Saturday, March 29, 2014

Miracles Part 2

"Miracles From the Other Side"

I will write a whole blog about the miracles and thin-veil experiences we have witnessed and been a part of in the Holy House of the Lord doing Family History. But I want to just share two experiences that happened in connection with that most sacred work.

When we were literally called by those on the other side of the veil and inundated with the Spirit of Elijah, we begin doing family history for Jim's family in the late 1990's. I took comfort in words from Jim's patriarchal blessing promising that the very means and information would be handed to me. So I started to question around his family asking if they knew of any genealogy that had been done by the family. Jim's cousin Liz thought she remembered that there was a book done by the Ventura Historical Society on the Del Valle family. It was Ysabel's maternal line that had been given a Spanish Land Grant in the early 1800's named Camulos Ranch. (It was made a National Landmark and the only remaining working Spanish land grant ranch in existence.)

I called the Ventura Society and was told they would check and get back to me. Only a few hours later a very surprised worker from the Society called. He told me in a excited voice that their group had been going through cleaning out old boxes left in their storage and had come across a box of books containing the genealogy of the Del Valles going back to the early 1700's. He told me how fortunate I was because they were ready to throw them away the NEXT DAY!! I bought two of the books on the spot that have allowed us to do the work for hundreds of Del Valles and Crams, all the information handed to me in that book! A blessed miracle for me and for them!

During this period we had another experience that confirmed how important the work was that we were doing. We had decided to get away for a weekend and go down to St. George. It was in early spring and the roads were treacherous. We were just outside Nephi (the worst part of the trip) when we hit a patch of slush going 75 MPH that caused our Landcruiser to hydroplane and begin to spin. Next to us was a very large semi-cab not pulling a trailer. As we begin to spin we slammed into the side of the Semi. The Semi spun around tapping the rear of our car back into a straight line and then spun into the medium facing the opposite direction. We were able to hold on to the wheel, go down a steep embankment and then come to rest back at the top of the freeway, facing the way we had been going. There was NO WAY we should not have flipped many times over going that speed, but there we sat with only a bumped head and a totalled car. There was something else in that car with us. We literally felt the arms of protection around us from those whose work we were doing; an absolute knowledge that we had work yet to do and they needed us safe to do it. We were not finished. This is the power of Family History. This blog is a continuation of the work not yet complete that needs to be done before we are done. Miracles abound when you are involved in the great work of Family History. We can attest to that!!

"The Power of a Sister's Prayer"

Both Bri and Megan had such powerful experiences around their mission call and missions. The Lord's hand was in both their lives. It is for them to record their amazing experiences. There is one, though, that our whole family was a witness to that I want to record. It makes me cry every time I remember it and the sweetness of the feelings that attended it.

After Megan's divorce she had to work for over 2 years to FINALLY be allowed to serve her mission. She was such an example of submission and surrender. It truly humbled me to watch as she faithfully did EVERYTHING the Stake President required of her. And though I murmured occasionally, she never did murmur. There were times she got discouraged. It was then the Lord kept a promise He had made to her in her patriarchal blessing that he would answer her prayers in the scriptures. She went many times and just opened her scriptures where she would be totally assured that she would serve a mission. "Wherefore go ye and preach my gospel, whether to the north or to the south, to the east or to the west, if mattereth not, for ye cannot go amiss. Therefore, declare the things which ye have heard, and verily believe, and know to be true. Behold, this is the will of him who hath called you, your Redeemer, even Jesus Christ. Amen. (D&C 80) She was blessed to be called to Micronesia Guam mission. Like Bri's call it was perfect for her.

At the time of her call Bri had been struggling to become pregnant. She and Dan had a deep desire to begin their family and had been married at that time for almost 6 years. As a family we continually prayed for that blessing for them.

The day arrived for Megan to enter the MTC. It was wonderful that we had our whole family there to see her off. We had spent a sweet morning sharing and then it was time to leave for the MTC. Jim called all of us together to have a final family prayer and asked Megan if she would offer it.

Now I think all of us supposed that Megan would pray for safety and success on her mission, that she would be able to be the kind of missionary the Lord expected. I believe every one of us was surprised when she never mentioned any of that. Instead, Megan reminded the Lord of the price she had paid to become a missionary. Then, claiming the power of the mantle of her calling as a missionary she begged heaven to come down and be upon her sister Bri and fill her womb. We were all stunned and then the I felt my tears begin as we listened to this sister beg for the blessing of motherhood for her older sister Bri. By time the prayer was over everyone was in tears. It was so tender, yet so powerful. Such a demonstration of love between two sisters.

It was only two weeks after Megs left on her mission that Bri's womb WAS FILLED! Megan has always claimed partial ownership in Caleb; the prize of a faithful missionary prayer!

(There is certainly power in missionary prayers. We were only out on our mission for 2 weeks when we received word that Bri was miraculously pregnant a third time; no outside help, no multiple miscarriages, just blessed once again by missionary service. God is so GOOD!)

"Selling Digital Gateway"

Digital Gateway, Jim's final company, ended up being one of the biggest trials in our life and providing our greatest financial blessing. For 12 years Jim sweated it out, carrying a load that would have killed any other man. Yet he endured. In the end the sale of DGI was what allowed us to take care of our children and grandchildren and pay for our missions.

Jim had other companies coming to him for years offering to buy DGI but the time was never right. Then there came a time in 2011 when spiritually we just knew it was time to wrap up our life and go serve. Where's the miracle you ask? When Jim sold DGI part of the deal was that he would stay and run the company for another 18 months, which he did. It continued to perform brilliantly. But at the close of that year Ron, the buyer, came to Jim and told him that if we had waited for only one more year to sell DGI its value would have decreased by fifty percent because Wall Street had downgraded the whole copier industry. He told Jim that we would never have gotten close to the amount that had been paid for the company. This news only added to our motivation to serve a mission. We recognize that it literally has been paid for because of God's direction in our life. How grateful we were that we had ears to hear. We owe Him EVERYTHING!

"A Home for the Watts"

Two years ago we determined that the Watts living in Linden was too far away and they needed a new start in a new neighborhood. For the next several months I spent every day on-line searching for houses around our neighborhood. There was absolutely nothing for months. Then we happened upon a house only 4 blocks away. It was very understated on the outside but amazing on the inside and it was in a fabulous neighborhood. We fell in love with the owners, a young family who happened to be the daughter of a man that worked in Jim's office and who Jim totally admired and respected. They were needing to get out of the payment which was burying them. From the very beginning we felt very strongly that we needed to buy this house.

Earlier on the very day we were to show Greg the house Jim had met with Tyler Hortin, his accountant, and had written two huge checks to cover taxes after the sell of DGI. They had a tax question for Daron and had gone over to his office to ask him. While there, Daron mentioned that one of Jim's salesman had called that morning telling Daron about a tax benefit for founders of companies. The salesman had checked to see if he qualified and realized the only one that might qualify would be Jim. When Tyler heard this he said he would check into it immediately.

When we took Greg later that afternoon to see the house he instantly fell in love with it. We realized that if we were to buy the home it would bless the owners and give Greg and the kids a wonderful neighborhood to live in along with a wonderful new ward. Still it was a huge chunk of money that would need to come out of our retirement.

