Somewhere in Mexico City

“Elders, will you come to my house today at ten o’clock?”

“Sure, Hermano Villanueva, what about?”

“Yes, well, you see, ummm, maybe I can tell you when you get here, would that be ok?”

“Ok, we’ll be there at ten. See you then,” and I hung up the phone.

“Who was that,” my companion, Elder Rodriguez, asked.

“Hermano Villanueva, he wants us to come over at ten.”

“What for?”

“I don’t know, he wouldn’t say.”

“Whatever.”

“Yeah, I guess. I mean, it’s an appointment, right?”

“Sure, is it your turn or mine to read?”

Brother Villanueva was a rotund giant of a man; speckled facial hair protruded horizontally from his upper lip and chin. He and his wife, who was equally large, mended curtains for a living in a shop made of green, corrugated tin. Though Brother Villanueava seemed to be clipping back the foliage every time we visited him, plants of all hues hung across his entry way like tentacles waiting for careless passers-by. Still, we visited him often because he was the Elder’s Quorum President of our somewhat thriving ward in Bosques, just North of Mexico City.

His daughter–round, garrulous, and smiley–kept track of us constantly just to
make sure we staid out of trouble. Finally, Brother Villanueva’s
son, Eric, was a tall, broad-shouldered twenty-something who had been
in the process of submitting his mission papers for longer than I had
been in the ward.

At ten, we knocked on the looming, forrest-green door. Brother
Villanueva opened and invited us into his small living room. As he asked us to sit on the over-stuffed couch, his son lurked in the background–prowling the kitchen like a frightened cat–and his wife entered the living room with lemon water. While we sat and sipped our water, Sister Villanueva chatted with us mindlessly
and Brother Villanueva sat, pulled his pants away from his groin, stood, sat and stood again.

Finally, Brother Villanueva walked into his bedroom and came out with
a twenty-something girl following close behind. I looked at her,
assured I did not know her, and then looked at my companion, who
shrugged his shoulders. In an instant, I decided this was Eric’s
previously secret girlfriend–we were here to convince Eric that
going on a mission really was that important.

We waited.

After hemming and hawing, finally Brother Villanueva began:

“Elders, I’d like to introduce you…to my son’s wife.”

I spit water into my glass and looked up in spite of myself.

I tried to cast discrete (yeah, right) glances at the woman’s stomach–sure enough, it protruded.

What, precidesly, I wondered, did Brother Villanueva hope we would do?

“Elders, this is Geezel. She and my son are going to have a baby.
And, well, we thought about it and talked to the Bishop and decided
the only thing to do was for them to marry. So, yesterday we went to
the town justice and now it is official–they’re husband and wife.
We’ve explained to Geezel about the Gospel and she would like you to
teach her the discussions. Would that be ok?”

We assented, of course, and began right then with the first of the six
discussions.

A few days later, we returned for a follow up visit:

“Geezel, did you have a chance to read third Nephi 11 as we discussed?”

“Yes, Elder, I did.”

“I’m so glad to hear that, can you tell us a little about your favorite part.”

“Well, I think the part I liked best was when Chirst gave Nephi, the
Nephite Prophet, the Priesthood power to baptize so that he could
perform baptisms that would be valid in heaven. I also liked the part
when the people had to listen to the voice three times before they
could understand it and then when they finally heard it it was God the
Father announcing the arrival of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, who
had drunk from the bitter cup…”

“Thank you Geezel, it appears you learned a lot.”

The lessons flowed smoothly until we finished with the third. Eric
attended the discussions when he was not working. On Wednesday nights
he met with the Bishop to work through the repentance process. Just a
few weeks after we started teaching Geezel, he took her to Church to
introduce her to the members with whom he had come of age.

Thankfully, the ward accepted Geezel with open arms.

Upon finishing the third discussion, however, we realized our next
meeting would include teaching about the law of chastity. Depsite the
best attempts of all involved, an aura of guilt and shame hung around
Eric like a cloud when he attended Church with Geezel. While he
introduced her as his wife, each introduction seemed to include the
subtext: “this is the reason I can’t go on a mission–and, oh yes, she
is in fact pregnant.”

The morning we were set to talk about chastity with Geezel, we got on
our knees and prayed: “Father, help us help Geezel to understand the
sanctity of chastity, but help help her to feel uplifted, not guilty.”

We need not have worried. Though no miracle hapenned during the discussion, a sweet spirit entered the room and dwelt there like a dove. We compared chastity to a pearl necklace, a gift from a loving Father. We talked about how we should take special care of such a beautiful gift and how, if we smudge the pearls or chip them, we can, through the Atonement, see them become clean again.

The discussion was simple, but it spoke to all of us deeply. Soon thereafter, Geezel was baptized. She and Eric quickly moved past the lingering stigma and she soon bore a baby boy, who I met just before I returned home to Utah after finishing my time in Mexico. Sadly, the timing was not quite right and I had to leave in July. That November, however, Eric, Geezel, and their son were sealed in the Mexico City Temple and, to my knowledge, they continue faithfully in the Church.

In my scriptures I carry a picture of their son–Eric Abinadi Villanueva Dias–a gift they gave me a few days before I came home, on the back it reads:

“Elder Johnson, Always remember us, please. And I will tell me son about you and how special you were in our lives. Every good thing we have comes from the Gospel and from our Heavenly Father. Thank you.”

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Published in: on August 3, 2006 at 11:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

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