"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

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

A Week of "Lasts" - Our Mission is Complete

Our 18 month now-turned-21 months mission is over. We have trained
another couple in Housing responsibilities. They are capable and amazing. They were originally assigned to a temple mission, then after their COVID run, they returned as member leadership support missionaries for a local ward, plus self reliance and teaching English. Now they’ve been asked by the mission president to head up Housing. They shine wherever they are asked to serve.

It was a week of "lasts", and it was tender and sweet. We led our last English group - treats were provided and everyone wanted their photo taken with us. We will miss this wonderful experience.

Last baptism attended - the gal in the olive skirt is a member of our English group and was baptized on this day. The one in the green skirt was also in our English group and was baptized a few weeks earlier. 

Our English group friend, to whom we taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
He will be baptized this week.

Then there was the last dryer-fixing run for a missionary apartment. Last beef noodle soup. Last hugs to the English Ward YSAs. Last last dryer run- again. Last temple session.                                                                                               

Our missionary departure group after a temple session

Last time to sit in Yong Kang park and take in the smells and sights and sounds in this lovely neighborhood park. The mission president treated us all to one last zhuabing and one last CoCo passion fruit drink. We enjoyed these treats at the park while he found some nearby park-goers, and shared with them an invitation to learn about the Gospel. Ever our missionary example. 

Us with President and Sister Peterson. 
Mission office and home in the 

President contacting several people 
in the park

Four young missionaries and another senior couple completed their missions the same time as us. We returned to the country dedication site to report back to the Lord of our labors. 

This is where we all started our missions, and this is where we end. The feeling is sweet and tender. We knelt in prayer in private spots to report to the Lord and rededicate ourselves to His work throughout our lives. 

Taiwan was dedicated on June 1, 1959 for the preaching of the Gospel by Elder Mark E. Peterson, at this spot and on this very step (fourth step up from the bottom). This is the garden associated with the Grand Hotel. We closed with a round of "God Be With You Till We Meet Again."

Missions are hard work. Anyone who has been on one knows that. Even for seniors. The mission service is fraught with struggle - mental and physical, spiritual and emotional. But missions are also amazing. They are the brimmed to overflowing with miracles, tender mercies, light, truth, and testimony. Even for seniors. 

To sum up our past 21 months in a short blog post may not be adequate nor do it justice. Most of everything lies imbedded inside us now as part of our framework and compass. We are changed. We are more aware of God’s continuing hand in peoples lives. That which may seem small to the eye is usually the very greatest. We came, we served, and now we return. With a three month COVID-run in between. We are part of history - the COVID-19 history.

Missionaries bound for their home countries, 
ready to board the bus to the airport.
The COVID-run missionaries- those who came, were sent home because of COVID-19, and then were able to return. Or those who were called to serve elsewhere then reassigned back to their home country of Taiwan. And they came back stronger. Their testimonies shone. Their work continues, in spite of unprecedented barriers. They are the heroes. We have been honored to serve behind them - to encourage, help, support, and pray for them. These young missionaries are the heroes of our mission.

 These photos are from March 2020 as the COVID-19 exodus began.

They are also the miracles of this mission. Whenever we’d go to their apartments - whether for inspections or to do repairs, we ask them to share a recent miracle they’ve experienced. And in every case, their eyes lit up and they explained how the Lord led them to find someone with whom they could share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Or how a person’s heart was softened to allow their young adult son or daughter to finally be baptized. Or how their parents returned to Christ because of their missionary service and example. Hearing how the Lord worked through them reminded us that in small and simple means are great things brought to pass. 


5:45 am - the soft jingling of the iPhone stirs my mind to consciousness. Our last day in Taiwan has begun. With our "within-three-day-negative-COVID-test" results in hand, we made our way to the airport. And then, just like that, we were home.

It's great to be back with family! It's great to be back in Colorado.

Happy Easter!

We will ever cherish the memories, the friends, the experiences of our Taiwan Taipei mission. We trust our efforts were helpful. We are grateful to the Lord for allowing us to serve there, and for the opportunity of representing Him and His sacred work. If you have questions about serving a senior mission, about Taiwan, or about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we'd love to hear from you. 

Email: coffey58@gmail.com

Worn out shoes, cracked and falling apart, glued back together. 

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! Isaiah 52:7

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

From Garbage Island to Recycling Model - Who Knew?

