Monday, May 17, 2010

I Don't Believe In Coincidences

It was the fall of 1969.  I was still a Greenie Missionary having only been in the Mission Field for three months (I had eaten Balut by then, so maybe not - depends who you ask and how you measure such things).  The church in the Philippines was in a great expansion period directed by President Paul S. Rose.  Elder Daniel Johnson and I were given the blessed assignment of opening the city of Dumaguete on the Oriental side of Negros Island.

President Augusto Lim was a Counselor to President Rose.  Dumaguete was President Lim's home town.  He graciously accompanied us to Dumaguete to introduce us around and help us get established.  We stayed in his parents' home for a couple of weeks until we were able to rent a place to live and hold meetings.

There was one member of the Church in Dumaguete, when we arrived; President Lim's sister Dalisay.  Not too long after our arrival, his sister Beverly was our first baptism in that wonderful place.  Elder Johnson labored in Dumaguete for five months and then was released to go home.  I stayed another month or so.  We were blessed to bring four souls into the Church in those precious days.  Beverly Lim, Loline Valero, Grace and Virginia Llego.  We had some disappointment that the numbers were so few after having labored so diligently.

We were comforted by a promise we'd received from President David O. McKay.  In the Mission Home in Salt Lake City, we were given a promise from the prophet that there would one day be a convert baptism for every Book of Mormon we placed.  In Dumaguete, Elder Johnson and I placed over 1200 Book of Mormons.

I lost track of Elder Johnson.  I made several attempts to find him but was unsuccessful.  I even visited his hometown in Washington on a couple of occasions and checked the directory and asked around among the locals, all to no avail.

About ten years ago, my nephew received a mission call.  I was invited to attend the Temple with him when he recieved his Endowment.  I was seated in the Temple chapel, waiting for the session to start when, to my great surprise and inexpressable joy, in walked Grace Llego, one of our four converts from Dumaguete.  We recognized one another imediately, but were unable to converse until we found one another in the Celestial Room.  What a joyous reunion is was.  What a joy to introduce my nephew to the flourishing fruit of my labors.  Grace had met and married an American working in the Philippines.  A member of the Church named Greg Frame.  They had moved to Grand Junction, Colorado which was in Vernal's Temple District.

What a blessing it is to have reconnected with Grace and to learn of her life and joy in the gospel.  Additionally, I learned of her sweet sister, Virginia and even some about the others.  I was replaced in Dumaguete by Elder Beecher.  As Grace's parents hadn't joined the church and weren't much support, Elder Beecher had arranged for Grace to be a pen pal with his sister back home.  They wrote consistently for quite a while and became good friends.  Then, somehow they lost track of one another.  Years passed and Grace moved to Colorado.  Shortly after their arrival she received a visit from her new Relief Society President.  As they got acquainted it became apparent the Grace was from the Philippines, so the visiting sister mentioned that she once had a pen pal from there.  Sure was indeed they, who'd been pen pals. 

And, now she and I were also reunited after 30 long years.

A couple of weeks ago I was surprised to get a letter from Daniel Johnson.  He too had a desire to reconnect and was a bit more able than I in his ability to track down an old pal.  He had another amazing story to report.  He'd gone to visit a daughter who is now living in Maryland.  While there he and Sister Johnson went to church.  In attendance that day was Loline Valero Lim, married to Ismael Lim, Augusto's brother.  They too, were visiting children abroad.  That connection led to the Johnsons making a trip back to the Philippines and to Dumaguete.  There they found a warm welcome and several Branches of the Church.

We had been counselled in those days to avoid keeping contact with our converts.  The thinking was that we wanted them to be weaned from the missionaries and to depend upon God.  I had often mourned the fact that I had no idea how anyone was doing.  Now, God has miraculously brought them back into my life and I can't express enough, how grateful I am for that great gift.  Some folks might call all of this a coincidence - I do not.  These remarkable events, against extremely long odds, have been orchestrated by a loving Father who grants such tender mercies in abundance to his children.  Children of whom He is obviously very fond.

I haven't yet spoken or corresponded with Beverly or Loline but that day shouldn't be too far hence.  Just yesterday I got a CD from Dan containing photos from 1969 and from his recent visit. The flood of memories those pictures restored to my mind is overwhelming.

 Now a whole new generation is emerging from those four sweet daughters of Zion.  Among them, missionaries, who are continuing to share the blessed truth.  Grace, even had a son who went to France?!  They say there are close to 1200 members of the Church in Dumaguete today.  A prophecy fulfilled; one for every Book of Mormon we placed.  Another promise was also fulfilled ... "how great shall be your joy with them in the Kingdom of my Father."


Wally said...

What a beautiful story! God really does orchestrate our lives to bles us.

Cindi said...

That is just awesome to reconnect with such special people.

Anonymous said...

I am Renato F. Gutierrez of the Moreno Valley, CA ward. I was taught and probably baptized by Elders whiting and Elder Beecher in Dumaguete. I was confirmed Elder by Elder Dewitt Cross Smith. The husband of Sister was not Victor but Dr. Ismael Lim. Victor did not get Baptized. He was the one who said he will join the church only if his father Leon will. My email address is

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