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

Monday, October 2, 2017

Dragons, Incense, and Eternal Peace

A recent Senior Missionary Conference held in the central city of Huế  (pronounced like "hway") gave us ample time to observe the many ancient symbols and traditions that grace this land. We discovered that we share much in the symbolic nurturings of Huế.  Particularly, we share a common yearning for peace in this life and immortality in the world to come.

The dragon has long been a highly recognizable icon of Asian culture.  Unlike the dangerous fire-breathing dragons of European lore, Asian dragons have inspirative symbolic meaning and purpose. In spite of their fierce appearance, Vietnamese dragons are greatly loved.
For one thing, in Vietnam the dragon is a symbol of life-giving rain. With rice being the mainstay of the everyday diet, rain is the lifeblood of the people and essential to the endless rice fields throughout the countryside.

Dragons protect mortals from evil spirits and unfortunate mishaps. Here dragons protect water travelers along the Perfume River.

Dragon-laden boats along the Perfume River

Those lucky enough to have a pair of dragons by the gate are protected from evil spirits throughout the generations to come.

In addition to providing protection, the Vietnamese dragon represents the universe, or life, and nobility. The tombs of the Nguyen emperors are heavily guarded by these royal dragons.  It makes one realize - Dragons are our friends! 

Tomb of Khai Dinh - guarded by dragons

Temple of King Tran Nhan Tong - guarded by dragons below:

The Senior Missionary Conference provided amazing training, insights, uplift and strength as we met together over several days under the direction of our mission president.

The senior missionary force in Vietnam

On the side, we had opportunities to visit some of the many historic and cultural sites in this area.

The generally quiet, peaceful city of Huế carries a charm and a nostalgia that attracts visitors from all parts of the world.

Ancient folk lore and animist traditions have left their mark. While many of the ancient beliefs of spirits and dragons and rituals are not practiced very often in the bigger cities, Huế continues to carry many such beliefs and practices.  From throwing shredded blessed paper into the Perfume River to burning incense on trees or doorways, a belief and hope of something more than just this world moves the people forward on a daily basis.

Incense in a beer can
Incense blessing a tree

Incense has long been a symbol of the prayers of the faithful ascending into heaven. So whether it be dragons or incense, or countless other symbols used in ancient Vietnamese beliefs, the yearnings and message are the same. We seek for peace in this life and immortality in the life to come.
Incense near an incense factory in Hue
Courtesy of Flickr.com Travel Aficianado  
Both are amply provided by Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

We all are here in Vietnam to share that 
peace in this life and immortality in the world to come are not mythical ideas of folklore, but realities offered to us - not through dragons - but through our Savior, Jesus Christ. With a continued focus on Jesus Christ, we receive daily protection with the powerful guidance of the Holy Ghost, keeping us from evil and guarding us against sin. 

We are so blessed to serve as senior missionaries in this amazing land!  Join us!  Senior missionaries are always needed, nearly everywhere.  The opportunity to share the message of Jesus Christ is abundant. What a joy it is to share the peace and protection and power that come from Jesus Christ to those who have been searching for these blessings for many generations.  
The Citadel - or the Imperial City - was the political and religious center during the Nguyen Dynasty - from 1802 - 1945.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Great Shake Up of 2017

"I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." Luke 10:18 

They are calling it the great shake up. And no wonder. Eight new missionaries, after a brief stay over in Hanoi, arrived today in Ho Chi Minh City fresh from the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, USA or the MTC in Manila, Philippines - joining our forces here and ready to take on the world. 

Here are the eight, with their more seasoned companions!


He's happy with his new companion - really!  It was just late at night!!!  

"And they were all young…, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they … were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men (and women) of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him." Alma 53:20-21

"…. yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it." Alma 56: 47-48

They join our hard-working band, bringing fresh faith, energy, and enthusiasm.  They join those only slightly more seasoned than they, every one of them worthy to be called sons and daughters.