As we drove home from the house with Greg and the kids in the car we got a phone call from Tyler. As Jim talked he got more and more animated. He hung up and informed all of us that indeed he did qualify for the tax break and we would receive a tax refund for the EXACT PRICE of the home; the exact amount! This miracle blessed willing grandparents, a righteous young family trying to get out of debt, and our grandchildren and son-in-law who needed to know they were loved and part of a family that cared. It was a miracle indeed!

These are just a few of the miracles we've experienced in our lives. They have been a sweet testimony to a Father who loves us and is aware of our needs. We are eternally grateful for His hand manifested to our family. But the greatest miracle is watching our children strive to live the gospel, do good, raise up our precious grandchildren to the Lord and be loyal to their covenants. This is our greatest miracle for which we will eternally rejoice!

A Heritage of Miracles!

So as you all know from previous blogs your dad is teaching Shane the discussions and he is SO CLOSE to baptism. Last week Shane had read, on my request, Alma 17-22. These are the chapters about Ammon, Aaron,Lamoni and his father's conversion. When next we met with Shane he asked why we don't continue to have such great miracles today. Your father was able to bear a powerful witness to him that miracles continue today, that we've had a lifetime of miracles just within our own family. Jim then found a marvelous talk by Elder Dallin Oaks on Miracles in the Ensign June 2001 that I would recommend you all read. It's powerful!

This got me thinking about some of the true miracles that have happened in our family, starting with my two grandmothers and continuing down through our children. These miracles are the outcome of faith, not the reason for our faith. Nevertheless they need to be recorded to glorify God and to show his tender mercies and his hand in our lives. We acknowledge Him and will praise His name forever.

"Grandma Signe"

Grandma Signe was born in a small village in Northern Sweden to a mother that was a member of the church and father who was not. Since her mom lived far from any branches of the church the missionaries would come see her about once a year to administer the sacrament to her. My Grandma Signe was born with an eye disease that caused her constant pain and blindness. Her mother said she was in so much pain that she had never slept through the night.

When Signe was about two years old the missionaries came to see her mom. Before they left her mom asked if they would give her little blind daughter a priesthood blessing, which they did.

That night Signe slept through the the night for the first time and in the morning when her mother came running in, concerned because she had been quiet all night, Signe reached out her little arms for her mommy and cried out her name; her sight restored.

That's not the end of the story. My Grandma immigrated to Salt Lake City in her mid-twenties. About 10 years later she was riding a city bus when an older gentleman came and sat by her. They started a conversation and the older man knew instantly that she was from Sweden. He asked her where she was from and when she told him he got a very surprised look on his face. "I know that village", he said, "I served my mission in Sweden and used to go visit Sister Jonsson there. She had a little blind girl that I gave a blessing to right before I left Sweden to come home. Would you happen to know her and what ever happened to her?" With JOY my Grandma Signe answered him, "That little girl was me!"

Thirty years later a missionary had the gift of knowing the outcome of a priesthood blessing given over 30 years before and my grandma was able to thank him for being the instrument of restoring her sight. Both the sight restored and the later meeting; truly a miracle!

"Grandma Nellie"

I've written about my deep love for Grandma Nellie. I was SO BLESSED to grow up with her living right next door. She moved in next door when I was around 12 years old and became an active a part of my life from that time until she passed. She was a fabulous example of faithfulness and enduring to the end. She served as a Sunday school teacher of 14-year-olds until her eighties. She had a huge impact on the way I came to feel about myself and viewed being a strong woman. Along with my parents, she was my greatest fan!

My Grandma's family joined the church in Australia. My grandmother was born shortly thereafter. They immigrated to America when Nellie was still a baby. Her father became a architect and contractor who designed and built the San Bernardino Stake Center still in use today.

When Grandma was still a baby her older sisters took her for a walk in the carriage. Thinking it would be fun to watch the carriage roll down a hill, they let go. The carriage quickly got out of control and ended up hitting a tree. Grandma was hurt, but they never suspected that the force of the impact had dislocated her hip. It was only after Grandma became a woman with her one leg two inches shorter than the other that she started to have severe pain in her hip. Remarkably as a baby her little body had created a hip socket out of cartilage that had allowed her to grow up with full function and no pain.

By time I was old enough to recognize it, my grandma was dealing with pain everyday. As each year passed it became worse until, in her early 60's, she could stand it no longer. We've got to remember in those days there was no such thing as hip replacements. Grandma had only two options; fuse her hip straight so she would have to stand or lie flat or fuse her hip bent so she would have to stay in a wheel chair. Both were horrible options but the pain was so great she finally chose and set the day to leave to get her surgery down in Los Angeles.

Grandma had had many blessings over the years, but the night before she left she received her final blessing.

The next morning I heard laughing and yelling in our back pathway coming from Grandma's house. Surprised, I went outside and there was Grandma Nellie skipping, yes, skipping over to our house laughing without restraint. "It's gone! There's NO PAIN! It's gone!" And it WAS gone! For the rest of her life my Grandma never had pain in her hip again. She glorified God that day and everyday until she passed away at age 86, still free of hip pain. A miracle!

"Jim's Abraham/Isaac Miracles"

We all know what sacrifice was made when Jim joined the church; disowned by his family, kicked out of his house, siblings and friends turned their back on him. (It has all been forgiven and forgotten but at the time it was heart wrenching!)But because of Jim's total act of submissive faith and consecration, no matter the cost, the Lord opened His heavens and poured miracle after miracle upon Jim's life.

Because of being forced out of his home at 19 1/2 Jim had to get a job, go to school, and play football at the Junior college; Cuesta. It was a hard, lonely, poverty-filled year. Since Cuesta was only a 2 year school Jim worried about how he would pay to finish his schooling at another school. His head coach knew about Jim joining the mormon church and his family difficulties, saw his talent and wanted to help. Unbeknownst to Jim he sent film and a letter to BYU's football program praising Jim's talent not only as a player, but as an extraordinary leader and new member of the mormon church. Jim and I received scholarship offers to attend BYU a day a part. Mine was a partial scholarship, but Jim's paid for the rest of his education; a gift and an unsought miracle.

After Jim's graduation from BYU he had great plans to travel the world with his best friend Bill Marre'. That is until he went to Southern California and heard Truman Madsen speak. He came home from Los Angeles and went immediately into our Bishop Andrus' office in San Luis Obispo, having an inkling what was going to happen. Bishop Andrus tentatively asked if Jim would be willing to fast with him about the decision to go serve a mission even though Jim had graduated from College and was 23 years old. He told Jim to go home, fast and pray about it and that Bishop would attend the temple fasting to receive what the Lord would have Jim do. When Jim came back two days later the Bishop shared the powerful answer he'd received in the temple that confirmed the same answer Jim had received that he was to go serve!

Now you need to understand in those days there was no church fund to assist missionaries and every mission had its own costs. Jim was called to England Central, a very expensive mission, and there was no one to help him pay for it. Once again Jim put it all on the alter. He sold everything he possessed except for one big item. The day before he was to leave and come up to enter the MTC he still hadn't sold his car, the biggest contributor to pay for his mission. Jim had bought a brand new green El Camino the year before. He'd saved for years to buy that car. He called it the Green Ram (name given by Steve Facer, another football player and dear friend) and that car was Jim's love. It also was what was going to pay for his mission.

The morning before he was to leave a cowgirl from Cal Poly came to look at the car. Jim prayed mightily that she would buy the car but when she saw the color she said she didn't like green and left. Jim was devastated. Once again he prayed, telling the Lord he needed a miracle to be able to go. It was only a few hours later that the girl returned stating, "I still don't like the color, but I like the car. I'll buy it." Jim left the next day for Utah, money in hand.

