Sunday, April 22, 2012

Extra, extra, hear all about it...

As we contemplate what we should do when we get home from our mission, a few options came up.
  1. Go back to China to teach at a university again for one year since we had such a good experience there.  BYU Kennedy program for China Teachers now has an age limit, so we contacted Soochow University which we visited before coming back to China in 2009, and they were interested and asked us to send our requests to teach there.
  2. Move to Taiwan for Shirley to do her family history:  we've gone back to Taiwan for a week or two each time, and there was not ever enough time to do much research.  We have a desire to find out more about Shirley's ancestor's since we learned on our last trip to Taiwan that the Sung Family came from Zhang Zhou, Fujian 彰州, 福建 around the 1650's.  Some of the relatives have gone there to visit and found the Sung family ancestral worshiping hall.  How wonderful it would be to make some connections.
  3. Stay home and stay busy with children, grandchildren and projects.
We decided to go in and talk to the local church leaders about our ideas.  We felt that since most of them have worked in Asia for a long time, they could give us some good feedback.  The answers and counsel we received was very astonishing.  Southern Taiwan needs family history missionaries.  Why not go on a mission there to help people with their family histories while working on your own?  What a revelation!  We immediately got hold of all our children and discussed the possibility of going on another mission, hopefully to Taiwan.  The answers were very positive.  We agreed that if we were to continue to get on Skype group video each Monday morning (Mountain Standard Time Sunday afternoon), we would see the children and grandchildren even more often than when we lived in the States.  Of course, we'd miss everyone, especially Kong and Cami's kids since they live downstairs from us.  I could not bear to tell our dear friends who I look so forward to coming home to.  After much fasting and praying, we decided to throw our hats into the ring.

We are getting old and the chance of coming out to serve another mission after we go home for a period of time would be slimmer.  Besides, there are so many projects that I wanted to get involved in, such as the Chinese immersion program in St. George for the local schools, a hands-on, minds-on science program for elementary age children, teach a couple of classes for Dixie, teach University of Phoenix again as I did years ago...the list goes on.  So, the decision was made that we'd start the application process for another mission before we even go home.  We know once home, being with the grandchildren and all the things that we wanted to do, the mission idea might go out of the window quickly.  Knowing how much we love to serve, we put that as a priority for now.  We started the application process.

Applying to go on a mission out of the States has been quite an experience.  We are so glad that there were angels along the way to help us out.  The physicals were a concern to us since Elwin had a triple bypass in 2010, then the stent in 2011.  We figured our family doctor probably would not recommend us to go on another mission.  But Dr. Lim told us that wouldn't be a problem.  In fact, she didn't even charge us for the physical, except for the labs.  She said that she appreciated people willing to serve the Lord, and that was one small part she could do as a doctor.  The dentist, not a member of the Church, charged us half price and told us the same thing:  thank you for your service to the Lord.  Isn't that wonderful!  The angels pop up here and there and watched the whole process.  We felt the lift and the support along the way.

On Saturday, March 14 as we were preparing to go home from a day of service at the temple, Elwin said:  There is a FedEx envelope on the counter.  Let me check.  And there it was, a letter from the First Presidency addressed to us.  How appropriate it was to open it right there.  So we didn't even wait for the children (sorry about that, you were all asleep then), and opened it.  So here it is:  

"...You are assigned to labor in the Taiwan Taichung Mission.  Your primary assignment is to labor in the Taichung Taiwan Family History Support Office as a family history specialist.  It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 months.

You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Monday, September 3, 2012.  Your assignment may be modified according to the needs of the mission president..."

We are thrilled and grateful for the new calling. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Getting Trunky!

Elwin and Shirley at the Yun Chung Taoist Temple on 4/9/12
     Our 18 months is almost up!  Hard to believe how fast it has gone! Each week is special.  But, April 8 has to be one of the best.  Our dear friends, the Liu's, called to see if they could go to church with us.  We never want our friends to feel pressured that we are trying to get them to attend our church.  Right or wrong, we always want to enjoy our friends as they are, and it didn't matter if they were members of our church or not.  We are more than happy to answer their questions about the church, but that's where we stand.  So, we were joyous when the Liu's asked.  Then, Henzer and Wendy e-mailed that said they would like to come to Hong Kong to attend church with us, on April 8.  Since we were in Shenzhen the day before showing the new senior missionaries around, we met Henzer and Wendy in Luohu, Shenzhen and invited them to come to Hong Kong to spend the night with us.  They obliged. 

    April 8 happened to be the day that the Church re-broadcasted the 182nd General Conference in Asia.  The schedule is much the same as the schedule in the US a week prior.  It took the Church a few days to have the conference proceedings translated into various languages, hence the one week delay.  So, we decided that it would be great to go to the Sunday 10 AM Broadcast.

    The Liu's daughter is 8 years old.  I went online and found several activities she could do during the Conference.  Our family back home also sent links to various things that children could do during conference.  So, the big group of us, started our trek to church at 7:45 AM on Sunday.  We took MTR East Rail to Hung Hom and then took Bus #104 to cross the Hong Kong Harbour to Wan Chai.  Everything went well and Elders Edwards and Brailsford met us at the church.  These two elders have met the Liu's, Henzer and Wendy several times before, so they were the hosts.  The process went well, except with the translation, it was difficult at some points for our friends to understand.  Going to a conference re-broadcast may not have been the best way to introduce non-members to the church.  Everything went as well they could, with Cindy drawing pictures, coloring, etc.  Thanks for the activities for children to do during conference time. 

