Sunday, May 25, 2014

Letter from Baba on Luke's Baptism Day

My dearest Luke,
I am so proud of the boy that you’ve become and the choice you’ve made to be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. As I thought about what I’d want you to remember about this special day one of my favorite Pictures came to mind.
There is an old saying that “A picture is worth a 1000 words”. I want you to look at this picture while I tell you what it represents to me. Luke this memory of us being together is just like you’ll feel when you’re baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. You’ll come out of the water all clean and happy. And then you’ll receive the Holy Ghost. Luke now that you have the Holy Ghost it’s like getting a new fishing pole and having to learn how to use it. Your Baba’s like the Holy Ghost that will sit beside you and patiently teach you what you need to know if you listen very carefully. I had to teach you to bait the hook and cast to the right spot with the right bait. That’s what the Holy Ghost will do also. He will teach you how to cast your prayers to heavenly Father and how you’ll get back answers if you really pay attention. It’s just like catching the fish in our picture. You had to watch your line and your pole to see if it was moving if you wanted to catch your fish. Luke look at the beautiful fish you caught by doing all the things I taught you. Buddy that’s just like it will be if you listen to your parents and obey the commandments and listen to the Holy Ghost whispering in your mind the right thing to do to be as happy as we both are in one of my favorite pictures. I love this picture because it represents the joy you give your Baba by being such a good boy. I love Luke Robert Merback and always will.

Your Baba forever… 


Over-night Temple Trip Fiasco

It’s Friday night and it’s been two weeks since our last entry on the blog. Last weekend I couldn't write because we had an overnight trip to the London Temple (I don’t know why they call it London. It’s 1 ½ hours away!) We rode the train with about 10 kids on Friday afternoon. Most the YSA on the train were our Chinese members. Oh how I love them! When we arrived it was still light outside. The last time we’d been to the temple it was still in winter. What a transformation. The grounds are absolutely glorious and HUGE!! We were able to join with a few more YSA and sit on the grass and just be silly. It was so fun.

The next morning more kids joined us. We had about 30 there to do baptisms. Our assignment started at 8:00 A.M. It was another precious experience. We had one of our new converts there for the first time. He’s a beautiful tall black Frenchman. I was there handing out towels and sitting with them while they dripped off. When he finished his baptisms he came and sat down. I could tell he was very moved by the experience. All he could say in a subdued reverent voice was “Wow.”

After the baptisms the kids that were endowed did a session with us. I LOVE THE NEW FILMS! It is worth the extra minutes to watch because it’s so much more meaningful! Again it was a wonderful experience to be in the Celestial room with kids we love so much; a preview of heaven!

When we got out of the temple we realized that most the kids had been able to get rides back home with people who had cars. The ward had reserved a bus to transport back the kids but we were left with only 6 who didn't have a ride. The problem was the bus was scheduled for pick-up at 4:00 and we were done by 1:30. We went to lunch in the temple and then waited and waited and waited. Finally at 4:30 Jim called the Bishop who called the bus to find out it had broken down on the way to get us. We were stranded and that was after waiting for 2 ½ hours. WE DIED!!!!

We ended up having to take a taxi to the train station, ride the train to the middle of London, catch a tube that couldn't get to our station because of rail work so we had to catch a different tube that went a different direction and finally at 7:30 we got home. It was a disaster. Kind of took all the fun out of the trip for us. We were exhausted!
So that’s why there was no blog last week. Is that a good enough reason?

Elder Garner’s Great-Grandparents’ Conversion

I've mentioned how much I adore EVERY Senior Missionary couple here in our mission. They are all so precious. I would choose them for my friends. One couple that works as Employment Specialists are the Garners. I don’t know if I've ever met anyone more kind than them. You can just feel their goodness!

On Wednesday last week I was walking by their office and stuck my head in to say hi and then kept walking. I heard someone walking behind me and it was both of them. They came to tell me that they hoped I didn't mind but they had been reading my blog and wanted me to know how much it meant to them. I was blown away, but grateful if it could bless them. They deserve all the blessings the Lord could offer.

