Church History
From Orphan to Missionary

“From Orphan to Missionary,” Global Histories: Hong Kong (2021)

“From Orphan to Missionary,” Global Histories: Hong Kong

From Orphan to Missionary

“I left Guilin, China … in the Fall of 1949 with my grandaunt, her daughter, and my three younger half-sisters … to join my stepmother in Hong Kong.” Until then, the life of 葛肇媛 Koot Siu Yuen (Nora) consisted of “blurred memories of somberness and sadness.” Her mother died at or soon after her birth. She rarely saw her father, who died in 1947 when Nora was eight or nine, and she was raised by her grandmother and then her grandaunt.

The same year Nora’s family left Guilin, Latter-day Saint missionaries arrived in Hong Kong. The Church established its quarters in the neighborhood where Nora’s family settled. Nora’s aunt encouraged the girls to go to the mission home to take English lessons. Nora’s interest in the gospel was piqued.

Nora (about 13 years old) and her sisters were baptized December 31, 1950, in a mountain stream as the first converts in Hong Kong. Hazel Robertson, who had to come with her husband, Hilton Robertson, to open the mission, arranged for blankets in which to wrap the new converts, but Nora remembers, “I had no need for them. … The spiritual warmth of that winter day has always remained with me.”

The Korean conflict again halted missionary work. In 1955 the Church opened a new Southern Far East Mission, with headquarters in Hong Kong. As one of the veteran members, Nora became instrumental in helping the mission become established, teaching Sunday School and tutoring foreign missionaries in Chinese. In May 1957 she became one of the first Hongkongers to serve a full-time mission. She served for two and a half years. During her mission she and her companion opened missionary work in Tai Po, a rural area of Hong Kong. At their first Sunday meeting in Tai Po, Nora conducted the meeting, led the music, and gave the Sunday School lesson while her foreign companion said the prayers. They taught many young people who later joined the Church and formed the early core of the Tai Po Branch.

Nora Siu Koot

Koot Siu Yuen (Nora), circa 1957.

Nora also served in Taiwan. Sister Chang 張董均 had just moved to Taipei and was hoping to find someone with whom to study the gospel when Sister Koot knocked at her door. “In teaching the gospel, she talked very eloquently, was full of confidence, and was very gentle and lovely,” Sister Chang remembered. In subsequent lessons Nora and other missionaries answered her urgent questions about prophets, and Sister Chang and her son and daughter were eventually baptized. Sister Chang declared, “It was the good example of the servants of God that made it possible for me to know the truth.”