Tuesday, December 2, 2014


November was a good month. We started to learn what we had been asked to do (Self Reliance Center work) and after two months finally had a P-Day.  We decided to take the "Original Big Bus Tour" and see the layout of London.  We were fortunate to have Malcolm, a Hyde Park ward member as our tour guide.  We started out by meeting him at Piccadilly Circus (it is a circus to drive through, but not an amusement park).  It is an entertainment center with many theatres and shops.  We got a glimpse of The Book of Mormon, the Musical theatre.  Here in London it has been the #1 rated musical for many weeks now.  The missionaries like to come on Matinee days and set up a table and banner across the street.  When patrons come out they theatre they see the white shirts and name tags and the missionaries are able to tell them, "Now that you have seen the show, read the book, it is even better".   
            We saw famous landmarks and tributes and had our picture taken with Paddington the Bear.  To get his full story,  you

The Book of Mormon the Musical
will have to go on-line and do a bit of research.  See if you can find his original birth place and then read the story behind his creation.  He is really famous now in England. 

We left Piccadilly on the bus and saw many unusual and interesting sites and whenever Malcolm found the bus stalled, he pulled out interesting pictures about the area we were in.  He is not allowed to preach Mormonism, but was able to put in a significant plug about the indexing of all of the old English records that were deteriorating in the archives.  During the part of our tour that included a Thames River Cruise, the guides were sure surprised about the number of people that were visiting the Tower of london to see the poppy presentation.  It was amazing and stirring when you understand that each poppy represented a soldier who gave his life during WW I.  You will see below a shot of a Beefeater giving a tour at the Tower of London, a picture of a small portion of the Tower of London Poppies, a Royal Barge passing the T of L. and if you look close you can see the huge crowds lined up to see the poppies and also two shots
and also two shots of Piccadilly Circus - Tribute to double decker tour busses and a shot of Buba 
Gumps Fish Co.  It was a great tour, but you really need to Malcolm along to make is so memorable.  We went on to see the Tower Bridge, and statues and interesting buildings and sites.  Don't go without Malcolm.  Call us for contact information if you come over the pond to visit London. 
Royal Poppies

Royal Barge passing on the Thames the Tower of London

When we completed our tour, we came back to Piccadilly Circus and had to visit the M & M store.  It we quite delightful.  They have M&M's with different kinds of nuts in them, M&M's of every imaginable color and of course toys and gadgets and gimicks to sell more M&M candies.

OK, back to missionary work.  The replacement office couple arrived, Elder and Sister Williams.  We are training them to take over the office so we can get back to the Self Reliance work that we were called to do.  After a week of training and in-office work, we were ready for another P-Day.  We are supposed to get one each week and this was number 3 in almost three months.  We were able to visit Kensington Gardens and the Kensington Palace.  We visited the older public half.  The west side is still used today and we under-stand that Andrew and Kate and their child are living there.  We visited Queen Victoria's side and started by seeing her wing of the Palace.  It was beautifully rebuilt in 1637 with Christoper Wren adding his design touches.  In the queen's side there are gently sloping staircases and lots of porcelain pots that the queen liked to keep planted with flowering plants of all kinds.  At one time, there were over 800 potted porcelains.  Nothing like a bit of excess.  You did not get much of a tour, but there were men standing around called "informers".  If you asked them questions, they bubbled forth with the most interesting facts and tales about the royalty.  Next we visited the King's wing of the palace. It was guady and full of stark contrasts.  There was a gambling room with the original games of chance set.  It was tough gambling with the King.  You wanted to win, but if you did, you might lose something other than your money.  Interesting tales were told of ghosts that currently haunt the palace and strange happenings every spring when Mad King George returns to the Palace and every fall when he leaves.  The "informers" can pretty well pinpoint the days when he arrives (stormy, windy, and dark) and the days he leaves (calm and sunny).  In between strange things happen like flying objects, tourist cameras thrown across the room, and other actual manifestations of King George's displeasure with the visitors who do not abide by the rules. :-).  
Fall Day in Kensignton Gardens

Most mornings we have been able to go walking in Kensington Gardens (west half of Hyde Park) and the morning when the weather is good are really beautiful.  You can see just a touch of fall in this shot of Afton.  Our walks are very pleasant.  You just to watch out for the bicycles and runners.  These shots don't show the crowds, but it is a great place to get a little exercise.  A good 30 minutes brisk walk will take you from our flat to the Kensington Garden and across the gardens and back.  Probably abut 2 miles. 

