Thursday, February 18, 2016

Our Final British Installment

Our Final British Installment

Here it is a new year and all of the celebrations have been wrapped up and it should be quiet for a while.  Let’s take a look.  New Year’s Day was a lot of fun. We got to watch the Cotton Bowl (thank you ESPN) and set up for a farewell party for the Cardalls (our Visitor Center Directors).  We billed the event as a Senior Couple Social Activity – however we pulled a little sneaky one.  We wanted to get to know everyone better so we handed out a slip of paper requesting each couple to give a spiritual experience.  On all of the papers, except the one given to the Cardall’s, we asked for a reminder of a spiritual memory relating to the Cardall’s.  On the one slip given to the Cardall’s it only stated “share a mission moment”.   It was a great send off for this amazing Visitor Center Director couple. 

Royal Albert Hall / Now with Ice
Nutcracker on Ice
 Sister Baxter and I decided to go to see the Nutcracker.  It was not ballet, but it was the Nutcracker story on Ice.  This was a large and special presentation in the Royal Albert Hall, converted to a movie theatre and ice rink.  It was Spectacular!

Things were really quiet for the first few days of January.  We decided to trek out to Greenwich for the tour that we missed the first time we were there.  It was a very pleasant trip.  We were able to take the train to Canary Warf and then we walked through the tunnel under the Thames River. 
Portraying John Willis Owner of Cutty Sark

We spent a few hours exploring the Cutty Sark, a memorialized sailing ship noted for its speed records in delivering tea from China and British goods around the globe.  We walked briefly through the Maritime Museum and then climbed to the Observatory at the top of the Greenwich peninsula.  At the Observatory there were a number of interesting things to do and see such as the Time Meridian Line. We have a picture of Afton standing in two different time zones. 

Afton, Stetched across The Prime Meridian
Greenwich Opservator

On the top of the observatory, there is a ball that each day is raised to the top of the tower at 12:55 pm and precisely at 1:00pm it is dropped.  This was a means of ships sailing the Thames River into and out of London to get a precise setting of time for their shipping navigation. We toured the clock rooms, the instrument rooms, and saw some of the very early clocks and timepieces designed for use at sea with special ways designed into them to overcome the ships movements and magnetic effects of the earth.  Early telescopes were used with the goal of setting better ways to measure time and location.

One afternoon, our London Hyde Park Stake SR Specialist dropped in to our Model Resource Centre.  He never just drops in, but on Jan 22nd, Daniil did.  Turns out that working with lasers and very cutting edge technology is not keeping him busy enough so he was applying for a weekend job at the National Science Museum across from the HP Centre.  He had had one interview and was waiting for the result and possibly for a second interview the same day.  It was good to have him drop in, but we have found these things never happen just by chance.  As Daniil was there visiting with us, three new clients came and they all needed help.  They were looking for jobs and support in preparing their C.V.’s (equivalent to a resume’).  The Lord always knows when we need help and he sends it just in time to keep the work moving forward.  We were each able to help one of the three and give them direction on finding employment.

During January, we were able too visit one of London's unique wonders. This is the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir – Hindu Temple.  It is properly known as the Neasden Temple.
Neasden (Hindu) Temple
In just 2½ years, 5,000 tons of Italian marble and the finest Brazilian limestone were hand-carved and then shipped to London to assemble this Hindu Temple.  It is all stacked together like Legos to fit perfectly (no mortar) and it was assembled on site in London.  It is a regular place of worship for Hindu followers and we were allowed to visit the interior and the shrines.  (No pictures allowed inside).  The intricate carved arch ways and the formation of the shrines and walls was really very amazing and beautiful. 

We had another powerful event in January.  We had a most amazing couple that came to our Self-Reliance Centre in April–June of 2015.  Alan Carter and his wife Rosalind, traveled from Croydon and offered their British experience and expertise to our clients in the SR Center.

Alan & Rosalind Carter
In July Alan was having severe back pain and was diagnosed with lung cancer, probably caused by his years as an engineer and messing with asbestos insulation.  In any case, Alan was a great teacher and he loved fishing.  On one occasion he even gave me a fly-fishing lesson in the cultural hall.  We never got our actual fishing trip that we had planned.  During his time in the hospital, he kept up his cheerful spirit teasing the nurses and talking about eternal families and the gospel. On one occasion in his very clean hospital room, he took a magic marker and drew a picture of a mouse hole with a mouse peeking out and had his wife put it down on the baseboard of his room.  It caused quite a commotion.  On another occasion he created life-like spiders and put them on the "Call Button" the nurses would hit to clear the call when I patient summonded them. Then he would summon a nurse and watch her face as she tried to clear the call light. But most of all, he would give Church literature to all of his doctors and he made real friends with all of the nurses learning about their families and children.  On Christmas Day, Alan was called home and a funeral was held on Jan 26th.  He was a true saint and follower of Jesus Christ. He will be greatly missed.

