There are countless incredible stories behind the faces in this mission. Some are heart-wrenching, others are impressive, and all are inspiring.
Yousef is Iranian. He is a young, attractive, educated man who came to America to either further his education or better his life. He is an electrical engineer who specializes in water treatment. He speaks Farsi, and is still working very hard to learn English. I really enjoy conversations with him, because he is most interesting and that's his best way of learning English. It's difficult to get jobs here when your English is limited.
In the process of all of this, he learned about, and was baptized into the church. As a result, should he return to his homeland, he will be the disgrace of his family, and likely disowned, if not killed. His family keeps begging him to come home, not understanding why he is persistently staying. His faith is inspiring.
Elder Fu is one of those iconic Chinese mainland missionaries. He no longer serves in our area, but he is an amazing missionary and his story is inspiring.
He learned of the gospel from a friend of his mother's while he was an adolescent. His mother was uninterested, but he was. Then he let it all drop for awhile, but it had still taken root in his heart. After somewhat of a wild adolescence, he became interested once again before he turned 20.
He had been running a snowboard shop, and decided to sell it and serve a mission.
So he was called to serve in the California, Arcadia Chinese-speaking mission. He came with NO English skills, and has learned fluent English. He is a strong and valiant missionary, and one that LOVES Sunday Night Treats. He has a superb sense of humor, and the missionaries greatly respect him.
He will be returning to China soon and our mission will miss him. His faith is inspiring.
Eddy has become one of my dear friends. I began working with her when she was an associate at Deseret Industries. One of the reasons she would come to the Center was for help with English homework from classes she is taking at a local college. She is from El Salvador, and has been in the US for a number of years, but she is still trying to get a firm grasp of the intricacies of reading and writing English.
Eddy is just a little older than me, and she remembers her early years in El Salvador as lovely, happy, and carefree. But when she was still just a young girl, around 7 or 8, civil war broke out in her country, and it was very unsafe to go to school. There were bombings everywhere, so parents kept their frightened children at home. Therefore, Eddy never really got much formal education in her life.
When she got married, moved to the US, and had a family, she always took menial jobs because she had no education and no English skills. A couple of years ago when she was introduced to the gospel it immediately resonated with her, and she was baptized.
As she worked at Deseret Industries, she was going to night school for English, even though she is very fluent in English by now. She felt that since she received so little formal education, she needed to really learn the rules of English, like periods at the ends of sentences, and basics like that. Though uneducated, Eddy is a very wise person. And so positive.
She no longer works at DI, but we became fast friends as we worked on her English homework assignments. She lives in a cold/hot garage, with very little to live on, and is completely happy because she has a roof and food and the gospel.
When I last talked to Eddy, she was excited to be getting her temple recommend, and asked if I would go with her to buy garments and go to the temple with her. I love Eddy. Her faith is inspiring.
BROTHER AND SISTER WU
Though seasoned church members, Brother and Sister Wu are an incredible addition to the Valley Chinese Branch with their energy, talent, and experience. They have been in the church for many years and have served faithfully in many callings. Presently, Sister Wu is the Relief Society President in the Valley Branch, while Brother Wu serves as Ward Clerk. Both are fluent in English, and help translate often for us.
This wonderful couple has 3 equally wonderful sons, all returned missionaries and super whiz kids. Their parents felt that reading was important, so Brother Wu took them to the library all summer long, from the time they were just small children, so that they would learn to read. They all developed an insatiable reading desire. Every single one of those 3 boys finished high school at the age of 14. They each went on to college at that tender age and finished their undergraduate degree before serving missions. Upon their return, each was ready to jump into a graduate program, and the youngest one just finished his Master's Degree at the ripe old age of 22. They are an inspiring family and such a strong and valiant help in the branch.
A past professional office administrator in Workmen's Comp Claims divisions, Angelica is a talented, beautiful person with a hugely generous heart. She is presently employed at DI after a turn of events that cost her everything important to her except her little dog, Chiquita.
She no longer has an administrative job, husband, or home. But she DOES have the gospel, her old car, and Chiquita. She's fun, funny, and capable. She lives in her car or occasionally in a hot, creature-infested garage which her hostile sister provides.
Angelica comes to ERS and we'll do lessons on job search skills. But what we do most is talk like sisters. We enjoy being together and she's grateful for a listening ear, an air-conditioned office, and box of tissues.
She's changed career choices at a very late stage of life, just so she can feel like she's giving something of herself, rather than just going to work. She has many reasons to feel down on life, but she attributes so many blessings in her life to Heavenly Father. I appreciate her courage and faith in the face of extreme negativity that goes on constantly in her life.
Isaiah is a young, post-high school football player, now in his mid-twenties. He's also homeless, happy, and grateful to have a job at DI. We work together weekly on reading questions to take his driver's license test. He has great difficulty reading, but really works hard at it so he can pass his test. He's usually pretty tired, and will fall asleep during mid-sentence, because he really only sleeps on the bus on his way to work.
I really like Isaiah. He's always so happy to see me, and regardless of mission rules, greets me with a huge bear hug each time.
He wants to receive training to become a chef. He loves food.
PRESIDENT AND SISTER LEE
Sage was a young woman when she heard about the gospel in Taiwan, and decided to be baptized. But it was not a popular decision and Mormons were ostracized at that time. For that reason, she didn't tell very many people she was LDS, including JJ.
She eventually fell in love with JJ, and they were married right before he left for his graduate work in the US. He had been accepted to three different engineering schools that had excellent programs for his particular field in water engineering -- Princeton, Columbia, and ... USU. He knew nothing of Utah, Mormons, or anything else remotely related to the Church, but as he researched which school to attend, USU had a wider variety of professors in his field than the other schools, so he decided to attend USU.
Taiwanese law prohibited Sage going with her new groom to America, because she was their insurance that JJ would return to Taiwan.
While attending USU, JJ was invited one weekend to an international student tour in SLC to see spectacular and traditional Mormon church sites. Since he had nothing better to do, he decided to go. It was the family that he stayed with while there that so intrigued him. They seemed so close, happy, and loving toward one another that he started asking questions. They were LDS.
His intrigue led him to take the missionary lessons, and eventually he was baptized. When he was finally able to tell his new bride, imagine his surprise when he found out she was already baptized! In the course of his schooling, Taiwanese law changed and she was able to join him. They were sealed in the Logan, Utah LDS temple! How I love this story!
Their faith, devotion, and complete humility is more inspiring than words can relate. I love this wonderful couple so much.
The stories go on and on. That is one of the biggest and most rewarding mission lessons I've learned. There is a story behind every person, so be careful before judging.
And learn about, and love their inspiring stories. Then it's easy to love the person.