Elder Garner had just read our story of Grandma Nellie’s parent’s conversion and asked if I’d like to hear one of his family conversion stories. OF COURSE!! He told of his Great-grandfather who happened upon a Parley Pratt pamphlet and after reading it was converted. The problem was he was married to a VERY contrary woman. He knew if he told her to listen to the missionaries she would do the opposite.  He came up with a plan. He left the pamphlet out where she could see it and then told her to NOT read it; that it was of the devil. Then he left the house for several hours. When he came back not a word was said.

The day came when Great-grandpa went to be baptized. In his arms he carried a bundle of clothes to change into. As he came to the agreed upon place on the river, there stood his wife with her bundle of clothes under her arms! He asked her what she had there. “Clothes.” Then she asked him what he had there. “Clothes.” That’s all that was said as both husband and wife were baptized having never spoken a word about the gospel to one another!

This same Great-grandmother and Great-grandfather came across the plains in a wagon. It was reported that she placed a rocking chair in the middle of the wagon and held her baby on her lap and rocked (not walked) her way across the plains. That rocking chair is now on exhibit in a Fillmore museum.

Elder Garner told me that his grandma had grown up with that story, but had never shared it with her own children until she wrote her family history. That amazing story would have been lost forever if it had not been written down! I’m converted. I GET IT!

O.K. Here’s another story I got after writing the story above. It’s told in Elder Garner’s own words.

About 30 years ago, I began wondering if I had collected enough information about my ancestors to identify all my convert ancestors. I discovered that I indeed had enough information; all my convert ancestors were my 2nd and 3rd great grandparents, so there were 18 or 20 of them. I wrote up a brief account of each of their conversion stories, about seven pages altogether, and decided to give each of my siblings and our adult children copies for Christmas that year. Nobody made much comment about it.

Two year ago, I was given the task of motivating members of our High Priests group to become more involved in Family History work. I had decided to tell them that one of the major steps in Family History is connecting with our ancestors and then telling our posterity their stories so that our descendants will connect with their ancestors. I was working on this lesson on Saturday when we received a letter from our granddaughter Sarah, who was serving a mission in Hong Kong. She told about one of their investigators, Stella, who was 15; she was convinced that the gospel was true but was hesitant to exercise the faith to commit to baptism. Sarah was trying to figure out how to help Stella during study time one morning when the thought came to her to read the stories of her ancestors.

When Sarah had received her call, she had been encouraged to bring some family history with her on her mission. Her mom, our oldest daughter, simply gave her a copy of the write-up of my convert ancestors. So she read through it and discovered that one of them, William Riley Cole (actually her 5th great grandfather) had been baptized at the age of 16 and had then been instrumental in the baptism of his parents. Sarah and her companion decided to share William’s conversion story with Stella.

When they met Stella the next day, Sarah told her about her ancestor and the effect that his joining the church had, not only on his parents, but obviously on his descendants. Stella’s faith was obviously strengthened, and she responded by saying, “William Cole can be my example.” (Sarah reported a couple of weeks later that Stella had been baptized.)

Well, you can bet that I shared the letter with the High Priests group the next day! A more appropriate illustration of what I was trying to teach could not have been imagined. But what impressed me was the fact that, when I wrote up the stories, I had no idea that 30 years later, it would make a difference in a conversion on the other side of the world! Later, I shared this event with my siblings, one by one, only to find out that they had been using these conversion stories for years in all kinds of lessons and settings! They simply had not told me. Again, I had no idea that what I had recorded in simple form would make so much difference in so many ways.   Shared by Elder Lynn Garner

A Sunday in the Life of YSA Senior Missionaries

Let me tell you my last Sunday. We went early so we could have a discussion with Sanje, an amazing handsome young Indian man from Birmingham England. I love what the elders and your dad have investigators do. They give them a chapter from the Book of Mormon and have the investigator teach them from the scriptures. It’s powerful. It gives them the opportunity to speak truth and as the words come out of their mouth the spirit witnesses to them what they are saying is true. I so wish you could have heard Sanje teach Sunday. It was beautiful. Like your father, it’s going to be devastating to his parents if he gets baptized! We are fasting for him next week when his parents come to London when he will tell them he wants to be baptized.

After the discussion I went downstairs and waited for my new Visiting Teaching Companion. She’s a college rugby player that is less-active but when I called her to come she was so darling. We were to meet one of our girls, a Chinese member of about a year that is also semi-less-active. Paige, my companion, ran from the tube to be at the church on time. Our girl never came but we had a wonderful discussion together.