Move aside politics - Taiwan's recycling program is as patriotic as it gets and is rivaling the world.

The island is small – about 1/8th the size of the state of Colorado. (12,456 sq miles), with a population of 23,847,385 people.  And it learned its lesson years ago when garbage piles filled cities and garbage dumps were nearing full capacity.

Known at the time as “Garbage Island”, Taiwan had a crisis on its hands. In 1993 nearly nothing was recycled. Two thirds of the landfills were already reaching the breaking point.

Today the streets are clean from rubbish. More trash is recycled than not. In Taipei, a whopping 67% of its trash is recycled. And citizens are proud to participate and quick to criticize (kindly remind) if you are less than exemplary in your disposal practices.

Für Elise drifts through the air each day as bright yellow garbage trucks come to your neighborhood corner, as regular as clock work, announcing their arrival. Our neighborhood trucks arrive precisely at 8:41 pm. I can set my watch by it. They have never been one minute early or late. How do they do that?? These are our neighborhood trucks, as seen from our apartment window. 8:41 pm. Right on time. 

I tried to throw some trash away once, joining the cheerful neighborhood group that had gathered around the truck, but was not aware of the complex system of recyclables and cute colored bag schemes. That’s where the cuteness vanished. Someone from the crowd quickly came to my side and, loudly gesturing, explained, I guess, what the procedures for proper disposal were.  Of course, I didn’t understand a word.

In addition to the trucks, there are bins of various colors and sizes and for various purposes. I learned I was to use a specific type of blue plastic bag for regular trash, which would go into the truck. Then I was to pour my pre-sorted glass, paper, cardboard, cans and plastic into various other bins. My raw food waste was to go into a blue plastic barrel (no bags – just the food – people were opening tied up plastic bags and emptying the slurried contents into the barrel) – and the cooked food waste into another.

If that wasn’t complicated enough, the recycling then gets sorted into metal, aluminum, paper plates, plastic containers, batteries, car parts, tires, batteries, computer parts, electrical parts, etc. There are 33 various recycling categories processed in more than 1600 recycling centers all over the island! 

The raw food gets collected and processed into fertilizer for farmers. The cooked food gets turned into farm animal feed.

My head dizzied in response to the process and the assertive explanations by my Neighborhood Watch "friend". I’m afraid I’m not quite “there” yet. Feeling embarrassed, I've just thrown our trash in the Church dumpsters ever since.....crazy Americans!

In Taipei City, to encourage people to engage in these programs, you have to pay for the blue colored bags for general household trash.  But if you dump recycling items – there is no cost. The more you recycle, the less you pay. It works. Most of the time.

For those caught infringing the rules, there is public shaming and hefty fines waiting.

Recycling and going organic are extremely popular here.  There’s a sense of patriotism about it all. No insecticides, no chemicals, no plastic wastes, cleaner streets, healthier people. They are generally very proud of their progress and success as a nation.

The poor and elderly collect recyclables for extra cash. Photo below - not far from where we live, this motorcycle-turned-recycling-truck daily converges on this spot to collect recyclables from the neighbors to turn in for extra cash.

Below: another collection point not far from our apartment: (by the way - the Taiwan Mango Snowflake Ice place as seen in the photo is highly recommended if you ever come to Taiwan!) 

From garbage island to recycling model. Taiwan rivals the world in a sustainable approach to environmental responsibility. 

So how would YOU recycle rusty fans and worn out garden gloves?
With orchids? Who knew???

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Honoring of the Dead and Other Cultural Traditions

The Honoring of the Dead

The monks in their humble brown robes chanted prayers and offered incense. They led family members in Buddhist sutra (scripture) readings and reverent ceremonies which lasted several days. 

Our senior sister missionary's family at the home of her mother

Here is one of the most sacred and revered moments in a family’s existence. It is the honoring of the deceased. Our senior missionary sister lost her father one year ago, and recently returned to her home in central Taiwan to join her Buddhist mother, siblings and other family members in a reverent ceremony that seems to bring the spiritual realm and the physical world together even if just for a short while.

On this occasion, the one-year anniversary of the elderly father’s death, family members gathered at their widow-mother’s home. According to tradition, sons and all their children must be in attendance. Daughters are expected to be there as well, but their children’s attendance is optional. It is basically considered a mandatory family reunion. Family members will travel across the world to participate in this most sacred event. If a family member, especially a son, cannot attend in person, they can hire a person to attend in their stead. 

