Friday, February 28, 2014

HURRAH! We Made It Through Our Second Week Alive!!!

All I can say is this week has been VERY different than the last week. I feel like we are starting to figure this out and have some assurance that we really might be able to do what is required. This week we finally got internet!!! (You truly don't realize how life comes to a standstill without it. You are disconnected to ALL THINGS!) We've done our second set of lessons, our second set of dinners, our second trip to Costco, a trip to IKEA to get more furniture for our flat. (It actually is beginning to feel like home. It's very fun!)We are truly being blessed to remember names and establish very sweet relationships with the kids. We LOVE them and they are coming to love us already. We are gaining the confidence of our leaders who, by the way, are so remarkable. The Lord has provided incredible men to lead this part of the vineyard. It's VERY humbling to be a part of it. I've never felt so reliant upon the Lord's Grace to enable us to be enough! All in all we are getting rooted and excited at the opportunity to make a difference here.

Before I say anymore I need to shout Hallelujah from the housetops that our 12th grandchild, Skyler Marie Phillips, has finally joined our family!!! She is BEAUTIFUL and her face I know so very well. She is the most Phillips of all our grandchildren and looks so much like her Daddy! It's the mouth! Oh those lips! I would know them anywhere. Last Sunday I felt stressed about her not coming and so worried about our Shelby. I was feeling blue because we were so out of touch with what was going on. Between ward council and our main meetings I used the church's internet to look and see if there was anything going on. To my surprise and delight we found Shelby finally in labor AND it was on Auntie Ashlee's birthday!!!! How amazing is that!!!! She was 8 days overdue but just wanted to wait to be born on a day she could share with Auntie! We could hardly focus on the rest of the meetings, slipping out every 30 minutes to see if there was anything new. It was after a CES fireside featuring Elder Alan Packer and some seventies that I literally let out a whoop in the foyer when we first saw that delicious newborn face of Skyler. What rejoicing! The whole chapel knew we had a new granddaughter. Once again the gratitude I feel cannot be expressed that Shelby and Skyler are healthy and whole. It's always such a miracle! I don't know how we are going to wait to love on that sweet little girl for two years. It's going to kill me! Good job Mommy and Tanner you are a Daddy!!!! So happy for you!! And so proud of Shelby's accomplishment of her heartfelt goal of a natural birth.

Another sweet part of Skyler's birth is that her Auntie Meg was her mommy's doula. How precious to share that experience; two women who are sisters/besties able to take this journey together. It's Magic. I'm truly grateful for the beautiful powerful women who are my daughters. They are ALL magnificent! (Megan I'm still waiting and dying for ALL the birth details!)

Highlights from this week was the CES fireside where we had 350 youth from all over the mission at Hyde Park Chapel to hear Elder Packer and two other seventies speak. I wish you could all be here to witness that many youth from ALL OVER the world, in every shade of color, united in their love of Christ and his prophets. It was amazing and so powerful to realize how the gospel is beginning to cover the earth. In our ward alone we are baptizing at least 1-2 kids A WEEK! Over half are from China and they are AMAZING. They are all here attending school and doing masters and doctorate work. They are brilliant and articulate, even in their not so perfect English. I love their spirits. Looking back I'm so grateful for the 2 weeks we spent in mainland China years ago when I first fell in love with the Chinese people. They will be a powerful tool and blessing as the church begins to extend into China.

Speaking of that; we had a 23 year old Chinese women (American name; Emily) be baptized on Tuesday. What was special about her baptism was that it had to be done incognito because her mother is a high ranking member of the Communist Party and it could be dangerous for both of them if it was found out her daughter had joined a church. Last night as I was preparing dinner Emily came in to help and told me how she had broken the news to her mom and the mom didn't even have a point of reference. Religion??? She was shocked that Emily would even consider joining a church. But sweet Emily said to me "My mom, she really love me and want me be happy." Her mom made a deal with Emily and asked her to wait for a week to see if she still felt the same way. Well, unbeknownst to her mom Emily had her baptism date set for 5 days later. After she was baptized she posted a picture just saying how truly happy she was. Within hours her mom was on the phone already knowing by how she looked in the picture that she's been baptized. When Emily expressed how she was feeling she was shocked to see her mom start to cry. Concerned, Emily asked her if she was upset and disappointed with her. Her mom's response "I'm so grateful to see you so peaceful and filled with happiness. That's all I want for you, my only daughter." Then Emily once again said, "My mom, she really love me."