As church was starting I ran upstairs to practice a song with one of our YSA who was performing it in Sacrament Meeting so we were 15 minutes late to the meeting. She sang a song I’ve probably done 30 times in my life, a great old classic “O That I Were an Angel”. It was so strange to hear someone else sing it. She did a wonderful job.

From Sacrament Meeting I ran to the room where we had our Marriage Prep class. It’s the information from John Lund that I love so much and taught with Dad’s BYU kids. It’s unusual that we actually have 3 couples and 2 singles that have fianc├ęs in other wards that are engaged or about to get engaged attend.  It’s such a fun class with world-class information. It went so well that they didn't want to stop so we went 15 minutes over and once again I was late for the next meeting; Relief Society. It was a great class taught by one of our older YSA.

Then, along with Paige, we grabbed our second girl we visit teach and kidnapped her into a side room where we had a wonderful visit. Her name is Rebecca and she’s in her last year of med school. She’s mostly active but I have never really known her. I’m going to love all these girls and best of all they are girls I didn't really know.

After our visiting teaching Jim and I caught a ride to our second counselor’s flat. He’s a single Romanian YSA convert who is a taxi-cab driver. They were having a dinner as part of our re-activation to pull some of the kids in. There was about 15 people there. The food was great and the company even better.

By time we got home it was late. We had been gone ALL day; the life of YSA Senior Missionaries!!!

Elder and Sister Hom from Wansworth Stake

We had our Thursday night Institute dinner which is always a little crazy, but I have to admit, so worth it. Our dinner is from 6:50 to 7:30 when class starts. Last night we were to be at a Stake Meeting at 7:30 so a darling group of our kids ended up doing all the dishes for us. What a sessy! 

When our stake meeting was over we came down to meet with Elder and Sister Hom who was there visiting our institute from a neighboring stake that is NOT in our mission. They serve in London South and they have a YSA program that is rockin’. I got to know her when she called to ask about food for their Institute Recognition Night. We begin to talk and then talked some more! They've been out for 14 months. When they got here the previous Seniors had a program that was already established. It was reassuring as we talked. What they are currently doing is almost exactly the same thing that we've worked the last 3 months on and what we are presenting tomorrow to the Bishops. In their stake YSA it is 90% black. Like us, Sister Hom said they had wanted to serve in Africa. She said this was even better. It was like being in Africa only with flushing toilets and clean food. They gave us some great ideas and we made some great new friends!

Our first letter from Skyler

We received this letter from our newest grandchild this week, along with some adorable pictures of her. She is so familiar to me. She could be one of my babies. We are so in love with her already. Can’t wait to meet this newest member of our eternal family!!

Dear Maga and Baba;

I’m so excited to write you this letter and tell you all about everything that I've been doing!

I’m already over ten weeks old. By the time you get my letter I will be over eleven weeks old. Can you believe that?!! I grow so fast! I loooove my mommy’s milk! I swallow really loud when I’m eating and I love humming while I eat. It helps me to digest all of the yummy nutrients! Sometimes while I’m eating I hear mommy talkin to Heavenly Father. He’s my pal. And she thanks him for my yummy milk! I’m thankful for it too! It calms me and makes me very tired ….milk drunk is what mommy and daddy call it. After I eat they’ll burp me, my head hangs and I’m out like a light!

One thing I love to do is smile! I smile so big that my nose scrunches, my eyes close, my head rolls and it continues to travel through my whole body. There are just so many things to smile about! Don’t you agree? I love everyone. There is no one I won’t smile for. Oh yeah, I have a good friend; Mr. Fan. He hangs out in my bedroom, and in the living room. He sits on the ceiling. He’s so silly! Sometimes he is very still and sometimes he moves so fast. My head and eyes try to keep up with him, but it is so hard. He must have super powers! I look at him all the time. He loves to make me smile!

Since the day I was born my hands like to be in a fist, my thumb must be shy because it is always tucked inside. I’m beginning to open my hands more and more. My mommy and daddy tell me I have beautifully long fingers and pretty nail beds! I have really long skinny feet, with long toes. My big toe could easily be confused with a finger. All the better to hold onto the lips that nibble on my toes! Silly parents! I’m really tall, top of the charts. I have dark hair that’s getting darker every day. I have a natural side part, which works great! 

