Janice emailed me yesterday (Wednesday June 11th) and made a guess that we must be swamped if there was still no blog for last week. Oh how right she was! It’s been a crazy couple weeks. Tonight is our big dinner but I have a couple hours that I hope I can write up this blog to get it up to date.
I think I’ll just give an overview of what’s been going on and then you’ll all understand the reason for this late blog.
I finished the last blog on Sunday morning June 1st. That day was Fast Sunday and after writing our experience in Centerville I felt impressed to share it with our kids (I’ve never given my testimony in Sacrament Meeting before. I have never wanted to take away the time from the kids, but I felt strongly to do it that day.) I had several kids come to me after to tell me that they desperately needed to hear and be reassured the Lord knows us and hears our prayers.
After the meeting I taught the last marriage class in the 4 week series. All the participants are getting married this month. It was sweet and I think very helpful. After the class I went to part of Relief Society and then had to leave to go help prepare our Munch and Mingle. It happens every Fast Sunday. I don’t know what I was thinking when I suggested we do it when we first got here. It’s more work and more cooking, although the kids really contribute bringing stuff. It’s just another chance to gather, fellowship and of course EAT!! It turned out very fun. Lots of fun, enlightening conversations. It’s amazing what our YSA will share over food.
Monday Elder Phillips and I took a P-Day and did the tourist thing. We went and saw Westminster Abby. It’s considered the finest cathedral in the UK. IT WAS AMAZING!! It’s beyond my comprehension how that massive high structure could be built with the tools they possessed when they built it. It was awe-inspiring! Dozens and dozens of royalty and not so royal are buried there, along with famous poets, musicians etc. It really was a must-see.
One of the best parts of the day happened on the bus ride to Westminster. We started to talk to a handsome young man who was with an older couple that was obviously his parents. We found out he was Syrian and his parents were there visiting him. They had to come to England to see their son because it was too dangerous for the son to go back to Syria. As we talked the conversation turned to religion (of course). They informed us that though they were Muslim they were from a small sect that was at odds with the teachings of the militant Muslims from their country. We shared about why we were here as missionaries and then about our beliefs. They had heard of Mormons but it had all been very negative. As we talked there was such a sweet spirit of sharing and finding common ground. We invited the son to come see us at the Visitors Center, which he told us he would. We left them with a very different impression of what Mormonism teaches and it was likewise eye opening for us to not lump together all Muslims. They were a wonderful family.
On Tuesday we found out our favorite Elders; Elder Anderson (who has been here since we got here and who we adore) and Elder Hou were BOTH being transferred. (Elder Hou is the first mainland Chinese born and converted Elder to come to England.) We were devastated! We took them to lunch to say our goodbyes. When they left they handed us letters expressing their love and gratitude for us. I want to share a letter to your father from Elder Hou in his own words.
This is Elder Fubo Hou from middle of China, which is the chicken stomach. Haha. Is really nice serving around you. You know I love you sooo much! I love your testimony and your story about your life. Every time, when you share your experience about our church, about Savior and about your faith in God I will thinking: WOW. This is the man I should to be! Through you and your example I was learned a lot of things from you. You help me to be a better missionary. You help me to understand that what kind of man I should to be, what kind of family husband I should to be. I have long way to go, but I promise you that I will do my very best, keeping faith in God, help others to come unto Christ.
I love you so much. I pray for you have a good time in your mission. Hope to see you again! Elder Hou
How adorable is that!!!
That night we had Samni, Dorothy and Samni’s little 17 year old 6’5” brother come over to say goodbye to their Elder Anderson. I had made a new dessert (I got the recipe from Sister Jordan. It’s DELISH!!). When Dorothy walked in she had 3 plates of food. It was the dishes that Dad had raved about when he’d gone to their house for dinner a few weeks ago. It was a feast!!! So much for me serving HER!!!
I love this family!! They are the Ugandan family that lost their dad years ago. This Mom has single-handedly held on to these very handsome young men. It’s obvious they adore her, as do I! I’m so sad Elder Anderson has left. He was their missionary! But your father has taught the last several times, thank heavens, and hopefully the work will continue!
Thursday night was our Institute Recognition Night for our stake. Once again I did dinner but for that night they wanted a dessert, as well. They told us the previous year they had around 30 people show up. Just to be safe I cooked enough pulled-pork sandwiches and coleslaw for 60. The dessert I did for 50. Well, to everyone’s surprise, we had over 70 show up. It was crazy. Our pork held out, but the dessert was never going to feed everyone there. Then in walked Eugenia from Moldovia with a large apple pound cake. We cut that sucker up and served it with my Eaton’s Mess (my new found dessert, that’s what it’s called) and everyone got a dessert. Such a sweet blessing. (BTW that has NEVER happened before that someone brought a dessert on Thursday night!)
