Last week we had a zone training conference with 30 missionaries from the Maidstone zone. Sister Ottley, another senior missionary, and I prepared lunch for the group. We served sweet and sour pork over rice, bread, and veggies with chocolate cake for dessert. This cake recipe is the first time I have made a cake from scratch, and it is sinfully good! The Ottleys don’t have a car (they live further into London) so she has to bring the food on the bus with her. So we try to transport the bulk of the meal to lessen her hassle.
Our mission president shared some end of year numbers with us as he helped us think about setting our goals for this year. The mission has 10 zones (one of them a digital zone), with 22 zone leaders, 11 sister trainer leaders, and two Chinese trainer leaders. Sister trainer leaders have been established because of the greater number of sister missionaries since the age change. Chinese trainer leaders have just been added because we keep increasing the number of Chinese-speaking elders (we have Spanish-speaking sisters too). Chinese elders serve in London, Oxford, and other places where there are great numbers of Chinese people.
The last three months of 2013 was a time to really strive to meet goals. The mission had 36 baptisms in each of October and November, and 44 in December. That finished the year with 330 baptisms, below goal but still impressive. Impressive that is, until you realize that we have almost doubled the number of missionaries — so we should be doubling the number of baptisms! On the other hand, our district has three baptisms tonight and five more scheduled in the near future. Our missionaries are starting the year out well!
The weather has been fierce and fine… we have had more than usual winter storms with gale force winds and so much rain that many places are flooded. It is not affecting us at all, but the basements in the London Temple, Manor House, and flats for temple workers have been flooded. Many trees are down and train service has been interrupted by debris on the tracks.
We have received permission to travel to the Army/Air base in Lakenheath. We drove up yesterday, it took about 1.5 hours to get there. We had to register for a retired service card and purchase coupon books that allow a way for you to pay the VAT (value-added tax) fee on purchases at the BX and commissary. We are not allowed to purchase petrol (diesel) on base. We spent quite a bit at the BX getting items that we could not get on the economy, or where they had a wider selection. It was wonderful to see home brand names! Then we shopped at the commissary, mostly writing down prices and seeing what was available. There are several things like tomato sauce and frozen pie crusts that do not exist in English stores. We don’t have room to store extra things nor room in the freezer to buy ahead, but it will allow us to shop for upcoming meals and activities with a certain menu. Probably the most important thing was that we were able to sign up for an APO box at the post office. This is considered an American address and will allow packages to be mailed with US prices — unfortunately they can only weigh up to ONE POUND. Anything larger than that is refused and returned. Oh well, it will allow us to receive our prescription medications by mail from the US, and that will save us some money. We will only be going to the base on a quarterly basis, so it is not a fast way to contact us by mail.
Our APO address is:
PSC 41 Box 6299
APO, AE 09464-0063