"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, September 20, 2015

The Full-Purpose Missionary

Our mission call was to serve in the Area Office in Hong Kong as humanitarian missionaries.  I was excited to be going to Hong Kong, excited about working with humanitarian projects, but dubious about the prospects of sitting behind a computer for 23 months.  I understand that many senior couples are also not overly thrilled with the idea of an office mission.

But there has been a term floating around here called “full-purpose missionaries.”  We are reminded frequently that we are needed in many areas of expertise and service, not just one.  So while Elder Coffey and I might have a primary assignment as humanitarian missionaries, we also have opportunities of serving as Temple missionaries, Self-reliance missionaries, Member-leadership support missionaries (MLS), Family History missionaries and office missionaries.   It’s a lot to keep up with!

MLS missionaries - We serve in the Peninsula 3rd branch. Elder Coffey is in the branch presidency.

Elder Crockett, Elder Coffey, President Smart and Elder Chan

He and I teach the Temple Preparation class and when they are ready, we accompany the sisters who have completed the class to the temple. 

Elder Coffey teaching the Temple Preparation Class

I teach Institute as part of our service to the branch.  And we support the sisters in a variety of other ways, helping them work through challenges and offering support

Institute Class
Having a missionary discussion with our friend Simon Lee
Institute sisters signing our "Covenant Keepers" promise.

And sometimes serving as MLS missionaries takes you to places you never imagined!
Branch Christmas pageant 2014

Family History missionaries - We assist the sisters in our branch with Family History work, preparing names of their ancestors to receive the blessings of the temple. Most of them are not able to process names because they do not have computers.  They identify their family names, and we help them get the names ready for the temple.

Temple missionaries - We serve as temple workers, serving in the temple each Friday night, and also on special holidays when the temple is open. This is one of the choice blessings of our service.

Escorting our first Temple Preparation class sisters to the temple

Self-reliance missionaries - We facilitate the Self-reliance class, a 2 hour class each Sunday that helps them learn business principles and skills.  Their goal is to become more self-reliant and start a small business back in the Philippines so they can join their children and families once again.

Self Reliance Class

Self-reliance class graduates

Humanitarian missionaries – This is our primary assignment, one which has been amazing and has taken us throughout Asia as we visit and help train our humanitarian couples who serve in-country.

Our trip to China - 2014

Our weekly Area Welfare Council Committee - 2014

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Coffey in Timor-Leste - 2015

Office missionaries – And yes, we serve in the Office.  In addition to our humanitarian office support work, we have the blessing of working on special assignments from the Area Presidency - members of the Quorum of Seventy.  These men and their wives are amazing examples of consecration and devotion to Jesus Christ in their labors. And the assignments we are given are actually some of the most incredible and humbling experiences of our service in Asia.

And we love the employees at the office - they hold us all together and keep us going! Jaymi Wong is our Administrative Assistant and we would not survive without her!  And our Area Welfare manager is Patrick Cheuk - such dedicated people that we get to work with!

Jaymi Wong, Administrative Assistant
Elder Coffey with Patrick Cheuk
As Office missionaries, we also are blessed to have the association of some of the most amazing members of the Church – faithful devoted couples who love the Lord and come with vast amounts of talent, wit, dedication, faith and experience.  There are many senior missionary activities organized – monthly Family Home Evening, monthly Saturday activities, weekly lunch together, weekly Sisters’ Institute, and many more - as well as often working together on special projects and events.

Senior missionary lunch
So if you aren't sure about serving an office mission, I'd say - jump in!  The joys and blessings are incredible.  Whether that office is in an Area Office like ours, or a mission office, or some other office, you will be a  "full-purpose missionary" with many opportunities to serve and stretch and grow and draw nearer to the Savior than ever before.

Gotta run - I'm off to prepare for tomorrow's Back to School Institute Party, preparing an Institute Choir to sing in sacrament meeting, getting ready for a music conducting workshop in a couple of weeks, planning the Senior Missionary Family Home Evening (this month it's our turn to host), starting up a new Temple Preparation Class, cooking something for the branch pot luck dinner, and going to a Senior Missionary activity - Cirque de la Symphonie!  

