James (10) and Jessa (9) Bacani Campbell are two siblings (brother and sister) who spend a lot of time together. They have other “twos” in common. They have lived in two countries, have spoken two languages, and have been a part of two families.
They lived in the Philippines until three years ago, when their mother, Rosalia Bacani, died. Their uncle and aunt, Lynn and Remy Campbell, from Boise, Idaho, then adopted them. They are now a part of a big family with two more brothers and two more sisters: Joseph (21), Chandra (20), Jacob (19), and Cheryl (16).
They not only gained a loving, new family but also learned about the gospel of Jesus Christ. They didn’t know anything about Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ when they came to their new home. “They were not members of the Church, and they had to start from scratch learning about it,” Sister Campbell said.
James and Jessa received all the missionary discussions and went to Church with their new family. On Christmas Eve, 1997, they were baptized by their brother Joseph, who had just returned from the Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission. They know that it was special to be baptized on the same day. “But,” as Jessa pointed out, “we weren’t baptized together.”
“I was baptized first,” James said, “because I’m older.” He remembers the water being really warm on that wintry evening, but he also remembers feeling warm “inside me.” It was a contrast to the cold snow outside, which was still new to them—they had never seen snow in the Philippines.
Their new dad confirmed them, and Jessa said that she felt happy. James felt the Spirit while partaking of the sacrament the next Sunday. He told the family afterward, “You know, there’s something different in me. There’s a warm feeling.”
Neither James nor Jessa knew how to speak or read English when they moved to the United States, so they didn’t say much. But their family claims that they talk nonstop now. Because they are still learning English, they are in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class at school. Jessa uses this class as an opportunity to serve others. “I help friends in the class who don’t know English as well.” She has many friends because of her openness and caring. One friend even wrote her a note that said, “You are my very best, best, best, best friend. Today I will buy you a candy and an ice cream.”
James serves his friends when he plays sports. “Sometimes I bring frozen treats out for them when we play,” he said. Basketball and soccer top his list of favorite sports, and he and his friends often play tag in their school yard.
Jessa is a talented dancer. She won many awards in the Philippines by performing traditional Filipino dances. She plans to continue dancing, because when she grows up, she wants to be a dancer, doctor, policewoman, and singer. For now, she prepares for a singing career by learning the piano’s notes. She can already play some songs on the piano.
Both James and Jessa enjoy riding their bikes and roller-skating. Jessa especially likes playing games such as ticktacktoe with James. “In the Philippines we didn’t have ticktacktoe,” Jessa explained. “We used to play with jacks and rubber bands for games.”
Their family often goes camping and fishing. “We went camping a couple of weeks after they moved here,” Brother Campbell said.
“They didn’t know anything about mountains, camping, or sleeping in a tent,” Sister Campbell added. “But they adjusted really well. Both of them even caught a fish on their first try!”
“You didn’t catch it,” Jessa told James. “Daddy helped you.”
“Daddy helped you, too,” James said with a laugh.
James and Jessa have a great respect for their family. James admires his brother Jacob and wants to be like him. He also wants to be like Nephi because Nephi obeyed his father and his Heavenly Father. “I obey my father, too,” he said. Jessa also respects her dad, and she knows all the words to her favorite Primary song, “Fathers.”*
Both children enjoy Primary and Church activities. James is a Bear in Cub Scouts and went to day camp, where he learned skills such as tying knots. Each year he has been a Scout, he has entered a race car in the Pinewood Derby. “I always lose,” he said with a grin. Jessa enjoys Achievement Days. She learned about health at one activity and has since kept track of what she eats and how many hours of sleep and exercise she gets.
James has had to cut back on his physical activities. He had foot surgery to straighten a crooked bone in his foot, and he temporarily wears a cast over his foot and lower leg. But this experience has taught him that spiritual strength is as important as physical strength. He admires Moroni because he is an example of strength in both ways. “I want to be strong like him when I grow up so that when people are having trouble, I can help them.”
He learns these traits from the missionaries, too. His family regularly has the missionaries over to dinner, and James likes to learn from them. But he also likes them to come over for another reason. “I like the food,” he said. “We make good food when they come.”
Jessa likes learning about the Creation through her Primary lessons, games, and songs. “I like learning about the Creation of the world because it helps you learn about Jesus,” she said.
James’s favorite Primary song is “Book of Mormon Stories,”** because it’s about learning the scripture stories. James and Jessa now have the scriptures and wonderful teachers, friends, and family who help them learn about Jesus Christ and His church. For both children, this was a real comfort when they moved to a new country and had to learn a new language. James even remembers hiding in the bushes because he was so scared and lonely when he first moved. Now both he and Jessa are confident and happy, and they know that they are loved by many.