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LDS reporter finds faith amid despair

Standing in a tent in the middle of a Kosovar refugee camp along the Kosovo/Macedonia border, Art Rascon looked over a sea of thousands of people forced from their homeland.

As a reporter for KTRK-TV in Houston, Brother Rascon spoke with a family who, because of the civil war raging in Kosovo, no longer owned anything "except the clothes on their backs." Their daughter, pleased that someone cared about the family's plight, got on her hands and knees and began searching for something in the make-shift shelter. She then offered Brother Rascon a bottle of water.

While working as a television news reporter, Brother Rascon has covered major stories such as political unrest in Haiti, the Cuban-Haitian refugee crisis, Mexico's guerilla war, Peru's hostage standoff, Cuba's downing of U.S. planes, hurricanes in the Caribbean and the United States, and the Oklahoma City bombing.

In the midst of these devastating events, Brother Rascon, second counselor in the bishopric of the Woodlands 3rd Ward, Houston Texas North Stake, has met people who, despite their struggles, have demonstrated "amazing faith, amazing resilience and an amazing ability to overcome their trials and circumstances."

He has been able to learn from many of them, like the young Kosovar girl who "was in such dire circumstances and such great need, but who was lending so much compassion and thought to another."

Raised in Denver, Colo., Brother Rascon attended Ricks College and served a mission in the California Arcadia Mission prior to graduating from BYU in 1984 with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism. Before moving almost two years ago to Houston where he now works as an anchor/reporter, Brother Rascon worked as a Miami-based correspondent for the "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather." He left this job hoping to spend more time with his wife, Patti, and their six children.

During his career he has also worked as a reporter in Los Angeles and at several stations in Texas. He has been nominated for 11 Emmy awards and won three — two for his March 1999 coverage of the Kosovo War.

Brother Rascon said covering the Kosovo War was one of the hardest assignments of his career. The human tragedy of war and the hatred between people were devastating, he said. Riding into Macedonia in the back of a bread truck, Brother Rascon saw squalid conditions as more than 100,000 people lived together in close quarters.

He wanted to alleviate their pain — instead he shared some of their stories with the world.

Brother Rascon gives numerous youth firesides, hoping to help young people understand that despite life's trials, it is possible for people to turn their lives around. It is possible to find faith in despair.

"Every story I go on, there is usually some sort of nugget of information or a couple of stories . . . that I can share with a Church audience that are uplifting and strengthening. There is so much good out there."

Take for instance the "children of the dump" who, in Nicaragua, literally lived on dumps of garbage and scavenged for food. While doing a series of reports on their plight, Brother Rascon learned the orphans were using a knot of twine for a baseball.

He loaded the group of boys in the back of his pick-up truck and drove to the nearest store in a village several miles away.

The shirtless and shoeless youth jumped out of the truck and raced to the store-front window. "I could hear them . . . yelling and screaming, 'There it is! There it is!' "

Brother Rascon bought the boys two baseballs.

"These kids just treasured that like you would not believe," he said. "They hadn't held a baseball in more than a year and a half. You realize how ungrateful we are as they treasure something so meaningless to us, like a simple baseball."

Then there was the 8-year-old boy Brother Rascon met while covering the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. During the terrorist attack, the greatest and most devastating in U.S. history, 168 people were killed.

Standing by a makeshift memorial, Brother Rascon watched the young boy approach with a little bouquet of flowers. "He was crying and crying and he fell on his knees and laid the flowers down," Brother Rascon said. "I said, 'Hey, what's your name? Why are you crying? Did you lose someone? Did you lose your mother or father or brother or sister or someone close to you?'

"[The boy] said, "No, I did not lose anyone. No one in my family was killed. I am just so sad for all those people who have died.' "

The child was not weeping for himself but for others, Brother Rascon said. "That boy taught me a great lesson about loving one another and loving your neighbor."

Brother Rascon knows that many reporters are perceived as callous and cold. He tries every day to cover the circumstances of others with a degree of sensitivity.

Maybe it's because he believes the public can learn so much, as he has, from others' stories. Maybe it is because he believes that in every tragedy there is hope. Maybe it is because he believes, as stated in the title of his book, On Assignment, detailing some of his experiences, that there is a story behind every story.

"We sometimes learn to express gratitude for what we have when we see someone else's tragedy," he said.

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