Monday, January 12, 2015

Thanksgiving Post

Thanksgiving Blog

OK, it is really hard to keep up on everything and that includes Blogging.  So here is the November Blog taking us Thanksgiving through Dec 21st.

November was a wonderful month with many highlights, not the least of which was a Special Mission Conference.  Once a year (if we are lucky) we call all of the missionaries from every corner of the mission to come in for instruction and direction.  This year Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Twelve came to instruct and motivate the England London Mission (and the London South Mission).  Elder Cook and Elder Holland were companions in this mission years ago and the stories and direction given were amazing.  This was also the kick-off of the HE IS THE GIFT! Initiative for the Church worldwide.  What a beautiful presentation the Church has prepared to share with the world about the message of the Saviour.  If you have not seen it, go to: and watch it.  Following our conference, we took all of the missionaries to the stairs of Royal Albert Hall for a Mission Photo.  It is indeed a special occasion to get all of the missionaries together at one time for a photo opp.

Christmas is coming and it is such a special time of the year.  The Hyde Park Center has been tastefully decorated and there are many many many decorations left over from prior years.  Sister Baxter and Sister Williams have been going through much of the excess and have had great experiences decorating the office, the flat, the halls and lots of other areas from what were left-overs from prior years.  I found a few lights and we purchased a “small” tree and we have decorated our flat.  You will see the home made wreath that we made and the tree that we have dedicated for Christmas for this year and next. 

Shopping for Christmas here in London could really get out of control.  There is an upscale grocery store near our flat that has an “American” section where they have Oreos, Cheerios, Crisco, and even Jell-O pudding.  The Brits don’t buy the stuff, but there are enough Americans, missionaries, and embassy workers in the area to make it worthwhile to carry.  A 3lb can of Crisco, £10 ($16.00).  The pies this year are not so numerous, but the ones we do bake are really appreciated.  Shopping at Harrods is also a special experience.  See pictures.  They really have about anything you could every want, anywhere.  You just have to pay the price.  They have a really cool toy section, a spectacular fruit and vegetable section, a marvelous bakery section, a section specializing in candy, another just for chocolates, clothes of every kind, even furniture and electronics, a full meat department, a cheese department, a diamond department, men’s and ladies clothing, a whole separate department for shoes, sporting gear, and on and on and on. These are not just one row of items, but each is a complete department with its own decoration, theme, full display and complete inventory. A simple ladies jacket was £900 ($1,300) and there were some men’s loafer shoes priced at £1200.  Yes, they were patent leather and with some really cool colors, butt $1,600 for a pair of casual shoes is over the top.  Check out the Rainbow Cake in the picture.

The American’s here did celebrate Thanksgiving.  We had a pretty traditional dinner at President Jordan’s flat with all of the Mission Staff.  President cooked the turkey and made up two kinds of gravy, we had potatoes, sweet potato souffl√©, Sister Jordan made a Dixie Salad (Costco here has Pomegranates that are already out of the skin), vegetables and stuffing.  The couple of interesting add-ons were parsnips, cauliflower, and fried rice.  There was a Lemon Meringue pie with at least 8 inch high meringue and I made an apple pie with fresh apples.  That Thursday was still a work day and we spent a few hours in the office, had dinner, and then Sister Baxter and I had to run off to the Wandsworth Stake to meet with their Self Reliance Committee. 

In our run-up to Christmas, the Hyde Park Stake had an annual International Evening with special foods, games, dancing, and lots of fun.  Our Stake is represented by over 110 different cultures.  At this one event, we had an activity where everyone was asked to visit the table and pick out the flag of the country where they were born and post it on the wall.  As you can see in that one night, we had over forty countries represented.  We had some wild Brazilians doing some very active dances, sharing spicy beef, we had some gorgeous African dresses and head gears as shown by Claire Mungo, one of our Self Reliance Center volunteers, we had Chinese, Japanese, African, American, middle eastern all bringing their special types of food and culture to the event.

