"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, June 11, 2017

Delivery on Wheels

Nearly everything here can be delivered on two - maybe three - wheels.  No challenge is insurmountable.  

From fruit...

...to who knows what.... if it can be transported....

...motorists in Ho Chi Minh City are transporting it!

Flicker.com courtesy of Kevin O'Gorman
Our grocery store delivers via moto to our doorstep for free, and with a smile!

The old days of the Fuller Brush Man are alive and well in Ho Chi Minh City - on wheels!

Our neighborhood tailor brings his business to our apartment - on wheels. When the day is over, he packs up his treadle sewing machine and heads off down the street.

Even sleeping children are moved about comfortably on wheels! No staying home for this mom!

Rain or shine, the roads are criss-crossed with businesses and deliveries on wheels.  If they can figure out a way to strap it to their vehicle, it will get transported.
Their ingenuity is only surpassed by their tenacity. 

What if we were to tackle our obstacles or burdens with as much determination and resolution? 

When we are faced with life's challenges and can't figure out how to get from here to there, how to realize the successful resolution of our latest test or see anyway to reach the end of the row, I'll long remember these common scenes from the streets around us.  We are continually motivated and inspired by the people's determination to accomplish what needs to be accomplished without making excuses.  

Reminds me of a couple of quotes.  

Do it now!
I can do hard things!
I can do ALL things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 
                                                                         Philippians 4:13

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Teaching English Conversation to Amazing Students

What is the best part of our senior mission?  The people - absolutely!  They are such an amazing delight.  Whether we are working with them one-on-one in Gospel discussions, teaching English conversation, sharing self reliance workshops, or just having fun with them - the people here are refreshingly open, teachable and very loving.  

We teach free English conversation sessions twice a week - one night in the District 6 Branch and one night in the Tan Son Nhat Branch. All missionaries share in this opportunity in Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced levels.  Elder Coffey and I lead the Advanced levels, and are grateful to mentors who assist us in the classroom!

Our fantastic mentor helping with the discussion groups

One of our students made a video of our last class - you'll get a good feel of what it's like to interact with these amazing students! Click here - English Class.

At the conclusion of the hour long free English class, we share a 15 minute spiritual message to those who are willing to stay and listen.  No one ever leaves.  The Spirit is strong during those messages and sometimes we see those who are being touched by the power of God as they hear, sometimes for the first time in their lives, of a God who loves them and cares for them.

Some of the crazy, fun, amazing missionary-teachers of our English conversation classes:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hôi An

The tile roofs and yellow painted walls revive 
the ancient charm of the village

The ancient Vietnamese trading port of Hội An (meaning "peaceful meeting place")  greeted our senior missionary group as we made our way through its quaint streets, historic homes and colorful buildings.

Dating back to the 15th through 19th centuries, this town blends the influences of settlers from China, Portugal, Japan, Holland and India. 

The senior missionaries throughout Vietnam were in Đà Nẵng for several days of training and rejuvenation. After training, our group toured the homes and shops of Hôi An, just 29 kilometers south of Đà Nẵng

Yellow walls and tiled roofs led to a sense of warm echoes from the past.

Homes as old as 300 years still house multi-generational families, while local shops and artisans swell the ground floors, luring the successful tourist industry that brings a modern twist to its streets. Today the town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The inner courtyard brings light and a touch of nature to this 300 year old home


Checking out a sculpted courtyard wall
The elderly are an integral part of family life,
 part of the vibrant heartbeat of the home.

One could feel the echos of the past meeting with the vitality of the present. As we walked through the old homes, I could almost see the images of hundreds of years ago - children playing on the floor, chickens and pigs in the courtyard, and families working together in this tight-knit community on the edge of the sea.

In some ways, things haven't changed that much.

Inner courtyard

Incense blesses a crumbling wall

Selling miniature Buddha statues along the street in Hôi An

This wooden, covered Japanese bridge, constructed in the 1590's, has become the symbol of the ancient stability of Hôi An.

In some ways, however, the town HAS changed, as tourists world-wide come to stay and buy and eat and enjoy its warmth and iconic charm.

Even the incense coils in the temple are for sale
Just as the homes and families of Hôi An have seen changes over the centuries, so have all other modern homes and families.  The quiet echoes of the past are replaced by the frenzied pace of the present. The "peaceful meeting places" of home and family that graced our past are fast disappearing.

