StakePresLeft to right: President Nuno Crte-Real, President Lawrence Vingoe

Nuno Crte-Real and his wife, Clara, couldn’t have felt more comfortable in their situation. An active Latter-Day Saint couple, they both ran their successful businesses from a shared office in the centre of the popular Portuguese tourist resort of Vila Nova de Gaia, a city which is renowned for its Porto wine.

Brother Nuno had recently been released after serving for nine years as a Stake president and was looking forward to enjoying some leisure time with his wife and six children. He would often leave his house or office and walk to the nearby library to immerse himself in an interesting book. It was August – perfect to bask in the glorious Portuguese sunshine and look forward to a bright future.

Life was good: Nuno’s work for a large insurance company was going really well, which, coupled by his wife’s success in the health business, meant that their financial future was stable and secure. There was only a slight issue arising from a collateral business which had started to bother the Crte-Real family a little.

It was at that point, when family life was mostly calm and predictable, that Nuno and Clara decided to fast and pray to know what to do next in their life.

To their surprise, they received a very clear and direct answer to their prayer. The Lord asked them to move to England (U.K.) where Clara’s brother lived already with his family.

The Crte-Real family were stunned. Why should they ever have to leave everything they had built through many years of work? Their life was almost idyllic – all they needed was a bit of direction, and certainly not towards the much cooler and wetter England!

Nuno in particular felt worried as English was not his native language; his children would have to leave behind well known friends and schools, which would possibly cause stress.

But within a few days, further prayer and fasting only brought stronger and sounder answers to Nuno and Clara’s fervent pleas. They were to relocate immediately to England.

Nuno and Clara felt very much like Lehi when he was asked to leave his possessions and friends in Jerusalem and trust that the Lord would show him and his family a bountiful promised land. However, they had both made sacred covenants in the Temple and they decided to walk in faith and be led by the Lord to their own Bountiful land, even if this meant wandering in the dark (and rain?) for a little while.

On 7th September 2011 they moved to Norfolk, England, and on the following Sunday they were welcomed by a friendly congregation as they introduced themselves to the local British saints.

Nuno focused on looking for work in the insurance business but quickly found out that he had to face the fierce competition of many mother-tongue colleagues – not an easy task for a newcomer!

Although the work situation looked uncertain, God had kept an eye on His servant, and within two short months of settling in Norfolk, Brother Crte-Real was called as the Bishop in his new Ward. He was still unemployed and his family was just getting used to a new country with its own language and cultural differences.

Brother Crte-Real could have easily refused the calling extended to him, but he felt that he needed to accomplish what the Lord had planned for him to do, so he accepted, once again not knowing what the future had in store for him.

It was only much later that he found out that the Stake President, Lawrence Vingoe, had felt a strong impression to call him as a Bishop on both occasions when they had shaken hands during Stake meetings.

This is what happens when two faithful servants of the Lord are humble and follow the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Under Bishop Crte-Real’s inspired leadership, unity and strength grew in his ward’s membership as never before. Meanwhile, he was blessed to find suitable employment and his children settled in their schools and became fluent in the English language with ease.

As events unfolded, it became apparent to all of us how each step we take is carefully overseen by a loving Heavenly Father, who prepares the scenario where miracles can happen.

Two years before the Crte-Real family moved to England, in November 2009, Brother Lawrence Vingoe of the King’s Lynn Ward was ready to move to the North of England with his wife Michelle. Their house was all packed and the contract about to be signed – but the sale fell through and within hours Brother Vingoe was called to serve as Stake President in the Norwich England Stake. He had previously served as Stake President but had been released early because of heart problems. 

As you might recall from a previous Meridian article about him, he was sitting in his empty house, and had prayed for something to do’ as he was tired of looking at piles of boxes. I am sorry that the article link is now broken since Meridian has migrated its contents, but it’s enough to say that when Lawrence Vingoe prayed for something to do, he didn’t quite mean that he wanted a calling in the Stake – but that’s what he got.

When I interviewed him the first time, he cheerfully said, “Be careful what you pray for!” He was so looking forward to joining his family in the North of England, but instead was asked to stay for a few more years and serve in Norfolk.

I interviewed him again a few years later and he told me that he had always felt very strongly about young members serving missions. For this reason, when he was first released as a Stake President, he asked all the Young Men and Women in the room to stand up and to pray about the possibility of serving a mission.


  A couple of years later, he was called again in the same position and was able to set apart more than thirty worthy missionaries, thus fulfilling his desire to increase missionary work in his Stake.

During all these years he and his wife Michelle had often discussed the possibility of serving a mission in the future, perhaps around the year 2018. However, due to their circumstances, they were not able to see exactly how and when they would fulfill their dream – they just left it to the Lord.

