Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Tender Mercy. An Electronic Miracle.

I've been so bad at keeping my blog updated the second half of our mission. But I would be an ungrateful servant if I failed to record a tender, sweet mercy and miracle the Lord has given specifically to me. It's been such a gift.

One of the biggest responsibilities that we have on our mission is teaching Institute Class every Tuesday night here at our flat. We take it very seriously. Our attendance started at 8 and has grown to 40-50 kids stuffed into our little flat. It's a feast every Tuesday night as we witness to truth and share our testimonies with one another. The spirit fills the room and my heart every week!

The class is 90 minutes (at least) so it required hours of preparation. We have taught the last two semesters "Teachings of the Living Prophets". I LOVE this class. We study Conference talks and also talks given at BYU Devotionals, the inspired words and counsel from the General Authorities leading this church. It's so wonderful because we have the flexibility to choose the talks we feel are best suited for the needs of the kids that are attending. That also poses a problem. There is no set lessons. The structure and development of the lesson falls on me. This requires hours of work, pulling in other quotes and examples to supplement the talks and coming up with meaningful and probing questions. It's a true labor of love. It usually takes all day Monday and then most of Tuesday preparing. (This also includes preparing a dessert, setting up the room, getting the talks downloaded and set up for viewing on our large screen TV, attendance roll and handouts typed up and copied to hand out.) We are talking hours!!!

With anything that requires this kind of sacrifice I have come to cherish these lessons. I've looked at them as a marvelous resource, something I would be able access and use for years to come. They have also been part of the evolution of our mission, with many of our experiences from our mission recorded within them. They are precious to me.

After teaching the first semester of Institute here I had some problems with my computer last summer. Knowing how irreplaceable those lessons were (along with the lessons we'd taught in our BYU Institute class before our mission) and experiencing a  nagging feeling that I needed to guard against ever losing all the stored information on my computer, Jim went and bought an external hard drive. Since both of us are hopeless with anything electronic we took my computer and hard drive to our Mission Office and had Elder Davis download my hard drive onto the external drive. It was such a relief to have all the information from my computer backed up and safe.

Another year passed. Two semesters plus an extra month into the summer of lessons on dating and relationships. Over 30 lesson. Hundreds of hours. Never took the time to back it up.

In July my computer CRASHED!

In a panic we took the computer to Richard Smith, our YSA Tech Support and IT expert here in Britannia. He worked on it and came back with the devastating news that my hard drive had crashed but there was still hope. He knew of a company that could retrieve data for a small fee of 500.00 pounds (just kidding about a small fee!) I didn't care. I was willing to pay anything to get back all those lessons from the past year. Jim took my computer in and we waited.

A week later the company called to inform me there was no need to pay the fee. It was GONE! IRRETRIEVABLE!  All  my data from last year was lost!!!

I cried for two days.

Darling sweet Richard got a new hard drive and installed it into my computer and I begin again. Because we don't teach Institute during the summer months I just used my computer for day to day emailing, reactivation and occasional skyping with the family.

Last week was our first Institute Class. In preparation I went to look at what I still had in my Documents and Downloads. At first I was baffled. There listed were lessons I assumed were lost. The more I looked the more I realized that except for the last set of lessons we gave in the summer, all the rest of the lessons from last year WERE THERE!!!!

How could that be possible? I called Richard. I called Tanner. Both should know how that could be possible. Neither of them had an answer. They were both baffled. They simply had no explanation!

That's when I started to cry.  It might not be significant to anyone but me. There might even be some kind of an explanation. But for me I had just received my very own miracle!!!! I would have never thought to ask for such a miracle as this. I think that's what made it so sweet. It was a gift signed and delivered from a Heavenly Father who loves his daughter, a daughter He knows who is trying her best to serve, to do His work here on earth.

I love Him. And I know He loves me, as imperfect as I am,  I will praise His name forever! Thank you Father. Thank you for this amazing gift just for me. I stand all amazed!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Farewell letter to Char and Mike Ford

Good bye letter from my precious friend Char Ford as she prepares to leave with her husband Mike and go serve as Public Relations Missionaries in 6 countries of Africa, with their home base in Kenya. We had tried to get them to replace us here in Britannia but they were snatched up before we could get them. But the Lord's in charge. He knows where they are most needed. They will be wonderful.

From Char:

Dear Friend.....We had our Sacrament meeting Sunday.  Now that is a good day to get behind you.  I really didn't realize I was so wound up about it....that afternoon I felt like my breathing went back to normal and I was my old self again.  As you know, these last few weeks really are packed with so much to do and so much emotion that it is hard to handle all of it.  BUT I have a really sweet friend in London right now serving a mission and I got a surprise phone call from her a while back that has saved my life over these last few days.  I try to remember her council so that my heart won't break completely. 
Yesterday Amy and her family left.  We have had everyone here for the past week and it is heaven for this old grandma when we are ALL together.  As we began our goodbyes I felt like my heart was least a fourth of it....Christy will leave tomorrow and then my heart will be broke in half.  I'll finish it up with
goodbyes to the boys and their families in a few weeks.  This truly is the sacrifice of serving a mission.  I told all the grandkids in my talk Sunday that even though I cry when I say goodbye it is not because I don't want to go....I have always wanted to serve a mission with Papa, it's just because I love them so much and will miss them.  Oh the things we do because we believe in the Savior.  Really you couldn't do these things unless we did.
I love you Starla, thank you so much for the tender phone call, truly a friend in the time of need.  Mike and I are really getting excited and want more than ever to GET STARTED!!!  We are still praying for Visas but are told by Brother Love in the travel department all is well.  So with faith we will take that advise and let the system work.  Please give Jim a that is one lucky man!!!  We will have e-mail so we can keep in tough.  See you for a hug February 2017!!!!!!  Take care and God Bless

