23909_000_008Twenty-three years after I was transferred to Culiacán, Mexico, I discovered I still had some missionary work to do.
I hadn’t thought much about the Solorzano family during the 23 years since serving in the Mexico Hermosillo Mission, but when I started typing my mission journal onto a computer, they and many other wonderful Mexican families kept returning to my mind.
Elder Richard Howard and I had met Francisco and Rosa Solorzano when we were called to open a new area of Culiacán, Sinaloa, in March 1978. We spent many days knocking on doors with limited success, but the Solorzanos and their two children, Eduardo and Carmen, had attended sacrament meetings and firesides in our little chapel and participated in family home evenings. My companion and I had grown to love their family, and when I was transferred four weeks later, I left confident that they would join the Church and strengthen the membership in Culiacán. I did not know that after Elder Howard was transferred a short time later, the Solorzanos stopped meeting with the missionaries.
As I reflected on my mission experiences so many years later, the thought came to write to several of these families. I looked up their addresses in my journal and hastily typed a few letters in simple Spanish. As I placed the Solorzanos’ letter in the mailbox, I felt little hope of receiving a response and wondered if they would even remember me. When several of my letters were returned unopened a few months later, I eventually forgot about my impression to send the letters in the first place.
A Phone Call from Culiacán
Six months later, I received a phone call from Elder Robert Potter of the Mexico Culiacán Mission. My mind immediately raced with thoughts about the families I had contacted. Did he have news of any of them? Indeed he had! He asked if I recalled sending a letter to the Solorzanos and told me that he and his companion had met them one day while walking past their store. Elder Potter had found my phone number on the Internet, and the Solorzanos were with him right then.
In broken Spanish, I greeted the Solorzanos and their 30-year-old son, Eduardo. We managed to exchange e-mail addresses, and shortly after our phone call we began a regular correspondence. But during our conversation and the subsequent e-mail correspondence, we never discussed the Church. One question kept returning: Had they ever been baptized? I wanted to ask, but I felt that the time would come when they would let me know in their own way.
That time came quickly. Late one evening I received an e-mail from Jesus Francisco, the Solorzano’s 17-year-old son, who had been born six years after I left Culiacán. I read his story with amazement, joy, and some tears.
Francisco wrote that months earlier he had been studying several religions, searching for the true church. Late one afternoon some missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knocked on his door. He accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon and listened to a few discussions, but when he showed no further interest in their message, the missionaries had stopped coming. An experience a few months later began to change his mind. His mother told him excitedly that she had received a letter from an old friend, and Francisco related that he’d never seen his mom so happy as when she told him about the missionaries who had taught their family 23 years before.
“In that moment I was searching for the truth,” he wrote. “I told my mom that I had a wish to go to your church.”
As I tried to sleep that night, my mind filled with thoughts of that young man far away in Culiacán, Mexico. I finally realized that I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I had written to him. Returning quietly to my desk, I turned my computer on and began.
I told him how happy I was that he wanted to find the true church. I shared my own conviction that Jesus Christ was indeed the head of the church that the missionaries had taught him about and that we were blessed with a living prophet today. I encouraged him to begin meeting with the missionaries again. Finally, I told him that I knew Heavenly Father answers our sincere prayers for truth and guidance.
For several weeks, Francisco and I continued to discuss gospel topics through e-mail. He told me about his friends and relatives who ridiculed him for investigating the Church, and I urged him to read and pray with faith about the Book of Mormon. His e-mails described the missionaries’ visits, and I was excited to learn that his mother and his 13-year-old brother, Benjamin, had joined Francisco in the discussions. Within weeks, Francisco had attended his first Church meeting and discovered friends from school that were also members.
Finally I received the e-mail I had been praying for: Francisco informed me that he had a testimony and wanted to be baptized. But while his mother was excited and supportive, Francisco worried about telling his father.
I encouraged him to fast and pray before approaching his father. When he meekly requested permission to be baptized, he read my testimony to his father. Señor Solorzano sat quietly for a few moments after Francisco had finished, then gave Francisco his blessing.
I’d never known that words on a computer screen could bring such happiness! On 20 May, Francisco, my e-mail investigator, and his mother, Rosa, were baptized. Two weeks later, Benjamin was also baptized. Francisco was overjoyed as the entire Solorzano family—even his father—joined friends, relatives, and ward members in attending both baptismal services.
A Lifetime Mission Call
In March 1977 I was called by the prophet Spencer W. Kimball to serve as a full-time missionary in the Mexico Hermosillo Mission. I now believe that my calling to be a missionary didn’t end upon my release but continues today. As I think of Francisco Solorzano and his search for truth, I know the Lord’s blessing upon missionaries old and young is sweet: “And blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me … behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard” (Jacob 5:75).