Twenty-four years ago, a woman moved out of Paucarbamba, Huanuco to live in Lima. Having studied some time at the university, perhaps she wanted to get out of the stony shell of her parents' house, out of the dusty little corner of Huanuco to see the world. Two years later, she came into contact with the Church and was impressed with the sincerity of the members and the message they shared. She decided she wanted to be baptized. Unfortunately, she lost contact with them and four years later had a child. The father quickly abandoned the two of them. The following twelve years are a little shaky, but during this time she lived for some time in a small town where there were no missionaries, finally made contact with them in another place, and was given a pamphlet of the Restoration. Unfortunately, as missionaries sometimes do, making appointments with many people every day who are rarely actually interested, they failed to visit her. Living once more in Lima, six years ago she found herself in a hospital with no family and no husband, giving birth to a second son. The doctors were demeaning and rude concerning her lack of support and obvious mistakes that led her to such a situation. Completely isolated, she found her only hope in the pamphlet, reading it as an anchor in this perhaps her darkest moment, having no other knowledge of the Church.
For the following six years, she lived with her two sons, but the younger showed signs of debilitating health. After countless reports, the doctors said his asthmatic condition couldn't support the Lima climate, and they would have to move somewhere else...perhaps to a warmer climate of a small town up in the mountains. So she returned with her six year old to the stony, empty shell of her parents' old house, in a dusty little corner of Huanuco, leaving her 18-year-old behind on account of the necessity of his work and schooling. Then she ran into us in the street a couple weeks ago and, as we inspected her house for ways we could serve, she told us she wanted to be baptized. There is nothing better than sharing the gospel with people who truly, desperately want and need it. Now, her older brother is plotting to throw her out of the house to sell the property, having already convinced their aging mother that her daughter is a terrible person who's taken up lodging in a house she has no right to. Now this story is pretty crazy, and one can find many possibilities of exaggeration and misunderstanding. But we know her, and she's wonderful and humble and trying so hard to be strong for her son, Jesús.
Well, we've been visiting them, but we also had a baptism this week! Epifania is an old, lovable, forgetful woman who has two granddaughters. Her nine-year-old is ridiculously excited about the gospel, though we'll have to wait a couple months according to a rule of the mission before we baptize her, with the permission of her parents. But I got to baptize Epifania- the first convert baptism I got to perform! While I have the pictures on my camera, I forgot my memory chip back at our room, so I can't upload them. Sorry!
With so many people suffering and changing on account of the gospel, I think it always returns to Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, bleeding out so we can rise out of the past and become free. President Uchtdorf shared in the Ensign of this year his sentiments on a picture of Christ with the angel to comfort him. Of all pictures I've seen depicting this moment, this one captures for me how the Savior must have really felt on our account. It's by Frans Schwart, called the Agony of the Garden. 'And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels will be filled with mercy.' (Alma 7:12) 'Because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall be awakened.' (Mormon 9:13) That change is possible now, or at least a shade of that change, before we enter all of it in the kingdom of heaven. This is what missionary work is all about. In the name of Him, Jesus Christ, amen.