My reply:
 (7 days ago)

Sweet friend;

So last week my computer (which is where all things mission related come from) crashed and I have had to get a new hard drive. Finally got it back last night and saw your very tender sweet letter that warmed my soul. Oh Char how I can relate!!! it's not about leaving your home, the ward, or the convenience of Orem Utah. It's about leaving those little people that have such a hold on your heart (AND our big children who are our dearest friends). I know I sometimes wonder if our sacrifices are acceptable to the Lord. But when it comes to getting on a plane and leaving those people that own your heart behind to go serve people you don't even know yet I KNOW that it's a sacrifice deep and dear enough to count as some payback to the Lord who has given it all to us in the first place. I continue to feel his acceptance of our efforts ALL THE TIME! Your heartbreak is known to the Lord. IT COUNTS!!!! We've been gone for over 18 months and my heart still will ache for our family. But sweet Char He will use that ache to propel you forward to serve more diligently and fill it up with the love you have for those you are serving. It's a very tender circle of love and sacrifice. 

I've reached an interesting place in our mission. We only have 4 1/2 months left and I'm starting to panic. I can hardly wait to meet our new littles, Skyler and Seth, and hug all our precious family. But when I think of leaving our kids here my eyes automatically fill up with tears. I can hardly bear to think of leaving them. So many of our dearest kids are Chinese, most I will never see again in mortality. Talk about heartache. But that's what comes with being fully committed. It's what it's all about. 

Char you and Mike will be in our prayers that your visa will be issued and you'll be able to leave on time. (I so relate to NEEDING to just go. I don't know if you remember Jim getting so sick before we were to go for TWO WEEKS!!!! I was dying by time we finally got to get on that plane and just get started so I totally relate to getting the goodbyes done and getting out and going to work!) I can testify to you both that you will look back at this time of serving together as a precious gift from the Lord, one you will cherish forever.

Know we love you both and are cheering you on!  You will be MARVELOUS!!! Look out Africa... the Fords are on their way!!!!

Sister Phillips (your sister and friend forever!)

Letter to Our New Mission President

Our new mission president sent us an email with several questions regarding what we are doing, what's our schedule, what's worked and not worked and how we are feeling about our service. This was our letter back to him:

President Stevens;

First we want to thank you for the sweet spirit you and Sister Stevens have brought to the England London Mission. We already love you. It will be a joy to get to work with you both.

When we arrived we were assigned to be the Senior Couple over the Britannia YSA Ward. Our responsibility is to watch over, feed, counsel, teach, support the Stake and Mission and especially love the YSA of the Hyde Park Stake. It's been a joy, a calling we feel especially blessed to have been called to.

Our typical week begins on Sunday. We attend all Ward Councils where we review and work from our Google Doc list of EVERY member of Britannia and what efforts have been done in reactivation and reach out.  We teach Marriage Prep Classes, Sister Phillips directs Ward and Stake Choir and we sometimes substitute teach Sunday School. Elder Phillips is using his priesthood weekly in the giving of blessings, confirmations and baptisms.  Elder Phillips teaches a 12-week course on Self-Reliance Classes from 10-12:00. It's a day we make ourselves available for whatever the YSA or Bishop needs. 

On Monday and Tuesday we used those days to prepare to teach our Institute Class held Tuesday night. Monday evening we have FHE. We are not in charge but support FHE and are available to the kids that are needing help. Elder Phillips does life coaching the hour before FHE starts with those that request it. Sister Phillips attends Relief Society Presidency and Board Meetings held before FHE and lend support where it is needed.

During the school year on Tuesday we have a Stake Institute Class at our flat. Class actually starts at 7:30 but we have kids arriving at 6:50 onward. They stay until whatever time they decide to go home. (Thank goodness the tube closes at 12:00!) We started out with 8 in attendance. Our class has now grown to between 40-50 YSA every week. It's been a very special night, full of the spirit and because it's at our flat, the YSA have the experience of being in a home. It's been very very sweet.

During the summer months Tuesday night is "Seek for Supper". We invite groups of 4 (usually our less-actives or new members of the ward with their Home or Visiting Teacher) to come have a barbecue with us. We've had success in reaching out and reactivating. With such a small group we can have a more personal connection and really get to understand their needs and concerns. It has been a way of reaching youth that we haven't been able to reach any other way.

Wednesday is our Costco Run and beginning food preparation for Thursday. 

