Readinng the Ensigh on the bus
We had a great tour this week (Mar 2016) with George. It was on Thursday, a day where there were unusual delays on the tube line due to a strike on the Piccadilly line. Helen, one of our Chinese YSA’s was coming home and due to the tube issues, decided instead to take the bus. She was reading her ensign on the bus when a gentleman came and sat next to her. He too normally took the tube, but chose the bus that day. He saw what she was reading, thought it looked familiar and when she turned the page, with a picture of Christ on it, he engaged in a conversation with her about religion, another thing he doesn’t normally do. It turns out he had had some exposure to the church several years ago. That morning he said some people from another faith had invited him to join them. He didn’t feel good about it. Then he received and email from one of his relatives in the US who was married to a Mormon. The email had pictures of their home and kids. He had a very pleasant conversation with Helen about the church and even agreed to come with her to our visitor’s center. George is a Greek Orthodox from Ethiopia. We gave him a tour, he watched a couple videos and kept saying “God must be telling me something. He seems to be directing me to learn more about this church.” He left his information and wants the missionaries to contact him and teach him more.
Once several weeks ago there was an evacuation in the science museum. We never did find out the reason, but hundreds of visitors, including many school children were forced out on the street, standing in the cold February London weather. Most did not have time to grab their coats. Some teachers came in our visitor’s center and asked if we might let the children come in and warm up a bit. Of course we invited them all in and some 300 children spent over an hour in our chapel and cultural hall, eating their lunch and warming up.
The next week we had a visit from a man and his two daughters. One of the daughters was one of the 300 school children, evacuated the week earlier and wanted to bring her dad and sister back to the church. They received a tour and an introduction to our church. The father happened to be an organ player, so Holly played the organ for him and then he played the organ himself. The three were originally from Ghana. Our security guard, pres Anatsoui is also from Ghana. They had a great conversation. The family lives in the Clapham area, in the Stake president Anatsoui presides over. They requested to learn more about the church. President arranged to have the missionaries call on them, and the whole family is now being taught…..all because the science museum was evacuated…..and because the Lord has his hand in all things.
One Sunday Joy Caballero bore her testimony. The day before she had gone to the London temple, for the first time in many years. She told her story. She joined the church in her late teens in the Philippines. Sometime after becoming a member she had a dream. She came out from a building to see many people, all dressed in white. They were going on a trip, but there was no one to drive them. Joy was the only one who could drive. She shared her dream with her bishop. He said, are you the only member of the church in your family? She said yes, I’m the only one. He encouraged her to prepare herself to go to the temple, which she did. She learned about genealogy work and began to realize that all these people in white where her relatives and that she was the only one who could do temple work for them. She began researching her ancestors, but found nothing about them in Family Search, so she spent a lot of time visiting many cities in the Philippines trying to find information, researching records, visiting cemeteries until she had found details on her ancestors back 4 generations. She started taking their names to the temple which fortunately was fairly close to where she lived. One morning she arrived at the temple at 5:30am, before it was open. She fell asleep in her car and had another dream. This time she saw the same people dressed in white. This time they were thanking her for taking them to where they needed to go. Sometime later she moved to England. She went through some difficult times, made some poor choices and ended up losing her temple recommend because of unworthiness. She became less active. Despite encouragement from others, this went on for over 4 years. Her bishop kept working with her. He said, you don’t need to come to all the meetings, just come to Sacrament meeting, so I can see your face. She finally decided to come to church. She felt no one knew her and no one cared about her. One Sunday she came and was greeted by Sister Cardall, a visitor’s center missionary. She was so happy to see her and said “I haven’t seen you for 3 months.” This impressed Joy so much, because someone actually knew her and had missed her. With the help of her bishop and many others, she became active again and was finally able to receive her temple recommend back. Yesterday she went back to the temple for the first time in many years, and for the first time in London. She was able to do all the work for her very own mother, who had passed away not too long ago. She bore a strong and powerful testimony of the importance of temple work and of the importance of doing the work for your own ancestors.