Nevertheless, they always tried to be good member missionaries and to welcome the Elders to teach their investigators in their home. In this way they were able to witness many conversions, including the one of a Muslim man, whose story you can read here  “An Unexpected Convert-The Muslim at my Door”. Notice that this happened in November 2011, when Nuno Crte-Real was called as Bishop.

This and other wonderful experiences taught the Vingoes to cherish missionary work opportunities and to look forward to new ones. Although President Vingoe did not serve a mission when he was a young man, a bit later in life he renewed his commitment to give the Lord all he could, but as at the time he was getting married to his sweetheart, Michelle, he had to postpone his mission to some point later as a married couple.

The Vingoes’ strong desire to help with missionary work was reflected in simple things such as supporting the missionaries, sending packages and letters to them, feeding them regularly and so on – little acts of service that make a difference in other people’s lives.

Unknowingly, the Vingoes had set up their little Missionary Training Centre right in their home; their loving example was probably one of the reasons why their son Chris served a mission in Leeds while his father served in the London Mission Presidency, under President Foulger.

At that time, President Monson asked in the 2010 General Conference for more senior missionaries and Brother Vingoe felt something deep in his heart. “Not many other men in my stake are able to serve a senior mission right now, but several could serve as Stake Presidents,” he told himself. He recalls, “I had the strong impression that my wife and I could be one of those senior missionaries.”

His impression became even stronger when President Monson announced the lowering of the age required for missionary service, triggering a rapid increase of the number of missionaries in the field. “I wanted to be part of those 85,000 missionaries,” said President Vingoe. He had fond memories of the time spent with some senior couples and desired to enjoy their same blessings.

However, the Vingoes’ prospects of ever serving a mission were quite dim. Not only were there several family commitments in the way, but unfortunately, during the summer of 2013, Michelle’s health took a turn for the worse as she suddenly started to suffer from a very serious problem with her heart.

Her health was failing very quickly but doctors were able to help her by fitting a pace-maker – something very unusual for an active and fit middle-aged person. Since then, Michelle has felt remarkably better and now attends the hospital for regular check-ups. Her husband is very impressed that, for the first time in many years, his wife now enjoys warm feet and warm hands all the time!

After this summer’s health scare, the Vingoes reconsidered their initial idea of moving back to their family in the North – but as a Stake President, Brother Vingoe couldn’t just pack up and go.

The change to their health situation prompted him and his wife to pray again regarding the direction to take in their life – just like Brother and Sister Crte-Real had done a few months before. Notice that instead of being resentful and complaining to the Lord about their challenges, they turned to Him in faith for further light and guidance.

They had thought about either selling their house or renting it out, but they were afraid to allow some unknown people to damage their property. After much fasting and praying, two things happened which showed once again how the Lord is always in control.

President Vingoe was released from his calling by the Area Presidency. At the same time, he was told that he could now serve a mission if he wanted to, even with health limitations in place. In the same day he was released, he and his wife submitted their mission papers. Then, a sister who had just moved to their ward and needed a house to rent was put in touch with them and agreed to stay in their property, solving the problem of leaving it empty during their mission.

The timing was perfect and getting the medical papers together was easy as both Michelle and Lawrence had recently been seen by medical personnel and had up-to-date records.

While preparing their missionary papers, the Vingoes were able to share the Gospel once again with neighbours and nurses with whom they came into contact, as they had to explain why they needed blood tests and why they were moving away.

All the pieces of the puzzle were slowly being put together. Michelle even had an amusing missionary experience on her way to her hairdresser. She met two Elders in town and walked past them as they were stopping a lady who quickly dismissed them. Then Michelle stopped to chat with the young missionaries until they went on their way, while the other lady watched the scene from nearby. She was then approached by that lady, who asked Michelle “How did you manage to get rid of those guys?”

With a great smile, Sister Vingoe explained that they were two lovely missionaries from her own church and they serve a two years mission. I can just imagine the expression of the other lady when she was told that they were not paid and that Michelle herself was soon to serve a mission. Her attitude changed completely and she found herself wishing the best to Michelle, and probably promising herself to discover more about the Mormon missionaries on the next encounter!

In mid December the Vingoes were overjoyed to receive their mission call to serve in the England Leeds Mission as CES specialists from 18 January 2014.


Be sure you check their missionary blog soon!

The story is not over, yet. If you remember, President Vingoe had just been released and the Area Presidency was inspired to call another man to lead the Norwich Stake.

You might not be too surprised to learn that Nuno Crte-Real was called to serve as the new Stake President. Now he finally knows why he was called to move to the Norwich Stake.

Now more than ever we can see the hand of the Lord, moving a bit here and a bit there, and inspiring humble men to move to a different country, or stay where they are for a little longer, so that His purposes will be accomplished, as long as we are willing to walk in faith and trust in Him.

 

Photograph: Franz Sidney
Permission granted for photos to be published.