Ecuador Conversion Story

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The Spirit is Powerful

During the summer of 1974, I was assigned as a companion to Elder Campbell. Our area comprised most of the downtown sections of Guayaquil, Ecuador. After much prayer we decided to contact individuals who would bring better organizational and leadership skills into the Church. To do this, we developed a special door approach that focused on the family home evening program. We would use this approach while tracting store owners and small businessmen and women during the day, at their places of business. As we went from store to store, inquiring after the owners or managers, we came upon a very golden contact.

We entered a small shoe store, asked for the owner, and were introduced to Justo Abel Rivera-Lopez and his family, who helped run the store. We then began the conversation with our prepared materials. He was very polite and listened intently. After several minutes he interrupted us and said: "This is all very nice, but instead, please tell me more about your church." Elder Campbell and I were dumbfounded. We then gave him the first discussion right there in his store.

We visited the Rivera family several time over the next few weeks. They progressed rapidly through all the discussions. We discovered that they had an older daughter who was already a member of the Church. She lived away from home, but would write often and bear her testimony to her father and mother in her letters. This family had spent much time searching for a church that would bring them the same level of joy that they saw in the life of their daughter. They had been active in most of the sects of the day, including 7th Day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses. When we came into their store, there was no doubt that we were directed to them as a result of their daughter's prayer of faith.

There were the typical challenges to overcome and habits to change. I can still recall one occasion when we met at their home with a Jehovah's Witness. After trying in vain to have a rational discussion, we simply bore our testimonies. The spirit was powerful and the man was unable to respond. We then excused ourselves and departed. I never knew what happened in that house after we left, but the Rivera family was baptized a few weeks later.

After transfers, I lost track of the Rivera family. Several years later, a close friend of mine was talking to me about his trip to the Salt Lake Temple as he was returning from his mission to Costa Rica. As he was waiting for the temple session to begin, a worker asked the group if there was anyone present who could translate into Spanish. My friend raised his hand and was selected to accompany a man from Ecuador as he received his own temple ordinances. The man's name was Justo Abel Rivera-Lopez. After the session, they visited in the celestial room. There my friend learned that Brother Rivera had recently been called to serve as a Patriarch.

You can well imagine the feelings that come to a returned missionary when he learns of such news. We had been directed to seek out those who could bring much needed leadership to the church, and were led to a family who was prepared by the Lord.

Paul M. Jespersen