In the Fall of 1993, when my companion and I knocked on the door of the Robert Suranyi and Evelynn Ioannidis' family home, a beautiful young mother answered the door with a squirming toddler in her arms and a sweet three-year-old hiding behind her mom's legs. I explained that we had a message to share with her about families, but she asked us to come back at a better time.
Soon after, we returned and shared the video “Together Forever.” Following a few visits where we discussed the importance of families, we began the missionary discussions with Evelynn. Her husband, we were told he would not likely be interested.
After the first discussion, we explained with our message on The Family that it was only appropriate to have both husband and wife present. Arrangements were made, prayers were answered and the missionary discussions began with the couple.
Six weeks following what seemed to be intense, spirit-felt and faith-promoting experiences, the gospel discussions were completed, and Robert and Evelynn were baptized that December as their two children, Krystal and Erik, watched peacefully.
Through their faith and dedication, the couple soon prepared themselves to enter the temple. The family traveled to Utah, and on 1 August 1995, they entered the Salt Lake Temple on their eighth anniversary. That August morning, Robert, Evelynn and their precious children were sealed together as an eternal family. My former mission companion, Elder Bobby Seegmiller and I were again fortunate to be involved with the family in this holy and happy moment.
Since that time, we have maintained our close relationship through letters, email messages and Christmas cards.
Fast forward now 15 years to April 2010. Elder Seegmiller and I had planned a return trip to our former mission area during the past 12 weeks. Old missionary journals were resurrected, photos dusted off and other prized items gathered from that time. He and I spoke once or twice a week and were hardly able to contain ourselves from the anticipation of the trip.
When we arrived in Vancouver late Friday evening, we were greeted by the Suranyi family with welcoming hugs and warm food. We ate, talked, cried tears of joy and laughed until late into the early morning hours. The only reason for sleep that night was to be rested for our Saturday morning visit to the Vancouver British Columbia Temple Open House.
That evening we attended “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” play at the New Westminster Massey Theatre. The show was spectacular as we watched 17-year old Erik Ioannidis perform as Judah (and understudy for Joseph). The words and performance were lovely. In Erik’s big song, I looked over at his parents and I felt choked up with happiness as I saw the love they had for their children. My favorite line of the show was when Joseph is locked into prison and said: “You are never alone when you are one of the children of Israel.”
It may not be on the mountain height or over the stormy sea,
It may not be at the battle’s front my Lord will have need of me.
But if, by a still, small voice he calls to paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine: I’ll go where you want me to go.
The Spirit whispered to me again that I was at that very moment exactly where I was supposed to be and I absorbed the heavenly joy of missionary work.
Robert and Evelynn’s two children, now young adults, are also brave and courageous. It is certainly not easy being one of a few Church members in a neighborhood, circle of friends, classmates or family, yet the members of this family feel the love that the gospel brings into the lives of those who adhere to the teachings of Jesus. They are true stalwarts and examples to those in their community and I now learn from them.
Having had the privilege of being part of this family's marvelous conversion, I feel that I was called to the Canada Vancouver Mission for a distinct reason. The Spirit converts. We are only instruments, yet the Holy Ghost invited Elder Seegmiller and me to “tag along”. He chose us to help Him.