This week we want to share the story of an amazing missionary miracle. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a miracle is "an extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by nature or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to divine agency." Missionary work is a work of miracles. We have seen so many during the past couple of years. Sometimes they just look like coincidences (but the timing is so perfect they are more than that). Sometimes they are unmistakable divine intervention that defy all odds. But always we give thanks and recognize that all good things in our lives come from God. Miracles just need to be recognized and appreciated.
This story is one that we heard first person from President John Gonzalez toward the end of 2011 while we were on our first mission, but it was recently published in Meridian Magazine online. We think it's worth repeating. President Gonzalez' daughter was a favorite student in one of the Institute classes we taught in Washington, D.C.
While President Gonzalez was presiding over the California Fresno Mission a few years earlier, a new missionary arrived from Tonga. President Gonzalez felt impressed to assign him to work with his first companion in the city of Patterson. A day or two after the Tongan elder's arrival, as the two young men were out knocking on doors in Patterson, a pregnant young woman opened the door and upon seeing them, rushed forward to give the Tongan elder a big hug. As his companion stood in surprised silence, the Tongan elder and the young woman had a joyful reunion. It was soon explained that the young woman was his sister, Leloni, whom he hadn't seen in almost ten years. She had recognized something familiar about her little brother's face and when she looked down at his name tag, her hopes were confirmed.
The elders were invited inside and the rest of the story began to unfold. While still in Tonga, Leloni had fallen in love with a young Catholic man, married him and moved to America. With little money and no access to a computer or cell phone, she eventually lost contact with her family. They only knew that she lived somewhere in America. Leloni was now pregnant and expecting a child in several weeks. She and her husband had recently been discussing religion and what part it would play in their family.
This is a portion of President Gonzalez' written account of what happened next: "They [Leloni and her husband] started to argue about which Christian religion their new child should attend - the Mormon Church or the Catholic Church. The husband then made a rather startling promise. He said to his wife, 'If your brother knocks on my door, then I'll join the Mormon church, and we'll raise our baby to be L.D.S.!' Smugly confident that the argument was now over, he quickly dropped the issue."
"The two missionaries were... told of the promise Leloni's husband had made earlier in the week about joining the L.D.S. Church. Arrangements were soon made to teach her husband the restored gospel, and the discussions were taught and accepted. True to his word, as soon as he felt the Spirit confirm the truthfulness of the gospel message, Leloni's husband was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church."
"This miraculous and happy story does not end there. His conversion was heartfelt and sincere. He did not convert solely due to his earlier promise about their unborn baby. After a year of faithful church attendance, this wonderful couple, together with their new baby, was sealed together as an eternal family in the Oakland California Temple." President Gonzalez called the Missionary Department in Salt Lake City to obtain permission for the Tongan Elder to leave his mission boundaries and attend the ceremony in Oakland.
President Gonzalez calculates that the odds were well over 1 in 300,000,000 that an elder would come from Tonga, be assigned to the Fresno Mission, then to Patterson, California, and be out knocking on doors on his sister's street within a few days of arriving in his mission.
Some may call it coincidence. We call it the hand of a merciful God who knows and loves each one of His children. Through faith and prayer, God's mighty miracles often come to pass. ~Pat and Don~