As we were out of London for the funeral, we also visited the Crawley Stake SR Specialist.  Jules invited us to dinner and for the first time, we had a local speciality ‘Toads in a Hole’.  This was a unique dinner with two sausages cooked inside of a Yorkshire pudding.  She also served Trifle which was beautiful and delicious. 
Toad In A Hole + Dinner
 Finally, we must describe one of our days last week in the Self Reliance Center.  Feb 12 was a particularly Crazy Day.  We have had a few calm days so we were overdue for a hum-dinger. 
  • ·        Because it had been calm, I agreed to leave the Centre to help Cezary.  We had worked with him and he was now employed, but the Home Office (British Government) wanted him to report in.  He was summoned to be “detained” and this, as you might well imagine, caused he and I great anxiety.  We had no idea what was happening.  So, I agreed to travel with him to Croydon to the Home Office. 
  • ·        As I was preparing for the day’s work (including the trip to Croydon), a Greek client came in. No English, just Greek speaking.  I spent about an hour with him trying to help him prepare a CV.  My time was up and I had to leave to help Cezary so I turned him over to Sister Baxter. 
  • ·        Then a lady from Spain came in needing a CV – right, no English at all. 
  • ·        We have a sweet lady that comes in unexpectedly from time to time and she dropped in to meet with four deaf people that she interprets for.  She needed assistance in building CV’s for these four deaf people.
  • ·        Peter, unemployed and looking for work, came in needing computer help for his job search.
  • ·        Brian, a recent Korean convert, came in to have Afton help him practice English. 
  • ·        While I was still on my travels, the missionaries brought in a new investigator.  He had no CV, no job, had spent the last 12 years in prison, and was now turning his life around and needed assistance.
  • ·        Finally, two ladies – one from Iran and one from Spain, both well-educated but without jobs, came in for help.    
Fridays are the day we only have the Centre open from Noon until 4:30pm and most of this happened while I was off with Cezary traveling to and from Croydon.  Afton is a miracle worker and she was still breathing and standing when I returned to lend a hand.  By 8:00pm we had given service to all and they were on their way.  We went home, and dropped on the couch.  

Missionary service is great work.  It is hard, demanding, and challenging.  It is rewarding and brings joy as you see people getting help and assistance that moves them forward.  You work with the best people, missionaries – juniors and seniors.  The many tender mercies help build testimonies and enhance the great joy that comes from service.  May you all get the opportunity to serve in your own particular way as you progress.

Our last suggestion for some personal study comes from My Foundation, Chapter 11 & 12.  We sincerely hope that you have been reading and practicing the principles we have shared from MY FOUNDATION, PRINCIPLES, SKILLS, HABITS (SRS.LDS.ORG. Manuals and videos). This is a manual that will be coming to a lesson near you in the the near future.  Grab it now and grow from the simple beautiful lessons taught.  In this installment we share with you the importance of “learning”, The Glory of God is Intelligence, and from lesson 12, Doing What Matters Most.  Use the following videos in your own study and in your Family Home Evenings.

We love you all and hope to see you on Sunday, March 27th.  Our Pinehurst Ward meets at 9:00 am.

         Elder Steven and Sister Afton Baxter

We have been collecting what we thought were interesting names of Pubs:
               The Walrus
               Old Red Lion
               The Black Horse
               The Albert
               The Bears Head
               The Falcon         
               Jacks Palace
               Duke of Cambridge
               The Draft House
               The Beaufort House
               The Cadogan Arms
               The Cave of Plunder
               The Lexington
               The Three Johns
               The Three Compasses
               The York
               The Bull
               The Hen & Chicken
               The Hare & Hounds
               Slim Jims
               The Goat & Owl
               The Royal Swan
               The Brown Cow
               The Golden Swan
               The Golden Lion
               The Temperance
               Spotted Horse
               Young’s Dog & Fox
               Young’s Rose & Crown   
               The Alexandre
               Surrey Arms
               Gloucester Arms
               The Famous Cock
     Just a few of the varied and interesting names.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Happy New Year 2016

Happy New Year from Jolly Old England!
London Eye on New Year's

       December was a month full of great experiences.  We will start off with our trip to the London Temple.  Straight forward – ya’d think.  Plan A: Arrived at Victoria Train Station to catch our train to Lingfield only to find that the train had been held three stations away from Victoria and it would not be coming all the way into Victoria Station.  Plan B:  Train platform assistant advised us to take another train and go to Croydon and meet up with the train we needed to take to get to the London Temple.  We jumped on the nearby train and we were off.  We got information while on the train that we needed to catch a different train in West Croydon.   Plan C:  The train we were on only stopped in East Croydon and did not go to West Croydon, so we got off at East Croydon to find our way across town to West Croydon and the train to the Temple.  There is a trolley that runs across town (we had never been on) and made stops at both train stations.  Found the trolley and got on. We arrived at West Croydon station and asked for directions and were told that the next train would be going to Lingfield.  We were not comfortable with the instructions so we inquired of another agent only to find that the train we really needed was about to depart, but from a different platform.   Plan D: We scrambled up the stairs, over the bridge, down the stairs and waiting on the platform we found a member of the Church that recognized.  She was going to the Temple also so we followed her for the rest of the journey. An extended wonderful day – finally.  We topped the trip off with an excellent lunch at the Temple cafeteria.  A pleasant taxi ride back to the Lingfield Station and we were able to get a Victoria bound train for a much shorter smooth trip back to London and home.

London Temple

       A test for all of you.  Below are two pictures.  One is of London Bridge II and one is of Tower Bridge.  Can you tell which is which?  Do you know where London Bridge I is?

OK, London Bridge 1 was replaced with the current London Bridge.  The original is actually in Arizona as a tourist attraction.  Now, the test should have been easy because only one bridge has towers.  Many Americans call the Tower Bridge London Bridge and the Britain’s just snicker at how little we know.  I suppose the mix up is because the bridge is so close to Tower of London.  Be smart and look for the towers.

