Crisis at Cape Cod
It was a sweltering July afternoon on Cape Cod beach at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. On the horizon a couple of thunderheads rumbled, but the rushing of the waves and the music of the children’s voices orchestrated a feeling of peace. I watched my two children, three-year-old Vickie and four-year-old Greg, scampering at the water’s edge. My friend’s son, Ralph, a tall, slim, nine-year-old, was digging for sand crabs.
“What time is it?” My friend, Mary Allen, asked.
“It’s 2:30.” I watched as Greg plopped down onto a red plastic raft. My eyes followed his short legs as he paddled in the shallow water.
I turned to Mary Alien for a second as she began to speak. “I’m going to the house …” I lost the rest of her sentence as a sudden premonition chilled me. Instantly, I was alert. Where was the raft?
I ran toward Ralph. “Where’s Greg?” I asked.
“He was just on the raft and floated out—” Ralph squirmed as he floundered for words.
Greg’s lifejacket lay inert, discarded where I had last seen him playing. Frightened, Vickie started to cry. “Didn’t see him take it off—” she began.
Then I spotted the raft—fifteen feet offshore, rocking back and forth like an empty cradle. With panic in my voice, I shouted against the wind, “Greg!” Quickly I scanned the beach—no sign of his curly blond hair. Again and again I called out, nearly paralyzed by fear. No reply.
For the third time in less than two minutes, Ralph and I combed the entire deserted cove. Greg had vanished.
Sprinting up to me, Ralph said quietly, “Police?”
“It’s hopeless,” I replied, trying to stay calm. “They’d never make it in time.”
Vickie screamed, “Greg’s drowning!”
Shaking, I felt my teeth chatter as my pulse pounded in my ears. I tried to reassure them. “We’ll find him,” I said. Yet as I spoke, my voice sounded hollow. Greg had had a few swimming lessons, but not enough to be proficient.
Mentally I counted the minutes. It was now 2:35. A friend’s son had drowned recently; I knew the brain could survive only four to six minutes without oxygen. Instinctively, I drew a deep, jagged breath for Greg. I could see mental pictures of him floating lifeless on the water. I couldn’t give up! Yet the more I looked, the more discouraged I felt. How could he disappear in seconds? Already I felt a sense of loss.
Terror shot through me. If I don’t find Greg immediately, he’ll be gone in thirty seconds, I thought. Despair threw me into a depth lower than I thought possible. But I pushed the negative images away and prayed as I ran: “Heavenly Father, help me find him—please.”
An eerie tingling surged up my spine as the water was suddenly still. There was silence, and the atmosphere was charged with electricity and white light—it seemed like the aura in a bolt of lightning. For me, the waters stood motionless like smooth, cold glass. I held my breath.
At that moment, I saw tiny fingertips sticking out of the surface of the water, fifteen feet from shore. Gasping at the icy water, I plunged into the sea with my eyes wide open—afraid I might lose sight of my son’s fingers. Then, without warning, I was slammed back by a wall of frigid water that locked me in its hammering, suffocating grip. Thinking of the horrible death that awaited Greg if I failed, I continued to pray: “Don’t let him die!” I blinked. Greg’s fingers were still there. I swam with long strokes.
At last I reached him. Although his limp body was turning blue, he was on his toes struggling to get to the crest of the waves, fighting for life while the undercurrent pulled him down. I towed him back to shore. His eyelashes fluttered; he opened his eyes, coughed, and then breathed. “Mamaaa,” he finally cried. His breath came in shudders. I felt the Spirit’s presence as I hugged my son with a sigh of relief.
More than ten minutes had elapsed between the time I discovered him missing and the moment I had lifted him out of the sea. I was told later that if the water had been above 70° F, he would have suffered brain damage; but because the water had been so cold, he had survived without any injury.
I know the Lord continues to perform miracles, and, just as He calmed the Sea of Galilee two thousand years ago, He calmed the ocean during my crisis at Cape Cod.
In Shanghai’s “Number One Department Store”
Miracles are about us every day if we take the time to notice. Such a miracle happened in June 1981 in Shanghai, China.
Years before, as the Vietnamese conflict ended, Carl Borup and his wife, Elizabeth, had helped a Cambodian refugee, Chiv Leung, and his family by hiring him to work in their supermarket in Tremonton, Utah. Kindled by the sharing of hearts and needs as well as the gospel, the friendship between Chiv Leung and the Borups grew strong.
