Our Visit to Birmingham
Well, we did it. After nine months of being in England we finally got to go see where Jim served his mission 42 years ago!!! What an unexpected gift and tender mercy that we were allowed to go. I explained last blog how Jim had been asked by Martin Gardner to come train the "Self Reliant" (replacing employment center) missionaries from all of the UK. We got a phone call from Pres. Jordan who had gotten permission from the area authority and then told us, "Go have fun!" We left last Sunday after Stake Conference with the Baxters and didn't get back until late Tuesday night. President Hollie, our Relief Society President, taught Institute at the flat for me. She is so precious. Like she doesn't have enough to do!!!)
We were told that the senior couple in Birmingham, the Jolleys was hosting a dinner at their flat for the four main couples that were attending and invited us to join them. As we traveled up there Jim asked about them. When he found out they had 6 sons and were from Salt Lake City it dawned on him that it could be Dean Jolley, his dear friend who had run DGI for two years while Jim finished at InsideOut. We got lost on the way there and Jim actually talked to Dean on the phone, not letting him know who he was. It was so fun when we pulled up and Dean was standing there. Jim got out of the car and walked toward Dean. It took a couple seconds to register who it was and then there was a grand reunion, hugging and laughing in astonishment. What were the chances of that happening? Only in the church.
We had a lovely meal and got a chance to get to know the other couples. There was another couple that I instantly was attracted to; Marv and Sue Leavitte. We got talking and Sue told me this was their fourth mission, that they had served 3 missions in Africa. When I asked where she told me they had been the only senior couple in Nigeria. When I asked who their mission president was I already knew the answer. Blair and Sue Garff!!! I freaked out, told them about how we adored Traci and Blair and Sue's relationship to Jake and Ashlee. It was so fun.
Sister Leavitte couldn't say enough wonderful things about the Garffs. I guess being the only senior couple they worked extremely close with the Garffs. Sister Leavitte went off on what a soldier and pioneer Sue was and how utterly fearless she was. Sue Garff would take the big mission van and drive all over the country that wasn't safe. Nothing put her off or phased her!!!
Sister Leavit had me rolling on the floor when she told us the story of the naked man. It described how Sue Garff handled things on their mission. I guess in their city there was a very tall man that never wore clothes known simply as the naked man who would beg for money. One day the two of them were in the car, stopped, when this tall naked man came and stood right next to Sister Garff's window that was rolled up. Remember he was tall and naked!!! Sister Leavitte told Sue to GO! DRIVE AWAY!! Instead Sue calmly rolled down the window pulled out some money and said calmly, "Go buy some pants." Then she drove away. So funny.
We had a wonderful visit and dinner, then separated and went to our hotel. The next morning we gathered at 185 Penns Lane, Dad's old mission home where he lived for 11 months of his mission. It was actually very disappointing for Jim. When he was there is was a beautiful, window-filled home where the mission president actually lived, along with the assistants. It's where the General Authorities would come and stay. Jim also always talked about the beautiful grounds and gardens. In the last forty years they renovated the home into offices, built a chapel on the grounds to the side of the home and, although it's still beautiful property, the lush gardens are gone. Still it was delightful to see and the location is beautiful.
The training was amazing! The church has changed it's employment program to a self-reliant culture. It might seem insignificant, but it's actually a very different focus. Here in Europe the attitude that has always been the marker of members of the church, being self-sufficient, has been slowly eroding. The government has all kinds of social programs that make it way too easy to not take responsibility. Many times (like in America, as well) it cost more to work than to sit back and let the government take care of them. It has created an entitled society. It's very challenging here! The church has recognized we need to get back the mindset of being self-reliant, not looking for others to do for us what we can do for ourselves. It's the basic tenet of this self reliant focus. Jim helped facilitate the seniors in how to go about implementing this using GROW. It was a powerful experience that I think really helped them get clear. I was very proud of Jim. He was amazing!