        London Bridge
Tower Bridge

        Have you ever looked at the skyline of London.  A very prominent building stands out as it towers some 37 floors above the sidewalk and it is wider at the top than at the bottom.  Some call it the “walkie-talkie” building.  On a P-Day in December, we went with the Updikes to tour the “towers” in Tower Bridge.  It was very interesting to see how the bridge was built and the functionality and engineering feats.  The Bridge still opens almost daily at high tide to let ships through.  Inside the bridge crossing from one tower to the other is a very interesting display of bridges from around the world.  There is also a glass floor.
Glass Floor in Tower Bridge
      It is pretty awesome to look straight down and see double decker busses passing beneath your feet.  After descending the south tower we visited the engine room to see the steam generation plant that powered the original draw bridge.  Today it is powered with electric motors, but the process and generation of power sufficient to raise and lower the bridge, built in the late 1800’s, was quite an accomplishment.  But I digress.  I was telling you about the walkie-talkie building that houses Sky Gardens.

Walkie=Talkie Building on left

Sky Garden from street level

     In the pictures you can see the building that was described above.  An interesting fact is that the City of London would not allow the building to be put up unless the developers installed a large garden area on the top floors of the building.  The gardens are free to visit, but a ticket to ride the elevator is required.  This regulates the crowds that visit this most beautiful vantage point to view all of London.  There are actually three floors dedicated to the garden area with a couple of restaurants, and as you will see, elegant gardens and thousands of thriving live plants.  They keep the area fairly cool to protect the live plants so if visitors get chill while there, they can check out a blanket and a hot-water bottle for comfort during their visit.

Sky Garden looking down
Sky Garden looking up



     We have all sorts of challenges in the Self-Reliance Center.  One Romanian man came in and was looking for help finding customers for his business.  He was a builder / remodeler and had a cute little flyer.  At least the image was cute, but the wording was verbose and very hard to understand.  It took some doing, but we convinced him that he should improve his flyer by making the facts stand out more clearly and to simplify the wording.  Someone had created the flyer in Photoshop or some very technical program.  I tried to work with it, but really could not get anywhere.  I finally started over in WORD and was making some headway, but got stuck trying to wrap text around the image.  As often happens, someone special comes to our rescue (tender mercy).  Meg is a very successful management consultant that attends one of the Hyde Park wards, but for the first time ever, she had taken some time off.  She was actually considering changing jobs and came in for a bit of help.  So today, when we needed a very bright, computer savvy helper, in walks Meg.  With a few quick steps she helped solve all of the issues with the flyer and we sent our Romanian builder off with a much improved piece of advertising, excited to round up some renovation projects.

               Other tender mercies happen often.  In November, the Watford Stake was catching fire over Self-Reliance because of a call for a new Stake SR Specialist.  She is also the Stake Relief Society President and her husband is on the High Council with responsibility for Self-Reliance. It turned out that on one Sunday they had presentations to make in three separate wards at the same hour.  So they called Sister Baxter and I in to cover the third presentation in the Watford Ward.  Everything went well and we met wonderful people.  Then, in December, we were invited to attend the Andy Williams Christmas Show put on by the Osmond Brothers.   We were being seated just prior to the show and a sister from the Watford Ward, apparently working in the theatre, came running by, recognized us from the Self-Reliance presentation, and stopped to chat.  She asked how many missionaries were with us and we said 12 and she was off again.  During intermission, she came back with a set of 12 back-stage passes to come and visit with the Osmond’s, personally, after the show. Elder and Sister Burke had just met a Muslin couple that morning who were being honored in the House of Parliament for promoting family values.  This unique award is supported by the LDS Church.  When the couple was asked what they knew about the Church, the lady said the only thing she knew of the Mormons was the Osmonds.  She just loved their music.  The couple will be coming to Utah and when the Burkes mentioned this to Jay Osmond, he responded by giving his manager instructions to watch for the visit.  The Osmonds would come to Salt Lake and perform for them. 

               The best part of the Christmas Season was experiencing the tender mercies that the Lord is always giving us.  We were in the Centre working with Emily, a young student from the USA.  She had no Visa and that made it very difficult to obtain work.  She did not understand the A Levels of education over here nor the class 3 qualifications of the UK or how they compared to the US education system.  (Neither do we.)  In walks Vanya, a UK citizen.  Vanya had not been in the Centre for over 2 months.  Just when we needed her, the Lord sent her our way.  She popped in and was able to help Emily understand the education requirements and complete the application for a Visa. 

               The last thing we want to share this month happened in the Staines Stake.  We have been working all year trying to meet the Stake Leadership and get some Self reliance trainin going. In October they saw the great need to help the refugees that were coming to Europe for safety and they were being set up in various camps in Calais, France.  On their own, the Stake members collected money, food, clothing, and supplies.  In November they boxed some 400 care packages for these refugees.  The boxes were stuffed into numerous cars and private station wagons and personally delivered over to Calais.  The Church saw what happened and offered to support a repeat effort.  Organized by the Staines Stake and supported by the humanitarian arm of the Church, some 15000 lbs. of food and supplies were brought to the Staines Stake to be boxed by the members.  On the day of the event, the Church
Staines - Boxing food
delivered 10,000 blankets, 20,000 rain ponchos, and other supplies directly to Calais and about 50 members of the Stake traveled to Calais to help during the day with that distribution.  Back in the Stake, the leaders requested volunteers to come a 2nd time and organize the food and  box the supplies. Some 300 people showed up to help.  We heard of the project during our visits to the stake so we came to help. The work was to start at 8:00 am but when we arrived at 7:45 things were already buzzing and people just kept on coming.  They hoped to get everything assembled by 10:00 am.  At 8:50 the group leader got up and told us to slow down, we were working too fast.  He wanted to have some work still being done when the Lord Mayor of Staines was scheduled to show up and see the project in action.  By 9:15 over 600 food boxes and been completed and loaded into 7 vans.  Then another 50 or so people from the Stake drove the caravan of vehicles to the coast, loaded them on trains, and traveled through the Chunnel to Calais and helped distribute the food to the to the camps. 
Vans being loaded for Calais
 Now five other stakes are scheduled to do the same thing. It is such a Joy to serve and help others!

