Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Quest for the Elusive Royal English Drivers License!

Our transportation in England!

Reading Train Station

Morden Tube Station

January is at an end and life continues on here in England. The days are getting longer, the Angel Moroni Statue is shining brightly in the occasional sunlight, and life is good. After the initial shock when we arrived here in England on Janurary 9, 2008, we had to come to grips with the fact that we would not be driving our own car for as long as we lived in London. We thought that meant that for the next 18 months, we would be chasing down trains, running for buses, looking for the nearest tram stop, stampeding down stairs to catch the next tube along with 1000 other people, and even riding in an occasional black London taxi. We did all of those things and became very good at riding the buses, trains, taxis, trams, and tubes. Then, out of the blue came the call to move to the London Temple Site and be the Visitors' Centre directors. The first thing we were told after we received the call was that we would have to get drivers' licenses.
While we were still in Morden, we went to the Drivers' License Office in Wimbledon and applied for our provisional licenses. That cost us 50 pounds each, which at the time was $100 each. After that we got smart and realized that only one of us needed to get a license, because the rule here in England is that you can drive for 1 year on your American license legally. Only after that do you need to get an English Drivers License. A person with a provisional license can also drive as long as one of the people in the car has an English Driver's License. So the test was to decide who we thought could pass the series of tests best. The first two tests are a written test on the computer and a hazard perception test, also on the computer. Those of you who know Kenneth well will know that the computer is not his best friend! After trying the tests on the computer a couple of times it was obvious that it was me who was going to have to pass the tests and not Kenneth. The written test and the hazard perception tests were scheduled and I passed with flying colors. We were feeling great that I would have my license by January 9, 2009 on the day that I had to have it. We then read the statistics: Only 42% of the people who take the driving test pass and most people take at least 45 lessons from a driving instructor before passing. Each of those lessons cost 30 pounds so you can see that this is a very expensive proposition. Now the hardest part of driving here is not the fact that they drive on the left side of the road, but the fact that the roads are very narrow and everyone parks their cars out in the middle of the roads so driving in a lot of places is like driving in an obstacle course. What a challenge! I signed up for and took four lessons from a lady here in the ward at East Grinstead and then I signed up to take the driving practical test at a cost of 86 pounds on January 6. I went with lots of confidence, but when I finished driving the course of 45 minutes, the instructor told me that I had not looked in my mirrors enough and so I did not pass. I was panicked then because I could just picture us having to beg people to take us grocery shopping, etc. out here because there is no public transportation available here at the temple. I quickly scheduled another test for January 21, had Kenneth give me a blessing, put my name in the temple, and had everyone in the family praying for me. I showed up at the test center with trepidation, but after a 45 minute driving test, the instructor calmly told me that I had passed. I was so excited that I did the American thing and started cheering and clapping my hands. I think I about scared the instructor to death, but he still passed me and now I am the proud owner of an English Driver's License which is good for the next 9 years. Kenneth says he hasn't seen me so excited about anything since our wedding, the birth of our children, and getting my Master's degree. I thought he was a little presumptuous to think that our wedding was that exciting! (Just kidding) Anyway, now we are legal and can escort anyone around that dares to come to England while we are here for the next 5 months. Time is flying by. We miss you all and hope that you are well and happy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We made the news!

Walking the trails of Windsor

The Visitor's Centre

Look at the silver sun

January is nearing an end and already we are getting over an hour more daylight than we were getting in December. It is great. Now it is not dark until almost 5:00 PM. Life is good and very busy. We spend our days walking the trails of the temple grounds, doing genealogy, working at the Visitors' Centre, going to the temple, attending a few of the activities planned here by the temple workers, and occasionally driving the 5 miles into East Grinstead or Crawley to do a little shopping. What a life!

