In 1978 the Justo Rivera family from Guayaquil and the Rafael and Teresa Tabango family from Otavalo traveled to São Paulo, Brazil, to attend the dedication of the first temple in South America. Although the 6,000-kilometer distance left the temple out of reach for most Ecuadorian Saints, the families returned with word of the spirit they had felt there. Less than four years later, in March 1982, Saints in Ecuador rejoiced when Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency announced plans to build a temple in Guayaquil.
Trouble obtaining permits delayed the project, however, and Saints in Ecuador watched as temples in other countries were completed before ground was even broken for construction in Guayaquil. Despite the delays, they sought ways to contribute to the temple project. One seminary teacher in Guayaquil encouraged her students to get involved; the class raised more than a typical month’s income through a clothing drive. When a mission president visiting Otavalo mentioned that the Church would accept in-kind donations, in a single day the Saints there donated enough goods to meet the Otavalo district’s entire expected share of offerings for the temple fund.
After the dedication of the Lima Peru Temple in 1986, Saints also increasingly prepared for their own temple by making the weeklong bus journey to Lima as ward or stake groups. The trips could prove difficult. Gonzalo and Clemencia Viña of Durán recalled being detained at the border, having their route disrupted by flooding on a major river, and running low on food as they waited for another bus to meet them on the other side of the flooded river. Once in Lima, however, they savored days of service in the Lord’s house and reminded each other that a temple would soon stand in their own city.
Seventeen years after the original announcement, the temple was finished. Over 100,000 people attended the open house. When the new temple presidency opened the temple’s doors for the first time after the dedication, dozens of Otavalan Saints were there waiting—Saints who had traveled over 10 hours, wearing their distinctive dress, waiting in line to enter the temple at the earliest opportunity.
Among the first couples to be sealed in the temple were the Cavannas, pioneer Latter-day Saints from Guayaquil. Nino Cavanna was blind and had inspired his friends years before with his dedication to attending the Lima Peru Temple. But his wife suffered physical paralysis and was confined to a bed, making travel to Lima as a couple practically impossible. In Guayaquil, as temple workers carried her and led him into the sealing room, Nino remarked how the Holy Spirit helped him perceive the grandeur of the ordinance.
Members were drawn to the temple’s peace and spiritual power. One of the first members of the Church in Esmeraldas, Anizeto Sosa Quiñónez, learned that his daughter suffered a life-threatening injury while at school, leaving her paralyzed. Hospital staff transferred the 15-year-old to a Guayaquil clinic, but the treatments did not improve her condition. While discussing more-experimental procedures, Anizeto’s daughter urged against them. “The Lord just called to me,” she said. “He waits at the temple to heal me.” An ambulance driver agreed to take her to the temple, and once there, he helped Anizeto carry her to the temple grounds. Near the fountains, Anizeto watched his daughter kneel, kiss the ground, and rise to her feet. She had felt the embrace of the Lord, she testified. He had come to her and healed her.