"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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"Our Home Is Gone, But We Are Happy"

We met Yak on our trip to Nepal.  He is a member of the Kathmandu branch. Yak Adhikari (no relation to Bishnu Adhikari) was born in a remote village in Nepal. His father was disabled and his mother was not able to support him any longer.  When he was about 8 years old, his mother dropped him off in the bigger city of Kathmandu for him to seek his fortune and his survival.  Yak did what he could to survive.  He took in odd jobs and lived on the street as one of the many street kids.  Sometimes he wouldn’t get paid for the work he did, or would get beaten. He only had a 4thgrade education before he had to drop out of school entirely.

Eventually he got a job as a rickshaw driver.  One of his customers was a wealthy Danish business man who took a liking to Yak.  The man was also a Latter-day Saint. He took Yak under his wing, hired him for translation services and other jobs, and stayed in touch with him in between business trips.  In the process, he also taught Yak the Gospel, and eventually Yak joined the Church.  Later, he was privileged to serve a mission to New Delhi, India, all because of the kindness of his Danish benefactor. 

Following his mission, he wanted to continue his schooling.  Again, his Danish friend helped with the expenses.  Yak started back to school with 8 and 9 year olds, picking up where he left off from the 4th grade, in his ambitious goal to someday become a doctor.  He studied and studied.  In 1 ½ years he made it to the 10thgrade.  Today he is 24 years old and is continuing his studies through the generosity of his Danish friend.

Yak also takes care of his two younger siblings.  His 14 year old sister, Ramila, and 12 year old brother, Janak, are pictured above with Yak in the center.  He also is raising his 3 year old nephew.  They live in a one room windowless hostel while they go to school.  He loves his mother, who still lives in the village, and is very close to her. He stays in touch with her as he works hard to raise this little sibling-family with an education.

When the 7.8 earthquake hit on April 25th, they were at church with the rest of the Kathmandu Branch. They ran outside the building like everyone else and stayed for a while with the saints, until people began to filter off to their individual homes or to the villages to see how their families were.  Yak and his sibling-family returned to the nearly empty, damaged, hostel.  No one wanted to stay indoors. The aftershocks kept going, unnerving everyone. 

Members of the branch huddle outside the Church immediately following the first earthquake.

Someone then approached him and said, “I know you.”  Yak replied, “I don’t think I know who you are.”  But the man said, “I know you.  I think you need a tarp,” and handed him a large tarp. 

That night, while so many others were without any kind of shelter, he and his sibling-family were under cover from the elements because of the kindness of someone he didn’t know.

When he later visited his mother in the village, he saw the devastation and all the ruined homes.  He took his tarp and gave it away to those in greater need than he.

Back in Kathmandu, the Church began to receive relief supplies and gave him a tarp since he no longer had one.  He went right back to the village and shared his tarp with his family.

Elder Funk of the Asia Area Presidency visited Nepal recently to meet with the saints and strengthen and encourage them.  Elder Funk spoke to Yak and asked how he was.  “My family is safe,” he said.  “Our home is gone, but we are happy.”

Members of the Kathmandu Branch, several weeks after the earthquakes.

Amazing Partners Helping with Nepal's Earthquake Recovery

Nepal suffered another set back when, following the April 25th 7.8 earthquake that leveled thousands of homes, a 7.3 earthquake struck on May 12th, further collapsing already weakened homes. People who had begun returning to a sense of normalcy were again forced to sleep outside under tarps, or in the open, for safety.  Between the two quakes, over 8,600 lives have been lost and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.

LDS Charities works with local non-government organizations (NGO's) in Nepal in our humanitarian efforts. One of these NGO's is with Bishnu Adhikari, famous for his spot in Meet the Mormons. Bishnu heads the NGO called CHOICE-Nepal.  Bishnu and his family are absolutely amazing, faithful people who are so exemplary and so well respected throughout Nepal. Bishnu is a member of the Kathmandu Branch, the former Branch President, and a loving and caring family man.  We are so blessed to be able to work with him.  

Bishnu Adhikari chats with Elder Coffey in Kathmandu, Nepal, November 2014

Elder Coffey, Bishnu Adhikari, and Sister Coffey in Nepal, November 2014

Our second amazing NGO partner is with Rakesh Hamal, head of the Nepal Rehabilitation Society for the Disabled (NRSD), which helps disabled people in Nepal become self reliant. He also heads Safa Sanaulo Nepal, which addresses the medical needs of Nepal through clean water and other health issues.
Rakesh points out NRSD projects throughout Nepal
One of Rakesh's projects, JAWS, helps visually impaired people, such as this man at the computer keyboard, learn computer skills to become employable.  Rakesh is on the right.
This week Rakesh made a visit to Hong Kong to meet with us and the Area Presidency.  Elder and Sister Valentine, our Nepal humanitarian couple, are also here in Hong Kong until they are able to get back into Nepal.  

