Sunday, April 30, 2017

Reflections Off the Beach in Da Nang

I had another childhood memory – something I hadn’t remembered in decades.  It just swept over me with warm fuzzies and a happy heart.

It happened last week, while I was watching the rhythm of the East Sea swirl around my feet, the gentle waves making a soft lapping sound.  We were at a senior missionary conference in Da Nang, Vietnam, and the early hour provided time for a visit to the beach.

And there they were – something I hadn’t seen in many years. Coquina shells. courtesy of Glenn Marsch
The flash back took me to when I was a little girl, maybe 5 years old, maybe 7 – I’m not sure - living with my family in Venice, Florida off the Gulf Coast. My mother loved the beach. We found ourselves there frequently, and while she sat and enjoyed the sounds and breeze, we children would often track down coquinas. The live clam-like animals would be washed up in the surf and then burrow down quickly into the sand, leaving small holes and air bubbles to mark their location.

Quickly we’d dig down with our hands or plastic spades, find the little animal and scoop it up into bucket of sea water.  One by one, our bucket eventually would be full of coquinas. Mom would take them home, clean and rinse them, and make a coquina chowder with the mini version of clams. The memory made me feel close to her again. 

It was a pleasant memory on a pleasant trip to Da Nang, where all the senior missionaries of Vietnam assembled for several days of training, fellowship and much-needed renewal.

The house all of us stayed in.

The training meetings were full of insights, counsel and inspired direction.
When we weren't in training, we had time for several side trips - starting first with the beautiful beach. 

A cultural mix of old and new made the splendor even more wonderful.

Keeping her legs warm as this grandmother soaks in the peace of the ocean

Basket boats, or thung chai
These little boats were being used by the local fishermen, bringing in fresh seafood each morning, such as squid and octopus. The boats, called thung chai, were developed during the French colonial period. A tax was imposed on ownership of a boat, so the Vietnamese crafted these round "baskets", thus avoiding the boat tax. They are still used today throughout Central Vietnam. As are the larger fishing boats. Fishing is still a primary trade today.

And you'd better like seafood - because it is everywhere!

We also visited the Marble Mountains - Ngũ Hành Sơn - a group of hills jutting up from the land.  True to the name, the mountains are made of marble as well as limestone.  

Exploring the caves and sacred Buddhist shrines on the way up the mountain... 

Marble-carved Buddha within one of the caves

Dragon wall - all in marble.

Marble pagoda
The reward of climbing the 156 steep, slippery, uneven marble steps was this beautiful view.

Missionary conferences help us to "see the view" as it were, regarding the work that continues to move forward here in Vietnam. They help us see where we are in perspective of the Lord's work.

As senior missionaries, we don't always see each other very often. Our unique assignments take us to various parts of the country. Some work with Latter-day Saint Charities. Some work with finances and office logistics.  Some teach English and assist in local branches. And of course the mission president and his wife lead us along magnificently.

Hanoi Vietnam Mission senior missionaries, with the mission president and his wife.
All are engaged in the work of the Lord. The fellowship and comradery of the conference reminded us that we are never alone in this work, even when we are physically absent from one another.

So while we might from time to time only see one set of footsteps in the sand, when we reflect upon it, we discover that it is He whose footsteps we are seeing that continually moves this work forward. 

We are grateful to be engaged in this sacred work. Lives are being changed. The message of Jesus Christ here in Vietnam is healing hearts, cleansing souls, and moving mountains. One precious person at a time.

Sunrise reflection on the beach in Da Nang


  1. Me and my wife are thinking about moving to Da Nang and are wondering if there are any congregations there. We checked the lds meeting locator and there is nothing listed. Thank you so much!

    1. Please send me an email - We'll see if we can help you out.