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Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Great Week

We started this week by meeting several of the Temple Missionaries in the central lobby here at Harbor Front on Monday, walked down to the North Point  ferry, and crossed the harbor. We enjoyed a lunch buffet on the Hong Kong side at the Rosedale Hotel in Causeway Bay. The buffet was mostly Chinese food but had an automatic pancake making machine that was nifty. You pushed a button indicating how many pancakes you wanted then held your plate up to a shute and after about sixty seconds pancakes would start dropping on your plate.

 After lunch the group went across the road to the food market,  except for the two of us. It looked like rain, so we headed back to the apartment and sure enough it began to rain and they all got wet and cold.

Tuesday morning, we worked feverishly on updating a Vietnam Country Fact Sheet for the Area Presidency that reconciled with a Power Point presentation being developed by the Humanitarian Missionaries. The Power Point and Fact Sheets were part of a bundle of information needed for President Funk and Elder Evans before they left that afternoon for Vietnam.

Wednesday, Karen taught Institute in the morning,  afterwards we  met with Annie to coordinate the weeks workload. We  were in the office for a few hours then went to the Temple for our weekly assignment there. It was a fairly busy night with a number of patrons from the Mainland attending.

Thursday, we had a wonderful video call with the Pollmanns. They have family coming at the end of the month and then will be going home to Alpine, Utah the first week of February. They will be taking their five children and spouses up to Chiang Mai to ride elephants and see tigers. Then down to Phuket and the sunny beaches for a few days. We have never seen Sister Pollmann so happy as she was this week!

We attended the Welfare Meeting in the early afternoon and were able to review some projects with the committee. This is always a great opportunity to participate and become aware of the temporal assistance offered to those in need by the Church.

After our meeting we hooked up with Annie and the Montagues for dinner. We went to the Crystal Jade, a higher end Chinese restaurant just up the street from our office.

On Friday after spending the morning in the office we met the Montagues at the Temple where they had just attended two sessions. We brought them back to the office for an hour or so, and then took them to their hotel where they could change clothes. We wanted to show them Victoria Peak, so we arranged for dinner at Bubba Gump’s at Victoria Station. It was a beautiful night, we ate shrimp and clam chowder, and were able to get to know each other better. They are from Saint George Utah and have six children, four boys and two girls. Karen was an answer to prayer when Sister Montague inquired as to whether the time of Karen’s mission went fast, and Karen told her, “yes,  that it went very fast”.  The Sister Missionaries miss their children and grandchildren from the minute they get on the plane. Yet they are all willing to serve for the blessings received by those they miss so much.

It was a very busy week and I should not leave out mentioning the work associated in the passing of President Monson. His passing is news to every country in our mission and in every language. He will have a lot to talk to the Prophet Joseph about.

Transfer week.  Sister Arago leaves tomorrow to serve in Macau.  We love these sisters.  We really miss them when they get transferred to other areas.  Left to right:  Sister Rodriegez, Sister Arago, Me, Sister Labangco, Sister Salangad, Sister Romero, and Sister Bautista.

We had visitors this week from Malaysia coming to attend the Temple.  Elder and Sister Montague are our Public Affairs missionaries in Malaysia.   Our good friend Carol Ng came too.  Elder and Sister Coleman are the Humanitarian missionaries (Elder Coleman is taking the picture).    The group consisted of around 20 Malaysians who are staying in Patron Housing for a couple of days while they do Temple Work.  Montagues are standing next to us in this picture.  This is just a small handful of the group.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Happy New Year

This week brought in the new year and more celebrating.  Also our 42nd Anniversary!  

New Year’s Eve the Senior Missionaries met at Elder and Sister Cory’s apartment, which has the best view of the harbor, to eat waffles and watch the fireworks. The fireworks were spectacular and being able to view them from inside the comfortable confines of the Cory’s apartment was terrific.

The morning after the latest night of our Mission we were able to drag ourselves out of bed on the  morning of our latest sleep-in of our Mission,  and head over to the Jade Market with the Chatterton’s. We wanted to find something for our forty-second Wedding Anniversary that would be small and light enough to take home, that would create sentiment towards our time here, and would not be too expensive. We were hoping to find something Jade because of the cultural value it has here in Hong Kong. After searching and haggling for most of the morning, we settled on some Jade carvings in the shape of multiple layers of balls and a Chinese Christmas Nativity where each piece is hand carved and painted out of some kind of nut.   We also bought some Chinese Christmas tree ornaments.  We left the market and went to lunch, my favorite part of the day.

Tuesday, the day of our Anniversary we spent the morning in the office and the afternoon at the Cheese Cake Factory and a movie. It’s our second Anniversary celebration here in Hong Kong and probably our last. We have really enjoyed our time together here,  it will always be a special place for us but we probably will never be back.

