My Missionary Miracle

Every year, thousands of young Latter-day Saint missionaries open the envelope containing their mission call and feel a mixture of surprise and excitement. It is a feeling only those of us who have opened one of those envelopes can understand; it is an experience we never forget.

My mission call was especially surprising.

Dear Elder Ocampo:

You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Belgium/Netherlands Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 24 months.

I grew up as part of a Hispanic family in Texas, so I guess I had imagined myself being called to serve somewhere in Central or South America. I had not expected an assignment to serve in Europe. But the real surprise came later in the letter.

You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Spanish language.

Wait, what? Spanish?? Was this a mistake? Why would I go all the way to the Belgium/Netherlands Mission and speak Spanish? Since Flemish and Dutch were the main languages in those two countries, what did the Lord have in store for me?

Entering the MTC, I tried to set aside my concerns about how I would use Spanish in Belgium or the Netherlands. I dreamed of finding, teaching, and baptizing all the Spanish-speaking people in my mission, no matter how small of a minority they might be in that foreign land. To my surprise, since I already knew Spanish, I was asked to study Dutch in the MTC like the other missionaries going to my mission. I was the Spanish-speaking Texan trying to learn Dutch in the MTC…so that I could go teach the gospel in Spanish while serving in Belgium and the Netherlands. Go figure. But I knew the Lord had a plan for me, and it was my responsibility to go forth and execute that plan.

As I served my mission, I was blessed with the privilege to teach multiple Latin Americans in the Netherlands. The Lord allowed me to faithfully magnify my calling to teach the gospel in Spanish. In fact, it was in the giant city of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, that I experienced one of the sweetest miracles of my mission.

It started one day as our weekly district meeting came to a close. My companion and I decided to do exchanges with the elders serving in Den Helder. My companion left to Den Helder, and I stayed behind in Amsterdam. What neither my companion nor I realized when we went our separate ways was that my companion accidentally took our cell phone with him, leaving me and my temporary companion phoneless for the day. When we later discovered the phone was missing, however, we decided it didn’t matter too much because the only appointment we had that day was a dinner appointment with some members.

We spent our day proselytizing without much success, until before we knew it, the afternoon had passed and dinnertime was approaching. We had been making our way toward the neighborhood of our dinner appointment all afternoon, but we arrived there a little earlier than we expected. So we decided to ring doorbells along the canal for 15-20 minutes before dinner. I was certain these homes hadn’t been visited before because missionaries preferred working away from the city, in areas where the people seemed more receptive to our message. The first two doors we knocked gave no response, but then we knocked on the third house. An elderly woman, short in stature, opened the door. To my surprise, she looked Hispanic and she spoke neither Dutch nor English. She spoke only Spanish!

She introduced herself as Rosita, and I introduced my companion and me—in Spanish. She informed us that she had known the Mormons in her native land of Bolivia. Decades earlier in Bolivia, her children had been baptized. The gospel had immensely enhanced the quality of their lives, but Rosita had been afraid to receive baptism with her children. At that time, she said she didn’t know if our church was truly the church of Jesus Christ. She later moved away to Amsterdam with one of her daughters, and they lost all contact with the Church. For the last few decades, her conscience had been burdened with the regret she felt for rejecting baptism when the opportunity was first presented to her. Now, Rosita said, she knew God had brought us to her, and she would not reject the restored gospel a second time. We exchanged contact information, gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon in Spanish, invited her to church, and said goodbye.

We quickly headed off to make it to our dinner appointment. When we knocked on the members’ door, to our surprise, they told us they had called our phone several times during the day to let us know they were no longer available and needed to cancel our dinner appointment. As we apologized for not getting the message and walked away, my mind quickly connected the dots: I realized we had just witnessed the second part of the miracle of meeting Rosita. Because my companion had “accidentally” taken the phone with him, we were never informed about the cancelled appointment, which meant we ended up in the right neighborhood at the right time, with 15 minutes to knock doors before dinner. If the phone had been with me, we surely would have ended up somewhere else and we would have missed the miracle of meeting Rosita.

Rosita attended church that Sunday, and she never missed a Sunday at church after that. As I taught her the discussions in Spanish, she was incredible. She still retained memories of the doctrines she heard the missionaries teach her children decades earlier in Bolivia. She was baptized August 6, 2016, and is currently taking the temple preparation lessons to help her get ready to go to the temple.

Miracles happen every day in missions all over the world. The question is whether we recognize the miracles when they come. I will forever be grateful for the miracles I witnessed by accepting the Lord’s call to serve in Belgium and the Netherlands—Spanish speaking!

“Behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of Him who knoweth all things.” (2 Nephi 2:24)

Elder Ocampo with Rosita 

-- Giovanni Ocampo

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