Sunday, September 29, 2013

Week 58--September 23-29, 2013

All of the Senior Missionaries and Area Presidency gathered on the patio for the Mid-Autumn Festival dinner. Tom was working on the Temple FHC computer and isn't in the picture.

The typhoon we had last Sunday passed us to the north and didn't cause any major difficulties that was predicted.

Tom left his scriptures in the taxi last Sunday and didn't get them back. Maybe the taxi driver will read them and seek out the Church.

Tom has written another farewell song for the Castletons. She is a California girl so he choose to use the Beach Boys song by the the same name. It was performed on Friday and it was a wonderful, raving success.

Cindy sent us several photos that we downloaded and labeled. There were some people Tom didn't know so we will need to check with Cindy on who they might be.

For Family Evening we read an article given by Elder Bednar at the New Mission Presidents' Seminar in June. The title of the article was "Missionary Work and the Spirit of Elijah." It was a very powerful article on how missionary work and family history work are all one great work and should not be separated. It gave several examples of using family history to strengthen members and introduce friends to the Church.

We had a professional genealogist from Russia come to our family history center looking for information. He was familiar with Family Search and had been to the Salt Lake Family History Library. He was able to find what he was looking for.

We have been asked to serve on a committee for an Area Presidency Initiative to facilitate more socialization among young single adults that will hopefully lead to marriage in the temple. We have a short time schedule of having a presentation ready for the Area Presidency by October 26. The plan will eventually go to the Area Seventy to be used throughout the Asia Area.

We received an email from Elder Wilson with the name of a Thai family that will be coming to the Hong Kong Temple. In order to make the trip they sold their only water buffalo to pay for their way here. We are never going to complain if we don't feel like we are rich because we are.

 Danise Mok and Flora Ho performed the cup song for Elder and Sister Castleton before they leave. We decided that we do the cups or clap our hands or slap the table or sing in harmony but not all four at once like these girls did. Great Fun!
Final evening with Sister Castleton at the Temple. All of the sisters gathered for a farewell picture.

Front row: Sister Lasson, Sister Chia, Sister Woo, Sister Wong, Sister Fung, Sister Lim.

Back row: Sister Ng, Sister Harrington, Sister Castleton, Sister Cheung, Sister Lee, Sister Lai.
Elder Lowell and Sister Marsha Castleton at their farewell luncheon on Friday.

We attended the temple marriage of Catherine Kong and Joseph Lee. Catherine is a secretary in Legal Department and Joseph's mother works in the HR Department. Catherine has become very special to us as she was Tom's go to person when he was working on his Chinese calligraphy project. He would check with her to see if he was making the characters correctly.
After the Temple ceremony we all boarded a chartered bus to go to the reception in New Territories. We sat in the very back with the Copes, Castletons, and Watkins.

The beautiful couple.
At a Chinese reception everyone has their picture taken with the bride and groom. Tom hopes they click the picture quickly so he doesn't faint from holding in his stomach.

There was a wonderful buffet. Joseph and five of his friends sang and danced for Catherine. He is a very talented young man.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Week 57--September 16-22, 2013

Elder and Sister Farmer accompanied a group of ten Mongolian members to the Hong Kong temple. We had an enjoyable dinner with them after assisting the members to exchange money. We met the Farmers when we went to Mongolia last October. They have become good friends.

We had a conference call on Tuesday with Elder Dennis Brimhall, Steve Rockwood, Steve Tsai, Joe Crandall, and us. It was 7:30 AM in Hong Kong and 5:30 PM Monday in Salt Lake City.We sense that the brethren are very aware of the challenges and problems that family history is having in Asia. We had our monthly Area Presidency devotional this morning. The thrust of the message from Elder Gong was the growth of the Church in the Asia area over the next five years. He anticipates there will be 41 new stakes. It is exciting to be involved in the hastening of the work.

We have had several new couples arrive over the past few weeks. We had dinner on Wednesday evening with Elder and Sister Clark who will be serving in the Victoria 2 Everyday Branch. Then we had dinner Wednesday with Elder and Sister Cope who are the new missionaries for the legal department.

