BENGALURU, INDIA — Standing among colorful flowers adorning a stand in the Conrad Hilton Hotel here, President Russell M. Nelson looked to a brightly adorned congregation and felt the intensity of this nation. “I am filled with wonder,” he told more than 1,200 Latter-day Saints. “The flowers you see are beautiful, but the flowers I see are you.”
The compliment instantly elevated Latter-day Saints living in this country of deep spirituality, dense populations and bright colors.
The 93-year-old prophet did what he set out to do when he began his global ministry tour a week earlier. “We are bringing the love of the Lord to the people,” he had said in London, England.
For those of us tasked with documenting President Nelson’s trip to eight cities on three continents in 11 days, the scene was not surprising. We grew to expect that we would see President Nelson ministering in every moment.
We watched the 93-year-old leader reach down and pick up a child who had brushed against his leg. We watched him kneel down to another child’s level. We saw him respond to the hugs of others. The scenes became so commonplace during the tour, that we almost forgot to be awed by them.
Ministering to God’s children — especially His little ones — is second nature to President Nelson, a father of 10, the grandfather of 57 and great-grandfather to 116.
We came to anticipate that he would be present in the moments before him, engaging with a congregation or an individual member, calling Church employees by name, responding to reporters’ questions in brief moments of his tightly scheduled days, and powerfully testifying of Jesus Christ.
Then Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave us all understanding of what we were witnessing: “We are sometimes so close to history, so close to miracles … that we don’t realize we are experiencing a miracle,” he said in Thailand.
That’s what I know now that I didn’t know before the prophet’s tour: There is great power in small moments of ministering. So much power, in fact, that history may later record the moments as miracles.
Take for example, Christine Ko of Hong Kong who was diagnosed with an immune system disorder that caused her skin to blister after she joined the Church in 1976. Some suggested the disease was the result of her new religion.
As she was contemplating leaving the Church, she received a call from her bishop. He asked how she was and expressed the love of the ward for her. She never considered leaving the Church again. Because of that call, “I understood God knows where I am and who I am.”
President Nelson brought about similar miracles during his tour. Mariette Zaionce joined the Church in 1968 in Holland. When she moved to Tel Aviv, Israel, Margreta Spencer offered to drive her to a Church meeting. A lifelong friendship was born. Spencer, who had a stroke five years ago, was unable to attend the Jerusalem District Conference.
However, as President Nelson was greeting Latter-day Saints after the meetings, he extended what appeared to be a double greeting to Zaionce — one for her and one for her to take to Spencer.
And then there was 7-year-old Ella Bautista — the child of Filipino Latter-day Saints living in Tel Aviv, where her father works as house help. Before the meeting the little girl insisted President Nelson would personally greet her, even though adults around her said this would not be possible.
But as he was exiting the meeting, Ella caught President Nelson’s eye. He stopped, tenderly placed both hands on the back of Ella’s head, and looked at the child in the eyes. “We will never forget this moment and this day,” said Ella’s father, John Rey Bautista.
When asked about his ability to minister in the moment, President Nelson simply said, “I am honored to be listed among the many who teach and testify of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
It was something Latter-day Saints in India, all part of a beautiful flowering of the gospel in their country; Zaionce and her friend Spencer; little Ella; and I — joined by countless others — will never forget. We all witnessed miracles in the small moments of President Nelson’s global ministry.
Elder Holland said, “The symbolism of this visit is in a way as important as the actual stops, so that the whole world, the whole Church, would know that their prophet cares about them.”