A little about South Kensington/Chelsea area that we live. A few days ago Jim brought up a magazine left in our foyer showing listings for flats in our neighborhood. The lowest price started at 2.7 million pounds and went up to 17 million pounds. How insane is that!!! We definitely live in the high rent district of London. We are literally down the street from Harrod's of London. We can't imagine the worth of the Hyde Park Chapel. We are told it is second only to the Hong Kong Temple in value. I guess our rent of 4,200. is paltry in this neighborhood.

It's interesting how the church acquired the property to build the chapel. In the second World War a son of a wealthy family lived there. Toward the end of the war their home took a direct hit by a bomb and the son and his whole family were killed. The parents were devastated and left the property in a state of ruin for 15 years. Business after business tried to get them to sell this prime piece of commercial property but they wouldn't even consider it. Then the church went to them asking to buy it so they could put a church on it with the stipulation they would put a monument marker remembering the family killed there. They agreed to sell it to the church; a total miracle, and now the church has a beautiful building with a visitor center and a 10 foot Christus on display in the heart of London for all to see. The Lord's hand is directing His work in England!

I was officially called as Ward Choir Director last night by Bishop Gill. I'm excited and know this will be one way to bring a closer unity to our ward. They have no idea what a blessing this will be. We know, because of Jim's BYU ward, what a choir can do. Very excited.

Jim is teaching Missionary Prep on Thursday nights. A big batch of kids have just left on their missions so Jim only has 3 boys attending. Two of them are huge black twins, 24 year old, no dad but a faithful mom, who are waiting for calls. The other is a darling 22 year old boy from Romania that attends our institute class. Last night the twins brought their girlfriends to Institute. One of them is a new member that Ty brought in the Church, Kenny's girl has just started taking the lessons. The lesson for the evening, ironically, was on worthiness for their Missions and the Temple. Jim really talked deeply to the boys and then felt inspired to bring the girls out of the other class. When they came in he told the story of leaving me, knowing that to be the man and father he needed to be he HAD to serve a mission. Then he witnessed to them the "why" of the boys decision to go serve and how it would bless them eternally. He asked the girls for their help in keeping them worthy and clean to go and bore testimony of how worth it it would be to all of them. By time he was done everyone in the class were in tears. More importantly Kenny's girl who had just had her first discussion tonight had the Holy Ghost witness to her everything Jim said was true. Huge hugs, commitment and gratitude. Isn't it a blessing what we get to do!

Tuesday we had our first Institute class here at the flat. Last week we had 8 kids. I was worried that we would loose kids because of the walk and them finding our flat. I shouldn't have worried. We had 12 this week. When we asked if this worked and was worth the extra walk to get here they unanimously voted to keep it here. It was so cute when one of my favorite Chinese girls walked in she said, "This feel like a..a...temple." Music to my ears. A place of safety and spirit; that's what we are trying to provide.

One more thing. It is an amazing experience to strive to live worthy of the Holy Ghost every hour, every minute of the day. Watching your words, your attitude, your actions and aligning them to what the Savior would want. It's been so sweet to have a companion doing the same thing. It's amazing how our relationship is being blessed as we focus on the Lord and on others. It's already been so sweet. So many blessings attached to our service. So worth it!

I will close with something said to Jim after Institute that made me cry. It was said by the paid CES teacher who teaches the young adults all over the Stake. Mark White is only with us on Thursday and teaches the other class and really knows the kids.
I will let Jim tell you what he said.

This is your Dad and proud new grandfather of the first beautiful little girl to bare the name of my goodly parents. Skyler Marie Phillips. Thank you my son for honoring your Priesthood and being married in the Temple and bringing little Skyler in this world born under the covenant.This is the first grand daughter baring my Father's name that has that blessing. I love you Shelby for the sacrifice you've made to bring little Skyler Marie Phillips in the world. I love her name, all of it.

