Just One Student

By Beatriz Ester Pérez Cortés

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    In 1974, when I was just 17 years old I was called as the seminary teacher in the Maipú Branch in Santiago, Chile. In the beginning, I had 16 students.

    The branch boundaries covered a lot of territory in those days, and some of the students had to travel long distances to come to seminary. I had to walk 25 blocks to get to the old, unheated house where we met. But I was very excited about my calling, and that old house seemed to me the most beautiful place in the world. As we started our course in Church history, everything seemed to be going smoothly and enthusiasm was high.

    Then autumn came. As the temperature dropped, participation dropped, too. A reactivation campaign was set up to motivate the students to keep coming. The effort succeeded for a time. But as winter followed fall and it became increasingly colder and more difficult for the students to attend, fewer and fewer attended regularly.

    After a time, there were only three. It was a disappointment. I did lack teaching experience, but I had faith and a testimony, and I continued to prepare for each lesson with zeal and dedication. As I walked to class each day, I prayed almost every step of the way, feeling very close to my Father in Heaven. By the time I arrived at the classroom, I was filled with the Spirit and felt as happy as if many students were there.

    At other times, I lacked confidence and wondered if I should go on. One such occasion was during a district meeting when a roll call of seminary students was taken for each branch. When the name of the Maipú Branch was called, only two of us reported present: one student and myself. Everyone laughed! It felt like a slap in the face, and I wanted to ask our leaders to let us stop holding the class. However, the sweet influence of the Spirit soon came over me and urged me to continue. I determined to endure to the end.

    When seminary graduation ceremonies were held, three participants from the Maipú Branch were awarded certificates of achievement. Only one of them, Pedro Baillón, was in attendance to receive his certificate. But it didn’t matter. By then I understood that there was a deeper purpose in my service, and I knew that the year held great meaning for me, as it did for Pedro.

    I have never forgotten Pedro Baillón. Nor have I ever forgotten one of the most spiritual periods of my life.

    Photograph by Jed Clark