Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 22, 2014; Six Months Since We Entered the MTC!!!

It's Tuesday and I am only now able to get to the blog. We've had a great week, busy, full and rewarding. I love it when that happens! Since I didn't write a mission blog (I did the Music blog instead last week) I have a couple neat experiences to share. But first I need to let you know that we still have NO BISHOP and NO FIRST COUNSELOR!! Our 2nd Counselor, a 28 year old YSA is running the ward (along with Jim and our High Counselor). It's crazy and yet somehow the work continues and the ward survives!

As I've shared before on Tuesday nights we have Seek for Supper. It's been a wonderful success. It's allowed us to have very personal contact with kids that are struggling or less-active, along with those active YSA who bring them. Through our experiences around our dinner table we've been able to get kids to church that haven't come in over 2 years! It's been a total blessing. 

I want to share an experience that just happened that shows how the small efforts of many can make a mighty difference. 

The Lord Loves Diana

Last week one of our Relief Society counselors, Sarah, approached me with a request to bring a girl to dinner. She was very new to our ward. We hardly knew her. The Sister missionaries had come to Sarah who is over Compassionate Service and let Sarah know that this girl was really struggling with the move and with her testimony. Her name was Diana and she was from Taiwan. She had been baptized up north only a month before and had moved into our ward a couple weeks later.

I told her to bring her last Tuesday night. We also had two other girls, both new to the ward, one less-active girl from America (who we found out was less active because she's been traveling every weekend; a darling girl who we've come to adore) and another new girl from Taiwan.

Dinner was delightful and very comfortable. We all became instant friends. After we were done eating we sat in the lounge (that's what they call a family room here) and talked. I guess Diana felt safe enough to open up and share her very real concerns. She told us that she had developed a deep relationship with the missionaries and friends at Oxford who taught her the gospel. Because of that friendship she took their advice and took a leap of faith and was baptized even though she had not had an answer to prayers. Since then she had moved down here, knowing no one. She told us she had continued to pray and read the Book of Mormon but had felt NOTHING. She questioned if she really did believe there was even a God. (This is the real challenge teaching the Chinese. Before they can accept the gospel they have to first be converted to God.) She told us that maybe she was just like Laman and Lemuel, not good enough or faithful enough to receive answers to prayers. She was deeply discouraged and ready to quite trying. 

We all rallied and bore our witness to her. But she was convinced that it wouldn't happen for her. Finally Jim asked when her next lesson with the missionaries was. (The mission has started something new this past month with the new converts that I think is SO inspired. After baptism they continue to teach them for another 90 days to help them through the transition into the church. it's made a huge difference in retention!) Diana answered that she had a lesson the next morning at 11:00 a.m. Jim asked her permission to attend and she agreed.

The next morning was Wednesday. Jim got up and went up to the church and found our precious Ling Ling attending the discussion with Diana and the missionaries. The sisters didn't know Jim was coming and had asked Ling to be in attendance. The missionaries always like to have a member attend with new member lesssons. As the lesson began Jim realized the Sisters had no idea that Diana was in such crisis. He begin to ask questions to Diana and she opened up, confessing her serious doubts and surprising all of them that were there. What happened next was orchestrated from heaven. A marvelous discussion ensued that was led by the spirit. Our sweet timid Ling Ling bore a powerful testimony in Chinese. Jim said that even though he didn't understand a word, the spirit filled the room and tears streamed down everyone's faces. Our Sister Lee (a chinese sister missionary who we adore) was also able to teach with power. Love filled the room. Diana could not deny what she was feeling. It was a beautiful experience that confirmed to Diana that she was known and loved by a Father in Heaven. Jim came home walking on air.

Thursday night while I was working in the kitchen preparing our big dinner, in walked another of our fairly recent converts, Emily Du. She is an amazing girl with a firm vibrant testimony. She was so excited to tell me that she had just found out the day before that she lived almost next door to Diana and they had started hanging out together and having so much fun. I told Emily of Diana's struggles that week and precious Emily's instant reply, "Don't worry. I've got her! I won't let her go." 

