Thursday, January 7, 2016

Happy New Year 2016

Happy New Year from Jolly Old England!
London Eye on New Year's

       December was a month full of great experiences.  We will start off with our trip to the London Temple.  Straight forward – ya’d think.  Plan A: Arrived at Victoria Train Station to catch our train to Lingfield only to find that the train had been held three stations away from Victoria and it would not be coming all the way into Victoria Station.  Plan B:  Train platform assistant advised us to take another train and go to Croydon and meet up with the train we needed to take to get to the London Temple.  We jumped on the nearby train and we were off.  We got information while on the train that we needed to catch a different train in West Croydon.   Plan C:  The train we were on only stopped in East Croydon and did not go to West Croydon, so we got off at East Croydon to find our way across town to West Croydon and the train to the Temple.  There is a trolley that runs across town (we had never been on) and made stops at both train stations.  Found the trolley and got on. We arrived at West Croydon station and asked for directions and were told that the next train would be going to Lingfield.  We were not comfortable with the instructions so we inquired of another agent only to find that the train we really needed was about to depart, but from a different platform.   Plan D: We scrambled up the stairs, over the bridge, down the stairs and waiting on the platform we found a member of the Church that recognized.  She was going to the Temple also so we followed her for the rest of the journey. An extended wonderful day – finally.  We topped the trip off with an excellent lunch at the Temple cafeteria.  A pleasant taxi ride back to the Lingfield Station and we were able to get a Victoria bound train for a much shorter smooth trip back to London and home.

London Temple

       A test for all of you.  Below are two pictures.  One is of London Bridge II and one is of Tower Bridge.  Can you tell which is which?  Do you know where London Bridge I is?

OK, London Bridge 1 was replaced with the current London Bridge.  The original is actually in Arizona as a tourist attraction.  Now, the test should have been easy because only one bridge has towers.  Many Americans call the Tower Bridge London Bridge and the Britain’s just snicker at how little we know.  I suppose the mix up is because the bridge is so close to Tower of London.  Be smart and look for the towers.

        London Bridge
Tower Bridge

        Have you ever looked at the skyline of London.  A very prominent building stands out as it towers some 37 floors above the sidewalk and it is wider at the top than at the bottom.  Some call it the “walkie-talkie” building.  On a P-Day in December, we went with the Updikes to tour the “towers” in Tower Bridge.  It was very interesting to see how the bridge was built and the functionality and engineering feats.  The Bridge still opens almost daily at high tide to let ships through.  Inside the bridge crossing from one tower to the other is a very interesting display of bridges from around the world.  There is also a glass floor.
Glass Floor in Tower Bridge
      It is pretty awesome to look straight down and see double decker busses passing beneath your feet.  After descending the south tower we visited the engine room to see the steam generation plant that powered the original draw bridge.  Today it is powered with electric motors, but the process and generation of power sufficient to raise and lower the bridge, built in the late 1800’s, was quite an accomplishment.  But I digress.  I was telling you about the walkie-talkie building that houses Sky Gardens.

Walkie=Talkie Building on left

Sky Garden from street level

     In the pictures you can see the building that was described above.  An interesting fact is that the City of London would not allow the building to be put up unless the developers installed a large garden area on the top floors of the building.  The gardens are free to visit, but a ticket to ride the elevator is required.  This regulates the crowds that visit this most beautiful vantage point to view all of London.  There are actually three floors dedicated to the garden area with a couple of restaurants, and as you will see, elegant gardens and thousands of thriving live plants.  They keep the area fairly cool to protect the live plants so if visitors get chill while there, they can check out a blanket and a hot-water bottle for comfort during their visit.

Sky Garden looking down
Sky Garden looking up



     We have all sorts of challenges in the Self-Reliance Center.  One Romanian man came in and was looking for help finding customers for his business.  He was a builder / remodeler and had a cute little flyer.  At least the image was cute, but the wording was verbose and very hard to understand.  It took some doing, but we convinced him that he should improve his flyer by making the facts stand out more clearly and to simplify the wording.  Someone had created the flyer in Photoshop or some very technical program.  I tried to work with it, but really could not get anywhere.  I finally started over in WORD and was making some headway, but got stuck trying to wrap text around the image.  As often happens, someone special comes to our rescue (tender mercy).  Meg is a very successful management consultant that attends one of the Hyde Park wards, but for the first time ever, she had taken some time off.  She was actually considering changing jobs and came in for a bit of help.  So today, when we needed a very bright, computer savvy helper, in walks Meg.  With a few quick steps she helped solve all of the issues with the flyer and we sent our Romanian builder off with a much improved piece of advertising, excited to round up some renovation projects.

