Just after the first branch in Ambato opened in 1969, members from Ambato, Otavalo, and Quito Branches gathered together to hear from Elder Gordon B. Hinckley of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at a district conference. Despite residing hours apart from each other, new members felt a strong sense of connection to one another and formed friendships. Afterward, Relief Society sisters planned activities and service projects to enhance the conferences, and Latter-day Saints grew increasingly close.
A short time later, tragedy struck in the Ambato Branch. While a mother and her children attended a youth activity, her husband and the family’s uncle were attacked at home and left for dead by robbers. The uncle died of injuries sustained during the attack, and the robbers ran off with possessions including the family’s wardrobe. As soon as they heard the news, Church members in Quito, 150 kilometers away (about 93 miles), coordinated a relief drive, collecting clothes and money. “With this help,” a branch secretary recorded, “the [family] has not had to suffer temporal need.”
The same spirit of concern for fellow Saints, in good and hard times, spread around the country. Branch members in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, and in Quevedo frequently hosted activities, from dances and Relief Society bazaars to group family home evening programs. Before long, the growing community of Latter-day Saints gained a positive reputation among their neighbors, who often worked through poverty. “Many times, the label of ‘Mormon’ will open doors,” Claudina Valarezo of Guayaquil observed, “because of the Mormons’ reputation for honesty and moral principles.”
By 1975 leaders in Quevedo noticed more than 90 percent of new members had been introduced to the Church because of direct invitations, particularly to join in family home evening activities.