Before I share my experience in class I want you all to know how powerful and extraordinary Our Savior and His Father is. They are in the details of this work. I bare witness that prayers are answered so directly that it's mind blowing. The Spirit of the Lord is upon London and these young adults. They are being gathered from the far corners of the Earth. Make no mistake that the work is being hastened and we are privileged to be standing right in the middle of all nations, kindred, tongues and people being called to the Lord's Church.

Our prayers regarding our calling and asking Father to intervene on our behalf with these young people have been answered. Mark White the Institute instructor sat down with me after class to get an update. He said to me how grateful he was that we have come to the Britannia Ward. He stated that we've brought a new enthusiasm and love for these young people and he feels it in his class. He said that the kids are different in just two weeks. He said that he feels a new energy and buzz in his class room. They are reaching out to their friends and a closeness that wasn't there before is present. The power of God and your Mother's food has struck the YSA in London. The food I speak of is a Mother and Father's love. Many of these brilliant young people are coming from the fractured families of the world.

Father has sent us here to minister to their souls and show them what it feels like to be in a ward family and to translate that feeling into their eternal family. Hope is a very important element in healing our young people. The Father is teaching us every day how to love them and gain their trust. I trust the Father's power to heal their wounded souls and bare up the arms that hang down through us. It is a privilege to be trusted by the Father to minister to these Stripling Warriors.

The difference is we are the Mother and Father teaching and readying them for life's battle. We need to be far more than we are and far better at loving every imaginable child of God that these young people represent. I beg for your prayers because we are serving the future missionaries and heads of families of nations that the gospel is not yet allowed. The Second Coming is not far off and you can see from here exactly how Father is doing it. I love that he has given us a front row seat in His plan to enter all nations. I love this work and the companion I get to do it with. I love all of you more everyday as the Father teaches me what love really is.

I remain your Father, Pap, Baba, Grampa and most of all a son of the living God.

First Week in London

Emotional Meltdown

What an adventure and illuminating experience this has been. I’m not near as tough as I always thought I was. The first 4 days I felt completely unwound. I really was a wreck. It’s a shock to your system to come to a flat that is completely empty except for a couch, table and bed period and where you have no car or way to transport anything except in a little trolly (a bag on wheels) which by the way has saved my life.

The first night on our arrival we had to go shopping with one of the senior couples from Australia; the Davis’, who did have the mission van and who are absolutely darling and very kind. I wanted to cry as we walked down aisle after aisle with not one thing looking familiar and realizing I had a dinner for 70 in one week and was going to have to shop for it, buy it AND somehow get it home or to the church to prepare it. Looking back I think I was so exhausted my brain wasn’t even computing. That’s how it went for the next 3 days. PURE PANIC!! This is when I realized how important it could have been to meet and talk with the outgoing couple, simply to talk logistics, but I think that was part of my process. I can’t tell you how scary and humbling it was. I’ve never felt so out of control in my life. I was spinning.

The best thing waiting for us in London was the flat they just rented for us. That’s why when we got here it was completely unstocked. It truly is lovely (It should be. It rents for $4,200 a month and is in the very nicest part of London; ten minute walk to the mission home!) It has 12 ceilings, wood floors throughout and was built in the 1860’s. It has two bedrooms and two baths. The only problem was the boiler which provides the heat and hot water turned off the first night we were here. We froze all night and then had no shower the next morning (after flying all night the night before!). We survived and it was fixed the next day. We have a darling landlord who is very quick to respond.

Then two nights later, on Saturday night, we plugged in our clock radio with just an adapter, not a converter. Sparks flew everywhere and ALL THE LIGHTS went out. It was only 7:30 in the evening. I burst into tears, just one more overload to add to my growing list. There was nothing to do but call and leave a message for our landlord who didn’t answer and then climb into bed (we didn’t even have a flashlight, along with about every other necessity you need to survive).