Dec 2015: We’ve had some interesting baptisms in the Britannia ward lately. I’ll leave out their names, but their stories are worth sharing. The first was a young lady from China. At her baptism the talk on baptism was given by another new Chinese convert who was baptized just 1 month ago. The Baptism talk was given by another recent Chinese convert who joined the church back in April. I remember when Elder Alvey first brought Her to the church, back in April, she was dressed in punker clothes, had hardware all up & down her ears and a ring in her nose. I remember thinking, she’ll never join the church. But she kept coming back and was baptized a couple months later. At the time of her baptism, she had lost most of her ear piercings, but still wore pants to church and thought she took the nose ring out for her baptism, she still wore it often, and she always wore gym shoes, even to church. I remember thinking, she’ll have a hard time staying active in the church. Now 8 months later she has completely changed. She is a faithful church member and comes often to help the missionaries teach. She has many friends and holds a calling. Her nose ring is gone, she wears a modest dress to church and she bares a powerful testimony of her conversion. She still wears gym shoe, with her dress….it’s just her. She gave a wonderful talk at the baptism about the Holy Ghost with excellent examples from her own life. Now I can only imagine her being faithful and strong the rest of her life; an amazing transformation.
Then a couple weeks later another Chinese brother was baptized. The sisters met Him on the street before Christmas. He was baptized today by another Chinese convert who was baptized about 1 month ago. This young had been baptized by an English convert who had only been a member for month. At this latest baptism the new convert was welcomed to the ward by yet another Chinese convert of about 1 year, who is now a member of the Elder’s quorum presidency. It is just wonderful to see these Chinese converts embrace and live the gospel.
Blessing of the Atonement
Nov 26: 2015. A man came in on named Lillith. He is from Sri Lanka, but lives now in the UK. We talked about the origins of the church. He is Catholic but was open to other truths. He was in this area of town because he had a construction job nearby, but was not able to do his work due to the rain, so he came to our center. We had a great discussion about religion and then I showed him “Because He lives.” It took him quite a while afterwards to stop sobbing and regain his composure. I though perhaps he was going through some hard challenges. When he could, he said “I prayed this morning…and I believe God sent me here today.” He has a wife and 3 daughters. He took a book of Mormon and wants to know where the church is in Enfield.
A day or so later I got an email from him. He apologized for being so emotional during his visit. He said “When I watched the film, I felt so sad about the pain, the Lord Jesus went through because of me (Us). I have a weakness of controlling that type of feeling.” This good Catholic brother brought to me a whole new appreciation for the wonderful blessing the atonement is in our lives. It is such a great blessing to be able to prepare for and partake of the sacrament each week. It is such an important part of our incremental progression.
Baptisms for the Dead
Nov 13: 2015. Friday we had a very interesting visitor. A lady came in and requested to talk to the one in charge of our church. She was very upset because her twin sister, who had joined our church some time ago, was planning to “baptize their deceased grandparents into our church” and she wanted to know how she could prevent this from happening. Her parents were even more upset about this and were planning to fly to England from Israel to stop this from happening. She was Jewish and her grandparents were holocaust victims. One of her main concerns was that her Jewish grandparents, and so many other Jews were slaughtered by “Christians” and she certainly didn’t want them to be baptized Christians. I talked to her for a while and explained about the plan of salvation and why we do baptisms for people and made it very clear we were not forcing anyone to become Christian or to join our church, that her grandparents still had their choice to accept or rejects Christianity and the baptism. Then Pres Anatsoui (our security guard) got involved. We showed her the scripture in the bible about baptisms for the dead and explained this was a practice amongst the Jews at the time of Christ. Pres said, “consider if what we are telling you is true, and that the only way to enter God’s kingdom is through baptism, and that in the spirit world your grandparents accept this truth and they cannot get baptized, nor enter God’s kingdom because you prevented it. He also shared some experiences where people he knew had had experiences where their ancestors who had passed on had communicated with them the urgency of doing their temple work. Then other visitors came in and Holly took over the discussion. By this time she had calmed down considerably and was interested at least to learn more about our church. Holly gave her a thorough introduction to our church and she watched two of the messages from our prophets. Holly showed her the message from Elder Packer where he talks about Elijah coming to the Kirkland temple to restore keys. In their tradition the Jews are waiting for Elijah to come and leave a door open for him at their pass-over feasts. She stayed for about 1 hour and left on very friendly terms. She said, you have not converted me, and I will still try to dissuade my sister from doing the baptism work, but at least I now understand how and why you do it and I think I can pacify my parents. With all of us working together, including the spirit, we turned a nasty situation into a rather pleasing one.