This week we attended the Temple with the Area Presidency and met for lunch after. The Area President, Elder Funk took the opportunity to share with us some personal experiences he had with President Monson. He told us about a Tabernacle Choir visit at Red Rock, an amphitheater outside of Denver, that President Monson attended and that after the concert he stayed and shook as many hands as he could. He also gave his card to a woman in need so that she could call him personally at her convenience when they could talk without interruption.

Our Welfare Correlation Meeting was held this week,  (after not meeting the last few weeks while the Area Presidency and Department Managers were traveling for the holidays).  This is one of our favorite assignments because we are exposed to all the wonderful ways the Church is helping those in need in this part of the world. 

Because we have not met for a couple of weeks there was a back log of projects that were reviewed and a longer than normal meeting. All of the Senior Humanitarian Couples in the numerous countries in the area keep churning away and finding projects that require funding. It doesn’t take attending many of these meetings that it becomes apparent that there will never be enough money to solve all the problems of the earth’s poor and needy. The challenges will only truly be met with the Priesthood being properly magnified after being properly authorized throughout the world.

We spent several hours this week tying up loose ends and preparing for the launch and training of the CRM project that we have been working on for most of the Mission. The work we have done is now live on the site and we are now organizing the data into business units by country and national directors. I think we will finish up about the time we are replaced. Good Luck Elder and Sister Mortenson!

We celebrated NYE  at the Cory's enjoying waffles and watching the fireworks (they have a great view of the habor).  We have made so many wonderful friends here on our mission.

Elder Beckstead is chief waffle maker

Happy New Year in Hong Kong 2018

We enjoyed walking around the street on New Year's Day.  

One of the many interesting things we see at the street markets.  Dried lizards on a stick!  You just can't believe the things they eat here.  They eat every part of every living,  swimming, creeping, crawling thing!  They dry it,  fry it,  or eat it raw!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas Time

This was the last week of December and closed out the year 2017. A very special time for us, an entire year that we were able to focus twenty-four seven without worldly interruption in developing stronger testimonies and an increased awareness of the reality of Jesus Christ. 

We have been blessed in so many ways since our arrival here in Hong Kong including the expectations we brought into this Mission of how we would build the Kingdom versus the reality of how little it seems we have contributed. Yet our Father in Heaven has showered blessings on us and those we love and care about. We have learned that we are not measured by what we do here as much as it is that we came here. We simply answered a call and came,  and by so doing have felt the appreciation and love from on high.

We spent most of the week celebrating with Branch parties, office parties, Temple worker parties, and other parties of other friends. It was a partying week. We met for breakfasts, we met for lunches, and we met for dinners. We indulged in really good food and some food we would rather not think about. We had some quiet time with some of our closest friends listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies with nothing but light from our little Christmas tree and some illuminating fake candles. We also spent time on the busy streets of Hong Kong with all the noise of a big city and all the Christmas lights and decorations you can imagine. It even got cold one day last week as we approached Christmas day.

We called all our daughters and their families on the day after Christmas here in Hong Kong which was Christmas day in the states. It was so fun to see that all of them enjoyed a wonderful Christmas and Karen loved reminding them all that we would be with them next Christmas. I agree with Karen, two Christmas’s away from home is enough and we will appreciate being home next year a lot.

Our Sisters in our Branch love to party!   They sing and dance and prepare an unbelievable amount of food.

We had a devotional and dinner with all of the Temple Workers.  The members here who serve are amazing!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Our Second Chistmas in Hong Kong

We are in enjoying the Christmas season this year with so many opportunities to celebrate, participate, and reflect on all the goodness that can be felt at this time of year.

Hong Kong is always a spectacular view at night with hundreds if not thousands of building structures as tall as anywhere else in the world, creating a skyline of millions of colored lights reflecting in the harbor.

During Christmas time the City, as awesome as it is, really amps it up by adopting a Christmas theme of red and green with Merry Christmas and Happy New Year salutations illuminating in every kind of way you can imagine. Unfortunately, the motive behind this gargantuan effort and beautiful display is commercial rather than spiritual. None the less with the right attitude we can transform this mirage into something that feels very special and recognize all the goodness taking place in the present that “Charles Dickens” described so well in the past.

 This week we spent some time seeking out and spending time at a few of the numerous Christmas displays here in Hong Kong. Some were way out there like the one with the “Snoopy” theme, but then there were some very impressive and thought-provoking themes as well. We particularly enjoyed the Land Mark Mall’s atrium with robotic characters singing and a Christmas tree the size of the ones they used to have downtown when we were kids.

Each year a member of the Area Presidency teaches the sister's  institute class the week before Christmas, (for this lesson the husbands are invited to attend).   For some reason this year not one of the three were available, so I was asked to step in as a replacement. I felt a lot of pressure and was very nervous, so I spent a lot of time preparing. The lesson went well because of the participation and testimonies of those in the class, it turned out to be a lesson to me of fear versus faith even though the lesson material was something completely different. Faith will always trump fear!

