This story would be more effective if I could share names and other personal information, but the people involved are all living and I don’t want to violate their privacy. Still, as a story of the international nature of the Church and cooperation in a good cause, it’s pretty good.
I have friends who are Swiss by birth but who have lived in the U.S. since the beginning of World War II. About 20 years ago they served a mission on Ile de la Réunion, an island in the Indian Ocean whose residents speak French as a first or second language. On Réunion my friends came to know and love a Chinese woman, a convert to the Church.
All the years of lessons on the importance of family history and work for the dead, together with occasional excursions to the distant Johannesburg, South Africa temple, finally impelled the Chinese woman to seek out her ancestry: She traveled to China to meet with her brother. They were able to converse only through an interpreter – she spoke French but not Chinese; he spoke Chinese but not French. Without really explaining why she wanted it, she asked her brother for their genealogy, and he promised to gather and send it to her. In the course of time, he did – ten pages of handwritten Chinese characters, which, of course, his sister could not read.
She sent copies of those pages to my Swiss friend, who took them to the Family History Library to ask for help. Eventually a Chinese missionary was found who extracted genealogical information from those handwritten pages. It turned out to be a single line of genealogy, father to son, extending from the Chinese convert and her brother on back to the 13th century, together with their wives. Temple ordinances could be done for about 75 individuals with about 25 marriage sealings.
But no one in Salt Lake could clear the data and print the cards for temple work – the temples in China are the only ones with the capability of keeping digital records in Chinese script.* So the data was sent from Salt Lake to Hong Kong, where the names were cleared and cards were printed in both Chinese and Romanized characters, and back the cards came to Salt Lake.
Then my friend had to track down the Chinese woman, who was on an extended trip to Europe visiting her children. She was located in France, and the cards were sent to her there, for her and her children to take to some European temple to do the work for their ancestors.
Where there’s a will there’s a way, even if it involves three continents and as many languages, and the cooperation of friends and family and even strangers.
[*Or so the missionary at the Family History Library told her, and so I reported it thus, neither my friend nor I having had any experience to the contrary or any reason to challenge the missionary. And in fact the data was sent to and returned by the Hong Kong temple. But overnight I’ve heard from someone with alternate information. I’ve asked her to comment publicly here when she’s up and about again.]