Hung Hseng Chr (pronounced Hung Sheng Chur) sat on the grass by the edge of the river and watched the water lapping on the rocks. The sun felt hot against his skin, and the air was thick and humid. A tear ran down his cheek, and he brushed it quickly away with the back of his hand.
Hseng Chr’s ancestors had lived in Taiwan long before the Chinese people had come from the mainland to settle the island. He was proud of his people, for they had once been great warriors, and he wanted to be strong and brave, as they had been.
But it was hard to be brave when his sister, Hung Mei Lin (pronounced Hung May Leen), was so sick. She was in the hospital in Tai Tung, and the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with her except that she had a terrible fever. They had said that there was nothing more that they could do. The last time Hseng Chr had seen her, she had looked as still and frail as a bundle of old rice straw.
“Hello,” said a voice.
Hseng Chr looked up and saw the dark eyes and smiling face of Aunt Hung. She was his father’s sister, and she had recently joined a new church. Hseng Chr remembered that she had been taught by two young men from America who were called Mormon missionaries. Since that time, his aunt hadn’t visited them so often; every time she did, she and his father got into an argument about religion.
“Hello,” Hseng Chr answered her now in a dull voice.
His aunt sat on the grass beside him and gave him a long, hard hug. He suddenly felt better, as he always did when she came to visit. “I was thinking about Mei Lin,” he said.
“Yes,” she said. “So was I.”
“I don’t want her to die.”
His aunt gave his hand a gentle squeeze. “I’m going to ask your father to let my friends give Mei Lin a blessing.”
Hseng Chr stared at his aunt in surprise. “A blessing?” he asked. “What is a blessing?”
“Well,” said his aunt slowly, as if she was trying to explain something very difficult. “A blessing is a special prayer given by men who hold the priesthood.”
Hseng Chr was even more confused. “What is the priesthood?”
“It is the power and authority to act in the name of God. These men—these friends of mine—will pray for Mei Lin, and if God wants her to live and if we believe that God can save her, she will live.”
A strange feeling came over the boy. It was as though something frightened him and exhilarated him at the same time. He knew that he wanted Mei Lin to have a priesthood blessing so that she would get well.
He waited on the grass as Aunt Hung rose and walked toward the house. He watched as she opened the door and called Father’s name. He saw the stern face and stooped shoulders of his father as the door swung open, but he was too far away to hear the words that his aunt spoke. Father shook his head and turned away. Aunt Hung talked some more, her hand on Father’s arm, her face turned up to his. Father shrugged his shoulders and went back inside the house.
Aunt Hung came partway back and waved for Hseng Chr to follow. “He gave his permission,” she called. “Let’s hurry!”
A little while later he stood at his sister’s bedside while two young men from America laid their hands on her head. Their fingers looked long and white against her black hair. They spoke in a language that he couldn’t understand, but as they spoke, a warm feeling came into his chest. When the blessing was over, he and his aunt walked home silently, the hot sun beating down upon their backs.
At suppertime Hseng Chr’s whole family went to visit Mei Lin, as they had at every suppertime for the past week. The boy had grown used to his stomach growling at him all the way to the hospital and back. He didn’t mind the hunger anymore, for lately when he ate, the food seemed to get stuck partway down.
Hseng Chr couldn’t keep from hurrying. The closer his family got to the hospital, the faster his feet moved. Finally he just couldn’t hold them back. He left Father and Mother behind with the younger children and ran the last block by himself. He dashed up the steps and into the hospital. He tore down the hallway and burst into Mei Lin’s room. He stopped. The bed was empty.
He stood for a long moment and stared, not believing his eyes: Mei Lin was sitting in a chair beside her bed, looking at pictures in a book. Her dark eyes were clear, her skin was back to its normal healthy color, and her arms no longer hung limply at her sides. Suddenly he realized that Aunt Hung had been right. There really was such a thing as power from God. He would see his aunt again soon and ask her to explain more about the priesthood.
Mei Lin looked up at him and smiled. Hseng Chr ran forward, his hands reaching for hers.