We checked on the computers that were moved at the temple to see if they are operational. We found some bugs that need to be resolved.

Elder and Sister Walker, missionaries in Taiwan, had to go home early for Sister Walker to have surgery on her knee from an accident when a car hit her.

Thursday was Mid-Autumn Festival. We had a staff and missionary party.  Mid-Autumn Festival is like Thanksgiving in the United States. Families gather together, eat Moon Cakes, and look at the harvest moon. Moon cakes are a sweet bean pastry with an egg yolk in the center. We did not care for them. However, there was an orange flavored one without an egg yolk that was very good.

 Moon Cakes are cut into sections equal to the number of persons in the family. The ones above are traditional moon cakes with an egg yolk in the center. They look beautiful but not everyone likes them. Even some of the Chinese don't care for them.

 Fresh fruit and ice cream go along with the Mid-Autumn Festival. So there is always something that everyone will like.

Sisters Bertin and Heaps are debating which moon cake to try.

The Senior Missionaries were invited to have dinner with the Area Presidency. Since we are all far from home we are now each others family. We gathered on the Area Presidency patio for BBQ chicken and a variety of other pot luck dishes. We looked at the moon and played a game with Asian proverbs.

Friday we had another conference call with Elder and Sister Hollenzer who will be serving in Battambang, Cambodia. It was 8 AM in Hong Kong and 6 PM Thursday in Salt Lake City. The Knorpps, Moulders, and Davises shared how the Hollenzers can make their mission fruitful . The two hours went by rapidly. The Hollenzers are excited to begin. We were complemented on the book we had developed for the training of the new family history missionaries.

We had a big Branch activity on Friday for Mid-Autumn Festival with our Filippina sisters. Garnalee was in charge of the food. She found a recipe on-line for Copycat Arby's Chicken Salad Sandwiches. They were a big hit. We also had potato chips, moon cakes, homemade cookies, and ice cream. There were 48 Chinese lanterns scattered around the gym and each had a riddle inside. Tom's riddle was "What kind of soda is not good to drink?" Garnalee's riddle was " What starts with T, ends with T, and has T in the middle." Tom thinks no soda is good to drink.

Elder and Sister Farmer at Big Buddha.

Tom at Big Buddha.

We spent Saturday with Elder and Sister Farmer seeing some the sights of Hong Kong. We took them to Big Buddha and walked along the Wisdom Path. We took them to our favorite Chinese restaurant, Tin Tai Fung. We ended the day at the Symphony of Lights.

Tom saw this nativity scene when we visited the Farmers in Mongolia last October. When he found out they were coming to Hong Kong, he asked  them to bring him a set. They are hand carved and are very Mongolian.
This makes the third nativity set we have purchased in Asia. We were trying to down size but that doesn't seem to be happening.

We visited with Alene, Vernon, Leila, and Paul on Sunday morning. Leila and Paul are visiting Idaho for a few days. It was good to hear their voices. They are all doing fine.

We have a typhoon heading right for Hong Kong. It is predicted to be the worst typhoon in 34 years. We are at a T3 but is expected to go a T8. Typhoon Usagi was first rated as a super typhoon but down graded some to a severe typhoon. They have closed the airport and cancelled all flights this evening.

In Sacrament meeting today Tom confirmed Sister Mauricia Sab-it Abad whom he baptized last week. We had a very spiritual Sacrament meeting and then the rest of the meetings were cancelled because of the impending severe weather. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Week 56--September 9-15, 2013

We start each Monday morning with a spiritual devotional. True to that format Brother Floyd Ko told a story that we had heard before. It was about a box of crayons that was compared it the trials we have. We don't get to pick our trails just like our favorite color of crayon may not be it the box to pick. We have to do the best we can and learn from those trails we given.

Our Family Home Evening with the other senior missionaries was sharing stories that have built your testimony or helped you to see the hand of the Lord in your life.

