Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sanjay Nath. My Friend Forever! By Elder Phillips and Some Catching Up

Our journey together began over eight months ago. When I met him I had a very surreal experience that I had only once before with Tom Smith when he was also the same age as Sanjay. I knew spiritually that Father in Heaven expected me to make sure that both Tom and Sanjay accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I had the spirit whisper to me in the clearest of voices that I was to disregard their efforts to tell me to get lost. Tom and Sanjay were both valiant spirits of Heavenly Father that needed to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ so Father could unfold His plan for them. Tom, like Sanjay, accepted the Gospel and has served the Lord as a Bishop twice, a Stake President and now a Mission President. He found his sweetheart Becky and has 8 children that are the loves of their lives. I can’t wait to see what Father has in store for Sanjay because, like Tom, this is one of the great souls that Father has saved for the Final Dispensation.

Sanjay was taught originally by Elder Anderson and Elder Wou. They asked me to teach with them and that’s how our friendship began. I was able to be involved in most of the lessons that were shared with Sanjay. What a gift to start my mission with Elders like these and one of God's choice spirits, Sanjay. He made great progress with these Elders but was not ready to be baptized before they were transferred. I felt a huge obligation to them and the Lord to make sure that Sanjay stayed on the path of conversion. Elders came and went and Sanjay tried to walk away a number of times but the love of the Lord and the truth just kept touching his soul. 

His background is Hindu and he was brought up going to temple to worship and loves his Indian culture. He was raised in my old mission; Birmingham, England. His parents are good people and brought him up to be the kind of young man that will make a difference in this world. He is in his second year of medical school at Imperial College. This is one of the finest and may I add toughest colleges in London. Sanjay had to commit everything to his studies. This sometimes made it difficult to meet with the elders and I but he did anyway. This was one of his big tests. Should he just focus on his education or also make time to find God. Because of who he is he chose to make time to find out if the Gospel had been restored to the earth. This is no small test given the requirements of Medical School. He testified to us yesterday that taking that time for God gave him the peace and faith required to make it through his first year at school successfully. He has gained great confidence that if you put God first all else will be added unto you. His older brother couldn’t make it through his first year in medical school so there was added pressure for him to succeed and prove to his dad that he could go away to school and not blow it. Now that Sanjay has proven trustworthy his father is respecting him in a way every son looks for from their fathers.

I want to share the scary times that almost cost us Sanjay coming into the Church. After his first year of school he went home to Birmingham for the summer and chose not to be baptized before he left. I had prayed and fasted to know what we should do regarding baptizing him before he left or support his choice and wait until he returned. I felt strongly that if we baptized him and sent him home that he would fall in with his old friends and never forgive himself for breaking his covenants he made with the Lord. 

In faith I supported Sanjay in going home still unbaptized for the following reasons. He was very afraid of what his father would think about him coming to London and taking on this new religion wondering if he had been led astray. Sanjay was worried that his father would withhold his financial support for medical school and have him come home to Birmingham University to complete his studies so he wouldn’t fail like his brother. A committed father would always want what’s best for his son and without understanding what the Church is all about his father would possibly take action to protect his son from himself. This was the first big test of Sanjay’s faith. He made it through his first year but then had to make it through the summer with all his lifelong friends. That was no easy task and he did go back to his old life while in Birmingham along with returning to his first love, a girl he had been with since high school.

The challenges of the “summer vacation” got to him and he put the gospel on the shelf like we all do sometimes. By not living the commandments he was taught regarding the word of wisdom, doubts started to creep into his mind. Of course when we stop obeying what we know is true (Word of Wisdom) and stop reading the scriptures and praying, our faith is shaken and our peace is lost. So it was for Sanjay. He was in a place that did not promote his quest for truth and remained in a state of limbo until he came back to school.

He came by to see me one Thursday night when he had come back to set up his apartment for the next school year and just “felt” he had to come and see me. I had heard from the Elders that Sanjay had told them that he wasn’t going to continue but I knew what I knew and wouldn’t accept that as a possiblility. I was certain of what the Lord had told me and I knew Father would provide another opportunity for me to teach him again. When he walked in the Cultural Hall one Thursday night I was overcome with joy. I experienced what it must be like when we pass to the other side and greet loved ones that have passed on and you see them again for the first time. It was one of those moments of love in a relationship you can’t deny. I threw my arms around him and said I knew he would come back and was so glad to see him. 