To close this installment, let me tell you that missionary work is alive and well here in London. Our mission goal is to have 500 baptism by the end of the year and we are closing in on that number.  Great things are happening.  A 60 year old man from Egypt was contacted by the missionaries (cold calling) but he was too busy to talk.  Unbeknownst to the missionaries he wanted to know more and so he went to the Mormon Channel and the internet.  He started reading about the Church and because of his interest decided to visit the Hyde Park Center and started taking lessons.  Two weeks ago he was baptized.  His son is coming with him to Church and when he is 18, he will no longer need his mother's permission and he also will be baptized.  Another young lady had been learning about the Church for the last four years.  Three weeks ago she came to London for a short "study abroad" session and met the missionaries and decided that the time was right and she was baptized.  She is going to tell her family when she returns home for the holidays.  The Spirit is strong and the Hyde Park Center is full of the spiritual experiences touching many and helping the Church to grow. 

Watch for  HE is the Gift.  It is touching.  Check out Christmas.mormon.org

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


We had a training meeting in Birmingham, England under the direction of Martin Gardiner, our PEF supervisor.  Birmingham is out of our mission, but because we were bringing PEF missionaries from Scotland, Leeds, London and Birmingham together we gained permission to attend.

Driving was a new experience.  In order to drive, the mission rules state that we have to take 3 hours on drivers education before we are approved to venture out, so I took advantage of the help and training. With my instructor, I emerged from the HP Centre parking garage right into the heart of London traffic and only once or twice making a right hand turn did I come face-to-face with four headlights - that is, two cars coming straight at me - or I was going straight at them.  I quickly pulled to the left and made it on my way. You learn quickly when you narrowly miss a head-on.  The real troubles came when heavy traffic caused me have to react quickly.  I was always grabbing for the gear shift with my right hand (muscle memory) and the darn thing was in the wrong place - left side near the middle of the car.  

All of this driving experience (training) was to prepare me to drive to Birmingham.  We traveled with Elder and Sister Phillips, the London YSA couple.  The Phillips hold Family home evening (with treats), teach institute on Tuesday night (with a light dinner), prepare for Temple Prep class and a full hot dinner on Thursday night and weekends usually have one or more activities that they help facilitate.  They do a lot of cooking as they work with about 250 YSA and are an awesome couple. They love their work and are seeing many youth come into the church through baptism.

Gadfield Elm Chapel
On our way home from Birmingham, Martin took all of us to visit the oldest piece of real estate owned by the church, the Gadfield Elm Chapel just outside of Pendock, UK.  This is a beautiful little rustic chapel where, in 1837,  Parley Pratt and Orson Hyde had great success preaching the Gospel. This building was build and used by the United Brethren congregation.  That is until Pratt and Hyde started baptizing them.  Nearly all of the 600 members of the Congregation joined the LDS Church.  The U.B. then donated the building and property to our church and this was the first real estate owned by the Mormons. The next picture is a shot of the inside of the Chapel.
Inside Gadfield Elm Chapel

Below is a posed picture of Steve doing his preaching as if in days of old. There was a copy of the B of M on the pulpit printed as the original with no divisions into chapters and verses.  This building is not really close to a population center so our group was the only one there at the time.  It is interesting, to get in. There are instructions posted on the widow. See if you can respond to this blog and send Afton and me the combination to open the door of the building.

Preaching as in days of old

Entrance Instructions
HALLOWEEN is not over-done here.  We did see a few costumes but one really unique thing was a couple who dressed up in all black and the shoulders of their shirt and blouse actually extended up over their heads.  It made them appear as if they were headless.  They were dressed all in black and held skeleton umbrellas.  That is, with the umbrella open, there was a black ribbon around the outside edge and ribs of black from the outer edge to the center of the handle.  Sorry, I did not get a picture.

