Thursday, August 28, 2014
August is Over!!! September Here We Come!!!
I've been putting this off all day, trying to find excuses not to start but now they are all gone and it's time to get to this. This blog is kind of like getting ready to go exercise. Once you're doing it you're glad, it's just starting that's hard.
The top news of the week is this past Sunday we finally got our new Bishop. When his name was announced Jim did a raised fist celebration right in sacrament meeting. It's Rick White, our high councilman who came to our home in Orem. We love him. He knows the kids and his wife is as wonderful as he is. It will be such an easy transition. He has two young single adult counselors. When President Phillips (Stake Pres.) asked Rick if he was sure he wanted two unmarried young adult counselors he replied, "Don't forget President. I have the Phillips!" That made us very happy he feels that way because that's how we feel about the Whites. So grateful!
Dinners at our Flat
This past week could have been low-key but we managed to fill it up nicely. We had four dinners in five days at our flat. Last Tuesday we had a Brazilian, an Argentinian, a Chinese, a Portuguese and an American for dinner! I still continue to be amazed at how international our experiences here has been. It's interesting how each country has its own distinct flavor and attitudes. It's such a wonderful complex growing experience to blend them all together to make a cohesive group that makes up our Britannia Ward. One of the things I've been most impressed with is the absence of any bias towards specific groups. There is simply no barriers to different races, color and creeds. I love it!
On Thursday we had our Institute dinner. There is no class for the next four weeks so we just gather and eat and then play. Tomorrow we are going to watch Elder Bednar's talk on using the electronic media for missionary work and then see figure out something we could present on-line about Britannia Ward. It should be really fun.
Friday we had our A.P.'s over with a darling Chinese girl investigator. She is such a character. Very smart ( final year of her Doctorate) and asks some very very direct questions. (One day I'll tell you about a question she asked Sister Jordan in a discussion on chastity. Sister Jordan DIED!!!) We love Chili and she makes us laugh. It was also a going away dinner for our precious Elder Gonzales. He left yesterday to return to Spain. A great Elder.
Saturday we had Jade, our Stake YSA Rep, come with her sweetie whose visiting from the states. We wanted the chance to meet him and see them interact together. We feel like parents to Jade. It's so funny to watch Jim. He's like a protective daddy. It lasted until 11:30 and we got to really see them together.
Do you now understand why we keep gaining weight. I am never NOT cooking! But just like our very best conversations at home take place at the kitchen table, the talks at our table here are the best and so invaluable. Usually they last 3-4 hours. Where are we ever going to have a chance like that if we don't bring them together in small groups with the excuse of dinner. Each dinner group is unique but every one of them is amazing, with our guests leaving feeling loved and connected to us and us to them.
A Tuesday Night Dinner Miracle
I need to tell you about the dinner we had last night; the most amazing one yet! It had been a frustrating day. We had invited 3 girls but two had called and had to cancel because they were sick, leaving only Debbie, a young 19 year old, new to London. She had only been to one meeting at church, had canceled the week before, but we finally got her last night.
We had invited 2 guys. When the two girls canceled I called another girl to come but hadn't heard back. We had a baptism at 5:00 last night so we went to church and there was Sanje, our Indian investigator that we adore that had gone home to Birmingham for the summer. We knew it had been a very rough summer with his family and his friends and he was vacillating if he would continue with the lessons, even though we all knew he'd had deeply spiritual experiences in the Book of Mormon. The news had broken our hearts. No way did we want to lose this very special young man!
After the baptism we hurried home to get dinner ready and the barbecue going. As we entered the door I turned to Jim and said, "Why didn't we think to invite Sanje to dinner? He needs to come." That second Jim got up and called the Elders who were still with him, talked to Sanje and he was thrilled to come over. It ended up being absolute inspiration.
One of the other boys was Joye; a young charismatic Nigerian born in London who had joined the church 4 months ago, came for awhile but we hadn't seen him for almost 3 months. He's a fabulous young man converted by one of our best sister missionaries who told me that Joye was the reason she came on her mission. That he hadn't been coming literally broke her heart. Two weeks ago to our surprise he was at church. We bee lined it over to him, loved on him and got him to commit to come for dinner. He canceled last week but agreed to come last night. Again, absolute inspiration. (Interestingly enough Sister Gibson was just transferred back to to the Visitor's Center yesterday!)
The last one was George. He's Bulgarian and actually aged out of Britannia last year (he's 31). His conversion story is very similar to Dad's. He was totally in the world, actually drunk when he met the sister missionaries. But as he was taught the gospel over the next months he recognized the truth of it and desired to be baptized. When he told his mom he wanted to be baptized she and all his friends disowned him. After his baptism he was immediately fired from his job for being a Mormon. His sacrifice to join the church was absolute. He made his way to London and then to Britannia where he became completely immersed in the ward, even serving as Elder's Quorum Pres. But since leaving the ward last year he had become discouraged and had become less active. We got to know him through our Catherine and made an effort to become friends. He started coming once in a while to Institute and then last testimony meeting bore an unbelievably riveting testimony.