Sister Phillips fed him and I loved him and made plans for beginning his teaching when he returned to school in a few weeks. I’m not sure if I just overwhelmed him with the spirit of love so he just went along with it or that he was glad to feel the spirit again. Either way we were on “the road again” or so I thought.

He went back to Birmingham to finish up his summer vacation and didn’t come back until late September when school began. I felt very impressed to invite him to a concert that was happening at the Hyde Park Chapel the first week of October to get him started again. He accepted my invitation to join us for the Paul Cardall Concert that produced the perfect environment for the Spirit and Paul Cardall to bear witness of the Savior and His Atonement. Sanjay was quiet all night and was obviously praying and pondering everything that was being said. The Spirit whispered to me that Sanjay was making a “Go-No Go” decision whether he would continue. I waited for the conclusion of the concert and turned to Sanjay and said, “You’ve come here tonight to decide if you’ll continue, right? What has the Lord told you through the Spirit?” He just said, “I can’t deny the Spirit I’ve felt and the Lord just won’t let me go.”

The reason for this new crisis of faith was brought on by his old girlfriend. The untold story of his summer was his reconnection with his first love that is his best friend. He’s known his girl since high school and felt this was the girl he was going to marry. He had concerns because her family’s religious roots are from the Punjab region of India and are Sikhs that broke off from Sanjay’s Hindu faith. Her parents wouldn’t be in favor of her marrying outside of their faith, period. I think Sanjay thought he had enough challenges with her parents accepting that she would marry a Hindu, much less a Mormon. I hope that the Sikhs belief in “One God” and in Scripture will give Sanjay a chance to introduce our God to her through the Book of Mormon.

Sanjay is facing this great test of loving God over anyone else on earth. He has great faith and will trust God to help him work out this girlfriend challenge and accept God’s will. Its awe inspiring to see him stand in faith, not knowing what will happen. He is willing to accept Fathers plan for him.  As shown in the picture taken Saturday, the 18th day of October Sanjay Nath is now an official member of the Church of Jesus Christ. I also was privileged to confirm him a member of the Church and bestow the Holy Ghost upon him on Sunday October 19, 2014.
Our beloved Sanjay Nath on the day of his baptism!
After the baptism of Sanjay (where we filled the room with 50 YSA who had come to support Sanjay) Bishop White and Jennie had our Britannia Ward Sisters and Elders, Sanjay, Sister Ohman and us come to their flat for dinner to celebrate! We love our Bishop Rick and Jennie!
We received this note from Sanjay the day after he was confirmed a member of the church.

Hello Sister Phillips. 

I hope you and Elder Phillips are keeping well. I just wanted to write you both a quick note to thank you both for everything over the past 8 months and longer. I still don't think it has fully sunk in for me that I have finally become a member. For a long time I knew that that's what I wanted (and needed) but there were times when I thought nothing would work out and life would be a whole lot easier if I just turned my back on the church. But, as you know, I couldn't And I'm so much happier because of it!

The baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost were both beautiful and I thank you so much for it. Sister Phillips what you said about this being only the first step are words that I will cling on to and remember forever. Elder Phillips your words during my confirmation almost made me cry. I was so happy that my friend who isn't part of the church was there to experience it and see why this means so much to me. I know the Gospel is true and I know my friend could see right then that the Church is something really special.

If it wasn't for the guidance and support you both gave me for so long I honestly don't know whether I would still be in London at medical school right now. I hope you don't mind me saying but I see you both as parental figures - I wouldn't say I'm a very trusting person but there was something about both of your natures that made me realise early on that the Phillips were different and I could share whatever with you.

The time will come when I will tell my parents and the rest of my family about joining the church, part of me thinks that they already know. But what I do know for sure is that they will be happy that I had the two of you to help me through it all.

There's so much more I want to say but I can't get the words out right now. Everyone kept asking me how I felt after joining and 'happy' is doing it a disservice. I don't know how long this feeling will last but even when times get bad I know the Saviour is always there and I will keep 'enduring to the end'

Hope to see you sometime this week,


Oh how we love this young man!

