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