Friday, February 28, 2014
First Week in London
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).
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.
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.