Saturday, August 16, 2014

Family at Lake Powell and Our Week Here in London August 16, 2014


Since leaving on our mission there have been two events that we have dreaded and knew would be the most difficult part of our mission; two Lake Powell trips and Christmas. Well, we can now cross one of those off the list. The Lake Powell Trip was as difficult on us as I thought it would be. We were so sad to miss it, especially since our precious Allie and family went this year for the first time. But mostly it was made unbearable because of the nervousness we felt for their safety, especially the littles; Codi and Fiver.

The families all met on Monday, slept in the houseboat at the dock and then pulled out the next morning. We didn't hear anything from them (no reception) until we received the following email from Allie early Saturday morning. Waiting for word from them was the longest 5 days EVER!! Here is the email we received:

"To my favorite second parents ever, we wanted to tell you this trip is going AMAZINGLY perfect! We haven't had service so have been waiting to take a trip out to email you guys! It is unreal! Everything has been incredible! Ash was awesome parking house boat and anchors going in was flawless! Perfect weather and boats working perfectly! The kids are literally soul mates like their mamas! Your legacy is so beautiful, you two! Your kids are carrying on the traditions you have set in place and it is the perfect formula for family closeness. I said the prayer last night and was overcome with the spirit as i prayed that you two would know how much you are missed and how much your children honor you while you serve!!! We love you so much, and the Monsons could never thank you enough for blessing us and our kiddos with this opportunity of a lifetime to be in such a beautiful place with such incredible people. We will leave here better bc of these people you raised. Love you, admire you, honor you, miss you more than I can say! Love, Allie and Sean"

Here is our response back to all of them:
What can I say about Allie's email!!! For three days I checked my email every hour. I couldn't figure out why my shoulders were so tight and sore and why I felt light-headed. I finally realized I was figuratively holding my breath, waiting to hear from someone that you were all safely tied in.

I got Allie's email at 6:00 a.m. here Saturday morning when I had gotten up way too early. I was by myself and first thing went and checked my email. As I read I burst into tears, so filled with gratitude for the precious words of love and the huge relief that all was well. I could finally breath again!  All day long I was thanking Father for your protection and for the chance you have to share as a family the experience of Powell. It also made my heart hurt a little (a lot) to not be there sharing it with you. But I couldn't stay being sad. I was too full of gratitude.

Allie I assume the email was from you. When I read your email to Dad he laughed and said, " How could Allie hit every single concern you have had and touched on everything that really matters to both of us?" It was such a perfect answer for this fretting Mom and Grandma. Oh how I wish we could have been there for your first Phillips Family Lake Powell trip. No one would appreciate it more than the Monsons. Isn't it the most AMAZING place?!!!
It was also such a wonderful love letter. We both felt hugged after reading it; hugged by our Allie and loved and appreciated by our family. We couldn't have asked for more.

I would be lying if I said this was no big deal missing this trip. I've talked to the Lord and pointed out what a significant sacrifice this has been. Still, we could never trade what we are doing right now. This trip and every other good thing in our lives are gifts directly from Him whom we serve. We owe him everything! We continue to pray for your safety. And we pray that your relationships with one another will be strengthened into eternal bonds of love.

Once again thank you Allie for your message of love. You'll never know what it meant to us.

Love Every One of YOU! FOREVER!!!
Mom and Dad, Schmarty and Pap ,
Maga and Baba, Elder and Sister Phillips

Blessedly the trip was as close to perfection as it could get. (As hard as we prayed I'm not surprised!) Everything ran smoothly and the siblings had a blessed, grown-up bonding experience that was remarkable. And the grandkids had a blast (OMG Codi who is only 2 and Fiver who is 1 1/2 learned how to ski!!!)  What more could we ask for!

Tuesday Dinner with Ling Ling

It's been two weeks since I last blogged. I hate when I do that because there's too much and it's hard to choose what to share. I guess I'll just hit the highlights

It's been so successful having our Tuesday night dinner. It's going to be difficult letting it go when we start Institute next month. Last week's Tuesday dinner was a perfect example. We had invited 4 of our Chinese girls to dinner. Two were Helen and Ling Ling, two of our most faithful AMAZING members. Along with them was Kelly, a newly activated fairly new member and Maggie, a young woman that has been taking lessons for a year but not yet baptized. (She's totally converted but there's some legal items that need to be cleared up.) We were ready to focus on Maggie and Kelly. 

