Our Secret Angels

For a couple of weeks I had been noticing a small tremor in my right hand. I persuaded myself it was only stress. Raising seven children can be a challenge, but when five of those children have multiple disabilities, life can be overwhelming at times. My schedule was filled with doctors’ appointments, therapies, daily medication routines, and the constant challenge of helping children struggle with seizures, mental retardation, bipolar disorder, and congenital heart disease.

My husband, Ron, had recently been called as bishop of our ward. We were grateful for his opportunity to serve and prayed daily that he would be able to bless the lives of those in our ward. Little did I realize that we would be the ones receiving the blessings.

Finally, I could ignore the tremor no more and sought medical help. As I left the doctor’s office that day, my life had changed forever. Parkinson’s disease was the diagnosis. Questions and fears flooded my mind. How would the disease progress? How would I care for my family? How would I continue to support Ron in his new calling? I longed for answers and desperately needed peace and comfort. The Savior’s words came to my mind: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Over the years I had become comfortable with the idea that the Lord had given me my quota of trials; I thought my life would be spent caring for my children with their special needs. I did not resent this idea and even felt great peace and joy as I looked to my future. We had accepted the challenges and disabilities of both our sons, along with raising our two beautiful daughters. We even felt the strong desire to add to our family by adopting three more children with special needs. Each time we entered the adoption process, we experienced miracles as we were guided through each step of the way. There have been tremendous challenges but also tremendous blessings.

In the weeks following my diagnosis I often found myself on my knees, pleading with the Lord. I learned that Parkinson’s is a progressive disease and that I would continue to lose control of my muscles. The more I read, the more frightened I became. I spent many sleepless nights. I also felt an impression from the first words of the diagnosis that there would be no miracles to remove this trial from me and that I needed to learn something from this experience. I felt so alone and wondered if the Lord was displeased with me, if He still loved me.

Then one night, as Ron was getting ready to go to Mutual, there was a knock at our door. We opened the door and found a delicious meal left anonymously on our front porch. A loving note stated that every week on this night a dinner would arrive. As I tasted the goodness of this delicious meal, not only was my body fed, but my spirit also. I realized I am not alone and the Lord does love me. I tasted again of the sweet peace He has promised us. I was grateful for these dear secret angels who honored their baptismal covenants “to mourn with those that mourn” and “comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9). I knew that through the ministering of these “earthly angels” I would find the strength to make it through each day.

It has now been more than three years since we found that first dinner. Every Mutual night since then we have received a wonderful meal, always left anonymously on our front porch. Ward boundaries have changed, and people have moved in and out of our ward. But the meals continue to come. Often I have struggled with a particularly difficult day, forgetting it is our “Secret Angels Day.” And then the doorbell rings, and I find another delicious gift of love.

My disease continues to progress, and there are still many unanswered questions. But I know I am not alone. I have felt the peace that comes from trusting the Lord and accepting His will. I know that many of the trials we encounter in this life are for our good and help turn our weaknesses into strengths. I also know that we do not have to bear our trials alone. The Lord always answers our prayers, but often the answers come through those who are willing to serve and be His “secret angels.”

Mary Bartschi is a member of the Continental Ranch Ward, Tucson Arizona North Stake.

Courage to Pray

It seemed the year 1987 would never arrive. This was the year I would turn 18 and be able to serve in the Brazilian Air Force. When I could, I enlisted and dedicated myself entirely to serving my country.

After a Church leader challenged us to share the gospel, I decided to seek out someone who might be interested in the Church. After many frustrating attempts and feeling somewhat discouraged, I was reading the scriptures in my bunk when I noticed another serviceman kneeling in reverent prayer.

I decided to inquire about his religious affiliation. His response was like a ray of sunshine. He told me he had observed my lack of inhibition in praying at mealtime and before bed. He had always had the desire to pray but had never found the courage. Finally, he resolved to do it, even though he didn’t know exactly what he would say in his prayer.

I asked him, “Would you like to learn how to say a prayer?” His response was a very definite yes. That night I taught him in essence the six missionary discussions and bore my testimony. The Spirit testified clearly to the two of us that it was all true.

The weeks passed, and he accepted my invitation to go to church. He began hearing the discussions from the missionaries and participating in ward activities.

One day during lunch, after saying a prayer, he looked into my eyes and said, “I have decided. I want to be baptized.” His words were like the resounding of a cannon in my heart. I was surprised and happy, and he added to that when he said, “And I want you to baptize me.” Then it was too much. Unable to contain my tears, I embraced him, and he said to me, “Thank you, my friend.”

With the passing of time, we sent in our missionary applications, and he actually ended up leaving on a mission before I did. Today we are far from one another, but we have a strong link that will unite us beyond this mortal life. He married in the temple and has a beautiful family.

I am thankful for the inspired leader who challenged me to share the gospel with those around me and to be an example for others.

Dalnei de Assunção de Castro is a member of the Santa Clara Branch, São José Brazil Stake.

What about Agabus?

While serving a mission in England, one morning I read Acts 11:28, which briefly mentions a prophet named Agabus who prophesied of a famine that eventually came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. At the time I didn’t give the seemingly insignificant verse much thought.

Two days later my district leader, Elder Gallafent, telephoned and said he wanted to do a companion exchange the next day. The next morning my companion and I took a bus to Southampton, where we met Elder Gallafent and his companion, Elder Langston. I set out contacting people door-to-door with Elder Langston while the other two drove back to Winchester.

