If your description of heaven includes living happily with your extended family in a beautiful place, you might agree that Reed Pitcher has found heaven—one element of it, anyway.
Reed and his wife, Bernice, live on a ranch in Horsefly, a small town in British Columbia, Canada, amid lakes, forests, wild animals, and plentiful wild berries. What makes the setting even more heavenly is that eight of their ten children live there, too.
“I’m experiencing the best of what I can imagine heaven to be,” says Reed, surrounded by his more than forty grandchildren. Bernice remembers looking at a map with Reed several years ago, while living near Cardston, Alberta. Knowing no more than the map showed them, they decided to move to Horsefly, B.C.
When they arrived in Horsefly, they found an untamed wilderness—just what Reed wanted.
“I enjoy a challenge,” he says. “In fact, I need a challenge to learn, grow, and stay happy.” Reed, whose father died when he was five years old and whose mother died when he was fourteen, explains that since responsibilities came early to him, he has found his greatest happiness in meeting them.
Reed recalls an experience that strengthened his already-firm testimony of prayer. When he was out on the range rounding up some workhorses one day, a nearby horse kicked him, breaking his leg and throwing him from his horse. The horse he had been riding was particularly difficult to catch and mount under normal circumstances, but now that Reed’s leg was broken, doing so seemed impossible.
“That horse was my only way home,” he recalls. “So I bowed my head in prayer and very humbly asked the Lord for help.” He then crawled towards his horse. The great creature snorted and shook its head, trying to escape. But it couldn’t move its feet; it was as if they were fastened to the ground. Reed was able to pull himself up—painfully—and make it home on the animal’s back.
The Pitchers’ challenges in Horsefly have not been limited to taming the land and animals. For a long while, they were the only members of the Church within a sixty-mile radius. But now Horsefly is blessed with a chapel—the first and only chapel of any denomination to be built in the area. Church membership in Horsefly has grown and remains strong. Twice Reed has served as district president, and twice as branch president.
His warm interest in people makes others comfortable when they are around him. His gentle manner is a large part of what makes Horsefly a heavenly place to be.—, Pocatello, Idaho
For Vespa Gough Fairbanks of Burbank, California, there is only one way to live—involved.
Vespa’s life at age eighty-seven has not slowed down much since she and Walter Fairbanks married more than fifty years ago. She has found marriage to be good for her health. “I’ve never been sick a day since we were married,” she says with characteristic lightheartedness.
With a robustness that is uncommon for women many years younger, Vespa throws herself into the good things life has to offer. For eleven years, she and Walter served as temple workers in the Los Angeles Temple. They pick up “old people” in their ward who have no cars and take them to church, to activities, to community events, and for medical care. From the shut-ins, Vespa faithfully gathers grocery lists each week and shops for their food, medicine, and other needs. Then she delivers the supplies—along with her steady offerings of baked goods and treats for the ill and lonely.
A dependable visiting teacher, Vespa goes so far beyond the call of duty that there’s no question in the minds of those she serves about her love for them.
At the yearly Los Angeles County Fair, Vespa helps set up and serve at booths featuring patriotic displays and patriotic books. One day a week, she volunteers her time to work in a patriotic bookstore. In addition, she serves as a volunteer for Red Cross blood banks in Burbank and surrounding communities.
She can be counted on to canvass her neighborhood, circulating petitions or getting people out to vote. “I manage to keep current on the voting records of my congressional representatives,” she adds.
She attends meetings on city issues; she’s there when her city council meets as well as when state and national leaders hold forums. “We must each participate in the processes of democracy,” she says, “or we aren’t helping preserve our freedom. It’s government by the people. That’s us.”—, Yucaipa, California
Peace in Each Piece
The small advertisement in the Yugoslavian newspaper caught the eye of concert pianist Ljerka Pleslic Bjelinski.
“Wanted: Accomplished pianist to accompany professional singers from Vienna. Please contact the Zagreb Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Ljerka, who has been playing the piano since she was four years old and who has a professional career in Yugoslavia, decided she had time to apply. At the branch, she met Lawrence Vincent, president of the Vienna International Branch, Vienna Austria Stake, and his wife, Jean, who had been invited to present a vocal recital in early 1987.
