Well it has been raining for weeks here, with high gusts of wind at times. The news said it is the rainiest January since 1766 when weather records began. We see huge bands of green on the weather forecast webpage — and France seems to be getting the brunt of it too, reaching into Germany and the low countries of Europe. The threat of a tube strike here was overshadowed by the southwest of England washing away (and preventing tube travel anyway!). Many missionaries in the southwest areas have been helping with flood control, sand bagging, or serving at shelters for evacuees. Here is a picture of flooding in Somerset, England.
However, there is some good news. We have snowdrops and daffodils starting to bloom. They must think it is spring, even though our temperatures have been in the low 40s F (5-7 C) for weeks. There are buds on the trees, so we hope the weather will improve soon.
Some more exciting news is the construction of a YSA Institute building in Manchester. Five years ago local leaders were looking for a new place to hold Institute, preferably close to the campus of University of Manchester. They found a building in a great spot, and Elder Perry suggested that instead of renovating they build an entirely new building to meet their needs. After three years of construction, it is almost ready to open. The planned launch this week is halted because the architect/contractor have not given/received final approval. The 5-story building houses a chapel plus areas for study and recreation. AND it will be used by a brand-new YSA Ward, the second in England (Hyde Park Ward in London was the first). We are excited for this opportunity for our YSAs who may want to attend university away from home but still have the support of the faithful.
It has been an amazing couple of weeks. Elder Young completed his hours of study and practice driving, and with the help of a priesthood blessing to help him stay calm, passed his English driving test. It is much harder and longer than a driving test in the states. Now that it is no longer consuming hours each day, he has donated the stack of study books and DVD to the mission office and has turned his attention to filing our tax refund.
We had our first baptisms in the district since we arrived. It has been our privilege to make first contact with this special Lithuanian family of eight. They have been and continue to go through many challenges, but they are loving and kind to each other and such wonderful examples of faith. The mother and two daughters were baptized, and others in the family are continuing to take lessons. The mother bore her testimony in Relief Society this Sunday and touched our hearts. The ward has been gracious in helping with items they need and shepherding the children as the mother travels to help her husband get a visa.
We also have lost a long-term member of the ward; she died during a heart operation. Although it was a great shock, we glory in her completion of her second estate and meeting with her son who died 30 years ago as a teenager. Her internment and memorial are this week; we will be singing in the choir for the memorial. They are expecting 240 people to attend. We were also able to attend the temple last week to do initiatories. Unfortunately the people who went with us passed on their colds. Hopefully we are over the worst and will be healthy enough to attend our meetings, help with transport for mission transfers, and teach the Institute lesson tomorrow. The rumor is that 2/3 of the companionships are being moved around. We will lose one of our elders and one of our sisters. It is hard to see them go but amazing to catch up with them at zone conferences.
Last week Sister Young taught the Institute lesson over Alma 17-29. She found it amazing to find three scriptural passages in the Book of Mormon where Alma, then Ammon, then Aaron taught the same things to the people they were serving on their missions. Those three basic principles were also the focus of the Sunday School lesson last week — the three pillars of the gospel: the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement. These principles are included in the first discussion and are re-emphasized regularly. They are basic but complex and can take a lifetime to really understand. We have a testimony of these principles and the part they play in our Heavenly Father’s plan for us to have these mortal experiences and live worthy to return to live with Him throughout eternity. We are so grateful for temple sealings and covenants that allow us to make progress toward this goal of eternal life. We testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.