When Peter the Apostle rushed to the side of Tabitha, he knew that she was a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ who had just passed away. After entering the upper chamber where friends watched over her body, “Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive” (Acts 9:40-41). Tabitha had been lifted by an Apostle of Jesus Christ from death unto life.
A Latter-day Tabitha
When Tabitha Kroeker of Abbotsford, British Columbia was wheeled into the emergency ward of her overcrowded local hospital in the summer of 2019, it was one more visit to this unhappy place where she had been all too often. Her diagnosis of an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis (MS) two years earlier at the age of 31 had brought her to a dark place in her life. Added to a significant hearing deficiency from birth, this most recent affliction had become a greater challenge, leaving little hope for a joyful future. One great blessing in Tabitha’s life has been the unfailing love and support of her parents Mike and Sandra.
Someone Will Help
For some time, Tabitha had experienced a recurring dream wherein her grandmother and friend would climb to the top of a very high mountain, but Tabitha was not able to get beyond a certain point. The dream became just another discouragement.
Two days before her emergency hospital visit, however, something changed in Tabitha’s dream. This time, instead of failing, Tabitha was able to reach the summit of that great mountain along with her grandmother and friend. Her grandmother was thrilled. She hugged and kissed Tabitha and assured her that things would become better for her. In Tabitha’s words, “someone was waiting to help me.”
Tabitha’s visit to the hospital came at a time when the hospital was operating at the edges of its capacity requiring staff to place patients on beds along the walls of the corridors of the emergency ward. As Tabitha lay there feeling discouraged, a fellow patient began a conversation with her. Doug Clarke Sr., a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had been brought to the emergency ward having fallen and broken several ribs while entering his home. Brother Clarke and his wife, Jean, began conversing with Tabitha and the conversation became gospel centered. Brother Clarke asked Tabitha if she would like to learn more about his church and its beliefs. Tabitha was at once grateful and willing to learn more about these spiritual matters. Brother and Sister Clarke could also see the Lord’s hand in guiding the events that had brought Brother Clarke to the hospital.
The Clarkes quickly arranged for the missionary elders to come to the hospital and download the Gospel Library App to Tabitha’s cell phone.
She could now read for herself, and she did. The sister missionaries began to visit and were astounded at Tabitha’s desire to learn all she could. Her spirit was lifted, and her heart longed for the message of Christ and His restored Church. In her own words, “I felt the spirit many times witness to me, as I was learning about the gospel, that it was true.”
Tabitha’s loving parents and sister were so kind in their support. Her mother, Sandra, told her to “follow her own heart.” Tabitha’s dream was unfolding. Her life was being blessed. As her dream had promised, someone had been, indeed, “waiting to help her.”
Preparing for Baptism
Once she was released from hospital the sister missionaries continued to meet with and teach Tabitha. The Clarkes attended and shared their deep testimonies during the lessons. Tabitha began to attend Church services each week. The sister missionaries, Sister Funaki and Sister Luki, were deeply moved by Tabitha’s commitment to her study and her prayerful attitude. They described the depth of her desire to learn more about the Book of Mormon as “amazing.” They were humbled by Tabitha’s hard work and willingness to do whatever was needed to prepare for her baptism.
Given her confinement to a special wheelchair, her overall health challenges, and her need to be transported in a specially equipped taxi, Tabitha’s consistent attendance at Church services was a powerful example. During her first sacrament meeting, three newly baptized members were confirmed.
Tabitha was deeply moved while witnessing these confirmations. She said, “I felt good and happy … and I felt the Holy Ghost.” This confirmed to Tabitha that “this was the place I need to be” and that she also should be baptized. Within her soul burned the desire to come unto Christ and be baptized “by immersion for the remission of sins” (Articles of Faith 1:4). Her heart was filled with the peace of the Savior.
Baptizing Tabitha in accordance with Church teachings and policies would not be as it is usually done or simple.
Great effort would be needed to plan and execute this sacred ordinance in such rare circumstances. It took much prayerful effort over two months to determine the location and methods appropriate for Tabitha’s baptism. Advice was sought from stake and ward mission leaders. Eventually it was determined to rent a local community pool that had the necessary lift system to help Tabitha get from her wheelchair to a pool lift chair. She would then be moved into the pool where she would be supported in the water by five brethren. A sister would also be in the pool, and two nurses would be there to provide aid if needed. Tabitha’s dad, Mike, would oversee the lifting and moving for his daughter. To ensure Tabitha’s safety and comfort, a full rehearsal was held weeks in advance using a missionary elder in place of Tabitha.
Then came the day when it was time to perform Tabitha’s baptism. With only her family, the Clarkes, priesthood leaders from the ward and mission, missionary sisters and elders, and a handful of members present, the baptism was executed exactly as planned. Having been removed from her wheelchair and into the pool by the lift system, Tabitha was held afloat by four brethren, one at each arm and leg. Brother Doug Clarke Sr. held her head above water as he pronounced the baptismal prayer. Then, he lowered Tabitha’s head and face briefly below the water. This courageous soul had entered the waters of baptism by immersion, just as the scriptures prescribe (Doctrine and Covenants 20:73-74).
The spirit was present in sweet abundance. All knew they had witnessed a unique example of Heavenly Father’s love for one of His special daughters—a brave young woman determined to come unto her Savior. The baptismal group then made its way to the meetinghouse where a beautiful service was held including inspired talks and music provided by the full-time missionaries. Tabitha was confirmed a member of the restored Church of Jesus Christ the next day at sacrament meeting.
Not only were Brother and Sister Clarke and the missionaries who taught Tabitha “waiting to help her” as her dream had comforted, but also the members and leaders of the Abbotsford Second Ward surrounded her with warmth and love. Like Peter of old, they have blessed Tabitha; and lifted her from her despair and darkness. Like Tabitha of old, she has come alive.
Our Tabitha was at the summit of the high mountain of her dreams.