Our morning had been uneventful until we knocked on a certain door just before lunch. The woman who answered the door was a neighbor visiting from the house next door. I soon learned that the woman who lived there was in the living room within reach of my voice.

When I announced we were missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the woman in the living room yelled that she was of another faith and knew all about the “Mormons” and wasn’t interested in learning more. When I replied that everyone should be interested in a living prophet on the earth, she cried, “That’s not so! There are no prophets on the earth! Jesus Christ was the last prophet.”

Then something strange happened. A question came to my mind: “What about Agabus?”

I immediately called out, “What about Agabus?” There was a long pause. Then the woman responded, “Who’s Agabus?”

“A prophet who lived after Christ and who prophesied of a famine that came to pass,” I said.

She asked me, “Where did you read that—in your Mormon Bible?”

“No,” I replied, “in the book of Acts, chapter 11, verse 28.”

“Show me,” came the skeptical voice. The neighbor let us enter, and Elder Langston and I made our way down a small hallway into the living room, where a woman in her 40s was seated on the sofa.

I opened to the scripture and handed her the Bible. After she finished reading, she didn’t know what to say. I told her of the living prophet on the earth at that time, President David O. McKay (1873–1970). I testified of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Spirit was so powerful that I knew she could feel it.

Elder Langston and I left two copies of the Book of Mormon—one for this woman and one for her neighbor. I walked away feeling like I was floating on air. I was sure she would be baptized. Why else would I have remembered Agabus?

The following Sunday at church, I rushed up to Elder Gallafent and Elder Langston and asked, “Did you go back? What happened? Tell me!”

They told me they had gone to her home to give her the first discussion but were turned away. She returned the Book of Mormon we had given her.

I couldn’t believe it. I sat through church wondering why I would receive such a wonderful prompting and then have it result like this. I was terribly discouraged, but I tried to put it out of my mind.

The next Sunday as I walked into the church foyer, Elder Langston ran up to me with an ear-to-ear grin.

“Remember that woman we left the Book of Mormon with?” he asked.

“Of course,” I replied.

He then reminded me that we had left two copies of the Book of Mormon—one with the woman and one with her neighbor. The neighbor had never taken her copy home. So, without the knowledge of the woman of the house, her daughter had begun to read that copy and wanted to know more about the Church.

The woman eventually took the missionary discussions with her daughter, and both were baptized.

As I look back more than 30 years and recall the question that came to me, “What about Agabus?” I am reminded of another scripture: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). I am grateful that as a missionary I was able to have the Spirit bring to my remembrance the significance of Agabus. The Holy Ghost truly was my teacher that day.

Eric Hendershot is a member of the Green Valley First Ward, St. George Utah Green Valley Stake.

Death Is a New Beginning

My parents were baptized on 18 August 1978. I was 5 years old; my sister, Noelia, was just 5 months old; and my brother, Luis, was born 11 years later. We were sealed in the Guatemala City Guatemala Temple in June 1988. I can still remember the beautiful scene: we were dressed in white, uniting our family into eternity.

We were a stable, united, and active family, and our lives seemed perfect. But even when we stay close to the commandments, have testimonies of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and Their work, and aspire to achieve exaltation, adversity will come.

In January 1999 my father had a serious accident and was admitted to intensive care, where he was able to breathe only with the help of a respirator. He suffered hematomas, which caused swelling of the brain.

When the rest of the family learned of his condition, we immediately went to the hospital. As a physician, I knew the outlook was dim. Nevertheless, we fasted, prayed, and trusted in our Heavenly Father to restore my father so that soon, despite any aftereffects or the treatments he might need, he would come home again and be the wonderful guide and protector he had always been. As we fasted and prayed, I felt my faith grow stronger, and I anxiously waited for him to open his eyes and start to recover.

Visits from our inspired bishop were a constant strength during this trial. He gave my father a priesthood blessing, and we waited for a change.

Since my father did not improve, we began to wonder if our pleadings were really in accordance with Heavenly Father’s will. One night the bishop, after giving us blessings, talked to us about the plan of salvation and told us that when someone is blessed to recover, he or she will live if not appointed unto death (see D&C 42:48). He also gave us a copy of “Tragedy or Destiny” (see Improvement Era, Mar. 1966, 178–80, 210–17), a talk by President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985). The bishop urged us to ask God what plans He had. After we said good-bye to the bishop, I decided with much sorrow to follow his counsel. I was able to learn that my father’s time on earth had come to an end.

Complications arose, and my father’s condition deteriorated even more. His natural strength abated before our eyes, and we knew that this was a confirmation of what was going to happen. I worried that my pain at losing him would become so great I would lose my faith and vision and not be able to endure. But that isn’t what happened.

Never before had the wonderful plan of happiness had the meaning it now had in my life. I was able to feel a peace that tempered my emotions. It opened my eyes and mind and enabled me to understand to a limited extent the greatness, glory, and majesty of life and the importance of this brief time on earth.

The time came to tell my father, “Until we meet again.” Nine days after the accident, he died. I was with him as he reached the end of his earthly existence, but now I had a different understanding. I was able to feel how sweetly our Heavenly Father loves us and how He prepares the necessary opportunities for us to become as He is.

My confidence is complete that the day will come, if we endure to the end, when through the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will rise clothed in glory, immortality, and eternal life. Death is just a new beginning.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Ron Peterson

Claudia Yolanda Ortíz Herrera is a member of the Victorias Ward, Guatemala City Guatemala Las Victorias Stake.