Lost Son Reunited with Mother through Missionary Work

Contributed By Lila Bringhurst, Church News contributor

  • 2 June 2015

Elder Chun Chen with his mother, Sister Houng, on the day he was baptized. He was reunited with his family after he had been separated from them for 12 years.  Photo courtesy of Chun Chen.

Article Highlights

  • Chun Chen was separated from his parents when he was three years old. Unwilling to speak to strangers, he was placed in an orphanage.
  • He felt lost until he found some missionaries. They brought a sister from the ward to the lessons; she felt as though he were her lost son. They did a DNA test and were a match.
  • He was baptized and is now serving in the California San Jose Mission.

“We went together and they took a small sample of our hair and swabbed our mouths. After two weeks we were told that we are a 99 percent match. I truly am her lost son!” —Elder Chun Chen, serving in the California San Jose Mission

Chun Chen was just a little boy, not yet four years old, when his parents took him to a playground. He wandered off and found an arcade where people put coins in machines and played video games. He was mesmerized, but suddenly he realized his parents had disappeared. His tears brought people who tried to help him, offering him food and comfort.

They asked him many questions, but his parents had carefully taught him that he should never talk to strangers. Eventually a kind couple took him to a police station, where there were more questions he would not answer. After a day or two he was taken to an orphanage where he would remain until he was 16.

His frantic parents looked everywhere for him. When they went to the police they were told that their son had probably been kidnapped, a common occurrence in 1990 in Taipei, Taiwan. They shed many tears as the years slowly passed.

The boy was given a new name, Chun Chen, and he gradually learned to live the highly regimented life at the orphanage: wake up at 6:00 a.m., eat at 6:30, then shower, change clothes, go to school, return at 4:30, dinner at 6:00, clean up, homework at 7:00, to bed at 9:00, and asleep by 10:00. He went to church on Saturday to play basketball and on Sunday to study the Holy Bible.

Now serving in the California San Jose Mission, Elder Chen said, “Although it [the orphanage] was run by a Christian church, it felt like a prison. There were about 70 children, ranging in age from toddler to junior high school. Bullying was rampant, and I was often the target.”

As he grew older and focused on his homework he earned little prizes for good grades, but the other children were jealous and the bullying increased.

Elder Chun Chen with his mother, Sister Houng. Elder Chen was miraculously reunited with his family after he began investigating the Church 12 years after being separated from them. Photo courtesy of Chun Chen.

Elder Clifford Pettingill and Elder Chun Chen are companions in the California San Jose Mission. Photo by Sam Bailey.

Elder Chun Chen speaks to other missionaries at the baptism of a recent convert. He serves in the California San Jose Mission. Photo by Sam Bailey.

“Even the teachers bullied us. I think the orphanage couldn’t afford good teachers so they hired anyone who was available,” Elder Chen recalled. “About the fifth grade I began to grow taller and stronger and soon I defended myself. They left me alone, but, sad to say, I became a bully myself. I thought this was the way the world works, use violence.”

He called this the dark period of his life. By the time he finished junior high school he was impatient to leave, and the orphanage was happy to see him go. He lived with a friend for a while but was soon on his own. Several years passed and he gradually realized he wanted a better life.

One day he happened upon a church and decided to go inside, but the doors were locked. As he was turning to leave, two Mormon missionaries came riding up on their bikes. He asked them if they played basketball. They did. Soon he was learning about their religion and meeting new friends.

“The members of this church were so different. They didn’t ask me who I was or even my status,” Elder Chen said. “They were friendly, happy, and treated me as though we were family. The darkness in my life began to lift.”

The missionaries asked one of the women in the congregation to help teach him the lessons. Sister Houng invited them to her home and often cooked delicious food for them.

One day she said to Elder Chen, “I feel like I’ve seen you before. You are familiar.” She asked him many questions, but he didn’t want anyone to know he grew up in an orphanage, so he fabricated his answers. Then she wept as she told him about her lost son. She felt he was her son and pleaded with him to go with her to have their DNA tested.

“We went together and they took a small sample of our hair and swabbed our mouths,” Elder Chen said. “After two weeks we were told that we are a 99 percent match. I truly am her lost son!”

The Church had brought them together. He met his family: an older brother, a younger sister, and a younger brother. His mother was elated. She told him that she had saved all his clothes and toys but had finally given up hope about five years before and had thrown everything away. After all those mournful years she thanked the Lord for this miracle.

He learned that she had come to Taipei, Taiwan, as a young woman to find employment. She got a job working for a dentist and they fell in love and got married. Soon thereafter they joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His father died before Elder Chen found his family.

When he first met the missionaries and learned about the Church, he had many questions. Because of his mother’s faith and their miraculous reunion, he gained a testimony and was baptized in September 2011. His mother wanted him to learn English, so she sent him to the United States.

Elder Chen, now 28, serves as a full-time missionary. Although missionary life reflects the regimentation of the orphanage, he no longer feels lost. Through serving the Lord, he has found that charity is the pure love of Christ and he loves serving his fellow beings as well as his family members. Doing this has helped him have a greater love for both his family and the people he serves. He is happy and eager to share the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.