Everyone tells me I have big beautiful lips, sometimes I’m not quite sure what to do with them so they just fold in (Everyone like that.) I have a pretty cook chunk of skin attached to the top of my neck that I can rest my chin on. Everyone tells me it’s a good, healthy thing so that’s good.

What else….I love taking baths with my mommy. She calls me her little froggy because I like pushing off her tummy to go swimming in the tub. (I can’t wait to practice my skills at the place you call Lake Powell.)

Daddy calls me intense sometimes. I like to call it “sending a clear message”! That way no one is confused about what I need.

I take after daddy, in that I sometimes have toots that you could mistake for his. At first it really hurt my tummy and that’s the only thing I would fuss about! Mommy and daddy would have to help me. My daddy is a real expert at helping the gas and poopies come out I’m so glad about that! But now my tummy is doing a pretty good job without a whole lot of help.

One last, very important thing I need to tell you guys…I love my “Cougs”. I have enclosed some photos of my cheering them on in my cute outfit! I can’t wait to cheer them on with my favorite Maga and Baba!

I can’t wait for the day that I will get to smile for you guys, can’t wait until I get to be snuggled by you and smothered with kisses and loves. I miss you guys!
Thank you for serving a mission and for setting such a good example for me and all of our family! Our Father in Heaven loves you and is so grateful for your…He told me! Like I said, we’re pals.

I love you Maga and Baba!

Love your Baby Girl,
Sky (in the “Sky”… like Stars….get it?!)


Luke’s Baptism

One more thing; LUKE ROBERT MERBACK is now an official member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!!! He was baptized yesterday May 24, 2014. We are so proud of him. We hope Lukie liked the video talk on the Holy Ghost rom Maga and Baba’s special fishing picture with Luke. We thought about him all day and missed being there SO MUCH!!!

Love to you all.  

Saturday, May 10, 2014

May 9th, 2014/ "The Salt of the Earth by Elder James K. Phillips

It’s already May 9th!! How does it go so fast and yet it seems like we've been here for a year. It’s truly an enigma!

Let me share a couple highlights from this week. Monday is always Family Home Evening at the church. We generally have about 25 to 30 kids attend. When we first arrived here in January there were two FHE groups going with the Chinese having their own group. After talking to Dixon, a Chinese Brit who has taken responsibility for the Chinese, he felt there was beginning to be separation between the Chinese and the rest of the ward. We advised our ward to do away with the two groups and combine them into one FHE. It took a while to get the Chinese kids comfortable but it’s moving along. I love having them there with us.

This past Monday one of our Chinese young women gave the lesson. Her name is Meggie (they all take American names because their Chinese names are too difficult for the rest of us to say or remember). She’s beautiful, tall and speaks English well enough to communicate. She had gone to a lot of work, getting a Chinese video on YouTube (with American subtitles) about how love overcomes estrangement between a son and his father. Then Meggie shared the differences in our cultures, backed up with pictures online. She expressed how family means everything to the Chinese. She bore her testimony that it was the principle of family that opened her heart to listen to the missionaries when they first approached her 6 months before.

The most precious part came at the end of her lesson when she, in tears, shared how her parents were divorced when she was 10. In China when a man and woman marry, the wife leaves her family and goes to live in his home with his extended family. If a husband divorces his wife, she loses not only the benefits of marriage and security but also her place in his family and his home. She is completely cut off to make it on her own with no support. It’s almost unheard of for a divorced Chinese woman to ever marry again. This is what happened to Meggie’s mother. In an amazing display of vulnerability, ESPECIALLY FOR THE CHINESE, Meggie, crying, shared how their lives had been full of loneliness and hardship. She witnessed her gratitude for the hope she had found in the gospel of Jesus Christ; that families can be eternal. She witnessed that was her greatest desire!

No one stirred in the room. This was so unusual and so sacred. When she was done your father and I were able to bear witness of what our family meant to us, that EVERYTHING this world could offer, career, position, money, possessions, paled in comparison to what we found in a home where the gospel was evident and where love and respect resided. I testified that the greatest decision I ever made was the decision to be home as a full time mom. We recognized that it might not be possible for some, but where it was possible we told them to not let the world deceive them into thinking it was somehow less than. Other YSA added precious comments that were so sweet and appropriate and then we closed our meeting.