This tour made me think about the whole holocaust situation. Millions of Jews were killed by Christians, but were they really Christians; Perhaps Christians in name only. The first commandment of Christianity is to love God, the second is to love your neighbor as yourself, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. These individuals who carried out the holocaust were not Christians. They were puppets under a regime whose purpose and goal was to usurp power over others and dominate at all costs, with no regard for human life. The Jews were at the mercy of Christians, turned bad.
It’s interesting that Jesus Christ was Jewish by birth, but he was also the most important Christian who ever lived. He was certainly Christian, and yet he was put to death at the mercy of Jews, turned bad.
Some people prepare themselves
Oct 15, 2015: Patrick came into the visitor’s center the other day. He told the sisters, “I have been reading the Book of Mormon and I know quite a bit about your church and I’m wondering what I need to do to get baptized. After a short conversation, and a bit of an interrogation, they found he was actually telling the truth. They told him he had to attend church 3 times and take some discussions before he could be baptized. So, they pulled out a calendar and together determined a schedule and a date for his baptism. His story was quite interesting. His first contact with members of our church was when he was in school in North London. He was friends with a couple of young men, from America. They were also in school, but left their schooling after 1 year to “do some missionary work.” It wasn’t until later that he realized they were actually Mormon young men. Patrick wondered why they hadn’t mentioned the church to him. Patrick’s big question about religion was: if there had been prophets throughout the history of the world, why were there no prophets now. So he began to search for ‘modern’ prophets, as a normal student would, on Google. He came across the story of Joseph Smith and began to research about the Mormon church on line. During this time his mother went on a trip to London and stayed in a Marriott hotel. In the room there was a bible and a Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon had a note written on it that said you could take the book it if you wanted it. Realizing this book had some connection to the religion her son was looking into, she took the book and gave it to him. He started reading the Book of Mormon. His on-line research eventually led to his calling the Mormon Chat room. His call was answered by missionaries from the Hyde Park Chapel visitors center, which happened to be quite close to where he was then attending university. The missionaries invited him to come to the visitor’s center and meet the missionaries. When he walked through our doors he was very prepared and after attending church 3 times, and being taught the rest of what he needed to know he was baptized on Nov 8, 2015. He became an active member of the Hyde Park YSA ward and soon received a calling. About 1 month later he was able to exercise his newly received priesthood, when he baptized one of his good friends, a Chinese young man who attended the same university. Sometime later his Mother and his sister also joined the church.
The evidence of things not seen
Sept 2015: A man came in to use the Luo named Gram. After, he started looking around at our displays, particularly the prophets and apostles. I struck up a conversation with him. He was curious about who these men were, how they were chosen, why they were all so old, why they were all white, why they were only men etc. Then we got into a discussion about God. He was interested in why I believe, and how I believed in God. He told me he was an atheist, a scientist. He wondered about, if there was a God, where he was, why he doesn’t manifest himself, and where is the evidence that he actually exists. All pretty normal questions. I answered them the best I could. Then we talked about the world, its creation, evolution etc. At one point I mentioned that God was a God of truth and probably used natural laws to do his work, even the creation. Then he asked, “So did God make the natural laws? If God just follows them, then who made them, and wouldn’t that imply that there is someone greater than God.” It was good question! At this point I had to say, there are many things our finite minds do not know or understand…yet. We then talked about faith, and the opportunity we have, and need to have to develop faith; about the opportunity to develop the spiritual side of our senses through faith. I told him for me this spiritual sensitivity is just as important as sight, sound, or touch. Even when Christ was on the earth and did all kinds of miracles in front of the people, that they all would have perceived with their ‘normal’ senses, things that indicated he was the God of this world; still, only a few believed in him, only those who had faith, who had developed their spiritual sensitivity and were converted. And, only those who had faith and were converted spiritually, retained their belief and devotion and were able to receive the blessings of the believers. We should be thankful for the opportunity to walk by faith and acquire a spiritual conversion.
