Saturday, April 12, 2014
First General Conference on our Mission!
It's early Saturday morning and I'm just now getting started on this blog. It's been an intense week of counseling, teaching and feeding our kids, but it's been good! I just couldn't make myself sit down yesterday and do this. Writing this blog takes more energy and focus than you would suppose. I'm grateful I promised to write because I think otherwise sometimes I would let it go. I remember feeling the same way with missionary letters. But the love overrides the fatigue. And I KNOW how much I would regret it. Also your sweet encouraging comments help motivate and keep me writing! Thank you for taking the time to let me know you are reading and enjoying our experience with us.
How about last weekend's General Conference? It was amazing. And you are right Tanner! There is something so precious about hearing the words of the prophets when you are serving full time.
Our schedule for conference here is crazy. Our first session was live of the Saturday morning, only our first session started at 5:00 p.m. Sunday morning we had Priesthood session from 10-12:00. Saturday Evening session was from 1-3:00 p.m. on Sunday and Sunday morning session was live here from 5-7:00 p.m. Sunday evening. They don't broadcast the last session because it would be from 9-11:00 so we have to pick it up on-line. (It was so fun. I had 18 lbs of chicken to shred for our Thursday night dinner so I took my pot of cooked chicken breasts and sat in front of the computer and listened to the last session of conference. Just as the session ended I was finished shredding all the chicken. Now THAT'S the way to make a job go quickly.)
You all know that I'm suppose to conduct a choir for Stake Conference tomorrow morning. It had been a total disaster. Last Saturday we ended up going to Costco with the Jordans. I expressed gratitude for letting us use a few of the sister missionaries to sing and then jokingly asked if they had any Elders that could sing. Sister Jordan was so cute. She offered to call a few Elders that she knew could sing that were serving in our stake and since they were all going to be at conference anyway she would ask them to come. I had personally emailed anyone I thought could possibly sing in our ward and told them that I would be offering our traditional conference breakfast of Swedish pancakes, strawberries and cream or homemade syrup if they would come rehearse between the conferences; 3-5:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Sunday morning I got up at 6:30 and made about 75 pancakes. I'd made the syrup and cut up the strawberries the night before. I went in to church at 11:00 to set up and was there when the men came out of Priesthood session at noon. Dad felt it was the BEST priesthood session he'd ever been to. (I have since watched it online and feel the same way. Elder Oaks' talk on priesthood, keys and woman will be a landmark talk. I loved every single talk in that session!) We then attended the session from 1-3. After it was time for choir. I truly had no idea what to expect. Well, between my emails and Sister Jordan's phone calls was I surprised! We probably had 50 kids there Sunday. It was a miracle. I went from a handful of kids to a full choir. I had 1 hour to teach two songs. Luckily they were both pretty simple and they picked them up pretty fast.
We had our brunch and cleaned up. Then we were back to our last session (your Sunday morning) that was fabulous. When conference was over we had a baptism (we have a baptism EVERY Sunday). By this time (around 8:00 p.m.) I was drooping and ready to go home. It had been a long, intense day that had begun 14 hours before. As we were leaving one of our girls that we knew, but not well, grabbed my hand and asked if she could just walk home with us, that she badly needed to talk to parents. As we walked and I heard her story my heart was filled with compassion. I hurt for some of our kids. Their stories would break your heart. I can't go into detail, but this beautiful 28 year old has been keeping her family together through horrendous trials for years. She was tired, lonely and just wanting to get married and let someone else carry the heavy load. She ended up staying for a couple hours. It was magic watching Jim be a daddy and give wise and prudent counsel to her. I literally watched as her shoulders came up and light filled her face. She had some hope as she walked out the door. How badly these kids need hope. The world presses hard here. Lots of our kids have little or no family support, especially financially. They have to work SO HARD to simply get by. It's such an added stress. So many broken homes. Because many are converts they are having to figure out how to apply and live the gospel on their own. I realize how badly they need our example of what marriage looks like and to just have access to a mom and dad. That's being called on all the time. That's why we both live in fear of not having the Spirit. We never know when we will be called on for help or to give a blessing or just listen and advise. It's a huge responsibility that we don't take lightly.
As the first girl left, there stood another at the door. Our crazy Sunday ended after midnight. What a day; our first General Conference as full time missionaries!!!
Tuesday night was Institute here and it was a great class. Our numbers were down to 19 because Spring Break has begun here. In fact for the next two weeks there will be no Institute and NO DINNERS!!! What a wonderful break for me. I think our Tuesday class is so much more than a gospel class. It is such a sweet opportunity for kids to gather in a home, once again to feel like family. We have to kick them out or they would stay all night.
Thursday was a new experience. I have a young Chinese man, Dixon, who has helped me in the kitchen since I came. His background is crazy. He was born in Hong Kong where he lived until 10. His parents, who were already members, moved here to London where he has lived ever since. His accent is a mix of Chinese and British and I have to really listen to understand him. I LOVE DIXON! He single handedly shepherds our Chinese members and he watches out for me. All he knows how to do is serve. Because it was his spring break this past week he offered to make dinner Thursday. His whole family's hobby is cooking. Dixon is a master chef and cooks amazing Asian dishes. So I bought the ingredients and met him and a couple of his Chinese friends Thursday afternoon and it began. We ended up with 5 people chopping and chopping and chopping. We made enough Vietnamese chicken salad to feed 70. That is no small feat. And it was GOOD!! (Dad didn't touch it. The base was cabbage). I was so pleased that almost all the kids LOVED it! They were so cute with him. After he told me it was a lot of work but if they enjoyed it then it was worth it. It was a fun experience working in the kitchen with a few Chinese YSA, an American YSA girl that I've adopted and then two Senior missionaries came in to help. It was crazy and fun.
