Making Friends:

Iris JoAnn Alvarado of Ponce, Puerto Rico

By Corliss Clayton

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    The doctors said she wouldn’t live, but Iris JoAnn Alvarado is thriving. Her faith, and the faith of her family, has preserved her life many times. When her mother was about to give birth to JoAnnie, the stake patriarch came to their home. He felt impressed to give Sister Alvarado a blessing. She didn’t understand then why she needed a blessing, but she did after JoAnnie was born. The baby weighed only a little more than four pounds, and the doctors discovered that throughout the pregnancy she had not received much oxygen and that the last three months she had probably not received enough nourishment. The Alvarados were told that she would die and that if she didn’t, she would have severe brain damage from the lack of oxygen.

    But JoAnnie’s family prayed for her, and their prayers were answered. She lived. At four months she was standing; at eight months she could walk. When she started talking, it was in short sentences, and the words were very clear—there was obviously nothing wrong with her brain. Today, at 10 years of age, she continues to excel, getting straight A’s in all her school classes.

    JoAnnie loves music, drawing, and reciting poems. In school, science and Spanish are her favorite subjects. But the things she loves most are Heavenly Father, the gospel, and her family.

    In a family home evening following every general conference of the Church, the members of the Alvarado family talk about what the General Authorities have said. “JoAnnie always brings a notebook to the meetinghouse so that she can write down all the conference ideas that she thinks are important,” said her father. “She makes our family home evenings great experiences by reminding us of what the leaders have said the Lord wants us to do.”

    JoAnnie may be very serious sometimes, but she also likes the fun side of family home evening, especially refreshments. She likes nachos, flan, and ice cream. One of her favorite dishes is fried green bananas with a sauce made out of ketchup, mayonnaise, garlic, and oil.

    Her three brothers—Miguel, Angel (called Micky), and Jorge—are quite a bit older than she is. About four months after Miguel returned from his mission, JoAnnie became very sick with a high temperature. Their mother asked him to give his sister a blessing. JoAnnie had faith that if he did, she would be healed. Miguel changed into his Sunday clothes and prepared himself to give the blessing. After the blessing, JoAnnie immediately became better.

    “JoAnnie has a way of gaining people’s hearts,” said Micky. “I remember on the trip home from the airport after my mission, she sat on my lap all the way. The next morning she was right there beside my bed. ‘Good morning, Micky,’ she said. ‘We’re happy to have you here.’”

    JoAnnie misses her brothers now that they are all married. Two weeks before Jorge got married, she said to his fiancée, “Please take care of my brother. I love him a lot. Bring him here sometimes to visit.”

    The story of how Joseph Smith prayed to know the truth and was visited by the Father and the Son is JoAnnie’s favorite scripture. Not long ago, when Jorge was visiting his parents’ home, he asked her, “How do you feel about Jesus Christ?”

    She said, “I know that He lives. I know that my family has taught me this.” She also told him that a few months earlier, she asked Heavenly Father if the Church was true. As she knelt down to pray, she knew again that it was true.

    JoAnnie has also shared her testimony with her sisters, Vidmari (15), Marivid (13), and Daymari (12). They have felt her testimony and are grateful for the love and strength of their little sister.

    The four girls help around the house. Their parents have taught them to work. JoAnnie dusts the furniture, does the dishes, cleans her room, and helps with the laundry. Every Sunday she fixes breakfast for everyone. And on their birthdays, she serves them breakfast in bed.

    What’s JoAnnie’s wish for everyone? “That they all have a testimony because it is something very special.” When nonmember friends have birthdays, JoAnnie gives them a Book of Mormon and invites them to Church and to listen to the missionaries. She wants to share the gospel with everyone she loves—and she loves everyone.

    Photography by Corliss Clayton

    A picture sampler from JoAnnie’s life. From top: Her hometown, a mixture of traditional and new architecture; with a sleepy young nephew; with Mom and Dad; her dog, Randi.

    The Alvarado family. JoAnnie is standing in the foreground with one of her nephews.