This man asked another interesting question, after a short discussion on the plan of salvation. He said, “Do you really want to live forever?” I guess, since I’ve always thought that I would, I had never really considered if I really wanted to or not. In response I said, “Absolutely, because I think it might take me that long to become like God and learn all that He knows.” Later I got thinking (a dangerous pass-time, I know). I guess to those who believe God is some mystical entity that has no form and is incomprehensible , or to those who believe that salvation amounts to singing praises in bliss the rest of our existence, or to those who believe it is very presumptuous and wrong of Mormons to believe they can become like God, or worse yet, to those who believe there is no God and no heaven at all; to those people, I guess the prospect of living forever may not be so enticing, and might encourage them to believe otherwise. How nice it is to have the fullness of the gospel, a gospel that makes full sense, and is encouraging and motivating to follow.
Evil acts in the name of religion
Aug 2015: I had an interesting conversation with Wally a few days ago. Wally has a Muslim background but has learned quite a bit about Christianity and our church in the last year or so. He’s not a member… yet. We got talking about the many evil things that have been and still are being done throughout the world in the name of religion. We have visitors tell us from time to time that they have no faith in God because so many wars have been fought because of religion. And yet, every religion we know of teaches against, even forbids such evil behavior as part of their fundamental doctrine and teachings. Their teachings usually justify self-defense, but never aggression. We talked about ISIS, the Christian Crusades, Hitler, even the early religious/political history of England etc. We concluded that it certainly isn’t religion that inspires or justifies these individuals and their acts of violence, but rather it is the greed of their leaders, their selfish desires and their quest for power and dominance that drives them to do such terrible things. Religion is used as a tool, or as a means to rally blind followers in a common cause. Using the name of God they attempt to put sheep’s clothing on their wolfish acts. In other words, they twist true doctrine and distort the intent of religion in support their own selfish aspirations.
Of course, this is a pretty common theme in the Book of Mormon. It was certainly written for our day…just got to get it in the hands of the right people.
Don’t speak English – No problem
I have to say my favorite missionary tool lately is Google translate. The other day four Italian tourists came in to the VC. They spoke no English but appeared to be very interested to look around the church. I really don’t know how some of these tourists get around England speaking so little English. Anyway, I whipped out my iphone and spoke a few phrases in English inviting them to look around and watch a video in Italian. Google translate spoke those phrases to them in Italian. They understood clearly, and they were able to enjoy God’s Plan in Italian and took some Italian tracts introducing them to our church. It was brilliant and they were very pleased. Google translate also has a camera mode. You point your device camera at text in a given language and it will translate it to any other language. It doesn’t work so well with Chinese characters… yet, but does well on languages using the Greek alphabet. Pretty amazing tools we have these days.
