The following interview with Olivia Foo Fung Leung Luk was first published by the Mormon Women Project in March 2014.
A job loss. A family member’s illness. A cancer diagnosis. All difficult trials, made even more difficult when they all happen at the same time. Olivia Luk and her family faced this unimaginable series of events in 2002. They met their challenges with tears, prayers, and faith—the kind of faith that Olivia had developed when she joined the Church as a young woman in Hong Kong. And she found that Heavenly Father responded to her family’s needs in unexpected ways.
It all happened in one day.
It was an ordinary day in 2002, two weeks before my son was leaving for his mission. He had been looking forward to serving a mission since he was young. He planned to serve a mission first, and then study at one of the Brigham Young University campuses. But his life and my life were about to change. He had been vomiting and having severe headache for several days. He called me on that day and said that he had a very serious headache and was heading to the hospital. By the time he arrived at the hospital, he fainted. After several examinations and checking, the doctor found a tumor in his brain. Later on it was confirmed that he had cancer.
After hearing this tragic news, my husband told me that he was laid off—on the same day—and my mother-in-law was also in the hospital. My husband ran to the hospital after knowing our son’s situation. At that time he was not a member [of the Church] yet. He was yelling and crying out loud, and said to the unknown Almighty, “If you can heal my son, I will accept the gospel!” During that time I did not know what to do besides praying and fasting. I started fasting and my husband fasted as well, even though he did not know the meaning of fasting. It was his first time to fast. We continued to pray for our son and hoped that he would calm down.
After several medical checkups, it was confirmed that my son had a tumor in his brain. Arrangements for surgeries were made and schedules were set for chemotherapy. I remember there was one time my son desperately asked me why this happened to him. I did not know how to answer his question. I did not cry in front of my son and I knew that I needed to stay strong to take care of him. But when I knelt down and prayed, I cried and was shocked at how all these things could happen at the same time, not just that my son was sick and my husband was laid off—I was also laid off on the very next day after my son was sent to the hospital. As a mother, it was incomprehensible that my son was suffering from cancer. My heart was broken and I questioned, “Why did this happen to him but not to me?” Even though I could not accept the reality, I continued to pray and plead to God for comfort and strength. When I prayed, I cried, but I knew that I had to face the reality. I had faith that God would take care of my family. I knew he had a plan for me and for my family.
God answered our prayers in many ways. We were blessed to have a caring and loving doctor to take care of my son. He told us that we should not give up. He promised us that they would try all that they could do to cure him. They did research worldwide and ensured that my son received proper treatment. When my son was in the hospital, the nurses treated him as family. Also, since my husband had been laid off, he was able to spend more time taking care of him, provide daily needs for him, and support him during his chemotherapy. Financially, as both my husband and I were being laid off, people would think that the burden would increase. However, I received a lump sum of money from my company, which was sufficient for our daily spending until I got another job.
As I mentioned, it was only two weeks before my son would report to the MTC. He was upset because serving a mission was something that he wanted to do since he was young. The Lord works in a miraculous way. Even though he was not able to serve a full-time proselyting mission, instead he was able to share the Gospel to the people in the hospital. When he was staying in the hospital, next to him was an empty bed. Patients would come and go and because of that, he was able to share the Gospel with other patients. He told me that he even talked to a prisoner and shared the Gospel with him. They talked about prayer. After that prisoner was released, he returned and visited my son. His experience also partly influenced my husband on his way to becoming converted.
During the whole process of my son’s chemotherapy, I went to visit him almost every day. I would help him to do foot massage and make him feel better. My son became very ill after he received the fourth chemotherapy. As a mother, it was really hard for me to see him suffer. I continued to pray for him and hoped he had the strength to overcome what he was suffering. I felt the tender mercies of the Lord on my son, on me, and on my family. The Lord watched over us during this difficult time and helped us along the way. My son received proper treatment and he became better. After he finished the treatment and was released from the hospital, SARS broke out. If he would have had to stay longer in the hospital, he might have been infected by SARS. Fortunately he was released before that devastating virus hit Hong Kong, which caused hundreds of deaths during that time. It has been almost eight or nine years and the cancer hasn’t come back.
How did your husband join the Church?
