The creation of a new Mandarin-speaking branch typifies a three-decade spiritual and physical journey for Latter-day Saints in northern Texas.
“Here I feel love, here I feel like a family,” said President Peter Wang, branch president of the new congregation — the Plano 5th (Mandarin) Branch in the Plano Texas Stake.
President Wang and his wife, Judy Wang, immigrated to the United States in 2016 to be closer to their daughter, Helen Wang. After applying to various master’s programs throughout the U.S., President Wang considered his acceptance into the University of Texas at Dallas to be the Lord’s hand guiding him.
“My personal preference [was] California,” he said, adding that, of all his applications, only one was admitted — UT Dallas.
“I had no idea why the Lord was guiding me to a city I had never visited,” said President Wang, but he and his wife trusted the Lord and made the move. Upon arriving, they quickly began searching for a ward to attend.
Because Houston, Texas, was the nearest area with a Mandarin-speaking congregation and because the city was more than four hours away by car, President Wang settled on finding an English-speaking ward in the Plano area. However, after considering a few different wards in his search, he found one ward that had a “Chinese group.” In his response to this news he said, “I immediately cried like a baby. I really felt the Lord was standing in front of me, just like a shepherd. He guided me here.”
Led by God
Plano is one of the highest growing areas of American-Asian populations in Texas, so it made sense when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that a Mandarin-speaking congregation would be created in the area.
“Just like how the Lord guided me to Dallas,” President Wang said, “the Lord has been guiding the Chinese-speaking Latter-day Saints in the Dallas area for 30 years.”
It all began in the 1990s with the first four Mandarin-speaking members living in Garland, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Over the years, more and more Latter-day Saints moved to the area and now comprise the new 86-member congregation in nearby Plano.
“We are pioneers,” President Wang said, who first joined the Church in 2002 in Taiwan. “Many of our Mandarin-speaking members are pioneers in their family. They are first-generation members of our Church, but also first-generation immigrants.”
During the congregation’s first sacrament meeting, President Wang was filled with emotion: “Words cannot express the miracles.”
He delivered a talk where he explained, “The life of first-generation immigrants is like the story of Peter walking on the sea (Matthew 14:28-31). … The only way to walk on the sea peacefully and safely is to keep your eyes looking at Jesus Christ. Peter did not jump, did not run, did not change his speed or direction. The only difference is where he looked.” He then told the congregation, “Where your eyes look at will decide whether you will generate faith or fear.”
President Wang explained that even though their congregation is made of people from different countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, they still had one thing in common: they are all pioneers. “Pioneer has another meaning,” he said.
“Just like the pioneers of [the early] Church, the pioneers in this Chinese group sometimes need to face hardships,” he said. He spoke of the uncertainty of knowing where to live or of finding a job. But despite that uncertainty, he told them, “we need to keep faith in every footstep, just like what the pioneers did in the 19th century.”
“Dear brothers and sisters,” he told the new congregation, “today is a time of joy. We praise the Lord for His mercy and blessing. I testify that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Good Shepherd. He has guided us til today, and He will guide us forever.”
President Wang will serve the new congregation with Eric Wang as first counselor and Wei-Ming Wang as second counselor.