Most the YSA went upstairs to play volleyball, but the Chinese YSA stayed down in the basement. We ended up talking to just them for another 2 hours. I can’t begin to express the tender feelings of that experience. We found that a young man, one of the happiest boys I've ever met, had the same experience as Meggie. It was just he and his mom. He cried telling us how she was so alone with him here in London. Another young woman came from a home where the father physically abused her mother every day after work. She would beg her dad to divorce so her mother wouldn't have to be beat, but it continued for years. When she asked her mother why she stayed the mom answered that she stayed because of her two children. Can you imagine the guilt and heavy load that this young woman took on shoulders? We talked long about agency and personal responsibility; which neither was hers to carry and how she could begin to put it down.

We shared with them our experience with Ashlee visiting China. At the time I went I remember thinking how random it was that we went to China, of all places in the world. Now I see!!! It was so part of the Lord’s plan for us. We shared how clear back then we fell in love with the people of China and often wondered how the Lord would open the doors to allow the gospel in. Now we see what President Hinckley said coming to pass. He stated that it would quietly go forth throughout the country and a foundation would be in place ready to receive the missionaries when the doors finally open. That is happening right now! I told them I was looking at the pioneers that were going to be part of that modern day miracle. Each one of them are bright, capable, mighty spirits. On it went and when we were done there was such a feeling of love. It was a personal witness to both Jim and I of why we are here in this place at this time!

Tuesday night was once again Institute here at our flat. Last week was on the Second Coming. This week was on the Millennium! I was a bit concerned it would be a lot of me telling and them listening because there is so much to learn. But I shouldn't have worried. There were so many questions!!!! I realize that this is a subject that is not discussed in depth near enough in the church. It ended up being a fabulous evening full of learning and discussion. Instead of the kids leaving here with dread, they left excited with what their part could be in getting ready for the greatest events in all the creation. A couple days after class, one of our Chinese students posted, “Sister Phillips I’m preparing right now for his coming!” Can’t ask for better result than that.

Thursday was our dinner which I’m getting so much better at; not stressing near as much this second time around. And I’m getting lots more involvement in the kitchen. It so reminds me of home, everyone always gathered around the island talking. That’s what is happening here. Great conversations!

Thursday was also significant because after dinner we had our meeting with the Stake Presidency on our Re-activation Plan. We went with our two stake YSA Reps; Tom and Jade, who we adore. We were anxious to get their response and their O.K. We shouldn't have worried. It went amazing. They loved it and its simplicity. They gave us their full support. We will begin in our ward tomorrow then present it to the rest of the stake at a Stake Bishops training meeting in two weeks. So grateful for their support!

Friday we took a P-Day!!! Hurrah!!! We went to the Tower of London!!! What a sight! First of all it’s HUGE. It sits on 8 acres of land right on the Thames River with several towers and layers and layers of walls and a moat. It’s spectacular. Right next to it is an area called by Londoners “The City”. It’s the financial center of London. It contained huge modern buildings where most the banking and business is conducted. The City is contained in about one square mile. Picture this! The 1,000 year old rock walled prison superimposed on extreme modern glass and steel buildings that tower over it. The sight is a little mind-boggling.

Tours are given by what is known here as “The Meateaters”. They are the keepers of the tower, dressed in bizarre original uniforms. They give you the tower’s history and all the best stories and mysteries. They are hilarious and so well-informed. They aren't sure where the name “Meateater” comes from. They believe it was in given when those that guarded the tower were given no money to work there but were paid with meat to eat, a rare commodity in those days. Whereever the name came from we were just glad they were there. It added so much fun to the tour. It really is astounding the age of things here. We can’t comprehend it coming from America. It was a fun date with my sweetheart!

One last thing; tomorrow I start a Marriage Prep class that runs for 4 weeks. It’s the information off of John Lund's tapes that I feel is so vital for kids getting married. We have 4 engaged couples and 1 couple ready to get engaged that are coming. I’m excited. I love his stuff and really feel it’s beneficial (especially this first one on Content Communication!) Every couple should be required to take this class before they get married!!!

                                    NEWS BROADCAST!!! 