The Compete Package
April 2015: Sebastian was baptized last Saturday. Sebastian came into the VC about 1.5 months ago. He had just arrived from Hungary, originally from Romania. He had no place to stay, no job and very little money. I don’t know why these types always find the VC. Actually, I assume it has something to do with the spirit. Sebastian said he just happened to notice our church on the map and our sign that said free film, and came to see the film. The sisters gave him a tour and I helped him find a shelter where he could stay. We also told him about our self-reliance center. He stayed quite a while and watched “Because he lives” and “Meet the Mormons.” The next day he came back to the self-reliance center and watched our restoration video. Over the next couple weeks we saw him almost every day as he came to work with Elder &Sister Baxter in the self-reliance center. But his enthusiasm, appearance, countenance and odor continued to deteriorate. He couldn’t find work and had no place to stay. He became depressed, alone and discouraged. On occasion he would receive money from his mom in Hungary, but most of the time you could tell he had been sleeping on the street. He was taking the missionary discussions and came to church, but sometimes you could hardly stand to be near him because he hadn’t had a shower for days. On several occasions he would just sit and ask questions about our church and religion in general. He had a good Christian background and knew quite a bit about the bible. We were always friendly and encouraging to him but eventually we had to tell him that he couldn’t just hang around the VC all day, every day. Then about 2 weeks ago he finally found a job, cleaning an office building. Just having work made his countenance change completely. He was much more positive and happy. He was still receiving the discussions and would always tell us “next week will be my bap-ti-size!” Last Saturday was the big day. He was to be baptized at 3pm. He showed up at 10am, in a suit, I believe the Baxters found for him in the missionary surplus. He had been taught personal hygiene and was well groomed. I taught him how to tie his tie and he looked really sharp. He was so happy and excited and wanted to tell us about everything in his crude and broken English. His baptism was lovely. He bore a wonderful testimony about how God sends us trials and the importance of never giving up. Sebastian is a great example of how the complete package of the gospel can transform someone, from a life leading nowhere to a life filled with purpose and prospect
Invitation from an Friend
Mar 2015: Harriet is a young gal from England. Just after she arrived in London, to attend the Royal College of Music, she noticed the Hyde Park Chapel just down the street. She was invited by a friend to come to a fireside one evening where Elder Brad Wilcox was talking to the youth. His message and the spirit she felt touched her deeply. The next day she came back, by herself to the visitor’s center and met Elder & Sister Cardall at the door. The first words out of her mouth were: “I’d like to get some literature about the Church because I want to join,” She was soon engaged in discussions with our sister missionaries and within a few weeks was baptized and confirmed. Harriet is now fully immersed in the church and the Britannia YSA Ward. We see her several times a week. She comes to study, be taught, help teach and even practice her cello, which she carries around on her back. She is very good on the cello and will be playing 1st cello in the LDS orchestra that will perform “Lamb of God” in Birmingham this spring. And she’s already thinking about serving a mission.
Mar 2015: Elder Anderson was talking to a guy named Sanjay on Exhibition road who worked for the Red Cross. They exchanged information. Later he decided to call him back and check on him. He called the number listed under Sanjay in his phone, but it turned out to be a different Sanjay. This Sanjay had come into the visitor’s center about a month earlier and had kind of gotten lost in the shuffle. Sanjay said, I’m not the Red Cross worker, but I would be interested to learn more about your church. After a fairly short teaching and conversion process, he joined the church in late 2014. Sanjay is now the assistant ward mission leader in the Britannia YSA ward and has baptized his first convert. He’s a wonderful young man, very sharp and capable, and truly converted.
Sing a song
Mar 2015: Catalina was baptized this week. Her story is: Elder Johnson & Elder Torgeson had just attended a zone meeting in which they had discussed various finding techniques. At the end they were challenged to go out on the street and find somebody using a technique they had learned from another missionary. Elder Torgeson and Johnson went out on the street in front of the Visitor’s Center and the first person they stopped was Catalina. “They said excuse me, can we sing you a song?” Even before she responded they started singing “Love at home” to her. She felt the spirit and accepted an invitation to come into the Visitor Center and learn more. 2 1/2 months later she was baptized. At her baptism several of the Elders and Sisters sang Love at Home, at her request.
Dealing with the less fortunate
We get our share of transient types in the VC. People just come to London and hope to find work. Some do, it seems a lot do not. And some members will just show up and hope someone in the church will help them, put them up, feed them, or find them work. Of course we have the “self reliance” center and they do what they can to help. Sometimes random dudes just come in and want money (not members). They have elaborate, convincing stories to tell. We can’t just give them money, but we do offer our self-reliance center. They are usually not interested. After turning the first couple of them away, and feeling a bit bad, I started telling them if they would meet me in the park, we would work together to clean it up and I would give them £20 for their effort. I haven’t had any takers yet. Usually they just get angry and leave.
One guy came in, from Italy, said he was a member, talked to us very friendly for a while, then asked to use the loo. He was in there for 30-40 minutes; it was getting time to close, so I went in to check on him. He had washed out his pants in the sink and was trying to dry them using the hand dryer. The humidity here is 90+. At the rate he was going he would have been there another 2-3 hours. It was 35° outside, so I went down and found him another pair of pants from the mission surplus and sent him on his way with his wet pants in a bag.
