"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

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas in the Pen 3 Branch

Christmas is a time for family.  For most of the sisters in the Peninsula 3rd branch, like us senior missionaries, family is far away.  But there is a bond in the Pen 3rd branch that ties us all together in one large family - as is evidenced by the smiles on their faces!

Last Sunday our enrichment activity in the Peninsula 3rd branch was getting some of these fleece blankets ready - rolling them up and tying with a ribbon and a Christmas card.  We prepared 80 blankets.

Today is Christmas. Our sisters are required to spend holidays outside their employers' homes - all day, out on the streets. So the church opens up and they come to spend the day, with service, food, games, songs and celebrations.  
Our Christmas service project was to take the blankets to the nursing home (shown behind us, with red lettering), across the street from the Kwai Fong chapel. It's a nursing home quite different than anything we have seen before. The kitchen for the nursing home is on the ground floor, and the residents live upstairs on the second floor. In very humble conditions.

Stairs up to the second floor to the nursing home.
The residents were waiting for us.

Their individual "rooms" are just big enough for a small bed, partitioned off with partial dividers.

This room was a bit bigger.
We greeted some of the residents.

Elder Ball plays Santa.

Sister Smart, our Branch President's wife, grasps the hand of one of the residents.

Elder Coffey is welcomed by one of the women waiting for our arrival.

After greeting some of the residents, the singing began.

Singing with gusto

The blankets were handed to each resident personally. They loved them!

Elder Coffey shares a Christmas card and blanket.

These ladies insisted on getting the orange blankets!

Back at the church, after a wonderful Christmas program,
 the feasting and games began!

These faithful members of the Pen 3 branch are far from home and loved ones this Christmas. Yet they sing as they serve - grateful for their Lord and the blessings of His gospel in their lives.

Therefore, for them and for us, our Christmas will be a gift of new traditions, new smells, new tastes and music, new laughter, and new memories as we serve those who have also left home and family many miles away.

We miss our family back home, grateful for Viber and Skype, and are grateful for their support and love. We are grateful for the blessings of the Christ Child, who brought to us all things sacred and treasured. 

May your Christmas be a gift of all things sacred and treasured, all things sought, as we continue our journey wisely seeking Him whose greatest gift will bring us Home.

Christmas in Hong Kong

What a wonderful time it is to be serving the Lord as we celebrate His sacred, transcendent birth.  Hearts are made tender as we contemplate loved ones far away, with home-spun traditions, smells, tastes and music, little ones laughter and joyous memories.  Yet with that tenderness comes a sense of the sacred rising deep within.  We remember His words, "But seek he first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:3)  All these things!  All that we hold dear and treasure in our hearts.  All for which we seek.  All things!

Christmas in Hong Kong - it's one of a kind!

It started in early December with a sister missionaries Christmas dinner with the Area Presidency wives - Sister Gong, Sister Funk and Sister Wong.

Then there was the Area Office Christmas Devotional - 
with the following group photo:

This was Elder and Sister Gong's last Christmas devotional in the Asia Area.
 Elder Gong has been called to the Presidency of the Seventy and will be sorely missed.

Our Area Public Affairs people planned and organized a number of Christmas events - including an amazing community service project with over 1300 fleece blankets for the elderly - donated to agencies throughout Hong Kong.  On one 
Saturday, hundreds of volunteers gathered in three different chapels throughout Hong Kong to cut and tie fringes and prepare the blankets and color Christmas cards.

Elder Coffey joined the children and others in coloring the Christmas cards which accompanied each fleece blanket.

Sister Chamberlain, the Public Affairs champion who organized this massive event.

The woman in the red hat heard about the service project and came in off the street to join us.  She was thrilled to be there!

We met this sweet family from India in the mall earlier in the week, and invited them to join us.  The mom wants to teach her children the blessings of service.  They loved their experience!
So Merry Christmas from Hong Kong! There's always something amazing going on!  We are ever grateful to be in the service of the Lord - however He needs us.                                                    Next post - Christmas Peninsula 3rd Branch style!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sikh Temple Visit

We recently took a Saturday and organized a senior missionary visit to Hong Kong's only Sikh temple - or Gurdwara.  Memories of the wonderful one we visited in St. Peters, Missouri flooded me.  The Sikh's are some of the nicest people I have ever met - on both sides of the planet.
  • Sikhism - meaning disciple or student
  • Founded in 1469 in India
  • Fifth largest religion in the world
  • Belief in one God
  • Distinct from Hinduism and Islam
Come join us on our tour!

First, we needed to remove our shoes, and put on headdresses of some kind in a show of respect. Some sisters brought their own scarves and others used the ones available at the Gurdwara.
Sister Van Wagonen, Sister Crockett, and Sister Brown

Sister and Elder Chamberlain
We came at the perfect time - a Sikh wedding was in process! I love the bright colors of the clothing and turbans.

The bride and groom in front of the altar.

After the wedding, the couple led the celebration procession through the halls. Isn't her dress gorgeous?

In a private setting, our senior missionary group met to be instructed on the beliefs of Sikhism.  Elder Coffey began the meeting and then turned the time over to the Guru. Our guide, Alex (standing in the back) is actually a Hindu, but was kind enough to come and tour us around the Gurdwara and make all the arrangements for us. Alex's father is Danny, of Danny's Fashion Shoppe - a popular tailor shop frequented often by senior missionaries.

Brother Gurmel, our Guru, explains the fundamentals of Sikhism.

Afterwards, we explored the halls of the Gurdwara and met some beautiful people!

Sister Macbeth, Sister roberts, Sister Orton, Sister Chamberlain and Sister VanWagonen
pose with a beautiful Indian woman dressed up for the wedding celebration.
Typical of Sikh and Hindu wedding festivities, many women decorate themselves with Mehndi, or henna - a paste-dye used for decorative and symbolic art on hands and palms.  

Preparing the meal
After the events, we joined our new friends for a traditional Sikh meal. Known as a Langar, this free meal is a traditional part of the Sikh worship.  It is meant to draw people of all religions, caste, color, creed, age or gender to come together in unity and oneness in the universe.  It is vegetarian so that people of all dietary restrictions can enjoy together without restraint.  We enjoyed curries, vegetables, yogurts, and naan. And it was delicious!!!

Canteen style serving - humble and simple and very very delicious

Enjoying the curry, naan, vegetables, and yogurt dishes.

At the end of our visit, we enjoyed visiting with some of the children.  The boys are wearing a Patka to keep their hair clean and tidy.  Sikh boys and men traditionally do not cut their hair - ever.  As it grows longer and as the boys mature, they will switch over to the traditional turban worn by the men.

Religious freedom and respect is a fundamental belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  From the earliest days, it was etched into the hearts of the Latter-day Saints as a foundational principle that has blessed the lives of people all over the world.  Joseph Smith set forth the standard of religious freedom, as revealed to him by the Lord.

 "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." (Article of Faith 1:11)

"Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Nauvoo, that the Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Latter-day Saints, Quakers, Episcopals, Universalists, Unitarians, Mohammedans [Muslims], and all other religious sects and denominations whatever, shall have free toleration, and equal privileges in this city ...—Ordinance in Relation to Religious Societies, City of Nauvoo, [Illinois] headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, March 1, 1841

We are grateful for our brothers and sisters of other faiths, or of no faith at all, and respect them all as eternal sons and daughters of a Beautiful King, even God, our Eternal Father.