His mother is a Bulgarian Jew. George had lived in Israel when he was a child and loved the country. Last month when the bombings were taking place he was deeply concerned for family and friends still there. One afternoon he was working the desk at the hotel where he has a job. In concern and worry he had made a call to his best friend that still lives in Jerusalem. As they were talking George heard a huge boom on the phone and the line went dead. Then up on the T.V. they had breaking news that a missile had made it through Israel's defense shield and had bombed part of Jerusalem where George's friend lived. Stunned George told how he walked into the middle of the lobby and could go no further and simply fell to his knees and in desperation begin to cry and pray out loud that his friend and his family would be safe. He testified in that moment he recognized what a lie it is we tell ourselves that we are in control of our lives. He recognized his complete reliance on the mercy of God. He prayed the Lord would accept his supplication. As he opened his eyes there was a circle of strangers around him, praying with him and offering their concern and their compassion. It was a deeply spiritual experience for George. An hour later he received a phone call from his
friend telling him that the missile had landed very close to where his family was but that they were all safe.
So last night we ended up with three guys and one very young girl. None of them knew each other! I wasn't sure how it was going to go. Oh me of little faith.... how we need to trust the Lord when we are anxiously engaged in his service!
The conversation and banter was so natural! I felt a little bad for Debbie. It was definitely a guy's table conversation, but was so fun. There was four very powerful males at the table. It went through the gamete of sports, school, job opportunities and naturally flowed into the gospel. At the table sat struggling George, in-active Joye, non member Sanje and inactive Debbie. How could this end well? But it did. It was beautiful. Between Jim and I and the powerful testimony of George and what he had sacrificed to join the church (who strengthened himself as he strengthened the others) the spirit came and bore such a powerful witness. Each of them were able to remember the spirit they had felt before. Joye and Sanje were able to opened up about the persecution they were under from their family and friends simply because of their interest in the church. Sanje turned to Elder Phillips and said, "Elder Phillips you've shared with me who you were before you joined the church and what you went through to be baptized. But who I know you as now I can't reconcile to the person you were then. I can't imagine it. But hearing George and Joye share what they are going through gives me strength. I know I'm not alone in this, that others are going through it like me and I don't feel so alone."
They were here for four hours. As they got up to leave Joye told us he would see us at Institute Thursday night! Sanje hugged Jim and whispered in his ear, "Elder Phillips I'm back in." When they left Jim and I just looked at each other and marveled how miraculous a night it had been. We truly recognized the Lord's hand in orchestrating it perfectly. I love the Lord and I love this work!!!
Today we received this letter from George. I'll share just a part of it.
Elder and Sister Phillips,
Thank you for having me! It was good to spend some time with members of the Church and be reminded of all those experiences I have for some reason allowed myself to forget about.
Both of you have something, call it a gift if you want to, but you two have the ability to go above the mormon-ish stigma and connect with all sorts of different people. It reminds me of the pure love of Christ. I can see why the Lord has send you here. You're vitally needed in a city full of so much confusion. People need to hear your testimony and good example in order to be guided to The Lord.
We can't take credit. We pray for that kind of love EVERY SINGLE DAY! We recognize that it is an endowment from God. We both KNOW that's why we are here, to love them safely home! What an unforgettable night!
Well it's now the next day, Thursday. I was trying to finish this yesterday when we got a phone call from Catherine Wilkinson asking Jim for a blessing. She's had terrible flu and is slowly getting better but needs to be good enough to run a workshop at work today. (She had gotten sick over the weekend and was supposed to teach Relief Society on Sunday. It was a lesson that Jim had taught last month to the Elders so he went and taught it for her to all the girls. It was magnificent. Had all the girls in tears. Only Jim!!!) Catherine's blessing was so tender. Just what she needed. We love her like a daughter. There will be a bond of love eternally with her and I'm positive we will have her visit us when we're home. Right after she left Leslie, a girl I visit teach, came over for me to visit teach so I wouldn't have to leave Jim alone with Catherine (inappropriate). Leslie is from the states and just one of the pillars and great ones of the ward. Three minutes after she left we had our precious Chinese Helen and Ling Ling just drop by (at 9:30 pm) for a "quick" visit. They left at 11:30. So much for getting back to the blog last night.
One last experience. Monday afternoon I get a phone call from Hollie (R.S. President) and her best friend Rachel who had been outside playing in the rain. They were both sopping wet and asked if they could come dry their clothes in our dryer. It was a crack up when Jim got back from running an errand and found the girls, one in my PJ bottoms and one in my PJ top siting on the couch talking. Rachel ended up leaving an hour later. Jim had to go and cover for us at FHE and was laughing when he returned hours later and found Hollie and I still sitting on the couch deep in conversation. We talked about the girls in the ward and their needs, we talked about relationships, about marriage and motherhood. We talked about all of you. It filled up such an empty hole in my heart. It was almost like having you girls here for the day. Hollie is another relationship that will be eternal. We are dear dear friends. She is a magnificent Relief Society President. I've made her promise she will serve there until we leave. I love her!
Well I'm done just in time to go finish Ashlee's Chicken Barbecue Salad for our Thursday night dinner happening in 4 hours. We pray you feel our love for you. We want to testify that we feel the Lord pouring out his blessings upon our whole family. We can never get ahead of Him but we can certainly show our gratitude by doing all in our power to serve his children. Your sacrifice adds power to our service here. We feel your prayers and your love that fills us up and allows us to turn around and love others. It's a circle of love. Loves and Hugs to each one of you! Mom