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.