Wednesday, June 3, 2015

May is for Missionary

May has been full of great experiences and adventures.  We will share the highlights with you in this installment.

Last Month we mentioned that we had been working with people from many countries.  Sebastian Criste has been really special.  Sebastian is from Romania and came to London to find work as things are really bad in his home country.  He walked past the Hyde Park Centre and the missionaries stopped him on the street and invited him in.  The missionaries thought we could help find him a job.  Everybody seems to think we are an employment agency – NOT.  Sebastian was living in a Hostel, out of money, and unemployed.  Up to the Center the missionaries came and they left him with us and we started working with him.  Sebastian had a couple of plans, none were very well thought out.  In two months he thought he had a job lined up in northern England, pending the arrival of a friend who actually had the job.  Meanwhile, he was starving, homeless, and without resources.  His mother was going to send money to help but she ended up in a Romanian hospital with diabetes problems of her own.  We helped build a CV and got Sebastian looking on the internet for job openings.  He found an agency that would give him temporary day work so he started out for a week’s work doing office cleaning.  Sebastian has been taught some great values and really knows how to work hard. What he lacks in skills he makes up for in drive.  After his first week, Anthony, his new boss was very impressed and Sebastian received glowing reports from the job supervisor.  His boss loved finding people who could really work and so he helped out by finding Sebastian a week’s lodging.  After two weeks work, the job was finished and he was again looking.                          
In the meantime, Sebastian had been taking the missionary lessons and was really excited about the Church.  He could not get baptized until he was more firmly settled.   Another Hostel was found and we worked with him to carefully budget the money he had now earned from the first two weeks of work. While in the new hostel, he was asking around and talked his way into a job as a night manager.  He has a job and so baptism became a reality.  Elder Baxter was able speak at the Baptism and it was a wonderful experience.  Sebastian is excited about the Gospel and after two weeks has been given the Aaronic Priesthood.  One of the jobs that Sebastian has considered (he is applying for everything) was to be a model. We scrounged a suit from the missionary stash and we counseled him on being careful of which jobs he applied for.  He found that the modeling was not for him.

He has since given away a Book of Mormon and invited others to Church.
Sebastian's Baptism
 He is also passing the Sacrament and loves being in a ward and receiving new member lessons.  Sebastian’s first boss called and has more work for him and so now he works from 11 pm to 10am at the hostel, showers and goes to work for Anthony, the first boss.  Gets off work, sleeps a couple hours and returns to the night manager work at the hostel.  He is saving to have a down payment and security deposit for a flat of his own.  A third job is a possibility so things are really looking up.  The Lord is blessing this young man.

For P-Day, we were scheduled to go with some other missionary couples to Richmond Park. We rode the train and then transferred to a bus.  We asked the driver where to get off for the park and he told us he would tell us when we got there.  He must have forgotten because after a long ride, we were at the end of the line and he was telling everyone to get off.  Then he remembered he was supposed to help us.  He told us to change busses and to ride back.  During the ride, we asked other passengers for directions and they helped us find the correct stop.

Deer just above sign
We heard about the beautiful flowers, so we walked into the park – we walked down the trails – we walked past the lodge – we walked and walked and walked and found only one bush (it was beautiful) but not really spectacular.  We were able to see a polo game off in the distance and then we came upon a sign warning us to watch for deer.  I lookup up and there was a deer grazing just in front of us.  We walked closer and soon saw two deer, then we came upon five, and then more and more until we were literally in the midst of a herd of about 75 deer.  Quite an experience.

    As we walked past a beautiful lake and more deer, the sun was setting so we started making our way out of the park. 

                                           Isabella Plantation inside of Richmond Park

 During the next week we found that we were in the north end of the park and the flowers were in a southern part of the park in an area called Isabella Plantation.   So, the next week, when we found Isabella Plantation, and as you will see from the pictures, was very spectacular with the spring blossoms in their full glory.

