Sunday, February 3, 2019

Our Mission Call

We have been called to serve in the Taiwan Taipei Mission, beginning July 1st, as office specialists.  We are very excited about this!  Taiwan, we hear, is an amazing place, and we look forward to having the temple nearby as well.  We will serve for 18 months, speaking English – although just for fun we are studying Chinese each day and have an MTC teacher tutoring us twice a week via Zoom. 

Taiwan has two missions - Taipei and
Taichung. We will be in Taipei.

For most senior missionaries, learning the language of the country is not required. As we found in our last mission in Vietnam, translators are standing by eager to assist, and many people already know English – so language is really not a problem.

Mission President Michael L. Peterson and
his wife Shelley Peterson
We feel it a great privilege to serve the Lord on a mission.  A senior mission is such a growing and stretching experience. It is one way we can share our testimonies with others, help build up His kingdom in whatever way He needs, and serve in an area where we are truly needed.

Our mission president and his wife are President Michael L. Peterson and Shelley Peterson.

Before our last two missions, we had sold our home in Missouri and thus had little worldly concerns on our missions.  Now we have bought another home, and plan to rent it out while we are gone.  We are blessed to have found a young couple we feel comfortable with who will be caring for our home. The hand of the Lord was evident, and we are so grateful.

As we prepare ourselves over the next several months for our mission, we seek to know most of all how the Lord would have us prepare. Our service will be to Him and to the mission president in whatever way they need us to serve. Missions are the best!  Grateful to be called to serve.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Launching a New Journey on our Third Mission

Welcome to our blog!  (or welcome back!) We’ve kept a blog for several years now – writing about our experiences as we serve as senior missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our first senior mission was from 2014-2016 (23 months). We served in the Asia Area Office in Hong Kong as Area Humanitarian Specialists.  After returning to the US, we visited children, grandchildren, and family members, and then 5 months later began our second mission – to the Hanoi Vietnam Mission as Member Leadership Support missionaries. We served in Ho Chi Minh City from 2016-2018 (18 months). We returned to the US in March of this year, bought a home in Colorado Springs, and have spent our time once again visiting children, grandchildren and family throughout the country. You can read about these blog experiences in the links to the right of this page in the Blog Archives.

Just recently we have turned in our mission application to serve another mission beginning summer of next year – somewhere in the world. And today we received an email saying our mission call is ready to be viewed!  

Our call to the Asia Area (Hong Kong), 2014
Our last two mission calls came in the traditional “white envelope” package. A tradition for generations in the Church, the coveted “white envelope” usually took several weeks after the call was assigned before it would show up in your mail box. But with new technology, the calls are now being issued electronically – so this will be a first for us. We’ll gather our children around via Google Hangouts or in person, and share with them the moment we open our email and receive our official call to serve.

Senior missionaries can, and are encouraged to, request where they would like to serve and what kind of mission they would like to do (self-reliance, medical, office, member-leadership support (MLS), military support, humanitarian, etc.). We are totally happy with Arkansas or Argentina, Turkey or Texas, but we did request Taiwan and to serve either in the office or as MLS missionaries. There are no guarantees or promises, though, that we will serve where we requested. courtesy of Alamodestuff
Where in the world will we go this time? Wherever it is, we know it will be the mind and the will of the Lord, and we are thrilled to be able to help Him gather Israel and take the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever we can.

Where do you think it will be? Let us know your guesses!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Farewell, Vietnam

It’s February 2018.  The end of our mission has come. Everyone has been so generous in their kindnesses to us, with Tet meals in their homes and surprise farewell parties to beautiful remembrances and lots and lots of hugs.

Traditional Tet dinner at the home of one of our investigators.

Surprise farewell party guests

Beautiful Memory Book

Us with Mission President Lewis Hassell and his wife Sister Mary Hassell

Today was our last Sunday here. They asked us to speak in church about miracles.  We have seen many miracles in the lives of the people, powerful miracles that bring the power of the Atonement into sharp focus - miracles that testify Heavenly Father is always mindful of His children and is in the details of the details of our lives.

A few of our miracles
We sang God Be with You Till We Meet Again, Vietnamese and English lyrics ascending together in a harmonious symphony of unity and praise. There was lingering affection and that “one last hug”. Tears flowed, hearts ached.

Farewell photo with branch builders from our district

With soul-rending affection, we bid our dear friends farewell. Then we turned and walked away. 

All endings are simply new beginnings in another time and place. 

It’s a bittersweet experience.

We wouldn't trade our mission experiences for anything in the world.

"Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth;... glad tidings of great joy. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion: Behold, thy God reigneth!" (verses from D&C 128)

Combined East and West Saigon Zones with 26 young branch builders and 10 seniors
(2 not in photo), plus our mission president and his wife, February 15, 2018

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Celebrations of Tết, Then and Now

Happy Tết!

It’s Tết here in Hồ Chí Minh City.  Tết is the Lunar New Year, often known as Chinese New Year in other countries.  The city is bustling with activity as people clean their homes from top to bottom, buy new clothes, pay off old debts, give gifts to employees and friends, and prepare for the holiday itself with flowers, specialty foods, veneration of ancestors, and visits to their hometowns. Tết officially begins on the 16th, but many people leave early to head to their hometowns in the countryside. In another week, the streets will be nearly deserted.


