‘I have seen miracle after miracle’: How a branch of 5 families has grown to a Mandarin-speaking ward

“The Light of the Gospel, the Joy of Life,” was the theme of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Yale Ward (Mandarin) in the Irvine, California Stake. Almost 400 people came from many parts of Southern California to attend, along with almost a half-dozen missionaries who served previously in the ward. 

Anthony Kuo, mayor pro tempore of Irvine; Farrah Kahn from the Irvine City Council; Lieutenant Tim Shilling; and Sergeant Jasper Kim from the Irvine Police Department attended the event. The celebration program was prepared by Latter-day Saint Celine Wang, a screen writer and producer from China, along with Renee Liu. 

Wang was raised believing there was a God, but He was distant. Wang did not believe in Jesus Christ. Life circumstance led her to seek God. When she found the Church, Wang discovered “a special environment where everybody was worshiping God with sincerity.”

Now as a member of the Yale Ward, Wang knows God as a loving Heavenly Father she can rely on. “I feel very blessed for the gospel,” Wang said.

To prepare for the 10th anniversary of the ward, Wang wanted to do something to share her gratitude for the gospel, the ward, and to express the joy and peace she now feels in her life. Wang, Liu, and other members from the ward put together a stage production to express those feelings.  

With a backdrop of the world, silver trimmings and official masters of ceremony, the program showcased the history and culture of the Yale Ward. A young girl dressed in white began singing “I Am a Child of God” and was joined by generation after generation of family and friends. Original skits conveyed the challenges of being in a new place and forgiving those who hurt you and about embracing the gospel in family life.

Youth from the ward did a dance routine to a song encouraging others to “Try.” Kung Fu routines were performed by young boys and women showcased traditional Chinese dress. Poetry and music were written and recited that conveyed the blessings of coming to know the Savior and a love of God.

Stake Relief Society president Sister Pat Lau and her husband, Herald, have witnessed the growth of Chinese membership in Southern California.
Stake Relief Society president Sister Pat Lau and her husband, Herald, have witnessed the growth of Chinese membership in Southern California. Credit: David Young

The ward honored Bishop Greg Byers and expressed gratitude for his leadership while serving as the branch president and now bishop for all 10 years. Morgan Ying, who was first counselor in the original branch presidency, gave a history of the ward.  

The Yale Branch opened in 2009 with only five families. By 2014, the branch was large enough to become a ward. Since 2009, the Yale congregation has had 171 convert baptisms, with the help of 68 full-time missionaries who have served in the ward from the Anaheim, Irvine, and now Newport Beach Mission. The ward has sent out 13 full-time missionaries to many parts of the world, 30 couples have been married, 14 families sealed in the temple, and 27 babies have received blessings.

Newport Beach Temple President Douglas F. Higham, who attended the anniversary celebration, said, “We came to see the miracle of the Mandarin Ward of the Church. In the past couple of years, we have had more recent converts from the Yale Ward come to the temple to receive their own endowments than from any other unit in the entire temple district.”

Morgan Ying said the Yale Ward has been the rock in the lives of these Church members. “It is a place of enlightenment and a milestone in the expansion of the Church. We are so grateful to the leaders, teachers and all those who have contributed so much to helping the Church grow and touch the lives of those in this community.” 

“It is a place of enlightenment and a milestone in the expansion of the Church.” 

Lin Feng, who was the first convert baptized into the Branch, said when she first attended church she noticed President Byers and the “strong spirit” of the ward members. “Every member in this ward loves our bishop. Not only him, his entire family. The ward is such a community,” she said. “This is home.”

Fan Fan, who was born in Mainland China, wanted his children to be like the missionaries he met. Learning about God, Christ, and the commandments were different ideas for him. His wife Weiwei’s desire was to know more about the blessing of the gospel. “I can feel that God has blessed our lives and a lot has changed for our family,” Weiwei said. 

 “I have seen miracle after miracle,” Bishop Byers said. “The Lord is very aware of his Chinese children and my testimony has been strengthened seeing their faith and excitement for the gospel. As I look back at just a few families in our branch at the start to now overflowing the cultural hall with members of all ages, it makes my heart full, very full.”