We have Country (Area) Advisers in countries in Asia where the church is established and growing. There were some guidelines developed by previous missionary couples because there weren't any from the Church. We decided that those guidelines needed to be updated with reference to materials from the Church that are now available to help them in their calling.

We have been working on several different projects so our plate is full. It seems that we complete one and get another added so the time is flying by. We feel a lot of pressure to get things done during our remaining five months. Elder Jackson asked us again to digest the conference addresses that are used extensively the Area Presidency and Area Seventy.

We are working on recording some information for the missionaries that will follow us. We want to give them as much information as we can so hopefully they will be able to hit the ground running.

We went to Central for dinner at Nico's on Friday. Nicos' is in what is called the Mid-Levels. To get there you ride on three travelators and several escalators. The travelator is a moving walkway and is the longest in the world. In the morning the travelator goes down the hill and switches to going up hill at 10 AM. To get back down you have to walk on a steep walkway and stairs. Sister Watkins is the beautiful, smiling blonde. It was their one year anniversary in the mission field. So they invited all the senior couples to celebrate with them.

We saw on Facebook a posting from Traci about all the flooding in Colorado. They had 15 inches of rain in a week which is a year's worth of moisture. We were very concerned about them and their safety. They are safe and only experienced minor flooding to their basement. It was amazing to see the pictures on TV. It reminded us of the Teton Dam flooding.

Garnalee spent time with one of the consultants from the Everyday Branch training her on using Family Tree. Working with the Filappina sisters is the only time we get to interact with members and help them with family history. Tom went to the temple to take pictures of the first floor family history center.

We had our Branch Conference on Sunday and came away with wonderful advice from our branch and district presidents. President Chai spoke on the 5 "Cs" of the world--cash, car, condo, credit card, and country club membership. As Church members we should be concerned about 5 different "Cs". They are being a christian christian, showing compassion, caring, commitment, and charity. President Tai spoke on 3 "Ds" of doubt of self worth, doubt of ability, and doubt of the existence of hope. He mentioned enjoying watching his children play sports but also the parents who rush in with a towel, a drink, and words of encouragement. Heavenly Father feels the same way about each of us.

Tom had the opportunity to perform the baptism for a new convert in our Branch. She has been taught by the sister missionaries.

Left to right: Brother Fullwood, the Branch mission leader;  Sister Lapaz; Sister Polidario; Sister Mauricia Abad; Sister Mabunga; Sister Lopez; and Elder Harrington.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Week 55--September 2-8, 2013

Tom has decided to learn some of the temple ordinances in Cantonese. He is very dedicated to learning new things. He is practicing the Cantonese tones again.

We spent Tuesday morning and early afternoon at HoManTin trying to get the computers up and running with the Family History information. We waited in front of our complex for 45 minutes trying to catch a taxi. We finally gave up and walked to Hung Hom to try to get a taxi there. No luck! So we decided to take the MTR and walk the mile to the church. We finally got the computers to work. We then scurried off to the Church Administration Building for a meeting with the four new Asia Area Mission Presidents. We had the opportunity to meet with each couple and make a brief presentation about how family history can be a valuable tool for the missionaries. Our impression was that they are all already on board for using family history in missionary work.

We had the opportunity to help serve dinner to all ten Asia Area Mission Presidents. Sister Jenna Jackson is the assistant to the executive secretary and planner of all the meals. She goes out of her way to make the mission presidents feel special for the few days they are here. Tom was a life saver as he spent about 1 1/2 hours washing ALL the dishes.

We had Wednesday dinner with the Aardemas and the new couple, the Sullivans. They will be doing public relations work with the four stakes in Hong Kong. We had real mashed potatoes and gravy, pork roast, veggies, rolls, and coconut cream pie.  So yummy!!

We had the opportunity to do temple work for names of some individuals that were sent to us by Naresh Godi, family history country adviser in India. We have meet wonderful people in our travels whom we have grown to love.

