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Family Photo
Kim Ng, left, stands with Leon Christensen at her daughter's wedding. Christensen and his mission companion baptized Kim's family in England in 1967.

REXBURG, Idaho — Kim Ng has pondered life’s unexpected twists, turns, options and opportunities for many years. It’s left her with an interesting idea.

“I think the Lord is the best chess player,” the woman said with a sweet English accent. “He knows where people are needed, where they can progress the most, where they can be of service to others and where they might touch lives. He engineers things in such a way to fulfill his purposes. Time and time again, that’s been confirmed to me.”

Ng figures that events in her life could not be explained any other way. Her husband was born in China and made his way to England, where they met. Both are converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. More unique circumstances eventually led the family to a southeastern Idaho college town, where they found one of the missionaries who taught her family the gospel decades earlier.

For the Ngs, these happenings are not coincidences, just tender mercies.

“If we are willing to listen and follow the directions of the Spirit, without us trying too hard, we can end up in places where we can be a great service to the Lord and to other people, and in a place where we can be most happy,” she said. “The Lord has a much better perspective than we do.”

Ying’s journey

Ying Ng was born in Xinhui, a city in the Guangdong province of southern China. A Communist takeover motivated his family to leave when he was 3 years old.

“I remember very little,” Ying Ng said. “It was late at night and somebody was carrying me on their back. I was ill. We were going through a field. I remember we were in a boat … ”

The family eventually reached Hong Kong, where they had to compete for employment. Somehow they survived.

One day the family met Mormon missionaries in the street and listened to the gospel. To the dismay of one grandmother, Ng’s father and older brother joined the church in 1965. More family members converted with time, including Ying Ng, who was baptized in 1968.

To find better work opportunities, Ng’s father emigrated to England. He traveled there first, opened a restaurant and paid the passage for his family members as the funds became available. Ying Ng landed in England in 1971. He worked at the family restaurant and attended school part-time to learn English.

Despite the language barrier, Ying Ng’s testimony continued to grow. When he was in his 20s, he wanted to serve a mission. His father was strongly opposed because he wanted his son to continue with the family business. Ying said it was hard to go against his father’s will, but he decided to be a missionary and was called to the England London South Mission.

Ying Ng served an honorable mission and finally learned English. But when he returned to Manchester, England, he found his father had sold the business with plans to emigrate to the United States. Ying decided to stay, although he had no job or money. For a time, he struggled with what to do. At one point, he filled out an application to attend Ricks College but couldn’t bring himself to mail it because he knew he couldn’t go.

He found work at a warehouse making LDS temple clothing. Later, he developed his skills in the catering and restaurant business. He also used his English to help other Chinese immigrants start their own businesses.

The Turners

Shortly before Ying Ng was baptized in Hong Kong, another family was about to join the church in Stains, England — a city southeast of London.

Kim Turner’s mother was taking down Christmas decorations after celebrating Christmas in 1966 when she came across a plastic nativity set and felt guilty.

“She realized, to her horror, that we hadn’t stopped to celebrate Christmas as the birth of the Savior. This really concerned my mum,” Turner said. “She got down in the decorations and offered a sincere prayer of apology for letting this slip and said hopefully we will do better next year.”

A couple of weeks later, two missionaries knocked on the Turners’ door. The Christmas experience had softened their hearts and they were receptive to the message. Within two months (February 1967), Elders Leon Christensen and Melvin Parker baptized every member of the family but Kim, who was only 6. She was disappointed, but Parker came back at the end of his mission to baptize her. The family was grateful for their newfound faith and held firm to the gospel.

Ying and Kim

In 1980, Kim Turner’s brother was serving a full-time mission in Manchester when he met 26-year-old Ying Ng, then the ward mission leader. One day Ying informed the missionaries that he had just been called to serve in the bishopric, which had him thinking about getting married. As they talked, Ying shared a list of qualities he was looking for in a wife. Elder Turner jokingly suggested Ying date his little sister, Kim.

