Tuesday, April 28, 2009

There'll be joy and laughter, and peace everafter, tomorrow when the world is free!

The Skinners and the Beckstroms

A busy Saturday at the Visitor's Centre

Another week has rolled around and it has been an eventful one. We have had some great experiences as we have met with people in the Visitors' Centre and they have shared their thoughts with us.

On Sunday, I was teaching my Relief Society Lesson in the Crawley Ward and just before I taught, they had music appreciation. The sister in charge shared some World War II songs and the last one that was sung was "There'll Be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover". That shook me up a little because the last time that I had heard that song was at my mom's funeral. It left me thinking about the words of that song and how much those war time songs meant to the people of the world. "There'll be joy and laughter, and peace everafter, tomorrow when the world is free". We are very blessed here in England just as we are in the United States to enjoy freedom of religion.

The lesson that I was teaching was from Elder Russell M. Nelson's October 2008 Conference talk entitled " Celestial Marriage". There were a couple of quotes in the talk that I thought were so thought provoking. He said, " While Salvation is a personal matter, exaltation is a family matter" and "Celestial marriage brings greater possibilities for happiness than does any other relationship." I know we have our work cut out for us, but what a blessing it is to know the plan of happiness that Christ has given to us and to be able to be a part of His Gospel Kingdom.

This week we were able to attend my cousin, Ian's son's marriage. It was a Catholic/Jewish wedding so it was a different experience for us, but very interesting. It was held in a tent or marquis in a large green pasture in a small village just north of London called St. Albans. In England, when couples get married they must first be married in a civil ceremony and then the religious ceremony can take place afterwards. The religious service is not recognized as legally binding. In the LDS religion, the couples are married in their home city and then must come to the temple within 24 hours of the wedding to be sealed for time and all eternity in the temple. If they cannot make it within the 24 hours allotted, they must wait 1 year to be sealed in the temple. So often we have very late sealings on Saturday evenings, because people have to drive many hours to make it here after their civil ceremony at home. My cousins, Mark and Wendy, were married in a civil ceremony at noon and then the religious ceremony was scheduled for 4 pm. We attended that ceremony where the Rabbi read scripted ceremony, they lit three candles signifying their union, drank sips out of a single wine glass, broke a glass on the table and afterwards everyone yelled out the words, "Siman Tov U'Mazal Tov." These words mean, "May this day be a good omen for good fortune!" Afterwards, there was lots of congratulations and merrymaking by the about 100 people in attendance. They then had a sit down meal, dancing, talking, and celebrating. It was an phenomenal experience which we enjoyed very much. What a joy it has been to become friends with my cousins and to feel of their love and acceptance for us. At the wedding we were also able to meet Ian's brother, Keith and his wife, Jill, who now live in Spain. They looked tan and relaxed. The life style in Spain must really agree with both of them. Many English people retire to Spain, because of the lower cost of living, more room to move, and the wonderful climate.

We are furiously trying to accomplish all of the odds and ends of things we have been meaning to do before we come home. How time flies!!! On Saturday, our daughter and her husband, Brenda and Joshua Forest, are coming to visit. We are so excited. What a joy it will be to see them after almost 18 months. We have a great week planned with visits to cousins, the Isle of Wight, and of course London. It has been such a great blessing to have visits now from almost all of our children. Britt will be the last to come and he, along with Brice, will be here in June to tour Great Britain, attend Wimbledon and take us home. Hope all is well with you. We look forward to seeing many of you soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Legacy of the Christus Statue at the London Temple Visitors' Centre

The Christus Statue

Night in the Visitor's Centre

Inside the Visitor's Center looking East

Spring has sprung here in Jolly Old England and we are loving the extra hours of daylight. It is now light until about 8:30 at night which is wonderful after the cold dark nights in December that started at about 3:30 in the afternoon. There is even time now for us to go for a nice long walk after we close the Centre at 8 or 9 o'clock at night. The Centre continues to be very busy. Fridays and Saturdays are crazy with hundreds of people coming here on those two days to experience the great spirit which permeates the facility. The rest of the week is moderately busy in the afternoons and always quite busy in the evenings. With the Centre open 7 days a week and with very little help, we do not get bored. One of the wonderful things that I love about the Visitors' Centre is the great feeling of the Spirit that we feel each morning when we unlock the door and walk in to the beautiful view of the Christus Statue and the magnificent mural that has been painted behind it. At night, the reflection of the Christus in the windows looking back at you is beyond description. It appears that he is smiling down at you with his arms outstretched in love. It is a wonderful sight.

