23989_000_012My family history research always ended with one particular name. But when my father happened to see that name in an unexpected place, our search for Grandpa Pablo was on.
My father was born in the Chaco region in northeastern Argentina, where the sun is hot and people work the soil, growing cotton and other crops. Neighbors have known each other for generations, and traditions are followed to the letter. My father’s family lived in Villa Ángela, where they had a comfortable middle-class life.
Then, when my father was nine years old, his parents separated, and my father went with his mother and sisters to live in Buenos Aires. This was quite a difficult change for a young boy who couldn’t understand why he had to leave his hometown and his friends and didn’t know when he would see his father again. As the months of separation turned into years, my father’s memory of his own father faded. He didn’t even have a photograph of him.
Our family was introduced to the restored gospel and eventually joined the Church. When I was 15, I became quite interested in family history work. Seeking out my ancestors became a passion with me, and I was able to become well acquainted with my family on my mother’s side. But on my father’s side all of my attempts ended with one name: Grandpa Pablo Pedraza.
When my father told me the story of his childhood, I had a strong desire to find out more about Grandpa Pablo. We began to pray as a family to find out more about him so we could complete our family history. My father probed his memory, and he managed to recall the address of an elderly aunt. He wrote to her, but she passed away before we were able to get the information we were seeking. We didn’t give up but continued to pray.
One day on my father’s way to work the bus he was riding stopped at a traffic light beside a mail truck. My father could see several large packages in the truck, and one drew his attention. On its label was the name Pablo Pedraza, and it gave an address in my father’s childhood hometown.
Very excitedly my father wrote down the address. He knew his father had been an auto mechanic, and he thought the large box on the truck could easily have been for him. For several years we wrote to this address, expressing our hope that we had found our father and grandfather and our desire to meet with him. But we never received an answer.
Then one day my father was telling this story to a friend in our ward. The friend suggested, “Why don’t you just go there and find him?” Fear flooded our minds. Maybe Grandpa Pablo did not want us to find him, or maybe this was not his address.
But after praying about it, we felt we needed to travel to Chaco to look for Grandpa Pablo. Our whole family loaded into a van and traveled for 28 hours. Driving straight to the address on the package, we stopped in front of a pretty, well-kept house. A man of about 60 was out washing his car. My father gathered his courage and got out to introduce himself and verify that we were on the right street.
Our family watched expectantly through the van windows, and after several minutes we saw our father and the man exchange a big hug. Then they both began to motion for us to get out of the van. It was indeed Grandpa Pablo—the father my father had not seen for 40 years!
The meeting was not an easy one, but a spirit of love was there. We learned that because of the inadequate postal service in his small hometown, Grandpa Pablo had not received any of the letters we had sent him over the years. We also learned that he had tried to find my father for many years but that he had his own fears about meeting us. We met Grandpa’s wife and children and learned about their joys and sorrows. We learned that Grandpa Pablo was a good man who believed in God. He was a loving husband and father and a good neighbor. And we could see that he was as excited to get to know us as we were to finally find him.
Now we have photographs of Grandpa Pablo and vital information about him and some of his ancestors. He died one year ago, and we are preparing to go to the temple to do ordinance work for him and other family members. My father can hardly contain his joy that he will finally be able to be sealed to his parents. The work on our family history chart continues.
We have been promised that “the heart of the fathers [shall turn] to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Mal. 4:6). Our family was greatly blessed to have the Lord lead us by the hand so that this promise could literally be fulfilled.