Friday, December 26, 2014

WHEW!!! One Intense November!

I realize it's been almost 2 months since our last post. It has weighted heavy on me and yet there simply has not been a long enough pause to sit down and write an update. As each week has gone by I have felt more and more guilty, until now it's a matter of where do I even start. Yet there are things I can't loose or forget. So I sit down the day after Christmas to begin to try to reconstruct the last two months. I'll divide the months into two separate posts.

We have continued to have our big weekly events of Family Home Evenings on Monday nights, Tuesday night institute at our flat (which has become such a sacred experience and the highlight of our week) Thursday night Institute feeding 100 and Jim teaching his Mission Prep Class (he's having an incredible experience) and our busy, insane Sundays full of Ward Choir getting ready for the Christmas Sacrament Meeting and Stake Christmas Devotional, Ward Council, priesthood blessings, personal counseling and trying to love on every one of our 160 kids that attend. Every Sunday we get home after 7-8 hours of church frustrated that there isn't more of us to go around. We've had 3 kids say to us that we are very different from other Senior Missionary couples because we aren't always together. That's because we are trying to double up our efforts ministering to our kids. And still we come home frustrated because there's not enough time to meet all the needs of all the kids. Yet we continue to try!


What has taken these last two months over the top has been all the added events we've had to our already full weeks. Just in the month of November we had: 
-a Family History Conference (I wasn't in charge, just got to participate and it was wonderful!) 
-We had a Break the Fast Dinner, followed by a CES Fireside. 
-We had our two Stake YSA Reps to dinner. 
-With Sister White and some YSA we set up, prepared, and served food to 160 people that attended our precious Tom and Lindsay's wedding (Two full days. It was a killer.)
-We had a dinner at our flat for our Visiting Teaching sisters. 
-We got to attend a special conference for just the London missionaries that Elder Quentin Cook presided over and spoke at. 
-We taught at a YSA Senior Missionary Seminar. 
-I begin Ward Choir rehearsals for Christmas.
-Taught a 4 ½ Temple Prep Class to 4 of our Chinese Converts preparing to go to the temple. (for my information; Evelyn, Danielle, Emily Du and Maggie Luo) It was a precious experience. It was in this class when we were talking about the pre-existence and how babies came straight from God that Evelyn explained that in Chinese the soft spot on a baby’s head is call "heavenly gate". As it closes so does the veil of forgetfulness!
-Last but not least, we were in charge of food for a first time ever 3-day Chinese Convention in London. Six Meals in 3 days (plus Institute dinner for 100 the night before)! I wasn't sure I was going to survive!

Seth's Birth
This picture slays me. It captures the special love and total caring between two sisters who have always adored each other. Oh my heart!
Aunties at the exact moment of Seth's entrance on earth!!! Look at each of those faces! What a priceless picture this is, so full of joy and love!
All these events were significant but none more than the safe arrival of our 13th grandchild; Seth Lorenzo Hoopes. He was born on November 6th at home surrounded by his father, his Aunties and friends that already loved and adored him. Even his Auntie Ashlee was able to make the drive from Las Vegas to be there when he made his entrance into the world. It was one of the most difficult days for me on our mission to not be there to participate. My heart ached. Yet I had to rejoice that my daughters could be together to  share in this sacred event. It was a magical, deeply spiritual experience for every one of them. In answer to our prayers, Seth is a calm, happy little guy that has brought only joy and light to his family. He is such a gift!

London Chinese Convention 2014

I wanted to share some of our sweet experiences around the Chinese Convention. We began planning it clear back in June. It was the first convention of its kind here in London; a very big deal. I knew I would be asked to do the food but also knew I had no idea how to cater to the Chinese palette. On our committee was Dixon, a Hong Kong born, London raised YSA from our Britannia ward who had become a close friend and helper in the kitchen on Thursday nights. He was a fabulous amateur chef who loved to cook and was gifted at it. AND HE WAS CHINESE! Thankfully he agreed to help even though he was a full time student. Together we took on the responsibility to provide food for the Convention.

We spent several hours deciding on the menu, several more hours making a comprehensive list of what we would need and then there was the actual shopping for it. Monday morning, the week of the convention, we went and got the Mission van and headed out to Croydon, a suburb of London where we knew there was an Ikea, an Asda (Walmart), a very large Chinese grocery store and a Costco close to each other. It took us an hour and a half to get there. Dixon, who lived in that direction met us at Ikea. We left at 9:00 in the morning and didn't get home until 10:00 that night. (We had gone to take Dixon home and the traffic was so bad that we went in and Dixon prepared a lovely dinner for us. Thankfully it allowed the traffic to settle down so we could miss London rush hour; a nightmare.)

We arrived back at the chapel with the van loaded full of groceries and exhausted after 13 hours of shopping. Luckily there were still a handful of YSA from Family Home Evening that were still in the building who helped us unload the van and store it in a cool storage room right off the parking garage.