You will all be so proud of your dad. He has just handed me the first installment of his personal family history!!!! Yes he’s agreed to do this!!! He has so many AMAZING stories to share. What better time than when I’m keeping the blog for him to start writing his stories down. (Be sure to comment on his blog. We need to encourage him so he will continue.) This is NO SMALL THING for him. You’re going to love it!

          “The Salt of the Earth” by Elder James K. Phillips

Sister Mary Botham Salt changed my life when I was on my mission. I was a Zone Leader serving in Newcastle and working with one of my district leaders on splits that day. In the England Central Mission we tracked and tracked and tracked and this day was no different. I was trying to teach my district leader how to have success on the doors, given it was such a key to success in our mission. It was my door and as it opened a little old lady was revealed. She was cheerful and full of life and engaged with me immediately. I felt something special from her and asked if we could come in and share a message about Jesus Christ and explain why we had come to England for two years. She said she was a good member of the Church of England and very active. I don’t remember what I said that got us in the door but I remember feeling the Spirit touching her enough to trust us to come in. For a little old English lady to let two young men into her house was very unusual.

I bore testimony of the Restoration and how much it had changed my life. I told her that I was a Catholic but knew that Heavenly Father had once again spoken to a modern day prophet. I testified that Jesus set up his original Church with Apostles and Prophets and he’d done it again in our time through Joseph Smith. This prophet was given a book called the Book of Mormon and I asked her to read it to discover for herself if it was truly a book from God. She said she would and I knew she meant it. We said our good byes and I felt strongly that she would join the Church. We set an appointment to have our district leaders continue to teach her.

I walk away from that house with a spiritual witness and a closeness to this wonderful sister that I can’t explain. I told my district leader that I wanted him to report directly to me on her progress every week. They taught her most of the discussion but then contacted me to tell me they had decided she wouldn't be worth teaching anymore because she wasn't progressing. When I received that message on call-ins I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I told the district leader that we’d take her and continue teaching. I bore my testimony to this elder that Heavenly Father was going to teach him a great lesson about whose work this really was and that until he learned it he wouldn't be successful.

We taught this grand lady. It became one of my most cherished experiences on my mission. The Elder that wrote Sister Salt off was at her baptism as I laid this precious sister gently down in the waters of baptism. She was in her late 70’s when she was baptized. It was a baptism I would never forget. I loved this sister.

I was transferred out of Newcastle and into the Mission Home in Birmingham soon after her baptism where I became immersed in the work there. One day I received a phone call from her nonmember daughter. Her daughter told me that the last year had been the happiest year of her mother’s long life. She informed me that her mother had died the day before. The reason for her call was to honor her mother's last request that I speak at her funeral that was to be held in Newcastle. I was overwhelmed with sorrow that my friend had passed on.  I also knew what I was being asked to do. I began fasting and praying for the direction the Lord wanted me to take, given who would be attending that funeral. Sister Salt was not only the salt of the earth but also a beloved leader and friend to hundreds of people from her former Church of England congregation.

I received permission to go and deliver that funeral address from President Reed L. Reeve, my mission president. When we drove up to the Newcastle Chapel parking lot we found it filled to overflowing. I walked into that Chapel and saw a congregation of non-members sitting alongside the ward members who had also fallen in love with Sister Salt.

I gave an address that God gave me that day. He gave it to me because of His great love for Sister Salt. The spirit of the Lord was so strong and his message powerful to everyone in that room, witnessing that what Sister Salt had believed was true.

The missionaries baptized for months after her passing from those touched by the spirit at her funeral. Best of all was how the very missionary that had written her off became one of the most successful missionaries in our mission; all because of the example of one little old lady; Sister Mary Botham Salt.  

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Moving Forward With Rescue/ Grandma and Grandpa Harbor’s Conversion

It feels like we've been here for months and yet the weeks continue to fly by. It feels like I just wrote in this blog two days ago yet here we are again. It’s crazy!

We continue to press forward. For the past couple weeks we've been working on putting together a program to help “rescue” the less active YSA in our stake. It’s daunting and very complicated. Having Britannia Ward makes it even more so. There are many YSA that have moved their records from their home wards in the Stake to Britannia but are inactive or unaccounted for. We have 8 wards in our stake, all with large numbers of less-active YSA. And usually if the ward’s YSA are active they attend Britannia so there’s no one to help the Bishop and ward fellowship those left in the home wards.

