Friday, December 12, 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.....

Christmas is coming soon, and sadly we haven't updated our blog since October.  We get busy and the time slips away.  It will be different not being around our family this holiday season, but we are so enjoying our service here.  We truly are involved every day in sharing the Christmas message of God's gift to us of His Beloved Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.  It doesn't get any better than that!

We are occasionally able to get a free day or two and visit nearby beauty spots or historical sites.  Here, just about everything is “nearby”.  We particularly like visiting places where our ancestors lived or visited.  One of these places is the Isle of Wight.  This isle is just off the south coast of England and it is in our mission.  Another senior couple invited us to go over with them for a few days.  We booked a lovely B&B with delicious full English breakfast every day.  The body of water separating it from the mainland is called the Solent. Historically, this location was very important to England’s defence because of its strategic location to possible invaders from Europe.  It has a lot of old military locations and ruins.  In the 1960’s and 1970’s England had a top secret programme to build rockets there to launch satellites into space.  We saw some very interesting geology and beautiful seascapes including the “Needles” rocks that jut up from the sea.  To travel to the Isle of Wight, you must book a Ferry across the Solent.

A very beautiful miniature village at Godshill, Isle of Wight.

Atop the windy white cliffs of the Isle of Wight with the Needles in the background

When we arrived back home, we had a birthday party that evening at our place for one of our ward members.  We regularly hold FHE at our flat for the mid-singles in our ward as well as other single members.  We now have a new counselor in the Wandsworth Common Ward Bishopric.  It is great to have the bishopric now with 3 members.

A nice thing about a senior mission is that we are allowed to have visitors, including our own children.  We would love to have them all come if they had the time and money to make the trip.  Fortunately, Anne and Dan live in Boston, just on the other side of the “pond” and were able to schedule a visit.  They were here for 9 days.  We were able to give them a great London experience, as well as travel to some of our ancestral areas.

We love the many green spaces very close by.  London has preserved these spaces much to the benefit of the residents as “commons” or grounds that belong to the public.  The largest enclosed green space in all of London is Richmond Park, within our ward boundaries, and it is 2,360 acres, about 3 times the size of New York’s Central Park.  We drove through with Dan and Anne to see the deer and the beautiful forested and grassy area.  Two varieties of deer live there — Red and Fallow deer.  Afterwards we all enjoyed delicious Fish & Chips at our local chip shop on Franciscan Road.

 Dan and Anne with the deer at Richmond Park

London, it seems, has an unending supply of attractions, all very close to where we live.  The  London Eye (giant ferris wheel) provides great views of London.  Harrods is a well known upscale store, visited by many London visitors. Everything is super expensive.  We spotted some Caviar — one tiny jar was £1,725!  Mostly we just looked.  It’s like a museum itself inside.  We were able to afford some excellent Dosaunts and Cronuts there.  Then we went to the Hyde Park Chapel located on Exhibition Road near the area many famous Museums are located.  Our Stake President works for the Church in Security, and is often sitting at the front desk near the Christus Statue.  We entered the Science Museum and later had a picnic lunch on a bench nearby.  We fed a few pigeons, and then traveled to the Tower of London to see the marvellous Poppy display.  There were 888,246 ceramic poppies, each one made to represent one fallen dead from WWI.  It was very impressive and moving.

Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the River Thames from the London Eye.

We drove to Woodstock and nearby Blenheim Palace, by Oxford.  We walked around the quaint town and went in a local museum.  It was quite modest compared to the London museums, but still very interesting and reflected the lives of the local people over the last few centuries as well as displaying a number of other interesting artifacts.  We ate Welsh Rarebit at the Woodstock Tea Rooms, then visited a few lovely little shops.  

The next day we traveled to the Salisbury area and visited Old Sarum. People have lived in Old Sarum for over 5 thousand years.  We passed by Stonehenge on the way.  We returned to Salisbury where our ancestors, the Blake and Hollis families, lived before joining the church and emigrating to the US.  We enjoyed a visit to the Salisbury Cathedral where we saw the worlds oldest working clock and the best of 4 surviving copies of the original Magna Carta.

A misty day at Salisbury Cathedral with Dan and Anne. It has the tallest spire in all of England.