This past month Elder Coffey and I have been assigned to prepare for this very day, for their arrival. We spent hundreds of hours finding new apartments in new areas, getting the funding, signing contracts, getting keys, arranging the delivery of beds, desks, bikes, water dispensers, and mattresses - then assembling beds and arranging apartment repairs, all on different days because you'd think it could all be coordinated on one day, but not here..., then stocking the apartments with dishes, pans, fans and mops, getting everything ready, even to the making of their beds with new sheets and pillows!

Everything was ready. And then they came!

Jet-lagged, exhausted, and listening intently to last minute information
before heading out to their apartments.

No wonder the devil turned and ran!

Oh he'll be back, to be sure, but for tonight, for now, he is fled.

So we have new 
missionaries, new trainer assignments, new teachers, new senior assignments, new leadership roles, new apartments, new areas, assignments to new branches, goodbyes to those going home or to Hanoi, hello to those joining our forces.

Ho Chi Minh City now has 25 young missionaries in all, plus 6 seniors.  What a troop!
Hurrah for Israel!

It's the great shake up of 2017 in HCMC, and we couldn't be more excited.

Thank you to all the parents, family and friends who have sent these young people out the door so full of faith and so well prepared. We recognize the sacrifice involved. Their service will make the earth move. 

"O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!" Alma 29:1

And for the rest of the group - those who were not receiving new missionaries - Glad to have them all here in Ho Chi Minh City with us!

And our well-qualified zone leaders!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Tapestry of Life - YSA+ Conference 2017 Vietnam

Over 50 young people attended this year’s Young Single Adult Conference in Vietnam, coming either on Friday night or throughout the day on Saturday, August 25-26, 2017.  The bright orange conference t-shirts were a big hit and were proudly worn throughout the two-day event.

Many faced challenges of employment schedules or traveling long distances to the Thao Dien chapel, but in spite of the difficulties faced, the young people were excited to come and share the event with their friends.

The conference began on Friday evening with an opening address from Sister Pia Bejar, a guest speaker from Canada who is originally from the Philippines. She introduced the theme of the conference – The Tapestry of Life – and reminded the young people of their interwoven dependence upon faith, prayer, scripture study, temple and family history work, and church attendance.

Following her remarks was a dance workshop by senior missionaries Elder and Sister Coffey.  Some of the YSA’s were initially a little dubious about dancing together, but soon everyone was laughing and joining in on the fun, learning several country round dances and a line dance.

On Saturday morning, the YSA’s were blessed by a special message from Elder David F. Evans of the Seventy.  Elder Evans, a member of the Asia Area Presidency, spoke on how the seemingly small decisions we make in our lives can have enormous consequences throughout the years.  He shared the importance of making proper decisions regarding missionary service, marriage, education and career. After his remarks, he visited with a number of the YSA’s before leaving to catch his flight.  The YSA’s were very grateful for his presence and for his message.

Other events throughout the day included workshops on dating and eternal marriage, team building activities, and group games.  Sister Pia Bejar spoke again sharing her personal life story leading to faith in Jesus Christ and self reliance, and encouraged the young adults to cultivate their God-given talents to reach their full potential with their personal lives and their families.

Oncoming rain caused a cancellation of the outdoor service project, but the movie The Testaments was the backup plan. By the end of the film, many had tears in their eyes as they contemplated the love of their Savior.

The evening closed with the sharing of testimonies and heartfelt stories of growing faith. Many conference attendees, after hearing Elder Evan’s message, felt a strengthening of their faith and a desire to move forward and remain faithful.

Another young person shared that at first she didn’t think an education was important for her life, but after the conference messages she committed to better preparing for her future. Many bore testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

The blessings of young adults coming together for fellowship, fun and the building of faith can lead to lasting friendships and strengthening of testimony.  We are grateful for the opportunity of working with the YSA leaders who organized the conference. The Spirit was strong.

One of our very capable translators
Happiness that cannot hide!

Happiness that cannot hide!

The senior missionary sister from the Thao Dien branch took photos for the conference.

Testimony and faith that cannot be hid.

The interweaving of faith, friendship and fun.

Photo booth of heaven in a picture.

The creator of the photo booth backdrop.
Lots of rain created a small lake - we couldn't get to the service project site.

But they had fun anyway!

The YSA leaders of the three branches (plus one of their sisters) - great planners for the event.