One of the opportunities we have on our mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to lead family relations classes for the public. We teach in English and a wonderful church member translates for us. The Family: A Proclamation to the World  provides the foundation for successful marriages and families in any generation. 

  So many are searching for that peace again.

Sunset in Hôi An

Celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary
while serving in Vietnam.
We're here in Vietnam to share that peace can be found, and is being found by millions of people all over the world as they turn to Jesus Christ for answers, for strength, and for family support. Even in our busy, fast paced lives, our families can retain the strength of unity and purpose as evidenced by the graceful town of Hôi An.

Here is a link that gives practical, hands-on suggestions for how to improve our family relationships - Quotes on marriage, parenting and family.

May our homes become "peaceful meeting places" even amidst the challenges of mortality and modern society. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Reflections Off the Beach in Da Nang

I had another childhood memory – something I hadn’t remembered in decades.  It just swept over me with warm fuzzies and a happy heart.

It happened last week, while I was watching the rhythm of the East Sea swirl around my feet, the gentle waves making a soft lapping sound.  We were at a senior missionary conference in Da Nang, Vietnam, and the early hour provided time for a visit to the beach.

And there they were – something I hadn’t seen in many years. Coquina shells.

Flickr.com courtesy of Glenn Marsch
The flash back took me to when I was a little girl, maybe 5 years old, maybe 7 – I’m not sure - living with my family in Venice, Florida off the Gulf Coast. My mother loved the beach. We found ourselves there frequently, and while she sat and enjoyed the sounds and breeze, we children would often track down coquinas. The live clam-like animals would be washed up in the surf and then burrow down quickly into the sand, leaving small holes and air bubbles to mark their location.

Quickly we’d dig down with our hands or plastic spades, find the little animal and scoop it up into bucket of sea water.  One by one, our bucket eventually would be full of coquinas. Mom would take them home, clean and rinse them, and make a coquina chowder with the mini version of clams. The memory made me feel close to her again. 

It was a pleasant memory on a pleasant trip to Da Nang, where all the senior missionaries of Vietnam assembled for several days of training, fellowship and much-needed renewal.

The house all of us stayed in.

The training meetings were full of insights, counsel and inspired direction.
When we weren't in training, we had time for several side trips - starting first with the beautiful beach. 

A cultural mix of old and new made the splendor even more wonderful.

Keeping her legs warm as this grandmother soaks in the peace of the ocean

Basket boats, or thung chai
These little boats were being used by the local fishermen, bringing in fresh seafood each morning, such as squid and octopus. The boats, called thung chai, were developed during the French colonial period. A tax was imposed on ownership of a boat, so the Vietnamese crafted these round "baskets", thus avoiding the boat tax. They are still used today throughout Central Vietnam. As are the larger fishing boats. Fishing is still a primary trade today.

And you'd better like seafood - because it is everywhere!

We also visited the Marble Mountains - Ngũ Hành Sơn - a group of hills jutting up from the land.  True to the name, the mountains are made of marble as well as limestone.  

Exploring the caves and sacred Buddhist shrines on the way up the mountain... 

Marble-carved Buddha within one of the caves

Dragon wall - all in marble.

Marble pagoda
The reward of climbing the 156 steep, slippery, uneven marble steps was this beautiful view.

Missionary conferences help us to "see the view" as it were, regarding the work that continues to move forward here in Vietnam. They help us see where we are in perspective of the Lord's work.

As senior missionaries, we don't always see each other very often. Our unique assignments take us to various parts of the country. Some work with Latter-day Saint Charities. Some work with finances and office logistics.  Some teach English and assist in local branches. And of course the mission president and his wife lead us along magnificently.

Hanoi Vietnam Mission senior missionaries, with the mission president and his wife.
All are engaged in the work of the Lord. The fellowship and comradery of the conference reminded us that we are never alone in this work, even when we are physically absent from one another.

So while we might from time to time only see one set of footsteps in the sand, when we reflect upon it, we discover that it is He whose footsteps we are seeing that continually moves this work forward. 

We are grateful to be engaged in this sacred work. Lives are being changed. The message of Jesus Christ here in Vietnam is healing hearts, cleansing souls, and moving mountains. One precious person at a time.

Sunrise reflection on the beach in Da Nang