I mentioned last week what a fabulous Easter week it had been. It was culminated on Saturday night. Jim and I caught a train that took us up to Watford, where we caught a taxi to meet up with the Johnsons at Toby's Carvery, a fun restaurant. They are the YSA Senior couple over the Watford stake. They have the next highest number of YSA at 35. We've been able to exchange ideas for activities, but no one in the mission can help me with the food. Even Sister Johnson doesn't do full meals, but more snack and finger food for their YSA. With them they had friends visiting from Boise who, by time dinner was over, were ready to put in their mission papers. This work is contagious! They were smittened yet overwhelmed at the same time with what we do. It's so fun to talk to other Seniors working in this mission to find out about what is working and how they are accomplishing their goals.
After dinner we had to catch another taxi that took us to the Stake Center where Rob Gardner's "Lamb of God" was being performed. It was led by a young man (just aged out of YSA) and YSA from all over the UK. It had a full orchestra, solos and choir. I kept my expectations in check, having no idea what to expect. I already knew I absolutely loved the music. It's powerful and so spiritual, but it has to be sung beautifully and it's not easy music to sing. We had several instrumentalists and a couple vocalists from our ward in it and wanted to support them.
Was I in for a huge surprise. It was AMAZING!!! The soloists couldn't have been better. The orchestra was lovely and the spirit was abundant. It was so worth the hassle and money to get there. WE LOVED IT and were so grateful we had gone!! That night my heart was filled to overflowing in gratitude for the gift Christ gave to the world that Easter morn!
The next day, Easter, we tagged along with the Davis', our office missionaries, to the Stratford ward to hear Kenny give his farewell talk. It's no small thing to go there. It's an hour and a half tube and train ride. The actual chapel is in the suburb of Ilford, a predominantly black community that is full of gangs and graffiti. When we got there and had to walked to the chapel it felt a little dicey and intimidating, until we entered the chapel doors. Immediately we were sweep up by the members. We had a couple Britannia ward members that had come home for Easter, along with Kenny and Tai, take us and introduce us to everyone. Hugs all around! We met the very handsome, very young Bishop who we needed to get on our side for his support with the YSA. It worked!
In their chapel there were no pews, but folding chairs. They had no one to play the piano so they just came and grabbed me to play. Because it was Easter many of the African women came in their native clothes, headdress and all so the chapel was filled with bright colors and dark faces. Ninety percent of the ward is black, most the adults from Africa. When they sang it was off key but full of enthusiasm and zeal. IT WAS SO FUN! You all would have loved it!!
Kenny gave a wonderful talk. His mission will be blessed by his humor and enthusiasm. He's a darling young man. After we went to Elder Davis' Gospel Principles class that was filled with missionaries, 3 investigators, ward mission leaders and us. Elder Davis did a fabulous job and there was lots of participation. Then on to Relief Society. Girls you would have died to be there. The Relief Society President, one of only a handful of white members, gave the lesson on "Believing Christ". She did a marvelous job, very spirit filled. But the best part were the comments by the African sisters. These are women dealing with heart wrenching adversities (including the twins' mom) yet they are so faith-filled and passionate about the gospel and their comments were wise and deep. I was in heaven!
After church the ward did a Munch and Mingle in honor of the boys leaving. It was obvious they don't have many young men leave from that ward to go serve missions so Kenny and Tai going to serve was a BIG DEAL! What a spread! There was so much food, many dishes I'd never seen or tasted before, but all so good. It was noisy, wild and crazy. And there we were, right in the middle of it all, having a blast. Over in the corner was Jim inviting two of Kenny's friends to attend mission prep, with Kenny laughing as he told Elder Phillips they weren't even members. That didn't stop Jim. He told them to come anyway! We actually did get 2 young men to commit to come.
When everyone had eaten they asked if Kenny and Tai would bear their testimonies. It was precious because, although they don't have a lot of teenage boys in this ward, there are lots of older primary boys. As these precious Elders bore their witness that they knew they'd been called to serve and then a witness that the gospel was true, the younger boys sat mesmerized, not moving. What a powerful example never to be forgotten by these young men.
Being a part of this made me homesick for the family wards I grew up in out in the mission field. When you live in the mission field your ward truly becomes your family, your safe harbor from the world. It was so apparent that's exactly what this ward meant to all of them. It was their family! We loved being there and felt it an honor to be included.
There's more but I'm so done! I kept my promise.
I want you to know that we continue to minister. So many needs. But we are finding greater joy the longer we are here. There are many things we need to improve on and get better at, but the one thing we do well is LOVE THESE KIDS!!! And they know it! That's why we are here! Tonight we have a meeting with our Stake YSA REPS to finalize our plan we want to present to the Stake and Mission President for rescuing our Lost Lambs. How I wish I had our picture over the fireplace. It so represents our feelings about this. We have pondered and prayed and tried to simplified this plan for several weeks and pray it will be accepted and supported. This weekend is the final tweaking before presenting it to Presidents Phillips and Jordan next week. Pray for us.
Know we miss you EVERY day. It is a true sacrifice leaving you all behind! We pray for each one of you many times a day. Know that if we've earned any blessings from service we are sending them your way. Love to all.