94943_000_011Her whole life was an uphill struggle. Why should coming to church be any different?
While serving as a missionary in the Philippines, I met Maria Jocelyn Castillo, or Jocey as she was called.
We taught Jocey and her cousin Nestor the first discussion. The Spirit was strong, and Jocey agreed to read the Book of Mormon in Tagalog, the national language.
On our next visit, we found an excited Jocey and Nestor and about five new faces. We taught another first discussion to Jocey’s sister Julie and some neighboring cousins.
After that the discussions went great. Jocey read all her assignments and started reading the Book of Mormon on her own. She soon committed to baptism. But as we got closer to her baptism, I could feel some concerns. I knew why. Jocey had only one leg and used a crutch to get around. She also wore a handkerchief on her head. On our third visit, we learned that Jocey had cancer and three years earlier had had her leg amputated. That had only slowed the disease. She started painful chemotherapy, and when her hair fell out, wore a handkerchief on her head.
We hesitantly invited Jocey to attend church. I say hesitantly because Jocey lived about two miles from the church at the bottom of the biggest hill in the area. She had only one leg and not a lot of money for transportation; I really didn’t expect to see Jocey at church.
Sunday came, the meeting started, and 20 minutes later I saw Jocey and her cousin walk through the gate. I could see a wince of pain on Jocey’s face with each step. When she saw me, she smiled. I turned away so she wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes. I thought of the times I had missed church because my head hurt or I was too tired. I thought of the sacrifice she was making to get to church.
Jocey never missed a Sunday. I knew the cancer was taking its toll as she coughed and tried to cover her pain. When her baptism day came, she told me she wasn’t ready. She wanted to be baptized, but she thought she would be embarrassed to remove her handkerchief with everyone watching. I said a quick prayer and was able to reassure her. She grabbed her change of clothes and a towel, smiled, and said thank you.
I’ve never felt the Spirit stronger than I did at her baptism. Jocey cried, and so did the others in attendance.
Jocey didn’t stop there. She helped the rest of her family, her next-door neighbors, and friends in their conversions. Finally, her mother joined.
Cancer progressed quickly, and Maria Jocelyn Castillo moved on to the next life. It was hard for me to become friends with such a wonderful person, then watch her die. Finally, I realized how blessed I had been to have been able to help such a young woman become closer to the Savior.
On the day of the funeral, the members of her ward helped with the service, showing that great love King Benjamin talked about. As they lowered the casket into the grave, Jocey’s emotional mother fainted and lay unconscious for about 30 seconds. When she came to, she looked up and said softly, three times, “Alam ko na saan,” which means, “I know where now.” And she calmly walked away.
I learned from Jocey how important the Church is, and how much light the gospel can bring to our lives and the lives of our families and friends. I will always remember Jocey.