Dear Family and Friends,
I wrote the following mission summary for our home ward newsletter.
Cheryl retired from teaching school in May 2010. Ken had planned to work for a while longer but one day said, “I have decided to retire this year and let’s go on a mission right away so we only miss one football season.” We were called to serve as Family History Support Missionaries in the England, London Mission.
We have served in the London Family History Centre since January 2011, assisting people with their family history. The London Family History Centre, the largest regional center in Europe, is usually located in the Hyde Park Chapel in central London. When the building closed for refurbishment at the end of August 2011, we were invited to move our Centre out to The British National Archives at Kew in Surrey.
We have, on average, 50 people a day who come to our Centre at the Archives. We are in an area surrounded by computers and old books. It’s a wonderful environment. The majority of people who come to us are not LDS. They come mainly to search out their British ancestry on the microfilms of the parish records we have at the Archives. We brought over 62,000 microfilms from the Hyde Park Chapel. At present there are 3 senior missionary couples serving. We are here to run the Centre, help the patrons with their research and make scans of the images they find on the microfilms. We each have individual assignments as well.
A couple of weeks ago we began a project to help prepare World War I military diaries for digitization. At times when all the missionaries are not needed on the floor, we go down to the basement of the Archives and carefully sort through archive boxes containing the diaries of British military units. It’s a fascinating project.
We have regular hours that we work. Monday is our preparation day as the Archives are closed. On Sunday all the senior missionaries are assigned to a specific ward. We go to the North London Ward and it’s quite a journey out there- a 3 hour round trip. In the ward we help out in any way we can on Sunday. At present we are helping the members with their family history.
We have so enjoyed our association with the other senior missionaries in our mission. We get together for Family Home Evening every other week and do a lot of socializing in addition to that- concerts, sightseeing, going out to dinner and to the London Temple.
We Skype our family at home quite often and have had several come and visit us in London.
This has been an amazing experience. It’s a scary decision, deciding on a mission, and we miss our family like mad but we are so glad we decided to come.
Bus stop near the North London Chapel
We are so glad we decided to come. One of the things I love the most about this mission is the family history work. Our patrons at The National Archives are always expressing appreciation about us being there and so willing to help them in their research. The other day I was helping an elderly gentleman and found several very well documented family trees for his family on Ancestry. He was so excited and said to me, “I didn’t know that there were other people out there who are as interested in my family as I am.” He went on to say that probably the only people interested in doing family history were older people. I said that they are of different ages, young and old. As I looked around at our patrons sitting at the computers and microfilm readers that day, I did see people of all ages and from many different backgrounds, British, Jamaican, eastern European and Australian.
We have had 2 orthodox Jewish men who are doing research for their family, originally from Poland, come into our centre. I got into conversation with the older gentleman. He was very curious about how long I had been in the UK and when I was going home. We started comparing our numbers of grandchildren- I have 17 and he has 16. We talked about how wonderful grandchildren are. People are very curious about why we have come from so far away to help others with their family history.
Once in awhile we do have a patron who is not so grateful. I was showing a man what we have available on FamilySearch and the other websites that we use in research. He was quite frustrated because he did not know too much about how to use the computer and didn’t seem very anxious to learn. He finally said, “You are wasting my time.” I so wanted to respond that I felt the same way, that he was wasting my time, but I bit my tongue. We don’t see people like that very often.
Sometimes when we are doing family history we run across the saddest stories. I have been helping someone to do their research and found a record in the proceedings of Old Bailey, London’s Central Criminal Court from 1674 to 1913. The grandfather of the person I have been helping was put on trial for larceny. He was 16 years old and stole a pair of shoes that had been left on the window sill of a house. In the record of the court proceeding the witnesses were the wife of the man who had his shoes stolen, the pawn broker where the young man had pawned the shoes and the young man himself. His defense was that he had been on the London Bridge at the time of the theft, but he was found guilty and sentenced to a month in prison. It makes you wonder why young man was so desperate for money that he stole.
The Hyde Park Chapel
The completion of the refurbishment of the Hyde Park Chapel is just a couple of weeks away. One afternoon we went over to Exhibition Road to take a look. We took some pictures outside the building and have a couple others that someone sent us of the interior.
Our Stake conference is scheduled for May 20 and it will be held in the building.
One of the differences in the building is the addition of a Christus statue and a visitors centre. A British couple have been called as directors of the centre. There will also be 2 other senior couples and 2 pairs of young sister missionaries who will serve there. The Christus statue is visible from the street. This area of London is very busy with Londoners and tourists. The Victoria and Albert Museum is next door to the church and the Science Museum and Museum of Natural History are across the street. Also across the street is Imperial College and a few block away the Royal Albert Hall and Hyde Park. When London is thronging with tourists during the 2012 Olympic Games, many will walk by the Hyde Park Chapel, see the Christus and hopefully come into the Visitor’s Center.
Two quotes come to mine when I think about this wonderful building. In 1955, President David O. McKay said, “There is a great need, particularly in the great city of London, for a chapel, a church edifice that will be a credit to the Church, that it will accommodate those who are now seeking the truth and about to join the Church.” James R. Moss said, “The Hyde Park Chapel was no ordinary undertaking for the Church in Britain, for it was designed to provide a spiritual showplace for the Church in the minds of those living in the London area. The chapel was specifically designed to serve a proselytizing function and to help the British people know the Church was in Britain to stay.”
Our best to all of you from London!
Love, Elder and Sister Fugal (aka Cheryl and Ken, Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa)