My name is Mili, and I’m eleven years old. My sister, Eli, is ten. We have always lived with our abuelita (beloved grandmother). Our city is surrounded by green hills, and its streets are straight and clean. In the city are many beautiful churches, such as Santo Domingo, where we rest in the quiet coolness after our shopping on Saturdays.
Abuelita doesn’t go to church or anywhere else because of the pain of her arthritis and because she is almost deaf.
Maybe the deafness is the reason she couldn’t listen to the two missionary sisters who came to the gate of our courtyard one day last summer. Abuelita has told us not to open the gate for strangers, but she unlocked it and let them in. Abuelita is always kind, and they looked very hot and tired—and sweet and harmless.
Eli and I stood back quietly when they came in and sat down in our cool sala (living room). We brought them cold lemonade and pan dulce (pastry), as Abuelita has taught us to do for guests in our house. When we sat down and listened to them, they told us wonderful things about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appearing to a boy named Joseph Smith in the woods, and about the gold plates and the Book of Mormon. And they gave us the book!
Eli and I read to each other every night that week. We liked the stories and the way we felt when we read them. Abuelita doesn’t read.
When the missionaries came back, we were happy to see Abuelita quietly unlock the gate for them. Later they took us with them on the bus to their church. Eli and I liked the way we felt in that church, even though it was a very plain chapel and not so beautiful as Santo Domingo with its colored windows and gold statues. When we asked Abuelita if we could be baptized, she kissed us, said yes, and told us that we were good girls and that she knew that we would follow a good path.
So Eli and I became Latter-day Saints. We went to church every Sunday, and the missionaries didn’t have to come for us, because we knew how to go to the zócalo (town square) and take the bus to the church. We learned to pray to Heavenly Father morning and night and to pay our tithing on the few pesos Abuelita gives us each week for our school supplies and lunches. And we don’t let her put coffee in our milk anymore.
We also learned that we should fast on the first Sunday of the month and give the money to el obispo (the bishop) so he can give it to the poor.
We have many poor people in our city, and Eli and I wouldn’t have minded missing our breakfast and lunch on that one day. But Abuelita doesn’t understand about fasting. She says that we must eat before leaving for church, and she won’t give us money instead of food.
We talked to el obispo about it. He is a very nice man and is very wise. He read to us in the Book of Mormon where Nephi said that if God gives a commandment, He will provide a way to obey it. We had read that before, but when we went home that day, we underlined it in our Book of Mormon. El obispo said that we would find a way to keep the commandment.
One Sunday morning as we walked to the zócalo to catch the bus, we saw a man sitting underneath a big tule tree. He was old and very thin and raggedy. When he held up a dish for money, we saw that the joints of his hands were swollen and knobby like Abuelita’s. He looked sad and tired.
He probably had been there many times when we passed, but this time we really saw him. I told Eli how thankful I was that Abuelita didn’t have to sit on the street and beg, that she had her warm bed and good food. We didn’t have any money to give him, so we walked on, but Eli and I couldn’t stop thinking about him. We talked about him, and when we said our prayers, we prayed for him.
The next Sunday was fast Sunday. Eli and I said our morning prayers and began to get ready for church. Then I had an idea. I told Eli, and she liked it.
Abuelita had our breakfast ready for us, but instead of sitting down to eat, we began to put the tangerines, bananas, a beautiful mango, our empanadas, and our boiled eggs into a small bag. When Abuelita asked us what we were doing, we smiled and asked, “Please, may we take our food with us?” and she let us.
As always, before unlocking the gate of the courtyard to let us out, she kissed us both on each cheek. It’s one way she shows her love for us.
We hurried to the zócalo and looked for the sad beggar. He was there under the tule tree. When we handed him the bag of food, he looked puzzled but opened the bag. Then he saw the beautiful food, and his eyes lit up with happiness. “Gracias, muchachitas, gracias” (“Thank you, young ladies, thank you”), he said. We smiled back, then ran for the bus.
Someday we’ll pay our fast offering to el obispo as others do. Someday Abuelita will truly understand the gospel. God provides a way.