Also recently I have come to realize that now with the world wide culture of kids getting married later and later it gives the adversary a much greater opportunity to slowly pull them away from activity because there’s nothing anchoring them to the church. Even when they have testimonies it’s hard to live the gospel only for them and they feel there isn't a place for a single person in this church. More about this later.

Another issue is distance. Because Britannia is for the whole stake we have many members having to travel 1 ½ hours on the tube just to get to church. Can you imagine the difficulty in trying to Visit and Home Teach our YSA or fellowship them when it takes that long just to get there?!

We had another eye opening experience last night. There is a 29 year old woman in our ward who Jim and I both adore. She’s a fire-cracker; full of personality. Her voice is straight out of the Phillips family; it’s a rug rat husky voice that I adore. We have been concerned with her because of her spotty attendance, which didn't add up to who we felt she was. Last week Jim had a chance to do his magic with her, loving on her and seeking to understand what’s up in her life. She started to really cry. We asked her to meet with us last night.

It was a fabulous night on so many levels. We now have a friend for life. We were able to deal with her feelings of unworthiness that was holding her back and she was able to add a much needed insight into challenges for the older set of YSA in our ward.

She has really struggled for the last year. She felt unworthy even though she had gone through the repentance process. She had lost confidence that she could fully live the gospel. She was despairing and felt stuck, having lost hope of more. Of course that’s a perfect prescription for the adversary to go to work. It had gotten to the point that she was even questioning her testimony. Then, after talking to Jim this week, she had a precious experience that she shared with us last night.

There’s a vendor who sells fruits and veggies outside the entrance to the tube that she takes every day. He’s friendly and chatty and always greets her and takes time to talk with her. They have become friends. He had seen her Friday night all dressed to kill. It was obvious that she was going out on the town. The next morning he saw her again and told her she looked pretty darn good for being out on the town the night before and then asked if she’d gotten wasted. She told him she didn't drink and he asked her why. She explained about her membership in the church and a religious discussion ensued with her telling him about our second witness to Jesus Christ found in the Book of Mormon. He immediately said he wanted to read it. In fact he told her not to show up again without the book in hand.

She ended up going to Hyde Park and getting him a copy where she placed her testimony inside. Her words to us, “It made me remember my testimony and how deeply I still believe. It was an amazing coincidence.” I looked at her with tears in my eyes and said, “That was no coincidence. You've got to know and recognize the Lord orchestrated that for YOU and that He is so aware of your pain and struggles.” She begin to cry with me. The Spirit filled the room and there was no doubt to any of us that this was all planned perfectly to help her “remember”!

She is the perfect example of what our older YSA are dealing with here. We have a huge sub-set of YSA that are 27-31 years old. They've served for years in Britannia but are feeling burned out, feeling too old to be there and that there’s nothing left for them in Britannia Ward. They are slowly slipping into inactivity. She confirmed what we are seeing. Most the major callings in our ward are the younger YSA. I’m not sure if it’s because they are more willing or if the leadership wants to give them the experience of these callings. We have this group of older YSA who should be leading this ward forward with added maturity and experience, but instead they are casually sitting on the fringes or not coming at all. IT’S SO FRUSTRATING!!

We've got this friend, along with another older guy in our ward, putting together a list of these older YSA, many that we have not even met. We can’t lose these kids. They are converted, but discouraged and feeling hopeless and unneeded. But we NEED them. We want to gather them together at our flat and get their feedback on what we can do to meet their needs and what we can do to reengage them in this work. I FEEL the Lord’s love for them and it’s breaking my heart. These aren't kids that don’t have testimonies. They are converted!! We just can’t lose them. There’s got to be a way. Pray for us to be inspired on how to bring them back.

Back to my initial reference to putting together a program aimed at rescue. We have come to realize that if the reaching out is not coming from the home wards it will fail. Yet our home ward Bishops here are overloaded with other concerns. There isn't much space in their focus for young adults who don’t want to come to church. We've tried to figure out what resources we have that could help, without burdening those already burdened. It’s a must to have a YSA rep that is still attending their home ward but we knew we needed more than that. Jim was the one who realized we have an underutilized talent pool in Senior Missionaries and sets of missionaries assigned to each ward in our Stake. What a powerful resource they could be to help find, support and fellowship the kids the YSA reps are trying to bring back.