The family continues with the reading of sutras

The family prepared food for the gathering group as well as for lavish offerings for the deceased. The soft clanging of bells and clunking of sticks ring through the house with semi-monotone monk-chanting ceremonies which lasted for hours. The hiring of companies to perform these ceremonies has become a very lucrative business which vacillates between gang-controlled funeral organizations and cherished cultural traditions that span generations.

Regardless of the challenges and great expense these practices raise, filial piety brings out the best in feelings of love and adoration to loved ones who have passed away.

All this is done to help the deceased have a successful journey in the afterlife and bring blessings to the living. 

The passing away of an elderly person is typically considered a celebration of a life well-lived, and the one-year anniversary is a continuation of that celebration, although tears always flow as a sign of respect and gratitude. The one-year anniversary is considered one of the most important and filial-required duties of family members. 

Buddhist monks lead the family in the ceremonial rites.

Courtesy of flickr - Yuxuan Wang
When our senior sister missionary's father passed away, his name was printed on a wooden ancestral memorial tablet, called a 祖先牌位, or Zǔxiān páiwèi.  At this one-year death anniversary event, his name was then written on paper and added to an ancestral box, containing the names of all the ancestors as far back on the family line as possible. Only after a year of waiting can his name be added to the rest of the ancestors'. 
While we honor our dead in different ways in the Church, some traditions ring a bell of familiarity.  

Which brings us to the temple.

Why Does the Taipei Temple Have a Blue Roof?

Many people have noticed the bright blue roof of the Taiwan Taipei temple. It's penetrating, glazed tiles reflect the sunlight and stand as a beautiful focal point with the soft gray tiled walls and white spires. 

But why the blue, I asked?  The answer lies just a few kilometers away at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial HallThe dominating Memorial Hall and the beautiful striking "Gate of Great Centrality and Perfect Uprightness" accentuate the blue tiles representing heaven, or the sky.  The whole Memorial Hall is designed to symbolize the "unification of Man and Heaven." 

In 2010, we visited China with one of our daughters, and fell in love with the three-tiered blue-roofed Temple of Heaven. There is so much beautiful symbolism in this structure - including the three tiers of heaven and the heaven-represented blue tiles. 

We have found the blue theme running throughout several of our Taiwan chapels as well. 

Once we understood the "man and heaven" unification symbolism, the blue roof of the temple seems very fitting. The temple is a House of God - a place where we can feel peace and where we can, with no distractions from the outside world, focus on the things of eternity and provide blessings for our loved ones who have passed away as well. Truly a bringing together of man and heaven.

    Do Some Chinese Characters Really Teach Gospel Principles?

Chinese culture continues to surprise us with Gospel-related messages. The Chinese written language is an absolute treasure trove of hidden gems. Another "packet of light" was brought to my attention recently, this time hidden in the Chinese character for the word - "repent".
These are the two characters which make up the word "repent".  The first character on the left is "hui" and the one on the right is "gai". Putting them together you get "huigai", which means repent. 

But you can often break characters down further to get a richer meaning - a meaning behind the meaning. 
The character on the left,has two parts, or radicals. The radical on the left is one of the depictions of "ren" - or man, person. You can see a vertical line with two "arms" extending out - showing one of the very simplest pictures of a person. The radical on the right, , is the word for "mei" - meaning each. "ren" + "mei" = Each person.
The whole word by itself, ,"hui", means regret. So every person has regrets or makes mistakes.
Back to 悔改- the character on the right,, is "gai" or change.

Now put them all together in pieces and you will have:

ren + mei + gai = each person change = repent.  Every person has regrets and needs to change, or repent. 

The President of our Church, whom we consider to be a prophet just like Moses or Isaiah or Peter, recently explained: "When we choose to repent, we choose to change! We allow the Savior to transform us into the best version of ourselves. We choose to grow spiritually and receive joy—the joy of redemption in Him. When we choose to repent, we choose to become more like Jesus Christ!" (President Russell M. Nelson, April 2019 General Conference)

Just think of all the discoveries we could make in Chinese culture if we had time enough to study them all. There are volumes written about these similarities. So much to learn. So little time! We finish our mission in just 3-1/2 weeks!