Saturday, July 31, 2010
We went to the office of the company that makes and distributes the wheelchairs that the church pays for. They are made in this little warehouse like area and all the chairs are made by handicapped people. We then went next door to tour the COPE operation. This is a company that makes prosthetic limbs. When the US and Vietnam were at war Laos got bombed very heavily. Laos neighbors Vietnam and apparently the Vietnamese would some how come through Laos to fight so the US bombed Laos every 8 seconds for 8 years. The hanging balls that you see in the picture are what is inside a cluster bomb, there are thousands of these little bombs in the fields here that had not exploded on contact and so when these poor people dig in there fields or send the children out looking for scrap metal these old bombs blow up, thus the need for prosthetics.
We had the opportunity while in Laos to go with the senior missionary's and give out three wheelchairs or what are called tricycles. The young boy (has cerebral palsy) who was about 10 had his previous wheelchair for about 5 years, you can tell by the looks of it that he was due for a new one. The two girls or women that you see are 22 and 23 years old. They both got polio when they were about 2 and have not been able to go to school or do to much. The roads are dirt so if they want to go anywhere they basically had to drag themselves down the dirt roads. Their family and friends gathered around as we came and were so excited for these girls.
This school holds about 300 elementary school children. Last spring a huge storm came and ripped the roof off half of the buildings. The church which operates in Laos under the name DIC (Deseret International Charities) has paid for the material to repair the roof and also constructed the sanitation facility (white brick building) with a supporting water well and storage tank to provide water pressure. The local chief who was working on the building the day we visited and the village provide the labor.
Now take a close look at the building and you will see that it is very simple. Notice the older row building by the sanitation building, that is the remaining building that didn't sustain damage. The covered open building is the school lunch room.
You may be thinking these poor people. While a true statement from a money point of view a very untrue statement in reality. I don't think I have met a happier more content people. I asked a teenager who was cleaning dishes with her family today "what do you do for fun?" While she understood the language she didn't understand the question. Fun for them is working together as a family to deal with the daily needs of life. Again I ask my favorite question, "is it a blessing to be rich or a curse?"
We had the opportunity to meet the Pioneer of the gospel in Laos. Let me do my best at recounting her story. She is the small Sister Kelly and I are standing beside in the rice field. In the early 1990's Sister Bounmy moved to Minnesota to live near her eldest daughter who had joined the church while living in the USA. She heard the lessons and she and her husband joined. All converts state how much they loved the missionaries that taught them and this is true for Sister Bounmy. After living in the USA for a period of time they wanted to return to their homeland back in Laos. As they returned they wanted to share the gospel with their friends and family and proceeded to do so. The local police came by and threatened her husband that if he didn't stop they would take action. He continued to preach the gospel. The police arrived and gave him 24 hours to leave the country and never return. He left to Thailand and then off to the USA. Sister Bounmy has never seen her husband again.
She has a beautiful home with her family all around her and while I understood nothing she said but that which was translated to me by the branch president, her whole countenance exudes the gospel of Jesus Christ. She hopes one day that the field that is in her back yard of rice will become the next LDS church location. I agree!
The branch president is also a Pioneer. He was a driver for an LDS person who worked for the CIA and then became the driver for the missionary couples to their humanitarian projects. He said, "I gained my testimony by listening to the missionary couples pray before we would go anywhere". A number of years ago young Elders were Laos for one day from Thailand and on that day, he and his wife were baptised.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
This is a picture that hangs in the lobby of the Area office building. I have enjoyed it from the first day we arrived for a couple of reasons, Christ is smiling (in honor of mom Sackley) and the children are oriental. We were speaking with Elder Watson in his office one day and he had the same print in a smaller size hanging in his office, when I mentioned that I liked the one hanging in the lobby. So he told us the story of the picture; He (Elder Watson) has spent a lot of time in China and happens to have Del Parsons as his neighbor. He told him what he wanted and so Del painted him the picture. He wanted a resurrected Christ, thus the red robes. He wanted children from this time period so they have modern clothes on, and the hills in the background. So the picture hanging in the lobby is the original and it is beautiful!
Monday, July 26, 2010
The highest point on the Hong Kong Island is the "Peak". To get there you walk through the scenic Hong Kong Park and ride a tram up a rather steep incline to the top of the hill/mountain. A spectacular view of the city and a huge shopping center that expands over a number of floors is found at the top. A spot that Kelly said she would like to return on a day with more rummaging time. This is also the location in which Matthew Cowley dedicated this land for the gospel on July 14, 1949. The date carved in a rock back in 1949 can still be seen today.