As the night progressed the spirit directed us in a surprising way, dealing with some anit-mormon stuff that is circulating here. Jim and I both came to realized that the dinner was for our beloved  Ling Ling. It was a magical night that was totally led by the spirit. Everyone of us at the table were energized and filled up with renewed testimony. It confirmed and finalized what I had been feeling for a couple weeks. 

My change in approach of how to do the dinner started with a comment I remembered that was made to us the first day we got here by the outgoing Institute Director. He told us that reaching out to inactives is part of our job but the real focus needs to be on the ones in front of us. I would have never dreamed that Ling needed to be at our table that night. We think that as long as the kids are coming we don't need to worry. How wrong we are to assume that. There are so many unseen needs. More than ever I am praying to have eyes to see past the outside into the inward parts and recognize who needs our fellowship, whether they are active or not! This Tuesday dinner confirmed what I had been feeling. It's changed how we are approaching who we invite. And I know it's the right way.

Lunch with Wiola

I have been trying for 2 months to establish a relationship with Wiola. She is a beautiful girl from Poland who joined the church last September. She was active when we first got here but quite coming soon after we arrived. She was one of our original 5 that we were going to go after. I had made contact through friending her on Facebook. Finally I asked her if she was interested in going to lunch with me last week. She agreed, but when I called to set up details she told me in very direct terms to LEAVE HER ALONE! I was shocked since she had just agreed a couple days before. I quietly told her I would honor that and we were just reaching out because we cared. She softened and we hung up on good terms. Two days later she emailed me and asked if we could go to lunch. By now I was totally confused. (I think she thought I was someone else on the phone) but agreed to meet her on Monday.. 

We met for lunch at a restaurant close to our flat and had a delightful couple hours. She's a lovely girl with such a darling sense of humor. We saw someone fall off a step and both of us just looked at each other and started to giggle, then laugh, then guffaw! It was horrible but we couldn't stop laughing.

As we ate she shared one of the most difficult tragic stories I've heard so far. She was born in Poland, the youngest of 7 children. When she was 21/2 her mom left the family. She was raised by an absent father until she was 10, then given to a sister to raise until she was 15 when she went out on her own. The last time she saw her father was at 15 when he was in prison.  Literally this girl has had to do her life with no safety net and virtually NO emotional or financial support. She struggles with sadness but is amazingly OK considering what she's gone through. (So many hard hard stories. I don't know how they do it!) She works as a Nanny and still manages to save money so she can go to school. Dad met me at the restaurant after lunch so we could leave from there to go shopping. Wiola said she needed to use the restroom before we left, but we discovered she had gone and paid for lunch. I was so upset! But Dad was sneaky. When Wiola bent over to get stuff off the floor he dropped some bills in her purse. No way were we letting her foot the bill. My heart breaks for the hard lives these kids live. I don't know how Father can watch all the heartache in this world and not flee to the furthest corner of the universe.

Trip to the Temple with the Sisters

This past Tuesday was packed full. The night before we got a call from Pres. Jordan asking if we would be willing to take two sister missionaries to the temple the next day. One of them was leaving to go home, back to the Marshall Islands where she has no access to a temple. (Meg she's right next to your mission. She had such a familiar face! We told her all about you. Darling sweet girl) We also took Hollie, our Relief Society Pres. who is newly endowed with us. We knew we had our dinner that night so we left early to get to the temple so we could be home in time for dinner.

The session was the strangest session we've ever attended. We got to see the 3rd of the 3 new temple films (Not a fan of the film, at all!). The session was stopped 2 times for about 20 minutes each time. The first was to allow a couple to attend the session (this was after the session had started) and the other was because a guy got up and went out so we waited another 20 minutes until finally one of the workers went and found him and brought him back into the session. It was crazy! Nevertheless, the girls were delighted and grateful to be there. 

We got home in time to get dinner ready. We barbecue but that night it started to rain hard. I looked out the window and there was Jim with our huge Tahitian Noni umbrella we inherited when we got here, covering the barbecue as rain poured down all around him. It made me giggle.We had another amazing dinner with a very random group of girls; Chinese, Irish, and two Americans (one inactive, but all needing some love and care). I was worried about the dynamic of the group but it ended up being delightful. These dinners just continues to build bridges. We love it!

