93941_000_011Youth in Spain’s capital have learned that the gospel gives you direction and identity anywhere you go.
It’s easy to get lost in Madrid.
I know I’m in trouble as soon as I get off the train. I give the address of the chapel to a cab driver, and he rubs the back of his neck while slowly shaking his head. He’s never heard of that part of the city. He’s never heard of that street. And he’s especially never heard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “What’s that?” he asks.
An hour later, we’re still driving around looking. Oh, we’ve passed some marvelous sites along the way—incredibly majestic, centuries-old buildings; statues; fountains; tree-lined avenues; ornate bridges. And the driver has learned a lot more about the Church. But we still can’t find the chapel.
After stopping to ask about 27 different people, we approach the right neighborhood. Suddenly, a nice-looking boy, probably about 17, runs out in the street to stop us. They’ve been waiting for me in the chapel, he explains, and have posted people at various street corners to see if they could spot me coming. They know it’s not easy in their city.
“It’s difficult here because the members are so spread out,” says Paloma Bosch, 17, in the interview that began as soon as I arrived. “If you fall, it’s easy to fall quickly because there aren’t many around to help you. But we try to look out for each other.”
I believed her. They’d looked out for me.
“It’s easy to get lost in life,” says Leticia Jimenez, 16, taking things a step further. “But the Church helps you. It brings you happiness.”
“It’s hard to tell people that, though,” Paloma adds. “There are not many opportunities to share the gospel because no one wants to know about the Mormon church, or about any other religion. They’re more interested in material things and get lost in them, because they think they’ll get them somewhere, and that’s what’s important to them.”
Madrid’s LDS youth are very interested in going somewhere, but money doesn’t dictate the paths they take. Paloma, for example, would one day like to be a pilot. But along the way she plans on finishing school, serving a mission, and marrying in the temple.
Isak Bonilla, 17, wants to be a recording engineer. But he’ll graduate and serve a mission first too. How will he get to that point? “I go to seminary, save money, and read the Liahona,” he explains. (The Liahona is the Spanish version of the Church magazine.) “I also serve as a stake missionary. I put in about six to ten hours per week.”
This is not easy for Isak, since he lives in a pueblo outside Madrid and has to travel almost an hour to get into the city and meet with the missionaries. But he never complains about it because he knows that’s a road he needs to take.
Isak, like most of the other young people in Madrid, knows his way around the busy city, too. He knows the quickest way to the Prado, one of the world’s greatest art museums. He can lead you directly to El Parque del Buen Retiro, one of Madrid’s most beautiful parks, or he’ll take you through some picturesque back streets to the Plaza Mayor, where he and his friends go on occasion to eat squid sandwiches. He knows exactly where to go to get the juiciest ones for the lowest price.
Watching the youth from Madrid maneuver their way through the densely crowded streets, you realize how easy it would be to lose your identity in Spain’s capital and largest city. Just about anyone who lives in a major city is bound to think, at one time or another, “I’m just one among millions. Does my life matter at all?”
Madrid’s LDS youth will tell you it’s the Church that gives them their sense of identity. Through it they know that they’re children of a Heavenly Father who loves them. They learn what they have to do to reach the desired destination.
“I’ve found that when I comply with the commandments, things go right and I feel good and happy,” says Jaime Bonet, 15. “My family found the Church when I was three, but I still had to gain my own testimony, and I did it by doing what was right.”
There seem to be more families involved in the Church in Madrid than there are in other parts of Spain. Still, in Madrid, like anywhere else, you have to know for yourself what’s true.
Arturo and Alberto Recio saw their father join the Church first, but wanted to gain their own testimonies. “I was studying the Book of Mormon and I read Moroni 10; then I read it again and again,” said Arturo, 13. “Then I asked God if it was true, and he answered me, and here I am.”
Arturo jokes that food is one of his favorite parts of Church activities. He also teases that among life’s greatest temptations is the desire to waste money and time on video games. He’s found that a little humor helps him carve his own identity out of the masses.
Leticia says, “the masses here look at you strangely—like you’re deprived because you don’t smoke or drink. They say you’re not free. But I feel free—free to have good health and to receive the blessings that come when you follow Heavenly Father.”
And you suddenly realize how LDS youth in Madrid or anywhere else in the world find their way around the city—find their way around life. They follow the Spirit. They follow Heavenly Father. With a guide like that, they can’t help but reach the right destination.