If you aren't sure about an office mission - maybe it's just because you haven't been on one yet!  Come join us!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Courageous Business Women, Inc

Catherine once had a family bakery business in the Philippines.  Rona worked in a garment factory and had a small farm and sold produce on the side.  Fe had a Sari-sari– a small convenience store.  Jeanette and her family ran a piggery. One by one, each of these businesses just weren’t enough to sustain their family’s needs.  And some businesses collapsed under a weight of shattered dreams and broken promises.

Left to right - Nyda Lyn, Jeanette, Fe, Rona, Jessie, Michelle, Delsa, Catherine, and Eunice.  

Fe explains a self reliance principle

Now the sisters end up in Hong Kong as domestic workers, hoping to earn some money for their families back home.

Each of the sisters has a story to tell.  Many have a heartache endured with businesses-gone bad or mounting debts.

But hope is rising as they discover and take part in the Church’s new Self Reliance courses. On Sundays, Elder Coffey and I oversee the self-reliance course called Starting and Growing Your Business. 

The growing confidence in their faces each week is evidence of their mounting excitement to start again – this time with gospel values, sound business principles and a well-established family support system.

“Because of these principles,” said Eunice, “I decided to practice listening after prayer – I set aside time each morning to pray and listen.” She continued, “I think my life is changing, it is growing.  I just pray every day I can continue with these assignments. I am very happy.”

Jessie saw firsthand how the principles taught can help her right now. The sisters were taught to keep an expense log to record income and expenses. “By following this assignment, I saw that my income and profit was nearly equal” said Jessie.  “With a few simple changes I was able to see a 50% reduction in transportation fees. Now I have money to save!”  

Nyda Lyn studies with her self reliance classmates
Each week the group of eager sisters stands and recites together, “And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine. “

“With faith in the Lord, we are working together to become self reliant.”

Rona worked in a garment factory back home in the Philippines. She also sold home-grown vegetables on the side for extra income.  Then one day the factory closed.  Rona joined the hundreds of thousands of women who are forced to leave their families behind with the hopes of making some money abroad. But the conditions are usually harsh, often with employers giving only meager food and allowing little sleep.  And the debt keeps mounting as numerous criminal agency fees sink these sisters into ever further bondage. 
Rona pays close attention as a classmate shares her story

But Rona has hope. “I know starting a business is quite hard but through prayers, hard work and perseverance I know I can do it with the right guidance of our dear Heavenly Father. Being in the self reliance program of this church is really a big help to a single mom like me.”

Jeanette sums up the feelings of the sisters: 
"I'm so grateful for the self-reliance class - it helps me a lot to improve everything in my life. I am very confident of every decision that I make in my life because I know Heavenly Father is always there to support me."

Last Sunday this group of courageous women received their Business Course certificates of completion, which are issued by the LDS Business College, and are signed by President Thomas S. Monson and J. Laurence Richards, President of the LDS Business College. They were thrilled to receive a real certificate from a real college, and one signed by the prophet himself.  The future is as bright as their dreams.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Elder Holland Dedicates the Land of Timor-Leste

We are grateful that LDS Charities will be able to partner with the wonderful people of Timor-Leste in bringing self-reliance, hope and healing through humanitarian work.  We are so excited for Elder and Sister Johnson and the humanitarian outreach they will be able to do. It is an exciting time!

Our trip to Timor-Leste was an incredible blessing.  We were blessed to be there for the dedication of the land of Timor-Leste by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.  Read about his visit which was printed in the Church News  HERE.

We had the blessing of going ahead of time and setting up all the arrangements for Elder Holland's visit - airport pickup, hotel, transportation, visits, meals, etc.  Elder and Sister Johnson, the in-country couple, worked with us in all the details and arrangements.  It was sometimes hard to sleep at night.  An apostle was coming and we would be his escort for two days! 