Wonderful P-Day at Dover and Canterbury

Wednesday we took the day off to go with our friends, the Ohmans, a senior couple that work at the Visitors Center. We took the tube and then the train to the white cliffs of Dover, made famous from World War 11 and the rescue of Dunkirk. Above the cliffs is one of the biggest, most strategic castles in all of England. It was built by Henry the Second for defense against the French. It is on the English coast that comes closest to the coast of France. In fact we were able to see France's coastline as we stood looking over the English channel. 

Looking across the channel to France

The castle was huge and amazing. Even more interesting were the tunnels that ran through the cliffs that were started with Nepolean and added to over the years, culminating in World War 11 where the tunnels were used as command centers to house the military leadership running Dunkirk and  D-Day. It was fascinating.

After touring all of Dover and seeing the ocean for the first time we got on a train to go to the city of Canterbury and its amazing Cathedral. I think it's my favorite place so far. It's a charming town with walls surrounding the cathedral and the old part of the city. The shopping area is all in cobblestones, no cars and it leads to the Cathedral. When we walked into the church I turned to Jim and said,"This cathedral almost convinces me to become a Catholic." It was gorgeous and truly amazing. I continue to be stunned by what builders were able to create with no modern machinery. You could just feel this building was their prayer and offering up to God. We were fortunate to be there in time to hear Evensong. It's when a choir of boys and clergy sing a liturgy (a prayer in song) in the early evening. Elder Ohman was on BYU's faculty of music. We were all in heaven. It was deeply spiritual. We didn't get home until almost 10:00 that night. Great day with great friends.

Precious Ella

Yesterday we had our precious Ella and the sister missionaries for lunch. Ella is the girl that Jim confirmed after her baptism whose parents had watched that horrible "Meet the Mormons" the very night before her baptism. She has been on a two week vacation with her family. It was rough! Her family can't understand her need to be a member of the church. She needed to just talk. She's leaving in two weeks to go back up to Manchester to school and is nervous on how to handle her new membership in the church with her old friends. How I wish you could all meet this girl. She is exactly what the Lord  meant when He said "My Elect will hear my voice"! She was here for 4 hours and we could have continued talking. She could be one of my daughters. She's only 20 but her spirit is old. I love this girl. If we were here only for her it would be enough!!!

Helen's Mom and her Baptism

This afternoon we have another amazing event. I've told you about our amazing Helen. She is the Chinese girl who has been teaching her mother who lives in China the gospel. Her mom has been converted and has come to London with Helen's father and is being baptized today at 4:00. Tomorrow Helen asked Jim if he would confirm her mother. Helen's mom speaks not one word of English, but the spirit can be understood without words. What an honor to be asked to perform this sacred ordinance! So excited.

(I just got home from the baptism. I cried from the first word spoken. There was such a beautiful spirit there. The talks were in Chinese (one by the daughter Helen). We didn't understand a word but it didn't matter. It was so so sweet and so tender. Truly we were "no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints of the household of God." It was AMAZING!)

OK so there's more on my list but I'm out of time and you are all probably so sick of so much detail. But these are people and events I don't want to ever forget. We are blessed and so fortunate to have these relationships that will be eternal. What a gift to be able to serve here in the middle of the world; London. Oh how we love each of you! What gratitude we need to feel for the blessing of a family that genuinely likes, loves and adores one another. It's so much more rare than I had ever supposed. Thank the Lord tonight in your prayers for the gift of our family and the gospel that has made it all possible. I've said it before and I'll say it again. We owe Him EVERYTHING!! Love to you all.


  1. LOVE YOU!!! Love all your details because it is so nice to hear about our life and really more just hearing your heart. Excited to see the cousins post their blogs about Powell if they ever get around to it (HINT HINT!!!). :-) HAHA, Love you guys!! XOXOXO

  2. QUIT SAYING WE DON'T WANT THE DETAILS!!!! Are you kidding me? It is the details that make it okay for you to be away from us! In the details we can share and grow along with you. It is the details that make the work you are doing real. I want more details!!! We adore you guys. Powell was certainly not the same without you, but truly your spirits were there. Loves and hugs to my favorite missionaries!