It took about 30 minutes for me to calm down. Your father just held me and basically he talked me down. Because I was stuck in bed I had to listen. I found myself begin to relax for the first time since we arrived and finally the peace that passeth understanding came and then came the spirit of assurance that I’d been too wigged out and fearful to recognize. It was THE turning point. Nothing else changed except me. Faith and assurance came that we would figure it all out. It was such a sweet, sweet experience. I’ve not gone to that scary place again and we ARE figuring it out. (And it is VERY complicated, but we can do it. Just did our first dinner last night for 70. Lots of work and planning but doable.)

So the funny part of this story is about 2 hours later as we are still in bed in the dark we hear someone messing with the lock on our front door and then in walks the landlord, catching us in bed and totally unprepared for visitors. Jim VERY QUICKLY got dressed and went to assist. They couldn’t get it fixed so once again we had no heat, lights or hot water for Sunday morning. Luckily our landlord got the electric company here to fix it mid-morning on Sunday. (We giggle every time we think about getting caught).

First Week

The first day here we got to meet our Mission President and wife. They are lovely. We like them both a lot. The first two days we were here were VERY difficult days for them. They had to send home an elder the first day and then the next day two sisters went home. You could tell Sister Jordan’s heart was broken. There are two senior couples in the mission home; The Larson’s and the Davis’. The Larson’s are on their second mission and are from up by Logan and the Davis’ are from Australia. Both are lovely competent people and such a blessing to President. And to us! They are who literally got us through the first few days. We love them. In this mission I think there are around 16 couples serving, which is unheard of. There’s great effort being dedicated to this area of the kingdom. All the couples are amazing. We feel very privileged to be counted among them.

Thursday we got to meet the Stake President. He walked in and my thought was he looked like one of the YSA kids. He’s very young, handsome and one of the most valiant servants of the Lord we’ve ever met. He shared his vision of this stake and where it needs to go, all starting with the YSA. He had us in tears. It’s going to be wonderful to get to be part of his vision and his stake.
That night was Stake Institute taught by Mark White, the CES teacher for all the stakes in this area. We hit it off right from the beginning with him. We are growing to love him. He did a marvelous job teaching the Book of Mormon to about 70 kids. Since we had only been there 1 day there was no dinner so we got to attend. After class we ended up staying talking to the kids until 11:00. It was delightful. Megan you would LOVE this place; every shade of skin color imaginable from countries you haven’t even heard of! We came home filled with love for these youth and a knowledge there is A LOT of work to be done. So many needs!

Friday we spent the day getting our housing tax and our travel pass. It was our first time on the underground tube. It’s an amazing transportation system. It has to be since no one has a car here except the really rich. There’s simply no place to park, like New York. (Jim counted 5 Bentleys going by our flat in about 15 minutes the first day we were here!) Then we went to open a bank account. Here in London you walk to the bank, make an appointment for the next day, then walk back the next day.

Opening the account took 2 hours, but since it was Saturday we couldn’t deposit our money we’d brought so we had to walk back on Monday to deposit our money. So bizarre! EVERYTHING here takes 3 times as long to do as in America. It can be frustrating. And of course you walk and walk and walk. It’s truly a culture shock to not have a car!!! My poor feet!

Since Friday was Valentine’s Day Jim took me to our first Indian food restaurant that is walking distance from our flat. It was really good. They don’t tip here so even though the price of the meal is more it’s not that much more when there’s no tip. Our first meal out!

I’ve already talked about lights out Saturday. Sundays here are going to be very long days. It was Ward Conference so we had ward council meeting, then our 3 hour block, followed by a very sweet baptism (Chinese are flocking to the church!!) Then we had ward choir (a little scary) and then waited another hour for Bishop Gill to finish interviews because we had been invited to his home for dinner. By time we got to his house it was 8:30 pm, I was dying because I had been fasting, but so worth the wait! What a story to tell!