After we were done we left the couples and went to another part of Burmingham to meet with Stewart and his wife Toni. Stewart was a young man with debilitating Cerebral Palsy that Jim had to carry down into the water to be baptized 42 years ago. He had a broken body but a MIGHTY spirit. He married a woman, Toni, who suffered from a less severe case of Cerebral Palsy. Steward is now 73 and is not doing well, but still active and still married. They both kept asking Jim where his red hair went. It was wonderful to meet them and feel of their spirit. After Stewart we went to see Sister Pat Sheridan. At her home was her daughter Dollie and Julie Boucher who Jim had baptized when she was 13 and her son who had just got back from serving a mission. We were there for several hours and had a wonderful visit and catch up on the members still there. It was a reality check. It made us realized how difficult it is raising children here in England. I was very grateful for America!
The next day our group of Senior Missionaries drove two hours to a very significant church history site. Found in some of the most beautiful parts of England I have seen was a beautiful simple rock chapel called Gadfield Elm Chapel. It was originally a chapel for The United Brethren, the group that Wilford Woodruff was directed by the Lord to go preach to. Hundreds joined the church. The Brethren donated their chapel to the church. It acted as a LDS chapel until it was sold to help finance English members to migrate to America. It was bought back by local members of the church in total disrepair in the nineties. The local members financed and did the work to restore it. It now is a beautiful, spirit-filled stone chapel out in the middle of nowhere.
This is from Google:
1840: The United Brethren donate the Gadfield Chapel
By 1840 nearly 8,000 Britons had been baptised as Latter-day Saints. Elder Wilford Woodruff preached at the John Benbow farm in Herefordshire in early 1840. A constable had been sent by the rector of the parish with a warrant to arrest him. At the close of the meeting seven people offered themselves for baptism, including four preachers and the constable. Within 18 days two of the most influential members of the United Brethren, John Benbow and Thomas Knighton, were baptised. Thirty days later Woodruff had baptised 45 preachers and 160 members of the United Brethren, who put into his hands their Gadfield Elm Chapel and 45 houses licensed for preaching. By 1841 nearly 1,800 additional people had converted, including all but one of the 600 United Brethren. Restored between 1994-2000, the Gadfield Elm Chapel in Worcestershire is the oldest extant chapel of the LDS ChurchWe had a devotional there with Martin standing on a box behind a pulpit where Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards had stood and preached. There was a mighty spirit there and such a feeling of history. We ended up having a testimony meeting where Jim shared an experience that I had forgotten about. He told how, as a Zone Leader, he had been asked to give the main message for a multi-zone conference. He said how he had struggled, pondered and prayed for weeks on what he should say, pleading with the Lord to know what He desired. He had gone to the Bishop's office in Newcastle and was sitting at his desk working on the message and was totally stuck. As he prayed for help he felt a presence in the room. He had a powerful impression that Wilford Woodruff was there with him. Who would love the work among the English people and its missionaries more than Wilford Woodruff? The words came in a continuous flow and it was confirmed to Jim that it was the message he should teach. Jim shared with us that it was one of the most sacred experiences he had on his mission.
It was a beautiful experience for us that we got to share with our beautiful, committed senior missionaries who have left homes, children and grandchildren to go serve the God they love. It was a very special experience.
Another Stake Conference and Choir
Last Sunday was Stake Choir. It was WONDERFUL. The choir did a fantastic job. We had around 60 kids again. It was a powerful experience for them and the people listening. We had a visiting General Authority. I think his name was Elder Madeira from Portugal. Oh what a spirit he brought with him. He was so darling. His English wasn't great but his spirit was enormous!!!
One story he told I want to share with you. He said when he was young and newly married he was called as Bishop. They were renting a house and had saved for 6 years to build up enough savings to buy their first home. They finally found a house. they could afford. It was out of their stake, but he knew he was getting released because he had served for 5 years. They paid a non-refundable down payment. Only a couple days later it was Stake Conference. He was called in to be interviewed by the visiting authority because they were calling a new Stake President. Elder Madeira explained about his house and that he would no longer be in the stake boundaries. He left, but the next day was called in again. Again he explained but the authority pretty much ignored him. Finally a third time he was called in and the authority made it very clear that the Lord had called him to serve as President of the stake. He knew that if he accepted he would be walking away from their new home and the savings of the last 6 years. He chose to follow the Lord. And he exclaimed, "That choice has made all the difference!" It became the theme of his talk and his ministry. It was amazing.
