Elder and Sister Coffey

"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, July 23, 2017

A Trip to Heaven - The Temple in Manila

It seemed like it was a long time coming. The anticipation was high as P. (age 8) and her family began their trip to the Manila temple from their home village of Châu Đốc, Vietnam. They were on their way to be sealed as a forever family.

A six hour bus ride brought the family into Ho Chi Minh City where they joined the rest of the group – 44 in all – who were making their way to Manila for the annual temple trip.

On July 17, members from the three branches in Ho Chi Minh City as well as the Virtual Branch from the outlying areas gathered together at the Tan Son Nhat chapel for a brief devotional before catching either the 1:00 am flight to Manila or a flight later that morning. 

A devotional started off the trip with the outpouring of the Spirit.

The group gathers for the 1:00 am flight.
We were assigned traveling buddies - Elder Coffey and I traveled with a delightful mother and her daughter.

Arriving at the temple in the middle of the bustling, crowded city of Manila is a little bit like finding heaven.  A lot like it, actually.

The tired but happy group gathered in the patron housing lobby to receive their room assignments.

Patron Housing at the Manila Temple - for those who travel a long distance to attend.

The weary group waits for their room assignments.

Catching up on sleep before heading over to the temple.

The temple provides housing for temple patrons who come to the temple from long distances.  Bunk beds line each room housing 8 people.  Some rooms are reserved for families so they can stay together.

Assigning out the bedding for each room.
The group arrived at the temple around 6 in the morning and after resting up a bit, began serving in the temple.

The Manila temple is an English speaking temple.  Many of those in our group spoke only Vietnamese, but several in the group were able to translate to help explain things. In spite of translation challenges, the universal language of the Spirit flowed and blessings followed. 

A particularly tender moment was when P.'s family was sealed - first her grandparents to each other, then her mother to her grandparents, then her parents to each other, and then the crowning moment when P. and her baby sister were brought in to also be sealed as a forever family.  I could not hold back the tears that swelled in my eyes at this sacred moment. 
Three generations of Vietnamese Saints

It was a very big day for them!
S. was another one who came to the temple (photo, right).  A widow for 7 years, she came to receive the sacred ordinance of being sealed to her husband for time and all eternity. Miracles unfolded as saints rallied around her to help her with the paperwork and translation in order to be able to perform the sealing. She has been a member of the church for 2 years and this has been a sacred highlight for her. 

The blessings continued day and night as members were baptized for their loved ones by proxy and as families were joined together by the power and authority of the priesthood that Heavenly Father has restored to the earth in these last days. 

Elder Coffey and I and others were given opportunities to assist in the temple - helping wherever they needed us. 

What a joy it is that we are blessed with temples throughout the world - bringing these eternal blessings to families on both sides of the veil. Our visit to the temple was four faith-filled days mingling with saints, feeling the outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord, and being reminded of the supernal and eternal binding power of the priesthood. Everything about the temple points us to Jesus Christ. It is His house.  We are grateful guests in His sacred work. 

"Temples are are more than stone and mortar. They are filled with faith and fasting. They are built of trials and testimonies. They are sanctified by sacrifice and service."  Thomas S. Monson

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.