We finally got home last night from Arizona, but I still need to catch up on blog entries from our trip.
On Sunday, we attended the Guasave Ward of the LDS Church.
Twenty years ago, Guasave had only one struggling ward with a handful of members. Somehow they missed the huge membership boom enjoyed by other areas of the church in Latin America during the 1980s. On many Sundays, leaders of the ward pleaded with members to increase missionary efforts, but truthfully, most efforts were met with either frustration or indifference.
Nowadays, the city of Guasave still has exactly one ward, but they finally added a small branch. They also added a new extension to the original ward building.
During this most recent trip, we attended the Guasave Ward meeting at 10:00 in the morning. We sat toward the front of the chapel and just waited for the meeting to begin. As members began to arrive, many welcomed us to the ward and asked questions about our journey to Guasave. No one spoke English, so I translated everything into Spanish. As the meeting began, I continued the translation for Rhonda.
Translation can be a difficult task, even when the parties pause to allow time to form a proper sentence. But translation becomes twice as difficult during a meeting, or other social context when the speaker does not pause. As the members addressed the congregation from the pulpit, I whispered the English translation into Rhonda's ear. This all happened in real time, with no pauses. I think I got more than 90% accuracy, but I was exhausted by the end.
At the conclusion of the meeting, I looked around the chapel hoping to find a familiar face. Finally, my heart sank and I said to Rhonda, "I don't recognize a single person. I attended this ward for a solid year and I don't recognize anyone."
Feeling more than a little disappointed, we left the chapel and continued to our respective classes. The girls went to primary, even though they didn't speak Spanish, and as far as I could tell, no one spoke English. They told me later that the teachers were very friendly and gave them paper and crayons. Rhonda and Dakota came with me to Sunday school, where I translated again by whispering into their ears.
At the end of Sunday School, I brought Rhonda to Relief Society and invited Dakota to attend the adult priesthood class with me. Before the next class began, we stood for several minutes in the foyer, when two tall, bulky men approached me. They both smiled and one of them said, "Tú eres Barry Moses de Spokane," (You are Barry Moses from Spokane).
Their faces looked familiar, but I could not place their names. I studied their faces and finally said, "Yes, but who are you?" They then identified themselves as Juan and Julio Pinto.
When they said their names, all the memories came rushing back. The Pinto brothers were young men from the ward when I attended twenty years ago! We had spent many Sunday afternoons together laughing and making jokes about one thing or another. However, they were all at least three or four years younger then me. I was sixteen years old, so they would have been twelve or thirteen. I didn't recognize them because they were preserved in my memory as the short, scrawny little boys they were when I left Guasave. Now they are grown men, and all of them taller than me!
What a happy reunion this turned out to be! And to think they remembered me after all these years. As we shared this excitement, we were all smiles, but especially Juan Pinto. He smiled with a look of genuine joy, with just a sparkle of admiration. Then I remembered that he used to look at me that way all those years ago. What did I ever do to deserve his admiration?
As I remember that time in my life, I was truly the picture of teenage angst, awkwardness, and isolation. It makes me sad to think that I had such good friends that I never fully appreciated at time.
After church, the Pinto brothers and I posed for a picture. From left to right, Julio Pinto, Juan Pinto, me, and Martin Pinto. Notice that I'm standing on the curb to compensate for my lack of height in comparison to my younger friends.
Rhonda and the kids posed for this picture in front of the Guasave Ward building.