Monday, April 21, 2014

Vacation…or work? (Maybe a wee bit of both)

There is a hymn in our hymn book that says, “The time is far spent, there is little remaining…”  I feel that way a wee bit this morning.  We are at our one year mark on our mission and there are only six months are remaining until we return home.  We are excited to return home, but “there is little [time] remaining” to do all we want to do.  We received an email this week from one of our granddaughters indicating how much she missed us and said, “it sounds like you are having a good time vacationing and teaching the gospel!”  I guess as one reads our blog it does sound like we are “having a good time vacationing”, but we also are doing some work here.  J

The spring flowers have been amazing.  The daffodils are still blooming and are everywhere.  They come up in the middle of the yards in the grass and are along the roadside.

It is true I have been mostly posting information about our travels, but not much about our work…so one may think that we are on a grand vacation.  As we have traveled in our assignment, we have been able to see many parts of Scotland and Ireland, but we do also work.  Part of the reason I dinna post much about our work is because much of what we do is confidential in nature when we are dealing with individuals who are out of work and are a wee bit discouraged.  I have a separate journal file with a list of names of individuals who “have a story” to tell.  These stories are about their families, problems in finding work, their conversion to the gospel, and so forth.  Many of these stories are very special and posting them on the blog doesn’t seem appropriate.
Saturday we drove to Dunfermline and Kinross to see where the Irvine relatives came from.  This is the old train bridge across the Firth of Forth.  Dunfermline is just across the Firth about 5 miles.
We drove around the Dunfermline Cemetery.  This was the largest cemetery we have visited here.  The picture is hard to really appreciate how large the area really encompasses.  All the headstones, even the current ones are large standing stones.  It is quite the place to visit but would take, find someone without a map.  That will be our next challenge.

I thought I would share some things about two individuals we have worked with this week…so you can get an idea of what keeps us going.  (I like to focus on the positive)  Last fall a young adult in the Edinburgh Ward introduced us to a co-worker who needed help with his application to the University.  This fellow is not a member of the Church and is here from Slovakia. He has been living and working in Scotland for about 4 years and was applying to attend University because he now qualifies for government assistance since he is from a European Union country.  He needed help with the grammar for his essay as part of the application process.  We helped him by correcting the grammar in the essay.  He now has conditional acceptance to Harriot Watt University…conditional on passing the international English exam.  The exam has four parts – speaking, listening, reading, and writing.  This week we helped correct his practice writing test.  He is a wonderful young man and we have established a good friendship.  I am sure he will do well on the English exam.
We were on a walk near our flat and found this Dove Cot structure.  Which was built in the 1500s.

We met with another young man who is age 22 and looking for work for a year until he can return to the university.  He has had one year of College studying IT and 1 ½ years at University working on a degree in forensic IT security.  He isn’t the typical Scot as he has worked continually since he was a 16 year old and while attending school.  He started as a part-time checker in a grocery store and soon was promoted to a full time team leader of the checkers.  He then got a job as security in a bar and is now the supervisor of security.  He wants to go back to the University to finish his IT studies.  We are helping him with his CV (resume) and practicing interviewing skills.


Wednesday evening we going to Glasgow to teach our CV Writing class to a group of young adults.  On Saturday we are teaching our Career workshop in Falkirk and again the following Saturday in Edinburgh.  So, one can see that we actually do some work…in between our travels.   JJJ  In our first year here we have a list of about 85 individuals with whom we have worked to find employment, or get into school.  It can be a rewarding assignment when the “light comes on” and the individuals we are helping realize that they do have some skills and achievements, and can find work!!
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 Cheers…until next time.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Easter Concert...

This has been a slow week again for employment efforts but a special week none the less.  My last post told about our wee trip to the town of Oban.  It was grand to see the beauty of this land.  Last Sunday was our General Conference for the Church.  Every six months a General Conference is held in Salt Lake City where members gather to hear counsel and instruction from our Church leaders.  The meeting is held in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City and is broadcast via radio, television, satellite, and the internet throughout the world to allow millions to watch the proceedings.  Much of the music for the conference is provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.