Catching Up

This is Mom. I wanted to add to Jim's post about a couple other things that are note-worthy that have happened this last couple weeks.

The biggest news is Ling Ling got the job at Disney Shanghai. It's a total miracle!!! Ling will never doubt the Lord knows her by name and cares about her welfare. How it all came about was just too crazy to think it happened by chance. Bless Joel's heart (the head engineer Jim met at Hyde Park). He went the extra mile in Ling's behalf and emailed the guy that hired in Shanghai recommending Ling for the job. She had to pass some proficiency tests on her English skills (not a problem for her!) and then was interviewed and hired yesterday. She starts next Monday! It's so fun to see how excited she is and she's the first to acknowledge this is a gift from God.

Holly Isherwood interviewed with Jim's company that bought DGI yesterday and it's looking good that they will hire her to be the head HR person for them for all of Europe. What a blessing that will be for her, as well. Having her back in church is such a blessing. She's a powerhouse and has so much to offer our ward. We love her. She's one of our girls!

Our YSA choir sings THIS SUNDAY for Stake Conference. We are doing "Lead Kindly Light" and "He Leadeth Me", two of my favorite pieces. We have Elder Adriano from Spain playing the violin part. He's certainly not Elizabeth Ashton, but he's doing a good job. It's still pretty ragged but we have an hour on Sunday morning to hopefully clean it all up. I'm praying for heavenly help!

A week and a half ago on Friday we got to go to the temple with all the Senior Missionaries in the London mission and Pres. and Sister Jordan. What a wonderful experience. It was amazing to stand in the circle together, all of us consecrated and set apart missionaries committed to and praying for the same things. There was magnificent power in that circle. It was a wonderful day!

The work is progressing. We feel like we have momentum and the work we've been doing is bearing fruit. Last Sunday I sat with Sanjay while Jim moved over to sit with Joye, Holly and Catherine. I started counting and there were 10 kids there that had not been there the month before because of our efforts. We love every one of them. I was overwhelmed and deeply humbled that we get to be part of this work. It truly is a miracle work!

Some exciting news! This past week Jim went with Holly Isherwood to the Employment Center to speak with Martin Gardner and the Baxters. Martin is the church employee who is in charge of all the employment centers in the UK. I guess it went very well because later that night Martin called and asked if Jim and I would consider coming this next week for 2 nights and 2 days to Birmingham to work with all the Employment missionaries that are gathering there for a conference. And can you guess where the meeting is taking place? You got it! 185 Penns Lane, Jim's old mission home from his first mission! We still haven't heard if we are getting permission to go but we're keeping our fingers crossed. This might be the only way we will ever get to go to Birmingham on our mission so we're hoping the Area President will give his permission for us to travel there. We will drive up with the Baxters. They are the new Employment Center couple who were stolen from the center to help in the mission office after Elder Giles passed away. We absolutely love the Baxters. What a fabulous addition they are to the mission. The Jordans would keep them in the office if the church would let them because they are so competent!

We are now back on our school schedule. I've taught 3 Institute classes this month. It's been wonderful to be back together. Lots of GREAT new kids. Jim is teaching Preach My Gospel on Thursday nights. The day before his opening class he was informed the church had come out with a new manual. Jim had to scramble to get the lesson together for the next day. It was a frustrating experience. He had kids that hardly spoke English, brand new converts who barely knew the doctrine and kids that have been life-long members of the church. He wasn't prepared for the complexity. The next week he simplified the lesson and had a great experience. It's going to be a challenge balancing the curriculum to meet the needs of such a varied group.

One last thing. We are busily preparing for a Chinese Convention being held here on Nov. 21-23. It's causing me to loose sleep. We are planning on a hundred Chinese YSA from all over the UK. Of course the cooking has fallen on me with the help of Dixon, a marvelous Chinese young man that is a fabulous cook. Last week it took us 4 hours to decide on a menu for 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 2 dinners. Saturday night dinner is a formal, sit down dinner with 6 different food items!!! I'm having nightmares about how we are going to pull this off in the kitchen we have to work with. Then 2 days ago Jennie White informed us that she will be gone the weekend of the conference. She felt so bad. She is such a help. Having Jennie is like having 2 sets of hands. I'm devastated! We will get the non-Chinese YSA to help but it's still very daunting!!! Crazy stretching for someone who has only ever cooked to gather in the people she loves!

