Sunday, July 5, 2015

Active June

June Blog – A month of Great Activity

June started out full of activity and new experiences.  Our P-Day started with a visit to the Churchhill War Museum.  This is a museum built as it was during the World War II.  Across from Parliament Square is a government building where the war offices were set up.  Brittan’s whole war effort was directed from this bunker under Parliament Square.  To help protect the facility, a huge layer of concrete was poured over the ground floor of the building hoping to make it “bomb proof” from the German air raids.  It never sustained a direct hit.  Underground there was a small city with map rooms, strategy rooms, and facilities for the whole staff (men and women).  They had interesting lights they used – Vitamin D treatments – to try and keep the staff healthy. A very interesting “Must See” if you ever tour London.

What would a P-Day be without going to work for at least part of the day?  We were asked to come and present a short lesson on Self-Reliance to the Young Single Adult home-evening group.  We taught about the importance of seeking learning.  A delightful evening.

Here is an update about Sebastian.  When he received his first paycheck, we started teaching him about budgeting, tithing, and fast offerings.  "What is this fast offering?" Sebastian asked. Afton explained that it is money given to help the poor.  "Does it help pay for the YSA dinners on Thursday nights?"  No, it helps people in need. You can pay any amount that you can afford.  This is your 1st paycheck so you can wait until after you have a few more paychecks.  "Oh, no.  I want to pay right now to help others!"   Also, working in a Pub / Hostel, Sebastian has to serve hard drinks.  Sometimes the customers want him to share a drink with them and so he has figured out that he can pour them a shot of gin or vodka (something clear) and then he pours himself water.  That way he does not break the Word of Wisdom. 

Last Fast Sunday, Sebastian  bore his testimony.  He was so excited to report that 3 weeks before, he started talking to a young lady in his hostel about the Church.  He brought her to the Visitor Centre for a tour and she was given a Book of Mormon.  She returned home but she emailed Sebastian to tell him that she had finished reading the B of M and was ready for the missionaries.  He was so excited!

Our Self Reliance group meetings have started and on a Wednesday evening, a group is taught in our Resource Center.  An hour before class, Fanny came in and she was very upset.  She had worked all day and then could not find her manager to report her time. She felt she was working and would not get paid.  She just sat there and put her head in her hands and wept.  Claire, a volunteer who comes into the Centre, has just opened her own restaurant.  Clair approached Fanny and asked if there was anything she could do to help her.  She said she had a headache because she was hungry.  Claire said that she had some left-over food she was taking home from work and offered it to her.  Afton took the food and Fanny and went to the lunchroom to heat up the rice and fish. Fanny later told us that it was amazing - Fish is the only meat that she eats!  Tender Mercy!

Kangaroos boxing
This has been an active month.  We have had General Authorities visit, anniversaries to celebrate, wards to visit, missionaries to move, new missionaries to gather up at the airport and lessons to teach.  This was our Anniversary month so we planned an African Safari.  Yep, a real African Safari --- to the London Zoo.  We had a fun tour guide and were shown lions and tigers and Kangaroos.  Kangaroos??  In Africa?  It was a fun evening out with my sweetheart.
Fun at the London Zoo

Deaf Workgroup
On a P-Day when we were having lunch with other seniors, we received a phone call that there was a group of deaf people at the Self-Reliance Centre expecting help with a group meeting. We hustled back to the office and found seven deaf people waiting for a class on starting their own business.  Turns out that a young lady who attended the BYU Business Forum in May had lined up this group.  She had a bit of a discussion with me about her facilitating a workgroup and then took it upon herself to set up the meeting/training session.  Oops, she forgot to come.  Oh the life of a missionary. We had a difficult time working with the group, but were finally able to reach Fiona via Skype and we figured out how to proceed with the introduction to the class.  I would teach and using Skype, Fiona would interpret and sign for the students.  Turns out they all really enjoyed the meeting and want Fiona to teach more.

It was wonderful having Elder Jeffrey Holland in the U.K. this month.  Elder Holland indeed did make a most impactful visit to the U.K.  From Edinburgh he broadcast live to all of the UK Stakes and this was shared in all of the chapels in the UK.  During the following week he was the first Apostle to speak before the Houses of Parliament.  On Friday (6/12) he came to the Hyde Park chapel and instructed the England London and England London South Mission with a good old pulpit pounding emphatic set of instructions.  He threatened all of the missionaries that if they fell away from the Church after returning home, he would hunt them down.  He taught us that just as the Book of Mormon heroes stood firm, “I will not deny”.  And, “Don’t you dare go inactive.  You have witnessed and testified of sacred things.  With the Gospel, you have more than the kings of the earth.” He also beautifully declared his personal witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and mentioned several times how apostles are disciples and followers of Christ and that Apostles (capital A) were Special Witnesses.  He declared that he was a capital-A  Apostle in the things he was teaching and declaring to us.  It was really powerful, spiritual, and enlightening.  Prior to the meeting, we had the opportunity to be "interviewed" by Elder Holland.  As he put it, there is not time to meet personally with all of the missionaries and seniors, but he always takes time to meet, shake hands, and to look into our eyes for a brief interview of the Spirit. We had the opportunity to have Elder Holland teach us three times that week in various meetings.

