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!