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


  1. What an AWESOME post! So exciting about the work you guys are doing in your ward. You are loving them into the gospel where they can then feel the love of God. Not only are those you are teaching being blessed and strengthened, but so are those who are helping you with the re-activation! Pap, keep the stories coming! Your life is full of miraculous stories because you live your faith without any reservation. You are amazing! So many lives have been touched by the passion you bring to the gospel. I love you both dearly. What a treasure you are to London!

  2. Love how you both truly SEE people. I think that is one of the weighty gifts of being a Phillips. I see it in different ways in each of my sweet cousins, their spouses (because of course we would marry people who want to be KNOWN and SEEN), and their unique, beautiful children. Thanks for being a good example of honoring that gift of seeing people and loving them!

  3. Heidi:

  4. There are so many awesome experiences in this blog! I LOVE IT! Thank you for recordig these stories!

  5. I love what Janice wrote. SO TRUE! There is no one that does this stuff better than you guys, and the Phillips. Love it, and love you guys.

  6. Love you guys, Jim and Starla! I'm so glad that Sean and Sam were able to hang out with you for a bit. Thanks for all you've given our family. It's pretty crazy to see the fruits of home teaching.