The April Conference of the Church is always special because it is held near Easter.  This year the Sunday sessions were held on April 6th – the day the Church was organized in 1830.  The recordings of the Conference are available to anyone on  It is a chance to listen to a Prophet’s counsel and teachings on how we should live our life.  We sustain the First Presidency  and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators.


This week has also been special because we were asked to help with the Mission Choir.  The Scotland/Ireland Mission created an ad-hoc choir at Christmas time by selecting some of the young missionaries living in Scotland and they performed in a number of locations.  It was so successful that they have put together another Choir for a series of Easter concerts which were held in Glasgow, Dundee, and Edinburgh.  The concert was called “He Lives” and included many songs about Jesus Christ and his resurrection. 


The first concert was held in Glasgow Thursday night.  We caught the bus in Edinburgh on Friday morning and met the Choir at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the center of Dundee.  The second concert was to be held in that cathedral.  This was a special experience to have the Choir sing in one of these magnificent buildings.  The acoustics are amazing.


St. Paul’s Cathedral was built in 1853…not that old as cathedrals go.  J  It was a very impressing building.  I was able to go up to the bell tower and take some pictures looking down to the main part of the building.

There were 32 young missionaries who performed in the Choir and they are truly talented.  Some accompanied the Choir with violins, a cello, the piano, organ, flutes, trumpets, and of course…a bag pipe.  One of the missionaries from Ohio has been playing the bag pipe for about 5 years and he accompanied the Choir as they sang Amazing Grace.  They love the work they are doing to share the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

There were only about 30 people in attendance but the Choir sounded great.  Because of their missionary responsibilities they only had 3 days practice before the first concert.  They put on the next concert Friday evening at the Dundee Stake Building and there were about 180 people in attendance.  We assisted in making sure the details of transport, meals, and lodgings were handled.

Friday morning the bus took us to Edinburgh for a concert in St. Giles’ Cathedral.  This was an amazing performance.


St Giles' Cathedral, more properly termed the High Kirk of Edinburgh, is the principal place of worship of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh. Its distinctive crown steeple is a prominent feature of the city skyline, at about a third of the way down the Royal Mile which runs from the Castle to Holyrood Palace. The church has been one of Edinburgh's religious focal points for approximately 900 years. The present church dates from the late 14th century, though it was extensively restored in the 19th century.  Today it is sometimes regarded as the "Mother Church of Presbyterianism". The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Giles, who is the patron saint of Edinburgh, as well as of cripples and lepers, and was a very popular saint in the Middle Ages.


St Giles' was only a cathedral in its formal sense (i.e. the seat of a bishop) for two periods during the 17th century (1635–1638 and 1661–1689). In the mediaeval period, prior to the Reformation, Edinburgh had no cathedral as the royal burgh was part of the Diocese of St Andrews, under the Bishop of St Andrews whose episcopal seat was St Andrew's Cathedral. For most of its post-Reformation history the Church of Scotland has not had bishops, dioceses, or cathedrals. As such, the use of the term cathedral today carries no practical meaning. The "High Kirk" title is older, being attested well before the building's brief period as a cathedral.

The choir performance was wonderful.  There were nearly 200 people in the Cathedral during the performance and many offered very positive comments about the quality of the performance.  The message of the music was that Jesus Christ has atoned for our sins and that he gave his life for us that we might return to live with a loving Heavenly Father.  The ending numbers for each concert were "I know that my redeemer lives", "This is the Christ", and the "Hallelujah Chorus" from The Messiah.  The last concert was performed in the Edinburgh Stake Building with about 150 in attendance.  It was a wonderful experience to be with the Choir and feel the spirit as they sang.
Our message to the world is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and our Savior and Redeemer and that He lives and is guiding His Church today through his  Apostles and Prophets.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A wee trip to Oban and Inveraray...