This installment’s “My Foundation” lesson is on Integrity.  “We believe in being honest.” ARTICLES OF FAITH 1:13    View the following video:  If the link does not work directly, copy and past it into your browser to view the video.

We love you all and we continue too work hard and thoroughly enjoy everyting we are doing here. We highly recommend misssionary service!

             Elder and Sister  (Steve & Afton) Bxter

Thursday, December 10, 2015

November & Perseverance

November and Christmas

We were trying to remember November and thought we had not done much.  Then, referring back to Afton’s journal, WOW.  We have been busy.  Here are the highlights.

Teddington Locks
River Lock being filled
Lots of work in our Self-Reliance Centre, but one November P-Day, we took off with another missionary couple named the Updikes.  We wanted to explore the Teddington Locks.  Not paddle locks, but river locks on the Thames River.  After you get upstream a ways, you find that the Thames is a tidal river which means that its level goes up and down as the ocean tide changes.  In downtown London the River Thames can change up to 18 feet between low tide and high tide.  As you get further inland (or upstream as it were), that 18 foot shift in water level can mean the difference between having a navigable river and one with just sandbars and obstacles. The first set of Locks are the Teddington Locks and we were able to visit and explore them.  We happened along as a school class was there getting educated about locks and the lock-master was there and actually opened and closed the locks showing us how he could raise and/or lower boats as they traveled the river.  As there are many boats and barges that are used even for living on the water, the lockmaster is on duty from sun up until sun down to keep the boat traffic moving smoothly along this part of the river.
River Lock being opened
Afton viewing river level stabilized

Recently we have had a lot of change in personnel in the mission. With the bubble of 18 year old missionaries completing their missions and returning home, our number of missionaries is down and the baptism rate has dropped a bit.  The Mission President decided not to change the baptismal goals so he initiated a mission fast.  The whole mission fasted for the purpose of finding new people to teach.  The Lord has blessed the mission and our November baptism goal was actually exceeded.  The Lord continues to guide and direct this great work.  During the week after the Fast, many missionaries reported miracles they experienced as a result of this fast.

The Ashby's, Anna, and the Baxter's @ Rules
Rules Restaurant
Working in the Center is a great experience.  Recently we made a wonderful new friend, Anna.  She is a Hungarian
Hungarian Violinists
lady about 75 years young.  By profession she is a tour guide and when you get her talking about places she has been, she is a fountain of stories and information.  But, in some ways, she is like me.  She struggles with the computers.  Her company is now sending her tour assignment, receiving her reports, and providing all types of communication via email.  She comes in to have me help her with the internet and her email.  Every time we complete a task for her, she literally praises the Lord and blesses us.  Well, she has invited us to go out with her a couple of times and we finally made a great connection. Because she is Hungarian, she wanted us to go to Rules, the oldest operating restaurant in London (opened in 1798).  It was a delight and a wonderful dinner.  Then she took us to the Hungarian Cultural Center for a concert.  Three sensational violinists performed.  The program was introduced by the violin professor from the Royal College of Music.

One of the wards that we are working with has started a Workgroup teaching English to Portuguese speakers.  Last week the missionaries needed help with their class because the actual teacher was unable to get there.  Afton and I came up with a version of charades that we had learned from Neil and Brittney (thanks kids, you saved the class).  Drawing from a bowl of English words, Team One, all Portuguese students, speaking only in English, had to describe as many words as possible without using the original word.  They had one minute.  Then Team Two had the same opportunity.  Next round, using the same words, the teams had to draw a word from the bowl and with only one word, try and get their team to say the word.  The final round each team alternated drawing words and doing strictly charades – no words.  The students thought it was great fun.  We love helping the missionaries whenever we can.  By the way, of the 25 students, 8 are non-members and the missionaries have had 3 baptisms out of the group so far.

Banqueting House
Banqueting House Throne
From time to time, we get a bit of culture and historical training.  We returned to The Banqueting House which was built by Henry the 8th.  It was part of the fabulous Whitehall Palace, the largest working palace in Europe for its time covering some 30 acres.  However, in the1790’s there was a huge fire and the whole place burned to the ground except for this beautiful Banqueting House.  The main hall was used for receptions and for events called masques – story telling theatre in and amongst the visitors.  The ceiling has the largest and most beautiful of Reuben’s
King Charles on Throne
original paintings.  One evening it was opened up late for a celebration and reenactment of the great debate of King Charles and Cromwell.  Early in the evening, King Charles was visiting among the crowd and just before the debate, a moderator asked the King many questions about life in the court and in his home.  The actor expertly answered and responded.  They then opened the questions up to the audience with some very historical and specific questions being asked.  The King handled the questions with ease and grace.  A most enjoyable evening.
Reuben's Ceilings 

Play Billboard - it is right side up
Not everything in London is historic and straight-laced.  Afton and I went to see The Play That Went Wrong.  My goodness, what a romp.  It was a murder mystery and the corpse could not stay dead, the props would not cooperate and stay in their places, wrong props showed up where they were not supposed to be and it just got crazy fun.  One of the actresses was injured (as scripted) so because the show must go on, a stage hand was commandeered to take her place.  The whole stage ended up collapsing by the final curtain.  It was hilarious and very well done.  Charisse, you would have loved the show.
Tom Who wasn't there?

