dennis Carlberg, from Sweden. He went home in April and this past week he came back to visit and stayed with us here in our humble abode for a few days. It was great to see him and hear all of his news. I think he had a wonderful time visiting people that he had converted here and renewing friendships with the Elders who he knew here. It was really fun for us, too.
It was missionary moves again this past week. It is always difficult for me to see our Elders move that we have come to love and enjoy so much. I have held true to my son, Brian's, advice to never cry as the missionaries move on. I almost lost it this week as Elder Binks, who has been here for about 6 months, was moved, but I did well. Thanks, Brian, for the good advice!
Also, this week, on Friday and Saturday, we went up to Lechlade - on - Thames (near Oxford) to visit my cousins and to celebrate a couple of July birthdays. It was my cousin, Donald, and my birthday this month. We had a great celebration with most of the family there. Only one cousin who lives in South Africa was not able to attend. We had a wonderful time getting to know this magnificent family a little better. We have quite a multicultural family. One spouse is from Germany, one from South Africa, another from France, another from Scotland, and yet another from Ireland. It is fun to get to know a little more about their cultures and listen to their experiences in life. Hannah is my cousin and she is married to J.P., who is from France. They live in the North of England near the Lake District, which is a National Park. He works for a company that races cars for Ford Motor Company. He is the brains behind the race car. He engineers the cars to go the very fastest times possible in Rally Races all across Europe. He is working with a Ford Focus right now that costs about 1/2 of a million dollars to build. They then take this technology that comes from racing this car and incorporate these ideas into their regular cars to make them the best cars possible. The Ford Focus is a very popular car over here. It is a diesel and gets approximately 61 miles per gallon. I would say that about 1 in every 4 cars here is Ford built. There are also quite a few Toyotas, Vauxhalls (which is a GM brand), BMW's, and VW's. Most cars here are lots less expensive than US cars. I do not think that they have all of the fancy gadgets and safety engineering built into them that we have over there. Almost all cars here are also stick shifts. J. P. said that Americans like automatic transmissions because they are too lazy to shift gears. That caused quite a reaction. You know how the
French love the Americans!!! (ha-ha) Just to make you all feel better there, gasoline or petrol as they call it over here is about 1.25 pounds per litre. There are about 4 litres per gallon, so that puts the price at about 5 pounds per gallon. Converting that to dollars makes petrol about $10 a gallon or diesel is about $11 a gallon. We are noticing that alot more people are riding the buses now. There are many, many cars parked along the roads that are for sale. Many people here are really struggling financially as I'm sure people are there also. House prices continue to go down, too, so the economy here is not in very good shape.
We are well and the work is progressing. We have several new converts, part member families, and inactives that we are working with very extensively. We think that we are making inroads and will see many good results from our efforts. There is much work here to do and we never have enough time to make all of the visits, etc, that we need to make. The people here in the ward are so loving and so appreciative that it makes working really hard very easy.
We hope that you are all well and happy there. The summer continues to speed by. Soon school will be starting up again. I remember all of those years that I prepared for the beginning of another school year and how much I loved meeting and teaching my new students. Good luck to all of you as another school year begins.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Chocolate is a food staple in England, too!

