Have you ever logged on to Facebook and had a mysterious friend request from someone you had no recollection of? This very thing happened to Sister Fanene, a returned missionary who served in the Panama City, Panama Mission from 1997-98. The friend request came from a teenage girl she did not recognize from the profile picture, but when she read the name “Lynell Atencio”, it struck a nerve.
“In all the years since my mission, I have never known another family with the last name Atencio. Instantly, it made me think of Jose and his wife Yovanny from Burunga, Panama. Before responding to Lynell’s friend request, I checked out her profile. When I saw she was from Burunga, my heart dropped into my stomach.”
Sister Fanene and her companion, Sister Santos, had helped Jose and Yovanny get married civilly and prepared them for baptism. Sister Fanene tried to extend her mission because she was scheduled to return home two weeks before they were to be baptized, but it didn’t work out.
“It was hard to leave and I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be there for their baptisms. We worked really hard with that family and I just wanted to enjoy “the fruit” of all that labor.”
In 1998, when Sister Fanene first met the Atencio family, they consisted of Jose, Yovanny, and Yovanny’s little boy from a previous relationship. Having lost contact with the family after returning home from her mission, Sister Fanene never knew if Jose and Yovanny ended up getting baptized, nor that they had had more children. Now, over fifteen years later, Lynell Atencio, the daughter of Jose and Yovanny, was reaching out to Sister Fanene on Facebook.
“Shortly after I accepted Lynell’s friend request, I received requests from her parents and found that they were sealed in the temple and Jose’s father had also been baptized and went through the temple.”
Sister Fanene never dreamed she would have an experience so meaningful, so far down the line.
“Little did my naive missionary mind know that the true joy would come many years later,” she said.
The wait was well worth it, and the joy was very sweet. Not only did she discover that a family she had taught was baptized and able to receive the blessings of the temple, she learned she had been a part of that family’s life all those years – in an unexpected way.
Although thousands of miles separated them, and there would be no communication for many years, Jose and Yovanny found a special way of keeping the memory of Sister Fanene close to home. There’s more than one reason the name Lynell Atencio struck a chord with Sister Fanene.
See, you know her as Sister Fanene. Her friends call her Lynell.
Have you had any similar experiences reconnecting with people? Leave a comment and tell us about it.