Brother Ávila’s Faith

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    Brother Ávila visualized that all of us were together with him in the Santiago Chile Temple.

    When Brother Patricio Ávila went to the Santiago Chile Temple for the first time, he had an experience that changed his life and eventually blessed the lives of many of us. In the temple, he very distinctly visualized that all of us, the brothers and sisters of his branch, were together with him in that sacred place. We are members of the Obrador Branch of the Mendoza Argentina Stake in western Argentina; the temple in Santiago is the nearest temple.

    When he got back home, he couldn’t forget his mental picture of everyone together in the temple. With faith, he told us all about it. Some of the members smiled indulgently or made indifferent comments. But some of us became serious about making our own trip to Santiago.

    Under the direction of our branch president, Brother Ávila went to work right away to help us. First he set up meetings, and we discussed our temple goals and started collecting money for the trip. (These early donations became very important later.) Next he helped get temple preparation classes going so that everyone would be spiritually prepared. Thanks to his attention and drive, our enthusiasm grew.

    Things slowed down temporarily in the summer when Brother Ávila had to leave town to work. But when he returned in the fall, our momentum returned, too. The classes entered their final phase, and those who were ready had temple recommend interviews with our branch president, Orlando Maris, and with our stake president, Martín Borges. We organized a three-day trip and set a departure date for Thursday, 16 April 1992.

    The only obstacle still in our way was the cost of chartering a bus. To meet it, we needed to sell fifty-eight fares—and with only three weeks to go, we had sold only forty-four fares. Unless we sold the remaining fares, the individual cost of each ticket would be higher, and some people wouldn’t be able to go.

    But Brother Ávila’s faith didn’t waver. He decided that if we couldn’t fill the bus with branch members, we would invite the rest of Mendoza Stake. So he and Brother Alejandro Suriano visited each of the wards and branches in the stake, leaving a small poster and inviting their members to join us.

    What happened next proved to us that signs do follow those who believe. Interested people quickly came forward, and the unsold seats were soon gone. Some of these newcomers did not even live in the stake boundaries. Brother and Sister Freire were from the nearby Godoy Cruz Argentina Stake, and the five members of the Badami family were from Santiago del Estero province—more than 1,000 kilometers away.

    As arrangements were finalized, there were three families who had prepared for the trip but could not pay the full cost. Thankfully, the money we had donated at our early meetings settled the balance. Now everything was in order.

    On the eve of our journey, the whole group met for a special family home evening at the meetinghouse. Afterwards, those who lived far away remained there all night to be on time for the bus, which came at 5:30 the following morning. Leaving early would give us enough time to get through Chilean customs.

    As we traveled, everyone was filled with the spirit of love and brotherhood. Food and juice were divided generously. Each family had stories and testimonies to share, and there were many sessions of hymn singing. We looked out the windows often to admire the magnificent Andes mountains. We passed picturesque towns as our winding road traversed snowy peaks, ravines, and streams. Who could doubt that a divine hand had created this beautiful world?

    We crossed the border into Chile, and before long we were making our approach to the temple. How our hearts leaped with joy when we saw the angel Moroni on the temple’s spire! We could almost hear the call of his trumpet. The temple workers were there to welcome us. They had arranged places for us to stay in homes of Chilean Saints, and we immediately went to the homes, bathed, and made ready for the special temple session that had been prepared.

    Next came the sublime moment when we actually entered the house of the Lord. It was truly indescribable. Mere words can never express the spirit of that holy place. One must experience it—and that can happen only when a temple recommend is presented with a humble and contrite heart. Only then can the initiatory ordinances, endowments, marriages, family sealings, and baptisms for the dead be performed with the proper spirit.

    Now we understood those who had gone before us. They had been right when they said that once we were inside the temple, we would never want to leave. Nevertheless, that wonderful day eventually came to an end. We went to the homes of our Chilean hosts, eager to return in the morning.

    Because the following day was the Friday before Easter, a great many people came to the temple from all parts of Chile. Those of our group who were lodged far away did not arrive early enough to get in. We were extremely disappointed, but we made the best of the situation. That evening, we held a beautiful family home evening together, bearing our testimonies and singing hymns. And we made arrangements to attend the first session the next morning.

    The Saturday morning session was indeed one of great rejoicing and spirituality as our whole group met in the house of the Lord. We felt that He was happy and pleased with our service as we performed the sacred ordinances again, this time for the dead.

    After the session, it was time to return to Argentina. But since the bus had developed a mechanical problem, we had to stay Saturday night in Santiago while it was being repaired. However, even this difficulty turned to our advantage. Again we held a home evening as an entire group—rejoicing in hymns, prayers, and testimony. All of us were as one.

    On Sunday our bus, reverberating with the hymns of Zion, finally started for home. Eventually some of us slept, while others remained awake, letting pass through our minds the thoughts of those past few days. We arrived at our own meetinghouse at 2:30 on Sunday afternoon and held our sacrament meeting according to the commandment of the Lord.

    How many things we had to tell our brothers and sisters! How we wished that someday they might feel what we had felt!

    Brother Ávila’s dream had been fulfilled.

    Memories and Testimonies

    Following are thoughts of some of the members who made the journey to the temple together:

    Patricio Ávila: “Miracles do happen! In humility and with great love for our Creator, I give thanks from a full heart for the opportunity that he has given me to be an instrument in his hand—and for the great blessing of visiting his holy temple with a group of his children. May this blessing be poured out upon all the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. May we always have the strength to do those things that are pleasing in his eyes and never cease to love one another.”

    Alba de Caballero: “It was very moving for me to be sealed to my parents and to other members of my family who are dead. Now I know that I have a family waiting for me when I leave this world.”

    Maris family: “We felt a great spirit of brotherhood, hospitality, and the pure love of Christ. What incomparable happiness! We invite all of our brothers and sisters to seek these eternal blessings.”

    Amalia de Ojeda: “Now I know He loves me!”

    Delfín de la Cruz Bello: “I feel blessed to be sealed to my wife and children for the eternities.”

    Alejandro Gonzales: “It was a great pleasure to share this edifying experience. I hope it is not the last. Let us combine our testimonies and personal experiences and use them to strengthen the rest of our branch and offer them the same blessings.”

    Alberto Lisandrello: “I cherish a new testimony in my heart of the divinity of our Father in Heaven and of His love for his children.”

    Edilia Bertolani: “What a profound thing it is that the Lord would permit me to enter into his temple! While we performed the baptisms and sealings for the dead, I could feel their presence and knew that they were happy and grateful that we were helping them to be together for eternity.”

    Rojas family: “Thanks to the organizers of this trip, we were able to be sealed as an eternal family!”

    José Badami: “It was a beautiful trip. I really felt a good spirit and enjoyed the good humor of all our brothers and sisters. Thank you, Brother Ávila, and those who worked with you, for all that you sacrificed to coordinate and organize this temple trip. The Lord will bless you for it.”

    [photos] Photography by Néstor Curbelo

    [photos] After seeing the fulfillment of his dream, Brother Ávila expressed his joy during a branch home evening, left. Sixty-eight members, some shown above (photography by José Ojeda), participated in the temple excursion. A spirit of love accompanied the group as the bus wound through the Andes mountains, right.

    [photos] Patricio Ávila; Alba de Caballero; Maris family; Amalia de Ojeda; Delfín de la Cruz Bello

    [photos] Alejandro Gonzales; Alberto Lisandrello; Edilia Bertolani; Rojas family; José Badami