Garnalee had a special experience working with one of Indonesian sisters Sunday. She hadn't been able to get into her LDS account for over a year because she wasn't sure of her user name or password. She had switched branches because her day off changed and wasn't sure who to ask for help. Then she came back to Pen 2 about three months. Her records hadn't caught up with her. Last Sunday we tried and weren't successful. Garnalee took her membership number and called family history support and got her user name. Then today they reset her password. When she logged in and saw her family in Family Tree she got very emotional and started to cry. She thought she had lost her family and wouldn't be able to recover the information. On top of that she got her temple recommend renewed today, so she had a very spiritual and rewarding day. I am glad I was a part of that small miracle for her.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Miracle on Week 54--August 26-September 1, 2013

It was a hot at the first of the week with sunny skies and high humidity. It has been a rainy summer which one of the employees said is not normal. Rain at the end of the week.

Tom spent the time on Tuesday preparing bar charts of adult and youth submissions for temple work and using Family Tree for each of the 10 countries. The Area Presidency is considering the  best location for an additional Family History Area Manager, so the charts he prepared will help them decide. He sent the information to each of the senior missionary couples so they could tell how they were doing.

There was a 3-masted tall ship from Colombia in Victoria Harbour  this week. We got to go on board for a tour thanks to the persistence of Elder Aardema and Tom's Spanish. We had a personal tour from one of the ship's cadet officers. The is a school ship for Colombian Naval officers.
 Garnalee, Joselin, and Sister Aardema on parade deck of the ship.
As we arrived at the ferry the next morning we saw the sailors up on the yard arms preparing to unfurl the sails. The ship was sailing later that afternoon for South Korea then home to Cartagena, Colombia.

We were asked to prepare a one-page document describing to the new Asia Area Mission Presidents how family history can be an effective tool in proselyting. We produced a very nice looking report on using family history in conversion, retention, and activation. We had suggestions on how family history can be used in each area.

Sister Aardema gave the message at our missionary lunch on Friday. Her message was on how each of us has different talents and abilities and to use them as we serve here in Hong Kong. At the conclusion of her presentation she gave each missionary couple a copy of her water color art work she calls "China Doll." It was of an elderly Chinese peasant woman. It was painted from a photograph taken by Sister Dodson when they were serving in mainland China. It is definitely something we will treasure.

The mission is attempting to upgrade the image of senior missionary couples, so this is our new car.

I Wish!

Now for the miracle. When we checked our e-mails on Friday evening there was one from Chad.  He had forwarded it to me from his mother.  It was from a fellow named Dale Majercyzk.  I had no idea who that could be, but I opened it anyway.  He turned out to be a cousin of mine who was a son of my Aunt Shirley, one of my mother's sisters.  He had been looking for me for a long time.  His uncle, Uncle Dale, my mother's brother is 92 and wanted to find out what happened to his sister, and Cindy and me.  He gave me enough information that I knew this wasn't a hoax and emailed him back.  He gave me his cell phone number and the telephone number of my Uncle Dale.  So early this Sunday morning, I called Uncle Dale.  I called twice but got no answer.  I called Dale's cell phone and he told me to call the front desk of the assisted living center.  They would go tell Uncle Dale I was trying to call.  I called his number again after about two minutes and Uncle Dale answered.  He was very glad to hear from me.  He was fearful that something bad had happened to all of us and just wanted to know.  I told him a little about us and promised to write him a letter.  I had interrupted his Notre Dame football game.  For a 92 year old he sounded pretty alert.
The miracle is that we hadn't heard anything about my mother's side of the family for 62 over years.  No one living knows why mom left her family in the early 50s and never made contact with any of them, but the lines of communication are wide open now.  We plan to make a trip to Florida to visit Uncle Dale when we return home, and then on to Michigan to meet all of the rest of our extended family. There are dozens of cousins, spouses, and their families that I didn't know anything about.  Cousin Nancy has lots of family photos of my mother in her youth.  We can only conclude that, because we're being faithful in fulfilling this mission and helping others tie their families together, that the Lord decided to bless us by having my family find us.  We're not sure how the connection was finally made, so we believe it was providence.