After being arrested for a crime he did not commit, Cheng Hao “Nelson JS” Leung said his few days in an Egyptian prison strengthened his faith in the gospel and led him to serve a full-time mission in Canada. Through this experience, Nelson said he was able to find the courage to tell his family he was a member of the Church, a fact he had been hiding from them for years.
“No matter how difficult the situationis that you are in, no matter how hopeless, how miserable you are, God is always there. God will never give up on you. God never forgets you,” said Nelson, a freshman from Singapore majoring in hospitality and tourism management.
No matter how difficult the situation is that you are in, no matter how hopeless, how miserable you are, God is always there. God will never give up on you. God never forgets you.
Before Nelson was a missionary or a student at BYU–Hawaii, he worked as a tour escort in Egypt and frequently traveled there from Singapore. Nelson shared while going back and forth, he often transported luggage of documents for a colleague and always checked the contents because airport security regularly checked passengers’ baggage before they entered Egypt.
“On my seventh tour to Egypt, I just trusted [my colleague] and checked in without double-checking the luggage. On my arrival at Egypt’s Alexandria International Airport, a customs officer asked for my passport and wanted to inspect my luggage.
“I was so confident and claimed there was nothing to be worried about. Once the customs officer opened it, I was arrested. Seven kilograms of drugs and hundreds of USBs were found.”
Nelson said he was taken to a dirty prison, where he spent the next four days. He said prayer helped him get through the hardship.
“What I did was pray and find help. I think these two things were key. With prayer, I could receive comfort from God and knew I would be okay. I found friends to help me find a lawyer, and luckily I got a very, very good lawyer to help me out.”
Though being found guilty of drug trafficking carries the death penalty in Egypt, Nelson said he never felt scared and somehow knew things would work out.
“I knew I was innocent. I knew God was with me.”
Nelson said it was because of his experience in the prison he decided to tell his family he was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he would be going on a two-year mission. Before his experience in Egypt, Nelson said he had a desire to go on a mission, but he was afraid of telling his family.
“This story taught me a lot of things. It strengthened my testimony. It was the story I would share every time I met people on my mission because it strengthened me. I want it to strengthen others as well. This experience made me want to go on a mission because I made a deal with God. That’s changed my whole life.”
Nelson said he started attending church when he was 14 years old. He described how he had been walking down the street with a plunger when the missionaries asked him what the Cantonese word was for plunger.
“That was how I started my association with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because of those two missionaries, I found the answers to questions I had been wondering about all these years.”
He commented, “Who knew a plunger would completely change my life?”
Who knew a plunger would completely change my life?
Knowing his family would not approve, Nelson said he never told them about his church attendance and was 18 when he got baptized.
“It’s kind of lying,” he explained, “But also I told my family I was going to meet friends, so it’s kind of the truth. I just didn’t tell them I was going to church [with friends]. But luckily, my parents didn’t find out about going to church, especially my father.
“It was after I got back from Egypt that I told them. They were shocked, especially my father. My father wasn’t very happy about it.”
Though his father did not approve of him going on a mission, he told Nelson the decision was up to him, and he didn’t want Nelson to regret not going later on in his life.
“My father’s response was totally unexpected to me. He said, ‘I’ll let you do what you want. This is your life. I don’t want to be the guy who you blame in the future for not giving you permission to do what you want. If you are happy after your mission, I am happy for you. If not, you suffer for it.’
“I am so grateful Heavenly Father gave me such a great dad. I spent all those years afraid of telling my family. Who knew it turned out so simple?”
Au’ahi Aiu, a freshman from Kahuku, Hawaii majoring in biochemistry, said he sees Nelson’s love of the gospel through his interactions at BYUH.
“He talks with people and tries to be their friend and share the light of the gospel. He makes sure he goes to church every week and is going to his ward.”
Kou Sasaki, a sophomore from Japan studying accounting, said when struggling with a personal problem, Nelson was always there to help and give advice.
“He’s the only one who I can trust from the bottom of my heart ... At the time, I felt he was really spiritual and had a strong faith in Jesus Christ. He helped me using scriptures from the Book of Mormon.”