As we have worked with our stakes around London, we have seen a lot of growth this month. The new inspired initiative with the MY PATH devotionals and personal assessments helps each member of the Church find out where they stand with Spiritual and Temporal Self-Reliance.  We have seen wards take the My Path Devotionals to over 480 people in November.  It has taken many months to get rolling, but some of the slowest stakes are now catching on.  We still have 3 out of nine that are not yet on board with this inspired instruction and direction.    With the Lord’s help, it will come.   We hope you see this soon in your areas.

One of the key principles of Self-Reliance is Perseverance.  Getting up, acting, and carrying on until the goals are achieved, until service is complete.  View the video, “Only A Stonecutter” and let us know of your feelings toward perseverance and of the dedication of John Rowe Moyle.  Here is the link to the full video.    For help in using this video in your Family Home Evening, see My Foundations: Principles, Skills, and Habits,  Principle #9 .  This can be found on SRS.LDS.ORG

Where has the year gone?  The Christmas Season is here and may we all share in the message of the grandest of events, the birth of our beloved Saviour.

As part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ worldwide initiative titled "A Savior is Born,"  a live nativity is located outside the Hyde Park Chapel on Exhibition Road across from the Science Museum near the South Kensington Underground Station in London, England.  This is one of the most popular areas in London where annually more than 10 to 11 million people walk on this street.  Each evening from 5-7pm, live actors will portray Joseph and Mary.

London - Hyde Park Chapel - Live Nativity
The actors will be members of the Hyde Park Stake and the England London Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Alan Phillips, president of the Hyde Park Stake said, "At a time of so much conflict, fear and uncertainty, we look forward to sharing the joy of our Saviour's birth and the peace that such knowledge brings."
"The purpose of this live nativity," according to Elder Duane Cardall, Director of the Hyde Park Visitors' Centre, "is to remind us that Jesus Christ came into the world.  He was born; He lived; He died; and was resurrected.  And because of Him all humankind will have the blessing of eternal life.  It is our mission to proclaim the divinity of Jesus Christ.  This is one way we have chosen to do that."
The Spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul.  To catch the real meaning of the Spirit of Christmas, we only need drop the last syllable and it becomes the Spirit of Christ.  
              President Thomas S. Monson

What a glorious gift it is to be celebrating the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ while serving as a missionary!  It is a perfect time to share with conviction our witness of Christ's birth, His life, and His mission.  We share our witness that Jesus Christ lives.  He stands at the head of this Church and is involved in the very details of our lives  We can only do His work with His help.  So trust in Him.

It is a MUST! Visit and view A Savior Is Born.  This is the current Church Christmas initiative. Following that viewing, there are two additional short videos teaching us why we need a Saviour.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

October means Fall in London

October has been a cool month.  That is cool – temperature drops and rain picks up.  It stays pretty constant with highs at 60 and lows in upper 40’s.  We still get an occasional day of glorious sunshine.

Early October we visited another of the English Heritage Trust properties.  This time it was the Banqueting House.  There is quite a history of this magnificent structure.  Architecturally it is very prominent.  It was designed by renowned architect Inigo Jones and it is the only surviving building from the old Whitehall Palace.  You can read more about it at:

Banqueting House
"Reuben's Originals" - ceiling

Basically, it is one large banquet hall with beautiful decorations and ”Reuben’s” originals installed on the ceiling.  Some of the most remarkable art of the times.

October also brought General Conference.  We have an interesting schedule.  Sunday morning, 8:00 am, the men had Stake Priesthood Meeting and the women watched the General Women’s Meeting from the prior week.  From 10-12 am Sunday we watched the Saturday Priesthood meeting (actually had 3 women attend without incident).  1-3 pm we viewed the Saturday Afternoon General Session, 3:30 to 5:00 had Stake Choir Practice, 5-7 we viewed the Sunday Morning General Session (live), and then we came home and streamed on the internet at 9 pm the Sunday afternoon session.  A wonderful conference with great instruction and of course, historic installation of 3 apostles. 

Karl Max tomb
Monday we visited the Highgate Cemetery. As one of the largest and oldest cemeteries, it has some very prominent residents.  Highgate East is the resting place of Karl Marx whose monument attracts visitors and comrades from all over the world.  Highgate West is much older and so has less foot traffic.  It is closed to the public but you can take a guided tours.  They have beautiful and symbolic statuary and grave stones.  There are several large crypts and large family burial plots.  It was also interesting to see grave stones of the family pets and even a piano. 