Sunday I didn't go to church for the first time since being in England. I got a raging bladder infection Saturday night and was feeling so sick. After church Jim came home and excitedly told me he had seen Diana and asked how she was doing. With a big grin on her face she replied, "I'm doing so much better! I'm FEELING THINGS!" 

Through the small acts of many caring people Diana is going to be just fine. I LOVE THIS WORK!!!

Precious Answer to Prayer

Another story; I've talked about our love affair with our raspy-voiced, sassy burmie (raised in Burmingham) who has stolen our hearts. She truly feels like a daughter. We are so proud of her and her progress. She had become casual and unmotivated in the gospel. WE saw so much potential and challenged her on being very diligent in her scriptures and prayers and commitment in attending everything. She accepted and has been amazing. Then, a couple weeks ago she had something happen that was devastating for her. It rocked her world. But she has persisted, even in her pain.

A couple days ago we received this email from her that made me cry.

Hey you two,
I just wanted to tell you about my experience tonight.
I guess the last few weeks my prayers and scripture study haven't been that great and I have been a bit vacant and lost as you know.
Well, tonight I started praying as I've been feeling really apprehensive about giving the lesson next week. I got a massive pile of ensigns and not one of them was the conference Ensign for May.  So I was basically praying to know if God was happy for me to teach the lesson and if He thought I was ready or whether I needed more time to get myself properly back on track again first etc etc etc.

Literally the minute I finished praying,I went downstairs to close the curtains and windows, and there in the book stand at the front was an Ensign. It was the May 2014; the one with Elder Anderson's talk in it!!
I know that was an immediate answer to my prayer. I'm so grateful to have the gospel in my life and to have a loving Heavenly Father who loves me and knows me and answers me. A loving Heavenly Father who doesn't need me to be at my best to serve Him or to take part in things, He just needs me to be willing and humble. I'm so grateful to you two for not giving up on me, for knowing who I really am and being there for me and praying for me.

I love you both sooooo much.
I just wanted to share that with you both.

So sweet! God loves His children!

Our First Stake YSA Training

Saturday was a culmination of 3 months of work. It's been a frustrating process to get YSA Reps called from the wards in our stake but we finally did it. One call was especially sweet. London North Ward has a large contingency of less-active YSA with only a couple actively coming. It's been hard to find even one to be a rep from that ward. We just happened to hear that a girl, Billie, who was recently baptized and on our Britannia rolls had decided to move back to her home ward; London North. I called her and found out she was in the process of making that decision, based mainly on the fact that her younger non-member brother who was 12 was VERY interested in attending Young Mens and church with her. Excitedly we asked if she would serve as a rep from that ward. She answered, "Absolutely! I would love to!" Later we found out that it was our request that had made her decision to go back to that ward. She is an amazing young woman that we are thrilled to have working with us. She is full of the enthusiasm of a new convert. She's perfect!

We got them here at 10:00 for Swedish pancakes and fed them first. We had so much fun getting to know them. We couldn't ask for a better group of amazing kids to work with. With our YSA Stake Rep, Jade (a beautiful girl from Scotland) and our sister missionaries who have worked so hard for me going after our less-active in Britannia, we first inspired, then taught, then trained them on how to go after "The One". It was a very fruitful, exciting morning. We feel an energy towards this work that has not been present since we've come. I feel they left hopeful and committed to this work. It couldn't have been a better morning! We are excited to see this work expanded throughout the stake!

Indexing by 50,000

Yesterday July 21st was set aside as a European Day of Indexing. There was a huge push to get as many YSA as possible to do as much indexing as possible in a 24 hour period.

Last night our FHE was devoted to getting kids there to contribute to those numbers. We ended up with about 40 kids there with their laptops, along with several who knew how to do it helping those who didn't. It was a wonderful night with hundreds of names indexed and submitted.