Friday was a Multi-stake Dance. Of course Britannia was in charge. (We are in charge of everything!) We had two new activity committee members assigned to do food. Both are new converts who have never done anything like this. Neither of them had a car or money to purchase the food ahead of time. It meant the fourth trip to the grocery store for us in a week. But this time Elder Phillips DROVE THE MISSION CAR!!! It was our first time out, all by ourselves. The girl, Annick, and her friend came with us. I forgot what a luxury it is to have a car!!!! No hauling a 100 lbs of food in a trolly. Loaded in the car and unloaded it at church. SO SIMPLE!!!
I learned a great lesson last Friday. After we purchased all the food we unloaded it at church. I went into the kitchen with the girls and made sure they had trays and peelers and knives. When they were all set to prepare the food I LEFT!!! We came back that night and everything was neatly placed on trays and organized on the table. They had done a wonderful job. The food for the evening was the perfect amount. Clean up was easy (although we didn’t get home until 1:00 am) and when it was all over Annick said, “I’m very proud of myself!” I’ve never done this before and it all worked perfectly!” I’m proud of her, too! Lesson; trust these kids to do their job!
I think I’ve mentioned our concern for the over 26 year old YSAs. We had noticed that many had disengaged from Britannia; burnout and feeling too old for the ward. Jim and I have really worked hard to go after them and get them reconnected. We adore these kids, with all their maturity and experience. They have so much to offer the ward.
When the dance started it was so slow and only really young kids were there. Around 9:30 our Catherine (one of the older girls we have been working closely with and who we absolutely ADORE. We want to bring her home with us) came with her roommate, Sarah. They came for us but they took one look at the crowd and were ready to leave. Of course we wouldn’t let them leave and instead got them into fun conversation. Gradually more and more of the older kids started to arrive, until the whole lobby was filled with the senior YSAs. IT WAS A BLAST!!! They stayed until the janitor finally kicked us out! And in our true humility we took full credit for getting them there!!!! I’m telling you, they simply can’t resist the love we have for them. They are so adored and valued by us. They know we see them and recognize who they are! It was a real victory!
Got to bed around 2:00 am but needed to be up to get picked up for a temple trip at 8:20 am. This trip we had the luxury of riding up to the temple in a taxi. Our 2nd counselor in our Bishopric is Ionuts. He’s a darling young man from Romania who is a professional taxi driver. He offered to drive us there and back. WHAT A DIFFERENCE from last time. We were able to go early enough to do a session and then do baptisms with the rest of the kids when they got there. It was a beautiful day at the temple
Sunday I WAS EXHAUSTED. Jim kept asking me what was wrong. I just didn’t have it. My emotions were depleted and I really just needed to sleep. I was DONE!
Monday was my 63rd birthday. I awoke, prepared to be homesick. NOT A CHANCE! From the moment I woke up I started to get messages on Facebook, Instant Message (first one of the day from Jami) and precious love letters on email. I felt literally embraced by family and friends all day long. It was so incredibly sweet!
We also had a four hour meeting with Bishop Gill. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that Bishop is moving back to the states at the end of this month. TRAUMA!!! He is such a precious, wise Bishop. He will be sorely missed by the kids AND us!!! He called us around 11:30 on Monday morning from the states to go over EVERY NAME on our Britannia rolls. It took four hours to review. He KNEW every name on that roll. What a gift and preparation for us to have him share insights and background of some the kids we don’t know. Jim and I both feel strongly that we are here at this time to help bridge this transition for the new Bishop. This is no small calling to walk into this ward. How intimidating this would be. So many kids and so many needs. It was a very valuable and sweet experience with our friend, Bishop Gill.
That night was FHE and once again I felt like Queen for the Day!!! Presents and flowers and hugs and loves! Surprise; my very own recipe carrot cake gotten by Lindsey from a call made to Megan. I also got a happy birthday song from 50 of my closest friends as I walked in the Cultural Hall. It was magic! I felt the lOVE!!!
There was only one thing not fun on Monday. One of our dearest Chinese members is Ling Ling! She is a tiny little thing that has stolen our hearts. She’s been a member not even a year. This past month she graduated with her Master’s in translation and was hoping to find a job. No luck! Now her visa is expiring and she is forced to go back to China in August. It’s killing me! This is the one thing that’s the most difficult thing about this calling here in Britannia. When you love these kids like we do it’s devastating when they leave. It’s the price you pay to love them so deeply.
