"We Found Our Lighthouse": A Temple Trip from Robinson Crusoe Island
Contributed By Charles Acevedo, Church News contributor
From a global perspective, Robinson Crusoe Island is the proverbial “speck” on a vast, watery map. Located some 400 miles west of Chile, the tiny landmass covers just over 18 square miles and is home to some 900 people.
But what Robinson Crusoe Island lacks in size it makes up for in wonder and lore. For five years (from 1704 to 1709), it was the refuge of marooned sailor Alexander Selkirk. His adventures were the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Centuries later, the tiny island would be renamed after the classic novel. Robinson Crusoe Island is also home to a small but devout collection of Latter-day Saints. The members here belong to the Juan Fernandez Islands Branch. The remoteness of the island makes it difficult to travel to the Santiago Chile Temple.
Still, there are families who find their way to the temple, driven by their desire to claim eternity’s blessings.
Recently, the Paredes family realized their dream of being sealed in the house of the Lord.
Eduardo Paredes makes his living as a lobsterman. He also serves as the first counselor in the branch presidency. His wife, Sandra Avalos Paredes, is the Relief Society president. Teenage daughter Josefa belongs to the branch’s tiny Young Women group. About two dozen members regularly attend the branch meetings. For several years the Paredes family looked to the day when they could travel together to the Santiago Chile Temple.
Reaching the Chilean mainland is not easy for inhabitants of Robinson Crusoe Island. Weather on the South Pacific can be temperamental. Flights are often cancelled because of volatile winds, and navigating across the sea can take three days.
The Paredes family began their journey to the temple by traveling by boat for 90 minutes from Cumberland Bay to the airport at Punta Isla. They then boarded a small plane for the 90-minute flight to the coastal city of Vina del Mar and continued, via car, to the Chilean capital of Santiago.
Their arrival at the Santiago Chile Temple seemed a fulfillment of Elder Dallas N. Archibald’s words at the 1998 dedication of the temple’s patron housing facility: “Let those who stay overnight here have their eyes and their ears open to the promptings of Thy Spirit in their hearts as they recover [from their travels].”
The Paredes family was far from their island home, but they were not alone. Eight fellow branch members joined them at the temple, including their branch president and dear friends the Herrera family. They were also joined in Santiago by several returned missionaries who had served on Robinson Crusoe Island, including Juan Carlos Araya, who baptized Brother Paredes in 1984.
On January 8, Avalos Paredes received her temple endowment, while Josefa joined other youth in performing baptisms for the dead. They next morning, the small family was sealed for eternity.
“We crossed the Pacific Ocean from Robinson Crusoe Island and found our ‘lighthouse’ in the temple in Santiago,” said Brother Paredes.
Robinson Crusoe Island in the South Pacific. Photo courtesy of Charles Acevedo.