Thursday is food preparation for Stake Institute Night. During the school semesters we have around 110 kids (that includes the missionaries and investigators that come in for dinner). During the summer our numbers are between 60-70 kids and missionaries. We've had to fight for this night with the stake last year when they were going to scale it back to snacks. What we had come to recognize is that Thursday night is much more than eating and going to class. It's a chance for the youth to "GATHER". Some of these kids have never had a family that sat down and ate together. For some this meal is the only home made meal in the week. There's been great power in gathering, not just for our YSA, but for the missionaries who bring in investigators. Can you imagine the impact on the investigator walking in and seeing 100 young adults sitting down together eating and having fun. It's powerful.  Even though it's lots of work for us, the benefits far outweigh the work load. 

Elder Phillips also teaches Missionary Prep Class on Thursdays. What's been most exciting is the number of Chinese converts that are attending as they prepare to go serve a mission

Our weekends are taken up with Stake Dances which Britannia is usually in charge of putting on, us supporting special events our YSA are involved in, personal coaching, ward and stake temple days, teaching a one-day Temple Prep class as needed and doing our quarterly Stake and Ward YSA Rep Breakfast and Training Meeting. We also support Break the Fast on the first Sunday of the month and all Stake YSA Firesides. 

We try to teach with the missionaries every chance we get (especially Elder Phillips) and have just made the decision to have newly baptized YSA over right before or after their baptism to get to know them and build a relationship so they are not lost upon entering the ward. Our ward council has taken on the responsibility to see new members are given a calling and a temple recommend within days of their baptism. It has really helped. Also the 90-day program of the missionaries continuing to teach them after baptism has made a huge difference in retention!

We work directly with President Stephenson, who is the Stake Presidency member over the YSA. The Hyde Park Stake relies heavily on the Britannia Ward for support in activities within the Stake. Last year we were responsible for putting on a 3-day Chinese Convention, the first one ever attempted in London. It was a wonderful success. This coming October Britannia is in charge of an 8 Stake 1-day YSA Symposium that will include classes, lunch and dinner, and end with a multi-stake dance.

President the first day we arrived on our mission we received 3 pieces of advice that we've utilized on our mission. The first two came from President Jordan. He counselled us "Don't have favorites" and "As a senior couple you can be as busy as you choose." The third piece of advice came from the outgoing CES Director, Julian Jones, who counselled "Serve the ones in front of you."
From the very first we've tried to open our arms to everyone. There are those that seek us out and want to serve us. We love and appreciate their kindness to us. But we have always tried to look for those that are in the background and scoop them up, as well. I would say our best contribution has been the love we know ALL the YSA feel from us. And when you love them so much they can't help but love you back!
We've chosen to be busy. There are some days that aren't filled but we are grateful for some recovery time. This calling is physically draining, but it's much more emotionally draining. There are so many needs. Julian was right. You don't have to look past those standing in front of you for someone who has tremendous needs. These YSA are getting bombarded on every side from a wicked world. Most come from broken or non-existent homes. The majority have never seen a marriage that works. Few have family emotional or financial support. Sometimes our hearts break at the difficulty of their lives. They desperately need guidance, love and example. We try to always be there to give it.
Not only were we called to serve the YSA found in Britannia but all the YSA within Hyde Park Stake Boundaries. The majority of active YSA opt to attend Britannia. That leaves the majority of inactive YSA on the rolls of the other wards in the Stake. We recognized that they were falling through the cracks because of the other pressing needs of the Bishop and his council. In the first 6 months of our mission we came up with and presented a program to the Stake for going after those less-active. To do it we needed Bishops to call Ward YSA Reps with the Stake Reps called from Britannia. Our push was each Bishop and his ward council would come up with just 5 names of less-active YSA and make them a priority and focus. The YSA Rep would take responsibility for coordinating and getting the reach out to happen. That would include themselves, ward auxiliaries, home and visiting teachers, and the full time missionaries. We have had quarterly training, follow up calling and accountability but have not had the kind of success in reactivation we had hoped for. We've had a hard time getting some of the Reps bought in and committed. There is also a constant turnover in reps needing to be called. The Reps face ward councils that are overwhelmed with other pressing needs. It's been frustrating.
We can report that in Britannia our stake rep has our reach out program up and running. We've gotten all our auxiliaries, missionaries and the Bishopric committed and working off our master Google Doc that lists every member of our ward, how they are doing and coordinates what actions have been taken on their behalf. It's also helped to clean up our rolls, which is a constant concern. We will have one more Stake Training before we leave and hopefully get better cooperation and commitment. This works!
Our numbers have increased in every area. Britannia leads the stake in baptisms (as it should!). Our Tuesday Institute Class rose from 8 to 45. When we first arrived the Thursday dinners were 65. We now feed up to 110. Our Sacrament meeting attendance has risen significantly. There is a true feeling of unity and closeness that blesses all who attend Britannia.  It has taken the whole team of Britannia to make this happen. 
In summary I'll convey what was said to us by President Phillips. He explained to us that he had been involved in Britannia for the past 17 years, first as a member, then part of a Bishopric, now as the Stake President. He said in those 17 years he'd witnessed 2 eras that he called the "Golden Years". Then he exclaim, "This is the third!" How blessed we are to be a part of it!!!
Hope this has answered your questions. 
Warmest Regards,
Elder and Sister Phillips

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Standing Outside the Temple Doors!

There's an experience I don't want to forget. It should have been added in the last post because it happened in March but I forgot.