Crazy Brazillians

Clair Mungo
As we have led up to Christmas, we have had a most wonderful Christmas Devotional at the Hyde Park Center with a Missionary Chorus, and Young Single Adult Chorus, inspirational video clips, instrumental music, inspiration messages and finally the showing of the video, He is The Gift.  As we got closer to Christmas, we have been able to participate in other musical events.  As we visited one of the wards, we met a senior couple who invited us to attend the Messiah.  Then we met an inactive sister and we are working on activating her.  She sings with a group that was singing backup to Maddy Prior.  We went to see Maddy Pryor and the Carnival Band.  We started the week with Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Let me share a bit.  Wednesday was Evensong.  As we went into the service at St. Paul’s Cathedral (THE St. Paul’s Cathedral) we were asked if we wanted to sit amongst the Choir.  Not knowing what to expect, we jumped at the opportunity.  We were ushered up front, into about two-thirds of the Choir seats, just below the Cathedral organ.  Evensong is the mass leading up to the Christmas Week.  The pomp and ceremony were very interesting.  Thursday, we jumped on the tub for a concert at Cadogan Hall to see Maddy Pryor and a six piece band playing 18th century instruments and singing old English Carols.  There was a lot of dancing and carrying on reminiscent of an Irish drinking pub.  Very interesting.  Friday night we met another missionary couple and traveled down to the Thames River, walked along the river’s edge and turned up toward Bailey Square.  This is where the court system, legal system of London functions.  Right in the middle of all of this is the Temple Church.  That is, the Church first built in 1116 by the Knights Templar of DaVinci Code fame.  A beautifully restored church where the BBC sponsored the presentation of Handel’s Messiah.  There are 26 members of the BBC Singers who performed the full Messiah along with the Norwegian Wind Ensemble.  They were spectacular!!!  We have sung in several excellent presentations of the Messiah with chorus’ of 150 to 300 but none was as moving, beautiful and so professionally done as this one here in London.  What a spread of musical experiences that week.

Baxter's @ Royal Albert Hall
Temple Church 

We did find a few rather spectacular lights for Christmas.  This was Westfield Mall, just Bus 49 to the end of the route.  In the center of the mall they put in a temporary ice skating rink and the people seemed to really enjoy it.  The lights were wonderful.  However, as you look around, there was not one mention or sign of "Christ"mas - it was all secular and worldly.

Westfield Mall
We finished off the week by visiting Hampton Court Palace.  This is Henry VIII’s palace at Hampton Court and was rather special.  The gardens are vast and the palace was gorgeous.  The first room we went in was a large dining hall where the knights would be fed and housed.  A very large, tall room to impress everyone with Henry’s power and wealth.  Of course, Henry never came into this room because he was a rather short King and this would not be the place to present a short king.   We were able to visit a few parts of the palace in the short time we were there but we saw a series of throne rooms each getting more and more ornate.  Apparently famous people would try to get in to see the King and the closer they got, the smaller the rooms would become (it was hard to get permission to move closer to an audience with the King).  The rooms got smaller so that the King would appear to be larger and more powerful.  Lavish is an understatement.  We hope to go back when the gardens are in full bloom which should make this a very spectacular visit.  They also did a bit of a light show in the gardens after dark.  For a palace show piece, this was a bit underwhelming.  We are used to Temple Square and this just did not measure up to real Christmas Lights.  It was “nice”.  Ask Jenee to explain “nice’ singing or “nice” presentations.  I think she will be able to make this a bit more clear.  Christmas week is upon us and I will share more in the next blog.  We were watching a Hallmark type movie on TV and got really deeply involved in the plot and at the end of the two hour movie, it said, “To Be Continued”.  So this is To Be Continued:  J


  1. Love it you guys. What a wonderful, fun Christmas you had. We are nearly packed and ready to go. No last-minute panic or unknowns this time for us! Love you and miss you TONS!!

  2. Wow, what a wonderful chance to see so many unique and beautiful places! We miss you guys! Casten can't seem to figure out why grandma and grandpa are never home when we go visit, but we are so grateful for the love and service you are giving to the people in England. We love you!

  3. Hmmm. Having trouble sending this, so I'll try again. Maybe you're screening, which is a good idea. I'll say again, this post was well worth the wait. I'm so glad to see all the fun things you are doing! Love living in London vicariously. Must say, the costs are a real consideration. Still wondering about the turkey, can't be that many in England.

  4. I'm was glad to get your blog this week. Just the other day I was thinking about you guys and your monthly Blog. I knew it must have been a busy time for you but I was worried that I had missed out on one somehow. I do look forward to the two of you sharing your spirit and experiences while serving there. God bless you.

  5. So good to hear from you. Love to read about your experiences. We know it is not all fun and games but you are sharing your love of the gospel and that is most important. Our family Christmas party turned out to be a lot of fun. Neil did a great job as Santa. I wouldn't have known it was him if I hadn't known. We expected around 65 people and we had 90. Had to run for more pizza. Have you received our Christmas package/envelope? Love you, keep up the good work.

  6. Love to read you blog! You look great and it is obvious that you are loving what you are doing! Looking forward to the next 'edition'.
    Love you!