All this hinged on President Jordan agreeing to let us use his missionaries.

Monday we got a surprise call from the President Jordan asking if we wanted to go with them to Costco. OF COURSE! I always need to go to Costco! Our first thought was how this would give us a chance to broach the topic of Rescue that included their missionaries. We really didn't know how he would respond.

We had a great conversation with them going up. They had just returned from Frankfurt where a Mission Presidents Conference had been held. He shared some amazing, powerful learning with us. Jim was even able to help him with a couple ideas of application to our mission.

On the way home we carefully brought up what we had been working on and how we had felt inspired to use every resource available, which had led us to the conclusion that the greatest resource was with the missionaries. We explained how we thought we could utilize their help. Without a hesitation President Jordan said, “DONE! You can have my Elders on Wednesday nights and can use my Seniors whenever they are willing.”

We were blown away. It was just that simple.

We got home from Costco and just fell to our knees in gratitude for a visionary mission president and the Lord’s hand in leading this forward. You have no idea what a gift this truly was!

Our last person to get buy-in from is President Phillips. We will need his support to get the Bishops to move forward and get the Reps called. We meet with him Thursday!

Sorry! I hope this wasn't boring. This is our reality we are living right now. It’s constantly pressing on our minds. We know this is why we are here!

Grandma and Grandpa Harbor’s Conversion

I've gotten in the habit of listening to General Conference talks when I am getting ready in the morning. This morning it was a talk from the Sunday afternoon session talking about recording the conversion stories of our ancestors for our children and grandchildren. I realized that although I've told our children about my Grandma Nellie’s parents converting to Mormonism, I have never written it down. When I heard the talk today I felt inspired to record it for our grandchildren.

My great-grandfather William Harber (born 1871 in Queensland Australia) was a young man when he first laid eyes on the beautiful petite Miss Mary Louise Higgs (born 1872 in Birmingham England, but having moved to Australia) at a town dance. In that very first instant he fell head over heels in love with Mary and turning to his friend told him there stood the girl that he would marry.

They courted for several months and were married, eventually raising 8 children, their 6th being our Grandma Nellie.

They were 33 and 32 years old and had 4 children, when my Great-grandmother was called to go and assist her sister in another town who was having a very difficult pregnancy. Grandpa Harber warned her before she left about “those Mormon missionaries” that were out and about. He very explicitly told her to be on guard and stay away from them. Their preacher had informed them that they were up to no good.

She left him at home where he continued to work. She was gone several weeks. While she was at her sister’s house she did indeed run into “those Mormon missionaries”. They seemed so sincere and nice that she decided to disregard her husband’s warning and listen to their message. It wasn't long before she knew what they taught was true. With a burning testimony in her bosom, she was baptized in 1904.

On her trip home she agonized how she was going to tell her husband what she had done. Finally she arrived home and broke down in tears telling him that she had disobeyed him and had been baptized into the Mormon Church. To her shock he began to laugh with joy.

Unbeknownst to her, William had also met “those Mormon missionaries” and had listened, was convinced of the truth and had been baptized while she was gone. In total surprise and joy they rejoiced together that, independent of one another, they had found the truth.

My Grandma Nellie was born in 1907 and shortly after the Harber family took their infant and 5 older children on a ship from Australia to America, where they settled first in Richfield Utah and then on to San Bernardino, California where my Grandpa Harber designed and built the Stake Center that is still in use today!

I never met my Great-grandfather. He died in 1947. I have a vague memory of my Great-grandmother. I remember thinking how tiny she was and I was only 5 when she passed away. What I do remember is how my Grandma Nellie ADORED her parents. She would always tell us that there was no finer people ever born than her parents! Seven of their eight children remained faithful in the gospel until the day they died.

Their daughter and my grandma Nellie Louis Harber Splaine was a priceless influence in my life, cherished by her grandchildren and great grandchildren alike. I can’t wait for the day I will see her again!

Hurray!!! Another blog complete. Oh how we love each one of you and continue to pray for each of you by name. We pray you can feel our love for you and our deepest desire that you will hold tight to the rod of iron, remain true and find the joy in your life. We are so grateful for our family!!! Love you all!