Expect to have hope rekindled. Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways.
Sarah Ban Breathnach
I love this picture and have it sitting in my room in a pretty little frame. I’ve looked at it so many times over the last 4 and a half years. And I’ve looked at it a lot over the last few days. But I wonder what you see when you look at it. Maybe you see a mother and her two daughters. Maybe you see a humble family from Ecuador. Maybe you see just another immigrant family. Maybe you don’t see anything special. That’s okay, because you don’t know them.
But I do.
I wish I could somehow convey the love I feel for them so that you would see them as I do. They are so dear to my heart. The woman’s name is Maria and she is a sweet, sometimes shy, but very strong woman. Her husband is Luis and he is a man who works hard to provide for his family, who tries hard and has great faith. Their little girls are named Alexis and Yessenia. They are funny, funny girls. They also have a little boy now. They are from Ecuador.
When I was living in Minneapolis I spent countless hours getting to know la familia Yupangui and growing to love them. I can still hear the way Luis would say, “Come on Hermanas” when he was trying to talk us into something (or talk his way out of something); or the way Alexis would say, “Ya voy!” when the doorbell would ring at their apartment… and it makes me smile.
In February of 2003 they were sealed in the St Paul Temple. They invited Shaylyn and I to go with them but we couldn’t go. We were quaranteed inside our apartment for 3 days with bronchitis. It killed us to miss it but we could not have been happier in our feverish state knowing that this familia tan linda (lovely family) was being sealed for time and eternity.
One of the miracles of serving a full time mission is that you come to see people through different eyes. You have literally no time to think of yourself and you are focused completely on those around you. Loving people becomes the most natural thing. Regardless of whether you are loved or even liked in return, and regardless of the different choices or mistakes you see people make you love them. But I don’t mean love as just an emotion. I mean love in the sense of wishing the very best for them. The meaning of charity is “the pure love of Christ” and I think that is the best way to describe what I feel for this family. I would never presume to think that I’m anywhere near being able to love people as our Saviour does but I think I was able to get the tiniest little glimpse of what it is like and I’m so grateful for that.
So anyway, I took this picture on the last day I saw the Hermana Yupangui and her girls before I was transferred to Rochester for my last 6 weeks in MN. So much had changed for them in that year or so. Sometimes life can push pretty hard and it certainly did for this little family. One thing after another came their way and they were struggling. Hermana Yupangui and I spoke a few times about what was going on in their lives and my heart ached for them. I was lucky I was able to see them this one last time and we talked for awhile and then said goodbye. I remember walking back to our car with an anxious heart wondering how things would work out and if they’d “make it”. I’ll admit I lost touch with them after I left Minnesota but have kept them in my thoughts and prayers but was never sure if I’d see or hear from them again. Most of the people we worked with moved so often that staying in touch has been hard at best.
So yesterday a friend who had known this family saw this picture on Facebook and commented on how big their girls are now and how great they are doing. My heart literally stopped and my response was something like “What?… You’ve seen them?… They’re okay?… They’re still together?… They’re happy even??” And I waited for her response with my heart in my throat. And after what felt like forever her reply came, “Yes. They are still together. They are happy. They’re coming to church.” I felt like that part in the How the Grinch Stole Christmas where it says that “his heart grew three sizes that day.” I had to step away from my desk because I was overcome with gratitude and happiness. To find out after years of praying and wondering that this family that I love is back on their feet is the sweetest gift.
When I left work I had to tell someone this amazing news so I called Shaylyn who, I found out, was leaving for MN the next day. Coincidence? I doubt it. I hope she’s able to see them. I can’t wait to talk to her when she gets back!
I know this is long so if you’ve made it this far the point is that I feel like this was a huge lesson for me on faith and patience and trusting in the Lord’s timing. I know sometimes I’m too quick to give up. How long do we pray for something before we decide it “isn’t working?” A month? A year? Four years? Twenty years? It’s so easy to get impatient and sometimes I even try to convince myself that my impatience is actually a sign of my faith. You know, I get impatience because I care. Because I do have have faith that it can happen, I get impatient when it doesn’t. To sit calmly and patiently with faith sometimes seems almost too casual, or even nonchalant, especially while you are watching a storm rage around someone you love. I know this of course isn’t true. And every time I start feeling like this I think of Neal A. Maxwell saying “Patience is not indifference. Actually, it means caring very much but being willing, nevertheless, to submit to the Lord and to what the scriptures call the “process of time”.” That’s something I need to work on.
In the meantime I will call the Yupanguis and pray that they remember me. I don’t care if they don’t. I’ll live. It won’t dampen my happiness at all. And I’m looking at getting time off to go back in the spring/summer (not winter!) and seeing if Shaylyn wants to go to. Another family we worked with is moving back to El Salvador next summer and I have to see them.
I’m happy. The Yupanguis are happy. And I have some real motivation to get my rear in gear and work on my Spanish. ¡Ijole!