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


  1. FINALLY!!!!!! I have been aching for one of these! You guys are doing such great work over there. So many lives have been forever touched and blessed by your goodness and faithfulness. I love and adore you both. Keep up the good work and keep the blogs coming!

  2. Thank you for writing! You NEED to! 8 months seems so far away, yet it will come before we know it. You are doing such incredible work out there, I'm sure coming home will be hard. But selfishly I cannot WAIT!

  3. You are both serving so well together. What a blessing you are to others and to each other. Know you are loved and missed.

  4. You are both serving so well together. What a blessing you are to others and to each other. Know you are loved and missed.