Because of the sacrifice required by Jim to go serve a mission his mission was filled with miracles. One in particular I want to share. Jim had a unique experience while he served as a Zone leader toward the end of his mission. He had been returned to the field after serving as A.P. for over a year. One day his mission president called him and asked if he would do him a favor. President Reeves' friend, Mark Swindeman, a wealthy businessman from Salt Lake City, had come to England for business and had brought his son, a 16-year-old boy who was struggling with his testimony. Brother Swindeman asked President if there was a missionary that could be trusted to take his son and let him experience the spirit of a mission. President called Elder Phillips who gladly took the boy. They spent 2 weeks together and had deep spiritual experiences that changed the boy's heart and life.

A couple days after the boy left Jim woke up and knelt before the Lord and announced that he was out of money. Because of leadership positions on his mission, Jim drove a car most his mission. Petrol was VERY expensive and it had used up more of his money than Jim had counted on. With several months left, Jim had run out of money. But Jim was not afraid. He truly KNEW the Lord would somehow provide. He got up off his knees and went to leave his flat when there was a knock on the door. There stood Brother Swindeman who announced that he had been on his way to the airport to fly back to the States when the Spirit told him to turn around, Elder Phillips needed him. He then asked Jim what he needed. When Jim told him his situation Brother Swindeman laughed and said he could remedy that. From that day until Jim came home he had more money than his whole mission. He never had to worry again. Jim has always testified that the Lord KNOWS his servants and answers their prayers. A Mirac

"Jami's Protection Through the Night"

We were living in our very first home in Atascadero, California. Jami was not quite 2 years old and Ashlee was only around 3 weeks old. It was a Sunday afternoon when Jami started to run a fever and became very lethargic (very unlike her). Jim felt a strong impression to give her a priesthood blessing before putting her to bed, blessing her with safety through the night. The next morning she was worse and it sounded like she might have croup; her breathing was getting raspy. We called our pediatrician who practiced in San Luis Obispo, 20 minutes away and he told us whooping cough was going around and get her in right away. By that time it was quickly progressing, getting worse every minute so Jim jumped in his car and I followed with Ashlee in mine. Jim flew down the grade and by time I got to the doctor's office Dr. Tedone was in the middle of a examination. He declared,"This is a bad case of croup. She needs to be hospitalized. But before you take her let me just check one more thing. He looked down her throat and I saw his face turn pale. He looked at Jim and said, "Take her NOW. Don't wait for red lights. Just get her to the hospital NOW. I will have someone waiting at the door. GO!"

Jim grabbed Jami and raced to French hospital. There was a doctor waiting there who grabbed Jami, who had just stopped breathing, went around the corner and cut a hole in her throat to allow her to breath. Later we found out that Jami had epiglottitis. It's a very rare illness where a virus settles on the epiglottis in the back of the throat and causes it to swell, suffocating little children if not caught in time. Dr. Tedone asked us when her symptoms had started. When we told him she had gotten sick the night before he was very surprised. He told us that it usually is only a couple hours from onset to emergency and that Jami should have died in the night. We KNEW a daddy's blessing had protected her until we could get the help she needed. A Miracle!

"Ashlee's Deliverance"

Jim's first business, Beachcomber Bills, took him to Hawaii frequently. When Jami was a little over 3 and Ashlee was about 1 1/2 we took them to Hawaii, along with my mom who had never been. It was a fun trip. We not only saw Oahu but were able to spend a couple days on Kawai, the most beautiful island of them all.

This day we decided to go to the most beautiful beach in all of the Hawaiian Islands, the beach where they had filmed South Pacific. To our delight we found a small tide pool only a couple inches deep. As the waves would come in water would fill the pool and then slowly drain out until the next wave came in. It was a perfect place for the little girls to play in, enough water to keep them entertained but not enough to be dangerous. We went and sat about 20 feet up the beach from the tide pool where we could see the ocean and still watch the girls. My mom, Jim and I were in a deep conversation when all of the sudden Jim leaped up and literally flew down the beach to where Ashlee was floating face down in the water. A rogue big wave had come in, sending a large amount of water over the sand spit, knocking her over and was pulling her out to sea. He grabbed her just as she passed over the sand spit and brought her to me. By this time we were all in tears. Frantically I held her, listening for any choking or trouble breathing. Somehow Ashlee had known to hold her breath. She was only very frightened. Later Jim told us that as we were talking the Holy Ghost literally turned his head in the direction of the girls and he witnessed her fall face down in the water. Two more seconds and she would have been gone. In tears we thanked the Lord for the Holy Ghost and His gift of protection. We were truly humbled. Terrifying but once again a miracle!

"Ki's Burning on the Head"

While we were living in Mission Viejo Jim got a call from his family telling him that his dad has just been diagnosed with a spleen full of cancer that was the size of a football. Jim jumped in his car praying the whole way as he drove the 4 hours home. When he arrived he found that his dad was getting ready to go into surgery to remove the spleen. Jim asked if Ki and Ysabel would allow him to use his priesthood to give Ki a blessing, something he had prayed for the whole trip down. To his surprise they agreed. Jim quickly called our good friend Steve Facer to meet him at the hospital. Steve anointed and then Jim gave his father a blessing, prompted to promise that Ki would live to see his grandchildren grown.

When the doctors came out of surgery they were amazed. The cancer was totally contained in his spleen and miraculously they were able to cut out the spleen intact with all the cancer inside. It was so rare that doctors from Southern California drove up to witness it.

His dad made a full recovery of health and DID live to see his grandchildren all grown. Whenever Ki talked about his surgery he would look at Jim and ask, "Do you remember the burning on my head?" Then he'd smile. He knew that Jim knew that he knew it was a miracle! And it WAS!!!

"Elder Ballard and Our Son Tanner's Priesthood Healings"

When we lived in Centerville it was one of the most stressful times of Jim's business life. It was the last time Jim ever worked for and put his life and his choices in another person's hands. He was at the mercy of decisions made by others. It was the only time in our married life where we had big time financial restraints. I remember the first check he brought home after moving me to Centerville from my beloved Mission Viejo and I broke into tears. I said to him, "You moved me here for THAT??" For the 4 years we lived there we were constantly worried about money.

The financial worries and lack of any control played havoc on Jim's health. Jim had gotten a ulcer before we moved to Centerville but the scenario there in Utah was a perfect storm! His ulcer continued to get worse and worse until Jim was deathly ill. His weight plummeted down to Junior High weight. Every time he ate he would vomit it back up. He couldn't sleep because of the pain. It was truly a horrible situation.

It got bad enough that we finally made an appointment to go see a specialist, even though we couldn't afford it. The doctor did a scope and informed us that it looked like stomach cancer to him, but he would do a biopsy to confirm his suspicions. There was only one problem. We had to wait 7 days for the report because we had our appointment right before the 24th of July, a state holiday, so it took several days longer than normal.

I was a wreck, wondering how I was going to raise 5 VERY ACTIVE children alone and how I could survive a life without Jim in it. It was a very very long week.

When we went back to the Doctor he gave us the good news that it was NOT cancer, but a very large, very dangerous ulcer. His recommendation; to cut out half of Jim's stomach and then a 6 month recovery period. Jim looked at the doctor and simply said that was impossible. We couldn't survive without an income for 6 months! We left the doctor's office and the first thing Jim did was make a call to Elder Russell M. Ballard. He was the father-in-law to Jim's partner at the time; Brad Brower and a dear friend. Within a day Elder Ballard had us up to his home.