We are anxiously awaiting Seth's arrival. Praying earnestly for a beautiful birth and safe arrival of our 13th grandchild. Can't wait to meet him, even if it's over Goggle. So grateful for Ashlee's willingness to take my place and go be with Bri. So so sad I won't be there to share it with them. 

Tomorrow is Ty's 4th birthday. Oh how we adore our Ty Jacob. I can't believe it's been four years since he joined our family. I'll never forget seeing him that first time at the hospital. Unlike the other boys he was a monster! So big and SO HANDSOME!!! It was love at first sight. It's never changed. We adore our Ty with his perma-grin and his fearlessness. So grateful he's ours forever!!! Happy birthday sweet boy!!!

Well that should do it. I kind of cheated by just tacking on my catch up list to Jim's post, but it will have to do. Love to each one of you. You are all sorely missed. Mom

Monday, October 6, 2014

What a Weekend!

I just finished a blog on Thursday but wanted to record our fabulous weekend with some fun pictures.

Baptisms of Our Precious Chillie and Maggie

Friday night was the baptism of Chillie, our brilliant, beautiful Chinese student at Imperial College. She was lucky enough to have her original missionary, Elder Tautfest, baptize her. He had gone back to the states at the conclusion of his mission and was over here visiting in London with his parents. It was a beautiful baptism and she was able to bear a sweet, hard-fought testimony at the conclusion of her baptism. We love Chillie. She matches her name. She's spicy, out-spoken, asks the hard questions and is so fun. What a great addition to our ward!
This is Chillie and Alex who was baptized the previous week.

On Saturday we did something that we've never done before. Our Relief Society President, Hollie MeKee, came up with a brilliant idea of having a walking tour of London for all the new kids in the ward to get to know London. It originally was going to be for just the girls and then it was decided to open it up to the guys, as well. IT WAS SO GREAT!! What a marvelous way for the new members to get to know the ward and the ward to get to know the new kids. Hollie and Leah did such a marvelous, creative way of giving accurate (and not so accurate) history of the sites of London. What started out as a 2 hour walk ended up taking 4 1/2 hours. Our Hollie was the star of the show. She was so ON!!! Her wit and humor made it a blast. Dad and I were able to get to really know several of our newest members in a casual fun way. We've decided it needs to be an annual event. Oh how we love these kids of ours!
As we gathered to begin the trip at Buckingham Palace, we pose with three of our dearest friends, all converts in this last year. From left to right; Emily, Ling Ling and Helen. All brilliant amazing girls with great futures ahead. Chinese pioneers!

Our mighty leader and dear friend Hollie with Big Ben and the London Eye (HUGE ferriswheel) in the background 
We ended up with about 40 kids all together. This was just part of our group along the walk. Our new Bishop's wife and dear friend Jennie is on the front row, last on the left.
Hollie told us this phone booth was where Prince Philip stole his first kiss from Queen Elizabeth.  We had to share a kiss there. We shared this very fun information with several tourists and only later Hollie confessed it was one of her not so accurate true facts. Silly Hollie!!
Part of the Royal Guard. I haven't shared with you that most mornings we have about 14-20 horses ride by our flat on their way to the Royal stables. It's so fun to hear the clip clop going down the street in the early morning.
We just happened on a fun rowboat flotilla on the River Thames as we crossed Westminster Bridge. How fun is this picture!!!!

