Meetings for the Island 2nd (English) Branch, Hong Kong China (English) District are an all-day affair on Sundays. And the Victoria 2nd (English) Branch of the same Hong Kong district can top that, since branch meetings are conducted just as long, but five days each week.
The two are among the five "international" branches located in Hong Kong, both comprised predominantly of Filipino and Indonesian women employed as domestic helpers in the homes of the city's wealthier families.
The members' employment schedules — only one day off a week and unable to receive visitors — and financial situations require Church leaders to be creative in providing meetings, training and social interactions for these branch members, many who are recent converts.
The Island 2nd Branch conducts many meetings on Sunday for the 200-plus members who have that day off. Besides the regular three-hour block of worship services and classes, additional meetings afterward may include family home evening, institute, visiting and home teaching sessions, enrichment classes and financial management instruction.
Given the length of the day's schedule and an additional opportunity for interaction with fellow Saints, branch members often squeeze in a shared meal.
"Everything pretty much happens on Sunday," said Island 2nd Branch President A. Terry Oakes, who works as the Asia Area director of temporal affairs.
Serving more than 250 members, the Victoria 2nd Branch is for those whose day off is one other than Sunday, with a similar full slate of meetings and classes provided daily from Tuesday to Saturday. Subunits of the branch are created according to one's available day — a "Tuesday Family, "Wednesday Family" and so forth.
"They just soak it up like sponges — they really do feel the Spirit," said Elder Lee Workman, who with his wife, Sister Carol Workman, left home in Rexburg, Idaho, early this summer as Church-service missionaries, arriving in Hong Kong to then learn of his assignment to preside over a branch that meets five days a week.
Many of the Filipino members in Hong Kong's international branches follow cultural tradition that when the oldest daughter becomes of age, she is expected to provide a living for the family.
They arrive in Hong Kong — some single, others having left husbands and even children behind, and all attracted to a government-standard minimum monthly salary of 3,500 Hong Kong dollars (approximately US $500).
They try to send as much as possible back to the Philippines — some retaining as little as HKD 150 (US $20). Local Church leaders sense the urgency to teach money matters — paying tithing, striving for self-reliance, setting aside emergency money and having a financial plan.
"They're highly intelligent sisters," said President Oakes, adding "we counsel them that the Church is family-centered and they've got to have a plan to get home."
During his tenure as branch president, he has seen several of his members leave on missions, a few others get married in the temple and another handful return home.
Elder Workman said nearly 40 percent of his branch membership are converts of a year or less, and there are always at least a couple of investigators attending each week — sometimes as many as 10 to 15.
"There's a real spirit of missionary work here — there's a lot of converts and they want to share the gospel," he said, adding "they bring people into the Church every day."
Literally so — from Tuesday to Sunday.
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