Area Authority in Costa Rica

Elder Enrique R. Falabella, Area Authority Seventy in the Central America Area, remembers growing up in Guatemala happy but poor in terms of material things. He recalls saying to his father, “Papa, I can’t go to school in these shoes; they are worn out and show my toes.” His father took Enrique’s shoes and made them shine with some black polish, then put them back on young Enrique’s feet. “Taken care of,” said his father. Enrique looked down at his feet. “It doesn’t seem like it,” he said, “because my toes still show outside the shoe.” His father put some polish on Enrique’s toes, which ended up as black and shiny as the shoes. Enrique went off to school smiling and happy.

Now Elder Falabella, who joined the Church at the age of 12, feels richly blessed in terms of spiritual things. Husband to Blanca Sanchez Falabella and father to five children, he remembers being sealed to Blanca for all eternity as one of the greatest moments of his life. “Jesus Christ has been the center of our home,” says Elder Falabella. “Holding our family prayers, family home evenings, and scripture reading has given our home an atmosphere in which we all long to be.”

Elder Falabella was serving as a stake president at the time President Spencer W. Kimball announced the construction of the Guatemala City Temple. He remembers the stake receiving the challenge to contribute $12,000 (U.S.) for the building of the temple. “This may seem like a small amount,” he says, “but it wasn’t for a stake whose membership barely earned enough to survive. I remember I could count on my hands the number of members who had a vehicle.” He says that in presidency meeting they discussed the fact that amounts were not important, and they decided to challenge the members to give what would be a sacrifice in their lives. “The members responded the way the Israelites did when Moses wanted to build the tabernacle,” says Elder Falabella. “The sum of $27,000 was gathered, more than double what had been asked of us. Today, about 15 years later, when I return to those areas of the stake, I see that each ward has become a stake, the members have their own businesses or are well employed, they have their own homes, and on Sundays the parking lots of the chapels are full.”

[photo] Front row, left to right: Elder Falabella; wife, Blanca Sanchez; Daniel. Back: Evelyn, Nefi, Rienzi, David.

A Proclamation to the World

“People coming in and out of my office stop, read it, and say that it is the most marvelous thing they have ever read!” says one city official in Waynesboro, Virginia, referring to the framed copy of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” hanging on the wall outside his office. This comment was in response to a project launched by Waynesboro Virginia Stake members who presented over 100 beautifully framed proclamations and an additional 180 unframed copies to nonmembers throughout the area as a part of a 1998 stake public affairs effort.

With the thought of sharing the family proclamation message with others, the Waynesboro stake director of public affairs, Tanya K. Skeen, approached stake president Larry J. Harman with the idea of having each of the nine stake units set a goal of presenting 10 framed copies of the proclamation to friends, associates, and leaders in their communities.

President Harman not only approved the idea but enthusiastically budgeted a sum of money for the framing of the proclamations. In particular situations, unframed copies seemed more appropriate to share. However, the significance of giving framed copies, ready to be hung, rather than an unframed copy was threefold: it emphasized the value of the document, it demonstrated a greater respect toward the recipient, and it was more likely to be displayed and hung.

Many sisters in the stake painted designs on the framing mats to add a personal and artistic element to the displays. Susan McDaniel painted the mats of over 70 proclamations, freely giving of her time and talents. She employed many different styles that would be appropriate for a variety of individuals, from CEOs to pediatricians, from local and state government leaders to radio announcers, and from fire fighters to school principals.

President Brent Christensen, a counselor in the stake presidency, says, “We are grateful for the impact which the family proclamation is already having throughout our stake and are especially excited about the interest which has been expressed by those who have received it in the nearly 300 presentations which have been made over the past year.”

Cherie Snead, stake assistant director of public affairs, tells of one experience where young men and women from the stake presented the mayor of Charlottesville with a copy of the proclamation on a Monday night. “At that particular meeting,” Sister Snead says, “a controversial subject was scheduled to be discussed. The large room was filled to capacity, with even the aisles being filled. The meeting was also being televised live. The first order of business was our young men and young women making a presentation to the mayor and city council of the family proclamation.

“The room seemed charged with tension, which dissipated as a parade of smiling youth approached the podium and made the presentation. The youth then explained that inasmuch as it was Monday evening, that this was family home evening for members of our Church and asked their families to stand. The positive response was indicated by two ovations! The following day many favorable comments were made by people who had watched the broadcast.”

Copies of the proclamation, framed and unframed, have been presented in a wide variety of settings, formal and informal. They have been presented at the close of a service project rendered by members, at a banquet, and at an appreciation dinner for fire and rescue workers. Rolled up and tied with satin ribbons, copies have been presented as favors to wedding guests. In every case the proclamation has been warmly received by men and women from different backgrounds, occupations, and nationalities, and the recipients have discovered that the givers share a high regard for the family unit.Dawna Sexton and Tanya K. Skeen, Charlottesville, Virginia

[photo] Susan McDaniel (left) and Tanya K. Skeen display framed and decorated proclamations.

A Way of Life

The gospel can’t be just a matter of custom; it must be a way of life. “It’s necessary to revive the fire continually, to put on fresh wood,” says Mercedes Garriga of Badalona, a suburb of Barcelona.

Since their baptism in 1972, she and her husband, Adolfo, have seen many members come into the Church in their area—and then seen some of those go out again because they did not work at keeping their testimonies. We must make the effort to be in daily contact with Heavenly Father, Sister Garriga believes, to avoid the danger of becoming lost.

The gospel has been like a bridle guiding their family, says Brother Garriga. They are grateful for its influence that has led their five children to be active in the Church; three of them have been married in the temple.

The service of the Garriga family has had its impact on the growth of the Church in the Barcelona area. Brother Garriga has held a number of key leadership positions through the years, including first branch president in Barcelona, and Sister Garriga has served in leadership or teaching positions in all of the auxiliaries. Now their son Adolfo is stake president, and another son, Xavier, is executive secretary.

But the Garrigas are quick to point out that the missionaries baptized a number of families with children in those early days and that many of those families or their descendants are among the corps of Church leadership in the area today.

Time has only deepened his testimony, Brother Garriga affirms. After his initial meeting with the missionaries when they stopped by his work, he threw their phone number away, and retrieved it three times before calling the elders to come to his home; he was intrigued by their promise of more knowledge about Jesus Christ. After years of reading and study, he says, the intellect confirms what the Holy Ghost testified to him in the beginning, that the Lord Jesus Christ has indeed visited the earth to restore His true Church once more.

[photo] Adolfo and Mercedes Garriga of Spain.