George Beck was a superintendent for the railroad and Namie Beck would not allow her family to be separated. Each time George’s crew was transferred to a new location she would pack up their things and she and Mei Li would move with him. It was during one of these moves, four years ago, in 1851 that the Becks had met two Mormon missionaries and been converted to the gospel.
Mei Li entered the one room schoolhouse with hesitation. Miss Wells gave the young girl’s hand a squeeze. “Can I have your attention class? This is our new student, Mei Li Beck. Her family will be staying in the Wilson home during the construction of the railroad.”
The children stared at Mei Li. She was dressed like all the other girls, but her beautiful almond shaped eyes set her apart. Some of the children had seen Chinese railroad workers in town, but their children had never come to the Atchison school house.
Miss Wells led Mei Li to an empty desk in the front of Jeremy Hall. Mei Li’s glistening black hair hung in a braid past her waist. When Miss Wells wasn’t looking, Jeremy reached for the braid gave it a sharp tug, “Go back to China, where you belong!” he whispered.
Mei Li’s eyes filled with tears. She blinked them away and thought about the words Mama had written in The Book of Mormon she had given her at her baptism. “Mei Li, trust in God and He will always be with you.”
Silently she prayed, “I know that you are with me Father. Please help me to be strong.”
When Miss Wells dismissed the class, Mei Li hurried out the door with Jeremy and his friend Tom at her heels. “I ain’t never seen nobody with the name of Beck that looks like you,” he taunted.
“Ya. All the Becks we know come from England not China!” Tom chided.
Mei Li’s mother had died during childbirth and her father was killed in a railroad accident when she was only 6 weeks old. The Becks who were childless had taken her to raise as their own.
“Trust in God, trust in God,” she repeated over and over to herself as she walked faster.
“Not only is she Chinese, but my Pa says she’s one of them Mormons too!” Tom sneered.
“You know what my Grandpa says we do with Mormons, little girl?” Jeremy said as he grabbed Mei Li’s arm and twisted it behind her back. “We exterminate ’em! Just like that Joe Smith.”
Jeremy was big and strong. Each time Mei Li struggled to get away, he would twist her arm tighter.
Mei Li prayed with all her might. Just when she felt she could bear no more, she heard a soft voice singing her favorite hymn, “Dearest Children, God is Near You…He will bless you, if you put your trust in Him.”
Mei Li stopped struggling and a peaceful feeling filled her heart.
“You better deny being a Mormon! You hear me girl?” Jeremy threatened, “Or we’re going to beat you to a pulp!”
For the first time during the altercation with the boys, Mei Li spoke. With a calm unwavering voice she said, “You do what you want with me, but I will never deny my faith or my God!”
The sound of horse hooves startled the boys and Jeremy released his hold on Mei Li. As the lone rider approached, the two boys took off running. Climbing down from the saddle the man knelt down in front of Mei Li. “Are you all right?” he asked.
Mei Li nodded as she wiped the tears from her face. “Sir, I’m a Mormon and I won’t deny it! So if you want to exterminate me too, so be it.”
The stranger looked at Mei Li with admiration. “Well that explains the urgency I felt to stop my work and ride down this road. The Lord sent me to help you, Miss Beck!”
Mei Li looked puzzled.
The man tipped his hat, “I’m Elder Parker. I met your Pa last week. He came by Mormon Grove to offer us assistance.” Elder Parker continued, “He’s a good man! Trusts in God, just like his daughter.”
by Margie Nauta Lee