On Sunday, May 26, 2019 in a downtown Calgary chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Canada Calgary Mission hosted an original family history fireside entitled: “Come and See.”
President Stephen Keung presided with the assistance of Sister Cindy Keung. From the time that they began to serve in the Canada Calgary Mission, Sister Keung has frequently asked President Keung, “Can we sing?” With this fireside, one of Sister Keung’s dreams and visions for the missionaries to perform a special musical program has been fulfilled.
The impact of the “Come and See” fireside extended further than those seated within the chapel. Given a three-week notice, a set of technologically savvy missionaries began preparations to broadcast this event live over the Internet. Incorporating a Facebook live-stream option, the total audience reached over ten thousand views (and counting) from multiple places in Canada, the United States, and even New Zealand.
The Music for the Fireside
The idea for this fireside was originally developed in England. From there, Tina Niumatalolo, one of Sister Keung’s close friends, took the script of ideas and added a special spiritual quality—music.
Although Tina never received formal training, she grew up in a family filled with melodies and harmonies that helped her develop a natural gift to create music. Over the years, Tina composed, wrote, and rewrote songs so that the fireside always had new, original pieces. With Tina’s recent passing, the Keungs knew that they would not only use her songs but also dedicate this fireside to her memory.
The Presentation of Real Stories of Real People
The Keungs reached out to multiple people in search of those willing to fulfill the role of presenting and acting in place of many of their own ancestors’ stories. LaDawn Vermeeren, from Calgary, received her invitation roughly a week in advance. As a Utah native, she would portray the role of Martha Severance. She was an American pioneer whose life story was included in one of the two original fireside scripts. With no practice and unaware of how the songs and spoken words presented in the fireside fit together, LaDawn was unsure of what to expect.
The night of the presentation, everyone gathered to put things into place. Eventually, after most had seated themselves and just a few were left trickling into the back, it started.
Near the beginning, LaDawn approached the stand. As she portrayed key events in the life of Martha Severance, tears streamed and covered her cheeks. Conveniently, her dark-blonde hair masked some of her face as she paused to try and muster the ability to continue.
After the fireside, LaDawn understood more. She said, “This really happened. These are real stories of real people.”
The effect spread far beyond the participants in the program. Those seated in the audience called the spectacle powerful. Many eyes watered, while others felt goose bumps rush over their body.
This fireside sparked interest in the restored gospel taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Several attendees expressed a desire to learn more and are considering baptism. Simply put: lives changed.
The Keungs hosted another family history fireside in Lethbridge, Alberta on June 16, 2019. They intend to continue organizing different performances throughout the rest of their time in Canada.
“I think that this fireside has opened the mission to possibilities,” President Keung said.
Missionaries in the Canada Calgary Mission will continue to contribute their talents in this inspired way of sharing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the combination of their individual gifts and the advanced technological resources of these latter days, more families will receive opportunities to be sealed together as families eternally.
As Elder David A. Bednar has testified: “A yearning for connection to our past can prepare an individual to receive the virtue of the word of God and fortify his or her faith. A heart turning to the fathers uniquely helps an individual withstand the influence of the adversary and strengthen conversion” (Jason Swenson, “The Divine Relationship between Missionary Work and the Spirit of Elijah,” Church News, July 18, 2013).