Monday, October 19, 2015

Family History and Stories

This weekend we had he opportunity to volunteer at a Family History Expo in Colorado Springs. I was walking around the building when my built in political antenna starting going off. There was a man running for the US Senate checking out the event. Of course I introduced myself and gave him some advice on his campaign :-). 

His name is Darryl Glenn and he is currently the county commissioner for El Paso County. We talked for a while and we were able to get a picture too. I think he is the first politician I have ever met that is shorter than me! (I haven't met Robert Reich). He shook some hands and gave a little speech but he was mostly at the expo to get some information about the Freedmen's Bureau indexing project. ** He was floored when I told him I live near Penn Center, where Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his "I Have A Dream" speech. He was equally excited to hear that Beaufort, SC is where Memorial Day actually originated. (He is a retired Air force JAG) It used to be a West African holiday called All Flags Day and it slowly grew and evolved into modern day Memorial Day! 

(Freedman's Bank Indexing project: - a little overview of the Freedman's Bank Project - a neat clip with Gladys Knight explaining her excitement at the Freedman's Bank project)

The expo was an amazing experience and anyone who knows me knows that I love stories. Well this family history expo was stories, stories, and more stories. One man I talked to in particular has quite the amazing story. His name is Seiko Tran. Mr. Tran was born in Saigon in the year 1966. Anyone who knows a lick of history knows that was a dire time in the Vietnam conflict. Mr. Tran's father was a South Vietnamese pilot and a good one at that. By 1975 when the US had all but pulled out, Mr. Tran's father had two options. Stay in Saigon while the NVA continued onward or try to get his family to safety. He made a bold decision that paid off. 

He stole an NVA plane and got his family aboard. He tried to remain as incognito as possible but once he crossed over into border airspace the NVA knew he wasn't an NVA pilot and was trying to escape. They shot him down and he crash landed in Thailand, where they sought refuge at the US Embassy. The Embassy was able to get them to Guam but the man working at the embassy told his father that there was probably no chance he could get him into the United States....This didn't stop the brave Tran family. Long story short the Tran family was able to get sponsored by a family in Colorado to come to America. Turns out the sponsor family were actually members of the Mormon faith! The Tran family however were strict Buddhist and were not interested in joining the Christian faith.

After a few weeks Seiko noticed something was wrong with his mother. They took her to the hospital where they were informed that his mother had a blood clot in her heart and she would not make it through the night. The Tran's did not know many people at the time so they called their sponsor family and informed them of the situation at hand. They were told , "Don't worry we will be there within 30 minutes." When the family arrived they asked Mr. Tran's father if they could give his wife a blessing of comfort. Mr. Tran Sr.'s distaste for Christianity was overshadowed for a minute or two by their kind offering and he accepted. When they gave Mrs. Tran the blessing they said that she would be ok and that no lasting effects from the clot would be a bother to her in the future. Young Seiko was a youth but he knew the dire situation of his mother. He raised his eyebrow at the fact that this haughty Christian man would disregard such a well-respected medical professional by saying his mother would be ok. 

The next day when Seiko and his father came back to check on his mother - She was nowhere to be found. Young Mr. Tran was so heartbroken. Even his speck of faith in the Christian blessing was shattered when he assumed his mother was dead. After so many long nights wondering if they would make it to freedom, and eventually getting all the way to the United States- she was dead. (Or so they thought). When they asked the nurse where her remains would be found, the nurse replied by saying, "Mrs. Tran? We just discharged her this morning, she should be home by now!" 

They ran home as fast as they could to see if this was really true. It was! They could not believe it. Tran's mother told them she had a dream that night where a man dressed in white (This was odd for them because Buddha wears yellow) told her everything would be ok. That Sunday when they went to church with their sponsor family she saw, right as she walked in, a beautiful painting of that man in white. It was Jesus Christ. 

After many weeks of thoughtful discourse, discussion, and testimony the Tran family all but knew the church was true. The only problem was Mr. Tran Sr. would not allow his family to be baptized because of their family's honor. He felt his father would be disgraced if they turned away from Buddha. 

That night he had a vivid dream, his father visited him along with that man in white, and comforted him saying that this man in white was a good man, and in fact was the Son of God. He told them it was very important for him to be baptized. Soon after they were baptized as a family here in Colorado. 

Seiko went on to serve a mission and serve in many other positions in the church where he was able to help others come unto Christ. He now has a wonderful little family with 2 young children. His faith is strengthened by the knowledge that families can be together forever. 

We had a woman who we are teaching come to this event on Friday night! She really enjoyed it and Saturday night we went and visited her to see how she was doing. I won't use her name here to respect her privacy but I feel compelled to share her story with all of you. 8/9 years ago her family was everything she ever wanted. Her husband and her children meant the world to her, you could say they were her world. 

Well, that world came crashing down one summer day. Her daughter, A. and her son, N. were outside riding bikes one summer afternoon. A single scream from her young son pierced the humid Florida air and Mrs. Smith (just using a name) knew something was very wrong. 

As she flung open the door she witnessed every parent's worst nightmare. Her beautiful young daughter lying face down on the side of the road. Her bike was destroyed. It didn't take long for her to realize her daughter was just hit by a truck. As an RN she knew her daughter was dead when she got to her. However with the divine power of a mother she began CPR. As her tears streamed onto the pavement she wondered where God was. When the EMTs showed up they pushed her away and called in a life-flight chopper. Mrs. Smith had revived her daughter but now there was more work to do. As she fought the EMTs and Police officers to try to get to her daughter, she caught a glimpse of the man who turned her life upside down. The man who hit her daughter

Fast forward many surgeries, long nights, fighting with insurance agents, pessimistic "friends", and a divorce. Mrs. Smith now takes care of her quadriplegic daughter everyday 24/7 with the exception of the occasional nurse coming by so she can get an hour of sleep or so. As I futilely fight to hold back my tears, Mrs.Smith recounts this unfinished story & she blows out a puff of smoke from her cigarette. The smoke clouds her face and may hide her tears for a few seconds but it does not obfuscate the unimaginable pain that lies behind her eyes. The amazing part is that through all of this hell she has not lost faith in her Heavenly Father. She is absolutely and openly jaded towards organized religion or "man-made religion" as I call it, she hasn't lost a drop of faith for her Father in Heaven. 

She has every reason to hate religion and God and life itself. The first pastor she talked to after the accident told her that because her child wasn't baptized, if she were to perish she surely would eternally burn in hell. (To make everyone who is reading this feel better I will let you know she punched him in the face.) Just the mere fact she lets us in her home is a testament to her faith. 

She is slowly starting to see that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints isn't a church of judgement or condemnation. She takes great solace in the scriptures we share with her about our belief that children aren't accountable for their sins until they reach a certain age. She also appreciates our belief that not just people of our faith go to heaven and everyone else burns in hell. (FYI We believe that no one burns in a lake of fire and brimstone). It's people like her that keep me going when the mission gets tough. People like her are the real reason us missionaries are out spreading the healing gospel of Jesus Christ. I truly hope that she comes to embrace the gospel and realize that it will help heal her aching wounds. 

If even one person accepts the gospel in their life and can feel that calming relief that only Jesus Christ can bing than I will consider myself a successful missionary. 

"Limon changes a man." - Tyler Clancy
Love and prayers for all, 
Golfing in Limon, CO
 Jason Zeiss is 42 and disabled.
He does track for the special Olympics and is one heck of a Broncos fan.
Don't mention the Oakland raiders to him unless you want to start trouble
At view from the Zeiss's house.

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