Thursday, May 25, 2006
It happened on November 28, 1960 in Guatemala City, Guatemala. It was on the evening of November 28 that Gloria de Alvarado was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My companion, Elder Lynn Jensen, along with another young Elder he was working with that significant day, had found Gloria and her family as they were knocking on doors in Zone Nine in Guatemala City. Being new in the country and unable to speak Spanish, Elder Jensen took me to the Alvarado home the next day so the family could be taught. 46 years later I can still remember the smile and shining face of this young 24 or 25-year-old wife and mother as she was standing in front of her home waiting for the Elders to arrive. She and her husband were not married, but had four little children, all under the age of eight. The oldest girl had suffered from polio and was not physically very strong, but the other three children were strong and healthy. We taught the entire family, and it was evident after the first discussion that Gloria wanted to be baptized immediately. Her husband wasn't quite as receptive, but soon agreed to go with us and Gloria to a government building in downtown Guatemala City to be married. Without marriage there could be no baptism. They were married on November 27, 1960 with Elder Jensen and I serving as witnesses, and Gloria was baptized the next evening. Her husband was baptized several months later after Elder Jensen and I had both left the city.
During the next month Gloria was responsible for bringing 22 of her friends and neighbors into the Church. I had some contact with Sister Alvarado for the next few months until my mission was completed and I flew home to the United States. I had no contact with the Alvarado family for almost 30 years, although I thought of them often and what had become of them. As things turn out sometimes, my youngest son John was called to serve a mission in Guatemala. During his mission he was called to serve in the ward where the Alvarado family lived. They were thrilled to meet my son, as he was to meet a family baptized by his father so many years ago. Gloria and her husband now had eight children, six of them had served full-time missions and five or six had been married in the temple. Her son Eduardo, who was a two-year-old boy that I used to carry to Church in my arms, was now serving as a bishop in Guatemala City. As a young man he was called on a full-time mission to teach the Mayan Indians in their native tongue in the highlands of Guatemala. We began to exchange letters and Eduardo and I have been writing e-mails to one another for some time now. He is currently serving his third term as bishop for a total of almost 12 years now. He owns his own business and is very successful in life. Brother Alvarado, the father, passed away last year as did Eduardo's beloved younger brother, Abinadi. I have lost count of the number of Gloria's grandsons that have served missions, but it has been a large number.
Several times each year the phone will ring and it will be Eduardo calling me from Guatemala City. It is very humbling to talk to him because he feels he owes me such a debt of gratitude for bringing his mom and dad into the Church so many years ago. Truthfully, any Elder who happened to stumble upon Gloria de Alvarado would have baptized her, but I will be forever grateful that Elder Jensen and I had the incredible opportunity of teaching this special woman and her family.
I would like to share with you the last e-mail that Eduardo sent me from Guatemala City because it tells you so much about Gloria as a 73 or 74-year-old woman now. I have translated the e-mail from Spanish into English for your benefit.
"April 3, 2006, Guatemala City
Dear Elder Rushton: I cordially greet you, hoping to find you and your beloved wife very well. We are all well here. Yesterday we enjoyed the conferences of the Church and also the sessions on Saturday. I am a little tired but appreciate greatly what the prophets taught us. I must tell you that my mother never gets tired of doing missionary work. She is always inviting people to come to Church, taking advantage of every opportunity such as stake conferences, ward conferences, or general conferences, to bring some invited nonmember with her. My mother is untiring in speaking to anybody she encounters in her path about the Church. She has no fear speaking about the Church with anybody. She is always teaching someone, even the doctors, every time she goes to the hospital.
Some months ago a doctor who had treated her knee prohibited her from walking much and told her it would be better if she did not leave the house. She told him that every week she went to the Temple and had to walk in order to do so. The doctor then told her that it was not worth the pain it was causing her to continue doing this. However, she continues attending the Temple two times each week and her knee feels very good as she does so.
A few days ago a brother in the Church by the name of Domingo Miguel López passed away. He was an evangelical pastor from 1971 to 1972. During these two years he was our neighbor. One day my mother decided to invite him to a "Mormon Night" in our home. He accepted the invitation and in 20 days, more or less, he left his Church and was baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This brother had eight children who were also baptized, but only two of them served missions. However, he has had 10 grandsons who have served missions; it is a very big family. Very soon another nephew, the son of my oldest brother, will be serving a mission in El Salvador -- the El Salvador East Mission. Well Elder Rushton it is a pleasure to write to you. Hasta luego. Eduardo Alvarado."
As I think of Gloria de Alvarado, I am quite embarrassed as I realize that she has undoubtedly been a better missionary than I have over the past 46 years. On the other hand, I think of the, undoubtedly, hundreds of people who have now come into the Church because two Elders had enough faith to accept a mission call and then go knocking on doors in a strange city, not even knowing how to speak the people's language. Of course the story will go on forever. Eduardo is an avid genealogist and has done a great work in identifying his ancestors and making sure their work has been done in the Guatemala City Temple. How much is a single soul worth in an eternal sense? I'm not sure we can comprehend that with our finite and mortal minds. I do know truth of the Lord's statement to us in a beautiful revelation: "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God...13 And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!...15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! 16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me! [Doctrine & Covenants 18:10, 13, 15-16]