Elder Ballard gave Jim a powerful blessing and then gave him wise and prudent counsel. "Go home and do what you love." We left his house with a sense of peace and comfort. Then for the next 6 weeks Jim put himself on a milk and rice diet, eating nothing else. His ulcer healed. He followed Elder Ballard's counsel. We went back to California, eventually to San Luis Obispo and Jim has always done what he loves; build and run his own companies.

Jim has been able to manage his ulcer since that day, but has had to remain on stomach medicine. That is until he received a precious, beautiful and inspiring blessing for our mission from our son Tanner. One of the things that Tanner blessed his father with was health and the power and energy to do all that would be required of us. We've been here for two months and it's literally the first time in 35 years that Jim has NOT had to take any meds for his stomach. We know it's a direct miracle from our son's priesthood blessing combined with being blessed for our willingness to go serve once again in the English Isles.

(To be continued in Part 2)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Two Posts from Elder Phillips

Marius' Bike Trip to the Temple

I love all of you and think about each of you daily. I ended my Sabbath Day speaking with Marius, one of my pre-missionaries. As a follow-up to your Mother's story about his temple experience I spoke to him tonight after Church. He shared that his temple experience was so profound that he just had to go back. You have to understand that by going back I mean he went without the tube, bus or vehicle. He had to ride his bike 5.5 hours each way to do 12 baptisms. Yes 11 hours total in pouring rain and freezing winds. When he'd completed the 10 people he was baptized for they asked him if he'd mind doing 2 more. You do the math. He road his bike almost one hour for each person he was baptized for to make sure their work was done. That is vision and passion at its best. I sat there with tears running down my cheeks as I listened to this converted boy share his excitement for the work on both sides of the veil. His greatest desire now is to go serve a full time mission. We love this boy! Pap

"G's" Baptism

I spoke on Baptism tonight for a young man that doesn't know me very well. He just felt that Elder Phillips was supposed to give the talk on Baptism. As you know I'm teaching a young Chinese man that will be baptized in two weeks. I knew he would be there so I wanted to take that opportunity to share the importance of baptism while making it very personal for "G" also. I spent two hours pondering and praying for exactly the right words for my 5 minute talk. I wrote it all up and put did it in word on my Surface.
Well, I tried to open my talk with my quote and scriptures that I'd prepared and there was no way to find it. I said a prayer and asked for Father's help and got the peace to not try to find it and He'd put the words in my mouth. I breathed deep and took the leap of faith and let Father direct my words.

The true test of my success was stated by the young man being baptized when he bore his testimony after his baptism. He indicated he didn't know why he felt that Elder Phillips was supposed to give the talk until he heard it. We both were Catholics and had mothers that were our best friends. He also shattered her when he chose to join the Church. I had begun my talk by stating that I was a 19.5 year old that loved the Catholic Church and I also was an alter boy that was considering being a priest. When I told him that my mother had my clothes waiting for me outside my house after my baptism he was stunned at all the similarities of our lives. I bore witness to him that tonight he would be baptized by one having the true power to act for God just like Jesus. Also that by following his example he would also receive the greatest guide for life; the Holy Ghost.

I bore witness that this was the greatest decision I ever made. That decision impacted more lives than I could ever begin to count. Each of you and our grandbabies are some of those lives that were impacted. All the young people's lives that we've ministered to over the years. All the baptisms we've been part of. I can't imagine what my life would have been like without the Gospel of Jesus Christ in it. I wouldn't be married to your mother. I would have none of my best friends in the world, my children. I would have none of the joy's of my life, my grandchildren. I would simply have none of the people and purposes that make my life meaningful. I thank God for his restored gospel and that each of you have chosen to live it. My children, there is no real joy or happiness without this sacred knowledge we have. I love you beyond anything that I can express.

Pap/Elder James K. Phillips / Married to the best friend I could ever have; 40 years on the 28 of March. I think I'll take her to Wicked in London. Wow! 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Fifth Week Complete!

WHAT A WEEK THIS HAS BEEN!!! It's been SO BUSY! I'm still catching my breath. We've been here only 5 weeks but it feels like it has to be 6 months. It's crazy.

I'm just going to hit some of the highlights of this week or I'd been on here all day.

Last Saturday we drove up to Waford (where our closest Costco is) with Pres. and Sister Jordan for our first get-together with the YSA Senior couples from throughout the whole mission. I've got to say what a marvelous group of "old people". The room was bursting with extraordinary people and energy of those who have had a life full of accomplishment and success, who have earned the "right" to retire and take it easy. Instead here they are killing themselves serving the Lord's youth. It was instant friendship because of our shared goals. I think the women all felt bad for me. They just rallied around me helping with ideas for food and activities since I have, by double, the most kids to feed and work with and am the rookie of the group. All of them that are working YSA have been out for over a year. One of the women is a life-long friend of Kay Heber. Kay had asked me to look Sister Whitaker up before I even left. It was so great to become friends and share our love of Kay together. The husbands were as great as the wives; all very successful men; everything from CEO's to professors of religion at BYU. It was just an amazing group who will be our friends and allies throughout our whole mission. It's a blow away what this church produces and what sacrifice its members are willing to give. It's so indicative of the "mighty change" that occurs as you live your life striving to "become". It's also the fruit of the truthfulness of the gospel, that so many are willing to lay it all on the alter, no matter the cost. We are so blessed to be surrounded by such goodness!

Sunday was a special day. For the first time Megan's song "My Gethsemane" was sung by someone besides Megan. We have in our ward a girl getting her master's in theater who has the most amazing trained contralto voice. I talked about her last time. She sang Meg's song and you would have been so proud Megan. It was AMAZING. I could hardly see the page to play I was so filled with the spirit. The congregation didn't move and when the High Counsilman stood to speak he asked how he was supposed to follow something like that. I LOVE TALENT and I LOVE MUSIC! It felt so good to be doing music again. It filled my soul (and made me miss Megan, Tanner and Shelbs!)

Also on Sunday we had our second choir rehearsal. The first one had been a bit discouraging but last week we doubled our numbers and had a great rehearsal. Yep! I was wild!! Tried not to be, but there is just something about creating beautiful music that makes me rejoice and be a little wild. Luckily the kids now know us well enough that they weren't too surprised and they all had a blast. I don't think they've ever really been rehearsed before. They were surprised at first but then really got into it. Last night I was just asked to provide the choir for Stake Conference in the middle of April. We've got lots of recruiting and rehearsing to be ready. Very fun!

Tuesday night we had Institute again at the flat. To our surprise we had 34 people attend. It sounds great but it's almost a problem. Not enough chairs and they were all squished together. I hope it was a fluke and we can keep it around 20 or I don't know how we can do it here. I'd be sad. I think that's a part of why they love coming; it's in a home where the spirit abides. What was so exciting is for the first time we had about 10 Chinese members come, which made me SO HAPPY. (Part of that big number was because our Elder Wu, the Chinese Elder assigned to Britannia ward, was being transferred the next day.) Last week the young man who shepherds the Chinese group was concerned at separation in our classes (they have their own classes taught in Chinese). After I heard that I have made it a point to reach out to our Chinese kids. It's not hard. I love them so much. They bring such a purity and sweetness with them. We could and should learn so much from them. They are truly a blessing.

