[January 19, 2016]
On Sunday, we were invited to work with some of the members of the Rosedal Ward to either help them prepare to go to the temple, or to encourage them to work towards being Temple Workers. We got to meet a few of them there at church. One is a widower who needs some encouragement, another was a couple where the husband is endowed, but the wife is not, yet. The goal is to work towards their being sealed as a family in the temple.
The last one we met was an older couple, the Flores - easily in their eighties. She has been a member for 30 years or more. From what we gathered, she married her current husband some 15-16 years ago in Oruro. They've been going to church together ever since they got married.
In the course of the conversation, the question as to whether he had ever been baptized came up, so the High Priest Quorum Leader said he would check on that. He then made an appointment with them and us to meet at their home later in the afternoon.
So, Molly and I went to the Flores' home with the High Priest Group Leader and his father, who is a counselor in the Temple Presidency - President Mogrovejo.
Their home (rented room) was a single, very humble room with their kitchen outdoors to the side (with rabbits, dogs, chickens, etc. wandering around inside and out).
Just as a bit of background, I need to describe how "homes" are constructed here (outside the ritzy area, where they look very much like home stateside would look).
The typical home is a series of rooms built along the insides of a wall encompassing a lot that might be 40-50 feet on a side. The inside of the lot is open, where they might wash clothes, dishes, etc. The water for the family is piped in here. If they have piped in water, they will probably have a plumbed bathroom as one of the rooms along the walls. The center area in the nicer "homes" is tiled, or concrete at least, with good drainage built in. In the case of the Flores', the center area was just dirt/mud/rocks - very difficult to navigate.
In many cases, multiple families might rent rooms from the owners of the lot, with each family having a room to themselves, sharing the kitchen, possibly, and sharing the bathroom. As could be imagined, the owners really make or break the living conditions. Because the Flores are so poor, they have to take what they can get. Hopefully the ward can figure out how to help them find a better situation soon.
The conditions are very poor, and the High Priest Quorum has been working to improve things for them - added a concrete step outside their room to make entry and exit safer, planning to paint and clean things up, and eventually help them find a place for them where they can be better watched over. All they have for income is a government subsidy that amounts to 400 Bs a month - about $USD 60. That has to pay for rent, food, any medical care beyond visits to a doctor's office, etc. He has cataracts, so he no longer can read much, and is very hard of hearing.
As we visited with them, though, their love for each other was clear. He would pat her hand, and was so very attentive as they visited with us. Sure enough, he never was baptized. Because he was attending church faithfully with her when they moved here, everyone just assumed he was a member. In addition, he is very fluent in his understanding of the Bible - he's studied it his entire life. That contributed, I'm sure, to people just assuming he was a member.
So, the Ward Mission Leader has contacted the missionaries, and they'll work with him through the discussions. If he chooses to be baptized, we'll start working with them on Temple Preparation then.
Afterwards, we went to visit another couple - the Siles - who were among the first temple workers when the temple was dedicated nearly sixteen years ago. They've been married for over 60 years, but they are both spry and very alert and fun to visit with.
They told us of their conversion, which was very interesting.
They moved to Oruro when their oldest daughters were older teenagers. Hno. Siles worked out of town, so Hna. Siles was basically raising the family. The girls heard of the church through friends, and wanted to go with them. They got baptized, and some years later, the oldest one chose to serve a mission. When she got home, she gave her mother a Book of Mormon and told her she needed to read it. As she read, she says that she was just filled with the spirit. She got baptized, and the second daughter went on a mission. When she got home, she told her father that he needed to quit drinking and join the church with the rest of his family. So he decided to investigate, and ended up being baptized as well.
Since their baptism, they have shared the Book of Mormon with all their family members, spouses, etc. According to Hna. Siles, many, many others have joined the church, with some 27 having served missions as a result of their daughters joining the church so many years ago.
Their home was typical as well - except very much better cared for. The center court was tiled, walls were painted and plastered, and very clean. The "living room", where we visited them, was immaculate, but with well-worn furniture. Just like with the Flores, they had a family renting a room in their lot. Conditions, though, were very much better than with the Flores.
So, all of this reminds me of my time so long ago of being a missionary here, and makes me more appreciative of the work and sacrifices that these members make. And of the blessings they are receiving.
As we work with them to achieve their goals of coming to the temple, of receiving the blessings of the temple ordinances, and of being sealed as families, we are grateful for the power and blessings of the temple that we've seen in our family.
Families are forever, and as we pray for and anxiously wait for and listen for news as our children and their families work and strive and live through their trials, we are sweetly comforted knowing that Heavenly Father knows us and our family, and will always be there to lift us up.
Being here at the temple is so sweet. To see the continued missionary work that we are able to assist in to bless the lives of so many here gives us so much joy. And to know that the power of the temple ordinances, and the promised blessings of the gospel and of the covenants we make in the temple will bless our sweet children and their families in the face of difficult times gives us deep peace.