After agreeing to accompany the vocalists, Ljerka remembers that at the Saturday recital, “a feeling came over me that I will never be able to explain. I know that whatever happened had affected my playing, and I was playing better than I ever had before.”
The Vincents invited Ljerka to Church meetings, and she received a copy of the Book of Mormon. From the day after the recital, she attended church every Sunday until she was baptized on 24 December 1989.
Her son Alan, a well-known conductor in the country, commented on the notable difference in her life. “I liked the new peace in her playing and in her personality,” he said.
Sister Bjelinski, who is married to one of Yugoslavia’s leading composers, Bruno Bjelinski, now knows that the feeling was the Spirit. She is anxious to share her experience with those around her.
When possible, she has her twenty-four students perform in the Zagreb meetinghouse. “My students feel something special when they play there, but they don’t know why. I believe musicians have a great contact with the Spirit.”
Sister Bjelinski is active in the Zagreb Branch, Austria Vienna East Mission, and does not limit her service to performing. “I will serve any way I can,” she says.—, Layton, Utah
As a Roman Catholic priest, Felix Sequi served at the Vatican and in his native Spain. However, he became disenchanted with religion, “because of the lack of answers,” and left the church to accept a position in Panama teaching philosophy.
Nothing could change his determination to avoid religion while he taught in Panama and later in Puerto Rico. In 1972 he moved to the Dominican Republic, where he met and married Lubian A. Amaro, also a teacher.
But in 1980 the Sequis met the LDS missionaries at a welfare demonstration and invited them home to discuss health care. After two weeks of friendship, the missionaries brought up religion.
“And they didn’t stop for three months,” says Felix. “Every single day, a set of missionaries would give us a discussion—one day elders, the next day sisters.” Although Lubian was soon converted, Felix remained “philosophically defensive,” even though he had come to genuinely enjoy hearing their testimonies.
One day a new lady missionary arrived, “a greenie convert from Wisconsin named Joann Bush, whose Spanish I could hardly understand,” recalls Felix, “but who said to me, ‘I want to share my testimony with you.’” As she spoke, Felix began weeping and said, “I finally see the light.” The Sequis were baptized that same week.
From that point, Felix began an extensive study of Church doctrine. Through this, he said, “I gained a determination to give my all to the Church.”
He was given the opportunity to do so when in January 1983 he became the Church Educational System coordinator for the island of Hispaniola and later for the Santo Domingo Region. In this capacity he and his wife bless the lives of thousands of students as they bear their testimonies and teach them to study the gospel.—, Salt Lake City, Utah
Slam Dunk with Missionary Spunk
His six feet nine inches of height and his position as star center on a championship European professional basketball team give Stephen D. Trumbo a rather lofty view of things. But when he’s not rebounding, shooting a basket, or running, his feet are planted firmly on the ground.
Steve Trumbo, his wife, Carolina, and their four children live in Barcelona, Spain. Steve and Carolina met when he started playing basketball there in 1982. The local media refer to him as “El Mormon,” a term they use with both affection and respect because of the way Steve lives. The media have reported as much of his life as his modest manner allows: stories about Steve’s birth, his high school and college sports successes, and his marriage in the Frankfurt Germany Temple.
In high school, Steve was a three-year letterman at El Modena High School, where they retired his jersey number and where the Los Angeles Times named him player of the year. A four-year basketball scholarship took Steve to Brigham Young University, where he held the rebound record for many years.
Steve, one of twelve adopted children of Dale and Jo Trumbo of the Orange Third Ward, in the Orange California Stake, has dark features that help him fit in well in Barcelona.
Very much a team player, Steve enjoys his association with his teammates. When he’s around the locker room, the level of the conversation elevates immediately. Well liked by the other players, Steve doesn’t worry about making quick converts. “Right now, they’re too involved in sports, careers, and making money. I’m just planting seeds; I believe the harvest will come later.”
As for now, he is known as a man who won’t compromise for success and who sees himself as a missionary. Steve, who serves as a high councilor and a stake public affairs director, encourages those around him in their missionary work: “I may be highly visible here in Spain, but we all have neighborhoods that will accept us on our own terms if we have the courage to let them know what we stand for.”—, Santa Ana, California