That same weekend, we had the Piano Guys, up close and personal.  They were on their European tour and through special arrangements from special friends, they came to the Hyde Park Stake for a wonderful Sunday evening of testimony and music.  They shared experiences of their coming together and the blessings they received from the Lord.  One of our recent convert friends is studying cello at the Royal Academy of Music.  She told us that she was doing well, but that her professors all noted a significant change in her music and interpretation about 6 months ago (turns out that was just about the time she had joined the Church) and now that she has witnessed Steven Sharp Nelson play the cello, and she talked with him personally and feels that now this will put her on a higher level of  cello performance. 

Side note, we are often blessed so unexpectedly.  When we heard the Piano Guys were coming to the UK, we got on line and tried to purchase tickets to their show.  It was sold out almost as soon as the tickets went on the market. Well, someone knows someone who knows The Piano Guys,  I believe it was Elder Duane Cardall (father of Paul Cardall – pianist) who was given some tickets to their show in a theatre.  Pres. Jordan, and several of the senior missionaries were given wonderful seats to the show and we were able to again greet these amazing & gifted performers after their show.  Wonderful treat.

OK, back to missionary work.  Each Sunday we try and visit a new ward to see how they are doing with the Self-Reliance Initiative.  That means we are driving a lot of new territory.  We have a GPS, but when you only have a postcode, the GPS only gets you close to your destination.  Often when the GPS says we have arrived, we only see apartment buildings. While we were driving, Afton was prompted to notice a steeple off to the side of the road.  She could not see a chapel, but the steeple looked to be a beacon drawing us home. We followed her prompting of help and soon solved our location issue.  For us it was a Tender Mercy as we were lost and then through this mercy we were found.

Regent's Park with Updikes & Gales
London is full of history and beauty.  Last P-Day we went exploring Regent’s Park.  London has some great open green spaces and the parks are huge – miles across.  Regent’s Park is known for it’s spectacular rose garden.  It was a bit overcast that day, but the flowers and gardens were spectacular.
Regents Park – Roses

Roses - Regents Park
Regents Park Rose Gardens

Missionaries are so blessed!  The Lord knows when we need things and his hand is in everything we do.  One of the tasks that office couples get to do, mostly Elder Gale, the new “Flat” missionary, is to open and close flats.  When you close a flat, you have to go in and inventory what came with the flat and what should be left from when the flat was originally rented.  Because Elder Gale is brand new, he asked me to go with him to clean out a vacated flat.  This was a past senior couple flat who had purchased a freezer for their own use.  Now a freezer is difficult to get in your suitcase so it was donated to the mission. Elder Gale and I took care of the inventory and ended up with a van load of furniture and this freezer.  We did not know what we were going to do with the freezer, but it was too good to discard so we loaded it up.  When we returned to the office, we discovered that that morning the office missionaries had opened up the office and found that the refrigerator/freezer where mission food was kept had failed and all of the food was about to be spoil. In we walk with a new functioning freezer.  A quick swap was made and all was again right with the world.  Another Tender Mercy.

Well, everyone, if you have not heard about PATHWAY, you now will.  Afton and I were called into the Stake President’s office (Hyde Park Stake) and asked if we would be Pathway Missionaries.  That is, BYU-Idaho PATHWAY program is coming to London.  The program is in something like 60 countries around the world, but is just now being introduced here.  PATHWAY is a one year course of study to get people ready for university studies.  As Pathway Missionaries, we will facilitate the group meetings and help advertise and support the on-line program.  We are a bit over-whelmed with all that we have to learn, but are excited about the opportunities to influence lives for good.

A note for your wall and your wallet.

                   DON’T RAISE YOUR STANDARD OF LIVING,           

Missionary Miracles:

Two elders visited with the bishop in their new area and asked him what specifically they could do to help strengthen the ward. Not surprisingly, he told them it would be most helpful if they would baptize a complete family. Later over lunch, they were reviewing some referrals from the church they found in their flat. One was an email message that was a year old. It originated from a member of the Church in Ecuador. She explained that her sister lived in England, and asked if the missionaries might visit her and share the gospel that had so blessed her life. Despite the staleness of the referral, the elders felt impressed to follow up. They called the number and a young woman answered. They explained who they were and she passed the phone to her mother. They again identified themselves, and explained that they were members of the church her sister belonged to in Ecuador. With great excitement, the mother responded that she had been thinking about her sister. In fact, she said she had been praying that week about her and the greater happiness she seemed to have in her life. The elders made an appointment to teach the entire family this week—father, mother and children.

Lesson Challenge:  Principle #4, My Foundation:  Manage Money.  Why is managing money so hard – and so important?

Watch:  First Things First   

(If the video does not play, go to SRS.LDS.ORG, Select Self Reliance, Manuals and videos, go to MY Foundation, and view  First Things First.)

Why do Grownups Make it So Hard ?

Missionary work is the hardest work you will ever love.  We hope that more couples can make themselves available for this wonderful work.  Love you all and hope you will write.

        Steve and Afton

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