At the Hyde Park Center we celebrated Halloween by viewing the 1925 classic, Lon Cheny's Phantom of the Opera.  This was shown just as it would have been done in 1925. It was a silent flick with word cards projected to keep the story moving and with the live organ accompaniment.  We have Elder Michael Ohman, Professor of Organ Music from the BYU as one of our senior missionaries.  He played non-stop for nearly two hours accompanying the film.

Elder Ohman, Chapel & Screen
 Here is Elder Ohman. Notice that there was a closed circuit TV behind him that was projecting him as he was playing. We got to see him creating his magic.  To his right (your left) is the large screen for the movie.   .

Our Own Elder Ohm
 Charisse wrote us to tell us about an art display being created here in London.  It was actually the creation of over 880,000 ceramic poppies.  Each poppy was to represent a fallen soldier from England from World War I.  The flowers are displayed in a poppy field around the base of the Tower of London.  Each of the poppies were individually placed by a team of hundreds of volunteers and each flower has now been sold to raise money to help care for the war victims.

Artist preparing Poppies
Our picture of the Poppies
inspecting the poppies
Poppies around the Tower of London
                Working at the Hyde Park Building, we see a lot of Chinese students.  Imperial College is just across the street and the school is rated in the top 4-5 in math and science in the world. They are right up there with MIT.  Many Chinese come and visit us because they are curious about our building.  They are being taught the gospel by some of our Chinese missionaries.  President Jordan sat in on many of  the discussions and we asked if it was difficult to teach the Chinese people  He said it was really quite wonderful because they were not all confused with misled Christian isms.  They were like a clean slate that could more easily be built upon and taught.  Well to do Chinese families send their teenagers here to attend the university, and they find the Church, are baptized and then return home to spread the Gospel in their home lands.

               One of our missionaries has an interesting story.  His parents, before they had children, went away to an eastern US school.  They were introduced to the Church, converted, and were baptized.  They returned to China but were fearful to make it known that they were LDS because of the communist rule.  As two children came along, they did not even let their children know they were baptized members.  When the children were old enough to go off to school, each went to a different school in the United States.  Elder Hou was introduced to the Church at BYU and was baptized but did not know how to tell his sister.  When he did, he found that she also had found the Church and had been baptized.  Now they had a real dilemma.  How to tell their parents in China that their only two children had joined the Mormon Church?  They made the phone call and found the parents over-joyed as they explained that the parents had been members all of their life but were fearful to make it public. They were over-joyed when they found that everyone in the family had all found the gospel independently.  Elder Hou has been an excellent missionary in London.

We love doing the work here and should be training our replacements starting at the end of this week.
Soon after that we will be back to the work we were called to do.  We are very happy and doing well. We hope you enjoy the highlights that we are sharing in our blog.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Small, Temple, and Transfers

     We have noticed interesting things about the Brits.  They never look at you.  Well, if they are a half a block away, they might glance at you, but when you approach them they look down, up,out into the street or try and look straight past you.  Unfriendly?  Not at all.  If you overwhelm them with a big smile and say Hello, they are really very cheery folks.  One day on the way to the Hyde Park Center, a small van with building materials stacked on top, pulled over.  It had lost part of its load.  The driver was leaning on a large metal frame (obviously one of several that had been on top of his van) and appeared to be figuring out how to get it back on top.  It was raining, but I stopped and offered to help him heft it back up on the truck.  I offered a couple of times but he refused my help and said he would get a mate to help him.  As we walked on, he jogged after us and told us that it was nice of us to stop and offer help.  He noted that we must be from the US because helping is what Americans do.

     Food here is really quite good.  We stopped at a pub one of the first nights we were hear and of course, I had to order Fish & Chips.  This was a wonderful slab of white fish cooked in a light breading and served with crisp chips (french fries to you and me).  The one piece of fish covered my whole plate and it was quite wonderful. Another night we had worked real late and were beat so we stopped at an Italian restaurant.  One of us order Prawns and I ordered chicken pizza.  Nothing like prawns at home.  These were small cocktail shrimp on slices of avacado and the pizza might have had 6 small chunks of chicken and 4 pepperoni slices on the whole pizza.  The tomato sauce was delicious, but everything else on the pizza was missing in action.  Certainly not a Pizza Hut meat lovers like home.

