Monday, November 23, 2015

Lessons and Laughter in Lao

Elder Coffey and I visited the country of Lao to meet our humanitarian couple and inspect some of the humanitarian projects and processes there.

In Vientiane, the capital city, a happy chatter filled the room as students giggled through the opening exercise of vocabulary review. Deseret International Charities (DIC) English lessons were in full swing for government employees in Vientiane, Lao. Our senior humanitarian couple, Elder and Sister Bush, oversee the teaching of 500 students each week. Laughter erupted as the students followed Sister Bush in a round of Hokey Pokey, learning body parts while singing the fun American dance.

Elder Coffey joins in a round of Hokey Pokey

The six Elders who are serving in Lao are teaching at the Center for Medical Rehabilitation. These stalwart young men come from the United States, usually without knowing another language. They learn Thai in the Missionary Training Center and begin their service in Thailand.  They are later assigned to Lao, where they quickly pick up the new language.

But these Elders have gone even further.  They are teaching English to deaf students  - using Lao Sign Language, which they also learned on site. And the students love them!

American Thai-taught Lao-learned Lao-Sign-Language English teachers!  I'd say the gift of tongues is alive and well in this little corner of the Lord's vineyard!

At the Center for Medical Rehabilitation, we next observed disabled employees assembling wheelchairs which will later be used for some of our wheelchair projects.

This  man is trying out his new trike wheelchair.  A happy grin spreads over his face as he looks back in gratitude. It's such a simple thing - but a wheelchair can make all the difference in restoring dignity of the human spirit.

Later we were driven to the small village of Nabong.  We were fortunate to be accompanied by the Deputy Director in the Ministry of Education and Sport. We were headed to a water handover ceremony at the Nabong Primary and Secondary School - 750 students and 35 faculty. In a recent clean water and sanitation project, DIC built 12 toilet stalls, 4 handwashing stations, and piping and filters for clean drinking water. 

Deputy Director of the Ministry of Education and Sport inspects a handwashing station.

The 2 hour ceremony of speeches, dance, song and lunch were evidence of their extreme gratitude.

Girls dressed in traditional Hmong costumes.  Hmong are a minority group living in the area.

Click here for a video of these beautiful young women as they danced for us at the ceremony -  Hmong Dancers

Elder Coffey with some of the beautiful dancers

        Distributing school kits 

Dressed in costume for their dance routine, They were a little shy, but finally consented to a picture.

Traditional Lao hair style

But the "Fun Team" stole the show. Look at the faces of these young people as they watch in amazement when the "Fun Team", as the Elders are affectionately called, break out in an unexpected dance routine that rocked the school!

 Video of Elders Dancing

Life will never be the same for this school!  After the ceremonies, the "Fun Team" leads the students in water rocket launching. It is always a huge hit wherever they go.

The Elders have worked hard. Their shoes will probably never be the same either!

Meanwhile, the school staff have been cooking up a lunch for their visitors. 

In the pot go the veggies for our delicious lunch!
No need for too many utensils - fingers do the trick in Lao!

After the meal, the staff wash up the dishes in cold water.  Cold water dish-washing is typical in Asia.

Elder Coffey tries to get some of the students to pose for a picture.

There you go! Smiles and all! 

The greatest joy we experience on our mission is when we are out with the people, seeing their lives, their homes, their world. And everywhere we go, it is the humblest of people who carry the largest smiles. To act in the name of the Savior - to help restore dignity, lift out of poverty and bring hope to families - this is the healing mission of LDS Charities and of Deseret International Charities.

The LDS Charities website explains, "Sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS Charities follows the admonition of Jesus Christ to help others in need. Jesus Christ taught His followers to give meat to the hungry and drink to those who thirst. His gospel includes taking in the stranger, loving neighbors, and visiting those who are sick or imprisoned. He taught that we are to love and care for each other, visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictions, and lift up those whose hands hang down and whose knees are feeble."

"To touch the soul of another human being 
is to walk on holy ground."

                                  Stephen Covey

1 comment:

  1. Stop and pinch are amazing...just wonderful examples... You will cry buckets when you leave! I just finished a book about adoption in china...Wish you happy Jenny Bowen. I'm betting you have heard of her and her work. Praying for my friend.