As we were wrapping up the evening down in the basement where we have our Family History Center, around 9:30 in walked a couple with a baby in a stroller. Immediately I recognized Sean Floyd, Marty and Fred Floyd's son and nephew to Tom Smith. It was so great to see them and share our YSA with them. Sean and his wife Sam have lived in China for 5 years and Sean speaks perfect Chinese. It was a blast to listen to him converse with our Chinese kids and the look of amazement on their faces. 

I'm excited to have Dad share and record his story of the Smith and Floyd family.

Home Teaching is a Life Saver

I felt I must bear testimony and share the following stories with you given the events of the last few weeks regarding the power of Home Teaching. What triggered this topic was the visit last night of one of my oldest friend's son visiting us in London with his beautiful wife Sam and son, Sawyer (great name). Mom will write the details of our visit but I felt compelled to record two sacred events for my family that happened over three decades ago making Monday's visit possible.

The Floyds and the Smiths

Thirty-five years ago we lived in Mission Viejo, California and I was the Ward Mission Leader at the time. I always asked to be assigned home teaching responsibility for part member families. I didn't care if they were active or not I knew that's where the Lord wanted my focus.

I was assigned Marty and Fred Floyd, the parents of the young man that walked into our chapel Monday. Fred was struggling with activity and Marty wasn't a member. I loved these people and they became dear friends. I remember one visit that found us in the kitchen talking about everything that builds relationships. I sincerely liked them and invited them to come to my Investigators Class that I taught. They accepted that invitation and the process of Marty's conversion began in haste and Fred's reactivation. That visit led to a relationship not only with Marty but all her family that remain dear friends to this day. (That's a story for another blog).

The other thing that happened that night on the way out the door was something I'll never forget. Marty's 18 year old brother Tom was sitting on the sofa watching TV. I engaged him in a brief conversation that broke the ice in our relationship. That night I had the strongest impression that I would teach him and that he'd continually throw me out but I was instructed to ignore him because he was also going to join the church. I went home and told Starla all about it.

That impression turned out to be exactly what happened. I love how the Lord whispered how important not only Marty and Fred were to him but also her little brother. Teaching Tom eventually led to teaching Sharon, Marty and Tom's younger sister who is now married in the temple with seven children. Then came the rest of the Smith boys. Later the Mom and Dad came in the Church, as well. I love how you go as "far as you can see and then you'll see a little further". It's amazing how faith works and the Lords program is so inspired.  I had no idea how important the entire Smith family was to the Lord. It all began by making a home teaching visit and the rest is family history; both mine and theirs.

 By the way I can't even tell you how many missionaries the Smith family has produced but let me say lots. Marty and Fred sent two of their boys and between Sharon and Tom I think we have eight and they're not done yet. I guess because Tom threw me out the Lord has punished him by calling him to serve in the exact mission as its President that he served in on his first mission. I love the Smith family. A scripture comes to mind that makes me love them more.

D&C 4:4 For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul.

I owe these dear friends for bringing salvation to my soul because I was doing such a simple calling; HOME TEACHING!

Walt and Andrea Christenson:

I seemed to get thrown out a lot and this home teaching assignment was another opportunity to practice my craft.

Walt was a genius and one of the first computer PHD's in the country at the time. You know that I was way in over my head regarding the brains to go toe to toe with Walt on almost any subject except the gospel. Andrea warned me that I should never talk about the Church with Walt because if I did he would throw me out. Walt was not a member and Andrea was totally active.

I visited them for almost a year when  the night came to speak to Walt about the only subject that I knew more than him. I had fasted and prayed to know how to reach Walt and bless them. He was a good man, brilliant off the charts. He supported Andrea regarding the Church and even went with her when he could. He was all over the country because he was in such demand as one of the leading experts in the world in his field.

I went to visit them one Sunday and knew the Lord wanted me to challenge Walt to read the Book of Mormon. I did our normal catch up and then knew I had to tell him the impressions I'd received as his home teacher. I testified that if he'd prayerfully read the Book of Mormon the Lord would confirm that it was true. That's as far as I got when Walt stood up and invited me to leave. As promised he threw me out of his house. But in James K. Phillips style I had to have the last word and so as I reached the door I turned and bore witness the Lord would answer his prayers if he'd have the courage to read and ask.