I met him before I joined the Church. He has been in contact with the Church through me for many years. He was at my baptism and our sons’ baptisms, but he had no intention to join. On the day when my son was sent to the hospital because of his critical situation, my husband cried out loud and said if God would save his son’s life, he would believe in God. He kept his promise. Later on, during our son’s recovery period, he took the missionary lessons and got baptized. During his baptismal service, he cried and shared a wonderful testimony. His faith in the Lord has been strengthened through all these trials in our family. He was called to serve as a bishop recently.
How about you? How did you join the Church?
When I was a young kid, I had a schoolmate who walked to the school on the same path. One day she invited me to go to church with her. At that time I went to another church, which was quite far away from where I lived. My friend invited me to go to the LDS meeting place at Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. The meeting place was a rented place in a very old commercial building. I attended church meetings and found myself interested in the Church. After that I started to follow my friend to go to church. In the Church, I was able to meet a lot of amazing people. They are very talented and faithful. I admired one of the sisters who taught the Gospel Principles class. I wanted to be baptized, but my mother said that it was not necessary. However, my father and my sisters were very supportive. They thought that it was good for me to go to church. Sometimes on Sunday, they would wake me up and remind me to attend church meetings. Even though I was not baptized, I continued to go to church on Sunday, sing in the choir, and serve others. Everyone said that I looked like a member from head to toe. My bishop even tried to extend a calling to me by mistake because he thought that I was already baptized. Finally, after six years of being an investigator, I got baptized and confirmed as a member of the Church.
I was baptized a year before my husband and I were married. At that time, my future mother-in-law was not happy about my decision. But I was firm and knew that I needed to be baptized. My husband was at my baptismal service. However, after we were married, I became less active. We moved to a new area in Hong Kong and I did not know which ward I should go to. We lived with my mother-in-law after we were married. Whenever missionaries came to visit me, my mother-in-law turned them away. For the whole time when I was less active, my visiting teachers continued to pay a visit. Every time when they came I gave them an excuse—such as I was busy, I had to take care of my kids, I had to work, etc.—my visiting teachers did not give up. They said whenever I have time, I can bring my sons to church on Sunday.
One day an incident happened that caused me to re-think the importance of gospel in my life. It was not a drastic incident that proceeded to a “big” miracle, instead, it happens almost every day in societies. As usual, I took my sons to catch the school bus to go to school. On the side of the road there were two teenagers fighting against each other. There was broken glass all over on the ground. At the moment I asked myself, “Will my sons behave as they are?” I was worried and a lot of thoughts came into my mind. Then I heard a voice that said, “Bring them to church. Bring them to church.” I realized that I should bring them to church and teach them to read the scriptures.
After this incident happened, I went home and discussed it with my husband. My husband didn’t like the idea because during that time I was not even going to church, so how would I be able to take our sons to church? He also worried that going to church would take too much time and interfere with our sons’ schoolwork. I promised my husband that I would go to church and manage the time well so that it would not interfere with our sons’ schoolwork. Eventually, my husband agreed to let me bring our sons to church. I think one of the reasons that my husband agreed to let me do that was because he had been to church when he was dating me and he had an idea what the church environment was like. He knew that the teachings of the Church would be able to help our sons.
After that I started to bring my sons to church every Sunday. On the first Sunday I returned to church I received a friendship basket during Relief Society. I was welcomed by other sisters and felt a sense of belonging. Sometimes my mother-in-law came to church with me. She had the chance to interact with members. Even though sometimes she heard our neighbors saying that our church was a cult and people there were not friendly, she told me that people in the Church are actually very polite and show respect to others.
We invited missionaries to our home for meals and my family enjoyed having missionaries around. The missionaries tried to teach my husband, but he was too stubborn during that time and did not want to listen. He even refused to let our sons to be baptized. He said that we should wait till our sons reach the age of 18 and make a decision by themselves. Our sons were not happy because they could not be baptized and there were things that they could not do, for example, preparing and passing the sacrament. I continued to encourage my sons to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be good boys.
One day our youngest son wrote a letter to my husband. In the letter he wrote his testimony and told his father how much he loved the Church and the great desire he had to be baptized. He pleaded for his father to allow him to be baptized. The letter touched my husband’s heart and finally he gave the permission to our sons to be baptized.
Is there anything you would like to say to your sons and the youth in the Church?
I encourage them to rely on God. No matter what happens in life, they have to remember not to give up. God does answer our prayers, but one important thing that we need to know is He answers our prayers according to His timetable, not ours. He wants us to grow and learn in this lifetime. I have learned that in the life lessons I have had, we must obey Heavenly Father’s will. And most importantly, hold to the rod and endure to the end.