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Reader voices: Miracles, luck and finding long lost friends

By Archie Albaugh

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Dec. 30 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

"You're the one!" she said as she stood there. A woman who did not even know my name, pointing her finger at me, and with certainty identifying me as “the one.” All I could do was shake my head — she had me. I was indeed the one. It was a story nearly 40 years in the making.

It was December of 1962, and 10 of us had spent a week in the mission home with a lot of other missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being sent all over the world.

Now the 10 of us were in New York City, on our way to Germany, with a three-hour layover. I was not aware of any mission rules about not visiting with relatives on my way to the mission, and I happened to have an aunt in New York City. My mother had asked me to have dinner with my aunt should I have a layover, and being an obedient son, I was perfectly willing to have my aunt pick me up and take me to her home for dinner. I was not, however, an experienced traveler, and never thought that my ticket would not have correct information on it.

My aunt and uncle even brought me back an hour early. While my uncle parked the car, my aunt and I walked into the terminal. We were most shocked to hear my name being called on the loudspeaker. I found the nearest security guard to announce that I was the one being paged, and was told to follow him and to run. There was no time to hug the aunt — she got a wave as I ran after the guard, through the airport, down the stairs, out to the tarmac, out to the airplane that had already pulled well away from the building.

As we ran, I could see that they were pulling a rolling stairway up to the rear door, and that I had almost missed my flight. Up the stairs I ran, onto the plane, to the cheers and smiles of nine missionaries who were sitting in their seats, and had been fervently praying that I would make the flight. I was pleased to have not missed the flight, but was not looking forward to nine hours of severe motion sickness.

Now I have to admit the saddest part of my tale. I remember being asked on my mission, if there had been any miracles in my life? "No, nothing special," I responded, though I have always felt it was a miracle that I had ever gone on a mission in the first place. Dad was always against the LDS Church, and mom had never been that active. Besides, I had just been lucky that day.

I married a nonmember and found some more "luck." While I was in Vietnam, she joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We even managed to get to the temple to be sealed, two weeks before our first child was born. We raised five, doing our best to bring them up with testimonies. Our sons served missions — three of the five have temple marriages.

I even shared my near-missed flight with my wife, about 10 years ago. "By the way, did I ever tell you about how I almost missed my flight to my mission?" I briefly explained about how I had had to run through the airport and how a stairwell was brought out to the airplane to get me on it. How surprised my uncle was to walk into the airport and find me already gone. I never even mentioned it to our five children. I was the one who had not verified the flight and had the near miss.

Fast forward to the summer of 2005. My wife and I had obtained very cheap flights to Germany and decided to spend four days touring the Munich area, with four days touring Budapest. Why Budapest? Neither of us could put a finger on it, but it sounded like fun.

As we got off the train in Budapest, there were a pair of Mormon missionaries from the United States who informed us of an English-speaking LDS branch that we could attend that coming Sunday. They even gave us a phone number to call to get directions from our hotel.

Our visit to Budapest had been hard on us. My wife speaks French and a fair amount of German, and I still manage fairly well with German. It had been good that we knew some German — few Hungarians spoke English. We followed the directions to Moscow Square in Budapest — taking longer than we wanted to find church — but we walked in just as the meeting was starting.

We took seats and thoroughly enjoyed the meeting. I had the thought: Here was where native students could practice their English, and the wandering American could find understanding.

Following the meeting, a senior missionary couple approached and stood in front of us, and for some reason my eyes started at his shoes. As I finally made saw his nametag, I recognized the name — Elder Dukelow. The face confirmed it was he, one of the missionaries who went to Germany with me. "I know you!" I exclaimed. "Well I know you!” he responded, as we shared a warm handshake.

Now I was not wearing a nametag, but it was precisely here that Elder Dukelow's wife interrupted with "You're the one!"

Now came the rest of the story. Those nine missionaries on the plane had begun praying for help, for me to get back timely as soon as it became clear that the airplane was boarding and I was not back. They were probably united in prayer as the plane was called to a stop and a wayward missionary climbed aboard. I would presume that everyone bore strong testimony to the power of prayer to stop an airplane.

Elder Dukelow obviously shared the story with his wife and children. More than likely, the rest of the nine remembered the story and its powerful witness to the strength of prayer, during their missions and long after.

Some of us need to be reminded what the Lord has done for us.

My children now know the tale and so do you.

Archie Albaugh lives in Craig, Colo.

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