Sunday, May 26, 2013

General Authorities Visit Hong Kong--May 20-26, 2013

Tom has been made first councilor in our Branch Presidency. So his first experience was to attend presidency meeting and to be asked by the Branch President to be the concluding speaker in Sacrament meeting that would start in 20 minutes. He gave a wonderful talk. He can think quickly under pressure.

We have passed our nine month mark and we are what is referred to by missionaries as "over the hump." We can't believe that our mission is half done.

We have been preparing training for our trip to India and Malaysia. We will give presentations at two firesides in Hyderabad, India. We will then travel to Ipoh, Malaysia, where we will help with the two day Family History Open House and then speak in Sacrament meeting. Then after church we will catch a train to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to give a training and then back to Ipoh that night.

Tom has been practicing Chinese calligraphy. He wants to make a gift for each of the senior couples that says "Families Can Be Together Forever."

We woke up Wednesday morning to discover horrible weather conditions. There were five different advisories issued by the Hong Kong Observatory. A Black Storm Warning for heavy rain exceeding 70 mm per hour and strong winds and advises people to stay indoors, we received 8 inches of rain that day. There was also a Thunderstorm Warning, Flooding Announcement, Landslide Special Special Announcement, and Special Weather Tips. We stayed home until the Black Storm Warning was lifted at 10 AM. We then went to the eye doctor for follow-up on Tom's surgery last week.

Tom got to use his Spanish this week. The mission president received a letter from the parents of a Latin American missionary who will arrive soon be in Hong Kong. He was able to translate the letter for the mission president.

 Elder and Sister Treasure with a couple they met several years ago in Nepal, and they have become like family to them and they have adopted them.The young boy, Samuel, who is nine was born later and is like a grandson to the.

We had a special event this week. Elder Neil L. Anderson, of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder L. Whitney Clayton, of the Presidency of the Seventy, have been traveling throughout Asia. They started in Thailand, then traveled to India, on to Beijing, China, and finished up here in Hong Kong before returning home to Utah. They spoke to all the missionaries in Hong Kong on Friday morning. He spoke about as you gain a greater understanding of the Atonement then your faith and desire to serve will increase.

The Castletons and Frandsens received a beautiful Edible Bouquet from "Beyond 5." Beyond 5 is  five LDS young men that have formed a band and will be traveling throughout Asia in August. The organizer of the band is one of the Castleton sons who also composes songs. The Area Presidency wants the youth of Asia to be exposed to contemporary uplifting music.  The Castletons and the Frandsens have been helping with all of the organizing.

All enjoying the Edible Bouquet.

Saturday Garnalee helped with the refreshments that were provided for the Priesthood training that was given by Elder Anderson and Elder Clayton. There were 70 local leaders trained in one session and 30 local unit leaders from mainland China in the other session.

It rained really hard for several hours on Saturday again. We have seen an increase in the rain and the temperature over the last couple of weeks. Hotter and more humid!

We had the opportunity to hear Elder Anderson speak again on Sunday at a special conference for the China Hong Kong (English) International District and the China Hong Kong Stake. He spoke on Hong Kong being the gateway to all Asia and how the Gospel will spread from here. The Lord doesn't care about position. He cares about discipleship--the keeping of covenants, love, magnifying your calling, service, etc.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

BYU Young Ambassadors in Hong Kong--May 13-19, 2013

Tom presented the message at the devotional this week. He decided to use the thoughts from one of the sisters in our Branch of things we should say and do to our mothers.

We worked on the MTC Wish List which is a list of things we wished we had learned while at the MTC. Elder Mack Shirley, of the Church Family History Department, contacted us to because of the letter we had sent to Sister Tomlinson last January. He asked for our input as he is doing a presentation to the Missionary Department later in the week of suggested training to be given at the MTC.

We started deciding on what presentations we will give when go to India and Malaysia. Our India Visas came through so we will definitely be traveling at the end of the month to both countries. We will go to India first and have the opportunity to give some Family History training in Hyderabad that has never been done before. We will present at two firesides and give training to the priesthood leadership and the consultants. We will then travel to Ipoh, Malaysia, to help with a Family History Open House there.