Entering Cripts at High Gate Cemetary

October saw us hosting a Self-Reliance training seminar in London.  The other Self-Reliance Missionaries came from across Great Britain and Brother King and Brother Rueckert came from the Area Office in Frankfurt, Germany.  We held an all-day training session on a Thursday and then we all went out to dinner.  We returned so that we could facilitate our Pathway Gathering.  It was fun having one of the couples stay with us and share mission experiences.  Friday we met for another round of meetings and training.  Afton was running around keeping everyone well fed, hydrated with plenty of water, and awake with delicious snacks.  About 3:00 pm we all piled into the mission van and headed for the London Temple where were able to do an endowment session.  Traveling to the temple took a little over 2 hours and that gave us time to chat and discuss what we had been taught.  Of course, it was dark and when you leave the London Temple, there is not much around.  Martin told us we would meet for dinner just a ¼ mile down the road.  We made a couple of wrong turns but finally found the only restaurant that we saw.  Then just an hour later and we had everyone back to their rooms in London.
Sunday Training - Stake SR Reps

The weekend of training continued.  Saturday morning, Elder Rueckert, Director for Self-Reliance for the Church, wanted to see one of our workgroups in action so we sat in of Starting and Growing your Own Business.  Sunday, we had organized a meeting of the Stake Self-Reliance Specialists and all nine of our Stakes were represented.  It was good to hear Elder Rueckert present the Spiritual side of Self-Reliance.  Everyone went away with great materials and renewed motivation to carry the initiative forward.

The following weekend was the Hyde Park Stake Conference.  We had Elder Kearon, our Area President speaking along with Sister Burton, General Relief Society President.  The spouses of both talked also and it was a terrific conference weekend.

Cousin Elaine;s Daughter - Mary, Bryant, & Cora

During Stake Conference, we were able to meet Afton’s cousin Elaine’s daughter Mary and her family.  We had them come to our flat for dinner.  Her husband, Bryant, had been transferred here with his work and they have a precocious 2 year old.  We are so blessed to have a wonderful extended family.

Sometimes the work is challenging.  During October, we were invited to come to the Crawley Stake and so we drove for 2 ½ hours to get to the meeting.  The member of the Stake Presidency in charge had sent out 31 personal letters inviting the YSA to come and chat with us.  Only one man and his fiancĂ© showed up.  We made our presentation and developed plans for the Self-Reliance message to get to all who missed the meeting.  Sometimes we do feel like there are setbacks in the mission when almost no one shows up after a long drive.  But, we carry on.

Hyde Park Geese - Fall
Fall Colors
Fall has been really beautiful this year.  One morning, instead of walking through Hyde Park, we decided to rent bicycles.  We wanted to see what was at the other end for the park (so far it had been too far to walk). We were able to pedal the full length of the park and then north up to Speaker’s Corner.  We had visited that corner years earlier with Dick, Afton’s brother who served a mission there.  There was one fellow on a box looking for an audience.  The tradition carries on.  By the way, biking takes different muscles than walking.  By the time we got back, we were done.

A wonderful Iranian man came to the Self-Reliance Center recently.  He had been Muslim but had converted to the Church 2 years ago.  His wife, brother and sister-in-law are also members and live in the UK.  He left his homeland because of his conversion and will never be able to return to his home.  If he returns, he fears he would be killed because of his conversion.  He has a truly amazing story of coming into the Church.

A couple of blogs back, we mentioned that we had helped one of our volunteers open up a small restaurant.  Claire has been doing pretty well, but during September she was feeling very discouraged. She decided the way to get out of her unhappiness was to host a service project.  She decided to hold a “Cakes for Cancer” event and invite all to a special luncheon.  We jumped on the Tube and supported her in this event that was very successful and gathered many of her friends and community neighbors together for a good cause.  Service always brightens your life.

Nathanel, our bus driver success story from a while back, came into the SRC on his day off to do some Church work on the computer.  We had not seen him for about 5 weeks.  Sister Cardall brought in a sister for us to help who was desperate for a job.  However, we had a problem.  The guest spoke only Portuguese and we spoke only English.  Sister Cardall left her in our hands to assist her. Well, Afton hustled down the hall to the Mission Office to try and find the Portuguese missionaries and I was trying to help some others who were in the center.  We turned to Nathanel and asked him if he happened to speak Portuguese.  He reminded us that he was from Portugal.  In 20 minutes he had 2 solid job leads for her from members of his ward plus he had helped her with some other pressing issues.  Now there’s a volunteer when you need one.  The Lord really puts people in the right places at the right time.

Two days later, 4 new people came in to the Center at the same time needing help.  We needed help so we asked if any of the two extra computer users could help with the translation program on the computer for the one (non-member) Portuguese man.  A YSA girl named Paige immediately volunteered.  She had arrived in the UK the day before and had come to the SRC to email her parents.  Another miracle recue from the Lord!

The Lord continues to bless us and things are looking really good for November.  We will see.    So, in parting, your lesson for this month comes from My Foundation. Principles, Skills & Habits, Chapter 8, COMMUNICATE: PETITION AND LISTEN.

“I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.”  Doctrine & Covenants 8:2

When you know where the communication is coming from, then you have to learn to listen and hear.

“Your soul will be blessed as you learn to listen, then listen to learn from children, parents, partners, neighbors, and Church leaders, all of which will heighten capacity to hear counsel from on high.” RUSSELL M. NELSON, “Listen to Learn,” Ensign, May 1991, 24

               Elder and Sister Baxter

Monday, October 19, 2015

September 2015

September – Busy Month

Ben at London Temple
     September was a wonderful month, full of special experiences and great people.  We have mentioned "Ben" Zhang, our Chinese friend who has sought asylum here in the UK.  He is so good and so strong.  He was able to go to the London Temple and receive his own endowments.  He has given up everything in his quest for freedom and has chosen to stay here in England to build a new life of service and growth.  Ben asked me to be his escort at the Temple. Everything was a new experience for him and he was so ready that the Spirit was there teaching us and strengthening us.   As a trained attorney, he is starting to get his training transferred to the UK so that he can again be a productive part of this new society.  He is currently volunteering his legal services for the Red Cross.  May God be with him always!