Four weeks ago we had a ward temple day that included one of the girls we had taught at Temple Prep, Annick, going to receive her endowment. She had asked that we attend. It's ALWAYS a very big deal when one of our kids gets endowed. We were thrilled for Annick, a convert and one of our girls since the beginning of our mission, getting the opportunity to go through the temple.

Most the group from Britannia took the train. Jim and I were blessed to be invited by Ionut, a YSA that serves as a counselor in our Bishopric and also a professional taxi driver, if we wanted to drive with him in his taxi to the temple. We accepted and had a wonderful visit with Ionut, our dear Romanian friend.

Upon arriving at the temple we saw many of our kids entering in to do baptisms and some going to do endowments. We quickly went up to the desk to enter and as I pulled out my recommend my eye caught the number 2013. In that instant I KNEW!!! I always renewed my recommend in February and it was now the middle of March. The man at the desk, seeing my missionary badge and the long line behind us, was motioning me through when I stopped him and asked him to check the date. He looked, got a surprised expression on his face and then informed me that yes, my recommend had expired two weeks previous.

He went to get someone that would talk to me. It was the President of the temple. He took Jim and I back into his office and feeling horrible informed us that just a few weeks previous he had received counsel from the Brethren informing him that he could scramble on a recommend left at home, or a recommend not digitally scanned but there could be NO EXCEPTION to an expired recommend. I was NOT entering that temple that day!!!

The YSA went in.  Elder Phillips went in to help with the baptisms and there I stood, all alone, outside the doors of the temple.

I reflected back to the day that Amanda Kjar got married. It was 9/11, the day the towers came down. Jim and I had driven up to Salt Lake Temple listening to the radio describing the horror. We kept looking at each other in despair, overwhelmed at the devastation, enveloped in the darkness and despair that comes from the adversary of all righteousness.

When we arrived at the temple they were closing it down. Amanda's sealing would be the last ordinance of the day.

We walked through the temple that was virtually empty. The peace and quiet was in stark contrast to chaos that was happening outside the temple walls. It almost took our breath away.

We entered the sealing room where some of our dearest friends stood. Elder Lynn Robbins of the Seventy and former neighbor was acting as sealer that day. The spirit was profound. Elder Robbins voiced how we were all feeling, describing the contrast of the darkness of the world and the peace and light found in the Lord's temple. The peace was palatable.

As Elder Robbins counseled this precious couple he said something I will never forget. He told them that growing up in Primary the letters CTR always stood for Choose the Right, but from this moment on he wanted to change the meaning. He told them that, as endowed and sealed members, from now on the letters CTR was to symbolize "Current Temple Recommend"!

I had always remembered that. In all my years since being endowed I had NEVER let my recommend lapse.

So there I stood, outside the temple ! Of course you all know what I was feeling. I stood there imagining how this would feel if, at the end of my earthly probation, the choices I made would keep me from entering God's presence and I would stand there watching as all those I loved entered in. It was such a sick feeling, one I never want to experience. It also made me even more determined to be worthy and to do all that I could as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a parent, and a friend to influence and ensure there are no empty chairs in heaven. My deepest desire is to sit down in heaven with all those who are precious to me. Heaven simply will never be Heaven if the people I love and cherish are not there with me.

A powerful lesson learned.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A 3-month Catch Up with Random Pictures. Repenting and Recommitment to Writing Our Blog!

It's been so long since I've written a blog (3 1/2 months) that I don't even know where to begin. So much has happened that I can't begin to recapture everything. Yet General Conference has convicted me that these memories need to be recorded. 

Also a conversation I had with Jim two days ago once again helped me remember the "WHY" of keeping a journal. We were talking about our parents and grandparents. As we viewed their lives there were so many unanswered questions and us wondering how and why they were the way they were. Oh how I wished we could have had enough presence of mind to have asked and recorded their stories and insights. Now it is everlastingly too late and they are gone, along with all the wisdom and insight that could have been passed on to blessed us, their posterity.

So I begin anew, even though it's difficult to find the time serving here in London. I do it so our posterity will never have to wonder why we did what we did, never have to guess where we stood concerning our values and beliefs. And never to wonder or forget how much we did what we did because of the love and adoration we had for every single one of you. It's for you, our posterity, that I commit to writing down our experiences and feelings. This is our gift to you and to the God we love!

Our Posterity
A portrait of all our children. Bri posted this on Facebook for National Siblings Day and I had to grab it and add it to our blog. Above and below lies our greatest accomplishment in mortality!
 All our grandchildren (minus Ysabel). This picture was taken on a sibling's Pizza excursion while we were here in London. How handsome they are. Cole has turned into a man since we've been gone! He looks like one of the dads. (Still only 15 in this picture) Love this and am so proud to call them all ours!!!

Diana's Story

This was a talk given to our Institute Class by Diana.

How the scriputes have power to change my life. By Tai Lin Chang (Diana)

I remember I was that kind of person who wants to see an angel to be able to believe it is
true. And also that kind of typical chinese peolpe thought: I paid my efforts, so I want my
rewards now. But through reading the scriptures, I received the answers that turning my cogitation upside down.

