“Carols in Colombia,” Ensign, Dec. 1983, 53
My husband and I were teaching our small choir in Bogota, Colombia, some Christmas carols. They were thrilled to be singing of the Savior and of Christmas. Then, suddenly, at 7:30 in the evening, the lights went out, leaving us in total darkness. Since this often happens here, people carry candles for just such emergencies.
While they were getting out their candles, I began to play on the piano the only tune I knew from memory, “Silent Night.” Soon, in the darkness of the chapel, I heard a beautiful sound—a harmonica playing in perfect pitch right along with the piano. When a candle or two were lit, I looked up to see where the music was coming from.
We have a family of Otavalon Indians from Ecuador in our ward, converts to the Church. They have a nineteen-year-old boy who was born without arms. It was he who was playing the harmonica while his devoted brother held the instrument to his mouth. As the candles were lit, one by one, we continued our duet while tears splashed down my cheeks.
Oscar is one of six children in the family of Luis Enrique and Rosa Elena Albancando. They have lived in Bogota for twenty-seven years. Oscar finished high school last year and hopes to attend a university to become an engineer. He writes and paints with his toes. He was fitted with artificial arms, but they were too heavy for him. He knows lightweight arms are made, and he is trying to earn money for them. I asked him if he was planning to go on a mission, and he said, with a twinkle in his eye, that he wants to but he will have a hard time shaking hands.
Oscar paints Christmas cards to earn enough money for his artificial arms. The cards sell well, but they are expensive; last year, working twelve hours a day, he was three months painting his design. He also works in the family business of manufacturing artesian wall hangings and designs. Oscar’s contribution is helping his father create designs for the hangings.
When Oscar bore his testimony to me, he said the part of the gospel most special to him is his faith in the Resurrection, because then he will have two precious arms that he has never known before. An elder now, Oscar bears testimony of a loving Father in Heaven. “We find ourselves in this world working for our own salvation,” he says, “and each of us passes through special trials according to our own abilities—which is why we have the best Father, who is always ready and willing to help us.”