Walt left on his business trip to the East Coast and didn't return until Friday night. I was worried all week that I'd done irreparable damage to our relationship that I'd spent a year building. I felt bad for Andrea but I had to obey the impression I received for them. I got a phone call Friday night from Walt that shocked me. He said that he wanted me to baptize him tomorrow so please make all the arrangements. I was so amazed that I said, "Walt you can't joke about sacred things like this." He answered, " I'll see you tomorrow and this is no joke."

Walt was a bishop the last I knew but more importantly God always knew what he would become. Another eternal family linked together because of God's program called "HOME TEACHING".

I bear my witness that this simple calling is life changing for all that catch the vision of what's possible when directed by the Lord. I hope and pray that if I've ever taught you anything it will be go into the homes of God's children and protect and direct them as the Lord guides you.

Love Pap & Baba

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Music; My Heavenly Gift! (Part 1)

A couple weeks ago I had the experience of leading a discussion with our YSA Relief Society on dating and feeling “flow state”. It made me reflect on where I’ve experienced that kind of effortless energy the most in my life. Of course it’s been when I’m doing music, whether singing, teaching music and leading a choir or accompanying my kids singing. There’s nothing that puts me there like music. It’s made me realize I need to record some of the experiences I’ve had from my very beginning with music. .


I KNOW music came from heaven with me. I don’t ever remember not having music in my soul. One of my earliest recollections I have is being asked to sing on the temple grounds in Salt Lake City for a man dressed in white (he must have been a temple worker and I must have already been singing for my mom to ask me to sing for him). I’ll never forget him promising me that one day I would sing in the building behind him, the Tabernacle on Temple Square. (His prophecy came true. I never got to sing in the Tabernacle Choir, but did sing many times with my choirs from BYU, even in a conference session.)

My next earliest memory happened when living in Tulare. I had to be 5 or 6. We lived in a tiny branch that met in the Scouting building for church and primary. My mom was Primary President AND Primary Chorister. In order to get kids to Primary my mom would take our yellow station wagon and go pick up a load of kids for mid-week primary and then take them all back home. Because she taught us the new music in Primary we would always end up singing the songs on the way home with all the kids in the car.

This one Wednesday afternoon at the close of Primary we all climbed into the car, maybe 10 kids (no seatbelt laws in those days!) As was the custom we started singing one of the new songs my mom has just taught. As we sang my mom started to sing something different. It was the same words, but a different melody. I was stunned. It was GLORIOUS!!! I was so in awe that I turned and told everyone to be quiet and then in an excited voice asked her, “What is that you are singing?!!! My mother’s simple reply, “I’m singing the Alto part. I’m singing harmony.” Oh beautiful glorious HARMONY!! All the way home I begged my mom to show ME how to do that.

When I was around 7 and living in Tulare my parents purchased a small spinet piano (which I inherited when I married!). I was enthralled, so excited to learn how to play. Soon after my mom enrolled me, along with my two older siblings, in piano lessons. I remember being so frustrated. I thought with one or two lessons I was going to be able to play right away! I soon realized, to my great disappointment, that I was going to have to pay the price and practice in order to play.

Our poor mom would remind us daily to go practice. All of us complained, found excuses why we couldn't go practice and would sneak out after practicing only a few minutes. One day in exasperation my mom told us if we didn't get in there and practice she would have us quit. She said she couldn't afford to continue to pay for lessons we didn't prepare for. The threat had no effect on my brother and sister, but it worked on me. Even though I hated practicing I loved my music more. I got up and went and practiced!

It was those early years of piano lessons and learning how to read music that gave me many opportunities in elementary school to sing in a select 5th-6th grade city choir. I also was chosen by the orchestra leader to be taught how to play a viola and then participate in an elementary city orchestra and then Junior High Orchestra, all because I could read music. I will love my mom forever for providing me the chance to learn to play the piano in my youth.