It was fifty years ago this Tết.  The plane carrying my mother, brother and me began its slow, calm descent to the Saigon International Airport.  We were joining my dad who was living here working for a civil engineering firm.   I was nine years old.

I still remember the unexpected lurch of the plane and the steep surge as the plane rapidly changed direction and climbed upward.  We were shocked and stunned, frightened and confused.  Then the news – the Saigon airport was under attack, and we were headed elsewhere for safety.  The Tết Offensive of 1968 had begun.

Hong Kong graciously housed us and many other stranded travelers until it was deemed safe enough to travel to Saigon.  Ten days later we finally made it safely on the ground at the small terminal in Saigon.  As Customs officials meticulously scoured through our belongings, I explored the area around my seat.  Damaged walls were visible from the earlier attack, and I found an empty bullet shell on the ground.  But my dad had been safe during the attack on the city, and now we were there to join him. In a strange war-torn country,  and in an odd kind of way, we were “home”. 


  Scenes from our Tết of 1968

Barbed wire across the streets

Presidential Palace
From the roof top of our house, watching
 attack scenes like this were not uncommon


Fifty Years Later - Celebrations of Tết Today

"̀50 year anniversary of the general offensive and rebellion 1968"
Today, however, Tết is definitely the happiest time of the year. It is kind of a combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years all wrapped together. The festive spirit couldn't be brighter. 

The beautiful wide Nguyễn Huệ Street, or Walking Street as it is known to foreigners, transforms into a garden paradise at Tết

The pink water lily, or lotus blossom, symbolizes resurrection, purity, and enlightenment.  Growing out of muddy ponds, the flower emerges perfect and beautiful. It closes at night and opens each morning with the sun.  Truly a remarkable symbol.

Everyone's doing selfies! Buying new clothes for Tết is a popular tradition.

More selfies!

Tết gift bags lined up for sale at a local shop
Celebrations continue on into the night with song, dance and  festive foods.

 Tết lights outside the Catholic Archbishop's Palace

One of our branch members decorating the church building for Tết

Tết dinner celebration


But for us, Tết just means continuing our service in trying to bless people's lives. Our last two weeks of mission time have arrived, and between Tết celebrations and mission assignments, we are fairly swamped.  There are more branch builders arriving soon, and Elder Coffey and I have the blessing of finding, renting, and outfitting 4 new apartments (2 as replacements for already existing branch builders and 2 for new branch builders), moving them to their new apartments and cleaning and closing out the old apartments - with help of course!

When we first arrived here, there were 3 branch builder apartments.  Now there are 11. There were 8 branch builders.  Now there are 26, with more on the way.  We think these are by far some of the top missionaries in the world. They are incredibly faithful, funny and fearless, like the stripling warriors of old. We just love working with them!

Moving into a new apartment, cleaning out the old.

The apartment is now all clean!! Branch builders and senior couples pitched in together.

So Happy Tết from all of us here! Some may wonder if miracles still happen in today's world. We know that the greatest miracle is the one that occurs in a person's heart when they discover the pearl of great price.  Well, here in Vietnam, miracles happen all the time.

The work moves forward like a stone cut out of the mountain.  Truly, hurrah for Israel!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Comes, Even in Vietnam

Tin-foil wrapped creches adorn private businesses on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. Tunes of spiritual Christmas hymns float through shopping centers. People occasionally even wish one another "Merry Christmas."

Traditions that are sometimes controversial in other parts of the world are readily available here in Vietnam, if you know where to look for them. 

Christmas celebrations are gaining popularity here, with each year seeing an increase in parties, celebrations, singing and programs. And shopping, of course. Children adorn little santa suits or santa dresses for those special school or church Christmas occasions. 

Still, many of the young people who came for our Christmas Eve program at our home had never been to a Christmas celebration before. It was a unique opportunity for us to share the reason we celebrate - that a babe born in Bethlehem many years ago is the King of creation and the Savior of souls.

Sharing the Christmas story

It is our joy to serve our Lord Jesus Christ by sharing Christmas traditions, song, stories, culture and love with these wonderful friends. Truly the Light of the World is filling hearts with values of faith, hope, trust and peace. And while our own hearts are miles away with our children, our hearts are filled to overflowing by the priceless gift of the greatest Gift, and the privilege that is ours to be in His service on this special day. What we end up accomplishing while on our mission may be very small - but who we are becoming inside is no small thing. 

Still, Christmas in Vietnam is not quite like anything we've experienced elsewhere. It's own unique traits make it a memorable experience indeed!

Christmas comes, even in Vietnam.

Sing to the tune of "My Favorite Things"

Tin foil wrapped crèches
And spray painted branches,      
Street vendor noodles
And sidewalks in patches
Bustling motos that drive with no fear
This is how Christmas is spent here this year!

Smiling new converts
In baptismal clothing,
Branch builders teaching
With faces now glowing.
Sharing the message of Christ far and near
This is how Christmas will last all the year!

When the dogs bark
When the bus honks
When sweat feels like glue,
You simply remember the Reason you're here -
And then you won't ever feel blue!

Elder Coffey showing temperatures from around the world to a street vendor friend.
Visiting with the people is what makes being here at Christmas so wonderful.

Feeding Christmas dinner to grateful branch builders on Christmas Day

Yule logs - Vietnamese style

Our guests Light up the World with what
 gift they will give in the coming year, carefully written
on little stars.