For me, it took quite a while to feel the power of the book of Mormon. There was few times I
was about to giving up. But there were always friends,like Emily,sister missionaries and
especailly sister Phillips around me told me to hold on to it, he will manifest to me in his own
time and his own way. I remember just before NYE 2014 sister phillips asked me so
suddenly: What about you, Diana? Are you doing okay? I said ­I am at the bottom of my faith,
and I felt ­it doesn’t matter if the church is true or not, I already tried and I had enough. I think
it is because Emily was leaving soon and she is my root in the church and that effected me a
lot. Then sister phillips asked me again: Have you try everything? try your best? And that
made me wondered and hesitated to say YES.

Few day after it’s NYE that day after filming elder and sister Phillips vedio for Emliy, we had a chat, I remember Helen and Dixon was in that room as well, I would say they delivered the message directly to me, it’s about learning the gospel is not just like attending a course, it’s a whole life event, it takes times. And elder Phillips also shared his convert story about the night he kneel down between two cars and the testimony about the prophet walking back and only shook his hand just because he needed it.

After that night with brand new year began, I decided to do my best to live in the gospel and to
try, to trust, to wait whenever God wants to answer my prayers. So I started to pray
frequently,read the scriptures,pay tidthing,fasting and go to the temple. Then the following
Sunday was full of answers sunday. It was the same sunday as Brother Brad wilcox came
and gave talks. On that day from hymns we sang that reminds me the day I got baptised and
then bishop white shared a story about a man who was a member then he decides to stop
doing anything but trying to study Atheist. Afer few years that he believe there is no God and
he is an Atheist. same day relief society taught us ” Put lord first as a defualt, when you put
the lord first, everything will fall in the right place. Love the lord as first commandment and if
you do so, you will feel easy to follow all his commandments and to live in the gospel.” Then
brother wilcox’s talk answered my doubts and defeated my fear. At that night I knew these are
the answers that God gave it to me and I have to act on it even without Emily and to be
independant now. So I started to attending as many church activities as I can. I can feel the blessings came little by little and started to recognize the prompting from the holy ghost.

Then the turning point was when I received the E­mail from Brothr Mark white. It’s about
gaining credits from institute by completing catch up assignments for those I missed. In the
beginning I was lazy and did’t want to do it, and it was friday night so I kind of ignored the
email. But during saturday and sunday I can say there was a voice keep haunting in my mind:
“Put the Lord first, Put the Lord first.” Now I knew it was holy ghost whispering to me. So at
sunday night I emailed him back and next day morning I started to do the assignments. I am
not sure it was because the deadline pressure or I really want to do it, but I got up very earlythat day and find a place that I can focus then I started.

Before when I read the scriputures I can say it now “I just read it”, and it never let me feel any connectons in my life. But the assignments told me to read the scripues with student manual and write a short summary, what I have learned from it. If it’s not because of this assignment I would never know that the book of mormon student manual is such a helpful book, and that morning It was the first time I felt I read the book of Mormon with my heart and It came into my life, .

I now really have a great desire to figure it out and truly understand the truth for myself. During the reading there is answer here, prompting there, I felt touched from here, I learn from there. I’ve really learned lots from it like how these verbs applied to my life, also the things that I need to be imporve in order to be a better person. This is the day that I truly accept and learned: It is not by marvelous manifestations unto us that we shall be established in the truth, but it is by humility and faithful obedience to the commadmants and laws of Gods. And I knew I don’t have to see an angel becuse ”Signs flow from faith. they may have the effect of strengthening the faith of those who are already spiritually inclined, but their main purpose is not to convert people to the truth, but to reward and bless those already converted…” it really touched me.

There is also an excitment for me to read it because I can feel there are lots of answers waiting for me to be discovered. So next day I kept reading it, it came the famous verb to bright my day,it’s in Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it shall be given you,seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Before I wasn’t quite sure how we recieve th answers and how we feel the holy ghost, but now I experienced and I knew “revelation or inspiration comes in several ways, including thoughts, impressions, feelings or a still, small voice.”

Through this experience I realized how much I have changed since I started to learn gospel in 2013 July, I now truly pray with sincere heart, I am willing to read the scriptures ,learn to obey and have true desire to know the truth. And it also reminded me the night before I decided got baptised, I read Nephi 2 31:14 :But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me. “Now I already got baptised and recieved the holy ghost, and also I felt I start learning to regonized the language of angels. One last thing I would like to shared is Thanks for sister phillips invited me to shared my tesmony tonight, again I just realized how the scriptures have the power to change my life. and how much I’ve changed. I say these things in the name of Jesus christ, Amen.

Our Diana is not blessed with the gift of faith but she has been given the gift of tenacity and commitment. She had to work very hard for months to get to the place of being able to write that talk. 

A couple days after Diana read this letter to our class her intellectual, athiest, scoffing Aunt came to stay with Diana for 3 weeks and
proceeded to undo all the good work she had done. It was so discouraging. My heart was broken for Diana. 

We continued to work with her after her Aunt left her broken. I knew she loved us and so using that love I begged her to give us the rest of the time she had in London (a couple months) to overcome the doubts her Aunt had put in her mind. One of the great attributes Diana has is that of tenacity and commitment. To Diana's credit she kept coming back, even when she wasn't feeling it, because she had promised me she would. She didn't quit.

