“Strengthening the Fold in Palenque,” Ensign, July 1999, 67–68
Because of civil uprisings in 1994, full-time missionaries were pulled out of many areas in southern Mexico. Some fledgling branches, such as the one in Palenque, were closed. When missionaries returned some two years later, they faced the challenges of reopening the branch, locating and reactivating scattered members, baptizing new converts, and preparing members for leadership.
Among the first missionaries to arrive were Elder Bartolomé de la Cruz Reyes and his wife, Natalia, of the Arboleda Ward, Mexico City Mexico La Perla Stake. “This couple literally rescued our branch,” says President Benjamin De Hoyos Estrada, a new Area Authority Seventy. Their secret: hearts filled with love for the Lord, for one another, and for their fellowmen.
“Sister de la Cruz walks with me, and I walk with her,” says Elder de la Cruz. “This is the feeling we have—lots of love for our brothers and sisters, all of them, whether they are members of the Church or not.”
Within a few months of their arrival in Palenque, the branch had grown from just a handful of people attending meetings to an average weekly attendance of 50. Soon the branch had outgrown the rented house where they held meetings and moved to a larger meeting place.
Elder de la Cruz retired from his job early to serve. He and his wife had attended a meeting in Mexico City and heard Elder Lino Álvarez of the Seventy encourage couples to serve full-time missions. Facing the loss of some retirement benefits by retiring early, Elder and Sister de la Cruz nevertheless felt the Spirit telling them that now was the right time to go. “We did lose some benefits,” he says, “but our Heavenly Father has given us so much more. We decided to share with our brothers and sisters what we feel for Him.”
“For me it has been a great happiness and joy to come to know and teach these brothers and sisters in Palenque—and to bring more members to the Church,” says Sister de la Cruz. “I feel greatly strengthened by being with them.”
Elder de la Cruz gently takes his wife by the hand and gives her a smile. “Perhaps we have deficiencies,” he says, “but we do our part, and the Lord adds whatever we’re lacking to accomplish what we need to do.”