"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

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Year of the Ram - Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year is full of traditional foods, massive decorations, festive family get togethers, gift giving, and vacation time.  In some ways, it is similar to Christmas in the West.  But the traditions steeped in thousands of years of history make experiencing New Years in Hong Kong an unforgettable occurrence.

Each year follows one of the 12 zodiac animals in the lineup of the Chinese calendar. This year is the Year of the Ram, or the Goat, or the Sheep - no distinction is made.  It is just 年羊。Nian Yang.

New Years time is early spring.  The orange or kumquat tree is prized this time of year for its yellow or golden colored fruit.  Gold is the color of royalty and wealth.  Surely good things will come your way with such a tree by your front door.  These trees, in all sizes, are available by the thousands to give to friends, business associates, and family, and nearly every store will have at least one to help welcome in good luck for the coming year.

Red envelopes decorate this kumquat tree outside our apartment. Parents put money in the red envelopes to give to children during New Years.

The blossoms of the plum tree are also highly prized.  In addition to orange and kumquat trees, you can buy a branch of a plum tree.  Not unlike a Christmas tree, take your plum tree branch home, put it in water and watch the blossoms unfold. They’ll even wrap the tree up for you just like a Christmas tree to help with the transport home.
Wrapping up a plum tree to take home.

Rows of plum trees waiting for new homes.

Bring good luck to your home or business by plastering red paper 
banners with good luck sayings to your
door posts. Bad luck will surely “pass over” your home in the coming year because of the red on your doorposts.  Hmmm…. Sounds strangely familiar….  (Exodus 12: 21-23)

Here is a shrine decorated for New Years, dedicated to the Earth God symbolized by the rock.  The Earth God is a very popular deity worthy of respect in Hong Kong.

I followed this woman up a trail to see where she was taking this tray of food.  Turns out it was an offering to the Earth God at the beginning of New Years.  Here she is lighting  incense for her offering. The offering included steamed whole chicken, rice and fruit.

New traditional clothes for children are part of the fanfare, and nearly every child we saw was dressed up for the occasion in Chinese outfits.

The New Year is a time for not only new clothes, but also clean houses, clean cars, clean bedding - all this is done before the start of the New Year.  If you clean the dirt out of your house on New Years, you will sweep away all the good luck that is forming!  Make sure all cleaning is done before hand!

Wish locks will bring your relationship good luck for sure.  A wish lock or love padlock is a padlock which sweethearts lock to a bridge, fence, gate, or similar public fixture to symbolize their love.  Typically the sweethearts' names or initials are inscribed on the padlock, and its key is thrown away to symbolize unbreakable love. (Thank you Wikipedia)

Caught these wish locks hanging out by the rams at
 the New Year Festival near Lam Tsuen village.

We visited the famed Wishing Tree in Lam Tsuen village.  Write your wish and attach it to an orange then fling it up to the tree.  If it catches on a branch, you are in luck! The higher up in the tree, the more chances of your wish coming true.

Tin Hau was a woman born in the Song Dynsasty who was able to forecast the climate and also had a knowledge of medicine.  She was able to save many people through these skills, and after her death she became known as the Goddess of the Sea. Temples all over Hong Kong are dedicated to her and worshipers come to pay homage and pray for protection from storm and for good fishing.  Here at one of the many Tin Hau temples, decorated up for New Years, a roast pig has been offered to Tin Hau inside the temple, and the Chinese Lion dance is performing to bring a blessing to the roast pig.

Another Tin Hau temple, decorated up for New Years. People will "feed" lettuce to the Lion, because the word lettuce in Cantonese also sounds like "money" - the Lion will "chew" up the lettuce and then spit it out on the ground as a blessing.  You can see pieces of lettuce strewn on the ground along with colorful confetti. 
We visited a New Year Fair - along with thousands of other people! The crowds are immense!  New Years fairs spring up throughout Hong Kong, selling flowers (a most popular gift item) and all other kinds of New Years gifts.  

Solanum mammosum, a popular Hong Kong New Years fruit because of its gold color.
 Also, it often has up to five nubs on the end, which reminds people that five generations can live
 harmoniously under one roof.

Orchids abound in Hong Kong, but ever more so at New Years. It is the flower of choice for bringing in good luck and good wishes for the New Year.

There is far too much to see and do to catch it all for New Years in Hong Kong, but included for us was a wonderful dinner with the Area Presidency and their wives, as well as the other Area Office missionaries.  

Making dumplings

The fireworks included 23888 fireworks for 23 minutes!

View from the Area Office building

Chinese New Year - a happy time for everyone!

Happy Chinese New Year everyone - 
from our side of the world to yours!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Meet My Missionary!

Over forty years ago, while living in Paris with my parents and brother for just one brief year, my entire world changed forever.  One day we answered a knock on the door to welcome in two missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Elder Guynn and Elder Snook.  I was fourteen years old and searching for greater meaning in my spiritual journey.  Through their instrumentality, and by personal prayer and scripture study, I gained for myself a witness of the truthfulness of the message of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. My father was not keen on this, though, and eventually asked for the missionaries to not return to our home.  I was not able to be baptized and join the church, nor to keep in touch with the missionaries, but I was able to became pen pals to their girlfriends back home, and received great spiritual uplift from them. 

