David Led the Way
As missionaries in the Chile Antofagasta Mission, my companion and I were teaching a young lady and her brother, who was eight years old. For the second discussion, her brother invited David Marín, a friend his age, to attend. David was a small boy, and he did not yet know how to read. But he looked at us attentively, listened enthusiastically, and asked for a copy of the Book of Mormon. My companion and I glanced at each other. Since David didn’t read, we silently decided against giving him a Book of Mormon.
Later that same day, we happened to meet David again in the street. He said, “Elders, when are you going to give me my Book of Mormon?” Still thinking he would have no use for the book, we let the opportunity go by a second time. After all, he was just an eight-year-old boy.
When we taught the third discussion to the young lady and her brother, little David was there again. After the discussion, he asked us again, this time a little annoyed, “And where is my Book of Mormon?”
I looked at him and felt something special. Smiling, I tried to explain why we hadn’t given him the book, saying, “You cannot read it, David.” His face fell. But at that moment, the thought came into my mind, His parents can read it. So I continued, “But your parents can. Let’s go to your house and talk with them.”
David smiled, jumped for joy, and took us to his home. There we met his father, Don Astemio; his mother, María; his sisters, Macarena and Valeska, both age 11; and his one-year-old brother.
The Maríns were a humble and loving family. The father had once been a fine athlete, but he had been afflicted with Parkinson’s disease for about seven years; for the past two years, he had been confined to bed.
After listening to the discussions, David, Macarena, and Valeska were baptized but not Don Astemio because of his illness. His wife, María, was not baptized either.
We continued to visit the family, and one day Don Astemio said, “Tomorrow I am going to be baptized,” adding, “and afterward I will be healed.” When I heard these words, I felt great joy, but I was also afraid. I knew his faith had grown, but what would happen if he could not walk after his baptism? I tried to explain to him that baptism would heal him spiritually—but a physical healing was in the hands of our Father in Heaven. In spite of everything my companion and I said, he remained certain that after his baptism he was going to walk.
On the night before his baptism, I knelt and prayed with all my heart, asking Heavenly Father for His will to be done. After my prayer, I felt a special peace.
The next day, Don Astemio stood with great difficulty. He could not take a single step without help. When we got to the meetinghouse, we had to go up a long staircase to the second floor. We were all moved by the great effort and pain it took Don Astemio to go up those stairs, step by step. When we finally walked into the building, the members there looked at us with surprise.
When Don Astemio came out of the water, I saw he had great faith, but his body was the same. He could not stand by himself.
We left him at his home after the service. He did not want to go to bed but remained sitting calmly in an armchair.
The next day, we dropped by to visit him. As we approached his home, we could see little David playing outside with a ball—and there was Don Astemio, running and playing with his son! I could hardly believe what I was seeing. My eyes filled with tears, and in my heart I thanked Heavenly Father for His great love. Two weeks later, María was baptized.
While Don Astemio’s healing was unusual, I am grateful that the Lord blessed this family in a remarkable way. Left to our own intelligence, my companion and I would have continued to ignore little David, but the Lord knew something we didn’t. He knew that this child would be the means by which an entire family would come into His Church and be helped in ways we could not have foreseen.
Cold Cereal or Hot Soup?
I could tell it was going to be a difficult day. After a restless night I woke up to the full assault of influenza—headache, nausea, fever, and chills. The day before, my husband had kissed me good-bye before boarding a plane for a business trip to the East Coast of the United States.
How am I going to take care of myself, let alone four children? I wondered. I called Ben, my seven-year-old, to my room and charged him with the task of watching his younger brother and sisters.
That afternoon my visiting teacher called on the phone. She perceived I wasn’t feeling well and offered to help, but I declined the offer. “We’re fine,” I insisted.
Ben did the best job a seven-year-old could do. The children ate cold cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But the diaper rash, dirty dishes, and disarray told me I should have allowed my visiting teacher to help. Why had I not accepted her offer?
Months later I attended a Relief Society lesson that focused on occasions recorded in the scriptures when the Savior received service. For example:
While journeying through Samaria on His way to Galilee, Jesus stopped at a well to rest. When a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water, He entreated her: “Give me to drink.” An opportunity for Him to teach the woman followed, and ultimately many Samaritans came to believe in Christ because of this woman’s testimony (see John 4:7–42).
While dining in the house of Simon the Pharisee, Jesus graciously allowed a woman to wipe His feet with her hair and to anoint them with ointment. Jesus perceived the Pharisee’s disapproval, yet He not only permitted but praised the woman’s humble act of service. “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven,” He declared; “for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little” (see Luke 7:36–50).
Jesus asked two of His disciples to bring Him a donkey to ride into Jerusalem, and when He entered the city the crowd cast their garments and palm leaves in His path. “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the people shouted. He accepted their worshipful jubilation fit for a king (see Matt. 21:1–9).
