"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

Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Him Declare I Unto You"

Since there are many gods in all regions of Asia, most temples house statues of deities from Taoist, Buddhist and local religions’ traditions.  It is not desirable to worship one god exclusively and thereby offend another, so there is a compatible blending of traditions, beliefs and worship in each of these temples. Although we do not believe in these traditions, we are respectful of those who do.

Wong Tai Sin Temple 

This system of worshiping multiple gods of various beliefs at the same time is not unique to Asia. The Apostle Paul, when visiting the people in Athens, noticed they had an altar dedicated “to the unknown god”, lest they had forgotten one and would incur his/her wrath for not remembering him/her in their worship.

To those who worshiped these gods, The Apostle Paul declared, “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” (Acts 17:22)

This is the message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - that we declare, preach, and testify of the true and living God, even our Heavenly Father, and His son Jesus Christ.  Heavenly Father is not found in gods of wood or stone or gold.  We are created in His image. 

Paul continues, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, 'For we are also his offspring'. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. (Acts 17: 28-29)

We are His sons and daughters.  He has a plan for us, a plan of happiness, which will bring us back to His presence as we worship Him in truth.  We are ever grateful for our witness of who God is and our relationship with Him. 

Grateful to be on a mission!

Elder and Sister Coffey

Goodies, Guardians, and Gods

We’ve recently had several occasions to enjoy Dim Sum, a southern Chinese traditional meal where you select little “dainties” or small snacks that have been steamed or fried in bamboo baskets. 

Elder Coffey sampling the chicken feet!

Other delicacies included shrimp dumpling, sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf, barbecued pork in steamed bun, spring rolls, noodles, and red bean rice custard.                         

 Nicky, Pim and Pom, our friends from Thailand, treated us several times, including some amazing desserts. Pictured below are mango flavored ice cream with little rice balls in a mango-orange sauce, fresh fruit, and mango ice cream in a pool of coconut milk and other fresh fruit.

They wanted to visit a couple of temples.  The lurking Guardian looks down at worshippers at the Che Kung Temple.  

Che Kung was said to be a great general in the Song Dynasty. He was honoured by the emperor for his great merits in suppressing a rebellion in southern China. After his death, people began worshipping him for his loyalty and bravery.

Prayer requests are delivered several ways. Turn the fan wheel three times, then bong a drum 8 times. You can print your prayer requests on paper, and always offer incense. If you walk around the incense burner with incense three times, good things will surely come your way.

Nicky is happy to be here!

And when they do, you return to give thanks by placing a wind wheel for display.

The second temple was the Wong Tai Sin Temple, a, 18,000 m2  Taoist temple.  No one here cares much whether you are Buddhist, Taoist, or a follower of Confucius.  In fact, all three blend rather harmoniously. 

Entrance to the Wong Tai Sin Temple with Nicky, Pim and Pom

This particular temple is well attended by visitors in search of a spiritual answer by means of kau cim, a fortune-telling type of practice.  Worshippers light incense sticks, kneel before the main alter, make a wish, and shake a bamboo container filled with numbered sticks until one of them falls out.  Whatever number you get can be interpreted by the fortune teller (for a fee) to let you know what lies ahead in your path. 
It is said this temple provides a very high level of accuracy!  
As she carefully shakes the bamboo container, one of these sticks will eventually fall out. The number on the stick will correspond with a good fortune, which the fortune teller will reveal to her (for a fee).

Incense coils - the smoke takes
the prayers to heaven
We visited another temple with a group of the senior missionaries  - the Tin Hau Temple– also technically not Buddhist.  Tin Hao was born in 960 on the coast in China.  She was devoted to her gods and to her family.  Her father and brother were fishermen, and according to the story, she was worried about them during a typhoon and swam to save them.  She was able to save her father but not her brother. Because of her brave act, she was immortalized, and people often build a temple in her honor near coasts to help bring people safely home. 

Lin Fa Kung Temple at Causeway Bay
The Lin Fa Kung Temple was built in honor of Kwun Yum since it has been reported she has appeared there several times. She is known as the deity of compassion.  Since there are many gods in all regions, most temples house statues of deities from Taoist, Buddhist and local religions’ traditions.  It is not desirable to worship one and offend another, so there is a compatible blending of traditions, beliefs and worship in each of these temples.

Kind of reminds me of the Apostle Paul who noticed the ancient Athenians had build an altar "To the Unknown God"...... (Acts 17:22)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Hong Kong Temple

President Wong, only a few months into his assignment as president over the Hong Kong Temple, wrestled over a growing concern.  Over 400 faithful Philippine sisters in the International District, as domestic workers, have Sundays as their only day off.  Their employers keep them at work from 6 in the morning until very late at night with no break, 6 days a week.  Sunday is these faithful dedicated sisters' only day off from work, and they spend it at the church building, by choice, where they can fellowship together and enjoy the worship services together.  Sunday is their only day to have any time to themselves. 

And the temple is closed on Sundays.

All temples are closed on Sundays.  World-wide. There was no way they could ever attend the temple.