Annother day in the Centre, a pair of Elder’s brought in Mauricio from Brazil. Mauricio came to London from Brazil and was looking for work.  He is a very competent computer programmer and even helped us solve a virus problem. We started working on his CV and on resources to help him find employment.  He was desperate to raise money so he soon took on three part time jobs to support himself and to send money back to Brazil to bring his wife to London.  He is working on his English so I am sure it won’t be long before he can get a good computer job.  When we went to his baptism, there was such a sweet spirit.  The whole meeting was in Portuguese so we did not understand a word of what was said, but recognized the spirit.  The City Ward meets in a school so their ward comes to Hyde Park to use the baptismal font. It is so good to see 30-40 people from the ward venture across town and show up to support Mauricio.  He cannot wait to share the gospel with his wife when she comes June 2.

US Embassy - London
Throughout the early part of May, we spent hours and hours working with Sister Tshimanga to prepare her for her interview with the US Embassy to get her student visa.  We had the schools in S.L. ready to admit her to fall semester and we had arranged for housing and support.  We had practiced with ward members who are employed at the US Embassy to make sure Sister T. would give the best answers.  The day of the interview came and there were about 700 people applying for Visa’s to the US.  We got to the US Embassy just before 10:00 am and Sister T. had to go in by herself.  Long waits. Stress.  More waiting.  Finally she came out. The consulate worker looked at her file and found that Sister T. had applied, prior to her mission, for a Visa to the US just to go to the MTC in Provo for missionary training and had been denied.  Because she had been denied once, the worker would not consider the different circumstances and she was summarily dismissed with a failed application.  However, we feel that there must be something extraordinary waiting for her when she returns to the Congo.

Our work in the Self-Reliance Centre has been expanding.  We support the 8 stakes that touch London and go wherever we are needed to teach and support the Self-Reliance Initiative that is being rolled out here in the U.K.  This month we have traveled to the Crawley Stake, Eastbourne Ward.   Two weeks ago we had a great meeting with the Bishop of the Eastbourne Ward.  Things went well.  But most interesting was the building that the Eastbourne Ward meets in.  See the pictures included.  This was a Church of England building that served as a school.  The local school stopped using the building and the LDS Church came in and purchased the building.  They did a little remodeling inside, but they left the rich culture and history of this beautiful building.  To the best knowledge of the ward historian and public affairs director, this is the only LDS Church building that has a cross on the outside.  Built into the chimney, you can see the masonry church cross.  Interesting. 

Eastbourne Ward

Note Cross in the chimney
While down there, we visited the English Channel and were able to almost see France.  It was a misty day and not perfectly clear.  But we had faith that if we looked hard enough and far enough, we could see over the ocean clear to France.

Greenwich, England

Last Monday, we were able to take our P-Day and go with another missionary couple to Greenwich Village.  This is the spot where the Prime Meridian runs through and it is the point where time begins a new day. Scholars have studied the stars and time, and all sorts of things.
Prime Meridian marker
Also, on top of the building is a large round ball.  Every day at 1:00 pm, that ball is raised to the top of the tower and precisely at 1:00 pm the ball drops.  This is the traditional way that all of the passing mariners were able to set their watches.  As they passed Greenwich, they could watch the ball and when it was dropped, they could visually see that it was 1:00 pm.

Greenwich Ball Dropping
Nelson's Ship In A Bottle
By golly, the ball dropped while we were there and it agreed precisely with my IPhone as it struck 1:00 pm.  Greenwich is also the home of the Maritime Museum and the largest ship-in-a-bottle.  A replica of Lord Nelson’s sailing ship as pictured here.  Greenwich is a wonderful, quiet, peaceful escape from the hub-bub of London.  

