"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, November 27, 2016

What Do We Do All Day Long? Role of an MLS Missionary....

Occasionally, we get asked, "So, what do you DO all day long?"  It's an innocent question, to be sure. While there are two humanitarian couple missionaries and an office/legal senior couple in the country, we are the only Member Leadership Support missionary couple in Vietnam. Our role may not be fully understood, and it is easy to wonder what we do with all our free time every day.                                                                                       Free time?! What is that??  We thought our mission in the Area Office in Hong Kong was busy!  This has it beat by far!  Free time is what we do while we are sleeping...... Yep.  That's about it. Otherwise, every moment is filled with the wonder and excitement of serving the Lord to the fullest of our capacities.  

There are currently three branches of the Church in Vietnam - one in Hanoi and two in Ho Chi Minh City. We were blessed to be assigned to the Tan Son Nhat branch, where they immediately put us to work.  Our first Sunday here we met with the branch president and asked - what can we do to help?  

So here is our line up of some of our responsibilities: 
  • Support the Young Single Adults (YSA's)
Young Single Adults participate in a team building activity
Teaching the Swing Dance at the
 Halloween Party
Two of the Young Adults at the Halloween party

  • Support the younger missionaries in Ho Chi Minh City.  They are awesome! Currently, one is from Cambodia, one is from Hanoi, and the rest are from the United States - all of Vietnamese decent.  For most of them, their mothers or fathers or both were refugees from Vietnam, and now their children have returned to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their own people. No wonder they have such big smiles!

Thanksgiving lunch at our apartment

Thanksgiving lunch - Pork roast with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, rice, homemade rolls, green beans, fruit salad, olives, punch, and homemade apple pie and pumpkin pie!  then a round-robin of what we are most grateful for - they expressed gratitude for everything from companions to the Vietnamese people to their weaknesses.  A truly humble group!

  • Teach Advanced English Classes to the public - focusing on family values and relationships. This is a highlight of our week. 

Our Advanced English Class!
Advanced English students in a discussion group
At the end of each hour long English lesson, we share a 15-20 minute Gospel message and invite them to learn more about Jesus Christ and the church. Several in our class have expressed an interest in learning more.

A sister missionary leads the Intermediate class

  • Organize and present monthly Returned Missionary Workshops and Self Reliance Workshops. There are nearly 40 returned missionaries in the two Ho Chi Minh City branches! Can you believe there are so many returned missionaries here? They are of incredible faith! 

Our first Returned Missionary Workshop with a few of our returned missionaries.

  • We  host soup suppers for small groups of young people in our apartment - an evening with support, discussion, games and laughter.

Elder Coffey leading the latest self reliance workshop - helping with budgeting!

Our line up for the coming months - come join us!

Branch council meeting

  •  We attend weekly branch presidency meetings branch council meetings, and provide training to help build leadership skills. They are eager to learn their duties and are striving so hard to serve the Lord, in the Lord's way.
The Relief Society of the Tan Son Nhat Branch, November 27, 2016

But the best part is interacting with the people wherever we meet them! They are so friendly!

During the 1.8 kilometer walk to church each day we chat with people along the way. Here is one of our "street buddies". He sells computer accessories on the sidewalk, has a wife and a son, and knows a teeny teeny bit of English. 
Elder Coffey with our friend who runs a business of selling computer accessories on the street.
The young man, below, has been taking the missionary discussions and coming to church for several months. We met him in a rain storm under the awning of a print shop!

Recent P Day to the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City - we went
 with Elder and Sister MacDonald -
 the humanitarian missionaries -
 and several branch members.
Occasionally we even have time for a P day (Preparation Day), but usually we are pretty exhausted and just want to stay home!  All this preparing for lessons, training workshops and materials is all being done largely from scratch - we are inventing the wheel here!   
Our branch friend -  a recent
returned missionary
We are pretty sure that 100% of the branch members are converts, and there are about 215 members in the branch. Only the little Primary children were born into member homes. Many of the converts have only been members for a few months. They are eager to grow the branch and to learn their responsibilities as members of the Lord's church. The work is moving forward as the Lord's spirit spreads out over this land.  
The message of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is attractive to them.  Many of them hear for the first time about forgiveness, being washed clean, having the burdens of sins and mistakes lifted from their heavy shoulders through the grace of their Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Image result for jesus christ lds

Isn't it wonderful that the message of Jesus Christ is being taught here and blessing so many lives? It is nothing short of a miracle.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

We Know “Where the Sidewalk Ends”… and Why

Courtesy of Flickr.com/Roadside Pictures
I always wondered what that phrase meant – “where the sidewalk ends”.  With the famous American poet’s book by the same title, I’ve been intrigued by Shel Silverstein’s thought process.  Mental images of neat and orderly urban sidewalks suddenly coming to an abrupt end at empty lots satisfied me only slightly as I figured Shel probably had a much more sophisticated and abstract idea in mind when he titled his book. Something about a magical place of imagination worthy of exploration in our dreams.

Well, we actually found the truth.  We found where the sidewalk really does end. And who would have guessed it would be right here in Hồ Chí Minh City?
"We dare you to try to use the sidewalk!"
You simply cannot get from here to there on the sidewalks.  Somewhere long ago someone decided that the walkway outside their storefront was much too valuable. Seeing as pedestrians are rare, (Elder Coffey and I are among the very few crazy enough to traverse the sidewalks) they opted for creating some additional moneymaking real estate.

 Motorbike parking lots with watchful security guards - they can charge a small fee for motorists to park their bikes on their property.  

 Little vendor eat shops with tiny plastic stools surrounding
 equally tiny tables line the sidewalks in practically every part of town.... 

Courtesy of Flickr.com/Khanh Hmoong
...sometimes blocking the entire sidewalk!

"You'll just have to go around us, ma'am!"

There are also construction zones, promotion aisles for over-crowded storefronts, small businesses...

...and people sitting around just waiting for time to pass - or to maybe play a round of Xiangqi...

Courtesy of Flickr.com/ Matthew Klein


The sidewalks even become thoroughfares for motorists, making sidewalk-traversing an adventure in motorcycle-dodging - only to be done by the bravest of souls.

So this dizzying array of dishes, flowers, clothes, fruit, bánh mì, merchandise and a near constant flow of motorcycles on the sidewalk crowd out the pedestrians and force them to the streets for "safe" adrenaline-rushing passage. If you can imagine the streets being safer than the sidewalks!

Yes - the sidewalk ended in Ho Chi Minh City when commercialization and motorists both discovered it. Every day is an adventure! 

Loving our mission in Hồ Chí Minh City!!

Teaching the Swing Dance at the Branch Halloween Party