With the Chinese it’s even more difficult. When they go back to China they are given a letter from church headquarters explaining how they need to live the gospel in a communist country. Everything is above board. They need to register with the government. They can only meet with other Chinese (no ex-pats). They can’t have more than 50 Chinese gather at a time. They absolutely CANNOT proselyte in public. In the letter is given the name of the area president who will guide them to the nearest congregation, something that had me worried for the kids going back. With all this the main concern is the difficulty in simply living the gospel in China. It’s so difficult in their culture to live the standards of the church. It’s so misunderstood and unimaginable to their families (many are communists). It just doesn’t conform to their culture. We lose some who go home to China. My heart would break to lose our Ling Ling!!!
On Monday night Ling was teary about going home. After talking to her it finally came out that she was terrified that she wouldn’t be able to live the gospel with the pressures that were bound to come from her family. Then she broke my heart by saying that if it came down to choosing family or the church she would have to choose family. I wanted to cry. She could tell I was so sad.
Late that night I got an instant message from Ling. This is what she said:
I think I was wrong about choosing between the church and my family. Firstly, I don't think I need to choose because my parents always trust my decisions. Secondly, if I have to choose, I will go with the church because I know it is true and what I am doing is right. I don't need anyone to see my change or something. I know it deep down inside that I have changed so much because of the church. And that's all I need to keep me strong.
I wanted to do back flips! That’s my girl!!! She’s amazing!
Tuesday night we had our first “Seek for Supper”. It’s the replacement for Tuesday night Institute Class. Kids can bring less-active friends or non-members here for dinner. We have a limit of 4 people. Tuesday we had Megumi, an amazing Japanese YSA that’s our best fellowshipper in the ward and works at MeKenzie (the largest consulting firm in the world) came with a beautiful Chinese convert of 4 years that I’d never met before. Cindy is an actuary at an insurance company here in London. Tola, a Nigerian who got her masters from Oxford and has a prestigious job at Accenture brought a young new Chinese convert Rainy who we’ve been working hard to get fully active. All are lovely articulate young women.
The dinner was border-line disastrous! In our flat we have this wonderful narrow balcony off our main room. We got this great idea to buy a barbecue and use it for these Tuesday night dinners. Problem was we haven’t used coals in 50 years! Jim was gone getting some last minute stuff for dinner so I thought I’d start the fire and get it hot in time to cook the hamburgers. I noticed it was pretty windy but figured I had a lid. I lit the bag of coals and flames started climbing higher and bigger than I ever thought they would. The wind started catching the ash, blowing it into our kitchen through the French doors that were open to the balcony. I was sure I was going to burn down the whole building. It was very scary and I was the idiot who didn’t know what the heck she was doing.
On top of that the coals never did work properly. We eventually got the burgers done, but by time that happened I was fried! It was one of those times when you realized you should have probably tried the barbecue out before we had dinner guests. (I still can’t believe I didn’t start a fire! Whew!!!!)
Last night was another dinner for the masses, except the masses never came. We had so much left over. Welcome to summer. Our numbers are cut in half, but then we have kids traveling through so we never know how many to count on. This is going to be interesting!
Today is Friday and we just got back from taking Tom and Lindsey to lunch. Tom is the young man that has written you kids and thanked you for sharing us with them. He and Lindsey just got engaged but he has to leave for a job in Wales for the whole summer because he can’t find a job here in London. It’s devastating because he’s our YSA Stake Rep and Jim’s bestest! We just got back from saying goodbye.
Tonight I get my real birthday present. We are going to Mathilda, the Musical. I’m so excited. It’s gotten rave reviews. Cute Jim went and stood in line this morning to get great seats. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Well, I think I’ve bored you enough! I’m not sure if you will want to even read all this. It’s very “newsy” this week. I keep thinking if this is noteworthy enough to record. I’m going to have to evaluate what needs to be recorded and what’s only important to us.
I love you all. Bri asked if we still get homesick. ARE YOU KIDDING?!!! There’s not a day that goes by that my heart doesn’t ache at some point of time. We miss you all like crazy! But we KNOW we are here in this season of time for a purpose. It’s being made manifest to us. It makes it so much easier to do. And I know the Lord knows our hearts and accepts our sacrifice, because it truly IS a sacrifice being away from all of you!
You are adored, loved and prayed for a hundred times a day. LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!!