To finish up, we want to tell you of a miracle. We have had a wonderful senior couple working in the Visitor Center.  Late in April, Michael and Shari Ohman went for a walk in Hyde Park.  Michael has been a professor of organ music at BYU but are currently serving here in London.  Mike sat down on a bench for a rest and Shari moved away to take some pictures of the Spring Flowers.  When she came back moments later, she found Mike laying on the ground with two police officers approaching.  You NEVER see policemen in the park and of course they are never around when you need them.  They asked Mike if he was drunk, just as Shari approached, and she assured them he was not.  She showed them her missionary tag.  He was having some trouble breathing so he moved to the grass and had slumped to the ground.  Soon he reported that he was having severe chest pressure and pain down his left arm.  Yes, he was having a severe heart-attack.  Immediately Shari called to the officers.  One came over to give assistance while the other radioed for an ambulance.  Within fifteen minutes Mike was in an ambulance on his way to the best heart hospital in London.  One miracle is that there were policemen on the spot when they were needed and the other was that Elder Ohman was receiving lifesaving treatment so soon after the heart attack. They nearly lost him enroute and when he arrived at the hospital he was immediately treated.  In the operating room, it was reported that they lost him twice, but were able to revive him.  Three arteries were badly blocked and there was a large blood clot blocking a heart valve.  Drugs were administered to dissolve the clot but that thinned the blood too much and he started bleeding severely internally.  Again he was nearly a departed soul. Mike has been in the hospital for nearly 40 days experiencing multiple complications and just last Wednesday was given the OK to fly home to Provo.  There were a couple of times when things looked really bad for Mike and he would request a blessing.  On those occasions, immediately following the blessings, things improved.  High blood pressure would drop, white blood cell counts would improve, and the Lord blessed Mike to continue. He is a walking (not really as he is riding a wheel chair mostly) miracle.  Friday we, Afton and I, put him and his companion on a plane for home.  The Area Mission Doctor accompanied them back to SLC.  There will be no more late night visits to the hospital which means no more late night crossings of the Westminster Bridge.  See night shots of Big Ben and the London Eye.
London Eye leaving Hospital
Big Ben after leaving St. Thomas Hospital

Well, as you can see, we have had a very full month.  Time and again we were strengthened in our testimony that the Lord is guiding this great work and that he is watching out for all of the missionaries. During this month, we had a mission conference and our missionaries were all given training in the use of the IPad for missionary work.
Missionaries setting up their IPads
Elder Kiernan, the new Area President, told us that the work must go forward to help Heavenly Father get his children home to Him.  Elder Nielson of the Seventy, reported how the Gospel is being spread through the world electronically.  During the Christmas season, HE IS THE GIFT (video presentation) was viewed over 33 million times over the 28 day campaign.  During this last Easter, HE LIVES had over 30 million views in just 8 days.  The Brethren are using every modern tool to take the Gospel to the World.

Principle #3 of the MY FOUNDATION Self-Reliance workbook is to be Obedient.  Obedience to God’s laws and principles leads to spiritual and temporal blessings.  For example:
     The Word of Wisdom (D&C 89) ----------- Better health, great knowledge
     Tithes & Offerings (Malachi 3:10-12) ----- Temporal & Spiritual blessings, success in our work, protection
President Monson said, “The knowledge which we seek, the answers for which we yearn, and the strength which we desire today to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when we willingly obey the Lord’s commandments.”

Joseph Smith said, “I made this my rule:  When the lord Commands, do it.”


  1. We love hearing from you! What wonderful adventures you are having...such a blessing for those people to have two such wonderful examples and guides as you two. Your skills and knowledge have certainly blessed the lives of those you work with. Thank you for sharing all the marvelous experiences you are having. We love you! The Feet (as the missionaries here call us)

  2. Wow! Sounds like you are having some wonderful experiences!

  3. I just wrote a nice long comment and then it disappeared. Suffice it to say I am glad for Sebastian and that you are able to be part of so many wonderful miracles in people's lives.


  4. So enjoy your blog. People are really blessed by your knowledge and experience. The Lord's hand is in all the work you do for others. Keep enjoying and reporting on your outings. We love you.