We are now officially on Facebook on a selection called "I Love the Temple". A publicity man from here in England came in and did an interview with us and we hear that it is now on Facebook. I have not seen it yet, but I think it is supposed to be there. When the January Ensign came out, we looked inside and in the English insert which is in the middle of each Ensign, there is an article that I wrote when the Centre opened in October. It goes as follows:

"Elder Kenneth Beckstrom and Sister Barbara Beckstrom have been called as the directors of the newly remodeled and rededicated Visitors' Centre at the London Temple. The Centre has been completely remodeled and now has a magnificent Christus and several interactive displays about the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The renovated cinema will show a variety of Church films on a regular and/or requested basis. These will include "Joseph Smith-the Prophet of the Restoration". Visits to the Centre are a wonderful opportunity for members to bring firends and fmaily and for stake and ward groups to learn more about the Gospel. It is hoped that the Visitors' Centre will create an added incentive for members to attend the London Temple on a more regular basis. The beautifully manicured grounds with massive trees, glistening ponds, and colorful flowers and shrubs are in the tradition of many of the gardens for which Southern England is known. The sacred feeling and respite from daily life that is felt in the temple is also prevalent in the Visitors' Centre. Reservations for groups can by made by . . . If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Elder or Sister Beckstrom."

We are now making a final push to get schools to bring groups in here for field trips, tour bus groups to put the temple on their agendas for a stop here to tour the beautiful gardens and the Visitors' Centre. I am currently working on letters to send out to those two groups. We also have a ribbon-cutting planned for the first part of April. The local publicity people here in the Crawley Stake are planning on inviting Winston Churchill's grandson to do the ribbon-cutting and we will be inviting many groups from Southern England to attend this big event.

The days go by quickly and we are happy. We love hearing from each of you.
It is good to know that you are still there and that you haven't completely forgotten who we are!!! Have a great week. We think of you often with fondness for the part that you have played in our lives.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Walking in a Winter Wonderland!

Old box stone from Egypt at the British Museum

Ice, ice, ice, everywhere!!!

Rosetta Stone

January has been a cold, cold one! Each morning, we start the day by taking a 2 mile walk around the Temple grounds. It is invigorating and very peaceful. Last week, we went outside to begin our walk and the world outdoors was like walking into a Winter Wonderland. It was white, shining, and silver everywhere. The trees, sidewalks, cars, bushes, and grass were covered with ice. When the sun finally made an appearance in the southeastern sky, it was silver. It was absolutely beautiful, cold, but beautiful.

Being here at the Temple has been a remarkable experience. We are able to care for the Visitors' Centre, do genealogy on the New Family Search computer program, go to the temple frequently, mingle with the patrons to the temple and the temple workers who are all such great people, and enjoy the beauties that we are surrounded by here. We have been blessed to listen to stories of miraculous conversions, stories of reactivation after years of being inactive in the Church, stories of leaving loved ones behind because of their dislike of the new religion that has come into peoples' lives, and other marvelous experiences. It is interesting that most of the solid members of the Church here in Great Britain who come in to the Visitors' Centre have been to the US, not only that, they have been to Utah, and even more amazing is that, most of them have been to the St. George Temple. It is a very small world in the Church. People all over the world have the same testimony and glorious determination to live the Gospel no matter where they hail from or what culture they were raised in. The Gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives for the better! One of the great opportunities of living here on the Temple grounds has been the ability to do genealogy work for our family. I have access to the New Family Search program and lots of computers to do the research on. I also am close enough to run into Hyde Park when I want to or need to to get technical advice on how to do the research that I need to do to continue coming up with names to do temple work for. So far we have done the temple work with lots of help from our close family and extended family for literally hundreds of relatives. What a great blessing for us! You won't believe it, but I have become quite an authority here on how to do genealogy. Many people come and ask me to teach them how to run the program. It has been fun. I, of course, learn the most when I have the chance to teach others how to run the programs.

Each Monday the temple workers organize an excursion to a scenic attraction somewhere in Southern England. Quite often, we try to go. The Visitors' Centre is only open from 6-9 pm on Mondays so we are a little more free to go on that day. We have been to many interesting places. This past week we went into London to the British Museum. It was full of old artifacts from the Egyption, Roman, Greek, Early Europeon, North American, Babylon, and other ancient cultures. It was fascinating. I have included a picture with this email of an ancient stone box, holding written records. This was a very common practice in those days to store valuable written records in that way. The fact that Moroni stored and preserved the gold plates in that way was not unusual. Also, housed in the British Museum is the Rosetta Stone which was found by Napoleon's troops and was used as a gauge to help scientists unravel the mysteries of Egyptian hieroglyphics and other ancient writings. Very interesting place and so HUGE! We are both fine here. We hope all is well back at home. We miss all of you and enjoy reading your emails.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Beckstrom's top ten list for 2008!

