Last weekend we saw a great miracle in Chungjeong ward. A little background for you to start. About a year and a half ago, Sister Cho was baptized. She met the missionaries and fell in love with the gospel. But, her parents were against it. In her family, religion was a sore topic just because no one could agree on anything- Buddhist, Christian, nothing- and then here she came along saying she wanted to get baptized into the Mormon church. Her dad refused to agree with her decision, but after she talked with him and, as he said, “bore strong testimony,” he agreed to at least be ok with her choice. Then the age change happened and so she put in her mission papers as fast as she could! The ward thought it would be so great while she was serving in the Seoul South mission to baptize her parents as a present! The only problem was that her parents had negative interest in meeting with missionaries or coming to church.
It was a joyous and sad Sunday when I said goodbye to Sister Cho and two other girls from Chungjeong as they set off for the MTC in May. But a few weeks after Sister Cho left, her parents invited all the Gwangju missionaries to their restaurant for a dinner. I think when your kid goes off on a mission your heart is softened a little because you now understand what the missionaries are going through. We took that as our in! The elders started visiting every week, and we would go every other week or so to eat or try to share a message. It was important that the elders go because the stone heart seemed to be Sister Cho’s dad. He still kind of scares me a little. It was stress in our ward because we would visit, but since we were meeting them in their restaurant it was hard for any of us to share a message or teach anything.
Then, one Sunday they showed up at church. No warning at all! I went to say hi and Sister Cho’s mom got mad at me because I hadn’t been over in a few weeks (we didn’t want to overwhelm their business with missionaries, you know?) and told me I better come that week or else. That’s when the miracles started happening. They started reading the Book of Mormon, they came to church every week, they welcomed the overeager members into their lives, and would sit down with the elders to talk about the gospel. Then, one day, one of the elders called me and said, “Guess who’s getting baptized?!” They had agreed to be baptized! As soon as they made the commitment, Sister Cho’s dad called her mission president and asked if she could come to the service. I’ve never heard of such a thing, but he said yes, so not only would her parents be getting baptized while she was serving, but she would get to see it for herself! I, personally, started counting down.
The only hold up was that her dad still “couldn’t” pray and was still struggling with smoking. Mormons don’t smoke, so in order to be baptized someone has to kick the habit as part of their preparation. Nothing we taught seemed to help. Then one evening, Sister Cho’s dad called me and asked if I could come over the next night. Sisters and elders can’t eat together, but he had called our mission president and asked for an exception. That man really knows how to get stuff done. So the next night the elders shared scriptures from Enos in the Book of Mormon about the power of prayer. Her dad just kept saying he couldn’t, he couldn’t. Then I had an idea. I asked if either of them had thought to pray for their daughter. Whenever we pray for others, I believe that our prayers are more powerful because we are putting someone else’s needs above our own. I told them that on my mission whatever my mom prayed for for me usually came to fruition before whatever I was praying for did. I challenged them to pray for Sister Cho. For her health, for her safety, for the people she was meeting, anything. I don’t know if what I said had any affect at all, but I know that within the few weeks before their baptism, they started praying individually, together, AND he stopped smoking! Maybe it was just the hope of seeing their daughter, the desire to take that first step of baptism to becoming an eternal family, the faint hint of a better life, whatever it was, it worked.
My companion and I got to the church early to prepare last minute things for the baptism, and while rummaging around the missionary room, one of the elders came in and told us that they were here. I could hardly contain my excitement! I went out into the hall and saw Sister Cho. She got this HUGE smile on her face and we ran/skipped to each other and hugged for the longest time! When we stopped hugging, she had tears in her eyes, and no words. Even though I’d only known her for a short time before her mission, I could feel the love and bond we had in the gospel. It was the most wonderful feeling! An overwhelming happiness and peace that is hard to describe. I think her parents saw us and just thought we were nuts! It was SUCH a joyous day! As they were taking pictures together before changing into their baptism white, she would come up to me and we’d just smile and hug all over again. The whole afternoon while I conducted the music for the service or while we ate rice cakes afterward, every time we caught the other’s eye, there was just this understanding of love and friendship.
I honestly believe I know what heaven will feel like when we are reunited with the people we have loved and missed. There wasn’t even sadness when she had to leave back to her mission because the joy of seeing each other had been so amazing. This week when we visited her parents, I asked her mom if she missed her, and she told me that it was the most interesting thing, that she still missed her, but now she had this comfort and reassurance that took away the ache and pain she had felt from missing her daughter. Ah, the miracle of a baptism! And not even that, but now they are on the path to go to the temple and be sealed together forever as a family. What a great blessing of the restored gospel and restored priesthood, that one day we can have the confidence that we will see our families again. Again and forever.