Elder and Sister Coffey, Elder and Sister Valentine, and Rakesh Hamal

Rakesh with the Area humanitarian team and the Area Presidency

Both Bishnu and Rakesh and their NGO's have been hard at work getting relief supplies out to the hardest hit areas from the earthquake. Relief efforts will take decades, but we are grateful we can help in at least a small way.

A home in a village where Rakesh has helped distribute emergency supplies.  You can see the crumbled rock homes in the background.
Many people's homes, even in Kathmandu, were damaged or totally destroyed. Many people are sleeping outside under tarps, waiting for the aftershocks to settle down and waiting to rebuild their homes. Rakesh and his wife have two young children.  Although their modest stone home was one of the ones not damaged, their children have been traumatized by the earthquakes and are too afraid to sleep inside their homes. So at night, Rakesh and his family sleep outside under tarps, like so many others, just to support their little children. Sometimes when it rains they will sleep in the car. Eventually they will move back inside, but only when their children feel safe to do so.

These are the kinds of partners we have in Nepal. Genuine, compassionate, trustworthy, honest.  May they be blessed as they continue to bless the lives of others throughout Nepal.

Courtesy of Flikr.com/International Organization of Migration - People living under tarps or tents.

Courtesy of Flikr.com/ International Labor Organization

Friday, May 22, 2015

Bird Nest Soup Anyone?

Bird Nest Soup – a delicacy around the world and very popular in Hong Kong.  It's a very expensive luxury in Chinese cooking, and the Chinese have been enjoying bird nest soup for hundreds of years. Just what exactly is "Bird Nest Soup"?

Photo by Lip Kee, Flickr.com

Bird Nest Soup really is made from the nests of birds - the swiftlet bird  (Aerodramus). 

A swiftlet is only about 4-1/2 inches long. The swiftlet lives in Southeast Asia and makes its little nests on cliffs. It makes these nests with its sticky saliva, dabbing the rocks with its tongue and moving back and forth, applying saliva in sticky strands as it dries quickly.  It can take up to two months to build a little nest, which is just big enough to fit two eggs. After the baby birds leave the nest, people go in and collect the nests, and use them to create the delicacy.

Photo by SJ Photography, Flickr.com -
 Dried bird nests waiting to be cleaned and cooked up.
The dried nests can cost from $2,000 - $10,000 USD for one kilogram.  Hong Kong imports about 100 tons of these each year! Dried nests are soaked in water and simmered for several hours to soften. The cooks meticulously remove feathers and bits of sticks and other debris, simmer the nests some more and serve up the soup, sometimes with a little sugar added.  Yum! 

Bird Nest soup is often served for special occasions, like weddings or funerals.  They say it’s also good for your skin, digestion and immune system! 

Well, I did try it.  It didn't taste bad  - just can’t get past the thought of it though.  Bird saliva soup.  Nope.  Just not going to be one of my favorites around here. Make room for dumplings!!

Photo by SJ Photography, Flickr.com  White swiftlet bird nests
up in the eaves of this building. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Temple Sabbath in Hong Kong

The LDS temples are sacred places set apart from the rest of the world - kind of like a bit of heaven on earth.  A place to make sacred covenants with the Lord that bring peace, joy, and strength in this life and great blessings for eternity.

Two of our dear Filipino sisters in the Peninsula 3rd branch prepared themselves for the day when they could go to the temple for the first time and receive those promised blessings. Working 6 days a week, with Sunday being their only day off, getting to the temple was not an easy plan.  LDS temples are typically closed on Sundays.

But Sunday, May 17th, was one of those special days when the temple was open on a Sunday.  (for more information about Temple Sabbaths - click here - Hong Kong Temple).  Rona Pelongco and Jane Mondragon were among those wonderful sisters who came to the temple and received those great blessings in the House of the Lord.