    Some of our Stakes have been a little slow to come on board with Self Reliance.  One Stake had given the Self-Reliance assignment to a Counselor in the Stake Presidency.  Because of “holidays” and other delays, nothing  happened.  The Stake President decided to take the responsibility back upon himself and he called a new Stake Relief Society President and was prompted to assign her to be the Stake Self-Reliance Specialist as well.  Her husband, a past bishop, has been called to the High Council and so he was given the Self-Reliance assignment and so now when we need to have a Self-Reliance Committee Meeting, the Shepherds and Stake President get together and they nearly have a full Self-Reliance Committee.  All we need is a representing Bishop.  We went out to train the couple and they were so very responsive.  They realized that the next “Bishop’s Training Meeting” was not for three months so they took the initiative to call a special meeting with all of the Bishop’s.  It was brilliant.  Every Bishop was there, we were there supporting, and the Stake Pres. Counselor attended.  The principles were presented and all were responsive.  President North asked Bishop Gonzales what he thought of it all.  He had been quiet most of the meeting but spoke and said that he loved the ideas, immediately looked at Sister Baxter and I and asked us to come speak in Ward Sacrament Meeting, gave us the date he was going to present this to his Ward Council and he had a date for the MY PATH devotional. The other Bishop’s there felt the urgency and their plans started to be formulated.  We left the meeting with three assignments for follow up and support.  That was terrific.

     September was also a good month for training.  We had Clayton Christensen visit.  He is a Seventy and also a Harvard Business Professor.  He has a special way of teaching where the Gospel is important  and we should share that with our friends and neighbors.  As a successful missionary, he invites the Spirit and listens more than he speaks.  He asks investigators what they know and what they have difficulty with in terms of the Church.  Then he invites the investigator to read and as they talk, he guides them to answer their own questions.  Reading from the Scriptures and allowing the questions to come and fall where they will he allows the Spirit to direct the teaching.  He is a brilliant teacher.  We attended one of his public business meetings and heard him explain Disruptive Management and he explained it so well that even we understood what was being taught.  If you understand something well enough, then you should be able to teach in terms and ideas that anyone can understand.  That is what happened, not only in a Mission Conference, but also in the House of Lords and his prominent government meetings.  What a great ambassador for the Church.
Upon leaving the meeting from the government office building across the street from Parliament, we were walking toward the Tube when a tall man whizzed by.  He spotted our name tags and immediately stopped to chat for a moment.  It turns out he was the Stake Executive Secretary for one of the stakes that we had been trying to get a meeting with.  He asked us about Self-Reliance after noticing our name tag designation and then told us of a Bishop’s Training meeting that was scheduled for the following week.  After a brief chat and our explanation of the Self-Reliance Initiative, he promised to get us on the agenda for the meeting.  What a “tender mercy”.  We followed up with the Stake Self-Reliance Specialist who had previously been unresponsive.  Things are now starting to move forward in that stake.

Lincoln Just Arrived
    September we welcomed Grandchild #18 into the family.  Lincoln was born  to Neil and Brittney. He will be in good hands with his Brothers and Sister.   
Lincoln with his Sister and Brothers

     Another Tender mercy.  A few weeks ago, we had been invited to a Ward to make a presentation.  We enjoyed their Sacrament meeting and during sunday school we were checking out the electronic equipment and trying to get the TV to talk to my computer.  They would just not talk to each other.  As I kept trying different configurations, several men dropped by and asked if we needed help.  Of course, we said yes.  Each tried, each suggested, and nothing seemed to work to get the two pieces of equipment to communicate.  This was destined to really scramble our presentation.  A young missionary from Germany walked by on his way to an assignment.  He stopped and asked if he and his companion could be of assistance.  How could a German speaking missionary, in a British meeting house get an American and a Japanese piece of equipment to talk to each other?  Whatever he did, it worked. We whizzed across to the Chapel with 2 minutes to spare and made a  successful presentation in a MY Path Devotional and signed up 21 participants for workgroups.  We felt the Lord watching over us and bringing us assistance in our time of need so that His work could continue moving forward.

Mid-September, we were asked to come to the Wandsworth Stake to help out at a YSA weekly meeting. School is just starting up again and the leaders wanted to help the youth gain a bit more direction.  We came to administer a Work Choice Profile (psychometric testing experience).  This is the first time we have used our new tool which is an electronic version of the vocational interest evaluation.  We had 22 YSA all attempting to do the test at the same time.  We met in the family history room of the church and had only 4 working computers.  However, with two additional laptops, 6-8 tablets that the youth had brought and the rest using Smartphones, they all got on line and took the test.  See if you would like to try it.  Amazingly, everything went pretty well.  We were there to help counsel the students once they had completed the testing and help them identify and prioritize occupations that they showed interest and aptitude for.  It appeared to us to be a good evening.

