How do I describe a perfect Sabbath day using words that can’t begin to communicate the feelings of my soul?
What led up to this soul-filling, spirit-guided Sabbath Day was the opportunity we had to teach with the sister missionaries. Sister Ferrell and Sister Hugs are two wonderful examples of what you hope all missionaries are like. They had two wonderful Chinese sisters that were in their final preparation for baptism. We’ve known Annie (Yun Shi) for a while and have watched her progress for months. Phyllis Lau also has been brought along beautifully by these two sisters that love them.
Let me take a second to identify Sister Ferrell’s link to the Phillips Clan. Two of our best friends, Bill and Holly Beifus, are the parents of Sister Ferrell’s best friend Beth Anna. So we’ve been fast friends ever since she walked in the Hyde Park Chapel to serve in the Visitor Center. The Church of Jesus Christ follows us where ever we go and so do our friends and their friends. Because of this relationship I was asked to baptize Phyllis on Thursday night at our dinner that Sister Phillips puts on for 100 of our other best friends (YSA).
Sister Farrell also asked if we could help teach Annie her last lessons before her baptism. We, of course, were thrilled to serve her. We invited them to our flat to have that discussion. Annie is a brilliant Chinese University student who had come to our flat for our Christmas Eve celebration as an investigator. With Annie’s brilliance comes a need to understand “everything” before she can accept it. That need led to a powerful discussion on how she was going to know enough to be baptized on Sunday. Her normal logical approach to knowing wasn’t giving her the kind of understanding she needed to move forward. We bore our testimony and shared our personal experiences relating to how she could come to know. It became obvious she needed her own personal experience with the scriptures to know Jesus Christ was her Savior and God was his father and ours also.
What I’ve learned teaching the Chinese over the last year is that they worship at the altar of knowledge. We take for granted that God exists and Jesus did exactly what he said he did. The Bible records his life and sacrifice and we accept that. Now take God out of the picture and any belief in his existence or need for him. This is the Chinese’ starting point. They are some of the finest people on the earth but they don’t have an understanding of God or his plan for them. So there we were with this fantastic, bright young women expressing her doubts regarding God and his Son.
I have learned that this isn’t our work nor could I teach her the language that she needed to learn literally overnight (this lesson was on Friday and her baptism was scheduled for Sunday), the language of the Spirit. Hearing the voice of the Lord through the Spirit and learning the Father’s language is such a foreign concept to them. If they can’t prove it the way they’ve been taught it becomes very challenging for them to accept the Gospel Message. So what do you do? I knew she had to read the scriptures to hear His voice. I asked her to read 2 Nephi Chapter 2 and come back on Saturday and teach us what she learned about what the Savior did for her (This chapter has one of the most beautiful Atonement explanations in the scriptures). She agreed to do this and we set an appointment for 10:30 am at the Hyde Park Chapel. Annie closed our meeting with a prayer and a commitment to do her best.
Saturday morning came quickly and we met in the Public Relations Meeting Room in the Hyde Park Chapel. We were excited to have Annie teach and were praying that her experience of having to study the doctrine of the Atonement would give her the faith she needed to take the next step in her spiritual progression. We all understood that she needed her own personal relationship with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. She did a wonderful job identifying important doctrine that if true had obvious implications regarding her being baptized Sunday. I marvel at the depth of the questions the Chinese ask and the unique perspective they bring, given their cultural upbringing. It’s always a profound experience to answer questions that we have never even considered, given our assumptions about Deity. I love what we know and understand about the Plan of Happiness. We have no idea how grateful we should be that we have a Christian background as our starting point.
These Chinese young people are the modern-day pioneers going off to strange lands and coming back to China with life changing perspective and knowledge different than anything they’ve ever known before. We love and respect these young Chinese willing to leave their beliefs or lack of belief about God behind so they can move forward to a better life. It’s astounding the courage and faith they exhibit by walking into the waters of baptism and coming out to a new way of life.
That’s exactly what Annie and Phyllis did on Sunday. It was my privilege to be able to baptize these two extraordinary women and bring them unto Christ (because of the work of two great sister missionaries).