Tino Mac, a Timorese member of the Church now living in Australia who helped us so much in our June Exploratory Trip, emailed us to let us know he was coming back to Dili for a 2 week trip.  Tino knew nothing of the events coming to Timor-Leste, and knew nothing of the dates surrounding them, nor anything about an apostolic visit.  But his mother wanted to return to Dili to see cousins, so Tino arranged to come to Dili – arriving, unbeknownst to him, on the exact same day as Elder Holland.  But by the hand of the Lord, once again Tino was in the right place at the right time.  By divine decree, Tino Mac would be at the dedication of his native land. 
The dedication took place on August 21, 2015.

When Elder Holland arrived at the airport, we were there to greet him. Accompanying him were Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Seventy and President of the Asia Area and his wife Sister Susan L. Gong, Elder Randy D. Funk, of the Seventy and 1st Counselor in the Area Presidency and his wife Sister Andrea C. Funk. What a thrill it was to greet Elder Holland.  He reached out and patted Dad’s face upon greeting him, a warm handshake and hug for me – a warm, compassionate and kind servant of the Lord.

Greeting Elder Holland at the airport - with Sister Johnson and Sister Coffey

Early in the morning of August 21st, 2015, the group assembled and was driven by van to Cristo Rei. 

We walked up 290 of the 597 steps, coming to the first landing. 

Elder Holland pauses on the way up to enjoy the view.

The first landing area on the way up to Cristo Rei, where the dedication took place.
 This photo was taken before the dedication service.
At this spot, you can see both sides of the overlook, with Dili and its beaches on one side and Backside Beach on the other.  The morning was comfortable. The sun was very bright creating sharp shadows.  The place was deserted and quiet except for a few groundskeepers and several fishermen on their way to Backside Beach. 

The air was quiet and against the backdrop of Cristo Rei, the dedication service began.

Tino Mac and his mother Lili Mac, with Elder and Sister Coffey

These are just facts, just words on a piece of paper.  It is simply not possible to infuse the reader with the spirit of this sacred occasion.   

Elder Holland mentioned that now was the dry season of Timor-Leste, but when the rains come, they will bring new life and beauty to the land.  In the same way, the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be like refreshing rain, bringing new life and spiritual beauty to the people.  August is the dry season in Timor-Leste. It hadn’t rained in a long time. It was a very applicable analogy.

Sister Gong, Elder Gong, Lili Mac, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Tino Mac, Elder Funk, Sister Funk,
Elder Johnson, Sister Johnson, Elder Coffey, Sister Coffey

Group photo at the hotel 

We had the opportunity to interview Elder Holland at the hotel after the dedication.
Following the dedication, we escorted the group to the airport. We provided lunch boxes for their return trip.  Sister Johnson made oatmeal-raisin cookies which were included in the lunch.  Here is a photo of them showing their appreciation for the cookies. They voted the lunch as the "best box lunch ever!"  

As Elder Holland turned to leave, he gave warm embraces to us all.  But with Dad he stopped.  In a picture that will be etched in my mind forever, he cupped Dad’s face with both hands, leaned in close and held him, affectionately thanking him for all he had done for this event.  The tenderness, fatherly affection of love and grace – it was as if time stood still.  Suddenly I realized what a great photo that would be and frantically looked for the camera.  It was around Dad’s neck!  In an instant the moment was gone, and the picture opportunity was lost, but the image of him clasping Dads face in his hands will be forever ingrained in my memory. 

And then they were gone.  It’s been a lingering of sweetness in our hearts ever since.  A sacred tenderness, a rich deep gratitude to have been included in such a sacred, historic experience. It will be one that will never be forgotten.

That night it rained heavily - the first time in a very long time.

Elder Coffey expressed it this way: "I learned that an analogy spoken of rain can be a reality of physical rain in a time of normally no rain.  And I believe Heavenly Father sent the rain on the evening of 21 August 2015 to let us all know that He heard the words of His servant  and will honor them with blessings from heaven upon the people of Timor-Leste.

"I learned that even when you want a challenge and have the vision to magnify a potential assignment, that assignment may not be given to you – and you can be sure that the Lord wants it that way.  It is fun to watch the Lord’s work unfold, to be part of it is fascinating.  What a privilege to be a missionary in Asia!"