The entry gate at the London Temple

Tabernacle Square

Penshurst Place

Ken and Barbara by the Roman Arch at Kew Gardens

Wow, 2008 has come and gone! We have been in Jolly Old England now for over a year and we are thrilled. What a great experience it has been and we have less than six months left to go. We are excited at the prospect of more opportunities to serve here and then to be able to return home to see and associate with all of those we love. I thought it would be appropriate to dedicate this first email of 2009 to the "Top Ten Blessings we have enjoyed this year in England". So here goes. By the way, they are in no particular order of preference:

1. MITCHAM WARD IN SOUTH LONDON: What a great opportunity we had here to serve in many, many capacities and to learn to love so many wonderful people from countries all over the world. We had ward members from: Ghana, Nigeria, Iran, Philipines, Ireland, Scotland, England, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, South Africa, Mauritius, Spain, France, Barbados, Jamaica, Thailand, and Canada.

2. MY FIRST COUSINS FROM ENGLAND - We have had the chance to make and renew friendships with my cousins from my mom's side of the family. We have been able to spend many weekends and holidays with all of them. We have found them to be wonderful people and they seem to be people that we have known all of our lives. What a blessing to have found them and to have learned to love them all over again.

3. VISITS FROM OUR USA FAMILY AND FRIENDS- One of the things that has kept me going throughout this year has been an occasional visit from some of the wonderful people that we love. It has been great fun for us to spend some time with Brent and Carolyn Russon (from SLC), Glen, Helen, and Erica Esplin (from SLC), Doug, Cindy, and Stefanie Westbrook (from Santa Clara), our son, Brice, his wife, Nicole, and kids, Matthew and Brandon (from Santa Clara), and our daughter and her family, Brooke, Ben, Ady, and Emma. Oh, how we have loved those visits and visitors. Thank you so much. We are also looking forward now to a visit in March from my two sisters, Carol and Sheila, and their husbands, and also, Brian, Lacy, and Alli (our newest grandchild who we have not seen yet). Our three oldest children, Britt, Brice, and Brenda are scheduled to come and pick us up in June so that we can tour the UK before we go home on July 11. What a great support group we have!

4. OUR ASSOCIATION WITH THE YOUNG ELDERS OF THE LONDON SOUTH MISSION: What a blessing it has been to learn to love and appreciate the great young missionaries here in this mission. We have spent lots of time working with, feeding, nursing, caring for, and loving these great young men. The memories of our associations with them will last a life time.

5. OUR FRIENDS, THE OTHER SENIOR COUPLES, OUT HERE IN THE MISSION FIELD: What fun it has been to get to know great senior couples from all over the United States that have sacrificed to come out here and serve. It has been salvation for us to visit with them and occasionally even to party with them as we work together out here in Jolly Old England.

6. HISTORIC LONDON, ENGLAND: Oh, all of the places that we have learned about in our history classes and here it all is right before our eyes. How we have loved seeing all of the historic places, beautiful architecture, wonderful museums, and the beautiful River Thames as we have learned to navigate this large city.

7. THE GREEN VERDANT LAND OF THE UNITED KINGDOM - We have visited beautiful spots like the Cotswolds, the Isle of Wight, the south coast of England, historic Dover Castle, Brighton and Southend-On-Sea beaches looking out across the English Channel, many, many, many historic and architecturally beautiful castles too numerous to mention, and Herefordhire, the county bordering Wales in the Western part of England.

8. SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE: What a blessing it has been to us to be able to serve the Lord in many different callings. The opportunities have been endless and we have truly come to love the great people of England because of these service opportunities.

9. TESTIMONY BUILDING EXPERIENCES AT THE LONDON TEMPLE VISITORS' CENTRE: When you have a chance to share your testimony with others and hear their testimonies and stories of conversion, your testimony grows. We have found that to be so true here at the Visitors' Centre. We meet people from so many different parts of the world and are able to share a little bit of the spirit that the Christus Statue conveys along with the kiosks and films available at the Centre. What a blessing it is to us especially.

10. MUSICAL OPPORTUNITIES: Here in the church in England, the opportunities are extended often to share musical talents with others. I have had the chance to play the piano for many occasions, lead Stake and Ward Choirs, sing in Stake and Ward Choirs, teach piano lessons to eager students, and what a blessing it has been to be able to cultivate that talent again and enjoy participating in great musical happenings here.

Have a wonderful New Year.