Later, in early 1981, Carl and Don Borup and their wives made plans to tour China and the Far East with a tour group of members led by Sheldon and Eliza Poon of Salt Lake City. The visit would include many prominent Chinese cities. The refugee family shared in the preparations and excitement of the trip as the Borups secured their passports and visas.
Chiv Leung told the Borups about his brother, Chen, who twenty years earlier had left Cambodia for China to get an education. As he completed his education, the political and internal strife within the country prevented him from returning to his family and native land. Instead, he settled in the Hunan Province in southwestern China as the government wished him to do. Separated by hundreds of miles and political turmoil, Chen Leung was not permitted to see his family and was able to communicate with them only on a limited basis.
Chiv Leung told the Borups that Chen and his wife now felt it might be possible for the Borups to meet with them in China. So the Borups made plans to meet with the Leungs in Shanghai. Chiv Leung and his brother Chen exchanged letters, giving details and expressing hopes for a meeting with their friends, the Borups. Neither family realized how difficult meeting could be.
The Borups arrived in Peking in June. They immediately tried to telephone the Chen Leungs in Hunan Province thousands of miles away. The telephone connections were poor, so they were left hoping that their friends received the message Brother Poon delivered: “Borup friends—Shanghai, June 12 and 13.”
Traveling by train from Wuxi, the Americans arrived in Shanghai at one o’clock Friday afternoon. As the carefully planned itinerary required, they were accompanied by a national tour guide and joined in each location by an appointed city tour guide. All arrangements for hotels and activities were strictly outlined by these guides. Again the Borups tried to locate the Leung family—in vain. The Borups felt disappointed, but with a prayer in their hearts they continued on, hoping God would make the meeting possible.
The Shanghai city tour guide, Miss Ying, announced the tour itinerary for the group’s stay in Shanghai, a city of eleven million people. As the group toured, Miss Ying pointed out the ancient parts of the city—including the remains of the largest city wall in the world, built in 600 B.C.; the pre-World War II sections; and the more modern parts—including the “number one department store.”
After the group had visited some ancient Buddhist temples and a children’s “youth palace,” Miss Ying announced that the last stop before dinner would be a visit to the large “friendship store,” which catered to tourists. Members of the group had been to “friendship stores” in other cities and wanted to visit a store that was more like those where the Chinese people really shop. As the time for shopping grew shorter, some members of the group approached Miss Ying: “Couldn’t we please visit the ‘number one department store’? We would very much like to see it.”
Miss Ying replied, “That is not on our schedule, but we shall see. … We are democratic. Perhaps we should vote on it.” When she asked for a vote, every hand shot up.
“We must hurry. We shall only have fifteen minutes,” Miss Ying emphasized as the small tour bus pulled up to the tall, city-block-sized department store. The twenty-plus tourists were soon inside, where throngs of Chinese shoppers looked curiously at the tall visitors who stood head and shoulders above them.
Moments later a crowd gathered in the stairway to the second floor where a loud-speaking Chinese woman was trying to communicate with Carl Borup. He looked down and saw a wallet-sized photograph of himself and his wife lying at his feet. Thinking he had dropped it, Carl picked it up and found that it had Chinese writing all over the back. Eliza Poon, who had been anxiously observing the scene, wedged her way to the center of the group and exclaimed, “Oh, Brother Borup—these are your friends. They’ve found you.” Tears of joy clouded the eyes of the Borups and the Chen Leung family as Sister Poon took them back to the tour bus where they could talk more privately.
Miss Ying soon appeared, demanding to know who the Chinese strangers were. Sister Poon told her they were a “miracle family.”
“I don’t know miracle,” Miss Ying said, asking them to leave the bus. But after some discussion, Miss Ying began to understand what had happened and relented.
The Leung family returned with their American friends to the hotel for dinner. Excited conversation flowed between the Leungs and the Borups via Brother and Sister Poon’s translations until nearly midnight, when the Leungs had to leave to begin their trip home.
The Borups learned that the Leungs had traveled with their young son and daughter nearly two days on the train, more than 2,100 miles—at a cost of a month’s wages—to meet the Borups. With only a picture and the knowledge that the Borups were Americans, they had spent nearly the entire day in Shanghai looking for them.