Penhurst Castle - Kenneth and the Perrys
When we came to England over 6 months ago we wondered about what our diet might be like in England. We had heard many jokes through the years about English cuisine, and the jokes were not very flattering usually. It has been a learning process for us, but we have found that we can cook just about anything we could in the States as soon as we figure out the names of the different ingredients and how to make them work. Kenneth has been pleasantly pleased with the availability of GREAT chocolate and CREAMY ice cream. I have been particularly pleased with the wonderful fruit and vegetables. They are very fresh and available year round. Strawberries, melons, raspberries, blueberries, etc. are very, very good here. I think a lot of them come from Spain. In the large grocery stores, there are a variety of foods from different countries. We can now buy taco shells, hot sauce, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, pancake
mix, maple syrup (hard to find), American mustard, hot dogs, hamburgers and even thin sliced cheese for cheese burgers. I have a really hard time trying to find chocolate chips and marshmallows. They are there, you just have to figure out where they put them. I finally found the marshmallows in with the candy bars on that aisle. I cook mostly the same as I would at home except that I have to convert all ingredients from litres, milliliters, grams, and kilograms into teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, pints, quarts, etc. The temperature here is in elcius so we have learned how to convert that into farenheit. All of that old schooling finally has a use.
There is a great tradition here that I am particularly enjoying. The flowers here in the stores are available at very reasonable prices and they are so fresh. Whenever anyone comes to our home to eat or visit, they almost always bring a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers. Our house is almost always full of great smelling flowers and I love it. Last week was my birthday and I received enough flowers to fill a big house and since we have a really LITTLE house, our house was filled to the very top with gorgeous flowers from so many thoughtful people that we have learned to love here.
This has been a little slower week for me because I have had the flu. I got a flu shot before we left the States, but I think the Europeon brand of flu just ignored the flu shot and hit with both barrels blazing. Many of our ward members have also been sick. The scariest thing is that I ran out of Nyquil so I have had to supplement with cold medicine from here and it is not nearly as effective. So it has been rather a trial.
We did get the Bishop's Office painted in a soft yellow color and hung some beautiful pictures up so it looks rather smashing. We still have the ladies restroom to do, so we will work on that next week. The chapel is really taking on a great feel and the members seem to love it so we are happy. We have also been teaching some lessons with the Elders, visiting prospective Seminary students for next year, helping the members plan a surprise 4th of July party for all of the American missionaries, visiting part member families, preparing lessons, and continuing work on the home teaching and visiting teaching plans for the ward.
We keep very busy and the work continues to move forward. The weather here is still very cool and rainy. It is beautifully green and all of the flowers that I planted in our back garden are beginning to blossom. Even my tomato plants look really healthy, so we shall see if they produce. We do hear news of some of you through the grape vine. We hope you are all well and happy and that the heat hasn't gotten too many of you down. The cool weather here is nice. We have only had about 3 days all summer when we haven't worn a jacket. I even bought myself a raincoat last week because I was always so cold and wet. I am including a couple of pictures of old tudor homes, down near the London Temple, and Penhurst House, a large stately house in that same area. There are so many incredible places to see here and so much history to learn about.
Take care and have a great week. Cheerio from Jolly Old England!!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

4th of July Celebration - Is it Independence, Rebellion, or Ingratitude Day?

We have had a very busy week. We finally got all of the holes in the walls at the church patched and we have now painted the Relief Society/ Baptism Room and the Bishop's Office a beautiful soft yellow color called Magnolia. Both rooms look really nice. Now I am going to paint the women's restroom and then I think we are finished painting for a little while.

This last week we celebrated Independence Day here at our flat with the Perrys. We had a traditional 4th of July dinner and watched a patriotic movie, "National Treasure II" afterwards. It was a good night. We even had patriotic decorations on our table. The people in our ward are divided on what to call the 4th of July. Some call it Rebellion Day and others call it Ingratitude Day. We just smile and think how blessed we are to live in a country with all of the privileges and opportunities that the great US of A has. The YW and YM are holding a belated 4th of July celebration for all of the American Missionaries tonight. We are having a barbeque and teaching them how to play baseball. The English love America, but are sometimes a little sarcastic about us because they feel that Americans think they are better than everyone else. We always tell them that we look on England as our best friend and they seem to like that. Almost everyone you talk to here has been to the US at some time in the last few years. Most of them go to the East Coast, either New York or Florida.