Another guy from Bulgaria was here looking for a job. He was doing his best, working through the self-reliance center. He was also on date to be baptized, as soon as he found a job. When I came in one day he told me he had an opportunity for a catering job the next morning but he needed black pants and white shirt. Bingo! We know black pants and white shirts. After getting permission, I fitted him with pants, a shirt and a tie from the mission surplus. He looked pretty sharp. The self- reliance center got him some stuff to help him clean up a bit and smell a little better. The next day he was late for the job and later that day he decided to fly back to Bulgaria because someone told him they had a job for him. We may never see him again.
Temple prep class
We have been teaching the temple prep class to 3 new members from Iran. Yesterday they graduated by attending the temple and receiving their endowments. Then, 2 of them, Mehrdat & Mahtab, were sealed for time & eternity. Mehrdat & Mahtab have been members for about 1.5 years. The 3rd, William has been a member for about 4 years. William has an interesting story. He moved from Iran to London about 7 years ago. He first heard about the church while working as a security guard for a large business. A man came to visit their company from Utah, a church member, and expressed a desire to go to the London temple. Rather than send him on the train the manager decided to have William drive him to the temple. The man told William he would be inside the temple for about 2 hours, so William decided to wait for him there. He said it was a particularly ‘dark’ time in his life. He had many problems weighting on his mind. But, as he walked around the temple grounds, waiting for his passenger he said he felt like he was in a dream. All his cares and troubles seemed to vanish. After about 1.5 hrs of the blissful feeling he decided he’d better go inside this building to see what it was all about. As he approached the entrance a man told him he couldn’t go inside. He thought, this is a church building. Anyone can go inside church buildings, even in Iran. He was directed to the temple visitor’s center. After taking a tour and learning a bit about the temple, he agreed to have the missionaries come by and teach him & his wife. It took several months, because he had many questions, but he eventually joined the church. And yesterday, around 4 years later he was able go inside the temple and find out what really does go on in there, and experience why it is such a source of peace and comfort. It was certainly the highlight of our week to see the 3 of them have this wonderful experience.
Christmas in London
Christmas is a wonderful time of year. The “He is the gift campaign” was really “right on” for the people of London, I think in general, it seems here that to have the true spirit of Christmas you focus on giving gifts, giving to family and friends and the less fortunate, but the emphasis is giving material things. Shopping is a really big deal here at Christmas. But we have been in many stores in London (far too many), even many Christmas stores and I’ve only seen one Nativity set for sale, and it was pretty lame. There is really no attention given to or focus on Christ and his birth. One observation I’ve made since being in London is that, while there are some great individuals, some of them even quite religious, in general the people of London have moved away from religion or faith in religion. The main church is the Church of England, but it is a church tightly integrated with parliament and the government and is really run in much the same way, not like a theology, but like a democracy. It kind of does for people what people want or think is best, not necessarily what God wants or thinks is best. Religion to many is just doing good to your fellow men. Faith, repentance, living Gods commandments and spiritual progression are really not discussed or considered important. As a result, many churches are empty because there is really no reason to go to them. If you go to a Church of England service, and we’ve gone to and even participated in many of them, you feel like you’re attending a “dead church”. Dead, meaning they are stuck on old traditions, reading the same verses in the bible over and over, saying the same prayers, with the same words; no new revelation, nothing vibrant, new or current. They are stuck still in the dark ages. So, as a result, and in general It seems people have lost sight of God’s real plan for all of us here on the earth and of the central part that Christ plays in that plan, in enabling it to work, and allowing us to progress and accomplish God’s purpose for us here. Christ certainly IS the Gift, the most important gift we have, without which life would have no meaning, and you would be left to conjure up a meaning, as so many without faith or a living religion have tried to do. We see the same pattern in the people we meet form China or the Middle East, many of whom have essentially no religious background. I helped the missionaries teach the plan of salvation to one of their investigators the other day. It is my favorite lesson because it really focuses on what makes true believers in Christ different than everyone else….God, and his purpose for us, and Christ and the pivotal role he plays in that purpose. How fortunate we are to have the truth. And, how important to make that truth known to as many as will receive it.