Last weekend we took some time off and took a wee trip Friday afternoon and Saturday and drove to the west coast of Scotland to a town called Oban.  We drove from Edinburgh to Stirling and then through Callandar and across to Oban on the A85.  The drive was beautiful but would have even been better in a few weeks as the trees begin to show more green leaves.  Most of the castles are opening back up for the tourist season so we will see many more as we travel throughout Scotland.

On the road to Oban on the A85

The town of Oban is only about 200 years old, but there are castle ruins nearby that date back to the 13th century.   
Oban Bay looking out from main street.

On the hill behind the town, overlooking the bay there is a structure that looks like a coliseum.  The story is told that a wealthy man in the city was worried about the mason workers who were out of work in the winter.  So he hired them to build him a home on the hill to keep them working.  The structure was never finished as he died before it was finished.  The view from the top is very nice


The daffodils are in bloom everywhere.  They are along the side of the road, in pastures, lawns, just about everywhere.

Overlooking the bay from the top of the hill.

We stayed overnight in Oban and then drove to Inveraray on Saturday.  On the way we passed the Kilchurn Castle (pronounced – “ki-learn” with a sound from the back of the throat) located at the north end of Loch Awe.  This castle is a ruin with not much to see other than from the outside.  
Kilchurn Castle
Kilchurn Castle was built in the mid-1400s by Sir Colin Campbell, 1st Lord of Glenorchy.  In the 14th to 15th century, the various Campbell clans controlled most of the southwestern part of Scotland.

In 1432, Colin, second son of Duncan Campbell (later 1st Lord Campbell), was granted Glenorchy, at the north end of Loch Awe.  Kilchurn remained the powerbase for the Campbells for 150 years. It was not abandoned until the 1700s.
We next stopped in Inveraray to see the castle.  Inveraray Castle is the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell.  Inveraray Castle is first and foremost a family home rather than a castle built for defense.    The Campbells fought with King Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannock Burn in 1314 when they defeated the English (Edward II)  in the Wars of Scottish Independence.


For all you Downton Abbey fans, this is the location used to film the summer vacation at the end of the 3rd season.  This is the group of missionaries that traveled with us for the weekend.

The tour of the castle was on the first two floors on the left side of the castle.  We went into about a dozen rooms out of the nearly 100 that are in the castle.  The family lives in the castle and uses all of the rooms at certain times of the year.
Fields of daffodils.


The 13th Earl (Duke of Argyll) and his family currently live in the castle when they visit Scotland.   

From Inveraray we returned home by driving down the west coast of Loch Lomond and through Glasgow to Edinburgh


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Our 4th trip to Ireland...

Well, another trip to Ireland this last weekend.  We first went in August, then October, and in January...and now in March.  What a great blessing for us to be able to travel the entire mission which includes all of Scotland and Ireland.  Saturday we were in Dublin for a training meeting.  We had suggested to our supervisor that it would be a “brilliant” idea to have a training meeting for all the Employment Specialist in Ireland and then hold one in Scotland.  He agreed to the idea and confirmed that the idea was in fact “brilliant”.  (I should explain that the use of the word brilliant here is much different than at home.  At home one may say, “that is a great idea”.  Here one would say “that’s brilliant”.  Anyway, I digress…)

We drove to Cairnryan, Scotland (about 2 1/2 hour drive) on Friday to catch the ferry to Belfast.  The weather was not ideal, but on the way to Dublin (a 2 hour drive) we took a wee side trip to see some of the Irish countryside.  The weather was a wee bit overcast, but as you can see, the scenery is beautiful.
On Saturday in Dublin we met with the new Stake Employment Specialists (Donovan and Eva Bowen) from the Belfast Stake and the new Employment Specialist from the Limerick District (Joseph Peters).  We met in the Stake offices next to the Church Building.  The Dublin Stake Employment Specialists (Catherine and Terence Lamb) and our “boss” and his wife (Martin and Karen Gardner) from Birmingham also met with us.  We oriented the new specialists to their assignment and covered the purpose of what we do in the Employment Centres and how we teach individuals to be “economically self-reliant through employment, education, and self-employment”.   Catherine’s daughter, Rose catered in a delicious lunch for us.  All the participants left the meeting excited about their assignments and having a renewed effort to reach out to those in need.  That is the essence of our religion and the gospel of Jesus Christ – to reach out to the poor and those in need.  A man or woman who is able to work and is out of work, or needs better employment, is a person in need.