Small Things
     Brits are into small things.  Small apartments, small cars, small shops and stores, and small packaging.  Here is a liter of Orange juice, butter by the 200 gr, vanilla extract with only a few servings.  Just seems that everything is small.  We bought an electrical plug from an "electrical Wholesale" shop.  Must have been all of 150 Sq Ft, but he had everything.  It was cramed into every conceivable corner.  In fact, much of his inventory was actually in the display window.  We bought a set of hair clippers and he pulled the only pair he had from the display out front.   I don't have a good picture of the sidewalks, but they are wide and large.  Small cars crowd the streets while people get nice wide sidewalks.  If there is a car parked on the side of the road buses have to go fully into the on coming lane of traffic to get past. If a delivery truck stops to drop off produce, it is a major traffic jam because no one can get by.

Lingfield Station
     Let me tell you about the London Temple.  It is NOT in London.  We had the wonderful opportunity to take the train toward East Grinfield which stops at Lingfield where you get off and find a taxi to take you to the Temple.  It is really beautiful.  Our group of senior couples overwhelmed the whole session, but the Spirit was great, the Temple was gorgious and the trip very memorable.  We left our flat at about 9:15 am, walked to the underground station and took the tube to Victoria Station.  There we boarded the rail line toward East Grinfield getting off at Lingfield.  We took a lovely strole up a back alley and it opened into the city center of Lingfield where we came face to face with this historical building.  We visited a very old, yet functioning church, and when we came out it was raining.  We dashed to the Star Inn for a delicious lunch of  Sausage & Mash and then off to the Temple.

Historic Building - Lingfield
Star Inn - Open fire
     When we came out of the Temple, we were in a
Sausage & Mash
hurry to get back to London to fill an assignment. We called for a taxi.  While we were waiting, other missionaries came and more people called for a taxi, about 14 in all.  So, the cab company decided to send a good sized van.  When it arrived people started piling in and when it was full, Afton and I were left behind.  First to order, last to get served :-). The taxi driver told there were no more taxis to come.  He drove off and we were left wondering what to do. Fortunately, an Elder (half of a senior couple) drove by and stopped to see what was happening.  He offered to take us to the train station.  Except after driving for about 10 minutes, we found he did not know the way to the train station.  We ended up at East Grinstead of Lingfield - two stops up the train line away from London.  So it was well after 5:00 when we got on the train and headed back to the Center.  We barely made our appointment.  The whole trip took about 9 hours and cost us about $75.  In Utah we are so fortunate to have temples minutes away.

      Briefly, Transfers are wild.  Seems likes anything that can go wrong did for our first transfer. Missionaries come from all over the mission to bring departing missionaries to Hyde Park. New companionships are formed and sent on their way to their new areas, departing missionaries get a nice dinner with the President Jordan, and then we load them up and take the departing missionaries to the Comfort Inn at the airport.  That way, whenever their flights are throughout the next day they can get shuttled a short distance to their terminals instead of an hour's commute from Hyde Park to Heathrow.  All missionaries were reminded to check tickets, luggage, passports, and to make sure they had returned their flat keys.  Elder Davis dropped them off about 10:00 pm.  8:00 am the next morning, a missionary called and could not find his passport.  Eight missionaries going to SLC tried to checkin at the airline only to find that Salt lake had not paid for their tickets.  A mad scramble to make new reservations, pay the tickets, and with two minutes to spare get them all on the plane. No one has called, so we believe they all made it home.

We are loving the work.  The people we work with are really special.  The work is hard, demanding, and wonderful.  We will miss it when the new office couple arrives, but will get some relief when we start our real assignment in the Self-Reliance Center.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Elder Giles Passing

Such an unusual week.  If they are all like this, we are in for a real workout. Monday was beautiful and we had the day off.  Started out at Kensington Gardens (part of Hyde Park).  We visited Kensington Palace, the home of the Royal Family extended.  They actually live here.
Kensington Palace

We were contemplating spending our last few pounds (sterling that is) when Elder and Sister Giles walked in and told us about a Palace Pass.  For less money we could visit several palaces so we decided to hold off going in.  So more on this when we actually get in.  We went out through the gift shop and found that we must really close to royalty from the signs we were seeing.
Could be the Royal Head
We also found the Wiggly Walk just next to the Palace.  A beautiful stroll up toward the Orangery (elegant dining hall for formal occasions.  No picture.)

