What do you do when you have a dream that someone you know on the other side of the world gets cancer, dies, and you attend the funeral? That’s exactly what happened to me a few years ago. I awoke from the dream thinking, "even if this person were to die from cancer, who would notify me of such an event?"
The person in the dream was Jessica Chen (names have been changed). She was a middle-aged, single Taiwanese woman who converted to the Mormon faith many years before I knew her while serving a mission in Taiwan. I knew her well but had not seen her in years. So I passed the dream off as a random fictional dream.
Months later, I was busy working on my CPA exams and swamped with tax season at my internship. One afternoon in the silence of that accounting practice, I had the thought to reach out of Jessica Chen. I wrote down a reminder on a sticky note and placed it in my pocket.
That night, I pulled out the sticky note and thought, "I don’t even know Sister Chen’s number and I’m too busy with taxes and my CPA exams. I’ll wait till after tax season." I then ripped up that yellow note, threw it away, and took no further thought of any promptings.
Two days later after work, I check an old e-mail account. The one that ends up getting destroyed by spam. And at the top of the list of e-mails was one from a church member in my mission, Stacey Zhang. The subject line read: bad news . . .
My stomach dropped and the memory of the dream of Sister Chen and the prompting to call her sent me into panic mode. I thought, "Jessica has cancer and died and I missed the prompting." I opened the e-mail and it read,
Dear Elder Searle, I hope you still use this e-mail. Your friend Jessica Chen has cancer. I think you should give her a call. Here is her number . . .
I sat there humbled.
The Phone Call
When I called Jessica that night, she was in the middle of her chemotherapy for lung cancer. We talked about God and His plan for us. And then we cried. A lot. We cried as we shared our testimony of the Plan of Salvation and accepting God’s will.
That was the last time I spoke with Sister Jessica Chen. She passed away just a month later. And left me with two questions: do I follow the dream from months prior and attend the funeral, and what would be my purpose in doing so?
Common Sense Says No
I checked flights: $1,500 for a plane ticket! Out of the question. My internship was now complete and I was working on the farm while trying to find full-time employment. I didn’t have $1,500 to follow some random dream to attend a funeral in Taiwan. Common sense told me no. And besides, I had to get irrigation pipe laid out so I couldn’t leave for two weeks anyways.
I reached out to Stacey Zhang and asked, “of all the people you could have reach out to and all the people Jessica Chen knows, why did you reach out to me with her number?” Her very response,
I had feeling that I should contact you and let you know it. But I am not sure whether can hold on you. Yesterday the same feeling came to my mind that I tried to find your email. The Lord knews you are truthly a good friend to Jessica. Your words and care will give her more strength.
Stacey Zhang then informed me the funeral was being pushed back two weeks, ironically giving me time to get there the night before the funeral.
Travel Plans with No Plans
Within days, airline tickets climbed to $2,000! I shared with my father everything that was going on and he wisely said, "If you don’t go, you’ll always wonder." So I pushed through my hesitation to purchase a $2,000 plane ticket, which nearly drained my bank account, to travel to a funeral almost 7,000 miles away, with no idea why I was going.
Now, I play the piano and a little bit of the organ. Sounds more like circus music when I play. But turn up the bass and play loud and I can deceive some that I know what I’m doing.
I reached out to the bishop presiding over Jessica’s funeral and said I had arranged an organ piece of Amazing Grace that would be familiar to both Mormons and Buddhists who would be attending the funeral. He thought it was a great idea.
After 24 hours of travel, I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan, with my nerves going crazy. The organ piece I arranged was a duet that I recorded one of the parts to my iPod. Then I would plug the iPod into the organ and play a duet with my previous recording. But this organ didn’t have connections for my iPod.
I started to panic. I grabbed a screw driver and pulled off the back panel of the organ. I tried hard-wiring the iPod and every possible wire combination. It didn’t work. So I let God have it:
God!!! I drop $2,000 to get here. I offer this to play this organ piece and I can’t connect to this organ. I give up. I tried. I’m done. I’ll just play this piano piece I brought as a backup.
I walked out of that chapel completely exhausted and disappointed. On my way out, I ran into the security guard. I told him of my problems and like a hallmark movie he says, "There’s this extra box for the organ in the basement. Let me grab it and see if it helps.” Bingo! My iPod sound could be heard loud and clear. God was in control.
Why Am I Here
The morning of Jessica’s funeral, I took a walk at the Chang Kai-Shek memorial to ponder all the events leading up to this morning. I still needed to know, "Why?! Why am I here?!" And a calming assurance came: "You are here to play this piece. There is someone here who needs to hear it."
As the melody of "Amazing Grace" poured over the congregation, God’s love flowed freely. I’ve never cried performing a musical number. Not even at my mother’s own funeral. But this time I sobbed because of how I felt.
The funeral ended and Jessica’s family left with her body before I got a chance to talk with them. And that was it. I was back on a plane, traveling 7,000 miles back to Idaho. So who needed to hear the song? I don’t know. I don’t think I talked to the person. And that’s the miracle of it.
Think about it. God’s loves someone enough to give a dream to a guy on the other side of the globe, to prompt a woman to reach out with a phone number, to postpone a funeral by two weeks so a guy could attend it, to have a security guard solve a mechanical problem so a musical number can be performed, just so an individual could feel God’s love for them through a musical number.
We Are the Link
As I share this special story with others, people incorrectly commend me for doing this great thing. But other people’s roles were just as important as mine in bringing to pass this moment for this individual in Taiwan.
Far too often we can discount promptings as random thoughts, not realizing we are a crucial link in God’s work that we may not see at that time.
God’s Miracles Are Great
When we see moments, no matter how small, of God’s love or His tender mercies, God may have been orchestrating it for months or years with several or hundreds of individuals doing their part to make it happen for you. God had been orchestrating all this for the individual in Taiwan before they knew they would need it.