Christmas under Corrugated Metal

Erwin E. Wirkus

Erwin E. Wirkus, Idaho, USA

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    soldier helping family

    While I was stationed in Manila, Philippines, during World War II, I would often meet with a small group of other LDS servicemen to hold sacrament meeting. During one meeting I noticed a Filipino woman at the back of our bombed-out building peering through an opening that had once been a door. I wondered if our singing had attracted her. While our eyes were closed for the benediction, she quietly slipped away.

    During one of her subsequent visits, we invited her to join us. Her name was Aniceta Fajardo, and she enthusiastically accepted our friendship. As she continued attending our meetings, she learned about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

    With Christmas approaching, we decided to bless Aniceta and her family with some Christmas presents. We gathered canned milk, meat, and vegetables; a couple of blankets; and a medical kit, including penicillin to treat Aniceta’s sick grandson.

    On Christmas Eve we loaded up the gifts and went to Aniceta’s home. She lived with her daughter and grandson under sheets of corrugated metal that leaned against a brick wall—a remnant of a building that had been blown apart. We wondered how they could survive with such little protection during the tropical rains so prevalent that time of year.

    One of our men pulled a branch from a mango tree and stuck it in the ground. We found bits of litter to decorate the branch.

    Aniceta and her family looked on with delight and amazement. When they saw the gifts we had brought, their delight turned into tears of happiness and appreciation. They hadn’t seen or eaten such food in a long time, and they wept so much that for a time they couldn’t speak.

    Because it was Christmas Eve, our thoughts turned to home and loved ones. I thought of the cablegram I had received just two days before, informing me that I had become a father. We shared our feelings, ending with our testimonies of the Savior and the restored gospel.

    We assured this wonderful family of the Savior’s love for them. They found comfort in our words, and a feeling of peace warmed the night air. Then we bid our dear friends good-bye and wished them a merry Christmas.

    Soon afterward I was transferred to a new area, and I never saw Aniceta or her family again. But years later I opened the Church Almanac to a section on the Philippines and read that Aniceta Pabilona Fajardo was the first Filipino to join the Church in those islands.1 What a wonderful blessing to think of the seeds that were planted during that Christmastime in 1945.

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      Note

    1.   1.

      See “Philippines,” Deseret News 1991–1992 Church Almanac, 157; recent issues of the Church Almanac spell Sister Fajardo’s first name Aneleta.