This week brought another special opportunity for Karen and I to work a session together in the Temple. Our temple assignment has been a great influence of balance to us as Missionaries, and we understand that it’s a unique opportunity for us and appreciate this wonderful blessing.

Karen attended her first musical production in Cantonese, “Scrooge the Musical” performed by the Hong Kong Academy of Arts. It was a lot of fun and seeing a Chinese Scrooge made out to look Caucasian was a different twist for Karen and I. The songs were all in English and if you are interested, you can get a flavor of what they sounded like if you refer to the final scene of the “Christmas Story” where Ralph and his family end up in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day.

This week also included Christmas caroling with the younger Missionaries, our Branch Christmas Dinner, and a special Christmas Family Concert performed by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

Merry Christmas!

I couldn't help asking this little guy's mother if I could take his picture!  

Christmas Caroling with the senior  couples and a few young Elders and Sisters.     We passed out  about 150 Light the World pamphlets.  We also had cookies for the little kids!

The Elder and Sisters were able to talk to quite a few people,  it was really fun!

Saturday, December 16, 2017


We traveled to Cambodia this week and met with Elder and Sister Dowd.  They will be returning home at the end of the month and their replacements, the Smiths, will not be arriving until mid-April. We have been asked if we can help, “bridge the gap” by supporting the Director of Public Affairs and the National Council of Cambodia during the absence of a Senior Missionary Couple being there. Very similar to what we did a few months ago with Sister Carol Ng in Malaysia.

It was close to a three-hour flight from Hong Kong to Phnom Penn and another hour or so getting through immigration because we had to get a Visa there at the airport. After collecting our baggage, we quickly found the shuttle driver sent by the hotel. We then experienced another hour of moving very slowly through narrow and congested streets to the hotel. After settling in we called the Dowds who picked us up, took us out to eat, and then to their apartment. We visited there for a while before they took us back to our hotel, “The Luminer”, where we then enjoyed a well deserved good night of sleep!

The Dowds introduced us to Sister Theany, the Director, with the rest of the Council the second night of our visit at a dinner organized for all of us to meet each other. It was a wonderful evening and a great opportunity for us to get to know the members who serve in Cambodia in Public Affairs. The dinner also served as the end-of-a Mission thank you event for Elder and Sister Dowd.  It was well deserved and a great blessing for us to witness the love that has developed between the Dowd’s and the Cambodian delegation attending the dinner.

Earlier that day we met Brother Lee who owns a tuk-tuk and makes a living moving people around in the City. He took us out to the “Killing Fields” and “S-21”. It was a very sobering experience and an introduction to unimaginable atrocities. Three million Cambodians of a total population of eight million killed by fellow Cambodians and an evil leader. Visiting these sights is probably an experience that would  be good for everyone to do once, but I know Karen and I hope never to do again.

The next evening, we met with Theany  and Vannak reviewing and teaching them how to use Corus, Newsroom, and the Public Affairs Network. They were great and were able to learn how to use the software in about one-tenth the time it took me. It will be fun working with them from Hong Kong for the next few months while there are no Senior Public Affairs Missionaries in Cambodia.

We had another chance before our meeting with Theany and Vannak for Brother Lee to spend some time motoring us around town in his tuk-tuk. Besides seeing all the back allies and markets of Phnom Penn he also found his way to the King’s Palace. We hired a woman tour guide to walk us through the royal complex including several royal buildings and gardens. 

Before we left Cambodia,  the Dowd's took us to the Service Center and to the Mission Home.  We were able to meet Elder and Sister Thurston who are serving a Humanitarian Mission,  and Elder and Sister Scott who serve as the Senior Missionary couple in the Mission Home.

Our Tuk Tuk driver,  Tree,  was wonderful.  He is a member of the Church,  and a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-79).   He serves on the District High Council.   He told me the most wonderful day of his life was when he took his 6 children (made possible through the Temple Patron fund),  to the Hong Kong Temple where they were sealed together in 2006.   

This little house is a very very nice house for Cambodia!  The people are so poor,  they are so humble,  and they are so happy.

Getting around in a Tuk Tuk was such a fun experience.  The Tuk Tuk is an icon for Cambodia.  It's a little cart pulled by a motorcycle.  There are hundreds of them everywhere.   There are also hundreds and hundreds of scooters.  In the city,  there are lots of cars that share the road with the Tuk Tuk's and the scooters.  It's an adventure.

Our ride a little way out of the city to see the "Killing Fields".   An experience that was very somber and we'll never forget.

It was fun to ride up next to the Elders.  Our driver Tree was honking and waving at them,  they were waving to him,  calling him by name,  it's obvious the missionaries and the members are very close.  The Church in Cambodia is very small,  having only been in the country for a short time.