Sister Coffey with Rona (left) and Jane (right)

Elder and Sister Coffey outside the temple with Rona and Jane

Words cannot fully describe the joy that is experienced on these days by these special sisters.  But Rona's words come very close.  Here she describes her feelings following her experience in the temple:

"No hard goal to fulfill if you have the "DESIRE & WILLINGNESS"....Today one of my GOAL had fulfill that I thought it was impossible for me to make it, but Heavenly Father did help me to find a way, gives me instructions & peoples to meet to help me work hard for my endowment...smile emoticon

Today is one of my remarkable day & year of my life, though struggles will more occur on my way i will try to stand firm, strong & faithful to my Creator & my Savior to stay & follow his will & counsel of my church leaders to lift me up spiritually to resist temptation. I will never be perfect but at least i will try to be a better person that will enjoy the Life i have, feel content to what i have with integrity, sincerity & honesty to share blessings, wisdom by serving others or be an example. It took 24 years for me to fulfill this goal but as my escort said Sis. Ling Ling Cacayorin its never too late but its done in the right time that our Heavenly Father prepared it for you to get it done, I really can't explain my feeling of joy today but one thing is for sure i will always keep this special day in my heart & in my memory forever. I feel strengthened & full of joy in my heart. I love my Creator, my Savior & I love & feel grateful of being ME!!!:D"

                Jane made this collage to express her feelings of gratitude.
Jane also expressed her feelings with these special words: " The week before my endowment, a parable about the prodigal son came to my mind.. It’s a similitude of how Heavenly Father accepts me again as His daughter. I'm like the son of this parable who asked for his part for his father’s treasure... I ask Heavenly Father to let me do what I ever know best for myself that I can handle myself ... but all of those years I was lonely and longing for Heavenly Father’s acceptance and guidance. As my heart turned to Him again I decided to repent and ask for forgiveness. Little by little I felt the light and love from God.. that leads me to continue to do more according to His will... as like the father of prodigal son he prepared first and everything for His son that came back to his life.  As Heavenly Father gave me all the ways to accept all His blessings.  I know this is the right time that I should move forward to more in God’s plan.  I'm happy that I have a lot of families, my own family, my inspiration , my Pen 3 family - each member contributed to my happiness each day here in Hong Kong that they set good examples and teach me a lot and show their love and trust. I love God. He knows our hearts desire - just wait for His timing to answer our prayer.  I am thankful and blessed that I receive my endowment. I will never forget the feelings that I have that day. And it reminds me now to continue more my life according to God’s will, to serve others and to share what I have now."   

Aren't they adorable?  We just love our sisters of the Pen 3 branch and
 are so blessed to be in their presence each week!

Some of the Peninsula 3 branch members outside the temple on the Temple Sabbath 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Miracles of Missionary Placement

When a senior couple puts their papers in for a mission, their application is checked over in Salt Lake City to see what kind of mission they might be compatible for. Primary areas of service are Member Leadership Support (MLS), Public Affairs, Self-Reliance, Family History, Temple, Humanitarian, etc.  Your missionary application is looked over to see what your strengths, interests, experience and abilities are.  Then your application is “rated” and earmarked for four of the above areas.  Your application might be earmarked for 1- Family History, 2- MLS, 3 – Humanitarian, and 4 – Public Affairs. There are so many places and kinds of missions you could be called to!

Elder and Sister Bush,  Elder Kendall Vance, and young monks.
Scroll forward to Elder Val and Sister Judy Bush – now serving as the humanitarian couple in Lao. They were originally called to Myanmar, but then while in the MTC their mission was switched to serve in Lao because there was an immediate need there – same mission, just a different country. 

There was a very big need in Lao for humanitarian missionaries to do English teaching.  The country needed professional educators to help teach government leaders there.  And guess what?  Elder and Sister Bush are professional educators.  They fit the calling perfectly and are doing amazing work. 

We were talking about Lao in one of our recent meetings with the Area Presidency here in the Area Office, and I asked them if they had specifically requested educators to be sent to Lao, and they said no - they didn't know the need was going to be so great.  I asked if the Church leaders who assigned the Bush's mission would have known we needed educators there or would have known that the Bush’s were educators, and they said no.

But the Lord knew.  As Elder Wong of the Area Presidency often reminds us, “The Lord is in the details of the details of the details.”

And isn't it wonderful that He who knows is in charge of this Church?  

Water project in Lao
The mission president, President Senior, noted not long ago that the prior humanitarian missionaries to Lao, the Singleys, were just right for the time they were there, with their water engineering background. They did much good for the multiple water projects and working with the local government.  Now that the mission needs professional educators, the Lord sent the Bush’s.
This kind of miracle occurs all the time in the missionary world. 
The Lord really does know the end from the beginning.  Calls are indeed inspired.  

Photo by More Good Foundation, flickr.com