Their professions brought them from native lands on opposite hemispheres to the People's Republic of China. The common denominator shared by Gustavo Carrillo and his family and Selva Nadaysen is not only their membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but how they've been helped by associations with fellow Saints in the capital city of Beijing.
Brother Carrillo is a rarity in China, his Mexican race and features confusing the locals into thinking he's from India. Unable to find a decent Mexican restaurant in the city of 18 million, he finally discovered where tortillas can be bought. A vice president for Mexico's sole information-technology outsourcing company located in China, he admits it took a little convincing to get his wife, Xochitl, to relocate their young family to Beijing.
A Malaysian native with Indian roots and Hindu family background, Brother Nadaysen is a Church convert of nearly 15 years and a China resident for nearly a decade. He didn't plan on being in Beijing that long, but he's worked his way to become a department director for English instruction at one of China's largest design schools.
Together, they're part of a vibrant expatriate Church membership in Beijing, where the original branch was divided into two earlier this year and where members reach out to help peers in need, no matter if brought together by varying reasons whether it be government service in embassy or consulate offices, teaching or studying at local universities, or employment at international corporate offices or one's own entrepreneurial efforts.
With no idea they would be creating a multilingual, multinational and multi-cultural family, Gustavo Carrillo and Xochitl Carillo married as college students; she already was a member of the Church; he converted a few months before their marriage. His eventual career took them out of Mexico and for a decade into the United States' Midwest and Northeast, where sons Gus, Danny and Diego were born. Church members, leaders and auxiliaries helped with their transitions at each U.S. move.
"Always the Church has been a comfort and a home for us," Brother Carrillo said.
Sister Carrillo noticed telltale signs of a possible move to China, with Gustavo making business trips there and suggesting the older boys learn a little Chinese. Suspicions became reality when her husband was notified of his transfer, with his wife worried about availability of the Church in Beijing and accessibility of doctors and medical treatment for their soon-to-be-born third son, Diego.
The worries started to subside as Xochitl received a prompting in the words of a well-known hymn. "I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord," she recalled, adding "it was a clear answer."
Gustavo tried to help pave the way. "At first, the family didn't want to come here, so we had to go on a 'recognition trip,"' he said, adding "I knew she would like it."
Said Sister Carrillo: "Living in China was not easy at the beginning it was a big change, and thanks to the members in our branch, we made it through the first months. Later it became better and better."
The Carillos enjoy experiencing cultural differences, like the time they were visiting one of Beijing's many Buddhist and Taoist temples. Watching the people participate in their rituals, Gus and Danny spoke of the importance and sacredness of temples, with the latter looking at the Beijing complex and saying "we are not ready to go in yet, right?"
"It was shocking for them to learn that temples in China were different than the (LDS Church) temples they have visited only on the outside," said Sister Carrillo. "They were wondering why people burn candles and incense. It has been a very enriching experience."
Selva Nadaysen remembers arriving late December 1999 in Yanqing County northwest of Beijing, with no Chinese currency and no jacket to stave off the severe cold. Teaching at a local school and the only non-Chinese person in the area, he was anxious to live in a more metropolitan area of Beijing and be closer to Church members and meetings than his two-hours-each-way bus ride every Sunday.
But a two-hour bus ride was a commitment he paid because of his acquired love of the gospel. He grew up with his parents and two siblings in Malaysia, studying English in India and then returning to Malaysia. A brother who had joined the Church earlier gave missionaries his address. After first trying to avoid them and later spending a half-year investigating the Church, he was baptized in 1994.
"Since 1994, I have no regrets I learned a lot, I changed a lot," Brother Nadaysen said. "My views of people and religion and life everything was enlightened because of the gospel and the people in the Church. It was a turning point in my life."
He has been in Beijing long enough to remember the branch meetings in the 52-story Capital Mansion, at one time the tallest building in the city before the proliferation of towering skyscrapers. And he remembers the branch fast conducted to help locate a new meetinghouse, with the selected Jin Tai Building still used by both branches just minutes away from his home.
A job closer to metro Beijing, branch meetings closer to his home, good friends both in the Church and in his associations with Chinese people Selva calls it a "pattern of blessings" in his life. He expected another major step in his life to be the same when he married in 2002 but he separated two years later.
"The Church members are very supportive in these hard times that has been a good strength," he said. "I was grateful that the Church kept me strong nothing else can keep me faithful than going to Church and reading my scriptures."
E-mail to: [email protected]