“I was baptized into the Church when I was ten years old, along with my mother and my brother. We were living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the time, and one day two lady missionaries came to my father’s store,” recalls Elder Abrea.
“My father had a dairy products business and five or six horse carts. Sometimes I used to help him with the deliveries.
“I remember one of the first songs I learned in the Church was ‘Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam.’ I used to sing that song every day; in fact, my father got tired of hearing that particular song.
“One day I went to deliver two bottles of milk to a customer. The lady of the house heard me singing that song and came out and asked, ‘What are you singing?’
“‘I’m singing, “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam,”’ I answered.
“‘What is that?’ she inquired.
“‘One of the songs we sing in my church,’ I replied.
“‘What church is that?’
“‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’
“‘Well, I don’t know them. Do they have another name?
“‘Yes, the Mormon Church.’
“‘Why don’t you tell me something about your church?’”
Elder Abrea concluded that after two weeks, the lady and her family began attending the Latter-day Saint Church. This was his first missionary experience.
“I have to thank my mother for my conversion. The Latter-day Saint missionaries gave her a Book of Mormon with some pamphlets for all of us to read. I used to read the Book of Mormon with my mother. The missionaries explained many things that we could not understand. I enjoyed reading with my mother. She is very active in the Church, and has taught in the Primary for more than twenty-five years now. My brother is also very active and is now a bishop living in Buenos Aires.”
I asked Elder Abrea to recall any special Primary or Sunday School teachers.
“At the time I was baptized in Buenos Aires,” he said, “there were eight very active young ladies living there. They were well known in the Church then. Two of them were the missionaries who taught us, two were my Primary teachers, and the others taught me in Sunday School. All of them, in one way or another, affected my life. I still use many teachings I learned from them in my talks.”
On the subject of prayer, Elder Abrea said, “I know my prayers have been answered many, many times. One of the first times I remember was when I was eleven years old. My father also used to sell a variety of grains that had to be mashed for cattle. One day he had an appointment and he couldn’t finish mashing the grain. I told him to leave me with the machinery and that I could finish it for him. He said he felt I was too young and wouldn’t be able to do it.
“‘Oh, Father,’ I insisted, ‘trust me, I can do it.’
“Well, he decided to let me try. The job took about four or five hours, and I began by putting the grain into the machine. Things were going all right and then suddenly the machine jammed. I knew that you had to take one of the parts off the machine and put it on again and then it would work. I removed the part but I couldn’t get it back on the machine. I started to cry because I didn’t want to disappoint my father.
“At that time I had been a member of the Church for about six months, and I remembered one of the lessons I learned in Primary. Still crying, I kneeled down. I remember I said, ‘Father, I need Thy help, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.’ After that I went back to the machine and tried again, and it worked!
“The next testimony meeting was the first time I gave my testimony in public. I expressed my experience with prayer very simply and sat down. I know that the Lord does hear and answer our prayers.
“I have seen many changes in Argentina since I became a member of the Church. I was president of the branch when the first chapel was built there. When the chapel was finished, it was dedicated by President Hugh B. Brown. Now there are twenty-five stakes in Argentina with over 80,000 members. The Lord has opened up that country and all of South America. In the three years during my time as a mission president, we baptized 12,000 new members in our area. Soon there will be a temple in Argentina. The people are so grateful. It is just like a dream.
“I would like to tell the young people of the Church that they are the future leaders and the future missionaries. Enjoy being a child, but use childhood also as a preparation time for the future. You are all very important sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.”