A short time later, Turner’s companion completed his mission. Ying was in the habit of taking returning missionaries to London, showing them some sites and dropping them off at the airport. As part of the trip, they hooked up with Turner’s family. That’s how Kim Turner met Ying Ng.

“I was nervous because he had a name we couldn’t pronounce,” Kim said. “But as soon as I saw him, I thought, ‘Oh, he’s not too bad.’ We got on really well from the beginning.”

Ying and Kim dated and got engaged. They married on July 4, 1981, in the London Temple.

Rexburg reunions

About a decade ago, the Ngs’ daughter, Ruth, attended Ricks College and married an American. She encouraged her parents to move to Rexburg and open a restaurant.

In October 2008, the Ngs took their daughter’s advice, came to Rexburg and opened Ying Yang Oriental Kitchen. The move has been a blessing. In addition to the restaurant, the last four years have allowed Kim to embrace opportunities to play the violin with the Rexburg Tabernacle Orchestra and sing in the Upper Valley women’s choir.

“It felt right to come here so we did,” she said. “We love Rexburg. We feel really at home here.”

But that’s not even the best part. Being in Rexburg has allowed Ying and Kim to reconnect with some dear old friends.

A few years before they moved to the U.S., they made contact with Elder Leon Christensen for the first time in 35 years, via email. Christensen lost his mission journal, slides and address book when the Teton Dam broke and flooded the area in 1976 and was excited to find a member of the Turner family. The former missionary assisted the family by directing them to the right people in admissions so their daughter could attend Ricks College. As an added bonus, when the Ngs bought a home in Rexburg, it happened to fall within the same LDS ward boundaries (Rexburg 12th Ward) as Christensen. Eventually, Kim also tracked down the missionary who baptized her, Elder Melvin Parker, who now lives in West Jordan, Utah. The family has been able to spend time with both missionaries and their families, and the reunions have been special. Kim Ng often wonders where she might be today if Christensen and Parker hadn’t brought the gospel to her family in 1967.

“We are so grateful … it’s one of the tender mercies of the Lord,” said Kim Ng, who now serves as her ward’s Relief Society president. “We could have lived without meeting our missionaries again, but it’s been so nice to be able to thank them for what has been the best blessing we could ever have. Their efforts have made such a difference for so many people.”

Parker was able to be with the Ng family for a baby blessing and marveled at how missionary work had altered the course of their lives.

“You don’t realize when you baptize a family what impact that will have on future generations until you meet back up with them and realize the number of people they have impacted,” Parker said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

There was a time when Christensen considered not serving a mission. While his friends were all leaving on their missions, Christensen loved cars. He spent a year building a custom 1956 Pontiac that was “all decked out and painted Omaha orange.”

“I had a girlfriend, but I was in love with my car. But I had a bishop that set me on the right trail and I sold the car to go,” said the 67-year-old. “Was it worth it? Oh, yeah. It was worth selling the car because it (my mission) saved my life.”

Christensen, who enjoys eating at Ying Yang’s, was touched to learn that his and Parker’s arrival at the Turner home came as an answer to a mother’s prayer.

Seeing the Ng children serve missions and be active in the gospel has been just as meaningful, Christensen said.

Settling in Rexburg has also been significant for Ying Ng because he was able to renew ties with Cody Howard, a native of Rexburg and a close friend from his London South mission days. Ying, Howard and two companions were all in the same district and shared some memorable experiences. They also reconnected when Ng’s daughter came to Ricks College.

Now, Howard is the bishop in the Rexburg Young Single Adult 84th LDS ward, and Ying Ng is his first counselor.

Reuniting with Ying Ng reminded Howard of the joy felt by Alma when he found the sons of Mosiah were “still his brethren in the Lord” (Alma 17:2). “He is a great guy with a great testimony. To be able to work with him after all these years is phenomenal,” Howard said. “These tender mercies are what the Lord gives us as we try to live the gospel and do what’s right.”

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