On Mothers’ Day weekend in May 2000, Tom Housholder was away from his Utah home on business in Portland, Oregon. Knowing that his wife, Marla, could enjoy a break from her constant care of six children, he bought airline tickets to Victoria, BC for a getaway trip. Charmed by their surroundings on the Island, the entire family made the excursion again several weeks later.
Then it was back to work for Tom at his high-stress government job. “I was working 100 to 120 hours a week and travelling nearly every day, leaving Marla to run the home alone.” To top it off, a visit to his doctor friend revealed that Tom’s blood pressure was “off the charts.” “You need to change your career,” he urged, “With your family medical history, you’re a perfect candidate for a stroke or heart attack, and you’re not even fifty!”
“I thought about making a change, but I could find no opportunity,” says Tom. “Then one day, I received a pink slip.” Now Tom was unemployed, 50 years old and not able to find other employment in his field.
Ten months into unemployment, Tom and Marla looked at each other and said, “Maybe we should take a leap of faith and go find our own bed and breakfast property,” --a dream long held by both of them.
After reviewing thousands of B&B properties “everywhere from New England to New Zealand, we couldn’t find the one that we wanted to operate,” recalls Tom.
Sometime later in September 2003, Brother and Sister Housholder attended the Bountiful Utah Temple with a purpose “to ask the Lord for direction about where He wanted them. We knew that we were not supposed to stay in Utah. We needed to know where we were supposed to be.”
Then the windows began to open.
“I remember the day, October 15, 2003, when I was doing a daily search for bed-and-breakfast opportunities. I found a listing for one in Port Alberni that jumped out at me! I took it to Marla and jokingly said, ‘Here’s our bed-and-breakfast!'”
When Tom called the property agent’s number, the man responded, “How did you know about it? It has been taken off the listings.” Again, the Housholders felt the Lord’s hand in their plans.
Soon they were on their way to Port Alberni to study the property, accompanied by Marla’s parents. Following five days of questions, answers and calculations with the owners, Tom and Marla felt ready to change the course of their lives and move to Canada.
“When Marla’s parents dropped us off at the airport, we asked her father for counsel in what we should do. He said, ‘You would be foolish not to do this.’” They had his blessing, the property owners’ agreement and the Canadian exchange rate was 70-cents to one American dollar. “The timing was ideal,” says Tom.
“Marla and I sat down and made a list of everything that had to be done to make this happen, says Tom. It included 25 items! Every one of them was a “Mount Everest task”, including the immigration application process. “The Lord knew His timing, because if I had been 52 years old, I would have been turned down. At the time, I was just three days shy of age 52, Tom recalls.
Quickly and miraculously, all of the daunting tasks were accomplished with the exception of the most difficult of obstacles -- selling their home in Utah and financing the purchase of the lodging facilities in Canada.
After attempting negotiations with 48 lending institutions, the Housholders’ backs were against the wall. “On our fourth trip to Port Alberni, I began to realize that the lenders were reluctant to issue a mortgage to a non-Canadian citizen and that this was not going to happen.’ Tom recalls. “That meant that we would lose the $25,000 escrow deposit.”
During what they thought was their final attempt, Tom arose early to attend a meeting of the local chamber of commerce. During the meeting, the chamber president and president of a local bank was introduced to Tom. “I’m very proud of the progress of this community, and I’m familiar with the property you’re interested in,” noted the chamber president. “Let me make some calls.”
Tom and Marla returned to Utah, wondering whether their dream and the Lord’s direction would come to pass. Within a few days after their last meeting in Port Alberni, the chamber of commerce president returned a call to the Housholders. “Can you be at the Nanaimo bank at eleven o’clock in three days?” he asked.
The Housholder’s scrambled to arrange a flight. “I remember that Friday morning when we drove into Nanaimo,” Tom recalls. “We walked into the bank and a lady walks up and says, ‘Are you the Housholders? Just a moment, we have some papers for you to sign.’”
“It was just 30 seconds later she returned and said, “We’re going to think out-of-the-box and do this for you. We’re going to give you a 25-year mortgage on the property with excellent terms.” It was then Tom and Marla learned that since their initial application for a loan to buy the property, interest rates had been cut by half.
“We signed the document and walked out of the office in tears,” says Tom. “Twenty-four hours before, we had accepted the fact that the deal wasn’t going to happen, but the Lord saw us through.”
“Even signing the documents was a great exercise of our faith because we couldn’t purchase the property in Canada if we didn’t sell our Utah home,” Tom remembers. “The Lord wanted us here. He made those 25 mountains disappear.”
Though grateful for the Lord's hand in their decisions, the Housholder’s still wondered, “Why we are here?. What does the Lord want us to do? What is the purpose behind it?”
Two months after arriving in Port Alberni, members of the bishopric called Tom and Marla to organize an Institute of Religion program for the Alberni Valley. “We enlisted 15 students,” Tom says. “For four years, they attended every Tuesday night for two hours in the lodge.” From that group, the Housholders note that five members have served missions and at least four have married in a temple.
“We thought that was our ‘calling,’ why the Lord brought us here, but that was back in July of 2004.” After they received permanent Canadian resident status in 2005, the stake president visited with Brother and Sister Housholder. “Tom,” said the president, “the Lord has called you to be the bishop.”
But even with the blessings came additional miracles disguised as trials. During his term as bishop, Tom and Marla’s youngest daughter, Juliann, was diagnosed with cancer. “If we had not had this business, we would not have been able to pay for a substantial portion of her cancer treatment,” says Tom.
“We look at the past decade and what good has happened to our family, especially the things that have been good for our children,” he says.
Does the Lord direct our paths? Sometimes we don't understand our own needs or how we can change, but it is important to heed the spirit and listen to the messages that prompt us to take a different direction. If we move forward with faith that the Lord hears our prayers and will smooth the way, then we can achieve both our goals and His. Looking back, we can see the miracles of faith that moved mountains to open new pathways.
Links: Juliann's story: https://www.lds.org/new-era/2003/08/its-just-hair?lang=eng