My grandmother left Lithuania after the First World War. Her husband had died fighting in the First World War. So, alone, she gathered her resources and travelled with her four children to Brazil to start a new life. It must have seemed to her that she was leaving her heritage behind, along with family, friends, and culture. She was travelling alone across the world to a country that did not speak her language. She knew she would never see her homeland again, but she couldn’t have imagined the importance that place would have for her grandchildren.
Twenty years ago, 60 years after that brave woman left her home, my brother Nelson and I travelled back to Lithuania together. We were on a journey to discover our long-lost family connection. We found more than we expected. I believe we were moved by the spirit of Elijah to begin that search. We hoped, at least, to find the records of our ancestors so that we could give them the opportunity of receiving the covenants of God in the Lord’s House. We only had scraps and pieces of clues to help us begin the search. We had a picture of a cousin named Marcelle who was a child when my grandmother left the country.
We also had two postcards sent by Marcelle to our family in Brazil. They had been sent without a return address, but they had a post office stamp naming the city from which they had been mailed. One postcard was mailed in 1935, and the other in 1945. They had been mailed from two different cities. We would only be able to look for our family in Lithuania for four days before having to return home. Time was short. On our first day, we asked our guide to take us to the city the more recent postcard had been mailed from. We figured we should start there.
We hoped the people in the most recent place she had lived might remember her. After a two-hour drive, we noticed a mistake. Our guide had not followed our instructions. He had taken us to the city where the first postcard had come from. Disappointed, we asked the guide to take us to a Catholic Church, hoping we could find some information about the whereabouts of our cousin Marcelle or her family. I can still picture in my mind the small Catholic Church we were taken to. As we arrived, I saw a priest locking the gate leading to the entrance of the church. He appeared to just be leaving.
We parked our car quickly and hurried to stop the priest to ask him if he had ever heard of Marcelle Aidukaitis. To our surprise, he told us that he had known a woman by that name. She was a nun who had passed away 10 years earlier. He did not know if this was the Marcelle we were looking for, but he said he knew where her family’s home was and would be willing to take us there. The family we met was indeed the family we were looking for. We had found our family in Lithuania. We had found a needle in the haystack on our very first try. A real miracle.
I still think of how God guided us that day. First, contrary to our instructions, our guide took us to a different city than the one we were expecting to go to. Next, we arrived at the Catholic Church at the precise moment the priest who remembered Marcelle was leaving the premises. If we had been delayed by only 30 seconds on that two-hour drive, we would have missed the priest. If the priest had not needed to take the time to lock up, we would have missed him. If anything had gone differently, I have no idea if we would have been able to find our family during that trip—if ever. But God knew our intent, and He guided us exactly to where we needed to be.
Three days later, we had a family reunion with the relatives we found in Lithuania. There were over 60 family members present. An incredible thing. God is so interested that we take the names of our own relatives to the temple, and perform saving ordinances for them, that He will intervene in our plans to help us find them. When we show the least interest in looking for them, He will do miracles. I invite all to experiment with the hand of God in this work by doing what we can to bring our own deceased relatives to the temple. May God bless us in this great cause.