Affects of the APOSTASY
One day a lady came in with a little girl, about 8 yrs old. The little girl wanted to see the Christmas tree lights in our foyer. We get this quite a bit. Often, as in this case, it was a nanny with her children. We always ask if they want to watch a short video about Christ. The kids always want to, but the adults are sometimes hesitant. This lady was waiting for the museums to open and was happy to give the little girl something to do. But on the way back the 8 yr old expressed some concern and asked if there were any scary parts in the video. We assured her it would not be scary. I got thinking about this a bit. The great apostasy brought about some very interesting and quite evil alterations to the pure, simple doctrine of Christ. One of those was the introduction of idol worship. I’ve been in many orthodox Catholic or Anglican churches that are really quite scary, with pictures and stained glass depictions of Christ being whipped and beaten and crucified, some in color with blood dripping down. Some have large statues of Christ hanging on the cross, dead. Some have crypts and tombs where past saints are buried and sacred relics rooms that contain body parts of past saints. Many churches have goblins, trolls, gargoyles and other evil looking creatures that adorn the outside, etc. I can imagine all this might be a bit unsettling to a small child. Can you imagine being afraid to go to church because of the frightening pictures and figures you’ll see there? This is certainly an example of Satan’s influence as the falling away occurred.
Sept 2014: Two ladies came rushing in one Sunday, after the Young Single Adult (YSA) ward services had just ended. asked if her friend could use the toilet. I directed her there, then I struck up a conversation with the one remaining. Her name was Anna, her friend’s name was Krisztina. I learned Anna was from Romania. She knew some about our church and said she was in to theology and studied religions. She had heard about Joseph Smith and the book of Mormon. Someone overheard that she was from Romania and said, “there’s Ionuts, he’s from Romania.” Ionuts is one of the councilors in the YSA bishopric. He came over and spoke Romanian with her for a while. Before they were finished Marius walked up. Marius is a very outgoing young single adult man, from Romania, so he joined in the conversation. Then Elder Rae approached us. He looked at the Romanian girl, she looked at him and they both said “I know you.” Turns out they had met on the tube (subway) a few days ago and had talked religion a bit. It so happened that these elders were teaching a young man who had just committed to baptism, named Alex, who was there with them, who was also from Romania. So Alex joined the conversation. Then another YSA, Eugnia, came walking by and joined the conversation, Eugnia is also from Romania. Everyone was exchanging contact information and having a wonderful discussion, mostly in Romanian. When Anna’s friend Krisztina came out of the loo there was a Romanian party going on. She happened to be from Hungary so Holly struck up a conversation with her and they talked for a long time. What was originally to be a quick trip to the potty turned out to be a very nice and involved visitors center visit. They both stayed for almost an hour and seemed to have a very good experience. I believe in this work there are no coincidences, just events that occur in accordance with a grand plan.
Sept 2014: Sister Lee is a missionary who was serving in the visitor’s center when we arrived. She was recently transferred to Northampton. After her first week there she related this story of how the Lord prepared the heart of Tram, a 27 year old young woman from Vietnam to receive the gospel. Our president shared it with the mission. Sister Lee is from Taiwan and speaks Tram’s language.
Tram’s father and his two sisters heard about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a friend during the war in Vietnam when they were young. They all had the desire to learn more and follow the gospel; however, the communists soon took over the whole country, and they were not allowed to have religious freedom. Being under this situation, they had very limited information about the Church. The two sisters of Tram’s father eventually were able to move out of Vietnam. One of them found the Church in the States while the other one joined the Church in Australia. According to Tram, her aunts have been members of the Church for almost 30 years. Throughout these years, they have been trying to share the gospel with Tram’s family in Vietnam.
Fifteen years ago, Tram’s father passed away, and in his will to Tram, he expressed that his wish was for Tram to find the Mormon church and join them if she gets to leave the country one day. Tram continued to keep in contact with her aunt in the States and learned about the Church little by little via email. Her aunt’s testimony and her experience of how the gospel has helped her come closer to God and be happier really touched Tram’s heart and she really desired to follow the wish of her father. She had always been praying in her heart that she would find the Mormons in the future.
