Gandía, a tiny town in southern Spain, lies nestled against an inlet of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a picturesque village of orange groves, fishing boats, and tourist shops. As a full-time missionary in the Spain Barcelona Mission, I was transferred there in December 1993.
A few months later as Easter approached, I was charmed to see Gandía blossom into spring. The clouds lifted, the skies lightened, and the streets filled with women stopping to chat on their way to and from market. Local festivities included marching bands, parades, and special masses at the little cathedral. And at dusk the air was saturated with the scent of orange blossoms.
My companion and I had become good friends with one of the members in the Gandía Branch, a woman named Doris Kessler. One day she said with a smile, “I gave a Book of Mormon to my neighbor Concha, and she wants to meet you.”
After arranging to visit, we knocked on Concha’s door. A weak voice invited us in. The tiny rooms were dark; windows and shutters were shut tight to retain the inadequate warmth of a small gas heater. A gooseneck lamp illuminated the face of a woman who lay in pain, shivering with cold.
Many years earlier, Concha had suffered a bad fall, breaking bones in both legs. The doctors put screws in her ankles to strengthen them, but additional falls had forced her to accept permanent bed rest. “If you fall again,” the doctors warned, “we will have to amputate.” So except for trips to the grocery store on the ground floor of her building, Concha stayed in bed. She grew discouraged as she gained weight and lost strength.
Like the vast majority of the people of Spain, Concha Femenía Martí was born a Catholic. But in her mature life she had begun to explore other religions. She had enthusiastically accepted a Book of Mormon from Sister Kessler, and now my companion and I began to share the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ with her. Light literally replaced darkness in the little apartment as the words of the discussions touched her heart. Her body relaxed, and her face began to shine.
Concha studied the scriptures, prayed humbly and fervently, and accepted truth upon truth. A member of the branch agreed to stop by for her on Sunday mornings so she could attend Church meetings. She accepted the invitation to be baptized and began saving coins in a little plastic container to make a trip to the temple.
Unfortunately, the Sunday before her baptism, the person who had agreed to pick her up was so busy with other responsibilities he forgot to go after her. We hurriedly found someone else with a car to go, but he did not get far. There in the parking lot stood Concha, gasping and perspiring and leaning heavily on her crutches. She smiled as we ran up to greet her. “I knew something must have happened,” she said. “But I wanted so much to partake of the blessings of the gospel—I wasn’t going to let anything stop me!”
She was not the only person to benefit from her attendance that day. As the members bore their testimonies, many of them expressed gratitude for Concha’s conversion and commitment and rededicated themselves to the Lord.
Three months after her baptism, Concha was sustained as the branch Relief Society president. She continues to prepare for her trip to the temple and shares her testimony with others whenever she can.
When I think about springtime, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and new beginnings, I always think of Concha and the day she stood on the sidewalk beaming with testimony. I also remember how she looked on a later day—the day she joyfully rose from the waters of baptism, having partaken of that very sacred symbol of rebirth.