The world of Alex Spencer (8) is both large and small. Ituna is a small railroad stop, but it lies on the immense Saskatchewan prairie. A grain elevator rises above it. Green and golden fields stretch to the level horizon.
The Ituna Branch of the Church covers a large area and includes several towns, but it meets in a trailer. Only eight people come very often. Five of them are the Spencers. Alex and his sisters Allyssa (6) and Chloe (2) are the entire Primary, and their dad is the branch president. The other active members are elderly and are like grandparents to the children.
The branch has no baptismal font, so Alex was baptized at the stake center in Regina, the provincial capital. “At first I felt a bit scared,” he remembers. “But the Holy Ghost helped me not be scared anymore.” Alex likes reading the scriptures and going to Primary. He eagerly pays tithing each time he earns money. Why? “Because I love Heavenly Father and Jesus,” he says.
Ituna winters are cold, and children go about so bundled up that only their eyes show. Snow usually falls before Halloween and may not melt till Easter. Sometimes it lies packed so deep that children can touch the tops of stop signs. But good things blow in with the snow—the winter sports of curling, ice hockey, skating, and cross-country skiing warm things up. Alex is a snowman artist. One winter he sculpted a snow teddy bear.
A natural athlete, Alex especially enjoys hockey, soccer, and football. But sports don’t come first in his life. A year ago he quit a hockey team because it was starting to practice and play games on Sundays. He has since taken up figure skating and shows great promise.
Alex is also a talented listener. His curiosity is boundless, and when he speaks it is usually to ask a question. Otherwise he is a quiet boy. His mom is impressed with “his quiet, steady way of living the gospel.”
Alex names eight different boys as his best friends—about the number of boys his age in town. One of these friends raises chickens, and Alex helps care for them. A willing worker, he also rakes leaves each fall and enjoys the leaf fights that always break out. He even likes washing dishes. Really! He also cleans his room and volunteers to help his mom match socks. He picks apples and raspberries and helps make them into jam.
Alex is thankful for his family, but feels that one thing is missing. “I would like some brothers,” he says. Fortunately, he has outstanding sisters. “Allyssa is our happy, bubbly, spontaneous dancer,” Mom says.
“Chloe has brought love into the lives of everyone around her,” Dad adds.
All three children love the Regina Saskatchewan Temple, which is less than an hour away in good weather. Auntie Chantelle and Uncle Andrew were married there. Ancestors from long ago receive the blessings of the gospel within its walls. “I want to go to the temple and be baptized for the dead,” Alex says.
“People die,” Allyssa explains. “Heavenly Father gave us temples so we could be together forever.”
That’s a big idea—bigger even than the vast prairies of Saskatchewan.
Perogies are Ukrainian dumplings made with mashed potatoes, cheese, and onions. Many of Ituna’s residents have Ukrainian ancestors.