Most definitely a third world country.  Electricity throughout the city at it's finest!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Christmas FHE

This week began with a special Christmas Family Home Evening with all the Senior Missionaries serving in the Area. The Seller’s, who were in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for ten years, were in charge of this activity and with Sister Marian Sellers playing the piano we all participated in a group sing along. We sang all the Christmas songs Karen and I know and then some we did not know both traditional and spiritual, and I must say it was not that bad and I enjoyed it a little bit.

A group from Salt Lake working in Church publishing visited us this week as part of a world-wide tour of all the Areas of the Church. The purpose is to introduce a new approach the Church is taking to protect the integrity of published products. In addition to the Church’s visual identity we are now including proprietary developed fonts, light and color schemes, and patented style guides to protect the integrity of future Church published products. Going forward it will be much easier for you to determine whether or not what your looking at or reading has been produced by the Church.

The temple reopened this week after being closed for three weeks,  so we were able to attend our Wednesday evening assignment and again for our first Thursday of the monthy morning session with the Area Presidency. 

Thursday morning after the session we gathered across the street for a Testimony meeting and an official welcome of the new Missionaries that have arrived since our last Thursday Morning meeting with the Presidency. This included Elder Randy and Sister Teddi Jones, Elder Stanley and Sister Carol Parry, and Elder Allan and Sister Arendje Whidden. The Jone’s will be serving as the Branch President of the every-day Branch, the Parry’s are legal, and Whidden’s are the Mental Health Couple.

We worked in the office and had another good week from our cubicle, we also had a fun play day. Elder Thong and I were the first to ever ride the Ocean Park Mine Train roller coaster with Virtual Reality Goggles. It was really fun to have this pioneering experience as a missionary, it connected me to my pioneering ancestors. Elder Thong is from Singapore and Sister Thong is from Hong Kong and were called from Seattle where they will be returning after their Mission. They met while attending school at BYU Hawaii and he is currently serving as the Area Financial Auditor. We have become good friends and will miss the daily association we share with them as Missionaries. Developing new life time friendships has been another wonderful perk allowed us by serving here in Hong Kong.

              Ocean Park with Elder and Sister Thong

We went to lunch with Thongs to the "Jumbo Floating Restaurant"  in Aberdeen.  We had Dim Sum.  A little scary having Chinese people make your menu selections for Dim Sum,  but we survived!

FHE with the Senior Missionaries.  Dad and Eder Thong trying to make music with the pop bottles.  They did pretty good! 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Saying Goodbye to Sister Barcocols

Our December calendar is beginning to look the Chinese New Year fireworks. We have so much going on here right now that it will be difficult to keep up with it all. Karen knows how to use the invite function in Outlook and is wearing it out here in December.

This week begin  visiting a secluded white sand beach on the east side of the peninsula at Clear Water Bay. The temperature was in the low sixties so besides ourselves there were only a couple other people on the beach. We enjoyed the sounds and sights of the serf as each wave would form, crest, and crash before disappearing into the sand.

After about an hour we left and stopped for lunch at Big Bite when we received a message that Sister Barcolcols’ brother had passed away unexpectedly, and she would be leaving to go home to the Philippines later that day or in the morning. Her flight was postponed a day, so we were able to see her and offer our condolences before she left.

We love and worry about the Sister Missionaries serving here that after their Missions are returning to a quality of life that would be difficult to endure. We wish there was more we could do for them and their families.

Horse racing is big here in Hong Kong and has been for years. I remember as a young Missionary seeing billboards advertising the races at the “Happy Valley Race Track” and hearing the name, “the Hong Kong Jockey Club”. So, Karen and I mostly out of curiosity decided to go to the races this week. Having never been we did not know quite what to expect and are pleased to report that it was a lot of fun. The horses were amazing, not only were they physically marvelous but the way they competed against each other to win was more like a human than an animal.

We had a good week at the office and continue to progress with the Opinion Leader Data Base and CRM. We had productive conference calls with both Salt Lake and Washington D.C. concerning how we can best utilize the system. We also saw “Light the World” kick off in all the countries in our area and are excited about the campaign being a great success similar to last year.

We took the Filipino Sister Missionaries (Sister Cory joined us), to lunch to say a sad goodbye to Sister Barcolcols (sitting to the left of me).   Her brother passed away,  President Lam sent her home to stay.  She would have completed her mission here in February.   He told her she needed to be home with her family and finish her mission teaching them the gospel.  Sister Barcolcols and her brother  were the only 2 members in all of her immediate and extended family.  Her brother had completed his mission and was engaged to be married in the Manilla Temple in May. 

Left to right:  E/S Beckstead,  Sister Barcolcols, Sister Cory, Sister Salangnad.

Who would have thought our first horse race would be in Hong Kong!  This was really fun!