When my only daughter had her first baby, my husband and I were serving as mission leaders in the Dominican Republic.  I was blessed to return to the United States to be with my daughter and her husband, Jason, and witness that miraculous birth.  I watched the proud daddy catch his first child and marveled as the couple bonded with their tiny infant.

It was hard to leave the happy family, but I was reassured they would strengthen one another as I returned to strengthen our missionaries.  By the time they had their second child, they wouldn’t even need me—at least that’s what I thought.

Four months into my daughter’s second pregnancy Mikan received news that their baby may have a heart condition and would possibly require heart surgery soon after birth.  The news alarmed Mikan and we commiserated together across the miles.  She often called weeping, and we had long conversations about faith.  As much as I loved being with our missionaries I longed to be there for my daughter, to hold her to my chest and stroke her hair and reassure her all would be well.

My husband and I were still concerned about the baby’s health when we prepared to return home at the first of July.  We counted our blessings that we were returning home as scheduled, since Covid-19 had delayed many mission leaders’ return date.  The mission leaders who served in the neighboring mission on our same island stayed on their mission for several months after their release date, waiting for their successor to receive permission to enter the country.

However, the mission leaders who would replace my husband and me were Dominicans.  They came from the same island where they would serve.  President Acosta had been an Area Seventy in the Dominican Republic during our tenure.  We could go home as scheduled.

When we returned home Mikan and Jason drove to Orlando to pick us up from our mission, as the airport nearest our home was closed because of Covid-19.  We were eager to see our daughter, to help her through her pregnancy and to watch her oldest child as she grew larger and less mobile.  We would be there as she learned more about her baby’s heart condition, and could offer appropriate support.  We had no idea that the support they would need extended well beyond what any of us had imagined.

A Huge Surprise

As Mikan and Jason were making the long drive to Orlando, they received a phone call from the doctor.  The baby Mikan was carrying not only had a heart condition that would require surgery, the baby she was carrying had Down’s Syndrome.  They were shocked.  Mikan was only 26 years old.  What would this mean for their lives?  How much would the baby be able to learn?  How would they educate her?  What type of health challenges would she have?  Could they have more children?  Should they have more children?  Would they have a child in their home into their old age?  We were happy Jason maintained control of the car upon receiving this unexpected news.  It rocked their world.

They didn’t have to carry the news alone because within minutes they were at the airport and my husband and I scooped them into our arms offering those long-awaited embraces.  They shared the unexpected news and we were as shocked as they were.  The tears we wiped from their eyes were tears of joy as well as tears of fear.  Nevertheless, our faith trumped our fear.  We had experienced so many trials in the mission, one thing we knew for certain:  The Lord would help us through any trials we might experience.  We were able to comfort one another, reassuring one another that all would be well, whatever challenges we would face.

Reflecting on that day Mikan says, “The Lord was so much smarter than me on this one. I remember being so discouraged waiting 6 long months to get a positive pregnancy test and being so confused as to why we weren’t pregnant yet….it all makes sense now. I needed Mom and Dad home for Brooklyn’s entry into our family. Their overwhelming positive response to her diagnosis was the catalyst I needed to see Down syndrome as a blessing in our life!”

The Tender Mercy

The fact that we were able to return home as scheduled was nothing short of miraculous.  In January, when the Church first announced our replacement, they planned to send a couple from Utah to preside over our mission in the Dominican Republic.  We had a lot in common with this couple from Utah.  My husband and I had both grown up in Utah.  We were about the same age as our replacements.  They had children about the same ages as ours.  We had served in the church in similar ways.  We were very excited to have them take over our mission.  We began zoom calls and shared with them much of what we had learned about serving in a foreign country, lessons we were certain would bless them, and make their adjustment easier.

After meeting with them for several weeks we suddenly received more shocking news:  the couple from Utah were not coming to our mission after all.  Their assignment had been switched.  They would serve in Puerto Rico and the Acostas, who were from the Dominican Republic, would serve in our mission.  As much as we loved and admired the Acostas, we were a little disappointed because we had bonded with the couple from Utah as we prepared them for their service.  There was nothing new we could share with the Acostas–no need to prepare them.  We didn’t understand why the church had made this change, but we accepted that it was The Lord’s will.

Three months after they switched our replacement, Covid-19 shut down virtually all travel.  Had the couple from Utah still been assigned to our mission, they would have not been able to enter the country, and we would not have been able to return home, and we would not have been there with Mikan and Jason on the day they received the news that they would have a baby born with Down’s Syndrome.

 Blessed Beyond Measure

Brookie, our grandbaby with Down’s Syndrome, has been a blessing greater than any we could imagine.  She loves with abandon; she smiles like she is the luckiest little girl in the world.  She gives great big bear hugs that make me wonder where she got all that strength.  Her heart surgery was successful, and her health has been far better than anticipated.  She is the greatest blessing we could have asked for.  Recently Jason made a comment that expresses all our feelings, “I feel we were blessed with Brookie because The Lord knows we are doing our best to follow him.”

This experience reminded me that The Lord is in the details.  He knew that sending a child with Downs’s Syndrome to a young couple would be seen as a trial.  He wanted our kids to have the love and support of their parents to make this trial easier.  In January, the Lord inspired someone to make a change that that enabled us to return home in July.  The people who made the change may not have understood why they were making the change any better than we did, but they followed the Spirit.  We are constantly reminded that the Lord knows us.  He wants to bless us, and trials can be more of a blessing than we imagine.