The Walking Tour worked perfect for the baptism yesterday at 4:00. Everyone just came over after the tour to the church and attended Maggie's baptism and then a gathering afterwards. Let me tell you about Maggie. She has been coming to church for over a year but because of some legal issues has not been able to be baptized. I didn't realize she wasn't a member for months. She was the perfect example of a dry Mormon. Through all those months she has lived the gospel completely. She radiates. At the gathering after her baptism she expressed how this experience had taught her so much about waiting on the Lord. She said how her worst trait was impatience. Through this year she had to learn to trust in God's timing for her. And she testified, "His timing has been perfect!" On Facebook she wrote this last night:
Maggie's baptism day! What a day. After a long journey to wait for this opportunity. And I finally got home. Thanks everyone helped me to prepare this journey, to be a part of my life, to help me to learn from the challenges and trials, and most importantly, our savior Jesus Christ and our heavenly father, my light in the dark, I'm here this life is for witness your grace and return back to you. Only knowing your name and your atonement , it's a blessing. Only knowing and reading the Book of Mormon , is a privilege . I testify this church is true, and the Book of Mormon is true. I share those things in the name or Jesus Christ. Amen

How precious is that testimony!!! That's our Maggie!
Today Elder Phillips had the great privilege of confirming and giving both these girls the gift of the Holy Ghost. There was such a powerful spirit there. These are converted young women.

A Miracle for Ling Ling 

After church we had a going away party for our beloved Ling Ling. She leaves for China on Tuesday. I cried all day yesterday. Oh how we will miss our precious Ling. She did everything in her power to stay and nothing worked out. I've had such a strong impression that she needs to go home, that she has work to do in China as a Mormon pioneer to that country.
An amazing thing happened yesterday as we were preparing to come home. I had gone in to listen to General Woman's Conference when Jim saw a man he'd never seen before in our Visitor's Center Lobby. Elder Phillips felt impressed to go talk to him. He went and introduced himself to the man and found out he was a High Priest from Hollywood Calif. and had just finished being the executive engineer on a project for Disney at a new theme park in Shanghai. Now you need to understand that is where Ling is moving to, but has yet to find a job. She has applied for a job at Disney already two times and it is her dream job. She just happened to walk out into the lobby as Jim was talking to the man so Jim was able to introduce her to him. Then Jim went to work doing his magic and by the close of the conversation had a card with the name of main man that hires for the Disney project in Shanghai. They are desperate for interpreters which is what Ling just got her Masters in!!! We meet with Ling today for a goodbye lunch and a strategy on how she should precede. Elder Phillips is truly AMAZING! Only Jim!!!!

They're BACK!!!!!!

Well it is now Monday, one week since I started this post. Let's just say so much for a low-key summer. It's definitely a thing of the past. Things are hopping. It started last week and hasn't stopped! I feel like I need to catch my breath!! I actually stayed home tonight from FHE so I could get this blog done. There's been not one second to even think about it before now.

Elder Giles Passing 

This past Tuesday we had a very very sad, unexpected event happen in our mission. Elder Giles, part of our new office couple that has been here for only 2 1/2 months, passed away. He and Sister Giles had just come in from an early morning walk before they were to come to the office. He was making breakfast while Sister Giles went and took a shower. When she came out she found him collapsed on the floor. She tried to revive him but realized she wasn't having any luck. The great blessing was there were two other senior couples across the hall from her flat that hadn't left for church yet. She was able to go get them to help. They immediately came, did resuscitation (Elder Baxter worked on him for over 30 minutes until paramedics got there), and were able to be with her through the whole ordeal. One of  senior missionaries told me how blown away the paramedics were. They kept saying how lucky she was to be surrounded by "family". When they were told the other couples were only friends the paramedics expressed amazement about how calm everyone was. They said that usually these kind of calls were the worst with people hysterical and distraught. They said what a contrast this was, how peaceful and calm it was. What they didn't recognize was that they were feeling the spirit. They were blown away.

That night we had our last Tuesday night dinner (So fun with Hollie, Ionut, new convert Alex and Dixon) so I was no help. But on Wednesday we were able to go to Costco and get food for a luncheon after the Memorial on Thursday and also order a bouquet for the funeral that was given by the mission.

On Thursday Pres. Jordan presided over a lovely memorial service. Sister Giles two sons came from the states to the mission to bring her home. They spoke at the memorial and some of our young Sisters and Elders provided music. It was tender and so sweet. After we had a luncheon at the Jordan's flat where we were able to say goodbye to Sister Giles. I can't imagine coming out with your sweetheart and going back home alone. My heart broke for her!

