This time last year, my pearl among women and I were called by the Area Presidency to serve as Administrators in the FSY (For the Strength of Youth programme). For the past year we have been working with our wonderful Session Directors, Roy and Vanessa Tunnicliffe, our amazing Co-ordinators, Ally Siu and Megan Platt, and our brilliant assistant administrators, Philip and Sam Siu, to plan and prepare for ‘our’ 2015 FSY session. This work all came to fruition last week when nearly 400 youth from the London South Mission descended on Nottingham University.
It was an exhausting yet exhilarating, frenetic yet fantastic, bewildering and beautiful week of miracles.
One of the great miracles of FSY is the counsellors. About 70 young adults gave up two weekends of their time for training and then the week of FSY to serve as group counsellors, health counsellors and one to one counsellors. For no financial reward, they arose early and went to bed late (sometimes very late) and devoted the hours between to the spiritual and physical welfare of their young charges. Without these counsellors there could be no FSY. Their example of selfless service is magnificent.
Another miracle is the young people themselves. The FSY grooming and behaviour standards are pitched at a higher level than the general standards for the Church. For some of the youth this is not a problem – they are living up to those standards already. For others it is a stretch and they have to make changes to their dress, their appearance or their actions in order to attend. I don’t fully know why it is necessary for FSY to have these high standards but I do know that these young people, and we as leaders, are blessed for their obedience and sacrifice. That willingness to be obedient brings the Spirit to FSY. Not one young person had to be turned away or sent home because of a failure to abide by these standards – a great group achievement.
As you would expect, the youth of the London South Mission come from all sorts of different social backgrounds, have different cultural and ethnic origins and have varying levels of gospel knowledge. Despite these differences, one of the miracles of FSY is that they come together and are united by shared spiritual and learning experiences. At the beginning of the week, as we met these young people off the coaches, they were subdued and apprehensive. They were concerned about whether they would be accepted by their peers and whether they would make friends. By the end of the week they were happy, didn’t want to go home and had made firm friends with other youth that they had only known for a few days. Included in the group were a number of youth with particular or special needs. One of the miracles I saw was the way in which these young people were embraced and loved by their peers.
The allocation of youth to their groups and counsellors was a miracle. Through fasting and prayer, Phil and Sam assigned each young person to a group and to a counsellor. Their work was inspired as once the week had begun no youth requested that they be moved to another group and no one asked to go home because they were unhappy or homesick.
I was grateful to be able to participate in priesthood blessings that were asked for by a number of young people who were looking for comfort and strength to help them deal with heart-rending challenges in their personal lives. They sought a blessing from the Lord through the priesthood but their courage and faith blessed me and blessed the rest of their group. Miracles were wrought.
One of the highlights of the week for many was the service project. Our FSY session knitted 275 hats for premature babies and made 29 blankets for the elderly or homeless. Together with the other two FSY sessions, we were able to donate over 800 hats to the local neo-natal unit. It was a wonderful experience to see young men and women, many of whom had probably never dreamed that they could knit a hat, concentrating with furrowed brows and tongues poking out as they wound wool around a loom to help increase the survival chances of tiny babies.
The FSY week was filled with lessons, devotionals, dances, games and other activities but many youth reported that the time they valued most was the time spent quietly studying and sharing feelings about the gospel with their counsellors and their groups.
The FSY week is over now, the youth have returned to their homes. We are now receiving messages from parents, leaders and the young people themselves telling us that FSY was the best week of their lives and that their lives have been changed. It is truly a miracle. It was not done through our efforts or even through the great work done by the counsellors or the rest of the team but by the Lord through his Spirit. I pray that that Spirit might remain with these choice young people and that their FSY experiences will strengthen them as they embark on the rest of their lives.