Monday, June 20, 2016

To the Rescue in Great Britain with the self-reliance toolbox

Just finished our Self-Reliance visit to the British Isles.  One of our special moments was last Friday as we were able to see the painting that President Monson has named "To the Rescue".  It is in the Victoria and Albert Museum which is almost next door to the Hyde Park Chapel where we were visiting with our Self-Reliance missionary couple.  The following is from President Monson's conference talk in the Priesthood Session of April 2001 with the title of "To the Rescue": 

“Please don’t forget those of us who are out here—the lost Latter-day Saints. I know where the Church is, but sometimes I think I need someone else to show me the way, encourage me, take away my fear, and bear testimony to me.”
While reading this letter, I returned in my thoughts to a visit to one of the great art galleries of the world—even the famed Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England. There, exquisitely framed, was a masterpiece painted in 1831 by Joseph Mallord William Turner. The painting features heavy-laden black clouds and the fury of a turbulent sea portending danger and death. A light from a stranded vessel gleams far off. In the foreground, tossed high by incoming waves of foaming water, is a large lifeboat. The men pull mightily on the oars as the lifeboat plunges into the tempest. On the shore there stand a wife and two children, wet with rain and whipped by wind. They gaze anxiously seaward. In my mind I abbreviated the name of the painting. To me, it became To the Rescue.

We heard that this painting was in this museum, so we made a quick stop on our way to the Hyde Park chapel.  The museum is so immense that we could easily get lost in it, so we went back to the office, looked up the talk and then the location of the painting.  With updated information in hand, we were able to find it and see the masterpiece first hand.  It is always better to see this type of art first hand.  You appreciate much more than can be seen by photos or understood by stories.

However, let's back up.  Our last blog ended while we were still in Ireland.  While at the airport to leave for Scotland, we had a fun missionary experience.  We were sitting waiting for our gate assignment when a person next to us started asking why we were called "Latter Day Saints".  He read it from our missionary badges and wanted to know if we were better than the earlier day saints.  It made for a fun discussion about the apostasy and restoration.   He told us he was going to look us up to find out more.  We only had a German pass  along card with us, but we shared it with him to show him access to  We obviously need to update our supply of English pass along cards.  Just wearing our missionary badges opens the doors to many conversations.

We traveled to Glasgow, Scotland by Ryan Air, a low cost air fare company.  It only cost us 9.99 Euros each for our one way ticket.  There are a lot of conditions, so we left one of our suitcases in Ireland with the plan on picking it back up after our return flight.  We were picked up at the airport by Elder and Sister Andrus and stayed in their flat, which has an extra bedroom.  After getting settled, we were on to a stake self-reliance committee meeting in Edinburg.  We stopped and had some fish and chips at a supermarket along the way.

We also had a self-reliance committee meeting with the Paisley stake the next evening.  Both of these committees had not been holding regular meetings but were willing to hold meetings for us to attend. So, our coming helps the stake committees to function.  In each case, they committed to hold another meeting in July and Elder and Sister Andrus were invited to participate.  We also noted the power and influence of a stake relief society president in the self-reliance committee.  In our first meeting, she took charge in the absence of the member of the stake presidency.  The photo below is of the committee in the Paisley stake, didn't get a photo the first night.

Stake specialist, stake presidency counselor, mental health advisor, stake relief society president and E/S Andrus and Sister Rueckert
In between "events' we usually take time for one on one conversation with the missionary couples.  This gives us a chance to learn how and what they are doing and share some of our insights and encouragement. it is also a great way to use the time in the car. when we travel  from location to location.  We had rain most of our trip, which is pretty normal for these countries.  The following is a photo of the windshield during one of our drives in Ireland. in pouring rain.

In Scotland, we had a few open hours before heading to the committee meeting on Wednesday night, so Elder and Sister Andrus showed us some historical sites in Stirling, Scotland.  This turned out to be a wonderful history lesson as we saw three sites that were all related to the establishment of Scotland as  an independent country in 1314.  The first battle took place in 1296 when a Scottish knight, Sir William Wallace, led a Scottish uprising against England.  This battle was the basis of the Brave Heart movie.  As a result of Wallace's bravery the Wallace Monument was constructed.  The following are photos that we took at that monument.  A highlight was a story telling knight that did an amazing job descriving the history in detail.

Wallace Monument 
Sister Rueckert with E/S Andrus at the monument
Wonderful monologue for 15 minutes with a delightful Scottish accent, we loved it!
Wielding the sword of the Scottish Knight
This battle gave courage to the Scotts who were clearly outnumbered by the English but the English did not give up.  By 1314, the English attached again, with the Scots clearly outnumbered.  This was known as the Battle of Bannockburn.  We went to the memorial of this famous battle that only lasted two days and resulted in the final defeat of the English.   They were led by Robert the Bruce, who became the King of the Scots.  

