From royalty to onesies

Here is the promised picture of the missionaries dressed up in Chislehurst Caves. It was a wonderful p-day activity that they will always remember! From left: Elder Nohangoinaina from Madagascar, Elder Herrod, Elder Goldsmith, Elder Hale, Sister Gunnell, Sister Hickman all of USA. Great missionaries to work with!

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And for other dressing up, it is rather common here for adults to wear onesies pajamas, even in public! Here is a group of teenagers we saw at the London train station, celebrating a birthday. We didn’t know them but they gave permission for a picture.

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Our latest senior missionary expedition was to Bath, three hours west of us. It is our longest trip yet. Bath is a beautiful city, given a royal charter in 1590 but settled long before that with a history from the Bronze Age, Celts, Romans, etc. There are three natural hot mineral springs in the original city area, used in the past and still functioning and available. The main bath has been restored to its Roman glory and you can tour the entire facility to see the waterworks and artistic effects. We did not have time for this tour but would like to go back and do it.  Bath may have been the site of the Battle of Mons Badonicus )about 500 AD) where King Arthur was said to have defeated the Anglo-Saxons. A temple was constructed in 60–70 AD, then a cathedral in 1088, and then Bath Abbey in the 1500’s which still stands today. It is famous for the “Jacob’s ladders” on the front with angels going up and down from heaven. 

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Most buildings in Bath are made from the local, golden-coloured Bath limestone, and many date from the 18th and 19th centuries. The dominant style of architecture is Georgian, and it makes the central old city look very homogeneous. There are no “new” buildings, they all fit together harmoniously. Two intriguing architectural pieces are the Royal Crescent and the Circus. They are both oval-shaped buildings — the Circus has three buildings in an circle, the Royal Crescent is in an oval arc. The Royal Crescent has 30 houses in it  but you can’t tell where they start and stop because the facade is so perfect. Behind the facade the houses are willy-nilly shapes and sizes, they look really crazy from the back of the building.

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We had lunch with the other senior missionaries, then went on a 2-hour tour of the city, walking around these important and fascinating places. It rained off and on but wasn’t too bad, and the explanations were very interesting. Another important part of Bath is the pride they have in being the home of Jane Austen (for four years) and where she wrote two of her books, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

A very pleasant surprise on our trip from Bath to the London Temple, where our YSA were singing for a fireside. We drove right past Stonehenge! We couldn’t stop because we were running late, but you can no longer go near it as it is now partitioned off. So we probably saw as much as we could if we stopped.

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We continue to be involved in singing in the ward choir, and Sister Young and two other sisters from the ward sang a trio a few weeks ago. Elder Young has an upcoming solo in a few weeks. We also sang in the choir for Stake Conference, and Sister Young was asked to repeat a talk at stake Conference that she had given in another ward last month. We just had our ninth baptism for the year! Our ward goal was eight, something we never thought we would make since we had had only one baptism in the past two years. But the work is moving forward, and wonderful people are joining the Church. It has been interesting being involved in the teaching of investigators from other countries like Lithuania and Albania. We have been able to order Books of Mormon in their native languages, and the virtual missionaries from the Temple Visitors Centre have been able to set up skype lessons with missionaries from those countries to help work with the people.

We sent home our closest senior missionary friends a few weeks ago, and because they are not being replaced, we have been working to shut down their flat. We had to sort out all the furnishings and supplies and give them away or arrange for large furniture pieces to be stored until needed again. We have the flat inspection this week, and then that should be over with. We were able to acquire some items for ourselves, like a third slow cooker. We have a small one for our food, a large one for Institute, and we need all three when we cook for Zone Training and feed 30 missionaries.

We hosted a Indexing Night for the ward to teach the youth and adults how to index, and then a Genealogy Workshop for the members and community. We had two non-members attend who were very interested and came with names to input into FamilySearch. We will be doing this monthly and hope that others will come in the future. Our Europe Area Presidency has named June the “month of invitation” and this is one of the activities that people can be invited to participate in.

Well, in 15 days we will have been here half our mission, and only have one year to go. It has gone so fast, and we are enjoying it very much. We miss you all but love emails and family hangouts!

Old trees, ships, and underground caves

We started the week with flat inspections. Usually I would not mention them, since we do them monthly. But this time we got locked into the basement garage of the building while trying to access the gas and electric meters (we have to submit a monthly reading to the mission office). After trying every door, button and emergency lever, we finally called out the driveway to some workmen who were taking a break nearby. They looked up the code (our code did not work from inside) and let us out. Another weird bit is that our lights in our flat keep tripping the fuse while we are gone. We come home to no lights, but everything else works, it doesn’t affect the plugs. Guess we will have to tell the landlord!