Elder Adams cooked us a nice English Breakfast at home the next day, and then we went off on a double decker public bus; we got seats right at the front sitting on the upper level so we could get a great view of the sights.  We went to the British Library to see their rare documents collection, including a number of very early Bibles, initial Beatles music scores, etc. One example of what we saw was a letter written by Michelangelo to his father, telling him he had finally completed the painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Later we went to the British Museum, which was absolutely spectacular, though we could only see a small fraction of the numerous displays. It was filled with antiquities from all over the world.  Truly it was a fascinating place.  The British Museum is free to enter as are most of London Museums.  We went to St. Pauls Cathedral where we attended evensong, a common practice held in many cathedrals in the evening.  

Another day, Dan & Anne wanted to go to Camden Market to buy English gifts for their boys, then we went to Brick Lane to eat Indian food at one of the many ethnic restaurants there.  We ate at Aladin, a famous Indian restaurant.  The restaurants all compete with each other for business.  People from the restaurants come into the street and offer free drinks etc to entice passers-by to eat at their places.

Sunday we attended our Wandsworth Common Ward with Dan & Anne.  They enjoyed meeting many of our ward members.  Elder Adams taught Priesthood Meeting.  We then took a trip to the always lovely London Temple grounds.  We went to the Visitors Centre and took lots of pictures.  Later we visited our Bishop's home where they had invited us for dinner.  

To wrap up the trip, we took a journey to Windsor Castle.  This is a large active castle, like a little town of its own.  500 people work there.  We enjoyed St. George’s chapel and Queen Mary’s Doll House.  St. George’s chapel on the site is where many of the Royals are buried including Queen Elizabeth’s parents and Henry VIII.  Queen Mary’s Doll House is a famous doll house made for Queen Mary in the 1920’s.  We enjoyed the train ride to and from Windsor Castle.

 Sister Adams had no idea when she was taking this selfie at Windsor Castle that she was being photo-bombed!

Trying to get friendly with the guards.

The visit ended all too soon.  We loved having family close by, but we know the Lord wants us to serve our brothers and sisters here as well.  They are starting to seem like family too, and we will miss all of them when our time comes to finally leave.  We drove Dan & Anne to the Heathrow Airport to drop them off.  It took us less than an hour to get there, much quicker than we anticipated, so we just sat in the car and had a most pleasant visit.  They flew home to 4 waiting little guys who missed their folks.  They had a suitcase full of English treats, so we know it all ended in the best possible way.

We had a senior missionary outing at the Temple Visitor’s Centre.  We drove down and had a “get better acquainted” session.  Everyone then had lunch at nearby Fayre & Square, a local pub & eatery.  We returned to the Visitor’s Centre where Elder Fowler taught a very interesting lecture on Gospel Symbolism.  He had a career as a Seminary & Institute Teacher and showed his love for the scriptures.  We attended a temple session, and then returned home.  We were all a bit hungry, so stopped at our favourite COSTCO for a quick inexpensive meal.

Most of our wonderful senior missionaries here in England London South Mission.

The Holiday season is coming on us.  Sister Adams and several of the ward sisters went to a presentation of the Nutcracker at Wimbledon Theatre.  Elder Adams went to the Stake Priesthood meeting which was part of the Stake Conference.  That evening, we attended the Adult meeting where the mission president and his wife spoke.  We learned that both of the Wandsworth Ward missionaries were moving elsewhere.  We are to get new missionaries — one has been here before and one is new.  Both are English (one actually from Wales).  Sunday was Stake Conference.  Lots of emphasis was given to living by the spirit, and on members and missionaries working together.

Sister Adams takes lots of eye drops, but we are grateful that despite limited vision, her eyesight has been preserved enough that we can serve this mission. We went St. George’s Hospital for a check with the Cornea Specialists.  This is a very large and world class hospital that is close by.  We were pleased to see that Sister Adams transplant still has some healthy signs, and hopefully will last a little longer.  Sister Adams also gave blood for tests to get ready for her upcoming eye surgery at Moorfields Hospital.  Two days later, she went for glaucoma surgery at Moorfields Eye Hospital. A procedure to reduce the fluid produced in the eye was performed.  The wait was the worst part of the whole thing.  We were there at 11:30 am, and soon on the gurney, expecting a call any moment.  However, everyone else went first each time, and we eventually saw the workers begin to clean up the surgery for the next day.  Finally after a very anxious 6 1/2 hour wait on the gurney, we got the call.  She was the very last one summoned. Because she was able to talk them out of using general anasthesia and doing an eye block instead, she was moved to the back of the surgery queue until all the generals were done.  Sister Adams was alert and awake when she came out.  We were able to take the subway home instead of the anticipated taxi, and the surgery seemed to be effective, but left a very bloody red painful looking eye.  The next day we stayed home so Sister Adams could recuperate from the surgery.