As you know Jim teaches on Thursday nights the Mission Prep class. He's had in his class two twins. These are BIG black young men that are like giant teddy bears. They are 24 years old and both decided together it was time to go serve. I told you about their girlfriends and Jim's plea to the girls to help get them safely on their missions. He promised they would all be blessed in this life and eternally by Kenny and Tai's choice to go serve. They received their calls; one to Manchester England the other to Scotland. Easter Sunday is Kenny's farewell in Stratford, a ward on the outskirts of our stake. It's great timing. We want to attend to hear Kenny's farewell, but also to have the boys introduce us to the YSA in their ward. Since we have the next two weeks off from other time-consuming activities we want to focus on the inactive YSA from the wards outside of Britannia. What a better way than to meet the Bishop, talk to prospective missionaries and be introduced to some of the kids by these boys we adore and have invested in. We will sorely miss Kenny and Tai's enthusiasm for the gospel and their love they share with us.
Let me tell you about yesterday. It was a day of miracles. We've told you about Ziyed, the 34 year old Lebanese man that Jim has been teaching. He has continued to progress. There has been a hitch though. Last week we found out that Ziyed, like every other Mid-easterner, smokes. What's added to the difficulty is he lives with a chain smoker that never quits smoking all day long. It's made it almost impossible for Ziyed to stop.
Yesterday we had a teaching appointment with him at the church where he shared this story. He told us the day before, unbeknownst to him, his flatmate went to his doctor requesting nicotine patches. The roommate came home and informed Ziyed that he was going to stop smoking! Joyfully Ziyed said he wanted to quit also so they are going to share the patches and work on this together. Now you must understand the flatmate has no idea of Ziyed's gospel quest. He's doing it simply for health reasons, but what a tender mercy that was totally recognized by Ziyed as a gift from God. He also bore a witness to another whispering of the spirit. A little context first. Ziyed is a student of the bible. This man KNOWS the scriptures and has studied them his whole life. His questions for the sisters and for Jim are DEEP and penetrating, not superficial EVER! Two days previous as he was reading the Book of Mormon he said very clearly the spirit whispered, "Stop making this difficult!" He said he heard it twice. He looked at us and said, "So I am believing!" My answer to him was that the Lord WANTS us to ask questions, that questions are good. But it's the way we ask that makes all the difference. One who questions without wanting to find answers will never find the truth. But one who asks questions with the desire to find and understand makes it possible for the spirit to testify to the truth when they hear it. I told Ziyed that his questions have always been ones seeking to know. We love this man. He will be a great leader and we feel God's love for him. It was such a sweet meeting.
Last night we had another miracle. I can't go into detail, but we have two young people in our ward that used to date. They broke up a year ago and it has caused the young woman to go into a tail-spin, to the point that she's had difficulty coming to church. This young woman has been one of the pillars of our ward. It's a huge loss to not have her feel she can come to church. They really haven't spoken since the break up. We realized that in order for understanding and healing to occur we needed to get them together and do a GROW session.
We knew it would truly take a miracle to undo a year of deep hurt and misunderstanding. We gathered together last night at 7:00. It took four and a half hours, but at the end there was resolution and forgiveness. You have no idea how powerful it was to watch two truly wonderful, but hurt YSA that we love able to tell their truths and be reconciled. Your father did a masterful job that was totally driven by the spirit. I felt the spirit striving with us the whole night. It was this power that allowed the healing.
Today I awoke to this email:
Thank you sincerely for making a miracle happen. With most sincere gratitude and respect and love from my heart!
It really, truly was a miracle that again confirms to us the great love the Lord has for these young people and how we must be willing to give our best to serve them any way we can.
Tanner, once again we hope you had a wonderful 30th birthday. Dad said he saw you all on Google at dinner together. That's when I'm so sad we can't be with you to celebrate and rejoice together. THIRTY YEARS OLD!!! How in the world is my baby 30 years old? It just tells me how OLD I AM!!! Tanner you are now truly and officially a GROWN-UP!
We ask for your prayers. Pray that my kids in choir from last week will show up tomorrow morning! Pray we will have the energy, both physically and emotionally, to continue in this work. Pray that Ziyed will be able to stop smoking. Pray for Kenny and Tai as they go out to serve. Pray that each one of you individually will hold tightly to the rod of iron, that you will continue to love and serve the Lord. And pray that all our grandchildren will be protected from the world and grow in their testimonies. Our deepest desire is that we can all sit down together in the Lord's presence when our life is done. Heaven won't be heaven without each of you there with us. We love and pray for you daily. I hope you can feel our missionary prayers in your behalf. I've always known how blessed we are as a family but never more than now! We owe the Lord EVERYTHING!!!