Hispanic Conference Builds Relationships between Saints in California
By George Kramer, Menifee California Stake Public Affairs
It was December 2011 when El Cariso Branch President William Sacriste read a news article about a conference designed to strengthen ties among local Hispanic members of the Church in the Oklahoma City area.
He wanted to create a similar experience for members in southwest Riverside County, California—where six Spanish-speaking units comprise several hundred Hispanic members, spread across five stakes.
And in September—following several months of counseling with priesthood leaders and planning—local Saints came away from their first Hispanic conference with stronger friendships, deeper testimonies, and new service experiences.
The three-day event, titled “Muchas Historias, Una Sola Fé” (Many Stories, One Faith), brought together members from the six Spanish-speaking units of the Corona, Hemet, Menifee, Murrieta, and Temecula stakes and began with a focus on the temple.
On Saturday, September 1, members attended special Spanish-speaking sessions at both the Redlands and San Diego California Temples. President C. Scott Gill of the San Diego California Temple presidency conducted a chapel session.
That evening, at the Lake Elsinore chapel, approximately 550 members participated in a cultural festival, where tables displayed flags, clothing, and other items from members’ native lands and where dozens of dishes showed off foods from Paraguay, El Salvador, Venezuela, and Peru, as well as several regions of Mexico and other Central and South American countries.
“It is wonderful to see our members’ pride in the rich history of their countries or regions of origin and how they value something delicious and praiseworthy,” President Sacriste said. “You had a hard time choosing which table to pick from.”
The dance festival that followed was the culminating event of the evening—many of the youth who participated had practiced for months to perform the 13 pieces: seven from Mexico, three from Peru, and one each from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Cuba.
Professional emcees Alicia Loya and Miguel Angel Marquez of the Coronita Branch kept the event moving, and member band Sabor Latino provided music for dancing. Many commented on the general high energy and happiness of the evening.
“There was an almost tangible feeling of love and unity among those who took part in the three-day event,” Menifee California Stake President Robert J. Wilson said. “[It was] a social gathering long to be remembered.”
On Sunday, Spanish-speaking missionaries opened the local family history center and presented Mi Vida, Mi Historia, a Church film that features stories of faith and inspiration from Latin American Saints.
At an evening fireside attended by more than 300 members and presided over by Elder Douglas F. Higham of the Seventy, local members shared their conversion stories.
Noemi Guerrero of the Santa Rosa Branch was baptized more than 60 years ago in Argentina and now serves in the San Diego Temple. She told how she met the missionaries as a schoolteacher.
Abraham Lozano, 85, of the El Cariso Branch, told of his grandmother joining the Church during the Mexican Revolution and summarized the growth of the Church in Mexico, which now has 13 temples with another under construction.
Elder Nelson D. Cordova of the Seventy was also in attendance and spoke of his personal conversion and the blessings it has brought to him and his family. He encouraged the Saints to trust in the Lord and not to linger over the “what ifs” in life.
A Spanish choir made up of 48 members from multiple units sang four hymns throughout the evening.
“It felt like home,” President Sacriste, originally from Venezuela, said. “It was angelic.”
The final day of the conference was punctuated by service and friendly competition.
The Ramona Ward’s Oscar Chavez made arrangements to assist the city of Wildomar in cleaning up three local parks. Members brought tools, and the city provided food and drinks.
After completing nearly 450 man-hours of service, members participated in a soccer competition and other games organized by members of the Santa Margarita Branch.
“It was a great experience,” summed up Millie Green, a local member and professional interpreter originally from Chile. “People brought food and flags; it was a cultural event. But in the end, what brought us together was our faith and our love for our Savior. . . . This was a great opportunity to come together in faith.”