On the way to the ferry to go back to Scotland we drove through downtown Belfast. 

The downtown part of Belfast has been turned into a mostly pedestrian zone.  This was about 9:30 a.m. so the whole area was a no parking area - loading/unloading only.

This is looking down the street to the Belfast City Hall. 
I spoke with our boss this morning (he had to leave the meeting early on Saturday) and he encouraged us to work “one-on-one” with the new specialists so it looks like we will be going back to Ireland in June.  (What a tough assignment we have --  we must go back to Ireland in June)   ;)
On Monday we caught the ferry back to Carinryan and instead of driving back on the motorway we decided to take a "scenic route".  It turned out to be a lot longer drive than anticipated as we took some detours to see some small villages and then we were also diverted because of the road being closed for repaving.  The trip took about 4 hours to return back to Edinburgh.
We drove from Cairnryan towards Dumfries but took a side road to Newton Stewart...a small village in southern Scotland.  At this point we are only about 20 miles from the Scotland/England border. 

The area is a big area for raising sheep.  The farmers have brought their sheep closer to the farms (down from the higher hills) for two reasons - getting ready for shearing and for lambing.  Most of the fields were filled with new lambs.  In one small pasture we saw at least 25-30 lambs.  As you can is beautiful country!!

Next week's post will be about our upcoming trip this weekend to Oban...on the West coast of Scotland.  Now that we are in April all the castles have re-opened up for the tourists and we will start doing more traveling to historical sites.

Monday, March 17, 2014

It has been a while...have you missed me?

It has been a while since I last posted on the blog...things continue to be busy for us.  This last month we have been going to Glasgow each Tuesday to meet with people.  We continue to work three days each week in the Edinburgh Centre.  We attended the Glasgow Stake Conference about a month ago and met 4-5 people who were interested in meeting with us.  We have been going over each Tuesday to set up a “mini” Employment Center.  We also took a trip to Chorley, England to deliver an old computer to our “boss”. 
We received a new computer for our Employment Centre in Edinburgh and the old one was to be returned to Birmingham.  Our boss suggested he meet us half way between Birmingham and Edinburgh to get it returned.  We suggested that we meet in Chorley because then we could attend the Preston Temple to make the trip more interesting.  It was a lot of driving…but we enjoyed the day.

Spring is beginning to surface.  The long, dark winder nights are becoming a thing of the past.  It is staying light now until after 6:30 p.m., the sun us up by 6:00 a.m., and the days are getting warmer.  This last week we had no rain and three straight days with total sunshine.  That is a change from having rain every day since November and the sun only popping through rain clouds occasionally.

This is the tree we see from our kitchen window.  The blossoms were pretty and now the green leaves are coming.
The green leaves are beginning to pop out on the hedges and below the daffodils are coming up through the grass.

This is a park behind our flat that we walk through often.  There are about 8 of these mounds along the path through the park with trees and now the daffodils are coming up through the grass.


The crocuses are also coming up through the grass.  It is a pretty time of year.

Time is moving on.  Next week we will be at our 11th month mark with only 7 months remaining.  We are getting anxious to come home in October, but there is still much to do here.  I was thinking the other day that I have now been retired for one year...but haven't stopped working.  The time has certainly gone fast.