It's been slow and sometimes frustrating but I've watched her once again claiming the ground she lost. It's been a marvelous work and a wonder and a testament that those that truly humble themselves and search with an open heart the Lord will answer.

The time has come that Diana needs to return to Taiwan. This past Wednesday we had a going-away party. Of course we went around the circle with everyone expressing why they loved Diana so much. It was beautiful and became very apparent to even Diana that she had far more faith than she gave herself credit for. It was also apparent that she had the ability to love and make people feel special. The people in attendance were able to encourage her and help Diana see herself more clearly. It was a love fest in our flat that afternoon.

After the party she told me she had been filled with optimism and assurance that she could go back to Taiwan and remain true. I can't tell you how much that meant to us. She will be such a powerful assest to those waiting for her in Taiwan. Our loss but the people of Taiwan's gain. She will be sorely missed!!!

This is a picture of Diana's going away luncheon we had at our flat April 8, 2015 with all her closest friends in the ward. It was a magical afternoon. Love and the spirit flowed as each of us shared our love and testimony to Diana! 
More random pictures of our kids we never want to forget!
This is Annie who Jim baptized. She is so faithful and has blossemed in front of our eyes in the gospel. It's been a marvel to watch her grow. She bore her testimony for the first time in March. You would have thought she'd been a member her whole life We're so proud of her!!!!
 This is Phyllis. Jim baptized her the same day as Annie got baptized. I've never seen a Chinese convert who has had belief and faith come so easy. She's just jumped into the gospel with both feet. She's a bright light in our ward. 

A random picture after one of our Institute classes taken as a group of us gathered in our kitchen for after class treats. I can't tell you what each of these girls mean to us!!!

Natasha who is cutting the cake has gone back to Singapore. We miss her so much. She was one of the first Chinese to start attending Institute. KitYe in the middle is planning on going on a mission. Such valiant converts to the church. Look out China. Here they come!!!!

Tender Messages from Sanjay and Min 

I will never forget a conversation I had with Sanjay a couple months ago. He has been called as our Assistant Ward Mission Leader. As part of his call he does a lot of teaching with the Elders (has already baptised a new member). One night after ourThursday night dinner and Institute he asked if we could talk. He told me how difficult it was to live the gospel with all his non-member roommates, his Hindu parents, extended family and girlfriend (in Burmingham) and trying to get through Med School. He was frustrated and discouraged. I gave him a bit of a pep talk and then asked the ultimate question, "Sanjay I guess the real question is do you know God knows you and hears your prayers?" 

He was quiet for a minute then he said, "When I'm teaching with the missionaries an investigator will ask a hard question that I have no idea how to answer. I stop and listen and the Lord always gives me the correct answer they are looking for." Then with tears in Sanjay's eyes he looked right at me and said, "Yes. I know He knows me and He loves me."

That was all. It was enough for him. He just needed to remember. He remains true, in spite of all the burdens and heavy responsibilities that contintue to weigh on him. He is a magnificent young man and we love him like a son.

A message I found on my Facebook message:
Sister Phillips.. Each time I come to institute at your home I just think to myself how crazy it is I can take so much from your lessons.. It seems to me that I can relate each one directly to my life and it gives me that determination to keep going no matter how tough life gets. The spirit in the room amazes me, Its the only thing I think allows people to feel safe and comfortable opening up to so many around them. Thank you so much for all the effort you and Elder Phillips go to in preparing these lessons and opening up your home for us. PS The brownies were perfect as always! Also if I look as if I'm tired or not listening on Tuesday nights ignore it!! Thats just my normal look nowadays!

Another message from Sanjay over Spring Break. Oh how I love this young man!
Hi Elder and Sister Phillips. I couldn't remember your email so text has to do! I'm doing OK in Birmingham. Feeling the pressure of upcoing finals (med school) but guess I am getting used to it now. Just wanted to let you know I was reminiscing about my baptism today- I picked a good weekend to remember it. (Easter) Thank you for bringing me into the church. I will be eternally grateful for it. I hope everyone is keeping well in Brintannia. See you in a few weeks. Sanjay.

From Min, a beautiful new member to our Britannia Ward
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the lesson last night. I really felt it was just for me, and you have no idea how much it means.
I love you both so much. Thank you for being a beautiful ray of light to me, just as i need it the most.
Please tell me if there is anything i can do for you both.
All my love. xMin

Letters from some of our girls back in China

A letter from our precious Emily Du who we sorely miss! It's no small thing to be a member of the church in China. Nothing is easy. It required so much dedication. Yet they continue. These girls are my heroes!