Bishop and Sister Gill

Bishop Gill grew up right up the road from us by Timpview. His father is Indian and his mother is from Mormon pioneer stock. His dad taught Math at BYU for 35 years and then was called to open the first ever mission in India about 18 years ago. If you met Bishop Gill you’d NEVER think he had any India blood in him. He’s very tall and very white. When we got to his flat way past dinner time we were met by a VERY dark, VERY friendly attractive Indian woman in full Indian attire. Her name is Suneta and she is adorable, loving and full of life. She’s brilliant, a physician, and a deeply committed member of the church. (She teaches early morning seminary at her home every day.) They have a beautiful 17 year old who looks like her mother and a set of twins; boy and girl who are 11 years old.

On the table sat another Indian meal we were supposed to have eaten 2 hours earlier. The kids had already eaten but there was plenty for us. It was a delightful experience. There was an instant bond between Suneta and me. I already love her. I’m so sad because they will be here for only another 5 months and then they are moving back to the states to Los Angeles. What a loss for our ward. (He was called to Bishop when they had lived here for 6 weeks and has served since then).
We talked almost 3 hours, about YSA, the organization, institute, etc. and then as we were ready to leave they ended up telling us one of the most remarkable stories I’ve ever heard about how they got married.

Suneta grew up in India to a VERY educated upper class family. They were LDS but more important than religion or anything else was education and status of who you married. Since Suneta was a doctor, only a doctor would do, followed by the second choice of an engineer. This was only 18 years ago, but in India they still arrange marriages. Suneta had had several marriages arranged but all had fallen through (she was praying they would because none were LDS). She was 25 years old and her family was getting desperate about her not being married when Bishop Gill’s dad came and opened the mission. She became one of the foundation stones for the YSA program there and was truly loved by the Gills.

Our Bishop David Gill was 23 when he got off his mission and came to India to see his parents. The weekend he was there it was a youth conference that Suneta was in charge of and they saw each other for the first time. Of course it was completely NOT ok to talk to a boy by herself but David Gill went up and started talking and she didn’t know what to do, especially because he was President’s son so they talked for 30 minutes and then went their own way. Later, in passing David asked his mother about how she felt about Suneta. His mom informed him that there was not a finer, more lovely woman on the face of the earth than Suneta. His mom absolutely respected and adored her.

Someone was watching them. It was her younger brother, recently just off his mission. He went home to his very strict Indian parents and told them that he had just found the suitable husband for Suneta; the mission president’s son. With his parent’s permission the brother went to David Gill’s hotel and begged him to consider marrying his sister BUT he would need to know before David left in two weeks because an arranged husband was flying to India from American to become betrothed to Suneta. David Gill was stunned. He’d only just talked to her for 30 minutes!!!! And now here her family is talking about them marrying and getting engaged before he went home to America!!!

At first he blew it off as absurd. But then he couldn’t get out of his mind what his mother had said about her. Slowly his heart started to soften as he felt the stirring of the Spirit. He was amazed and even more amazed when he felt himself even considering it. Finally he called the brother and said that if they would allow him and Suneta to talk, really talk, then he would give them an answer.

Suneta, along with her brother and mother came to his hotel room and with the door wide open and her mom coming in and out of the room they talked, really talked for 3 hours. They said it was instantly deep and meaningful and the spirit acknowledged to both of them that His hand was in this. It happened. Before David left they had a betrothal ceremony and several months later were married. That was 18 years ago and they are very obviously in love, committed to each other and have served faithfully in the kingdom and have raised beautiful bright children. I marvel at both their faith, but especially David’s, who had all the options in the world, but chose to follow the spirit and marry a girl the Lord had chosen!

Is that a crazy story or what????

Monday we got a ride with the Larsen’s to go 1 hour away to Costco and England’s version of Walmart. AT LAST a familiar store with packages and items I could recognize. Between both stores we spent almost 700 pounds (around $1,000.) getting food and some items for the apartment. We even splurged and got a Costco hotdog. Never tasted that good at home!