Saturday we taught a career workshop in Alloa and have two other workshops scheduled in Falkirk and Kilmarnock for April.  We also have scheduled a workshop in May in Edinburgh and Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis.  Stornoway is on an island on the northwest coast of Scotland and should be a very interesting weekend.  It will take a full day to get there – driving and a ferry ride.  We will spend a day in the workshop and another couple of days touring the island.  The Isle of Lewis is about as far north and west as one can get in Scotland.  The Shetland Islands are farther north but I don't think we will get there.  We are going to Ireland again the end of March for a training session with the three Stake Employment Specialists.  This is the first time this type of training has been done so we hope it goes well. 

Here is the room in Alloa all set up waiting for the workshop to begin.  Unfortunately we only had two participants make it to the class.

We taught our CV Writing Class last week and had 7 Chinese students attend the class.  After the class we all went to a restaurant for another “hot pot” dinner.  This one was similar, but not as good as the first one.  It is totally different Chinese food than one finds at home…but apparently very authentic.
Each person had their own hot plate and bowl to cook the dinner.  Plates were brought out with all the "fixins" to begin cooking. 

We went to Linlithgow Palace again with some missionaries that had not been there.  We are now becoming the official "tour guides" since we have been here longer than many of the missionaries and know our way around. 

This is the view from the top tower of the Palace looking back to St. Michaels Church.  The Church was built in the 13th century and is still being used today for weekly services.
These cathedrals are truly amazing structures.  The sound inside is really good.  We sat an listened to a fellow playing the organ.
After the Palace we went to a real fun pub for lunch.  One of the best places to eat is a pub or tavern.  We went to the Lion & Unicorn.  The building dates back to 1635 
The pub is on the west side of Stirling...about an hour drive from our flat...but well worth the drive.  The food is excellent.  Fortunately we have a nice tavern near our flat...the Spylaw Tavern which we go to often.  The food is almost as good but it is a 15 minute drive.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Elephant you know about it?

I must admit, I am not a big Harry Potter fan, but I wanted to post this for those of you who may be fans.  Friday night we went to dinner at the Elephant House in Edinburgh. 

Now if you were a real fan of Harry Potter, you would know that this coffee house is where J.K. Rowling wrote the first few Harry Potter books.  This for sure would be a good trivia question about Harry Potter.   (I have walked by this place a number of times but had no idea about its historical value until this week.)  It is just down the street from Greyfriars Bobby and the cemetery.  (But that is a different story...this picture was taken this last summer.  We are not yet seeing too many blue skies in February.  I think I have already posted a story about Greyfriars Bobby so I won't get sidetracked.)

One of the missionaries who is scheduled to go home this week is a big Harry Potter fan and wanted to go the Elephant House before she left.  As I indicated, I was unaware of the significance of this Coffee House.  We went there for dinner Friday evening and learned all about the history of the place.  I have attached a picture from their website that gives some of the history.

Their fame has caused them to be a bit lax in the upkeep of the can tell from the burned out light over the name in the first picture above.  Granted, it is intended to be a rustic type Coffee House, but it's appearance is a bit run down (I guess that  means that it is rustic) and the food leaves a lot to be desired.  We were sitting near the table used by J.K. Rowling and below is the view of what she saw for the inspiration for her story...looking out the window and seeing the Edinburgh Castle. 
If you go to the website for the Elephant House there is a interesting video interview about the beginning of the Harry Potter series.
From Wikipedia:  Rowling has led a "rags to riches" life story, in which she progressed from living on state benefits to multi-millionaire status within five years. She is the United Kingdom's best-selling author since records began, with sales in excess of £238m.[12] The 2008 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling's fortune at £560 million ($798 million), ranking her as the twelfth richest woman in the United Kingdom.[13] Forbes ranked Rowling as the forty-eighth most powerful celebrity of 2007,[14] and TIME magazine named her as a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral, and political inspiration she has given her fans.[15] In October 2010, Rowling was named the "Most Influential Woman in Britain" by leading magazine editors.[16] She has become a notable philanthropist, supporting such charities as Comic Relief, One Parent Families, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain and Lumos (formerly the Children's High Level Group).