Hans Eduardo Nieto, a nine-year-old boy living in Guayaquil, Ecuador, has been a missionary since he was born.
Hans’s family is made up of Hans and his mother. When he was born, his mother was not a member of the Church. But the family she worked for as a housemaid were Latter-day Saints. They asked if they could take the baby to church to receive a blessing.
Although Hans’s mother didn’t want to go, she allowed them to take her baby for the blessing. Hans has attended church ever since. Wherever he and his mother have lived, she has found members to take him to church.
Hans was baptized when he was eight years old and is now preparing to become a deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood.
Why didn’t Hans’s mother ever go to church with him? “Because my past was very sad and dark,” she says. “I didn’t understand that Heavenly Father’s love for me was so great. I didn’t know He could forgive me for my mistakes. But Hans was a light leading me to the truth.”
Hans let his light shine brightly, even through hard times.
When he was six years old, he fell and broke his arm. That accident became a great blessing. His mom was planning to move to the United States and leave Hans in Ecuador with her sister for a time. “But when he broke his arm,” she says, “I realized Heavenly Father was telling me not to leave my son. If I did, he wouldn’t be able to go to church.”
That’s when Hans’s mother, Antonia Yolanda Nieto, was baptized. Since that time, her testimony has continued to grow. She has received her endowment in the Guayaquil Ecuador Temple. Hans was the missionary who brought his mother to the light of the gospel.
She says he continues being a missionary to her. “The first thing he does every morning is read the scriptures for 30 minutes,” says Sister Nieto. “He reads the scriptures for another 30 minutes every night.” Sometimes she listens while he reads aloud. He also reads the Amigos section of the Liahona and can always tell you what the most recent message from the First Presidency is about.
Hans helps his mother with her Church calling—delivering copies of the Liahona to members in their ward. The bishop receives the magazines in a box, and Hans helps his mom get them to the right people. “If they aren’t at church,” he says, “I give their Liahona to someone who knows them. Or I deliver it to them myself.”
Being an example for friends at school is another way Hans is a missionary. He plays soccer and basketball and is a good athlete. And he tries to be a good sport. “When my friends and I are playing soccer, I offer them my water so they won’t be thirsty,” he says. Some of his friends and cousins have come to Church activities with him.
Hans attends a private school. Half of his tuition is paid by a scholarship he earns through good grades and good behavior. His mother pays the other half from money she earns working as a maid. “The Lord blesses us because we pay our tithing and fast offerings,” she says. Hans is planning to become an airplane pilot someday. “I would like to fly through the air,” he says.
He is looking forward to going to the temple when he is 12 to be baptized for the dead. His mother has been baptized for some of their ancestors. “She says it’s beautiful, and I want to experience it, too,” Hans explains.
With all of his experiences as a member missionary, Hans hopes to let his light shine as a full-time missionary someday. “I know that there are many people waiting for the gospel,” he says. He is preparing “by obeying the commandments. And whenever a coin comes my way, I save it for my mission.” He is also preparing by going to Primary, where he loves singing songs and hymns.
“I feel my testimony in my heart, my mind, and my soul,” says Hans. He loves the Book of Mormon and has memorized the Articles of Faith and many other scriptures. “Sometimes I don’t think I can memorize them,” he says. “But I pray, and Heavenly Father helps me.” Hans recently memorized James 1:5–6, the verses that prompted Joseph Smith to pray in the Sacred Grove. “I memorize scriptures so I can always have them in my heart, especially when I have problems,” he says.
Bishop Eduardo E. Martillo of the Tarqui Ward, Guayaquil Ecuador Alborada Stake, remembers when Hans first bore his testimony in sacrament meeting. “We thought he was reading the scriptures because he quoted them perfectly. But then we realized he knew them from memory. Hans is a good boy. He’s going to be a strong leader in the Church in Ecuador.”
With a happy smile on his face, Hans Nieto continues to let his light shine brightly.