“Raúl,” Mother called, “will you stir the frijoles (beans), please?”
“Yes, Mamá.” Raúl stirred the beans, then joined his mother in the cool front room, where she ironed. Silently he watched as she used the iron to lovingly smooth the wrinkles from the white temple clothes.
“There,” she said happily as she finished the last piece. “I’m through.” Carefully she folded the clean clothes and placed them in an old suitcase before going to the kitchen to make tortillas.
Smells of chili verde (green chili peppers) cooking drifted through the little house. Raúl followed the aroma. “Mamá, could I have just a little of that? It smells so good!”
Mamá laughed and dished up a small bowl of the chili verde, added some beans, and placed a still-warm tortilla on top. “Here. I’m sure there’s enough for you to have some.”
Using the tortilla as a scoop, he dipped the spicy food out of the bowl and into his mouth. It tasted so good! When it was gone, he washed his bowl and put it away. “Mamá, may I go with you today?”
“I’m going there to work. What would you do?”
“I could help.”
“Do you know what I do there?”
Raúl knew that his mother had been called to help Saints coming from Mexico to attend the Arizona Temple. It cost so much to travel that sometimes people sold everything they had in order to get there. When they arrived, they were hungry, they needed a place to stay, and sometimes they even needed clothes to wear. Since his mother spoke Spanish, she helped them feel comfortable in their new surroundings. Sometimes she also went to the temple with them. “You’re going to help those who want to go to the temple,” he answered now. “I want to help them too.”
Mama wrapped the still-warm tortillas in a towel and placed them in a cardboard box. “I will be gone a very long time. Are you sure you want to come?”
“If you promise to help, I will take you with me.”
His mother put on her Sunday blouse and skirt. Then she packed a bag with another skirt and blouse to wear when she served the supper. Raúl put on his shoes and socks. Soon they were both ready to go.
At the stake center, people scurried everywhere like ants. They wanted to be ready when the Saints from Mexico arrived. Raúl was drawn into the activity. He set tables and poured glasses of water. He cut cake into squares and put the pieces on plates. When the bus pulled into the parking lot, food was steaming in the kitchen, and the tables in the dining hall were ready for the visitors.
Raúl watched as the people climbed down from the bus. They were tired and hot after having traveled for three days and nights. As Mamá walked forward and greeted them in her soft Spanish, the tired faces broke into smiles. Soon she was surrounded by happy, chattering people.
Following her directions, the Saints from Mexico entered the building. Watching for someone his age, Raúl spied a boy carrying a small baby and waved at him.
The boy walked towards Raúl. “Me llamo Nefi. Cómo estás? (My name’s Nephi. How are you?)”
“Is your name really Nefi?” Raúl asked. “Wow! My name’s Raúl Samuel Rodriguez. I’m named after Samuel the Lamanite.”
The boys chattered happily as they walked into the building. Suddenly the baby began to cry.
“This is Lupita, my little sister. I think she’s frightened and maybe a little thirsty.”
Raúl ran to get water for the baby. When he returned, Nefi’s mother was comforting Lupita. Gratefully she took the glass and let her drink. “Gracias (Thank you),” she said. Then she turned to Nefi, “I’ll take care of her now if you want to eat. Don’t go far, because after lunch we are going to the temple.”
Raúl talked to his new friend while he ate. “I brought a puzzle my abuelo (grandpa) gave me. We can put it together if you want.”
“That would be great. First, though, I need to get cleaned up. I must be clean to go into the temple.”
Raúl showed Nefi where the showers were, then waited for him in the hall. When Nefi came out, his hair was wet and slicked back. He was wearing the same clothes as before, but he had brushed them clean.
“I’m ready now,” he said happily. “Let’s put the puzzle together.”
“Where are your shoes?” Raúl asked. Then, realizing that Nefi didn’t have any shoes, his face got very red.
“Won’t they let me in without them?” Nefi asked fearfully. “I told Mama they wouldn’t.”
Raúl felt awful. What should he do? “Of course they’ll let you in. No one will mind.” He looked down at his own feet. His shoes were not new, but they had just been polished. “You could go without them—but would you like to wear mine?”
Nefi began to smile. “You’d let me wear your shoes? I’d like that.” Quickly he sat down and pulled on Raúl’s shoes. As he walked around, his feet slid around in them. “They’re a bit too big!” he said, disappointed.
“I know just what to do,” Raúl said. He hurried to the washroom, grabbed some paper toweling, and hurried back to his friend. “Put this in the toes.”
“Nefi,” his mother called. “Apúrate (Hurry)! It’s time to go.”
Quickly the boys stuffed the toweling into the shoes. Nefi put them on and tested the fit. “It worked!” He hurried after his mother.
“You look good, Nefi,” Raúl called.
“Thanks, Raúl. We’ll put the puzzle together when I get back, OK?”
It was late that evening when Raúl wearily helped his mother carry the empty pots out to their car. “I’m glad I came,” he said.
“I’m glad that you came, too,” she answered. “You were a big help.” She glanced down at his feet. “Are you sorry now that you gave Nefi your shoes?”
He shook his head and smiled. “Oh no, Mamá. I’m glad you let me do it. He was happy to wear them to the temple. It helped make this day even more special for him. He’ll grow into them soon, too, and I still have a pair at home.”
Raúl noticed that his mother was in her old skirt and blouse, even though she’d just got back from the temple. “Where are your Sunday clothes?” he asked.
“Oh,” she said quietly, “someone else needed them more than I do.”
Raúl remembered a young mother whose dress had hung in tatters. She was just about his mother’s size. It made him happy that Mamá had helped her.
“I remember when we went to be sealed,” he said softly. “I loved being in the temple. It was so peaceful. I’m glad we were able to help others feel comfortable there. Going to the temple is important.”
“Yes, mi hijo (my son), it is.”
Author’s note: Before the Mexico City Temple was built, Saints from all over Mexico and Central America traveled by bus to attend the Arizona Temple. The Tri-Stake Center had places in it for them to stay overnight. This story, written of that time before other temples were available, is about one group of Saints who went there at great personal sacrifice and who were in need of some special help.