Reflections of Senior Missionary Sister Becky Hunter Canada Vancouver, British Columbia Mission
I hadn’t paid much attention to the weather except to appreciate that the prayers of the people for much-needed rain seemed answered. I didn’t hear or notice the three trees in my apartment complex crash to the ground—I’d been in my own whirlwind inside the kitchen fixing treats for Kushal’s baptism. Most of the lower mainland, some 500,000 households according to national news, lost power just before noon. Our water disappeared at the same time. Without water and power, I settled onto the couch and waited. My greatest fear was that Kushal, a Hindu by birth, might view the storm as a warning against his baptism.
Three hours before the scheduled event, a call came from our Zone leaders, the Elders in charge of filling the baptismal font. The outage was wide-spread including the chapel—no way to fill the font, no way to light the room. Kushal began meeting with the missionaries 6 six months earlier. Elders Green and Hall transferred six weeks or more ago, so Elders Kelly and Reynolds picked up where they had left off. Kushal, for his part, wanted to be baptized early on, but the language barriers and cultural differences felt like walls to the most basic understanding needed to make the sacred covenant. The ward council fasted for Kushal. The missionaries persisted. Kushal persisted. Now, here it was the day of his baptism and the great storm filled the streets, but not the font. An air of fear blew in—fear of postponement.
The worst of the destructive winds calmed, but the rain still came in bursts, pelting the streets and broken branches, soaking the cleanup crews, but not stopping them. By 1:30 p.m. another set of missionaries across town began filling the font at the only other LDS church building in Surrey, remarkably, the only one with any power anywhere near. We were still on for 3:00 p.m. Elder Hunter and I had the charge to pick Kushal up and get him to the new location by 2:00 p.m. Trees and debris cluttered the streets and impatient lines of cars snaked back from dark traffic lights at intersections in every direction. We pulled off onto a side street and found the way clear all the way to Kushal’s apartment. We crossed our fingers, hoping the violent storm hadn’t dampened his spirits. When he seated himself in the back seat and closed the car door I nervously mumbled something about the morning’s turmoil. In his soft voice, but heavy East Indian accent he exclaimed, “Everything is in motion today because God is so excited, God says, ‘Kushal is coming, Kushal is coming.’” I sat in humble amazement at his pure perspective as my eyes filled with tears.
Kushal smiled throughout the proceedings in spite of having no family other than the dozen missionaries and Delta ward leadership present. A humble and gentle man bowed and nodded to everyone in his traditional fashion. A crowd gathered around the warm font and Kushal accepted the covenant and slipped easily beneath the water and came back up again, a new man—a grateful man by all appearances.
The closing song echoed the words “I want my life to be as clean as earth right after rain . . . to be the best I can to live with God again.” I thought of the storm outside, how it broke away the dead wood, thinned overly heavy branches and toppled trees with shallow roots; how it took away some of our wonderful, but non-essential things for a little while; how it gave us an appreciation for the power and wisdom of God. I pondered on the similarity of our baptismal covenants and the journey of hope we undertake as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; how some are weeded out by life’s tempests while others are stretched and strengthened. We enjoyed congratulations and refreshments before bidding farewell until the confirmation Sunday morning.
Power to a few sections of the city returned just before our 9:00 a.m. Sacrament meeting Sunday morning, but not at our church building. The bishopric canceled the 7:00 a.m. ward council meeting and instead called in the young missionaries to set up chairs in the Relief Society room—the only room with any kind of light. Outside, Sisters Holbrook and Gregory held open the front doors and beckoned skeptical ward members into the dark as they directed everyone past a blaring security alarm down the long, black hall towards the dim slip of light emanating from the Relief Society room in the back of the building.
The Aaronic Priesthood finished preparing the Sacrament on a small table normally used for class rooms. The bishop’s second counselor put a portable podium on another table next to the sacrament as the room filled with cautious ward members. Our luxurious chapel sat dark and empty while the Relief Society room absorbed light from the two tall windows to the east and the smiles of the congregation. We sat shoulder to shoulder—no empty benches separating us for the first time since I’d been there. Even the chairs in the kitchen filled to overflow. Bishop Teixeira cautioned the congregation against loud, casual conversation in order to maintain the sacredness of the gathering. We looked for Kushal in the crowd. He had not arrived by the time the meeting started at 9:00 a.m. We wondered if Kushal was coming. We each prayed that he would. At the beginning of the service, Brother Santos remarked about the unusual nature of the situation, how it reminded him of his time growing up in the Philippines where electricity was sporadic at best. His normally quiet voice strained to reach the members seated in the kitchen.
We sang “Did You Think to Pray?” to open the meeting. The words seemed to fit our circumstance. “Oh, how praying rests the weary, Prayer will change the night to day. So, when life gets dark and dreary, don’t forget to pray.” We’d certainly felt the dark and dreary over the last day and night. And we’d all prayed for the power to return so Kushal could be confirmed. Just after the opening song Kushal and Brother Prasad, the High Priest Group Leader came through the doors and sat in two empty chairs in the front row within feet of the Sacrament table, the priests, deacons and the congregation. Brother Prasad is of East Indian heritage himself, having emigrated from Fiji some years before after joining the Church as a lad. He speaks Hindi. Bishop Teixeira called Kushal and the missionaries and members who had worked with Kushal to the front of the room to help in the ordinance of confirmation and the bestowing of the gift of Holy Ghost. Kushal sat on a chair facing concentric semicircles of ward members seated around every inch of the room. The Melchizedek Priesthood holders put their hands on Kushal’s head. Brother Prasad began the ordinance in English, but after saying the words “Receive the Holy Ghost” he switched to Hindi so that Kushal could not misinterpret the blessing and advice he pronounced on him. The members listened, trusting the love and strength of Brother Prasad and the Lord to relay the needed message.
Kushal had come. He was welcomed into the Church by the members of the Delta Ward gathered in the dimmed light of a heavy gray sky. Each member, by lifting their hands to the square accepted the responsibility of bringing Kushal Sra into their lives, love and faith. It felt real and personal, sitting so close together in our unusual circumstances—aware of the difference, treasuring it. The deacons passed the Sacrament to a silent, attentive congregation. Kushal partook as a member for the first time. The meeting continued with talks assigned weeks ago—no high pulpit, no space between speaker and listener. We leaned forward together to hear their messages. Bishop Teixeira stood and confided that the Bishopric had determined that no matter the circumstance, this meeting needed to take place so that Kushal could come fully into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
We closed the meeting to the words and tune of “Come, Come Ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear but with joy wend your way . . . do this and joy your hearts will swell, All is well, All is well.” And so it was that Sunday, a delightful Sabbath filled with light and joy, because, Kushal did come and it is well, it is well.