Our lesson was on Grace/Atonement. After class one of the girls who I adore and who is Chinese and an English translator came up and talked to me. She shared an experience that had happened only a couple weeks before. She had been deeply hurt because, although she is totally qualified, she continues to get past over for opportunities because of her lack of connections and status. She said it had happened once again and she was SO ANGRY! Now you need to understand. I can't even imagine this girl EVER being angry. She is so sweet. She even went to her Professor and argued and complained! For the whole day she felt anger and betrayal and kept asking the Lord why. Finally she said she stopped and looked at how she was acting. She's a fairly new convert. She recognized that this was not how the Lord would have her act or feel so she prayed for Christ's grace to enable her to let her anger and disappointment go. And the peace came. When she told me this she started to cry. It was so tender and so simple but such a great testimony of His Grace that endows us with the power to do things we could never do on our own. I was deeply touched by her testimony.

Another amazing story was shared by a Chinese member of 4 months who serves as counselor in our Relief Society Presidency. She is from mainland China, a beautiful, educated young woman beginning her Doctorate. She is so converted. She shared how her mother had visited London while she was investigating the church. They were in Sacrament meeting taking the sacrament when she glanced at her mom who doesn't speak a word of English and tears were streaming down her face. When she asked her what was wrong her mom responded "I don't know what this is that I am feeling, but I am overwhelmed!" When the mom returned home this sweet sister and Elder Wu skyped her and have taught her the missionary discussions on Skype. She's coming in April to London to be baptized!

Along with all this we just got our new elder who replaced Elder Wu (Elder Wu is a convert missionary from Taiwan). The new Elder is one of the first ever missionaries who lived, was converted and sent from mainland China to be a missionary. IT"S AMAZING what is happening there. Elder H said if they could officially organize they would have enough "branches" to make a stake in the city he lives in. The work is exploding there and it's word of mouth only. That just tells you how prepared they are for the gospel! (Ashlee we knew that 15 years ago when we were there, didn't we.)

One last thing; a story shared by the investigator that Jim has been working with from the beginning. He's a brilliant Math and Economics major at Imperial College. I was surprised when he showed up at our Institute class on Tuesday because I knew he was in the middle of finals. Last night as I was talking to Pres. Phillips, our stake president, he walked in to visit with me. I told him that Elder Anderson had told me earlier that day that he had committed to baptism for next Sunday. He told me that even though he hadn't had a complete answer he felt he needed to move forward in faith and show his sincerity by being baptized. Then he shared how last Tuesday night he was suppose to be doing revisions on two last questions for his final but came to Institute class instead. When he went home he didn't have the time he needed to finish the revisions. In his sweet faith he asked the Lord to let those be two questions NOT asked on the final. I looked at him and asked "SO????" He answered, "They weren't on the test." Then he just smiled. I love this young man. What a leader he will be as he returns to China.

One Wednesday morning we got up nice and early to catch a coach full of YSA kids who had taken off work or were cutting class so that we could go do baptisms at the London temple. (I don't know why it's called London. It takes 1 1/2 hours to get there and it's definitely NOT in London.) On the bus were two young men from Iran who I hadn't seen at church, that Jim had contacted two weeks ago by request of the Bishop and then that contact was followed up with an invitation by Bishop to come to the temple. Jim had offered to do some business coaching with them. They had an animated conversation going up and back. They are both brilliant and working on Doctorates but wanting to get into small business, which your Dad is an expert on. (Whatever it takes to get them re-engaged). Iran!!! Can you believe that! (I'm adding a letter your dad received from one of them this morning. It's so cute!

Hello Dear Elder Phillips,
It was a wonderful temple trip and was a great pleasure to meet you and lovely Mrs. Phillips.
You are the best companion who I could wish for.
Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to go for yesterday Institute meeting. I had an unplanned very surprising New Year visit by my beloved family friends came from Manchester.
Definitely, will see you very soon, I need your priceless advice and help in both my spiritual way and my career.
Thanks a lot.

On the bus I sat next to my dear friend Marius. He's a 22 year old from Romania who had never been inside the temple before. This boy has had one of the most difficult lives I've ever heard and has had to overcome so many obstacles to even be where he is. He has worked SO HARD to be here!! His greatest desire is to serve a mission. (He's part of Jim's Mission Prep class). He's on fire!

What a tender experience watching our young adult Elders administer priesthood ordinances. I got teary as I watched them baptize. They were so tender and careful with one another, patting and reassuring the kids actually being baptized. Some of the YSA have not had experience with water and it was kind of a scary thing. But they were made calm by how solicitous and loving the Elders were with them. It touched me.

When it was Marius' turn to be baptized I sat and watched him. I wasn't sure what was happening, if it was nervousness or what but I knew something was affecting him deeply. When he was finished I was there to wrap a towel around him and it was like he was ready to explode! He keep saying "I know these people. I feel who they are. I know them. I had no idea it could be like this! Please let me do more!"

I was a witness of heavenly JOY. He had paid such a price to be there that the outpouring of the spirit was equal to the sacrifice he had paid. The whole way home he kept witnessing that he will never be the same, that now he understands what "thin veil" experiences look like because he felt he'd been allowed to glimpse into heaven. The next night at Institute he was still floating. It was such an amazing experience to witness. It's also a testimony to me of what can happen in the Lord's house if we are prepared to receive it!

Thursday was another crazy day (told you this week was insane). We had our dinner that night but from 12:00 to 2:00 we had a meeting with Pres. Phillips; Stake Pres., Pres Jordan; Mission Pres., Mark White; CES, the Symes and the Whites; Family History to visioneer the next 2-3 years. The numbers and potential are staggering. We have over 2 1/2 million youth in the city of London. The prophets have told us that the future of the church lie in the hands of the YSA here in Europe. We need to find a way to root them more firmly and gather in more effectively. I came out of there tired just thinking about the scope of our responsibility. Pray for us as we brainstorm on ways to accomplish this enormous task!

Between our class on Tuesday and Institute on Thursday we broke a record of over 100 YSA attending class this week. In the last 6 weeks we've steadily increased our numbers until we have doubled attendance, a record Thursday. Pretty exciting! I can feel the enthusiasm growing. There's so much more interaction going on at dinner. In fact we have to physically get them out of the gym and into class. Mark White is doing a great job and I feel the kids reaching out in a wonderful way. I told you about Jim's mission prep class and what happened with the girls as he pleaded with them to help keep their guys be worthy to go. Well, it's been so wonderful. All of them have committed to evening and morning scripture and prayers on their knees and have asked that Elder Phillips hold them accountable every week. They are doing so well. It's a love fest.

I tried to finish this yesterday (Friday the 21st) but since it's so long I'm finishing it this morning. We had another first last night. We went to dinner with all our Senior Couples and then attended "The Classical Spectacular" at the Royal Albert Hall, probably the most famous music hall in the world. It really was spectacular. We got the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Tenor and Baritone Soloists that were amazing, along with cannons and fireworks and light shows that were astounding. I kept pinching myself...Albert Hall...Me? that young middle-class girl from San Luis Obispo, sitting in the Royal Albert Hall in London, England!!! What a treat and the company was GREAT!

There's one more story that's amazing that is going to have to wait for next week. We are out of time. Just know that we are beginning to feel direction and trust being built with the youth. This work is a work of miracles. We see the Lord's hand at work in each of our youth's lives. He loves His children and He loves each of YOU!!! We have felt it over and over again. Hold tight to the rod, serve, pray and be obedient. He will guide us all safely home if we will but submit and surrender. We know this is true!!! We love you all!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

One Month Down; Twenty Two Months to GO!!