That night was FHE. It’s one of the things that needs some work but still another chance to get to be with the kids. One darling thing happened that night. One of the Chinese sisters shyly came up to me and leaned in and said “Sister Phillips you feel like a mom.” It made me get teary. That’s exactly what I want to feel like, what I need to feel like to these youth. So many of them need the love of a mom and dad because they are either so far away from home that they have no access or they don’t have family in the church. It’s rough out there. Some of these youth have had truly difficult hard lives! Oh how badly we want them to know they have family in US!!! It was very sweet.

Our First Tuesday Night Institute

Tuesday Institute class has been part of every discussion with our leaders. We have been trying to determine whether or not to have it. The numbers were decreasing every month for the past year until only 4-5 youth were coming. So we approached our first night asking the Lord if this was something we needed to continue.

One of the things we knew we would change would be to have it at our flat. With small numbers it would be so much more intimate in a home setting. To help with that feeling for this first class I rearranged the Institute classroom and formed a small circle of chairs. One sweet blessing was the lesson was on the Holy Ghost which we had taught in Institute last year so I was able to use it and not have to spend the hours required to prepare a new lesson.

When we started class there were 4 students. By the end we had 8 students from 8 different countries; Romania, Hungary, India, Mexico, Japan, China, UK and Brazil. How incredible is that!!!!!

Let me just say it was one of the most tender, deep, precious experiences I’ve ever had teaching. I taught the lesson but your father was there and added incredible parts to the lesson. Nevertheless, the lesson was taught by every student there. If we were uncertain about this class continuing it is now gone. These were kids that probably would never speak up in the large class and yet in this small setting every one of them had beautiful things to teach and share. It was profound and SO TENDER.

Eric's Story

I wanted to share one of the experiences that was told by Eric. He was the YSA student from Brazil. He was here for 2 weeks on Holiday and actually left the next day. I swear he was here if only for that night.

Eric’s family was all baptized Brazil. He was the youngest of several children, but when he was 18 his whole family had gone inactive and his parents were fighting and getting ready to file for divorce. He continued going to church by himself every week, teaching a primary class. But it took a toll on him as he saw all the families in his ward sitting together and he there by himself. The loneliness was overwhelming!

Finally on a Saturday night he hit bottom. He got down on his knees and told the Lord that he would go teach his primary class the next day but then he was done. It was just too hard to do it alone and he was too sad and helpless to do anything about his family. Eric said he stayed on his knees all night long and awoke still kneeling.
He got up exhausted and went to Primary. He said the ward members knew of his family situation. Even so, they could tell that something was even more wrong with him because he was so sad. Everyone kept asking him what was wrong. He said he couldn’t answer them but just shook his head. He was in total mourning.

He finished his primary class and slowly walked into Sacrament for the last time with his heart breaking. He looked up and there was his warring parents from the night before sitting together in Sacrament Meeting!
By this time our class was all in tears. I then asked Eric what happened. He told all of us that his family had been sealed together last summer. Then I asked the most important question. “Would it have mattered if they didn’t remain active?” His answer was what I knew it would be. He shook his head and said how grateful he was to have an eternal family, but what he absolutely KNEW was the Lord heard and answered the prayers of a lonely 18 year old boy. He has since served a mission and is a total leader with his YSA in Brazil.

Can you believe who we get to learn from? There are such warriors among them!

Last night was CES Institute and my first dinner. We had spaghetti, buttered bread and carrots. Very simple, but it tasted good. The Stake President has asked to not have it so elaborate as the Ainsworth’s did it. She loved to cook and did it gourmet style!!! And we all know I cook for only one reason; to gather. So that was good news for me. Still it took all day and we didn’t get home until 10:30 last night. Jim taught Mission Prep and had 2 black Brits and one Romanian attend. He came out very happy with it and felt like it was a profound experience. (So did the boys. I talked to them and the raved about your dad.)

Today I am recovering from yesterday and getting caught up with this letter. It feels very lonesome having no internet to be in touch. I’m counting the days until we get it here.

Jim’s waiting to take this up to the mission home so we can send it today. Just know that we are starting to feel a little more grounded, not feeling lost all the time and we both have assurance we are right where we are supposed to be. It’s a marvelous feeling to be able to 100% be committed to serving the Lord and His children and feeling the presence of the Holy Ghost lighting our path.