"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

Monday, October 24, 2016

Đà Lạt - City of Eternal Spring

Northeast of the sweltering, humid air and the traffic-locked roads of Ho Chi Minh City lies the quiet resort town of Đà Lạt. Situated 4,900 feet above sea level, and surrounded by terraced hills of agriculture and greenhouses full of flowers, Đà Lạt became the ideal get-away for the first ever senior missionary conference of the Vietnam Hanoi Mission. Four senior couples, the mission president and his wife, and two single sisters gathered together for four days of training, inspiration, fun, and fellowship. Our stay was at a beautiful bed and breakfast home with a view of the lake. 

It was like a mini-Garden of Eden, with an abundance of flowers and
 fresh fruit hanging from the trees.

The missionary training, led by President Hassell and his wife, became personalized messages of revelation from the Spirit as we learned those things we can do to improve and draw closer to the Savior.  The power of meeting together, sharing spiritual experiences, and being tutored by the Spirit were sweet blessings in this little paradise away from the rest of the world.

After most of our training, we had a day for exploring the area. Come join us on our adventures in the City of Eternal Spring: 

First off, it was time to sample the local delicacy - fried crickets! Yes - I did it!  (one is enough for a lifetime....)  (P.S. - tastes like chicken!  j/k)

Tiger Waterfall is the closest waterfall to Đà Lạt. The falls were beautiful, and we took the ride down to the falls in a toboggan. The walk back up the trail revealed interesting cultural and scenic views.

A cable car ride and visit to the Truc Lam Pagoda was next.

One of the highlights was a train ride through the country side to the Trai Mat Station.  The rolling hills are covered with terraced agriculture and rows upon rows of greenhouses lining the countryside - full of orchids, mums, roses, and all kinds of flowers.  

View You Tube video of train ride HERE. 

From there we visited the Linh Phuoc Pagoda - full of mosaics made from broken pieces of colored glass. 

Scenes from Đà Lạt 

Colorful street shop

Tasty snacks at the night market

Lunch time from a street vendor

The fairy book adventures had to come to an end, and the seniors packed up and headed home.  We are grateful for those who made this conference a success.  We are grateful for the faith, power, and testimony of each one of those who came.  We are grateful to our Savior Jesus Christ for the opportunity to serve Him in this beautiful country of Vietnam. It is, indeed, a season of miracles....

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Haylie Runs Higher

Meet Haylie.  Most people know her as Dieu Tran, but we just know her as Haylie. Haylie is little sister, a dog lover and an avid runner. Especially an avid runner. Haylie knows lots about running.  She does it all the time, running 5 kilometers every day except Sundays, and has done so for the past 4 years. And Haylie is a Mormon.

Her hard work ethics started when she was a child. She grew up 200 km northeast of Hồ Chí Minh City. 

“When I was a little girl my parents separated and my mom, a devout Buddhist, had to raise us by herself. We went to school and also worked odd jobs to help contribute to the family income. We started very young finding odd jobs after school – babysitting, cleaning houses, handing out flyers on the street – just to help pay for our expenses. We were teased a lot for not having a father in the home. At the age of 14, I had to pay for all of my schooling by myself.”

Haylie's mom is in the green dress.
Haylie is in the center, front, between
her two sisters.
When Haylie’s father became terminally ill, she and her sisters traveled to his town to be by his side. As they cared for him in his last months, her notification for acceptance to the university arrived back home.  She didn’t read it until she returned after the funeral months later. By then it was too late. Medical bills had mounted and she knew she had to stay home to work and help pay off the bills with the rest of her family.

During this time, she began attending Church.

“My sister invited me to church and I came off and on for 5 years. I really wasn’t interested at all. What finally changed for me was one day I was feeling very depressed and exhausted. My father had died, I could not go to the university, I felt I had no future. I fell asleep and dreamed that I just wanted to sleep and never wake up. Then I saw someone holding me up, helping me. When I woke up, the missionaries called and invited me back to church. Isn’t that amazing?!”

Haylie was baptized in 2012, the only one of her immediate family to be baptized, and soon served a mission in the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission. Her love for running continued during her mission and has never stopped.

“I started running 4 years ago to improve my health. I loved it so much I just kept running. My first marathon was 4 months ago. I have now done 4 marathons in 4 months.”

Recently her running passion found her in the beautiful mountain ranges of Sapa, near the Chinese border in northern Vietnam where her 42 km marathon took her through grueling uphill and downhill trails, scenic rice fields and ethnic minority tribes seldom seen by the outside world. This year’s run included 1700 people from 47 countries around the world. It was the Vietnam Mountain Marathon.

It also included cumulative positive vertical meters ranging from around 600m (10km) to more than 4000 meters (100km) –

“I prepared for this run by running up and down stairs – 200 stories of stairs each time.  Plus I ran 5-10 km each day."  Modestly, she adds, "It wasn’t a lot of training.”

Dehydration is a constant threat to marathon runners.  The marathon organizers had sports drinks and energy gels along the way to keep the runners going. 

“But the energy drinks and gel had caffeine, and I was not used to caffeine, so I chose to not take them.”

Early on, at the 8 km mark, Haylie’s legs began to cramp up.  She had to pull off the trail.  

“It kind of scared me – I never had cramps before.  I didn’t want to take the caffeine.  I cried.  I massaged my legs.  I prayed a lot. And then – the cramps went away.  It was amazing!  Later they came back off and on, but I was still able to run. The last 7 km I had to climb one last high mountain. I was afraid the cramps would return. But they didn't. I went up the last mountain and down the other side without stopping and ran all the way to the finish line. Others were tired at this point, but I was able to finish strong.”

And the strategy paid off – Haylie came in 3rd place for the International Division and 2nd place for the Vietnamese Women Division.

When it comes to facing  challenges, Haylie puts faith in the front. She knows first hand the meaning of the scripture:  "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings of eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31