     We all came home to lunch, including the 2 missionaries, that I prepared ahead:  chicken curry and rice, soup, scones and rolls.  For desserts, we had brownies and blackberry cobbler.  We briefly talked about the purposes of the conferences and what they meant to us.  Kam Liu was excited to join the missionaries in an English conversation class held in Kwon Tong, near where she works, once a week.

    Our time in Hong Kong is almost up!  Our Sonicare toothbrush handles broke, the toaster oven baked the last batch of garlic bread last night and decided to retire and went south, the curling iron stopped working, the water cooler broke, the toilet water runs all the time...Don't you think it's time to go? 

    We will miss the dear friends we've made here.  2 weeks seems to be too short to prepare to go home...

Friday, April 6, 2012

the Faithful...

Sister Yan spoke today (March 25) at church.  She had a beautiful voice, and spoke with a melodic vernacular, much like the Beijing dialect.  As I listened, I realized that she was giving her talk in poems, with 4 to 6 words per sentence.  "Chinese poetry has consistently been held in extremely high regard in China, incorporating wonderfully expressive folk influences filtered through the minds of Chinese literati. Within Chinese culture, poetry provides an exceptional platform for both public and private expressions of deep emotion." (Wikipedia)  Sister Yan talked about the Beatitudes so beautifully that I was mesmerized.  Afterwards, I talked to some of the members about the talk, and was told that Sister Yan used to chant Chinese poetry for the Hong Kong TV program.  How fortunate we were to hear her talk about "the Beatitudes" in such a special way.

The next speaker was Ben.  He was the first branch president and told a very interesting story:
A baby girl was born during the flu epidemic of the 1918's.  Her father and eldest brother died during the plague, leaving the mother with the baby girl and 3 older boys.  Life was hard.  A fortune teller told the young mother that she should give up the little girl because she was a demon and brought tragedy to the family.  The mother was heartbroken.  After giving birth to 4 boys, she really wanted to have a girl and her wish was granted.  But now, the mother had to give the daughter up.  She posted a sign on the grocery store bulletin "baby girl for adoption".  One day a bike coolie saw the sign and thought it would be nice to adopt the child.  The mother asked why he wanted to adopt this girl.  He said he was a Christian and the mother agreed to let him adopt the girl.  To be able to see her daughter, she attended that church regularly.  She noticed that the people there were happy even though they were poor.  She converted to become a Christian, so were her 3 boys.  One of the boys was my grandfather, who later became a priest.  My mother was converted to the LDS Church when she came to live in Hong Kong from Taiwan.  
What an unusual and beautiful conversion story that was.  It makes me want to spend more time on my own family history.  There must be tons of stories to unearth. Ah, so much to do and so little time...

On April 1, we had the Fast and Testimony meeting.  Sister Bai was confirmed a member of the Church after her baptism the week before.  She bore her testimony about her conversion.  Her life has been a smooth sailing with supporting parents and friends.  She just graduated from Hong Kong University and received 6 offers to do graduate work.  She knew she was very fortunate to have such great opportunities, but didn't know what to do.  Being baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she learned that she has a constant companion, the Holy Spirit.  She could pray to our Heavenly Father and gain confidence on what she should do.  She was so grateful for the power of prayer.  What a great testimony that was!

President Lin was in Taiwan because his mother had surgery last week.  He was waiting in the patient's room when his mother woke up from the surgery.  She looked around and the first thing she said was:  It's cold in there, you need to put on a jacket.  Have you eaten?  Go home and rest.  Wow, a mom is a mom, is a mom!  How great that was!

Several others also got up and bore their testimonies.  We are always grateful to hear those faith promoting stories.  We know we'll miss these good people dearly.

After Church, we brought home 10 hungry missionaries.  We have special love for our missionaries, probably because I was baptized by a missionary, Elwin was a missionary in Taiwan, our 4 children all served missions, and now we are serving missions.  I know there are many members who take good care of our children when they served as missionaries.  My parents fed the missionaries regularly after we girls joined the church, even though they were not members.  When our children were growing up in Tennessee, there was rarely one week that went by without us feeding the missionaries.  They are emissaries from the Lord.  We decided that we would feed the missionaries American food once a month while serving in Hong Kong.  April 1 would be our last dinner with them.  I went grocery shopping the day before and brought back on my shoulders:  10 pounds of chicken, 5 pounds of ribs, 5 pounds of potatoes and vegetables, and others.  I carried them in 2 bags, plus the backpack through the park, through the MTR station to home.  I could hardly move after I got home.  Elwin had to help me get the backpack off my back.  He also massaged my shoulders so I could move again.  Then I spent the whole evening cooking.  There is a lot of love going into the meals for the missionaries.  We had "shake and bake" chicken, BBQ ribs, baked potatoes, baked beans, cole slaw, and the desserts were German chocolate cake and lemon sponge cake.  We had a great time.

On P-day, April 2, we and the senior missionaries had an outing.  We went to YMCA to have the lunch buffet first, then went to Nam Lian Garden for our walk.  It was a beautiful day and we had a great time.      

Our mission is coming to a close in less than 4 weeks now.  We are scheduled to go home on May 1, 2012.  After 18 months away from home, we are so ready to go home.  We're leaving, but I know we are taking many beautiful memories with us.