This week has been a week of highs and lows; some even on the same day! It's crazy the extremes you feel serving on your mission! I also am amazed at how intense the adversary works to thwart this work by any means he can manipulate; contention, discouragement, fatigue, and distraction etc. I think we are both way more sensitive to his power because of striving every moment to be worthy of direction from the Holy Ghost. It's such a stark contrast!!!

I'll start with our first "official" P-Day we took last Saturday. Elder and Sister Larsen, who are the mission office couple who we have come to really love, invited us to go to the Leeds Castle. It is about 1 1/2 hour train ride from here. We got the train at the very famous Victoria Station. It's a HUGE domed-covered station where all the trains in England have to pass through. It was a beautiful ride out to the castle. I guess this has been the wettest winter in a 100 years (although we missed most of it) so even though there are no leaves, the grass is such a brilliant green it almost hurts your eyes to look at it.

You all would have died at what we saw. The castle was very fun. It had been built in the 1100's and redone about every century. It was situated on an island surrounded by a lake and moat. It looked like it should have been on a movie set; just what a castle should be. What was truly amazing (and you will all know my bias) were the grounds. There were HUGE very old oak trees, cyprus trees that have twisted and turned, ENORMOUS weeping willows draped over small streams that covered the property and every kind of duck, swan and bird you could imagine. The symbol for the Leeds castle is the black swan that was imported from Australia a century ago. I don't think I'd ever seen one before. They are solid black with a bright red beck. What's amazing is its tail feathers. They look like a bunch of ruffles on its bum. It is SO CUTE!! And when they are out on the lake it's a picture straight out of a fairy tale. It was a wonderful day to get out of the city and be in open space. And it was sunny the whole day! We came back refreshed and ready to get to work.

Sunday I started choir and only got a handful of kids. The two girls who are in charge of music wanted to try having practice before our meetings. The problem is ward council and getting kids to come early. Our problem with having it after church (and what a problem to have) is we have baptisms EVERY Sunday right after church!!! I'm going to try it one more Sunday and then maybe have to think out of the box when to try to rehearse. Maybe after Institute on Thursday night? We will see.

Sunday night we had one of our girls come over after all our meetings. Her name is Katey. She's here doing a Masters of Acting and she is from the states. She came because tomorrow she is going to sing Megan's "My Gethsemane". I've never let anyone but Megs sings that song but if you heard her voice you'd know why she will be singing it. She's got an AMAZING contralto voice. On the first Sunday we were here I sat behind her and when I heard her sing I reached forward and said "You sound just like my daughter." She laughed and said she was going to turn around and tell me "You sound just like my mom!" I'm excited to have her sing this song. It's sad because there's so much talent but no one is asking them to use it in our meetings. Well, that is going to change. I already have 3 musical numbers lined up. Why have talented kids and not share their talents with the ward?!!!

Mid-day on Monday we got a phone call from President Jordan, our mission president, asking if we would like to ride with them to Costco up in Waford. It's our closest Costco and it takes about 1 hour 15 minutes to get there. Everyone knows to call us if they are making a trip to Costco. We are always in need of food for our Thursday night dinners. We had a delightful visit with the Jordans and were able to get better acquinted with them. President Jordan has a large law office in Bountiful, very successful, and they have 1 daughter and 3 sons, all who play lacrosse. Pres. Jordan is 61 and Sister Jordan is 7 years younger. She's cute as a bug, but don't think that just because she's small she's a pushover. They are both very powerful people. I wish you could all meet Pres. Jordan. It is UNCANNY how much he looks, talks and acts like Doug Romney! Your dad and I were both blown away when we first met him and it's still wierd to watch him talk. Doug and Marci are coming this summer and I can't wait for them to meet President Jordan. It's crazy

We got home from Costco just in time to have the Elders and an investigator come for dinner (like I need to cook some more!). Along with them came Natasha, a member from Britannia who is from China. This investigator is one that Dad has been teaching from the beginning with our Elders Anderson and Wu. Elder Wu is from Taiwan and is serving in Britannia ward so he can teach all the Chinese investigators. Shane, our investigator, is from mainland China and here doing his masters in Math and Economics at Imperial College (the college we walk through every day to get to our church). Imperial is considered one of the top 4 universities in the world in Math and Sciences. Only the brightest (and richest) kids in the world can go there. Shane is a very handsome, articulate, bright 23-year-old. We had a lovely pot roast dinner and then I got to sit in on my first missionary discussion. It is always an amazing experience to bear witness to truth. I'm always stunned at the power it has on the person bearing their witness, even more than those receiving it. I got to bear my witness to Shane.

Now you all need to understand that when we teach the Chinese not only do they need to gain a testimony of the gospel, but they have never even heard of God or Christ so they have to really make a walk of faith. Shane has been faithful in his reading and his praying. It's resonating with him, but he still needs to fully accept there is a God and a Savior. But his desire to know is there. At the close of the meeting the Elders asked him to pray. I wish you could all have heard his prayer. When we were done we stood up and I said to Shane that his prayer reminded me of King Lamoni and his father who were willing to give up everything, even their kingdoms, to know God and His truth. That was what Shane basically offered up to the Lord. It was a very sweet experience. Precious precious boy! Pray for him.

Tuesday night we once again had Institute at our flat. That morning I woke up feeling very homesick and blue most the day. I swear that when we have great work ahead is when we are bombarded with negative feelings. I'm sure all you missionaries know what I'm talking about! I had to really beg for the spirit to be ready to teach. We ended up with 15 kids here, several who have never come and are VERY SPECIAL kids. Last week I'd taught Repentance and then felt strongly that we needed to follow it up with Forgivness. It was such an amazing lesson. I love the format of having it in our flat. I sit when I teach, the chairs are in a circle so it just promotes intimacy and sharing. Since the group is small we can do that. And they truly taught one another. It was such a precious night of sharing. After the class the kids stayed, once again, until midnight. Dad was able to give a very choice ward daughter a requested blessing that literally bouyed her up and she left filled with hope.

What we've come to realize is how very difficult most these kids' lives are. Almost all of them come from fractured families, many are the only member in their family, so many struggle with no financial or emotional support. It really is heart breaking. I've never appreciated more my life that has been so full of love, family and emotional support than I do now. Our family is such a minority, that's for sure!!! The mother in me just wants to sweep them up and give them a taste of what family support and a mother's love feels like.

That brings me to a sweet conversation I had with one of our boys. His name is Benjamin and he's from Mexico City. He's 26 years old, very handsome and is having a long distance relationship with a girl he met when she was here on holiday. She lives in Idaho. After class he sat next to me and expressed with deep longing how badly he wants what he sees here in this home; a family and marriage that loves one another and loves the Lord. He went off on how grateful he is for our example and how much hope he's received by just watching us, hope that his deepest desires are really possible, something he wasn't sure could happen. What an enormous responsibility Jim and I have to be that example to these kids, some who have NEVER seen a family that works. It was a tender, sweet moment.