On Saturday, we took the two sisters who work in the Mission Office, Sister Hansen (from Ogden) and Sister Walton (from St. George. She is Jan Ashworth's mother.) to uptown London to show them the sites. We decided to take them to The Dissent and Restoration Corner of London. It was here that John Wesley started the Methodist Church and others like him that were considered dissenters, or people who dared to question the Church of England and the Catholic Church were buried, because they could not be buried in the traditional church grounds. The cemetery is called Bunhill Fields. Buried there are some of the great religious thinkers and non-conformists of England: George Fox, John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, William Blake, and Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley. The site was originally owned by the Quakers and was open for dissenter burials for 200 years. During that time over 123,000 people were buried there. They were the ones who dared question the status quo that was the law in those days.
Right across the road from the front entrance of Bunhill Fields Cemetery stands John Wesley's chapel. It is a monument to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. He was converted in 1738 when he felt the spirit of Christ warm him. After that he lived of extraordinary service and teaching. You come to realize as you visit these historic sites that the Lord was preparing the way for the Gospel to be restored long before the birth of Josepth Smith. Minds were changed and people were searching for the truth when the Gospel was restored. There were some very phenomenal people who changed the course of history during the 1500 to 1800's. It took a lot of courage to stand up against the establishment and many of them died for their beliefs. This is also the area where Brigham Young and other early missionaries for the LDS church came to preach to the people in London back in the 1840's. It is a very inspirational spot and the spirit there isstill strong today.
It was a great day. The sisters don't get to come in to London very often so they are always grateful for a chance to see the magnificent sites there.
We are just heading out to a teach with the Elders. We have 4 baptisms scheduled for August 2. Pray for us that they will go through. We have some great people in line to be baptized, but we shall see.
Hope all is well with you. It is still very chilly and rainy here. It sounds like it is just the opposite there. I don't miss the heat, but I do wish that I didn't have to wear a jacket all the time. It is very green and beautiful here and now we know why. Take care. We love to hear from you. It makes us feel that we are still a part of your lives when we know a little of what is going on over there.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

MIssionary Miracles!

Another busy week has come and gone and beautiful July is now here. It is beginning to feel like summer, at least for a day or two. It was warm yesterday and today, also, but it is supposed to cool off and rain tomorrow. I asked one of our Elders who is from England when summer begins over here. He just said, "You've already had summer!" So I guess it must be short and sweet here. This mission has been a marvelous experience, full of many different experiences, emotions, learning, and miracles.
The people that we associate with here have been real testimony builders for us. I am sending pictures of two of our favorite young Elders that we have worked with. They are such hard workers and are so dedicated. They are often not treated well by the people around here, but they continue to smile and work harder still. They are a great example to us. Elder Jackson is from Northern England and Elder Binks is from Spanish Fork, Utah.

We see miracles here every day. Some of them are small and
sometimes overlooked while others are larger and easy to recognize. Last week, the LDS Church over here sponsored "Helping Hands" day all over the United Kingdom. It was a day to do an organized service project for a needy group in the community. Our stake did a clean-up project for a large council housing project here that was badly in need of aid. We painted, cleaned up weeds, hauled off old furniture, etc. It was a great day with many people participating. The Perrys (the senior couple from Arizona) and Ken and I were cleaning up a planter near one of the buildings. Kenneth and Steve were cutting out the bushes with pruning shears and Leslie and I were loading up the branches into garbage bags. I had this distinct impression that we should not be picking up the trash with our hands, but that we should go and find a shovel to do it. Just then, we looked down and noticed a hyperdermic needle right on top of the next pile of garbage to be picked up. We stopped immediately and listened to the prompting that I had just received. Small but significant!
A couple of months ago we were building shelves and helping a single sister in our ward to organize and clean up her home. We had sort of wondered if this was the most productive thing that we could be doing with our time. She was so grateful and it seemed to help her so much that we continued. That night, I woke up in the middle of the night with the song "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" running through my mind with the particular part of the lyrics repeating in my mind over and over. They were "These deeds shall thy memorial be, fear not, thou didst them unto me." That was my 4:00 AM miracle that night. These are just of a couple of the manifestations of the spirit that we feel almost daily here. It is a great blessing for us.
At a recent Zone Conference, we learned that the theme of missionary work is: Work, Work, Work, Do Your Duty! We feel that that truly is the theme of our mission here. We are beginning this morning to paint the Relief Society Room/Baptism Room, the Bishop's Office and the Women's Restroom. They are all painted pink and are in a sorry state of disrepair. Elder Perry and Kenneth have repaired all of the holes in the walls and now we will begin painting and watching the church become even more beautiful. The church here has really turned out to be quite nice and we are very pleased.
We try to remember Elder Monson's quote in our work here. "Never, never, never delay a prompting!" That has served us well so far and we hope to continue to do the Lord's work as he prompts us to do so.
We hope that you are all well and happy. I'm sure that the summer weather is warm and everyone is vacationing and enjoying this time of the year. We are trying to think of a way to celebrate the 4th of July here. We are thinking of a barbeque and watching "National Treasure II" but we shall see. Maybe we can even find fireworks here. We're going to look at least!!! Take care and we send our love and best wishes to all of you.