 Guess which eye had the surgery.

We went shopping for the Wandsworth Stake multicultural evening where our ward was to represent the USA.  We bought hot dogs and buns along with a number of other food items with a USA theme.  We found some cowboy hats and had some US flags etc.  Others in the ward offered to bring brownies and pumpkin pie.  We planned a quiz with USA trivia, and put together a large bag of treats for those guessing the answers.  The next day we went to the Multicultural evening.  Several of the other wards had cultural dancing, particularly those from Africa and South America.  We were surprised at how popular the hot dogs turned out to be.  We later learned they were the most popular food item of the evening.

A couple of cowboys, a popular hot dog server, and some members of our ward.

Elder Adams usually teaches Priesthood Meeting.  Sister Adams also often teaches Relief Society and handles the Visiting Teaching organization and RS Bulletins.  We also had an amazing opportunity to hear one of the 12 apostles speak at Hyde Park Chapel.  We had Elder Quentin L Cook address nearly 500 missionaries from the England London and England London South Missions.  Before he began, he shook hands with every person in the audience. His address was very powerful and he spoke of his sacred calling to the apostleship.  He told missionaries not to get discouraged with rejection, and realise that everyone close to them would be blessed because of their service.  His wife led us in some special round singing of hymns and we felt the Spirit very strongly.  At the end, all of those missionaries, including many seniors, sang “Called to Serve.” It was very moving.

Thanksgiving day is not celebrated here.  However, we celebrated the day with another American senior couple.  We went to the River Thames and enjoyed a river trip between Westminster and Greenwich Pier.  We had a nice lunch, then returned home to get dinner ready.  We had a very traditional menu including turkey and stuffing with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, yams, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding etc. It was all very nice.  We finished up with several pies including mincemeat pie, which has become one of Elder Adams's favourites.

To completely get into the Holiday spirit, Sister Adams caught a bad cold, so Elder Adams went to our Zone Meeting alone, but was able to meet with our 2 new Elders.  This was a great experience.  We reviewed the ward issues and those members we have yet to identify.  We have had 3 baptisms in the ward in the last month.  We continue to visit less actives and other ward members.  On the 5th Sunday in November, the Elders presented on “He is the Gift” a church initiative for the month of December 2014.  Three of our five BYU students spoke on living by faith.  Our Stake President came and spoke.  He said the rumour that our tiny ward would be merging with another ward was not true, but that something might happen, yet to be determined, leaving it still vague.  He said we should live by the Spirit and have joy in the meantime, doing our best.  After the meetings we met jointly with the Clapham Common Ward and planned a two-ward Christmas Party.

We drove to COSTCO to pick up supplies for the Christmas Party.  This went very well, and we got home fairly early.  However, sundown is now coming around 4:00PM.  It seems like it should be later than it often is.  We will be happy to see the days once again lengthen.  Elder Adams is now sharing the Holiday cold with Sister Adams.  It's a pretty bad one.  We stayed home to recuperate and reminisced on our early years together.  Feeling a tiny bit better, we made a home teaching visit to one of our families.  They are in a new ward now, but will be coming out for a while to our ward until we can get their positions re-filled.

We attended the joint Stake RS & Primary Christmas Party.  This went well and we did some carol singing.  We then went to a baptism.  We participated by offering prayer and welcoming Helena into the ward. Later in the week we went to the Ronald McDonald house at St. George’s hospital to  attend an annual recognition meeting.  Our missionaries were singled out for the volunteering they have been doing there for sometime.  We have a Church member who is employed there and she facilitated the volunteer work.  The officials indicated that they wanted to forge the same relationship with the Church at another of the Ronald McDonald homes they administer.  We met the Mayor of Wandsworth who also favourably mentioned the Church in his remarks.

With the Lord Mayor of Wandsworth

Some of our missionaries being recognised, and a few members.

We wish all of our friends, family and neighbours a most glorious Christmas season, hoping for peace, good health and happiness for all.  Remember, HE is the GIFT and the reason for this blessed season.

Lots of love,
Elder and Sister Adams