Hi my dearest Big Sister,
    I am going to HK temple with two lovely Sisters from my ward tomorrow and will  move to Shenzhen and start to work next week.
    I do apologize for being missing for a while. I was crazy for looking for answer for my mission and my jobs as well. I didn’t know which is better at the beginning but I knew I shouldn’t waste time anymore. And my mom kept asking ‘you can go for your mission but one day you need to come back and what are you going to do after your mission?’.
    Yes, she was right, I don’t really want my mission to become one of the excuses to avoid my mortal responsibilities and I am 24 already,it is time to live on my own. So I asked help for my mission and my career simultaneously. Because I know God only gives me help while I am literally doing something. This is what I learn since I came back home(when I read D&C6.5 I burst to cry). I may lose lovely conversations with active members in Britannia but  l practice my faith and sensibility in various ways in broader areas. And I feel more and more confident when I make my own choice now. I was not like this when I was in London, I replyed on others' reactions too much although I looked so independent but when I was alone I felt insecure and couldn’t feel how to get rid of it from the prayers of gospel. I feel lucky I didn’t give up when I met some challenges and I supposed I changed the problems to opportunities to grow. 
     I still need to strive for my mission and I know there is another chance to go for it. I am so grateful the time I have and I can use most of it to prepare for my mission.
     I went to Guangzhou to visit Sharon because Shu (yeah~she is Dixon’s girl friend I knew~) recommended two companies for me in Shenzhen and gave my cv to them and they ask me to have an interview.(She is so nice,and I am so happy for both of them). So I made one week trip to Guangdong Province. And it was so great ! We(Sharon and I ) accompanied with each other when we took interviews and we had loads of nice food!(you should come !!) And most important is I went to her Ward and had a really lovely Sabbath Day there. She loves the sweet messages from you guys. I appreciate all of it and always say thanks to Thee.
     I am  easy to forget some wonderful blessings from Heavenly Father and make myself feel unhappy. So writing to you makes me reflect on myself what really had happened. And it makes me feel life is so great and I am child for God and nothing is really end until we meet again.
    Thank God I that make me have you and hope you are doing great! Tell me more about Britannia please, I miss you all so much!
    Best as ever
    Love Emily DUDU 

A letter from Danielle sent from China. I don't know how my heart will survive losing these Chinese daughters who we've come to love so much!

Dear Sister&Elder Phillips,

How are you doing these days??  It seems been a Long time we seperate ~~~
I miss both of you~ miss your wonderful smiles, big huges and your fabulous lessons!!!  Oh, I miss you so much !!!!!!
    I am OK in China, and go to church every week always bring my friends, they love that peaceful feeling there.  I know one day they could feel more strong spirit like we do. China does need more church members who have strong faith and willing to help others.
    Well, I am working for an American PR company (called Allison Partners, the top50 in America) in Beijing, in fact the job is not easy, and I could say the pressure is even higher than the job I’ve got in London. Our team is in charge of doing PR for Emerson Climate Technologies in China, perhaps you know this American company. Lots of technologies...professional words...There are many deadlines every week and we have to sacrifice private time every night. I have to adapt this life and face all the challenges, however, I could learn a lot from working. I am planning to go back to the UK 16 July as I supposed to. But, there are only 7 working days off the first year and plus 2 weekends all together could be 11 days. I have to be back before 26July because of 8hrs time difference have to come back to work again. I hope to see you soon !!!!!! if i am luck could have your lesson hahaha ~~~wow i am so excited !!!!!
    I miss the time when I was in the UK, probably it is related the time I spent with church members and helping missionaries. Yes, I do enjoy helping others just like you do, it really strengthen my faith. On saturday, I was so hunger to go to Temple, later I saw lots of pictures that britanian friends posted on FB late afternoon, I know Heavenly Father answers my will. I am looking forward going to the London Temple !!! 
     Yesterday, I was so touched by one old couple’s testimonies, they are over 72 years and joined the church in Japan and HK separately. They got sealed 2 years ago. The sister dropped 2 years later after back from Japan, however several sisters’ constant contribution helped this sister back to church again. Afterward, she got the calling of helping the patriarchs, checking, correcting the words on patriarchal blessing. She did lots of checking work and she said each time she listened the patriarchs’s blessing, checking the words, she was so moved and cant control herself, that is all Heavenly Father’s love, HE loves every one of us. Her husband shared lots of about news happened around church building ( we have no proper chapel, but rent one whole floor of a building. Lots of miracles happened on church members and non-church members around this building, he shared “ because our church is in this building, Heavenly Father cares, helps and loves every church members and non-church members as well. I love their testimonies, they enjoy and thankful of being faithful members and serving others. 
     Another sister who is going to be a missionary in Austrialia in May she said, have to invite others rather push others to come to our church, we have to respect those who doesn’t understand us. That is so true, I still remember the blessing I’ve got from Elder Phillips before I left, “ You will be fine, and you have to show youself ( with Christ’s light on ) to other non-members. No debating or fighting with others, but loving others.”  I really love this scripture, A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another, as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  I love you !!!!!Sister and Elder Phillips !!!!!
    Sometimes I felt lack of spirit because of busy and exhaustion, I will pray and read scripture to cool down. I could really understand the reasons those people who came back to China and stopped going to church, pressure, work, environment, relations... You have to do those simple things, and continue to do that to invite the spirit to be with you. That is so important but so hard to persist sometimes when we are challenged by surroundings. Though I have only 5/6 hours sleep I usually could find some time to read before sleep or when I am on the bus/tube. 
     I miss you so much ~ miss your wonderful hugs~beautiful smiles !!!!
     I hope you could help more people and share your wonderful testimonies~~
     Do take care and I pray for your mission.