Outside of the visitors center around this battle site

By the statue of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots

After visiting these two sites, we visited the Stirling Castle which was the home of the Scottish Royalty for hundreds of years dating back to the 1100s.  This was the home of Mary, Queen of Scots and many other famous royalty.  The castle isn't as imposing from a distance but is amazing once you get inside.  You will see in the photos below, the inner courts of the castle, which includes palaces, living quarters, a Church and a great Assembly Hall.  Once again we had a wonderful Scottish tour guide.  I love their accent.  It was a delightful tour.  We had to leave before looking at very much of the interior since we had a meeting to attend, but the time spent was well worth it.  We feel like we have at least a beginners knowledge of Scottish History.  In the 1600s, the son of the King of the Scots married the daughter of the King of England and the two royalties were once again united.  They are still separate countries but under the same royalty ever since.

Approaching view of the castle, moat and all
View of the Wallace Monument from the Sterling Castle
The assembly hall, part of the castle complex
Elder and Sister Andrus inside of the courtyard, near the assembly hall

Elder and Sister Rueckert with the Royal residence and the Palace in the background

Other corner of the courtyard, with the royal residence and the Church in the background

Sister Rueckert inside the palace with a new friend
Our very Scottish tour guide

During our visit to Scotland we were told about Haggis, a very Scottish food.  It is made up of animal innards put into a stomach, sewed together and cooked.  It did not sound very enticing.  However, the next morning we went early to the airport and saw these Haggis specimens for sale.  We did not buy them but it validated what we were told.

We flew back to Dublin, Ireland on Ryan Air, were able to get our luggage back from Elder and Sister Pettit and then continued onto London, England by British Air.  We finally arrived in London and our hotel around 3:00 pm.  We then went to the Self-Reliance Center at the Hyde Park Chapel and met with Elder and Sister Vernon, self-reliance missionaries.

We spent time in the center meeting with those who come to the busiest self-reliance center in Europe.  As we talked to three individuals, each came to the center for help, but none had been involved in self-reliance groups.

Self-Reliance Center at Hyde Park, London with three patrons from three different stakes
After meeting in the center we had the opportunity to visit with three different stake self-reliance specialists.  We were very impressed with their understanding of the initiative and the process.  However, in each case, the stake committees had not been meeting.  We had delightful conversations with them and left them with the challenge to  schedule stake committee meetings. That way the committee can share their enthusiasm and council together to find solutions to move forward in a more effective manner.

Stake Specialist from Wadsworth Stake, incredible conversion story also

Two wonderful stake specialists from the Hyde Park and Romford Stakes

The next day we were invited to join the Regional Self-Reliance seminar that was taking place in London the same time that we were there.  We were invited to lunch which we accepted.  It was a wonderful experience to see Elder Gay and Mike Murray and the Area Self-Reliance and Operations managers  from the two Africa (West and Southeast)  and two Europe (Europe and Europe East) Areas.  During lunch we were able to sit with Mike Murray and enjoy his fellowship again.  After lunch we were asked to give a 3 minute report of our learnings so far.  As always, we left edified with these great people.

Door man at the building where the regional seminar was taking place.  He looked very British with his top coat and mustache.
Sister Rueckert near Green Park, just around the corner from the Regional meeting

That afternoon we once again met at the Self-Reliance Center with Elder and Sister Vernon.  Once again we met individuals who need self-reliance help but had not been exposed to Self-Reliance Groups and the new materials.  As we discussed this with Elder and Sister Vernon, we challenged them to start a self-reliance group right tin the Center with the people who come for help.  It will not only help the individuals but also will give the Vernons important experiences as they support the neighboring stakes.  As I had prayed that morning for guidance, this idea (which Sister Rueckert had mentioned the day before) was reinforced in my mind.  The Vernons agreed with the idea, so it became our primary action item for our London visit.

It was also during this afternoon that we took the opportunity to visit the neighboring museum that we mentioned at the beginning of the blog.

As we left the office that day, we once again saw the amazing street activity in London.  The following is a giant bubble blower and his street bubbles.

The next day, Elder and Sister Vernon picked us up at the hotel and we left for a training of the Crawley and Maidstone stakes.  The distance was only 40 miles away, but it took three hours to get there.  Amazing traffic in downtown London and all the way to Crawley.  It was quite an experience, one that we are not in a hurry to repeat.

Once we got there, we led a discussion about registering self-reliance activity and reporting.  We continued until 3:00 pm when we had to leave to go to the airport.  The training continued with Martin Gardner, our Self-Reliance Service manager.  The photo below is of those who were participating in the meetings.

Elder and Sister Vernon in front of the car that we traveled in on Saturday.

After delays at the airport due to weather conditions in Frankfurt, we finally arrived in Frankfurt and arrived in our apartment at around 11:30 pm, Saturday night.  We were exhausted and fulfilled and certainly glad to finally be home.

The next day we celebrated Father's Day.  Sister Rueckert was able to give me a wonderful card and a tee shirt that she bought in London.  We also heard from several of our children.  We love the Sabbath and wish we had more Sabbath time available each week.  It is certainly a delight.