When I first heard Elder Giles had died I turned to Jim and told him if he ever did that to me I'd kill him! Then the second thought was, "What a way to go. In the saddle to the end." This was the Giles' fourth mission. He had served a two year mission at 19, then as Mission President in Haiti, had served in Toronto, Canada and finished with this mission to London. He was 74 years old. We know where he is and what he's doing. No doubt about it!!!!

Paul Cardall Concert and Sanje

The night of Elder Giles' Memorial we had a special concert with Paul Cardall. I'm sure you have heard of him. He's become quite famous as a new-age pianist and recording artist, especially in the church. We used this event to get our YSA there for the concert and then sign up for Institute after.We had sent out letters to every YSA in our stake to come.

Jim had been trying to get with Sanje who had just returned for school and moved back that very day. Luckily Thursday was the only day he could meet so it worked out great that he could join us for the concert.

Elder Phillips didn't say it to me but Jim knew immediately by the spirit, that when Sanje arrived he had come that night to make up his mind if he was going to continue with the discussions or call it quits. Sanje had taken a beating all summer long from his Hindu family and friends about the church and had a girlfriend who has absolutely no interested in Christianity, much less Mormonism. It would have been a relief for Sanje to be done with it all. The only problem was Sanje had had experiences with the spirit that had testified of Christ.

Paul did a beautiful job combining his music and video with his very powerful, bold testimony of Christ. It was deeply moving. Sanje never said a word, but you could tell he was touched.

When the concert was over Elder Phillips turned to Sanje and made the statement, "You came tonight knowing you were going to decide if it was a Go/ No Go." Sanje was shocked that Jim would know his intentions but confirmed that was exactly where he was at. Then Jim asked him how he was feeling now that the concert was done. Sanje answered, "He just won't let me go. The Savior, he just won't let me go." He then opened up about his girlfriend. He's know her since high school. He said that she's a Hindu but is actually indifferent to all religion, which makes it so hard for Sanje. Jim asked him to look out 10 years. How would he feel about this girl being the mother to their children and having no faith or belief to anchor their children to. That stunned Sanje and gave him something to think about. We meet with him on Wednesday to work through these issues.

Pray for him  He is such a precious, good young man. I'm watching beautiful heartbreak. These kids are required to give up so much. They really are the pioneers of today with very real tribulation and paying a heavy price to be part of the Lord's kingdom. I have such respect and admiration for their courage and commitment. Their courage humbles me.

This Past Weekend

Friday we had our first Multi-Stake dance of the year. I have to say this is the one job of our mission I wish we could pass on. It's loud! It's messy and it's very late. I guess we don't get to choose to do just the things we want to do.

Saturday we stayed at the flat to watch Conference so I could cook for Sunday and recouped because I knew what was coming Sunday.

Sunday Priesthood session is shown at 10:00 am. at our chapel. Then Saturday night session is Utah is shown at 1:00 pm Sunday here. Utah Sunday morning session is shown here at 5:00 pm. The last session of conference we have to find on our computer because we run out of weekend.

Like last Conference I used having all the kids and missionaries at the chapel to my advantage. Our YSA have been asked to sing again at Stake Conference in 3 weeks so we had a rehearsal after the 1-3 pm session followed by supper I prepared. Then we all attended the 5:00 session. We had probably 60 kids singing.  A little bit of a full day to say the least. Last night I came home so exhausted I felt sick. But the day was successful. We had a great turnout for choir and the meal was delish!

Tomorrow we begin our Institute class here once again so today has been spent putting together a lesson. I have mixed emotions about it.  It's wonderful but so time consuming, especially doing this course, "Teachings of the Living Prophets". The lessons have to be put together from scratch, which always takes way more time. I'm just so grateful for the extraordinary conference we just had!!! So many amazing talks addressing such pressing needs. It will be a joy to get to study and teach them.

I"M DONE! It's always a relief to get this recorded. I pray it matters because it really does require lots of time. I'm trying to do it cheerfully (most the time) and consider it my contribution to our Family History.

Know we are loving the work, loving our kids, loving each other, and loving the Lord. We miss each one of you but continue to be grateful to be part of the Lord's army. We wouldn't trade it!!!