    With Love, Danielle

Second letter from Danielle

My lovely Sister and Elder Phillips, 

    Great thanks for your last reply. And I am so excited receiving your letter as there are full of happiness and love. 
    I am grateful having your lessons and learned so much from you two. Although I am here in China it seems you are just near besides me. :) you know how much I miss you !!!!!
    I am so busy everyday but I do enjoy every in our church to pray to Heavenly Father and repent to myself every. You two always been my example to church members here and because I shared a lot of your stories. 
    I love this general conference it taught me a lot. However I have to use some special programme to watch it just like I have to use it to be on facebook. I will try to find time to study this conference. And I love what you shared on facebook about our prophet Thomas monson's talk I love it !!! I love being in the temple. As I told you that my dream is living near the temple and go there as often as I could. I know I could realize my you think so ?????
    I miss you and I am praying for your mission and your health. I am working hard to get the chance back to London middle of July to see you and have your lessons again. I love you and you are so wonderful examples to me.  
    Do take care and I know God knows all your enormous efforts on us. HE will bless you all the time. 

    With love, Danielle

Some Precious Random Pictures

Pictures of our newest member of the family. We've yet to meet Seth but oh how I adore this little guy. Such a gift to his family and a mender to his mommy's soul. He will always have a special place in our hearts. Welcome to the family Seth Lorenzo Hoopes!!! 

When Ashlee asked who Ty wants to marry when he gets big he thought for a moment and then answered, "Maga". I'm so grateful and reassured that being gone for 13 months hasn't dimmed the sweet love we share. I adore this little guy!!!!
Sharon Duvall posted this picture on Facebook that I had to post here on our blog. It's a very early picture of Jim with Tom Smith and his mother. I believe this picture is when Tom was leaving to go serve his mission in Uruguay. We were blessed to have an intregal part in the Smith Family conversion to the church. As we serve here in London Tom is presently serving as mission president in Uruguay. What a sweet memory this picture represents. Look how young these boys look. What a treasure.

The past two weeks have been our spring break. No Institute Class to prepare and no Institute dinner to cook. What a blessed break. I was feeling on the verge of burnout. It couldn't have come at a better time.

Elder Phillips and I thought we'd take an over-nighter and do something fantastic to celebrate our 41st anniversary and just get away. We ended up going to Lingfield where the London temple is. We did a session then went to a fabulous dinner, the best one so far in London. It felt like we were at Texas Roadhouse at home with cowboy hats country decor and country music blaring over the speakers We had barbecue spareribs and baked potatoes. It was so fun. We slept overnight at a Marriott there in Lingfield that was built around a famous horse-racing track and field. It was absolutely beautiful. The next day we walked the countryside and then just came home. Doesn't sound like much but it was felt great to just be away and be sweethearts with nothing to plan or be responsible for. We loved it.

This past week we were still off but decided to do some things that we don't have days for when we're on. On Tuesday we had our Stake/Ward Rep dinner and meeting here that was terrific. We used Bri's grilled lime chicken recipe and did our first barbecue of the year. The kids all loved it. We had Diana's going away lunch on Wednesday and then had 4 kids, two that are recently returning to church, over Friday for dinner. At the same time this week I got sick for the first time since being here. Bad chest cold! But it was a very sweet, fruitful week with lots of good food, deep conversations and great company.

Our ward is flourishing. We continue to have baptisms almost weekly. Our attendance at everything has increased substantially. Our Tuesday night Institute class here has been the highlight of the week. We had a couple weeks of 50 kids attending and were frantic that we
might have to move it to the church, but it has now settled back down to around 35 kids. That's about the maximum our flat can handle. Just this week I agreed to teach the Tuesday evening Institute class on Friday morning for those kids that are nannies or work at night and can't come in the evening. Our Thursday night dinner has increased to over a 100. It's a party in the kitchen every Thursday night with all my cute helpers in the kitchen. Our ward choir is preparing to sing at Stake Conference in 2 weeks (choir continues to be the most stressful thing I do here!) And three weeks ago we did a Temple Prep class here with 8 young women getting married or endowed. It's all so exciting.
What has been a miracle to behold is the perfectly developed choreographed steps Jim and I do together as we serve. We literally read each other's mind and finish each other's sentences. We bring such different skills but we've learned to blend them in such an empowering way that blesses both us and the kids. It's also been critical to portray an eternal marriage that actually works. Currently we are teaching a Marriage Prep Class
every Sunday during Sunday School. We have about 12 kids coming that are either getting married or are in a serious relationship. This class has been so needful. Some of these kids have never even seen a marriage that actually works. We are using John Lund's "For All Eternity" along with our own experiences and I'm seeing light bulbs going off every class. It has been a sweet experience with such eternal implications.

Over and over again it is confirmed that we are serving right where the Lord would have us. I truly don't think there's anyone that could love these kids more than we do. And they all know it!!!

I need to go finish the lesson for tomorrow's Institute class. Just know there's not a day that goes by that we don't miss you. Yet in our hearts we rejoice that we can put it all the alter and demonstrate to the Lord our deep gratitude for our lives that are overflowing with His tender mercies. It's a privilege to wear his name for all to see. We beg that each of you will hold fast to the rod. Seek His spirit. Be faithful. And we will be home soon (8 months tomorrow!) With all our love, Mom