When I heard that I had won a scholarship to do the cultural exchange in Argentina that I had always dreamed of, I could never have imagined that it would be the beginning of such a big change in my life.
I arrived in Rosario, Argentina, where I lived with a family who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And thus started a year of spiritual adventures, talking with the missionaries and attending seminary and institute. I wanted to know everything, and I could feel that what I was learning about the gospel was blessing me in so many ways.
In a short time I was able to obtain a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the doctrines I was being taught: faith, love, patience, charity, trust, and obedience to the commandments of the Lord, which He has given us to protect us from pain.
He does not want us to go through pains without purpose. He loves us so much, and He wants to prove it so much. But sometimes, through our own choices, we close that door, we separate ourselves from Him, and then it is in our own hands. We must then take that first step toward the recovery of peace in our hearts. This is something I would experience for myself.
After months of learning, missionary lessons, and classes, I experienced adversity in one of its most painful forms—adversity that confronts you with feelings of the past, tempts you to make incorrect decisions in the present, and tries to ruin the future you always dreamed of. I learned that affliction sometimes (and many times) comes from somewhere you never expected.
Being worthy and virtuous in thoughts and acts had always seemed part of who I was, up until then. I knew that the things that I was about to do weren’t right, that people I once trusted were about to go off-road, and that I had actually already begun creating a distance between me and my Heavenly Father. I knew that now was the time when I needed to choose whether I would continue this or stick to the values I had always honored. So I had to find that strength inside of me that told me that I couldn’t ruin these dreams so easily. I couldn’t ruin my hope of an eternal family and a loving husband. Something in my life was wrong, and I knew it had to change.
That feeling, together with the young testimony that had begun to flourish in my heart, and true angels in my life who were always there to help me, saved me from being lost and made me so strong again that I could choose to turn back toward the Lord in time. And I know that He always was there, blessing me in my efforts to listen to His voice and to stay worthy of eternal blessings.
When I think about that time that I went through now, I think of courage for not having surrendered, courage for having always demonstrated my values, and the faith I had and still have.
Although the time of repentance that followed was a time of pain, of recognition of wrong feelings and moments, and of humility, I am so grateful for it—and I always will be. Grateful for the fact that, at the right time, I could feel that my Heavenly Father had forgiven me, that He continues to love me, and that He always will.
The part that cost me the most was learning to forgive myself. I remember how I felt, unworthy and without beauty, neither on the outside nor on the inside. But my Savior was always there, giving me strength and inspiration. He put the right people on my path who helped me to learn even more about the Church, since I had returned to Belgium. They loved me for who I am and helped me love myself again and recognize that this experience didn’t have to be a pain that I carry in my backpack of life forever. I could see that I had the opportunity to choose, to experience how strong my testimony already was by defending my values. Now I see that because I worked on strengthening my testimony through this experience, I can be a blessing in the lives of so many people, near and far.
Don’t fear. Never give up, and always defend your values. Always keep in mind how beautiful and what a blessing it is to share that love for the Savior and have His pure love as a foundation on which to build a relationship and a future family. If you choose to be obedient and choose Heavenly Father in all things, sooner or later, eternal blessings will come. Do not worry if you can’t see them now, but trust that every day, a little more, you will see the hand of the Lord in your lives. Spring will start in our hearts and eternal flowers will begin to bloom.
I was baptized on March 16, 2019, in my ward in Belgium, and I am so happy to have taken this first step on my way to eternity. Yes, I will encounter more challenges along the way—we all will—but with my testimony in my heart, I am ready to face them, since I know Whom to choose.