The next 2 day I cooked and shredded 12 pork shoulder roasts and 15 pounds of chicken plus having Tuesday Institute. On Thursday we took another 6 hours to go to Costco and get the remaining produce, meat and food for dinner that night for Institute class. We went back to church and made dinner for Institute and then asked all the kids if, after class, they would bring up all the groceries for the conference from the basement.

That's when the magic began; an outpouring of love and service to the Chinese and to us from our YSA. Within 30 minutes, with the help of many hands, they had brought up everything and loaded it on tables we had set up to accommodate all the stuff we needed.

The next evening was when the conference begin with a dinner and games. The magic continued. For the next 3 days there was never a time that we didn't have a crew of YSA there assisting us, chopping for us, organizing for us, doing dishes for us, helping set up tables for us and laughing with us. When one person would leave another would show up. We had some of our kids there with us the whole three days!!! IT WAS SO TENDER AND SWEET! There was such a spirit of service and cooperation in that kitchen. There was such love!
Some of our helpers; Jade, Madera and Hannah from Ireland, standing right next to me was there all three days. She never left us. She has become such a special person to us.  We could never have done this without all the YSA's help. It was such a tender mercy!
A tender experience happened Saturday morning, before I left at 7:00 am to go up to the church for breakfast. Because of the intense week and especially the two previous day I woke up Saturday with three meals ahead of me to prepare and an exhaustion I had never felt before. I truly didn't know how I was going to do it. I got on my knees and begged that the Lord would endow me with His grace, enough power to see me through that day. I offered up to the Lord every ounce of energy I had left to do His work and prayed for an extra portion to see me through until that night. I had my own personal, private miracle. I testify that for the rest of the Convention I never felt exhaustion!! I don't know how He did it, but I was carried by Him and by our YSA angels that continued in their support of us. It was a very tender experience for me personally.

Saturday night, after the workshops and activities they had a dance. It was the first time we got to go out and watch them as they were taught how to do different types of dance steps. Every single person there was dancing. It was wonderful and so obvious how much fun they were having together. 

The next morning was Sunday. We made them breakfast and then they went to have their very own Sacrament and Testimony Meeting. We prepared them lunch bags to take with them as they traveled home, but none of them wanted to leave. I was able to talk to some of our own Britannia Chinese kids who expressed deep gratitude for having this chance to gather as Chinese members and for all our work. One girl, Danielle, cried to me and said she'd never been in a Sacrament Meeting that was done in Chinese. She shared how when they all sang "I am a Child of God" together in Chinese she broke down in tears. 

Dixon came and told me how he was able to attend the meeting and how deeply touched he was when one girl from up north stood and bore her testimony saying how she almost hadn't come to the convention because she couldn't believe there would be others that felt the same way about the church as she did. Then in tears she told them that now she knew she wasn't alone, that there were others who loved the church like she did. Dixon went on to share with me how deeply touched he had been by all the kids in the ward who had come so willingly to help with the convention "with nothing in it for them." He expressed to me the anxiety he had felt for the past 3 weeks, not sleeping, worrying about all the things that could go wrong. He said how amazed and humbled he felt as he watched how smoothly everything had gone and how sweet the spirit had been in the kitchen. Then he looked me in the eye and with tears welling up in his eyes said in a powerful voice, "What I've come to know this weekend is that when we on the Lord's errand He will not let us fail!" I, too, can testify to that with a grand AMEN!

One more sweet experience. I’ve talked about our Maggie who got baptized this summer. She has gone to school for fashion and design. I thought she would be perfect for decorating a large wall on the end of the cultural hall. After the Convention she confided in me how she had absolutely no idea what to do. She pondered and stressed over it for several weeks. Finally the weekend before the convention she was looking through sites on-line to get inspiration and came across a picture of a Chinese gateway into a garden. She roughly sketched it on a pad and later went to look at it again, but was never able to find it. The picture was gone. But Maggie said that from the point forward it all just fell into place and when she finished the wall from her rough sketch she had drawn it was beautiful, exactly what we needed. It became the central point for all the pictures and activities. Maggie told me it was her first experience to feel the Lord directing her to accomplish what she needed to do. She was deeply touched. Again the Lord doesn’t allow us to fail when we are on His errand. (Continue to the December blog) 

We are standing in front of the wall Maggie put together for the Convention. On the left is Dixon who I could never have done it without, in the middle is Hannah who was with us all three days helping in the kitchen and on the right is the keynote speaker who flew from Hong Kong to be with us all three days. She was an amazing speaker/teacher and friend. On the last day she gave me the gorgeous silk scarf I'm wearing to thank me for all the hard work. Amazing!
Standing with my Maggie Luo. On the far right is Jin who we went on our London Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. Love all these kids!

My Maggie!

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