The Wiggly Walk
Royals have their privileges and beautiful gardens, all kept up by the staff. :-).  Wish we had a staff. 

Below we are seeing the actual Garden just before replanting for the winter season.
Gardens before changing Plants
Steven & Afton at the Gardens
The arts are really big here.  A guest architect was commissioned to do a work near the Serpentine Gallery in the park.  This is a very large snail shell.  It actually has a small snack stand and tables and chairs where you can sit and visit. 

Later in the day we visited the place where C.S. Lewis lived.  Not much to look at, but the street was interesting and very typical o this particular area within in 10 minutes of where we live.  Oops, can't get the video's to post.  Maybe next time.   Help someoe !

That's all the good stuff.  Now for a brief recap of the rest of the week. 
Tuesday morning, our friends, fellow missionaries, and neighbors went walking in Kensington Garden.  Arriving home, Elder Giles started working on breakfast and preparation for the day.  When his companion came back to the kitchen, he was on the floor unconscious.  She immediately panicked and came and banged on our door,  We sprang to action and crossed the hall to find Elder Giles down and out.  Scout training kicked in and I started CPR (first time ever for real).  We called for help and the Cardall's from upstairs came immediately and the police and emergency services were dispatched.  Elder Cardall and I continued CPR and the paramedics took over with oxygen, medications, and 
 other tools.   After about an hour doing all we could for him, it was called off.  It appears Elder Giles had a severe heart attack and was probably dead before he hit the ground.    

We will miss our new friend. It was a blessing that he was not taken while they were walking in the park where Sister Giles would not have had any support.  The funeral service was planned for Thursday and was very special. Sister Giles had two of her sons fly in from Utah and they spoke telling of Elder Giles' great service as president of the Haiti Mission and experiences of family life and gospel strength.  

Sister Giles, though grief stricken, was so strong.  President Jordan (Mission Pres) asked if Afton and I would step in and and help with the office finances and membership and missionary duties.  Sister Giles insisted on coming to the office to give training.  She could not leave anything undone or incomplete.  Because of her help, we will be able to keep the office running until future plans can be made and personnel secured. This has been a rough week, but full of service, emotion, training, work, and great spiritual help.  Conference is helping and with a wonderful staff, we move on to our first mission transfer.  More on that next time. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

We Made it !

Here we are in jolly olde England.  This is what it really looks like.

The next picture is our flat on Palace Gate. Ours
is on the main street level and the right windows.

A 14 minute walk gets us to the Hyde Park Building which houses two wards, the mission office, the stake offices, a family history center and our Self-Reliance Center - home for the next 18 months.  During our first week here, our director has been in Germany getting trained on new materials.  For this week, we were on our own.

As we walk down Queens Gate Lane, there are a number of Embassy's and it seems they all drive some rather exotic cars.  We see Aston Martin's, Alpha Romeo's, Massarati's, Ferrari's and other interesting cars.  I love the eye lashes.  They are the rage here.

The first day at the center a lady who had moved from Australia came in to get some help.  We noticed that she needed help with her CV (Curriculum Vitae or Resume).  Luckily a center volunteer named Claire came in and helped us. Wednesday and Thursday we helped prepare and serve food for Zone Conferences and received wonderful instruction on the Book of Mormon from our Mission President. On Thursday we recognized our first miracle when a single adult walked in and asked how she could help.  We were so new we did not know what to have her do.  Five minutes later, a church member from Hungary walked in and requested his CV (resume) and Temple Ordinance Records which were prepared by the previous couple.  We had no idea where to find the papers.  Our volunteer gal searched the entire office and found the documents on the computer ready to print.  Because she knew genealogy, she also knew how to find the ordinance records.  (She had only been a member 10 months herself.)  We had a language barrier with the Hungarian member and I went downstairs to the Zone Conference and found that there was only one missionary from Hungary and he was here serving in London.  Of the four zones in the mission, he was at the center the day we needed him. The Elder and volunteer helped get plane tickets, a visa waiver, and other arrangements to get the member on his way to SLC for General Conference.  How sweet it was to see the pieces come together.  The Lord knew we needed help, Eron - the Hungarian needed help, and he provided the new member and the only hungarian speaking missionary in the mission.  All at the same time in the same place.  Miracles do happen!