It is not all work over here.  Some may have heard that England is hosting the Rugby World Cup for 2015.  We have one senior couple that are Rugby fans.  The opening match of the tournament was England vs Fiji.  Well, this couple served a mission in Fiji just prior to coming to England so we got together and watched the opening match on our TV.  What a brutal game.  Not sure I know all of the strategy, but I am learning.  I know that when you Try, you get points, and at times the men on the field are actually gentlemen.  After the guy with the ball gets brutally tackled, he merely sticks his hand out of the pile of bodies (keeping at least a finger on the ball) and no one takes it away until one of his own team members picks up the ball and tosses it down the line to his team mates.  Scrums are hard to describe and the throw-in actually causes one team member to be thrown into the air to catch the ball about 10-12 feet off the ground.  I guess you have to see it to believe it and it takes more than one watching to understand the game.

We have to tell you about Anna, a Hungarian tour guide.  Anna is a cute little lady about 75 years old.  Keeping up with the new working conditions of guiding tourists is driving her crazy.  She has to use the computer to get her instructions, set up tours, make reservations, and to communicate with her office.  She is not a member of the Church yet has found some dear friends in our Hyde Park chapel.  She comes up to our SR Centre and asks for help to get past her logins, her web searches, and dealing with passwords that seem to change every week.  Anna invited Afton and I to go to a Hungarian restaurant and to a Hungarian concert to say thank you for the repeated help we have given her.  She could not get a reservation at Rules, the oldest restaurant in London, but we did walk in and look around. Then we walked up the street to a restaurant named Carlucci’s  (Italian, not Hungarian).  As we went in, Anna asked if Carlucci was in and the waitress said she had not seen him in the last couple of days.  I thought they were making jokes as Carlucci’s is a chain of restaurants over here.  During dinner, we found that Anna actually knows the originator of the restaurant chain and that this was his original restaurant.  Meal was excellent.  The Concert was held in a Church in Covent Gardens – a very popular shopping and entertainment area.  The concert was a tribute to Bartok, a prominent Hungarian composer.  It turned out to be absolutely amazing.  There was a 24 year old violin soloist who was incredible playing mostly in chords instead of single notes and the young pianist was an award winning girl of about 21.  One of the best pianists I have ever heard play.  Quite an evening.

London has so much to see and do.  There are many many homes and estates that have been built in the past by families with boo-coo loads of money.  They are usually tucked in the middle of very busy part of the city.  You only see a driveway with a small sign, and then when you go in you can find these magnificent estates that sit on hundreds of acres of ground and are beautifully built architectural marvels.  These places are usually loaded with interesting artifact,historical treasures and magnificent art collections... Two we have visited include 
                          Kenwood House 
Kenwood House - home of 1920 Mayor of London

 Beautiful Library

Loads of cool Art
Poacher taking game

                                 and ….

     Waddesdon House.  This second one was built with the Rothschild fortunes and employed 20 full time gardeners during its hayday. A group of senior missionaries took a P-Day and drove out to see this magnificent place.   Here are a few pictures.

Waddesdon House
Gardens behind the home
Coming from the Aviary back to the main house

     We walked the grounds to find riding area, stables, a huge Aviary, fountains, and so many beautiful places to explore.  At the time it was lived in by the family, there were about 20 of these estates in Europe all supported by this family fortune.  When the WWI and WWII broke out, they could not get enough domestic help to keep the places running.  This estate has been turned over to an historical trust for  preservation and public viewing.

    Well, we have to get back to work.    Our last P- Day was spent at Costco.  We had to get supplies for the Self-Reliance Centre, for the Self-Reliance training meetings where we had to provide meals for two days for 13 people, Pathway treats for the three groups we have each Thursday, supplies for the Mission Office, and we also a bit of shopping for ourselves and for some of the other missionary couples.  Costco is not close so it is almost a full day experience when you are shopping for so many different groups.  But it makes life a bit more interesting and life better for others, so we do it when we can.   We did manage a walk in Hyde Park to visit our Parrot friends.

     One big joke around London is that someone will say that they are going to have a spot of Royalty drop in.  Well we did – sort of.  Each the other morning we were walking in Kensington Garden / Hyde Park. As we were walking and we heard a large machine coming in from behind us.  We looked around and there was a deep blue helicopter coming in for a landing about 100 yards away from us.  It was landing next to Kensington Palace. Police drove up and guards were quickly posted on the edge of the park while Prince William got out of the chopper and shuffled passengers around. A few minutes later they were off.  I guess that is how Royalty drop in and get ferried out. 

Just want to let everyone know that we are working hard, loving the experiences, especially the people, and hopefully doing some good.    Note:  We have a new friend here, Michael Warner.  He is a retired actor who has performed with Audrey Hepburn, Lawrence Olivier and others.  He was the voice of the BBC for many years with his clear deep and rich voice.  For his own project, he decided to read and record the full Book of Mormon.  It took him about 3 months but he got it all on cassette tape.  Now he has asked me to fix a few spots and then to record it digitally so that it can be preserved and shared more easily.  It took me a while, but I now have the means to duplicate and share this wonderful work with him and his friends.   He has some other writings that he has done and recorded on cassettes.  Looks like I will be doing some more for him in my spare time.

We leave you with the Family Home Evening lesson material for this month :

See: My Foundation, Principles, Skills and Habits, Chapter 7  Become One, Work Together
       Found at SRS.LDS.ORG
Check out this video and ....
     Copy and past the above link into a browser and hit enter

For home evening you can do the activity in the manual, see Chapter 7 above.

Keep Calm and Carry On

         Steve & Afton from JollyOlde' England