I matured physically at a very young age. So did my singing voice. By time I was in Junior High it became obvious I was a singer. At 14 I stopped piano lessons and begin voice lessons. I feel like we were spiritually guided to a woman that would have great impact on my life. My voice teacher’s name was Lillian Warneke. Though she wasn't a member of the church, she was a deeply committed Christian who was equally passionate about God and music and anyone who loved it like she did. We hit it off right away and became dear friends. It was under her direction, standing at her piano I learned how to use my voice to glorify God and feel His spirit speak to me in song. She introduced me to whole new vistas of musical repertoire, from opera to pop to spirituals. It was there I fell in love with the human voice.

Monday Club Audition

I remember one experience vividly. I was a senior in high school when I was encouraged to audition for the Monday Club Music Scholarship. It would help finance attendance at BYU and also ready me to audition for a music scholarship from BYU. The Monday Club scholarship was serious and highly competitive. I worked hard learning an Italian Aria and a very difficult number in English. As the audition came closer I doubled up on my lessons with Mrs. Warneke. I practiced like I never had before. The last lesson I attended the week of the competition was magic. When it was over I knew I had it!!! I was ready!

It was dark outside when I walked out of that lesson to my car. As I reached for the door to open it to drive home I fell against the car, overcome with emotion, and started to cry. I cried out from the deepest part of my soul in humility and gratitude that the Lord would have honored me with this gift. I knew it wasn't something I learned or had somehow earned. It was a gift from God that had been a part of me from before I was born. Standing there in the dark I raised my voice in praise to God. And in that moment I pledged that my heart and my talents would always be used to glorify His name. It was a tender, never to be forgotten experience. 

I have tried to keep that pledge my whole life.

Mr. Letson

High School was filled with opportunities to sing. As a freshman our school district hired a young man, fresh out of university, to be our new music teacher. His name; Mr. Letson. He was full of fresh ideas, energy and enthusiasm. He brought the music program at SLO High back to life. I was blessed to have him all four years of high school. (When our class graduated he left with us to go teach at a college.) I would go on to sing in many choirs at BYU, but it was Mr. Letson who I patterned my style of conducting after. He was amazing and so inspiring!!

One of Mr. Letson’s innovations was starting a Mixed Ensemble (four people on each part; sixteen all together in the group). He called us “The Carousels”. We ended up performing 2-3 times a week for the next four years. We became well-known throughout SLO County. We were good. One of the innovations Mr. Letson brought that is done now all the time but back then was unheard of, was doing choreography with our singing. We were able to go on several tours all over California. We became experienced entertainers and I had continuous opportunities to solo.

The best part of Carousels was that over half the members of the group, along with our accompanist Cathy Jones, were all Mormons. My senior year in high school we baptized 17 people (one was Jim) and most came from Carousels and our Concert Choir.

In high school I was also able to do some musical theater. My favorite role was that of Bloody Mary in South Pacific. She was the comic character of the play. Bloody Mary’s part was a little naughty and so fun to play. Plus Bloody Mary had two of the best songs in the play, “Happy Talk” and Bali Hi”. So fun!

A Musical Experience I'd Like to Forget

Because my group of LDS friends all sang with me in Carousels we were asked to do a lot of singing in church and at church events. There is one experience I wish I could forget.

Our church region, which included Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo Stakes, decided to have a concert that included small groups of youth singers. The Region asked that each stake provide at least one quartet of young singers to participate at the event. I remember we got notified late so we didn’t have much time, but because we all could sight read and had Cathy as our amazing accompanist we were confident and threw it quickly together in a couple rehearsals.

I look back now and realize how badly we underestimated this event. It had to have been a big deal. Our leaders had to drive us down to Santa Barbara to perform in front of a very large crowd. We were surprised and a little intimidated, especially because we all knew we weren't really prepared.

Our turn came to sing. We stood up on stage and Cathy begin her introduction. I’m sure because of our nervousness we missed our entrance and then it just went downhill from there. It finally got so bad we started to giggle, then laugh, then guffaw. AND WE COULD NOT STOP!!! We finally had to leave the stage. And when we finally stopped laughing we truly felt awful and embarrassed. We were mortified! It was a long trip home. Our leaders never spoke one word to us the whole way back to San Luis!!! (But as bad as it was, to this day I still giggle when I think about it!)