Now I want to also recognize the great job Elder Cook and Elder Chio did with Matthew Coates, a 19-year-old university student that was also baptized into our ward Sunday. In the process of getting dressed to be baptized Matt and I got to know each other. He is a 19-year-old Catholic that found the truth he was looking for. He shared with me that he’d only lived in two places in his life. He told me as he prayed to know what Church to join he kept almost literally running into God’s Temple. I choose to believe that this young man is loved by the Father and has a powerful destiny in His Church. He bore testimony to me that it was no coincidence that as he prayed at home to find the truth he would keep passing by the Preston Temple and when he went away to University he kept passing by the London Temple. He knew that he needed to know more about them because he felt them calling him home. Oh what a sweet homecoming we had with Matt on this great Sabbath Day.
Okay how could it get any better? Well, it did!
We had an after baptism party for our three newest members and a going away party for Danielle who is leaving today to go back to China. It was wonderful to see all the support our Britannia Ward gave to them after a full day of attending church meetings. So after about 60 YSA had eaten all the food and we’d put the chairs and tables away I saw one of my Britannia boys beckoning me over to where he was standing.
Franklin is one of my favorite Brazilian young men who came to Britannia several months ago after being inactive. He has made wonderful progress so I was sad and concerned when he told me he wanted to say goodbye because he was leaving for the next three month on a long vacation to Italy. He asked me to stay in touch with him during his visit to Italy so he would stay on track and not be tempted into chasing any beautiful Italian girls. He’s a very handsome boy and has Italian heritage. Hence he is going to Italy to get his citizenship so he can become part of the European Union. He was schedule to leave today, Monday, as soon as his critical papers arrived from Brazil.
Well I was sad but happy that he was going to achieve this very important goal for himself. We are good friends. All of sudden Franklin lowered his voice to a very sacred whisper which made me take notice.
He asked, “Elder Phillips can I baptize with the priesthood that I hold?”
I looked at him a bit surprised by the questions because it just didn’t go along with him leaving for three months. “Yes Franklin, you hold the same Priesthood that John the Baptist used to baptize Jesus” I replied.
He started to tear up and then said, as he pointed to his Brazilian friend Rodrigo, “I want to baptize him.”
I asked, “Franklin has he had the missionary lesson?”
He answered, “Yes.”
Then he went on to explain how much he loves Rodrigo but he was leaving tomorrow for three months. I looked over at Rodrigo and just felt like I should involve him in this discussion. I called Rodrigo over and told him that Franklin wanted to know if he could baptize him. To our surprise and delight his answer was, “YES!”
“Now I have to ask you if you’re ready to let him baptize you?”
He said, “I have been praying about this all week because I knew Franklin was leaving and I’ve been asking is this the time. After watching these baptisms today I realize I am ready to be baptized.”
Franklin was stunned. I only had one question. Is the baptismal font still full?
I realized I had to get the Assistants who had been teaching him to get an interview done and a day set up to baptize this great young man ASAP. I told Franklin and Rodrigo to wait and I’d be right back. Now understand I’m great friends with Elder Torres and Elder Anderson, the two assistants that were teaching him. I ran out of the Cultural Hall and asked the sister missionaries where Elder Torres was? They said he’d just gone up the stairs. I ran to the stairs and yelled up for Elder Torres.
He answered and said, “What’s wrong Elder Phillips?”
I shouted back, “Nothing’s wrong!! Just rapido! Rapido!!! Rodrigo is ready to be baptized!!!!”
As Elder Torres, our wonderful Brazilian AP, ran down the stairs after hearing this news he had tears in his eyes and was overcome by the spirit. He stood in disbelief as I explained what had happened. He raced to Rodrigo’s side and was beyond excited for him. Rodrigo only had one problem. He was not going to ask Franklin to stay if his papers arrived the next day that would allow him to leave. He thought it would be God’s will to wait until Franklin got back in three months to be baptized.
I replied, “Please let Franklin make that choice.”
I turned to Franklin and asked him what he wanted to do. He got teary and answered that he didn’t care about the papers or even missing his plane. He just wanted to be here to baptize his friend.
Franklin said, “Let’s do it next Sunday so the entire ward can be there to support him.”
Franklin, who never served a mission, will be able to baptize for the first time a young man he loves and has been able to teach with the missionaries. Franklin has truly been a missionary to Rodrigo. He was overcome with emotion and excitement.
Elder Torres took over and Rodrigo was interviewed last night and we’ll be attending another baptism next Sunday.
I was overwhelmed with the peace and joy that I was feeling after a day of fasting and feasting. This is a day of miracles and we get to see them almost every day as missionaries for the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am so beyond grateful to be serving with the best companion I have ever had or will ever have who stands right beside me. Elder Phillips