It's Sunday and we're in Puno, Peru on the shores of Lake Titicaca (feel free to giggle if you say it out loud). I always go to church when I'm traveling and so we planned on going to church this morning. The problem was that our tour group was going to visit the floating reed islands at 9:00 am and we wouldn't have time to go to church and go on the tour. Visiting the floating islands has been described as the second highlight of the trip after Machu Picchu and I really, really wanted to go. But, I wanted to go to church more so my mom and I decided to pass on the tour in order to attend church.
While we were looking up local LDS congregations last night we found one that meets at 8:00 am. That would give us just enough time to attend the first part of sacrament meeting and then rush down to the port to meet up with everyone at 9:00 am. I was a little giddy when we discovered this because it was the perfect Disney Channel solution--we could do both things!
We got up early this morning, grabbed a taxi, and got to church at 7:45. No one was there yet, but I wasn't worried. Having attended many Spanish congregations I was well aware that arriving to church early isn't very Hispanic. At 7:50 I wasn't worried. At 7:55 I started to get a little nervous, but I told myself that church was very early and everyone would be arriving soon. I prayed and prayed that church was actually here at 8:00 so that we could go. I asked Heavenly Father again and again to make it possible for us to go to church. At 8:00 I admitted to myself that no one was coming. My mom and I sat down for a minute trying to figure out what to do and we decided to get a taxi back to the hotel rationalizing that we had tried and that our effort was good enough.
As the taxi drove us down the street back to our hotel I saw a woman ahead of us that looked like she was on her way to church. As we passed her I turned around to get a good look at her and I saw that she was carrying a Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow book, a sure sign she was LDS. As soon as I saw this I said to the cab driver, "Pull over!" and I looked at my mom and said, "That woman's LDS!" By then we were about half a block from her so I jumped out of the cab and started running to her. As I was running I realized that it might be a little frightening for a small Peruvian woman to see a tall white guy suddenly jump out of a cab and sprint towards her. I was a little too excited when I got to her and in one breath said, "I'm a member of the church from the United States and I want to go to church are you going to church?" She said that she was and that she was running really late. I said, "We've got a cab! C'mon!" And she got in the cab with us. Her name is Hermana Nieves.
As we were driving to the church I told her how I'd recognized because of the book she was carrying and she told me that she was going to put it in her bag, but for some reason had decided just to carry it. She thanked us over and over again because she was going to be so late to church and that we had answered her prayer. Actually, she had answered our prayer because we had been trying to go to church. I told her that we had gone to church, but no one was there and she explained that that building was in a different stake and it was stake conference today so there wouldn't be any meetings there.
The three us got to church right before it started. There was no one to play the piano so we sang the hymns acapella. It wasn't super-beautiful, but Hermana Nieves sang with all the energy of her heart and "Jesus listening can hear the songs [we] cannot sing." We took the sacrament and then we had to go to meet up with our group. I shook Hermana Nieves' hand and thanked her for bringing us to church. She wouldn't let go of my hand and said that God had put us in her path to bring her to church. She gave my mom a big hug and they both expressed gratitude to each other in languages that the other couldn't understand, but I could. I nearly cried I was so touched.
Our getting to church today was a miracle. We had been in exactly the right place at the right time and the fact that Hermana Nieves was evening carrying her book and that I managed to see it as we sped past her seemed like more than coincidences to us. My mom is certain that the miracle wasn't really for us, but that it was for Hermana Nieves. She had wanted to get to church so badly to sing the hymns and take the sacrament, and somehow we managed to be a part of it.
Throughout my life I have had many, many prayers answered. Sometimes answers to prayers can seem like coincidences, but every once in a while I'll have an experience where it's like Heavenly Father is saying, "Hey, I want you to know this one's from me." Today He wanted mom, me, and Hermana Nieves to know that He was watching out for us. I only knew Hermana Nieves for 30 minutes, but I will always remember her and how we were put in each other's path to help one another. It's like Spencer W. Kimball said, "God does watch over us and does notice us, but it usually through someone else that he meets our needs.” I know that that's true and I'm so grateful for it. And I'm so grateful that He answered my prayer to be able to go to church today in such a miraculous and unexpected way.
And now, here are some pictures of the floating islands because we did get to do both things today.
|These people live on a floating island|
|The water under this island is 55 ft deep|
|And finally, a picture of me being silly|