President Wong felt moved upon by the Spirit to wonder if it might be possible to request the First Presidency to allow the Hong Kong temple to be open periodically for these faithful sisters.  He mulled it over in his mind for some time. 

Finally, he sat down one day in his office and typed out an email, explaining the situation and requesting an exception be made for the benefit of these sisters.  He expected there would be a long time before a response came. To his surprise, the next morning there was a message saying they had passed his suggestion along.  He sent an email asking how long it might take for an answer.  Within 5 minutes came the response – ( There is a 14 hour time difference between Hong Kong and Salt Lake City – President Wong was impressed that those on the other end of the email would answer him so quickly)  - the answer was that it might take several weeks, and it would have to be reviewed first  by the Temple Committee.

Several months passed with no answer.  President Wong knew it was Christmas time in the United States and supposed that was the reason for the delay.  Another month went by.  Finally, in February he sent another email, – he just said, “What is the status?”  Again within 5 minutes the answer came back – “We are awaiting approval of the First Presidency.” He was thrilled to know it had already passed the Temple Committee’s approval and was on the desk of the First Presidency.  It wasn't much longer before he received the answer. He said, “I still remember the day I got the answer back. Elder Tai of the Temple Committee was on the phone. He was very excited to tell me that it had been approved!”

Never before in modern history has a temple been open on Sunday to the membership of the Church. It is unprecedented. The prayers of the faithful sisters in Hong Kong have been answered.

Today we had the opportunity of assisting in this great work.  This is only the second time the Hong Kong temple has been open on Sunday. A sacrament meeting was held in the large church building across the street from the temple, and then sisters and temple workers were excused to go to the temple.  

Some of the Philippine sisters crossing the street with us to go to the temple,
which can be seen in the background. 

Elder Coffey and I were set apart today to be Hong Kong Temple ordinance workers, and today served in the temple.  Thirty sisters came to do baptisms – many of them for the very first time in their lives, and many of them from the Philippine Branch in which we serve.  Many are recent converts. Some are recently activated and attended the temple for the first time.  Other sisters enjoyed an endowment session. There were many tears shed – tears of gratitude to a loving Heavenly Father for hearing their prayers, for inspired leaders who show Christ-like love, and for the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ which helps bind families together for eternity. These sisters are among the salt of the earth. 

It's a happy day for these sisters!

Loving the mission!
- Elder and Sister Coffey

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Infant Kits for Babies in Thanlyin, Myanmar

Regardless of cultural nuances throughout the world, many traits are universally shared.  One of them is the love of a mother for her child.

In the rural village clinic in Thanlyin township, dozens of new mothers sat in the un-airconditioned waiting room with their child on their laps.  It was sweltering hot.  Babies cried.  Flies buzzed.  Sweat dripped.  But the mothers were undaunted in their quest.  Latter-day Saint Charities was coming to distribute a few much- needed infant kits and hygiene kits, and they didn't want to miss out.

After the women received their kits and left, we were shown the delivery room where these same women had brought those little babies into the world.  The table with the greenish covering is the delivery table.  

The head midwife of the clinic.

Truly the need is great.  The Church has the humanitarian funds and supplies. What they need is more senior missionaries to help distribute those supplies.  Myanmar has two senior couples to cover the entire country.  And millions of people are in need.  Please come and help the work.

Elder and Sister Coffey

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Clean Water for Seikyi Kanaco, Myanmar

We went to visit a school in a very rural village outside of Yangon.  It took about two hours to get there.  Passing rice fields and Burma cows, we eventually came to a dirt road that was impassable for our air conditioned minivan.  We were given a motorcycle escort for the rest of the trip.

The impassable bridge, where we switched to motorcycle escorts
 for the rest of the journey to the village.

The road to the village, complete with a stone sidewalk on the right hand side
 - for those rainy days!
Finally we got to the village and their school. This school has 560 students with 18 teachers. They knew we were coming to inspect the clean water storage system Latter-day Saint Charities (LDSC) helped install.  We were greeted with a warm welcome.

The village school in Seikyi Kanaco, Myanmar.  You probably won't find it on the map.

The children are wearing thanaka on their faces, a sign of beauty and a skin protection.  

We were first treated to refreshments.  

Visiting the classrooms, the students were hard at work, when they weren't laughing and
smiling at us and reaching out to shake our hands.

They presented gifts to each of us.  The banner behind us has LDSC listed as one of the partners for the clean water project.
Elder and Sister Hobbs
Elder and Sister Sippel
Elder Fronberg and Elder Steiner
Receiving a gift from the Head Mistress of the School, Kanyein Yi

Wells are often not an option in this location, so an above ground storage unit for collecting rain water helps bring clean drinking water to the children.  To the left, below, is the old water storage tank where murky pond water was used for drinking.  To the right, below, is one of the new water storage units. 

Students drinking from one of the many drinking water containers.
Notice the round LDSC logo on the side of the barrel.

Greg visiting with Kanyein Yi,
Head Mistress of the school
Elder Hobbs trying out the washing station.

Elder and Sister Coffey