"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, January 15, 2017

Here We Grow Again! New Branch in Ho Chi Minh City

“A marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.”  D&C 4:1

As the message of Jesus Christ and the restoration of His church spreads across this country, people’s hearts are touched – one of a family, two of a village – here and there, little by little.  We were blessed today to be in attendance at church as the third branch in Hồ Chí Minh City was created – the District 6 Branch. 

Hồ Chí Minh City had two branches of the Church.  The one we attend, the Ton Son Nhut branch, was formed only about 2 1/2 years ago with only a handful of members. Now it is full to capacity in our little building, necessitating the need to split and form an additional branch. 

The new District 6 Branch begins again with only a handful of members - with about 15 active members.  But the enthusiasm is there and the members are excited to have their own place to worship closer to where they live. The District 6 Branch takes in the western part of Hồ Chí Minh City. 

Below is the new District 6 Branch Presidency.  The Branch President is the second from the right. They are men prepared by the Lord for this great moment. The Branch President was serving as a counselor in the Ton Son Nhut Branch Presidency prior to his new calling.

Below is the newly formed Ton Son Nhut Branch Presidency.  The Branch President is the second from the left.  He has been serving as Branch President since the branch was formed about 2 1/2 years ago. His former counselor and clerk are now part of the new District 6 Branch; thus the need to reorganize with new leaders to continue moving the work forward. They are men who love the Lord and are committed to His service.

Below are the two new branch presidencies with their families.  

Having a new branch brings the church closer to those living in the western part of the city.  This gives a wonderful opportunity for those who are less active to find the church and be able to attend more easily.  This also gives people greater opportunities to grow in their new callings as the branch expands and develops. No wonder everyone is so excited!

This has been an historic day for all of us.  Vietnam now has four branches of the Church - one in Hà Nội  and three in Hồ Chí Minh City, with small groups of members in various locations throughout the country. We are small, but watch us grow!

January 22, 2017 -Sunday - the District 6 Branch meets for the very first time.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sludging Through the Mekong Delta

The human powered canoe quietly made its way through the muddy canal which cut through the middle of Tan Phong Island.  As a short cut to the other side, the canal sees more than just tourists wearing cone shaped hats. Slender canoes wound their way around us loaded with bananas, rice or other wares.

Our daughter Kristi flew in from BYU-Idaho to join us for Christmas break. It was a great reason to excuse ourselves from the busy mission work and see some sights together.


Our friends, Elder and Sister MacDonald, joined us for the excursion.  They are the LDS Charities humanitarian couple in Ho Chi Minh City and they do amazing charity work all throughout the southern part of the country.

Tan Phong Island sits between Tiền Giang and Vĩnh Long provinces (just in case you want to Google it!). The village of Cái Bè , and the island near it, are popular tourist sites. The island is also a paradise for growing jack fruit, papaya, mangostein, bananas, dragon fruit, guava, milk apples and a host of other fruits.  Tropical flowers surrounded us on every turn.

Courtesy of flickr.com Adrian Salgado
There we were, sitting on the banks of the Mekong River, snacking on dragon fruit and watermelon, listening to traditional music by musicians in local costumes, basking under the thatched roof and surrounded by tropical lush foliage. It was a world away from the world.   

And a world where tourists can dress in typical local farmer clothes and participate in traditional fishing practices. Kristi and I were excited to go. Our wonderful tour guide accompanied us.

Little did we know what awaited us! Rather than iconic river fishing with nets, we sludged through heavy thick mud, looking for elusive snakefish, while our tour guide and the attendant lowered the water level of the canal with a 68 year old bamboo basket.

Who would have known mucking through the canal mud could be so much fun! Gross, but fun!

"I caught one"!!!!!

It took awhile, but finally we caught three!  We had the option of grilling them or letting them go.  We let them go. After all that mud-mucking, they didn't look very appetizing...

You can see the cone shaped 68-year old bamboo basket they used to help lower the water level in the ditch so we could find the elusive fish!

Our trip continued down the Mekong River.  The shacks and shanties along the river, often held up only by deteriorating posts and thatched walls, depicted the despondent river life of poverty.

Even so, people smiled and waved to the tourists - bringers of much needed income, bringers of sustenance for another day.

Video of the Mekong River trip: HERE  and also HERE


The famous, iconic floating markets along the Mekong River are slowly diminishing.  Still, many set up their wares daily, selling more to locals than to tourists, coming in from the countryside to live on their boats for weeks at a time until their goods are gone.  Some live on their boats forever, making them their life-long habitation, using the life-giving river for both water and bath.

Some even have a generator to provide electricity for important things like lights and television!

Then it was off to a local village to see how the villagers make popped rice, rice paper, and coconut candy, with delicious samples of each.

Here a woman demonstrates traditional rice paper making.

A delicious seafood lunch topped off the day- elephant ear fish and river prawns. The river provides life and sustenance, income and community. 

And the boats are the center of their lives.

The river people paint large bright-colored eyes on their boats. The boats, which are central to their lives and livelihood, need the eyes to scare off evil spirits and keep the boat safe.

Eyes are an interesting thing - we talk about our eyes being single to God - meaning we focus on Him for our daily walk and our protection.  We focus on Him as the center of our lives.

"And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things." D&C 88:67

As we work to keep our own eyes single to the glory of God, we recognize the eyes of the Lord watching over the good people of Vietnam.  This is their time. This is their day.

All eyes are on you, Vietnam. Good things are coming!