"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, February 5, 2017

Standing on Holy Ground in a Commune in Vietnam

Chúc Mừng Năm Mởi - Happy New Year!

2017 welcomes in the Year of the Rooster – an auspicious year to be sure.  If you were born in a Year of the Rooster (Years of the Rooster include 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, and 2029.) then you might be very observant, hardworking, resourceful, courageous, and talented.  Roosters are very confident in themselves. Roosters are talkative, outspoken, frank, open, honest, and loyal individuals. They like to be the center of attention and always appear attractive and beautiful.  And being a surgeon is a good career for them.

Do you know someone born in one of those years?  Do they fit the mold?

But watch out - If you are a rooster, the Year of the Rooster is actually unlucky for you – sorry. Go figure!

To help prevent bad from getting worse, stay away from red, avoid 1, 3 and 9, and don’t go east. All very unlucky, they say! There are 12 of these animals, and they rotate on a 12 year cycle. Sister Coffey is a dog.  Elder Coffey is a horse.  Guess we’ll be safe this year!

But we always start the year off big – and Tết, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, is a great way to welcome in the New Year. The amazing array of flowers in Ho Chi Minh City - thousands and thousands of flowers brought in special for the occasion, excites the senses, but especially the bright yellow Mai flowers. "Mai" sounds like "may" in Southern Vietnamese, which means luck, so the Mai flowers are the luckiest of all the flowers for Tết.

Tết is a bit like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's all put together. The central event of the occasion is a big dinner with family and friends.  Or several big dinners, as Tết will last for up to 7 days. We were blessed to be invited to three dinner celebrations.

This is the home of our Branch President and his family, who live with his wife's parents and other extended family members on different levels of the home.

For another meal, we spent 2 hours traveling first by bus, then by tuk tuk. Our friend lives in a commune in the southern most part of the province, and the only way to her home includes crossing two small bridges that are only big enough for motorcycles or tuk tuks. Thus the need to travel by tuk tuk - our first experience with this!

After a very long wait at the bus stop, we finally found a tuk tuk going our way, but it was full.  Ten people were already loaded in.  But they seemed undaunted and cheerfully let two more on board, as we squeezed, squeezed, squeeeeeezed in until we found a spot to sit.  Elder Coffey was assigned to a tiny plastic stool in between the two passenger benches, amidst poking knees, bags, and assorted wares. The tuk tuk stopped to pick up more people along the way.  At it's peak, there were 17 people in and on our little tuk tuk! Finally we reached our destination and gratefully piled out.

Elders hopping off the tuk tuk on their way to our friend's Tết dinner.

After the 2 hour ride, we walked down alleys and around corners and over bridges to finish the trip to her home.

Elder Coffey makes his way down one of the alleys.

The Elders cross the last bridge. Notice the hanging sausages
 drying out in the sun to the left.

Branch members and missionaries gathered at our
 friend's home to celebrate.

Our wonderful friend who graciously hosted us in her home that day. 
She has been taking the missionary lessons from us 
and is such a wonderful person.

Helping prepare the red dragon fruit in the kitchen.

As the meal concluded, we invited the missionaries to share a spiritual message before they left. One of the Elders began sharing the message. He is one of the newest Elders here and is still learning the language. 

As he spoke, he struggled with each word and phrase.  Sometimes he would have to stop and think how to say the next part.  Sometimes his pronunciation was not clear and the investigator had to guess what he was trying to say and help him a bit. His companion/trainer watched, patiently, never intervening, never showing any signs of impatience or frustration, even though any of them in the room could have delivered an eloquent, fluent message.

Instead, we watched as this humble Elder struggled, paused, then continued with his message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our hearts went out to him as he endeavored to find the right words with his limited vocabulary. It seemed like it took forever.  But with that slowing of time came a power into that room that filled the hearts of everyone present. The Holy Ghost, in powerful majesty, bore eloquent testimony of the truthfulness of the young Elder's words.  The Spirit filled the home, the room, and the heart of each person there.  What the Elder lacked in language, the Lord provided with the language of the Spirit.  What he lacked in fluency, the Spirit amply supplied. We realized then that we were witnessing a sacred, hallowed moment in time in a little commune in Vietnam. We stood on holy ground.

"Do ye not remember", Nephi reminds us, "that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels?" (2 Nephi 32:2) 

This was the tongue of angels.  

The Lord has said, "...that the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world..." (D&C 1:23), and "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass." (Alma 37:6)

Thank you, Elder, for your simple message that day.  It was a lesson we will not soon forget.

1 comment:

  1. You look so at home. We are always glad to read of your adventures.