Tom had the cataract surgery on his right eye. It went well. When he was checked the next day he found he could read close up and see the computer fine but he will still need to wear glasses for distance.

We had a very humbling experience this week. Elder Watson, the Area President, came to us and asked us to come up with a way to teach the First Presidency letter from last October 8, to priesthood leaders coming here for training from local units in China and Thailand. The members in these countries may only get to go to the temple once in their life because of distance and expense. Our plan was to have the members prepare their 4-generation pedigree chart and put that information into Family Tree. 98% of the members outside of the United States don not have their 4-generations in Family Tree. We then said that the youth could interview one of their living relatives and place that story with a picture on Family Search. They could also assist the older members to input their information. If they reserved names for the temple then those names should be released if they can't complete their work within two years. Elder Watson complemented us on doing such a fine job as we gave him exactly what he was looking for.

Tom helped prepare another farewell song this week for Sister Hamilton. We had her farewell luncheon on Thursday, May 16. As an introduction, Tom said, "You may have heard of Rogers and Hammerstein, well move over because the new writers are Woolley and Harrington.

Friday was Buddha's Birthday so the office was closed. We went to serve in the temple. We officiated at the 8 AM session. There were 23 males and 16 females most of whom were from the BYU Young Ambassadors group. They were in Hong Kong for performances. They had been in China for three weeks and would go home on Monday.

We went to dinner Saturday evening and then to the BYU Young Ambassadors performance.

Elder and Sister Gregory,  PEF missionaries, enjoy the meal.
 We went to dinner at V Cuisine where we were treated to a nine course dinner. We had Egg Drop Soup, Shrimp with Broccoli, Cashew Chicken, Sweet and Sour Pork, Eggplant dish, Baked Beef dish, Fried Green Beans, Steamed Fish (see the picture) that was netted out of a large tank and prepared just for us, Roasted Chicken complete with head, and then fresh fruit. Each dish came out one after another and was placed on the large Lazy Susan in the middle of the table. This is the typical style of serving meals in a fine restaurant in  Hong Kong.

Patrick Cheuk, one of the local Church employees and former stake president in Hong Kong, accompanied us to dinner and ordered all the food. They didn't speak English in the restaurant. He is cutting up our fish into serving sized pieces. Elder and Sister Castleton look on.
Elder and Sister Treasure enjoy the dinner.
 Sister and Elder Frandsen and Sister and Elder Watkins also loved the dinner.

Elder and Sister Aardema and Tom didn't even slow down for the picture. There were 19 people in our group sitting at two tables.

We enjoyed the high energy performance of the BYU Young Ambassadors. They closed the performance by singing "I Am a Child of God." Our performance was the only one where they sang that song which was the last performance of their tour. Based on the wonderful spirit of all the performers we believe the future of the Church is in good hands.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

New Eyes to See the Beauties of Hong Kong--May 6-12, 2013

We met with Brother Luk, the Family History Country Adviser for Hong Kong. We are trying to find ways to promote family history work in Hong Kong. We offered our help.

We worked with Sister Gloria from our Branch to input names of her family into Family Tree. It is nice to work with a member on family history instead of answering e-mails all day.

Tom had cataract surgery this week. He is amazed at how much more vibrant colors are and everything is clear and bright. He noticed many new wrinkles that he is sure weren't there the day before! He is so pleased with the results that he is having the other eye done next week. The doctor came highly recommended from the Moran Eye Center in Salt Lake City. We were pleased to learn that our insurance will pay for most of it. If we home then it would be covered 100% by Medicare.

We decided to walk the Promenade on Friday morning. It was 80 degrees with 92% humidity. That was a mistake, at least from Garnalee's perspective. No more walking the Promenade for her.

Tom has been busy writing words for a farewell song for Sister Ruth Ann Hamilton. We enjoy the fun and the "roast" that is given to the departing person. She is a 70 year old single sister who is very active and fun to be around.

We took the Halls, a young couple in our Branch who are here for six months, and the Cowleys to Big Buddha.