Thursday was our big dinner, always a big production. It's no small thing to feed 70 raviness youth, some who've not had a real meal all week. It was a very frustrating day. I had gotten a recipe from Sister Larsen for Sloppy Joes that she used when they served in France. I spent hours on Wednesday chopping vegatables for it. I went early to cook it all together at church on Thursday. It seemed really wet but I assumed it would cook down. Well, it never did. An hour before dinner Sister Larsen came down and was baffled why is was so wet. I told her it seems the recipe added A LOT of water. She got a funny look on her face and then said "Oops! I forgot to tell you NOT to add the water it calls for." Just a minor small detail. We were pouring sloppy joe sauce through a colendar with 15 minutes til dinner. It was frantic and not very fun. Luckily I have a PRECIOUS chinese young man Dixon, who is Chinese but born in England. He has the craziest accent you've ever heard. He comes every week and helps me in the kitchen for the hour before we serve. I LOVE THIS GUY! He singlehandedly shepherds our chinese group. He humbles me with the service he renders to everyone!

We had meetings with the CES teacher and our Relief Society and Elders Quoram Pres after class on how to go after the kids missing. It's such a huge task here with so many kids coming and going. It's a total overwhelm with our Bishop who still manages to know each kid by name. He has given us a list of names to go after. That's what we were checking on with the youth leaders.

A little about our Relief Society President. She is MY GIRL! Her name is Hollie McKee. She's British but has lived in Provo and South Africa. She is an AMAZING president, only been in for about 4 months. But she knows the status of almost every girl and has brought Visiting Teaching from 25% to 73% since being called. We have a grand love affair going. I love her style. She's an animal but the girls know she loves them. So grateful to have her leading the girls.

Our Elders quoram is not doing so well. It's in disarray and struggling to do just the minimum. It's frustrating. Jim wants to jump in but feels he needs to not overstep. Today he's been setting it up so he can help do some training with our Elders President.

I came home discouraged and overwhelmed at how many kids are not accounted for. A huge task. There is a structure in place that the church has built that would work if those in position to use it WOULD use it. We are really trying to figure out a way to get it going. Your dad is the master of that. He's been emailing and cross emailing; inviting and introducing; opening doors.

Yesterday we had set the day aside to begin a blitz on contacting the lost sheep. Of course we had a big contention with each other that morning over something so stupid. It makes me so angry with myself for giving in to the enticings of the adversary. He KNEW what we were about to embark on and was right there once again using all his power to disuade us. I am begging the Lord to give me the eyes and heart to recognize his attacks and not give in. I get so mad at myself.

Last night was spent with hours on-line facebooking, emailing, calling cells and inviting. It feels really good to be actively going after the lost sheep. We've finally got enough information to do it. What's exciting is as we move forward I feel others in the ward are feeling our enthusiasm and are feeling energy to do it with us. EVERYONE needs to help go find our lost sheep.
Pray for us that we can be led to the most effective way to do this work of reclaiming!

Today we are driving up to Watford with the Jordans for a dinner being held at a YSA Senior couple's flat who serves up there. It's a chance to get ideas (and recipes) that are working with other YSA groups. I'm really excited to go.

Peggy Demming Bills Statement on Being a Mormon Woman

Closing with an entry I found on Facebook by one of our dear students from our BYU ward, Peggy Demming Bills, who Jim helped to get back into the church 10 years ago. She also came and sang in "Sing Noel" a few years ago. I adore her and feel that what she wrote was powerful enough that I printed it off to share with the young women here that get so discouraged and even bitter sometimes. I love what she said about being a young woman in this church. Here it is.

1) I am a Mormon woman

2) I am a very sassy, strong-willed (sometimes stubborn) woman (just ask my husband)

3) I love the doctrines of my church. I chose to come back, after a period of inactivity, because I feel a closer connection to God and like I'm a better person for following its teachings

4) I have never felt oppressed by any man, not even in the church's leadership. I know this isn't going to be the case for everyone, but I want to make sure that my voice attempts to equal all of the negative talk you hear in the media. Not every woman's experience in this church is one of oppression and dismissive men.

5) my testimony of the Plan of Salvation is this: ladies, we are so loved by God. We are cherished, in heaven and on this earth. There is a time and a place for ALL things. Even if you are forever single, in a bad marriage, in a part member family or simply do not fit inside what some would call the Mormon-Woman box... You are watched over, and taken care of. Yes, there is imperfection in people... People do not a doctrine make.

6) My proposed new women's motto: Be strong. Be amazing. Be an example to the new generation of women. Be patient; we really do have so much already, and are promised so much more than that.

7) My personal plea. please Stop fighting with so much anger and finger pointing. Please stop using singular experiences in your life (or in that friend of a friend's life) to place unwarranted judgement on all men or people. Because the men in my life; from my father, to my husband, to my brothers and all the amazing men I've come in contact with in our church DO NOT personify the picture you paint, sure they are flawed as we all are, but they aren't villains in some scheming plot to oppress the women of the world... And I feel to protect them from false accusations made by a small number of hurt women.

8) To those hurt women: I'm so sorry you've been hurt. I'm so sorry for your pain. I know what deep loneliness feels like, what the pain of another's horrible actions feels like, what it's like to love a selfish person who, in the end, callously walks away after beating your heart to a pulp. As your sister, I want to give you a hug and reassure you everything's going to be ok. And if you were sitting right next to me, I would encourage you to embrace your strength, not your anger.

9) the end

I responded on facebook with this:

Sweet friend I'm going to use this with my single sisters here in Brittania ward in London. All single women need to hear this and hold on with hope. You say it so well and have credibility because of your own life experience. I'm so grateful we got to be part of your life journey and watching you come back home. I love you Peggy and am so excited for the next part of your mortal journey, becoming a mommy. Hold on for the ride of your life! Thanks for these words.

She responded with this comment that made me cry:

Thanks everyone... I can't keep quiet about this... even if it's the unpopular voice. Starla, I will never forget the lesson you taught in RS those many moons ago about being a Woman of God. There you were, this feisty, outspoken, strong woman testifying what a Woman of God looks like and I knew I wanted to be just like you. It would be months, from that point, that I would even get to take the sacrament again... but it was your example (and your amazing husband's) that started me down that path. Thank you for being the amazing role model you are. I love you so very much.

We NEVER know our circle of influence. That's why I can testify more than ever in my life the need we have to seek the Holy Ghost in our lives, to live according to His influence and to pray for Charity. I love you my children and grandchildren. Continue to pray for the work here. These kids are so in need of your prayers. Love to each one of you, individually. You are adored! Mom

Friday, March 7, 2014

Third Week Accomplished!!!

The Faces of London

So it's 2:00 pm and I'm having the hardest time sitting down and getting started on this. I know how long this requires and each time I have to gird up and fresh courage take!

Our weeks are beginning to get some cadence to them (now that we've been here all of 3 1/2 weeks). And I realize I will probably be to some degree in a continuous state of fatigue. Like any job or vocation there's work and then there's WORK. And always there is sweet reward. A mission has all the above. More and more I recognize this is exactly where we should be, doing what we should be doing and doing it at the time the Lord needs us here. We are grateful and humbled by His awareness of us personally.

This past Saturday we had our first real tourist adventure riding the tube to Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. We are so insulated here in South Kensington that this was the first time I really got to see what the rest of London holds. The buildings, the churches, the statues, the museums, the history and age of these buildings are all beyond an American's comprehension. Our country is just a baby in comparision. Even our flat we are living in was built in the mid-1800's. It's very fun.

The other thing that continues to blow our minds is the degree of diversity found not only in the Britannia Ward but everywhere you go. There are so many languages been spoken that it's almost a shock to hear someone speaking English. The area we live is filled with young people or young families with one or two children, at most. We feel ancient walking down the street. Rarely do you see anyone our age here.