The Lord Cares About the Detail of our Lives
Last week after Institute I saw Sanjay. Immediately I went to him and asked how he was doing. He told me that the previous night he had finally told his girlfriend about joining the church. I asked him, "How did that go?" He replied that it had been a horrible fight that lasted 3 hours. Then he said he couldn't sleep all night. His final comment really got to me. He said he's reconciled to the fact that it might not work with her and that he was O.K. with it.
I then related two experiences that just had happened. On Tuesday Jim had gone to meet with the Employment people and I had stayed home to get ready for Institute Class at our flat. Jim said he would be back no later than 3:00. It was a blustery day, but warm so I had all the windows opened. As I went out of our flat's door to put the roll outside our door for that night a gust of wind blew and shut the door just as I was turning to go back in. There I stood in my sweats with no shoes, no phone and no keys to get back in. It was 1:50. I sat down next to the door and figured I would just wait it out until Jim got back. For the next hour and a half no one came down from the upper flats. About 2:45 I started praying that Jim would just come home. Around 3:00 Henry from upstairs came walking down. He started to laugh and told me the previous woman that lived here would lock herself out all the time. I asked him if he had a phone and if I could use it to call Jim to come back. When I called Jim said he was right outside the building and in a couple minutes I was back inside our flat and could finish preparations for class that night. Then Jim told me how he had walked a guy outside the chapel and was turning around to go back upstairs to do a de-brief when he had a strong impression he just needed to go home. He obeyed and found me sitting waiting outside our door. A tender mercy and prayer heard and answered on my behalf.
The second story I related to Sanjay had just happened the night before. One of our kid's apartment had been broken into the night before and a lot of stuff stolen. Glen told us that his backpack had been stolen. When he walked in and realized it was gone he almost started to cry. In his backpack were two journals that were more precious to him than anything he possessed. They held the record of the last part of his mission and the previous year of courting, falling in love and asking his fiance to marry him. Irreplaceable!!! Glen went into his room to mourn and there sitting on his bed was the contents that had been removed from his backpack, including the two journals. Glen absolutely recognized what a tender gift that was to him personally.
After I told both those stories to Sanjay I just looked at him and said, "Sanjay if the Lord cares enough about a senior sister missionary locked out of her flat to whisper to her husband to come home and cares enough to retrieve a young man's journals from the hands of a thief, don't you think He will care enough about you to direct your path and open or close doors on who you spend eternity with? Hand this over to God. He will direct your path. You don't need to fear."
Sanjay heard me and believed! To him and to all of you I can testify that God truly cares about the details of our lives.
Missing Halloween at Home
Halloween here is not a big deal. We did see some kids dressed up. At Hyde Park Chapel we had Elder Ohman do his organ magic as they showed the 1925 version"Phantom of the Opera". OMG it's so hilarious what they considered acting in those days. We had a good crowd attend with some of our kids in costume.
Jim and I have gotten really good at not being homesick all the time. We realize it's the most difficult on holidays. Thankfully we got a good look at our grandkids in their costumes on Facebook. SO CUTE! It made us not so lonesome.
Family History Workshop and Fall in London
In London this fall we've been told it's been the warmest, driest fall on record. It's been wonderful for us!!!
Yesterday we had a Family History Fair that lasted several hours. Jennie White was in charge of it and it was amazing. There is such a spirit of Elijah that attends that work. Everyone was inspired that attended.
After the workshop we met with our precious Catherine Wilkinson to go for a walk with a golden retriever she's babysitting. We walked Kensington Park. It was a beautiful fall afternoon, in the low 60's, breezy, with colored leaves falling and blowing all around us. Is there anything more glorious than walking a dog on a gorgeous fall day in the park with people you love? It filled us up!
This is the very famous sculpture of Peter Pan found in Kensington Park. Isn't this dog beautiful. It was a perfect fall day!
Time to get ready for church. It's Fast Sunday so we have Munch and Mingle after church and then a CES Devotional Broadcast. This will be another long Sunday at church!
Know how dearly we love each of you. We are anxiously awaiting Seth's arrival! I'm not holding my breath, though. I'm sure he'll do what his siblings have done and come 2 weeks late. Bless you Bri for your patience. Take care of one another. We pray blessings for all of you daily. Pray for us and that the work will continue to march forward. We need your prayers. LOVES!!!!