Wayne and Linda Snook and Sister Coffey,
standing in front of a Chinese New Year kumquat tree
A year later, after we had moved to Boise, Idaho, and through the tender mercies of the Lord, my father changed his mind and allowed for me to be baptized into the Church.  The day I received his letter saying ,”…bless you honey, and go..” my heart was filled with extreme joy and I quickly reached out to Elder Snook, who by this time had completed his mission and was living back in his home in Canada.  I wondered if there was any possibility he could make the long trip to Boise to baptize me.  It turned out that he was headed to Provo, Utah to go to school, and made plans to make the trip from Provo to Boise to baptize me.

So on August 31, 1975, I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Wayne Snook, my “missionary” from France. 

It has been nearly 40 years since that day. This week he and his wife Linda, the girlfriend who strengthened me so much through her letters, arrived here in Hong Kong to visit us and another missionary couple with whom they are friends, the Salmons. 

Who would have known that over forty years later, the young woman that Elder Snook briefly taught in Paris, France, would now be serving on a mission in Hong Kong and would welcome him and his wife to our home?  How grateful I am for a young man who left his family for 2 years so that I could enjoy mine for eternity. Who can know the extent of the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that will continue to grow in our lives, because of the sacrifice of Elder Snook and his companion to serve a mission so many years ago?

One of my favorite sayings – “You can count the number of seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the number of apples in a seed.”

Thank you, Wayne and Linda Snook, for the great blessings you have brought to our family! 

Read more stories at - Meet My Missionary Facebook Page!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Visit to the Coffey's Mission Apartment - Come in for a Tour!

We had this idea that senior missionaries live in very "austere" conditions. Before our mission, as we contemplated this, we thought - "Bring it on!"  But as we checked other senior missionaries' blogs in other countries and saw pictures of their nice apartments, we wondered how come they got to live in such nice places!  

Then we came to Hong Kong!

Welcome to Harbor Front Horizon Hotel/Apartments in Hung Hom, Hong Kong!

View of our apartment at night - Hong Kong Harbor right outside our window.
 We watch everything from sail boats to cruise ships glide past our window.

View from our apartment at night   

At about 650 square feet, these apartments border on the luxurious side by Hong Kong standards. Many apartments in the city are only 350 square feet!  The very wealthy have much larger places, but nearly all places are apartments in high rises like ours.  So, with our "large" apartment, we cozy up and enjoy less to mess and less to clean.

Truly a "one person" kitchen and laundry room.
The dishwasher-looking-like-thing is  actually
the washer and dryer -  an all-in-one unit that takes
 2-3 hours to complete a cycle!

A peek into the washer-dryer unit.

When the dryer doesn't really do its job properly,
we have this high tech drying rack
which always performs well -
just give it enough time.....

Dining room

Living room and theater room and kitchen pantry all in one!
What more could you ask?

When you want more drinking water, you just set your empties outside your door, call in an order, and when you return later in the day new ones are waiting for you.  Courtesy of the Church - one of the fringe benefits.  We also don't pay for utilities, garbage, lawn care, taxes, association fees, repairs, maintenance, or furniture. 

Nor for the view, pool, on-site gym, sauna, and free shuttle service! Just the rent. 

While we haven't seen how all seniors live, we have seen the humanitarian missionaries' apartments in Myanmar and Nepal.  The senior volunteers are all living in very comfortable, safe apartments - with some being outright beautiful.  Seniors are well cared for. The Mission Department want us to like our missions - and to come back!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Nepal Photo Highlights

Earlier we posted about our wheelchair distribution project in Nepal. Here are some other highlight photos of our trip which we took in November.  For details of our wheelchair distribution, click here:  Wheelchairs in Nepal

A grandmother and grandfather traveling on the plane from Kathmandu to Pokhara.  I loved her nose rings and they were gracious enough to have a picture with us.

The trendy place to be - Nepal is all about outdoor activities - from para sailing, jungle cruises, and of course - trekking!

View from the window of our hotel, showing the lake in the distance and laundry on the rooftops.

View from the hotel, other direction.

Woman waiting for boat ride to the sacred island in the center of the lake.  The island has a sacred Hindu shrine
that attracts many tourists.

Hike up the village road to Annapurna Mountain look out point.

Village woman bringing refreshments for early morning mountain viewers.  Tourists from all over the world enjoy the views of the Himalaya Mountains, Annapurna being one of the most famous.
Mt. Everest is not seen from here - it is behind these mountains.

Himalaya Mountain Range - Annapurna Mountain

You roll these sacred prayer wheels to the left to invoke blessings.

We met up with Bishnu Adhikari, from Meet the Mormons movie.  He's an active member of the branch in Kathmandu, and the former branch president.  He is one of our key humanitarian partners in Nepal.

Former baptismal font where this branch member was baptized as a young boy.

"New" baptismal font

In a village near Kathmandu, this "holy man" came up the road to greet us.  Turns out, we were told, he is a fake holy man, one who poses as a Hindu monk and goes begging from house to house.  His tactics work - our group paid him for his willingness to have a photo with us!   I love the robes and colors!

Woman at the Hindu and Buddhist temple.  One temple - multiple faiths.

Woman are the work horses in Nepal.  Here a young man fills the basket with bricks for the woman to carry up several flights of stairs for a building construction project.  

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Selling fruits on the street