At last week’s baptism, Hermana Oliva and Hermana Hinkle told me that today they were having another baptism in Ellensburg. The next day they phoned to ask a favor. The lady they have been teaching is Rosalva. She showed them a copy of the Book of Mormon she received from 2 missionaries 19 years ago in 1997. Inside the front cover was a photo of the 2 Elders who taught her then, with their names: Elder Williams and Elder Murphy.
The Hermanas asked me if I could please try to locate these missionaries. One was tall, skinny and blonde, the other had brown hair. That’s all she knew. Rosalva wanted them to know that she was finally being baptized after all these years!
I wondered which mission Ellensburg was in back in 1997. Kennewick? Spokane? I looked at some mission alumni boards, but none listed these Elders. So I turned to social media and put the question out on our Washington Yakima Facebook page:
These messages followed:
Ginger!! I’m so happy to find you and your husband. This is Sister Ann Lewis from the Yakima Mission. Our Hermanas in Ellensburg will be baptizing Rosalva Cuevas next Saturday. She has a copy of the Book of Mormon with testimonies and a photo of Elder Williams and Elder Murphy. She hoped to find them and let them know that after 19 years, she’s getting baptized. If your husband and Elder Murphy would like to send her a message, I can get it to her next week. That would be fun. We are getting a good deal of work done in the Spanish areas in Ellensburg. It’s a great time to be serving here. Thanks for helping with this connection!
Hi Sister Lewis. Thank you so much for taking the time to find us. My husband is so excited to hear this! He has very much enjoyed going back through his mission journals to read about his time teaching Rosa. He wants to send you a few things from those journal entries to give to her. Thank you again for sharing such wonderful news with us!
I am SO excited to make this connection! I told the Hermanas in Ellensburg about your message and they are thrilled. The baptism will be next Saturday. Let me know how I can help with the messages. Thank you for helping make this wonderful reunion happen!
Sister Lewis, This is Marc Williams. I am one of the missionaries that taught Rosalva about 19 years ago. I am attaching a document that I have been working on that has an outline of some of the discussions Elder Murphy and I had with Rosalva. Thank you so much for helping me to connect with her. I hope that this will help make the baptism special.
Here is the Document Marc Williams sent:
All of these memories have been retrieved from a journal that I kept from my contacts with Rosalva …
I first taught Rosalva on August 9, 1997. She was a tracting contact. Because she didn’t speak much English, we had a returned missionary from Chile named Kristy come with us to help translate. I don’t think she understood much of the discussion that first time, but she seemed to understand when we bore our testimonies.
Kristy took Rosalva to family home evening at the institute, homemaking the following night, and then went to her home to read the Book of Mormon together afterwards. After they read together, they prayed. Kristy said that Rosalva had a tear in her eye after praying.
The second discussion went really good! The Spirit was so strong there. When we asked her to be baptized she said, “I know I need something. I’m not sure what it is.” She committed to pray about it.
My visits with Rosalva inspired me to learn a little Spanish. She taught Elder Murphy and I a few phrases to help us as we came across other Spanish speakers in the area. She even gave us a Spanish-English translator to assist us. We gave Rosalva a couple copies of the Liahona to help her as she progressed.
In a journal entry of mine from August 17, 1997 I wrote, “The Lord has blessed us so much for letting us teach such a humble, meek, and loving daughter of our Heavenly Father.” I truly felt that way about Rosalva. She was definitely a special daughter of God.
During our fourth discussion with Rosalva, she accepted everything we taught about why we are here, where we are going, and where we came from. She soaked it all in and was very interested to know that we lived before we came here.
One discussion that we had, we showed her a Spanish version VHS featuring Elder Holland testifying of the Book of Mormon and Jesus Christ. We sat Rosalva down afterwards and told her how much we love her, and we wanted her to be happy. I found myself pouring my heart out, testifying that the church is true. I committed her to read the Book of Mormon everyday and also to pray every morning and night.
After teaching her the 5th discussion, she committed to live the law of tithing without a question. She was especially interested in fasting. When we told her that fasting can help us receive answers to her prayers, she said, “That’s what I need.” Rosalva fasted that next Sunday.
On Sep 2, 1997, we were in the middle of a discussion and I felt prompted to ask her how she was feeling. She said that she felt really peaceful. I asked her if she knew what we were teaching was true, and she said that she knew it was. Rosalva especially felt the Spirit strong since she fasted.
On Sep. 5, 1997, Rosalva told us that she wants to be baptized someday, but still wanted to learn more first. She set a goal of coming to church. She decided to ask her boss if she could have Sunday off so she could go to church. She only had one chance the entire year to tell her boss something that she desired. This was her only chance to ask for a raise, but she said that she was going to use this opportunity to ask for Sundays off instead.
Rosalva had Elder Murphy and I install insulation under her trailer once. We took our car and bought the insulation for her and then came back to install it. We got very dirty, but it was very satisfying.
Rosalva taught Elder Murphy and I to crochet. It must have been a funny site. Both of us were able to crochet a hot pad. I was so proud. I still have the hot pad in my mission memorabilia.
On September 13, 1997 we took Rosalva to her first baptism in Selah. I had never been to a baptism where I felt the Spirit so strong. I was grateful that Rosalva got to witness that.
On September 20, 1997 Rosalva wanted to thank us for everything so she threw us a party and we had pizza with her family. We hung out at her house learning Spanish, crocheting, and eating pizza—it was great!!
On September 23, 1997 I had to say goodbye to Rosalva because I got transferred. I cried like a baby because I loved her and cherished the time I had spent teaching the gospel to her. I asked her to write her testimony down for me and other feelings about the church. I still have the words that she wrote that day.
Since I have returned from my mission, I have continued to follow the path we taught you almost 20 years ago that is founded on the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have continued to find happiness and joy because of Christ. God has blessed me with an amazing family of my own that I know that I can be with eternally. I am delighted to hear that you have decided to be baptized. You are entering the gate that will lead back to our Father in Heaven. Baptism is an essential ordinance that we need for exhalation, but it is only the beginning. I want to share a scripture that I feel very strong about that will help guide you throughout your life. 2 Nephi 31:19-20
God has many more things in store for you. Continue to turn to him and feast upon his word. Follow the guidance that he has given to us through his prophets. Trust in our Savior for everything. When you have good times, turn to Him. When you have hard times, turn to Him. When you feel full of sin and guilt, turn to Him. Christ is the only way we can make it in this life. What a blessing it has been to be part of this moment.
All my love and best wishes,
THANK YOU!! I’ve sent this to the Sisters to share with Rosalva Her baptism will be at 11:00 on Saturday morning. We are planning to be there. I’ll take pictures for you and your family.
Last night I told our departing group about your story in their final testimony meeting. It was a sweet thing. I told them if they’re lucky some day they’ll get a message from some they once taught like you did.
Thanks for taking the time to respond.
I’ll keep you posted!
Thank you so much! I can’t wait to see the pictures.
Can you please send your email? I have some photos to send.
Baptism will begin soon
We are so excited for her! We just returned from helping a recent convert take her grandparents names to the Temple for baptism–her first time inside the Temple. Such a joyful experience! We know how much joy awaits Rosalva as she starts down this new path!
Thank you. We are all so excited! I’ll send pictures soon.
Where do you live?
We live in a suburb of Houston TX.
So today Rosalva was baptized in Ellensburg, 19 years after missionaries first found her. It was a glorious day, a day of reunion and rebirth. What a gift to be surrounded by missionaries who love her!