               Other tender mercies happen often.  In November, the Watford Stake was catching fire over Self-Reliance because of a call for a new Stake SR Specialist.  She is also the Stake Relief Society President and her husband is on the High Council with responsibility for Self-Reliance. It turned out that on one Sunday they had presentations to make in three separate wards at the same hour.  So they called Sister Baxter and I in to cover the third presentation in the Watford Ward.  Everything went well and we met wonderful people.  Then, in December, we were invited to attend the Andy Williams Christmas Show put on by the Osmond Brothers.   We were being seated just prior to the show and a sister from the Watford Ward, apparently working in the theatre, came running by, recognized us from the Self-Reliance presentation, and stopped to chat.  She asked how many missionaries were with us and we said 12 and she was off again.  During intermission, she came back with a set of 12 back-stage passes to come and visit with the Osmond’s, personally, after the show. Elder and Sister Burke had just met a Muslin couple that morning who were being honored in the House of Parliament for promoting family values.  This unique award is supported by the LDS Church.  When the couple was asked what they knew about the Church, the lady said the only thing she knew of the Mormons was the Osmonds.  She just loved their music.  The couple will be coming to Utah and when the Burkes mentioned this to Jay Osmond, he responded by giving his manager instructions to watch for the visit.  The Osmonds would come to Salt Lake and perform for them. 

               The best part of the Christmas Season was experiencing the tender mercies that the Lord is always giving us.  We were in the Centre working with Emily, a young student from the USA.  She had no Visa and that made it very difficult to obtain work.  She did not understand the A Levels of education over here nor the class 3 qualifications of the UK or how they compared to the US education system.  (Neither do we.)  In walks Vanya, a UK citizen.  Vanya had not been in the Centre for over 2 months.  Just when we needed her, the Lord sent her our way.  She popped in and was able to help Emily understand the education requirements and complete the application for a Visa. 

               The last thing we want to share this month happened in the Staines Stake.  We have been working all year trying to meet the Stake Leadership and get some Self reliance trainin going. In October they saw the great need to help the refugees that were coming to Europe for safety and they were being set up in various camps in Calais, France.  On their own, the Stake members collected money, food, clothing, and supplies.  In November they boxed some 400 care packages for these refugees.  The boxes were stuffed into numerous cars and private station wagons and personally delivered over to Calais.  The Church saw what happened and offered to support a repeat effort.  Organized by the Staines Stake and supported by the humanitarian arm of the Church, some 15000 lbs. of food and supplies were brought to the Staines Stake to be boxed by the members.  On the day of the event, the Church
Staines - Boxing food
delivered 10,000 blankets, 20,000 rain ponchos, and other supplies directly to Calais and about 50 members of the Stake traveled to Calais to help during the day with that distribution.  Back in the Stake, the leaders requested volunteers to come a 2nd time and organize the food and  box the supplies. Some 300 people showed up to help.  We heard of the project during our visits to the stake so we came to help. The work was to start at 8:00 am but when we arrived at 7:45 things were already buzzing and people just kept on coming.  They hoped to get everything assembled by 10:00 am.  At 8:50 the group leader got up and told us to slow down, we were working too fast.  He wanted to have some work still being done when the Lord Mayor of Staines was scheduled to show up and see the project in action.  By 9:15 over 600 food boxes and been completed and loaded into 7 vans.  Then another 50 or so people from the Stake drove the caravan of vehicles to the coast, loaded them on trains, and traveled through the Chunnel to Calais and helped distribute the food to the to the camps. 
Vans being loaded for Calais
 Now five other stakes are scheduled to do the same thing. It is such a Joy to serve and help others!

This installment’s “My Foundation” lesson is on Integrity.  “We believe in being honest.” ARTICLES OF FAITH 1:13    View the following video:  If the link does not work directly, copy and past it into your browser to view the video.

We love you all and we continue too work hard and thoroughly enjoy everyting we are doing here. We highly recommend misssionary service!

             Elder and Sister  (Steve & Afton) Bxter