In high school there were two things that had the greatest impact; meeting Jim and my music. I can’t tell you who my other teachers were, but I can give you detail about those that brought music into my life. My best friends were involved, right there with me, singing and preforming. It was my passion, my identity and my contribution to the world. It's what introduced me to the Spirit.  I don’t know who or what I would have become without the leavening effect of music in my life. It was at the core of my high school experience!

(To be continued)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 6th Tani's Birthday!!

Early Sunday morning and time for another blog. Today is the birthday of my little sister, Tani who was diagnosed with kidney Cancer a couple years ago and given a short time to live. Here she is turning 59 today and still going strong. What a miracle and a blessing to have her still here with us. We are SO GRATEFUL!

This has been a pretty low-key week, which after the last month we had, has been kind of nice. Still there are a couple things I want to remember and record.

Summer at Britannia

We are in a very strange time in Britannia. We were warned that summer was an interesting time. Little did we know! This past Sunday our Bishop was released with no replacement in sight. Next week our first counselor goes back to the States, which leaves just our 2nd counselor who is a YSA himself leading the ward. Our Elder’s Quorum President is gone the whole month of July and only one of his counselors will be here in July. All the kids trip and I’m not just talking for a week. They go from 3-4 weeks at a time so you are never sure who you are going to find at church doing what. Thursday night dinners are total guesswork on how much to make. (Luckily kids passing through London and the Elders and Sisters eat up whatever is extra). IT’S CRAZY!

The biggest heartbreak is losing kids that go home, some for the summer, some for good. I remember feeling this way when Jim was Bishop at BYU. You come to love the kids so much and then they move on with their lives. It breaks your heart. It is especially true here. So many have left for good. It is so hard on me! We’re working with YSA. I should know this happens, but it still kills me!

Dinner with Jason

Tuesday we had Jason, a convert of 2 years, that has been inactive, come to dinner. We have been going after him for the past couple months and finally got him to church the past week and invited him over for dinner. What a sweet boy! 

His story is a tragic one. He was given over to the state when he was an infant by a mother who couldn’t care for him (He has since forgiven her and they have a close relationship, although he never grew up with her). He lived in 20 different foster homes before he was 18. Because of depression and loneliness he become extremely overweight. One day, when he had reached the end of his rope and was ready to call it quits the missionaries street tracked him and he was baptized into the church. It helped for a while but he continued to deal with his weight and eventually stopped coming. 

One day he decided he’d had it with being a prisoner to his physical body and started restricting his diet and walking. In the past 7 months this young man has dropped 10 stones (140 lbs). He walks up to 27 miles a day (broken up into 2-3 segments). He looks and feels wonderful. He’s literally reclaimed his life.

One of the interesting things that happened that evening was when we were talking about the T.V. program "Meet the Mormons" that had been so awful the week before and how it had affected Ella and her parents. Jason turned to me and said, “It had the complete opposite effect on me. I knew it was all rubbish!! That’s one of the things that has turned me back to the church.” I was amazed. This horrible misrepresentation of the church, yet it was the thing that finally got him to come back. HE REMEMBERED why he joined the church!!!

Two Amazing Stories from Hyde Park Stake Women’s Conference

Yesterday was Women’s Conference. It was sad because the only way I heard about it was because Jim and I were asked to get 3-4 guys to man the nursery. The publicity on the event was not good and the numbers showed it. There were probably only 35 women in total there and many of those were our sister missionaries. What a loss because it was a wonderful day.

I grabbed a couple of our YSA girls and we went. (Jim came along because he was in the nursery. Of course he made it a party. The kids all had a blast with him!) When they announced the classes for the day I thought to myself how none applied to me or our girls, but I was wrong. 