This Christus statue is the 14th that the Church has purchased and displayed at various Visitors' Centres throughout the world. This is the only Visitors' Centre in Europe and the only Christus Statue in a Church owned facility. We feel so blessed to have it here. This statue is not carved of marble like many of the others are. It is made of fiber glass and then coated with a crushed marble mixture to give it the look of a marble statue. We have been learning a little about the history of the Christus and the Church because truly the Christus statue has come to be associated with the Church of Jesus Christ even though it was not sculpted by or for us originally. It was scupted by a Danish sculptor named Thorvaldson in the 1800's. He was commissioned to sculpt a statue of Christ in 1820, completed it in about 1837, and passed away in 1844, the same year as Joseph Smith did. The Church became interested in using this wonderful statue in Visitors' Centres in the 1950's when Stephen L. Richards, then of the first presidency, saw it at Forest Lawn Cemetery in California. As I said earlier, the Church now has 14 of these statues in its facilities throughout the world. They also retain one as a traveling Christus that is used for special occasions such as temple dedications, world fairs and expositions, etc. We had hoped to visit the Copenhagen Denmark Church called "The Church of Our Lady" where the original (6 foot) Christus is displayed along with statues of the 12 apostles before we came home. I don't think that we will be able to do that now, because of a shortage of time, but we will hope to come back and see that one day.

We continue to hear wonderful conversion, reactivation, and motivational stories as we work in the Centre. They all strengthen us and give us pause to thank our Heavenly Father for his great love for all of his children, no matter where they live or what their circumstances are. Today we are speaking in Church about our experiences at the Centre. Hope all goes well. Our thoughts and prayers are always with all of you wonderful people whom we have known throughout the years. May the best that life has to offer come your way.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The All England " Blue Blood" Shopping Bag!

The tulips are out

Unpacking the groceries

Home from shopping

I think our love affair with the bright orange, strong, reusable, and verstatile Sainsbury shopping bag began back in January of 2008. We had just arrived in South London on a cold, rainy night and had been deposited by my cousins into our tiny little row house. Before we realized it everyone was gone and we were alone. All alone in a cold, dirty little apartment with no food, no cooking utinsels, or anything else to make you need to make you feel at home. After a telephone call from our son, Brice, in which I completely broke down and exclaimed how distraught I was. He calmly replied, "It will get better, Mom, I promise!" It was only then that we realized that we not only had no food or comforts of home, but we also had no car, no knowledge of how to get anywhere, or indeed, no knowledge of even how to walk to a grocery store. The only person we had even met at this point was our landlord, so I called him and asked if he could take us to get some food, pans, plates, etc. He kindly replied that he would be right there. He took us in his tiny little blue car to a Sainsbury Grocery Store in downtown Morden. We picked out a few supplies and packed our things into the beautiful, big ,orange, recyclable grocery bag. For the past 16 months we have been loyal shoppers at Sainsburys, always taking our orange bags with us to carry our groceries home. They are so verstatile and useful. We have found many a good use for them and have observed our English neighbors using them into lots of creative ways.

Following are just a few of the possible ways to use a Sainsbury shopping bag:
1. As grocery carriers, We have found that we can each carry four heavy bags on buses, trams, trains, etc. as we return home with our supplies.
2. They make great laundry hampers.
3. We have contemplated selling our suitcases, because now that we have a nice matching set of Sainsbury luggage (bags).
4. Temple bags
5. Dust bins
6. Umbrellas or hats on a rainy day
7. Sewing or hobby bag
8. Picnic hamper
9. Cooler for carrying drinks and supplies. (They even have insulated ones)
10. Overnight bag for makeup and pajamas
11. Scripture tote
12. Diaper bag
13. Dog Cage
14. Garden tool chest
15. Carry on luggage
16. I'm sure there are lots of other uses for these miraculous bags that only cost one pound each (What a bargain!) but I'll bet we could turn one over to Ted Tuttle and he could probably figure out lots of other uses for it.

