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!