Recently she had the opportunity to come to England to study, which would be her first time being abroad. She got the email of the mission president in the Birmingham mission somehow and wrote to him to find out more about the Mormon church in Northampton where her university would be. The mission president gave her the phone number of the sister missionaries in Northampton. Tram wrote to her aunt and asked her what she should do, and her aunt replied that she should contact the missionaries and they would tell her everything she needed to know to become a member. Therefore, she called the missionaries in Northampton with great excitement to inform them that she would be coming to England soon and she would like to come to Church on her first Sunday in England. She is now being taught by Sister Lee and Sister Stoja and accepted a baptismal date for 11th October 2014 right away in her first meeting. Even though she does not have a clear idea who God is, her desire of coming closer to her Heavenly Father and her faith are remarkable. She told the missionaries, “God has guided me here, and He has sent you to me.”
Marcus’ Conversion Story
Sept 2014: Marcus conversion story. Marcus’ job was putting on fashion shows, clothing, accessories, lingerie, evening gowns etc. During one of the first shows he put on himself he was greeting all the guests. Two attractive girls caught his eye. He approached them and offered them a drink. They said no thanks. He joked with them and said, is it because you have a hangover? They said no we don’t drink alcohol. He offered them coffee. No we don’t drink coffee either, or smoke. He couldn’t believe it but was very intrigued with them. He continued the conversation until he learned they were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints and that they attended church on exhibition road. For days afterward he couldn’t get these two girls out of his mind. They haunted him because they were so unlike other women he had met. Finally he though, I have to try to find them. He couldn’t remember the name of the church, other than it had Jesus in it and it was very long and he remembered something about “exhibition.” There were many exhibition roads in London but since they were American girls and most American’s live in Kensington he thought he might try exhibition road in South Kensington. He walked up and down exhibition road but could not find the church, only museums and apartment buildings. He then decided to pause and rest, taking a smoke in the shade of the tree near the entrance to Imperial College, to consider his next move. As the smoke from his cigarette rose, he saw through the smoke the name of our church, across the street on our church building. He thought, yes that’s the long name with Jesus in it that they told me. He stood a while observing the church. It was Sunday, several men in dark suits were going in and out and ladies all dressed up. He was not dressed for church and thought he should probably not go in, but eventually said, what the heck, I’ve come all this way, I’m going in. Everyone seemed to be busy with their duties and conversations, so he went to the back, picked up a book of Mormon and pretended to read it. He then went into the bathroom trying to avoid talking to people. When he came out there were two sister missionaries standing across the room. He thought, “These ladies are nuns. I can’t talk to them.” Besides I came to see the girls who came to my show. It would not be right to talk to these two. He tried to pay them no attention, but after a while he glanced up at them. That’s all it took, they came over and struck up a conversation with him. He then pretended to be a member of the church and know all about it, but soon it became obvious he was not a member. They continued to tell him about the church. They kept using big words he had never heard of before, like sacrament and everlasting and eternity. He thought “I think I’ve heard of those perfumes before.” He asked the missionaries if they knew the two girls who had come to his show. And they said they thought they knew who they were. He gave them his number and asked them to pass it on to the two girls. They did, the two girls contacted him and he started taking missionary lessons. But, before the lessons even started, Marcus said to himself, if these Mormons can stop drinking and smoking, so can I. So he determined to try it for a while. He stopped cold turkey. It became very difficult. When the lessons started the missionaries told him the way to overcome an addiction was to pray for strength. He did this and he said, “I didn’t receive a great revelation or burst of strength, or a great spiritual manifestation, nor did my addictive cravings go away. I did receive strength, but just enough to endure my cravings for one day. The next day I had to pray again and I would receive enough strength for another day, until after a month or so of praying each day for strength, I had no cravings any more, and my addiction was gone. The cigarette I smoked across the street from the church on that Sunday was the last cigarette I have ever smoked. It took a long time for me to join the church. I had many, many questions. I had to quit my job as it wasn’t conducive to my new beliefs. I became a gardener for a year or so, then I went back to my old talents and adjusted my job to maintain balance with my new religion, for example, I got rid of the lingerie and evening wear lines in my shows.