A few days ago Jim came bouncing in after a walk so excited to tell me he had found gardens for me so I won't miss mine so much. He had just returned from walking the Kensington Gardens (connected to the Palace) and was blown away at its beauty. And it's not even Spring yet. But we do have some bulbs beginning to bloom; a sure sign of spring coming. I can't even imagine how beautiful it will be here in Spring. Of course when it gets watered EVERY DAY it should be beautiful!!!

On Tuesday night we had Institute again at our flat. I think the kids like it a little too much. They stayed until after 12:00 and Meg(umi), one of the older YSA in our ward, finally escorted them out. We are finding that each YSA has such incredible life stories, many of them tragic. I'm amazed at their courage and determination to move forward. So many are converts with very few years in the church. For example Megumi has been a member only 4 years. She joined the church while attending Harvard and was actually baptized by Clayton Christensen!! She has totally committed her life to service and furthering the work, even though she has a big time job with McKenzie Another name; Arrit is a Brit from near Birmingham who has been a member 4 months. She's had such a hard life but is filled with enthusiasm and love of the gospel that has totally changed her life and her relationships. The YSA in Britannia's ages are as diverse as their cultures. It's got SO MANY professional singles working big time jobs, SO MANY working on their masters and doctorates, all trying to be in the world but not getting caught up in it. Such great courage

I wanted to share a couple experiences from this week. The first one happened at FHE on Monday night. One of the young men brought a video just out about bullying with Elder Uchtdorf speaking. It's really a timely message, especially now with the ability to cyber-bully, which it addressed. After the video was over we had a powerful discussion about their experiences. Over 90% of the young adults in that room had been bullied at some time in their lives. I was shocked at the high number.

I felt inspired to share one of my most shameful memories growing up. I want to share it with you, as well.

Cruelty and it's Tragic Consequences; The Shirley Corder Story

When I was in sixth grade my parents moved across town to a home we lived in for the next 30 years. I was the new kid on the block. It's hard to show up that late in elementary school because kids have made their friends by then. After a very awkward first couple months I begin to make friends. One, in particular, whose name was Shirley Corder, was especially nice and included me with all her friends. We became good friends and I came to love not only her but her mom, as well.

When we started 7th grade there were two girls that had gone to a different elementary school than me, Melinda and Connie. They were little, cute, sassy, girls with a bit of an edge and attitude to them that made them seem very "Cool" to me. We became a threesome and besties for that year, but by 8th grade I realized that these two friends were continuing to go a direction that I couldn't go if I wanted to keep the standards my parents and the church had taught me. It was in 8th grade that I made the decision to stay true and I turned to the girls my age at church and begin to hang out with them.

Through all of this I had remained friends with Shirley, although we didn't hang out together anymore. I could tell she would have loved to be part of our group. Through the next few years into high school I would see her and always go out of my way to say hi. I was disappointed to see that once we hit high school she started hanging out with "the Hoods", kids that were in to bad stuff and dark things.

And then Shirley was gone. Our junior year I heard she had dropped out of school and at age 16 had married a guy in the army and had left San Luis Obispo. I remember thinking "What a loser!"

Fast forward to our first High School Reunion. It was 5 years after graduation. I had just married Jim and was excited to go see all the friends we'd lost touch with. To my surprise Shirley was there. I immediately went over to her, excited to hear about her life. She gave me a very cool reception, which surprised me. But I continued to press her about her life. For dropping out of school at 16 and getting married at such a young age it was surprising how she was still married to the guy, but they had been unable to have any children. I asked about her mom and generally just caught up. Even after talking I could still tell she felt distant.

Jim had to leave earlier than I wanted and because Shirley's mom lived over close to where my parents house was I asked if she could give me a ride to my parent's home where we were staying. Reluctantly she said yes.

I can so clearly remember sitting in front of my parent's house and turning to Shirley and asking her what was wrong, why was she so cold to me. She looked at me incredulously and asked how I could ask a question like that after what I'd done.

I was shocked! What had I done? I truly had no clue what she was talking about and told her so. She looked at me with disbelief and said, "You know what I'm talking about...the birthday party in 8th grade." I still was clueless. That's when she told me the story that haunts me to this very day.

In our 8th grade year Shirley was in a math class with Melinda, the girl I'd been such good friends with the year before. Somehow in their discussion it came up that Shirley was turning 14 in two weeks. Melinda jumped all over it, asking Shirley if she would like to have a BIG party to celebrate. Shirley was elated that someone like Melinda would want to do that for someone like her. For the next two weeks every day in class they would discuss what they were going to do. It was Shirley's job to provide the music and food for 40 people and Melinda would get out the announcements and get everyone invited. Shirley's mom went all out, with a DJ and tons of food and decorations. Shirley felt like a Princess.

The night of the party NOT ONE person showed up. NOT ONE because I'm assuming Melinda never told anyone about the party. I have such a sick feeling every time I think of Shirley and her mom sitting there with enough food to feed and army, decorations and music and not one person showing up. It makes me want to throw up.

Of course Shirley assumed I was in on "The Joke". She assumed I was still close friends with Melinda, not realizing that I had stopped hanging with them before this ever happened. I'm sure her thinking I was involved was the greatest betrayal of all because of our previous friendship and how she had been the one to reached out to me two years before. She just knew she was the brunt of this very "funny" joke and the whole school was laughing at her behind her back. She didn't come to school for several weeks and when she finally did return she determined if the "Pop" kids wouldn't be her friends she knew a group that would. That's when she started hanging with the rough crowd at school and eventually dropping out and leaving town.

I sat in that car horrified and I begin to cry. At first she wouldn't believe me. To this day I pray that she eventually believed I had nothing to do with it, although I will never know for sure. When I left her car I went into my parents house and fell to my knees and asked forgiveness for my judgement of her, my lack of compassion, my blindness. I was so self-centered I had never taken the time to find out what was really going on with my old friend. To this day I pray there were no other incidents, that in my self absorption I never saw or just let pass and did nothing about.

Since that night in the car with Shirley I've tried to live courageously. If I've seen unkindness or cruelty I don't let it pass. I speak up. I defend. I try to reach out. I seek to be kind. I do it for HER!

I'm out of time. We have our first multi-stake dance and I have to be there to receive the food being delivered and Jim has a teaching appointment with the Elders. They are teaching Shane; an amazing young Chinese man that has hit it off with Jim. He's very close to joining and will be such an amazing asset to the church. At 8:00 Jim and I get our first time ever to act as chaperons. Our lives are being filled with "Firsts"!!!

One more thing I want to share on behalf of my companion. As you all know Jim and I work well together because he's always done his thing and I do mine. We have very different strengths. To his credit Jim has become my very depended on partner. I've been shocked at his decision to assist me in any way I need. He actually looks for ways to serve me since my callings here are very demanding on my physical efforts. He's been irreplaceable. It's such a testament to how we can change if we simply have enough reason to change. I could never do what's required of me without his help. He also is doing his Jim thing with the guys here that are truly stuck. He's been a true blessing to them as he coaches them how to move forward. He's loved and adored by the girls and so needed by the guys here. Our relationship is growing even after 40 years of marriage on March 28th. Just think what it will be when we have eternity to keep growing!!!

My Shirley Corder story is written specifically for our grandchildren. I NEVER want any of you to live with the feelings I STILL have over that experience! Learn from your Maga's mistakes, I pray!

Loves to each one of you!