I don't think we are going to be bringing many of our clothes or shoes home with us. After 18 months, we are sick of them and they are sick of us. We can't bear to wear any of them again. But we are going to be sure to bring at least 5-6 Sainsbury bags home with us. We plain and simplly just don't think we can live without them.

Life goes on here at the Visitors' Centre. We stay busy and we meet so many interesting people, each with their own conversion story and experiences to share. We organized and attended a barbeque at the President's home last night as a send off of sorts for the Perry's, the Beckstrom's, and President and Sister Swinton. We will all be leaving in June. The new president for the England London South Mission will be Lyle Shamo of Hurricane, Utah origin. I attended Hurricane High School at the same time as he did a few years ago. We hope to be able to meet him when he arrives here on July 1. We leave early in the morning on July 2 and arrive in St. George at about 9:00 pm that night. Those of you who meet us at the St. George Airport will probably see both of us carrying our carry on luggage, our Sainsbury shopping bags, very carefully as we exit the plane. They're too valuable to lose!!! Have a great week.

Monday, April 6, 2009

England London South Mission hosts Elder Neil L. Anderson

Barbara at Reading Chapel

Mission Conference in Reading

Reading Chapel

Another busy week has passed and we were rewarded by a nice long weekend of listening and being spiritually blessed by General Conference. The London Temple was closed on Saturday so we were also closed at the Visitors' Centre. We went into London and helped our friends, the Perrys, put on a baby shower for a young Bishop and his wife in the Wandsworth Stake. It is always so much fun for us to go back to visit with our friends that we grew to love so much in our 9 months of living in the City. We went to the Wandsworth Stake Centre on Nightingale Road to watch the Saturday morning session of Conference which played here at 5:00 pm in the evening. The Stake Centre was filled with at least 40 missionaries from all over London and the outlying areas so we had a great time greeting all of the young and old ones that were there. There were also many members from the Mitcham Ward and the Stake as a whole. We then returned back to the Temple grounds to our little room. As we walked down the hall to our living quarters, we could hear a TV going with Conference playing on it. When we opened the door to our room, there was Carol all snuggled down into our grey leather recliner and Quay was laid out comfortably on our big king size bed all settled in for a long evening of Conference watching. We broke up their party but after finding us a place to sit, we also enjoyed watching the Saturday afternoon session of Conference until 11:00 pm. We were thrilled with the announcement of the the new Apostle, Elder Neil L. Anderson. He had come to visit our mission here in England last spring. He was so personable and gave such a wonderful talk to us that I thought I would give you all a few of the highlights of his talk that he presented to us in Reading at the Stake Centre last March.

He talked about how belief in Christ throughout the world is in decline. He stated that over 70 Lutheran Churches in Germany were closed in just one day this past year, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is growing under the radar all across the world among the humble. He gave several examples of the great growth that the Church is experiencing: There were 47,000 people baptized in Brazil last year, there are now 75 stakes in Mexico City alone, there are over 700,000 members now in the Philippines and missionary work only started there with 4 missionaries in 1961, there were over 60,000 members at the San Paulo, Brazil temple dedication when it was dedicated, and he gave us a goal to work for here when he further stated that everytime we knock on a door in Europe, they baptize someone in Mexico!!! He suggested to all of the missionaries that they should never, never, never delay a prompting and they should reach out to all.

In D & C 62:3 it states, " Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you."

He also gave us some great council that was particularly good for the young missionaries. Here is a sampling of what he said, " A mission should be the beginning of your spiritual journey, not the culmination of it. Enjoy this time of your life - Relax. The theme of missionary work should be - Work, Work, Do Your Duty! Read the Book of Mormon and finish with HONOR!" He then spent some time answering questions from the missionaries, talking to them, and encouraging them to always do their duty and make these two years the very best that they can possibly be.
We were very impressed with his caring attitude and loving manner. He will be a great Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a great conference this was.

We have lots of things to work on here to improve our lives in Jolly Old England. Life goes on here at the Vistors' Centre. We have groups coming this week from the Netherlands, all across England, and already several missionaries and investigators have made appointments to come in and see the Centre this week. What a blessing it is to have the Christus Statue here at the Centre, the only one in Europe. We are doubly blessed to be able to work there everyday.

We hope all is well with our wonderful friends and family there at home. We think of you often and pray for you daily. May the very best that life has to offer come your way.