Tom (notice no glasses), Matthew Hall, Seantay Hall, Sister Cowley, and Elder Cowley waiting to catch the 360 Crystal Gondola. It is a gondola with a glass floor and walls.
 The gondolas pass each other. The ride is like a chair lift at a ski resort.
 The path that hikers choose to walk to Big Buddha. If you are adventurous it is a beautiful walk. The picture was taken through the floor of the gondola.
 Parts of the hiking path are stairs that go straight up the mountain.They don't believe in switch backs. The path was built to service the gondola towers but is used by many hikers. Tom is considering doing this hike when the weather turns cool in the fall.
Tom and Garnalee at the Big Buddha.
Turtles sunning themselves on the rock.
I asked Tom to go stand by the bird so I could take his picture. He said, "You mean with the chicken?" It is actually a peacock.
 One of the areas that we missed when we went to  Big Buddha the last time was the Wisdom Path. There are 38 split logs planted along the trail. Each had a Chinese proverb written on it. Each stella was about 20 feet tall.
 The Chinese characters craved into the stella.
Tian Tan Buddha statue (informally known as the Big Buddha) was erected in 1993. Sitting 34 metres high and facing north to look over the Chinese people, this majestic bronze Buddha draws pilgrims from all over Asia.

Sitting in the harbor is the world's largest rubber duck promoting world peace. It was created by a Dutch artist. The duck is 16.46 meters tall and weighs 600  kilograms. It would be a great promotional gag for the annual Idaho Falls Great Duck Race, but it cost over $1,000,000 HK or $125,000 US to bring it to Hong  Kong.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

May Day/ Andrea Bocelli--April 29-May 5, 2013

We had our pictures taken to attach to our visa for India. We are hopeful that the visa arrives before our scheduled trip. If not then we will have to delay our trip.

We visited with an ophthalmologist this week as the vision in Tom's left eye was getting blurry. The cataract had gotten worse so we scheduled the surgery for May 8. This doctor came highly recommended from the Moran Eye Center in Salt Lake City.

May 1 is Labor Day in Hong Kong and a holiday. We volunteered to serve in the temple that day as many of the Chinese workers weren't available to serve. In our session there was a 91-year-old man from Thailand who came to receive his own endowment. He was very frail but his spirit was strong. Garnalee was treated to a late birthday lunch with Sisters Gong and Wilson, the wives of the Area Presidency.

 We had a May Day Relief Society Meeting. Each of the branches prepared a dance to perform. Dinner was served after the dances and each of the branches prepared a dish to share with everyone.

Discovery Bay Hawaiian Hula
 Peninsula 3
The best branch in Hong Kong Peninsula 2 performing their dance.

Our branch prepared a meat and vegetable concoction that was placed in a won ton wrap and then wrapped in tin foil and steamed. It was very good.
Mandarin Branch Fan Dance

Thursday morning was chilly and windy. The first Thursday of each month is always a spiritual feast as we attend the temple with the Area Presidency and all the area senior missionary couples. Tom and Garnalee were assigned to be the officiators for the session.  The temple session is followed by a testimony meeting in another room of the temple. It was Sister Hamilton's last testimony meeting and the first for the Aardemas and the Gregorys. All five bore their testimonies. We then returned to the temple in the evening for our regular assignment.

We are trying to find a way for the members coming to the Hong Kong Temple to come prepared with their ancestors names ready to go. In a conversation with Elder Wilson we decided to try sending the names of the members who are coming to the Temple to the Family History Missionaries in their country so they receive the assistance they need. If there isn't a missionary in the country where the member is coming from then we will send the members names to the Country Adviser for help.

After a busy day at the office we attended the Andrea Bocelli concert for which we had purchased tickets a couple of months ago. It was a wonderful show. He was backed up by a wonderful symphony orchestra and choir. Our only regret was none of his songs was in English. Tom understood the one in Spanish and could pick out words from the Italian. However Garnalee decided you didn't need to understand the language to feel the emotion to the music. What an amazing voice he has! What really impressed us was how long he could hold a single note.

After three long days we slept in on Saturday morning and had a relaxing day.