We attended a musical production called “The Lamb of God” by Rob Gardner. It was put on by the Young Single Adults in 19 stakes in the south of England. They did such a great, professional job! Even the programs were professionally done. They had 50 in the choir and 30 in the orchestra, with many more involved behind the scenes. We have been involved in Rob Gardner’s “He is the Christ” but this was even more amazing! We really enjoyed it, even though it was an hour drive to the other side of London to attend.

We also attended a fireside at the London Temple Visitors Centre with our very own Julian Jones (retired CES — religious education) and Savannah Stevenson, an actress currently playing the part of Glinda in WICKED in London. She is a church member and is also the actress playing Mary in the new Bible videos the Church has made. She spoke about her experiences in the theatre, playing Mary, the theatrical set in Goshen, Utah, and her testimony of Jesus Christ. It was a wonderful night.

We have also had the opportunity to add another activity to our repertoire — helping with the meals at the mission office for missionaries who are headed home. The couple who has been helping are leaving for home next week, and we volunteered to take their place. We helped prepare two meals for the 30 missionaries going home last week. They spend their last two days of their mission at the mission office (staying in the temple accommodation center). They are able to walk the beautiful grounds, attend a temple session, do exit interviews with the mission president, have a testimony meeting and several nice meals together. Then on Wednesday morning they all headed off on buses, trains, or airplanes for home.

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We had a 2-hour break between the missionary meals and took the opportunity to pop over to see a 4,000 year old yew tree near the temple. It is in the middle of a church graveyard and was pretty impressive. The trunk has split and is hollow, and you can see the supports that hold up the various branches. The tree has grown around these supports at the top. There is a small wooden door hinged to the tree on the back side. The trunk is gnarly and really intricately swirled. It is very smooth from the many hands that had touched it over the years.

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The newest blossoms around the area are the fields of yellow rape. This is a crop that is known as safflower in the US. It produces vegetable oil called “rapeseed oil” that is used a lot here. Unfortunately, the beauty comes with a cost as it is an allergen. We haven’t had many symptoms other than sneezing and itchy noses.

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This month’s senior missionary outing was to Greenwich. We also saw the Cutty Sark, a British clipper ship built in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line. She was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest, before sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion. She has a beautifully-shaped hull covered in copper to impede the growth of barnacles and keep her fast. More than thirty pictures were taken on set during the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. The ship was placed in her current position and opened for public tours in 2012. The best part was the very informative display of tea boxes as you walked through. Even the floor was tiled with tea box panels.

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Under the ship, which is suspended in the air to reduce strain on the hull, there is a display of figureheads that was very intriguing.

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After touring the ship, we walked through a tunnel under the Thames River to a viewpoint on the other side. We could see the ship,  Old Royal Naval College  (part of the University of Greenwich now), and the O2, a giant sports dome that includes an indoor arena, a music club, a Cineworld cinema, an exhibition space, piazzas, bars and restaurants. We then walked through the historical park area and up a VERY steep hill to get to the observatory and the prime meridian. It was hard to photograph, but here is Sister Young’s shoe pointing to the line and the names of the cities of Dallas and Los Angeles with their degrees from the meridian.

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On Monday we took a p-day with the younger missionaries in our district and went to Chislehurst Caves. A short 6-minute train ride and a short walk brought us to the private part of the caves. The public part offers tours and historical information — the private side is owned by a night club that has muscial events and provides access to the caves for gaming (think Warhammer with real people). One of our investigators works there and got permission for us to tour on Monday (they are usually only open weekends). The original caves were small and were excavated for the chalk and flint trade. They served as a public air raid shelter during the war. Now the private side has many “walls” built to provide gaming scenarios. At the end of our tour the missionaries dressed up as knights, king, lady in waiting, peasants, monk, etc. The guys had so much fun fighting with swords, shield, lances, etc. We took lots of action shots (like Matrix). We will exchange photos from all the missionaries and then post the best here next blog.

The last “exciting” thing that has happened is that the tax documents for the mission car, which is to be displayed in the front windshield, have not been received by the mission office yet. So as of today, we cannot drive the car until that arrives. It might get interesting having to walk, ride the bus or the train like the younger missionaries!