The subjects were “Indexing” given by Jennie White, our high councilman’s wife who we love. She is our Family History Specialist and has such a deep love for the work. She did a marvelous job and I’ve committed to the Lord to do indexing one hour a week. The second class was “Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy” given by our Stake 2nd Councilor’s wife. It was full of darling visuals and creative ways to help keep your kids engaged on Sunday. It was so good that I sent the handouts for her class to all my daughters! The last class was “Working at the Temple” given by a Brazilian sister who attends our Portuguese ward in the Stake. Her English was hard to understand but her spirit wasn’t. It filled the whole cultural hall. What a sweet sweet experience with her.

I want to record two stories that were shared yesterday

In the opening part of the meeting they had an older sister stand and share her story. I recognized her from when we visited Stratford Ward. She had given a lovely talk in Sacrament Meeting. In front of all the women there this sweet sister confessed that she had gotten through school having never learned to read or write. When she got married and had children she would bluff her way through, making up the story that went with the pictures in their reading books. Her kids would ask why the story kept changing. She lived a lie, terrified that someone would find out that she couldn’t read. 

Eventually she divorced her first husband. It was then that she met the missionaries and was baptized. Not long after she met her current husband and married. He was a member of the church and would spend hours reading to her from the scriptures. It was her desire to be able to read the scriptures for herself that finally gave her the courage to sign up for a literacy class and learn how to read. She was 50 years old!!!

She said how difficult it was. She would come home in tears and so frustrated. Her husband would calm her and then encourage her to keep trying. After many weeks and much hard work the day came when she was able to pass her literacy test.

Since then she has been able to encourage and inspire others who couldn’t read to try. One of them was a man whose greatest desire was to be able to read the prayer to bless the sacrament. With her help he succeeded! He was SEVENTY YEARS OLD!!!

Her story and her humility deeply touched me. What an example she is to those who think they are too old to change. What sweet humility to stand up and confess her previous inability to read so others have the courage to face whatever it is that keeps them from progressing. It was very tender.

The second story came from the precious Portuguese sister. She told us about how her parents were one of the first 16 families to be baptized in Brazil. Her parents had 5 children, which was all they could afford. But after joining the church her mom kept feeling she needed to add more children to be missionaries for the kingdom. She bore two more children; this young woman and a younger brother.

She told us that growing up the greatest heartbreak of their family was that they couldn’t afford to go to the temple to be sealed. There were no temples close enough to be even possible to attend. When this young girl was only twelve she decided that she personally would start to save money so her family could go be sealed. She got a daily babysitting job and put away every cent toward her temple fund. When she was 14 she found a craft she could make. She made 1,000 of these crafts and was able to sell every one of them. 

By time she was 18 she was close to having enough money to take her family to the temple when Pres. Hinckley came to Brazil and personally announced the building of a temple in the very city her family lived in! She expressed the indescribable joy they all felt that they were finally going to be sealed together.

This woman grew up having a deep, fervent love of the temple. She ended up being a temple worker in San Paulo and getting married in the temple there. Then her husband and family moved to London. To her joy and delight she was asked once again if she would work at the temple.

She told of an experience that happened here. It was at the end of her shift. The last group of the evening had already started their Endowment session when in ran a sister, desperate to do a session. They had to tell her it was too late. Then she asked if she could to initiatories. It was also closed. What about sealings? They were done, as well.
When she heard there was nothing she could do she literally fell to the floor sobbing. She explained that the whole day things had happened to keep her from getting to the temple. She sobbed that it had been the worst day of her life. Our Brazilian sister felt horrible and went to get someone to see if there was anything else they could do.

As they tried to calm her down a worker from the baptistery came in and in an anxious voice asked if any of them spoke Spanish. They were desperate for someone to come help with the baptisms who could communicate in Spanish. The woman who had been crying stopped. She got this amazed look on her face and joyfully replied, “I can help. I speak fluent Spanish.”

If that sister had come even 20 minutes sooner, she would have made the session and been gone. The Lord needed her to be available exactly as it happened. There was a great work waiting that only she was capable of doing!!!

Isn’t that symbolic of how our lives can be and why we need to trust the Lord’s timetable for us all? Once again a great reminder for me to trust that He is in charge!