Chen Leung said, “I don’t really know God, but I believe there is one and I prayed; as a family we prayed, ‘Oh, God, please help us to be successful to find our American friends in Shanghai.’” It was a long shot, at best, with as many as two thousand foreign tourists daily in the city during the tourist season.
“As we arrived in Shanghai, we contacted the National Tour Agency trying to find a Poon or a Borup,” he said. “But the group was not identified by such names. They gave us no hope. We found the hotels for American tourists and still found no registration for the people we were looking for. Our time was about gone. We prayed that somehow our hopes could be granted.”
Knowing they had to begin their return trip home that night, they decided to provide some pleasant memories by taking their children shopping at the ‘number one department store.’ The Leungs had been there only a few moments when, with the picture as a guide, they had recognized Sister Borup. “Then we cried!” said Chen Leung. Faith and prayer had guided the families together.
“The Only Church”
The kitchen was filled with the marvelous smells of Thanksgiving dinner—roast turkey and dressing, rolls baking in the oven, and pumpkin pies. We were just about to sit down to dinner when the telephone rang. The voice at the other end of the line was filled with despair.
“Are you the Mormon Church leader who works with people on the central Oregon coast?” said a woman’s voice.
“I’m one of them,” I assured the woman. At the time I was serving as stake president, and Lincoln county, on the coast, was part of our stake.
“I’m not a member of your church,” the woman continued. “But we have a problem this morning that our church can’t solve and maybe no church or organization in the world can solve. The Mormons have a reputation for being able to take care of their people any place in the world, any time. And we so need some special help this morning.”
Then the words and the tears flooded forth. The woman told me that the year before, her son had married and moved with his wife to a commune on the Oregon coast. The woman and her husband had been worried about their son for months, but today they were especially concerned.
“Because it’s Thanksgiving,” she said, “our son called this morning to say thanks for family love and help over the years. During our conversation, we asked him about Thanksgiving dinner. He said they would not be having Thanksgiving dinner this year because they did not have any food or money and neither did the people around them.
“We live in northern California,” the woman continued. “We’re about ready to sit down to a lovely Thanksgiving dinner. But my husband and I would choke on it, knowing that our children were going hungry today.”
She told me that she and her husband had thought about flying to Portland, renting a car, and driving to the coast to be with their son and his wife. But her son lived in too remote a spot. “We’d never be able to find them,” she said. Besides, plane schedules made flying to Portland that day impossible. She and her husband had offered to telegraph some money to their son, but the small place where the young couple lived didn’t have such services.
“Then we thought of the Mormon Church and its reputation for caring for people under all circumstances,” the woman continued. “So we called one of the local LDS leaders here in California, and he gave us your name. Can you help us?” she pleaded.
“We will try,” I assured her.
“They live in the Oregon coastal mountains near a little community called Siletz,” the mother said. “Do you know where that is?”
“Yes,” I replied. Siletz is near Newport, where we had a strong unit of the Church. We even had some members who lived in the small town of Siletz itself—in the woods of the Coast Range mountains.
“Will you be able to find and help them, then?” she asked.
“I’m not sure we’ll be able to find them. But we’ll try,” I promised.
I hung up and dialed the bishop of the Newport Ward. Bishop J. Charles Woods had been bishop for nearly ten years and had searched out people before—on back roads and in the tall fir forests. I knew that Bishop Woods was a man who always went the second mile. He had a few grown children of his own and would do anything he could to help.
I told Bishop Woods of my talk with the woman from northern California. He asked only one question: “How do I find them?”
I gave him the directions I had written down.
“I know where that is. I’ll be on the way in a few minutes,” he promised.
He needed those few minutes, it turned out, so that he and Sister Woods could pack much of their nearly ready Thanksgiving dinner into containers that went into the car, not on the table.
Within two hours, that delicious dinner had been delivered to a grateful young couple by a devoted bishop who added some words of love, encouragement, counsel, and invitation.
A few days later, a letter arrived in the mail from the woman I had talked with on the telephone. Enclosed was a check for the Newport Ward. The letter read:
It was the reputation of the Mormons that made us think you might help feed our children in an emergency. And you did! Bless you all. We didn’t have a way to solve our problem. Your church was the only organization in the world that could. We’ll ever be thankful.
Shouldn’t we all, I thought.