Ricardo Walked Alone

Week after week Ricardo walked to church by himself. Then his example changed everything.

It’s Sunday, time for sacrament meeting, but nobody at your house wants to go except you. What do you do? If you’re Ricardo Navas Ruiz of Los Jardines Ward, Trujillo Peru Primavera Stake, you put on your shirt and tie and walk to church on your own. In fact, you get there a little bit early so you can help the bishop get ready for the meetings.

“I’m very happy to be a deacon here in Trujillo,” says Ricardo. “To hold the priesthood really means a lot to me.”

Ricardo, who is now one of only three deacons in his ward, faithfully walked to church every week by himself for three years. Most of his family were members of the Church when Ricardo was two years old, but by the time he was around seven, they were no longer interested in attending. That didn’t change Ricardo’s desire to go to church.

“I wanted to prepare to be baptized. I wanted to feel the Spirit and leave everything else behind,” he says. “My greatest desire is to be a missionary, which is one of the reasons I keep coming to church.”

In many ways, Ricardo has already begun his missionary service. “He was an example to me because he always went to church,” says Ricardo’s grandmother, Mavila Ruiz Cárdenas. For several years she had listened to the missionaries who came to visit with the family. And all the while Ricardo was there: sitting in and listening to the discussions, faithfully attending church each Sunday, even teaching his grandmother the hymns.

When he was eight years old and attending church by himself, he had not felt prepared for baptism. But, says Ricardo, “when my grandmother said she was ready to be baptized, then I was sure I was ready also.” So when Ricardo was 10, he and his grandmother were baptized on the same day.

“She’s like my mom,” says Ricardo of his grandmother. “She has been raising me since I was young.” Ricardo lives with his grandmother and grandfather and four of his uncles. “My grandfather suffers from Parkinson’s disease, so I do things like help him get in his chair,” Ricardo says. Ricardo is constantly trying to teach his family by example. “I try to be an example when I go to church because when I’m on the right path, my family is watching me, and I want them to come to church too.”

Even though Ricardo and his grandmother are the only active members of the Church in their house, he says, “We all have family home evening together.”

Standing up front and teaching the lesson each Monday is young Ricardo. “I use the Book of Mormon and the Bible for family home evening lessons,” he says. “I read the story and then testify. Sometimes I use the lesson manual for deacons.”

Ricardo also testifies to his friends and neighbors. “In my neighborhood I tell my friends stories about Christ, about prophets, about Nephi,” he says. “I tell them stories I’ve heard in church about faith and about how prayer helps us in our lives. Some friends stay and listen, but others leave. That’s a way I can be an example.”

No longer does Ricardo walk to church alone. Now every Sunday he puts on his shirt and tie, takes his grandmother by the hand, and they walk together. Who knows? In time, Ricardo will probably be leading others to church with him.

[photos] Photography by Paul VanDenBerghe

[photo] Ricardo Navas Ruiz and his grandmother, Mavila, are the closest of friends. And because of Ricardo’s example, they now walk together to church every Sunday.

[map] Map by Thomas S. Child