The Larsons Going Home; Their Story

I've talked about how much we love all the Senior Missionaries here. It's been a sad week to let one of our favorites go home. The Larsons literally saved our sanity the first month that we were here. They were the office couple who hauled us back and forth to Costco and filled in all the gaps of what we didn't know how to do. They are from Logan. Both were school teachers and brilliant. They were two of the most competent people we've ever known.

On Friday we had a little gathering of the Seniors to say goodbye at the Jordan's flat. For the first time we heard both sides to the story of how the Larsons ended up in our mission. They had already told us about their first 2 year mission to France where they worked with the YSA AND did the office. It was a HUGE calling! They went home and were there about 3 months when Elder Larson went to the temple and had a VERY strong impression that they were to put in papers for a second mission. He tried to ignore it, knowing they had just gotten home and they needed a break. But the feelings persisted until finally he broke down and told Sister Larson the undeniable impressions he was having that they needed to go on a second mission.

Sister Larson had a confirmation and they put their papers back in, assuming that they were desperately needed in some french-speaking country. They were totally shocked when they opened their call to LONDON!!

What they could never have known and what was said Friday by Sister and President Jordan was that they were literally prayed to London. The Jordans had been here only a few months when President Monson made the announcement about the age change. Sister Jordan said they were both still so new they didn't know what they were doing. There had also been some problems from before they got here and now they were going to be inundated with new missionaries! Sister Jordan said she started pleading with the Lord to send them someone that could help. Here came the Larsons.

When the Larsons arrived our mission needed 60 new flats found, rented and furnished for all the new missionaries that were in the process of coming. The Larsens did all that in 7 months BY THEMSELVES!!! They have been able to get all the financial items that were in disarray back into order AND save the mission over $100,000. a year. They have been the best thing that could have ever happened to this mission. When Sister Jordan told her side of the story and how much they meant to her she started to cry in gratitude for his servants of the Lord listening and then heeding the spirit. We love them. They will be sorely missed.

Lynn Ling

I have written about our Ling Ling. She is the Chinese convert that is going to have to go back to China at the end of summer and has been so concerned how she will be able to live the gospel with her family that doesn’t understand.

Late last night I got an instant message from her that made my heart fill with joy. Here’s what she wrote:

Sister Phillips! I was sharing testimony with my family just now! I told them how much I have grown since I joined the church and even shared about my calling as relief society teacher! And they just loved it. And they are so happy that I have grown so much because of the gospel. I am soooo happy right now. And I want to share it with you because of what I have said to you months ago about my concerns. I really have nothing to worry about going back!

I wrote back:
You have NO IDEA how happy this made me tonight. I can take a big sigh of relief knowing you will be good when you go home. I just knew your family loved you enough that they would want you to be happy! I'm so proud of you being brave and sharing how you feel. It's all just wonderful. LOVE LOVE LOVE YOU!!!

She responded:
I will bear my testimony tomorrow.

This might not seem like a big deal, but I LOVE this girl. She has been terrified to tell her very traditional Chinese family about the church. She didn’t know how she would be able to go against their wishes if they went against the church. You simply can’t imagine the courage it took for her to share this with them. That’s why it means so much to me to have received this note. I truly am rejoicing!

Marin is One Year Old / Caleb is Six Years Old

I cannot believe Marin is a year old tomorrow!!! It’s sped by and yet it feels she’s been a part of our family for years. What a gift to have her in our eternal family. What joy she has brought in her one short year. We are blessed!

Then there’s Caleb. How did he get to be six years old so fast? He's become such a grown up boy. What a blessing he is to all of us, especially to sister Codi. What would Codi do without her big brother who takes such amazing care of her. We love our Caleb and count him as one of our 12 greatest blessings!!!

Well, I guess that’s it for now. I’m still going to be working on my music post. It’s a little overwhelming. How do you record 63 years filled with tender blessings from the gift of music. I will try.

Love to each of you. So many big happenings in each of your lives. We continue to pray for your lives to be led by the spirit and you choices aligned with the Lord’s will. Know how deeply you are loved!!! Mom