Later that day while boarding a flight to Madagascar on a business trip, I got talking to a fellow passenger who was based in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He mentioned that his name was Peter Williams*, and when he said that he was originally from Utah, I mentioned that that was where the Church to which I belonged had its headquarters. We were then interrupted. He proceeded ahead to the business class area, while I found my seat in economy class. The curtains between the two seating classes were subsequently drawn, and soon we were ready for take-off. In preparation for stake conference, I began reading a general conference edition of the Ensign magazine to help gather my thoughts.
After cruising altitude had been reached and a meal served, I moved to an empty seat in front of the curtain, still in economy class, in the hopes that I might see where Peter was sitting. When the curtains were parted, I was delighted to see that he was diagonally opposite me and I was again able to continue talking to him.
He mentioned that he was working for an organisation which promoted democracy, and amongst other things that he had dated a Minette Shadwell* in Utah who I also happened to be good friends with while I lived in Provo, Utah. While serving as missionaries in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in the mid-1970s, my companion and I had had several gospel-related discussions with Minette, who later joined the LDS Church. She was originally from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
Peter had become disaffected from the Church after his elders’ quorum president had ‘stolen’ and subsequently married his girlfriend, Minette. He decided to leave Utah, and ended up marrying a Russian girl and working and living in Kyrgyzstan.
We chatted about the Church, and he mentioned his desire to attend Church again, particularly for the sake of his children whom he felt were growing up without the fellowship of Church members and the gospel’s influence. He was disappointed that the LDS Church was not available in the area in which he lived.
I mentioned that there was a unit of the Church in Antananarivo, and that I knew he would find it uplifting if he could attend. As far as I can recall, I gave him my copy of the Ensign, shared a brief testimony, and we parted ways.
There was no doubt in my mind that the Lord had arranged this meeting for both our sakes. Consider the chances of the following happening:
- me climbing the steps to board a plane, exactly next to Peter
- both of us being seated diagonally across from each other so we could talk
- he, coming from Kyrgyzstan, and me, from South Africa, being on the same flight bound for Madagascar
- he having dated a girl in the USA who also happened to be a friend of mine, and whom I had met as a missionary in South Africa
While I am not aware of Peter's current situation, I am keenly aware that there is a loving Heavenly Father who answers our prayers, who is concerned about the welfare of His children, and who creates situations to help us remember and return to Him.
I don’t believe in spiritual coincidences.