First of all, the most important news is that we have a new grandchild, a grandson this time! That makes four, and he is a sweet one named Cole Jacob. We will be able to see him in July. Life goes on with the YSA in the stake (and those borrowed from Catford and Britannia). Our numbers were down over the winter but we are starting to see new and returning people at Institute.
We were able to attend a Temple Visitors Centre fireside given by President and Sister Irwen of the temple presidency. They spoke of their time as mission president in Eastern Europe, mostly the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It was an amazing story of the strong faith of members whose heritage lay behind the Iron Curtain and Communist rule. The parents who were members of the Church could not tell their children anything religious for fear that they might inadvertently say something and get the family in great trouble. So the new generation must be taught the gospel and helped to develop faith in Jesus Christ (they were taught there was no God in the government schools). The best part of the fireside was the five missionaries who sang hymns in their mission language. They had had a mini-reunion for the mission that week and they stayed to sing at the fireside.
We had a very special Tri-Zone Conference this week. Our visiting authority was Elder Dyches of the Seventy, and he and his wife taught us how to make origami shirts (or blouses) to leave as calling cards for members and investigators. The sisters in the room added post-it notes to make colorful skirts on the “blouse”. They trained us how to attach pass along cards or the area plan cards and ask members/investigators to accomplish a specific goal by Sunday, or to thank them for a meal or for being loving and diligent in their commitments.
The musical number during the zone conference was very unique. One of the Chinese elders played an ancient Chinese musical instrument called the “sheng”. Here is a picture of it. It is supposed to represent the shape of a phoenix and imitate the cry of a phoenix (mythical bird).
He played it with fingers covering multiple holes. It is a reed instrument, and can play multiple tones at once. He did a beautiful rendition of “Praise to the Man” that was a bit atonal to our western ears but very beautiful. It was a once in a lifetime experience.
Sister Young was able to attend a special 9-stake Relief Society workshop day. It was a bit of a drive but very worth the effort to be with over 400 sisters and share their spirits and the glow of the gospel. We have also traveled to Duxford to tour the Imperial War Museum there. It is a huge complex spread over seven buildings. Unfortunately the American military building is being renovated and was not open.
Because the number of young missionaries is dwindling after the huge surge (due to the age change announcement), the mission is closing 18 flats. Three of those are in our stake and we have been asked to clear, clean and close them. So we have been busy inventorying, cleaning (UGH! you know how teenage boys live!), and will be meeting with the “letting agents” for final inspections soon. We have to clear all furnishings and “rubbish” as they say in England. We bought two rolls of big black garbage bags and have used one of the rolls so far. Then there is a huge pile to go to charity (stores that resell for charitable organizations, like Salvation Army) and then items that can be given to other missionaries, neighbors, or church members. Those have to be transported. We took a trip to Southampton to take a car full to the missionaries there (in a new flat) and then spent the day at the Royal Navy Dockyard in Portsmouth. It was rainy and dreary but luckily a lot of it was inside. The most amazing part was the Mary Rose Museum. This huge building holds the remains of Henry the Eighth’s flagship and a collection of over 900 artifacts recovered from the sea floor after 400 years. This Tudor-age ship was built in 1510, in service for 34 years, and sank in 1545. It was discovered in 1971 and raised in 1982. It is now in the final stages of conservation.
There is a very sort video if you are interested. We now consider this the most amazing thing we have experienced in England. The sheer amount of artifacts and the ship being raised intact (only half since the part not embedded in the mud was rotted away) is mind-blowing. There were full skeletons of some of the crew and the ship dog. Probably the most prevalent artifact was the little tips for laces (like our shoe lace tips but used for tying jerkins and other clothing). Gold coins, wooden bowls, several sea chests full of items, surgeon tools, cooking items, and many many more.
We will be having family visitors next week and are looking forward to that greatly. Then we will be preparing to return home. We will spend a week touring England, then a month visiting family before deciding where to settle and what to do in the next few years.