"A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race." Joseph Smith

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Occupy Central in Hong Kong

Photo by Sister Deborah Coffey - the empty blockaded streets, closed off to traffic with barriers.
The streets are eerily quiet this afternoon as we leave the Asia Area office, being blockaded and closed off to traffic.  Just beyond the view in this street, thousands of protesters, many of them students, are into their third day of protests, demanding "universal sufferage" - or the freedom to have, "open and fair elections".  The first night of protests saw some tear gas clashes between protesters and police, which angered many people and brought out more protesters by the droves. The second day there were over 100,000 people who engulfed the streets around the government buildings with their chants, slogans, cheers - and bodies.
But other than the first night of some unfortunate minor clashes, these protests are stunningly peaceful, even amidst the sheer magnitude of numbers. Volunteers bring in water, bananas and other items for the protesters.  Black t-shirts, yellow ribbons and umbrellas carry the symbols of the movement.  A downpour of rain brings welcome relief from the heat but does not dampen spirits.  

Photo by Elder Thomas Crockett - the crowds come through the barrier to march down Gloucester Road
past our Asia Area office.  
More news of the protests can be seen here: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/09/30/world/asia/china-hong-kong-protests/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

Missionaries at the Area Office, as well as employees, were encouraged to go home early the last couple of days, before the evening crowds swelled the streets again. Bus routes have been significantly limited in many areas, with bus lines largely not running to help keep traffic and extra bodies away.  But the subways are still running, swollen to overflowing with excessively long lines due to the extra strain. Many banks and businesses are closed in the Occupy Central district.  

Photo by Elder Thomas Crockett
It is a very large, mostly peaceful, protest.  Day three will be October 1st, the National Day - a holiday signifying the day the People's Republic of China was formed in 1949.  We are expecting very large crowds of protesters.    

Photo by Elder Thomas Crockett
The Church maintains political neutrality in these matters.  But it is interesting to be here at this time!  

Photo by Elder Thomas Crockett

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Emergency Relief for Floods, Earthquake

One of the things we do as humanitarian missionaries is to respond to natural disasters with relief efforts. When responding to an emergency, we don’t just give money away for relief items.  Rather, emergency supplies are purchased as locally as possible by a reputable source, and distributed personally by LDS Charities and/or their partners.  It is our responsibility to make sure the emergency items get directly into the hands of the actual people in need.

In August, massive flooding and widespread landslides swept through areas of Nepal, wiping out villages, covering farmland and destroying lives.  Over 250 people were killed with over 40,000 people displaced or affected. The devastation was great. We have two humanitarian couples in Nepal who wrote up the paperwork for the relief project, and then Elder Coffey worked to get all the necessary approvals through as quickly as possible.  

Devastation to village from Nepal flooding
On September 6, our two humanitarian couples flew an hour long flight from Kathmandu to Nepalgung, which is in southwestern Nepal, to assist our NGO partner and the Red Cross with distributing relief supplies to flood victims.  Then they rode a 2 hour jeep ride from Nepalgung to the distribution site. Two large trucks hauled the supplies as far as they could and then the next day 3 tractors with trailers hauled the supplies to the distribution site.

The couples provided non-food relief supplies for 650 families in the Bardiya District of Nepal. Each family received cooking pots, long stirring spoons, plates, mugs, buckets, wash tub, blanket, sleeping mats and   fabrics for clothes.

The people were very happy to receive things to help them try to regain their lives. It was a very rewarding experience.

Distribution of supplies with trucks and tractors

Also in August, a 6.1 earthquake struck Yunnan, China, killing at least 617 people and destroying or damaging over 42,000 homes.  At least 340,000 people were displaced.  Several of our NGO partners in both Beijing and Shanghai requested our assistance with emergency relief from two of our three humanitarian couples in China. Donated items included blankets, raincoats, water purification units, emergency lamps, first aid kits, food and school supplies. Here are some of the photos from one of those deliveries.

Landslides made relief efforts more complicated

Bottled water was distributed, along with
water purification units for sustained relief

Distributing supplies

Grateful recipients await their supplies

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Celebrations in the Peninsula Third Branch

Sundays are the best at the Peninsula 3 branch. The sisters, with their cheerful faces and vibrant smiles always lift me up.  This past Sunday after the meetings, we had a celebration.  Mhean Pangan prepared a simple "break-fast" meal for all of us to celebrate that after 19 years as a domestic worker in Hong Kong, she is finally returning home to the Philippines. This is always a great cause for a celebration among the domestic workers. 

While they sign two year contracts here, many renew those contracts over and over again, just to have enough money for their families back home.  They visit home only occasionally during holidays. Jobs are extremely hard to find in the Philippines and these women bear the burden of helping to provide for their families over 1000 kilometers away.  But Mhean is finally going home - home to her husband and her 8 year old daughter.                                                                                                                                                                                    Mhean joined the church while in Hong Kong. Her daughter is awaiting her return back home, where the two of them will begin attending church together for the first time.  No wonder it is a cause for celebration!

Philippine-style homemade soup and typical Philippine-style homemade ice cream sandwiches for a hungry crowd. ("What? Sister Coffey, you've never had ice cream this way before?????")


Photo time is happy time.  (Elder Coffey, not pictured, was attending to branch presidency duties)
The clean up crew - the "Abinadi Group"

The women in these Philippine branches are the salt of the earth.  Faithful, humble, often treading through severe mistreatment and heavy challenges from employers and family stresses, they remain true to their testimonies and to their faith in Jesus Christ.  They know that He is the great Comforter and He brings them peace.  I am uplifted in their presence every week.