On our P-Day we visited a local museum and thought we had found ice cream.   Charisse, we found ice cream.  It was cold, frozen, and on a cone but it tasted like frozen whipped cream or cool whip. We will continue searching.  That will be our quest.

Cheerio to everyone - Steve & Afton

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Week 2 has been uplifting.  Sunday we had a personal meeting with six missionaries, three staff and Elder Enrique R. Falabello.  We were introduced to the new Initiative of Self-Reliance for church members around the world.  This includes PEF and Self-Reliance in employment leading to spiritual and temporal well being.   Training the rest of the week was an overview of what is happening.  Most of it is about substance that we do not have.

It was exciting to receive on Tuesday an email from the Embassey of the UK in New York that they were finally processing and sending our Visa.  It arrived Wednesday.  Thursday, on the way to the airport, we stopped by the Church Office Building and picked up the visa. Last minute I guess you would say.  Off to the Airport and on the plan from 5:00 pm Thursday to Noon on Friday.

At Heathrow Airport we were met by the mission staff who took us to meet President Jordan, our Mission President.  Following an hour interview, we walked over to the Employment Center and met with Martin Gardner, our Church Director.  He worked with us until about 4:00 pm.  Then we were taken to our apartment and advised NOT to go to sleep till evening so we packed our little cart and went to the store for groceries.  Home at last, unpacked, crashed.  Afton did not surface until 11:00 am the next morning.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

MTC Experience

September 8th, 2014.  Steve and Afton report to the Missionary Training Center, Provo, Utah.   With great anticipation and excitement we drove to Provo to begin our first week of wonderful training.   We were greeted by young missionaries and let through the orientation process including immunization and room assignments.  It's like we joined the Army!  (Wait, I guess we did.  The Lord's Army.)  Steve has already been assigned to be a District Leader, which means Afton was in charge of refreshments - chocolate every day. It's important to set a good example.  The first day wrapped up with inspirational training, moving into our small apartment, and collapse.

Tuesday we found our basic schedule looked like:
  • 6:15  Alarm went off way too early!  Maybe tomorrow we'll try the inflatable exercise area.
  • 7:00  Out the door to the famous MTC breakfast.
  • 7:59  Music and instruction started - On time is late, better to be early.
  • 8:00  General training and instruction from PREACH MY GOSPEL.
  • Noon:  More food at the cafeteria
  • 1:15  Back to class  / Basic Training
  • 5:30  Dinner - Still more food.
  • 7:00  Devotional
All of the missionaries met for a devotional with special speaker, Elder & Sister Sitaki from the Presidency of the Seventy.  They came to us from Nairobi, Kenya and were converts in 1986.  About 1/3 of the missionaries participated in a special missionary choir and we all sang Called to Serve.  It was fun to look down the row while singing and see the young missionaries using the words to the song in their own newly learned language as we sang in English.

The highlight of Wednesday was a session at the Provo Temple which has the greatest attendance of any temple in the Church.  It's remarkable to think about how well-used this temple is and yet the building and its furnishings are still in pristine condition.  The experience was beautiful and the Spirit uplifting. 

MTC Training this week has been all about learning to teach.  We have been given skills, practice for those skills, interaction, more practice and testimony.  It was lots of fun yet very spiritual. We are loving lunchtime in the cafeteria with 2600 young excited missionaries. The courage of Senior Missionaries going to foreign language countries with no training and all the assignments given by the Lord is stunning.

To be continued ............
First Day of Missionary School

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Called To Serve

Afton & I have been called to serve in the England London Mission in the Office of the Perpetual Education Fund and Self Reliance Center.