The Savior’s invitation “Follow me” was apparently more inclusive than I had previously understood. These scriptural examples suggested that we should follow His example not only in giving compassionate service but also in receiving service graciously.
Another year the flu season found me again. Five children now graced our home, and the East Coast still beckoned my husband for weeklong business trips. However, this time when a dear friend called and asked how I was, I told her I felt terrible.
She responded, “I’ll be right over.” She took my little ones for the day, providing for their care and allowing me the rest I so desperately needed. When she brought the children home that night she also brought homemade chicken noodle soup. How my children feasted on that soup! The next morning she called again, and because I was still feeling ill I allowed her to take my children the second day. Another friend took care of them the third day until I got back on my feet. These dear sisters were as ministering angels to me and my children.
How grateful I am for the Savior’s admonition to follow Him in all things!
I Asked God to Touch My Mother’s Heart
One day in October 1992 as I was coming home from my school in Cape Verde, I noticed two young men dressed in white shirts and ties. I decided to speak to them. As we talked, I could feel great love emanating from them. They told me their names and the name of their church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then they invited me to become acquainted with their families by showing me photographs. They also expressed an interest in coming to my house and meeting my family.
When they came to my house, my mother was courteous, but she was not interested in their message. Still, I liked the discussions immensely; each one seemed better than the last. The testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the news of the restored gospel were the most marvelous messages I had ever heard. They truly changed my heart. Eventually, the missionaries mentioned baptism. My mother was not pleased with my desire to join the Church and would not permit me to be baptized.
I continued to investigate the Church and to attend every Church meeting and activity. But I was also obedient to my mother. Many times the elders explained to her the importance of my being baptized, but she would not change her mind.
One day in sacrament meeting, a sister missionary spoke on the subject of prayer. Her words touched my heart deeply, and later at home I meditated on what she had said. Prompted by the Holy Ghost, I decided to pray. I went up on the porch of our house and prayed out loud, opening my heart to my Father in Heaven. I fervently told Him of my desire to join His Church and asked Him to touch my mother’s heart so she would let me be baptized.
It was a prayer I will never forget. I went into the house and opened the subject of baptism with my mother. Without a single objection, she responded, “If this is your desire, you may be baptized.” My heart was filled with happiness and praise to God. I knew without a doubt He had heard and answered my prayer.
I was baptized on 13 February 1993 on the island of São Tiago, Cape Verde. A little over a year later, after many more fervent prayers, I baptized two members of my family, my Aunt Edna and my Aunt Ana. In June 1994 I received one of the greatest blessings of my life when I baptized my mother.
Our Father in Heaven is loving and kind. And He always answers our prayers in the way He knows is best for us.
Why Was It So Hard to Learn Italian?
“And I bless you with the gift of tongues,” my stake president said as he set me apart for my mission in Rome. The words still echoed through my memory. Then why could I not learn Italian?
My struggles began in what was then called the Language Training Mission. While other missionaries were progressing in learning Italian, I lagged behind. French had been easy for me to learn in high school. Even without the gift of tongues, it shouldn’t be so hard for me to learn Italian. I could think of no good reason for my difficulty.
When we arrived in Italy, my struggles continued. I decided I must make myself more worthy to receive the promised gift of tongues, so I tried to be letter-perfect in keeping every commandment and every mission rule. This pursuit of perfection turned me into a kind of robot, and robots do not make good missionaries! It was driving my poor companion crazy. There was nothing left for me to do but to accept my inability to speak Italian well and to be myself, not a robot.
To my amazement and relief, I discovered that being myself was the most effective way to do missionary work. In spite of my broken Italian, heart communicated to heart, spirit communicated to spirit, and our beloved Savior could be served.
Gradually my speaking and understanding of Italian improved, but it remained a challenge—with one exception: the subject of food storage. As far as I could tell, a food storage program had not been introduced; or at least the members in Rome were not familiar with it. This was a topic especially close to my heart, since I had studied about it at Brigham Young University. Therefore, I worked with several members of the branch in Rome to produce a booklet and present a fireside on food storage. I was asked to be one of the speakers. When the fireside was over, one of the members exclaimed with surprise, “You spoke with perfect Italian!”
It wasn’t until years later that I discovered information that explained why learning Italian had been so difficult for me. Shortly before my mission I had been in an accident and suffered a near-fatal brain injury. The information noted that, among other side effects, this kind of brain injury could make learning another language nearly impossible.
Impossible—unless, of course, one is blessed with the gift of tongues. I am grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who, as we seek His help, blesses us in ways beyond our realization.
The Memory of My Father’s Faith
Both my parents were born in Japan. They came to Brazil before I was born, and I grew up speaking Portuguese. When I was seven, they divorced.
Like many young people, I had problems as I entered adolescence. I frequently argued with my father, with whom I was living. I also acquired some bad habits. At age 15, I started drinking alcohol and smoking. At 17, I started using drugs. I was looking for fun, and I thought nothing I did made any difference. But despite having friends, I felt alone. I wondered what the purpose of life was.
