Finding Mr. Chan


The book we found in a drawer was old and tattered and hadn’t been read for a long time. It led us to Mr. Chan and another well-worn book.

Elder Peterson and I took the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island. From there we boarded a bus that would take us to our area on the back side of the island. Elder Peterson was a new missionary, and I wanted him to see, as soon as possible, how the gospel brings new joy into a person’s life. We chatted for a while; then we each drifted off in thought.

I don’t know what Elder Peterson was thinking about. Maybe the hot, humid August weather. Maybe the strange foods. But I clearly remember my thoughts.

Our pool of investigators was average in size, but we didn’t have anyone who was ready for baptism. As I prayed silently, I had a calm understanding within my heart that the Lord would guide us to people who were prepared for the truth. I hardly expected a miracle, though.

We set out that day tracting through Shek Pai Wan—one of the many government housing complexes that crowd entire families of six or eight people into one-room apartments the size of a small living room. For being in Hong Kong only two days, Elder Peterson did remarkably well speaking Cantonese during his door approaches. But we had little success.

The next few days we worked hard and followed the Spirit. Although we found one or two new investigators, no one seemed to really be catching fire.

Then it happened.

I was looking through the drawers in our bedroom and found an old notebook. I opened it and saw a book of contacts and investigators from years before. The pages were torn and soiled. The writing was faded. But the Spirit whispered that I should read through the scores of names. I sat on my bed and began reading the book. As I slowly skimmed the lists of faceless names, my eyes and fingers stopped at a Mr. Chan.

The notes indicated that he had been taught the first discussion but that he wasn’t interested.

The burning in my heart was distinct and comforting. At once I knew we should visit this man. That afternoon we found the apartment listed in the old notebook. I said a silent prayer as we knocked on the door. The burning of the Spirit deep within us intensified as we waited for Mr. Chan. We waited. No answer. We knocked again. Still no answer.

“I guess no one’s home,” I said to Elder Peterson. “Let’s try later.”

We were a few feet away when the door opened.

“Matyeh a?” The man was asking us what we wanted.

“Hou ma?” We responded with the traditional Chinese “How are you?” greeting.

A minute later, this man was introducing himself as Mr. Chan.

“May we tell you a little about our church?” we asked.

“Please do,” Mr. Chan said.

The Spirit of the Lord was with the three of us as we discussed the Prophet Joseph Smith and the First Vision. We testified of Christ and of His atoning sacrifice. As we testified, the Spirit told us Mr. Chan believed our words.

“How do you feel about what we’ve said?” we asked.

“I know what you tell me is true,” Mr. Chan replied. “Wait here a minute.” He walked to a chair and stood on it while reaching for some books on a shelf. Finally he found the Book of Mormon.

“This is your church, isn’t it?” he asked, handing us the book.

“Yes, it is. Where did you get this?”

“Some missionaries like you came to my home three or four years ago,” he explained. “I bought this book from them, but they never came back.”

Elder Peterson and I looked through the well-worn Book of Mormon.

“Have you read this book?” I asked.

“Yes, many times. It is the word of God. Can you baptize me?”

“Why do you want to be baptized?”

“So I may return to live with God and Jesus Christ,” he said.

The Spirit was strong as we knelt in prayer with Mr. Chan. He had truly been prepared by the hand of God for baptism into His kingdom.

The words of Alma to his son Helaman in Alma 37:9–10 now have more meaning to me: “These records and their words … brought them to the knowledge of the Lord their God, and to rejoice in Jesus Christ their Redeemer. And who knoweth but what they will be the means of bringing many thousands … to the knowledge of their Redeemer?”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Paul Mann