It was my father who showed me the way out of my loneliness. He was a Christian with a strong belief in God. One day he became paralyzed by an illness, and doctors told him he would never walk again. But he forced himself to start walking one week later by using a wall for support. And he did resume walking. He told me, “I believe in God, and I know that with His help I can overcome my problems.” His words impressed me, but it would be some time before I realized how strongly rooted in my heart they had become.
Shortly after my father began walking again, I received a letter from my mother. She had returned to Japan and was working in a factory in the city of Fukui. “Come to Japan,” she wrote. “I can get you a job.” I became excited about living in the land of my ancestors and decided to go.
When I arrived in 1992, I was intrigued by the technology and other conveniences available in the country. But I also faced many new challenges. I had a job, and although I looked Japanese, I couldn’t speak Japanese. I struggled to learn the language. My coworkers were not always patient with me.
Despite my Christian background, I had never attended church or read the Bible regularly. But now, as I faced these obstacles, I remembered how my father’s faith had given him strength. My thoughts turned increasingly to God.
One day I was walking in downtown Fukui when two young men walked up to me. One of them didn’t look Japanese, but he spoke Japanese when he introduced himself.
I said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t speak Japanese. Do you speak English?”
He answered, “Of course! I’m American!”
The young man started speaking English, which I had learned in school. He told me he and his companion were missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They talked briefly about Jesus Christ and invited me to church. I hesitated but finally agreed to go.
The first meeting I attended was a fast and testimony meeting. I came late, and as I walked into the chapel, a young woman was crying and talking about how the gospel helped her with her problems. After listening to her and to some of the other members, I realized that all of them had problems. They weren’t perfect, and they knew it. But I could also see they had something strong inside them. Their faith in God was helping them. With that kind of faith, I thought, maybe I could overcome my problems too.
I continued attending church, and I pondered often what I learned there. I also read the Book of Mormon. One day I accepted the invitation to ask God if what I was learning was true. As I prayed, something strong touched my heart, and I thought, This is the right way. I already believe in God. It’s time to follow Him.
As I continued to pray and attend meetings, the Spirit continued to guide me. Finally I told the elders I wanted to hear the discussions. I wanted to follow God and return to His presence someday. I was baptized on 21 June 1993.
As a member of the Church, I found new strength in meeting the challenges of life in Japan. And after preparing earnestly, I was called on a mission. I was called to serve in São Paulo, Brazil. I was very excited about sharing the gospel in my homeland.
When I look back at my old life, I realize how blind I was. We can go through life the right way or the wrong way. At first I chose the wrong way. I knew God existed, but I wasn’t ready to follow Him. Then the gospel touched my life. Now I know that following Heavenly Father and our Savior is the only way to true happiness.
The Shadow of Death Was on Her Face
Some months after our baptism, my husband and I were faced with unexpected adversity. Some of our most distressing trials concerned our children. It seemed as though no week passed without one of them being admitted to the hospital.
These trials went on for almost two years. Our income as civil servants went toward medical bills. The financial strain was so great that my husband and I had to sell many of our belongings just to obtain food. I even had to sell some of my clothing. We lost everything we had worked for. But none of these trials shook our faith. We remained active in our branch in Nigeria and true to our covenants. Even when we did not have money for transport, we walked to church on Sunday mornings.
One December evening in 1997 our daughter, Pricilia, fell ill. She had a high fever, and blood started coming out of her mouth. My husband was not home, and I was confused and afraid. I could see the shadow of death on her face.
As I prayed for help, the Spirit prompted me to take her to our branch president, who lived far from us. Somehow I managed to get her down from our third-floor flat, carrying her on my back, and out to the main road. It was too late to catch a bus, so I desperately tried to get a taxi.
The first taxi driver who came by refused to take us, saying, “I don’t want to carry a dead person in my car.” However, a second taxi driver responded to my pleas and helped us, even though I had no money. When we arrived, the branch president carried Pricilia up to his flat, laid her on his couch, placed his hands on her head, and gave her a blessing. I heard him sigh and pause, then tell Pricilia that it was not yet time for her to go home and that she must fight to live.
Immediately after the blessing, Pricilia opened her eyes and groaned. We took her to the hospital, where we learned she had cerebral malaria, a deadly disease. For the next eight days she remained unconscious in the hospital, and the doctors did not believe she would survive.
The day Pricilia was discharged—healthy and normal—the doctor told me that few people survived who were as sick as she had been. Those who lived were left disabled. “Pricilia is a lucky girl,” he said. But to me luck had nothing to do with her recovery. My conviction was that she had been saved by priesthood power.
Today, Pricilia is a healthy and happy girl. She is everything a parent could want a daughter to be. Furthermore, the sicknesses that so beset our family have passed. We have outlasted these trials and have truly been blessed.