When Nenita Reyes joined the Church in 1961, the first converts felt very close. Members often talked with one another well after services were over. “We felt love,” Nenita recalled. “We felt that this is where we really belong.” They enjoyed socializing together so much that even parents and other adults would attend weekly youth activities. Members also became involved in each other’s lives through service: when one member’s house burned down, the branch members helped him rebuild.
Despite the supportive branch, Nenita felt nervous when she was called as chorister. “When I first conducted music, I buried my face in the hymnbook,” she said, noting that she and the other recent converts were not used to standing in front of a congregation. “We gradually overcame all this.”
That December, Nenita led a group of branch members in singing carols. Ruben Gapiz, whose aunt was a member, came along to play guitar. He was disappointed when he heard he wouldn’t be paid but stayed when he learned that the Saints would sing in hospitals and orphanages. The next year, he joined the Church. Ruben and Nenita later became the first Filipino Latter-day Saint couple to be married by a Church leader. In 1973 when the first stake in the Philippines was organized, Ruben was called to serve on the high council, though he worried about whether he was qualified, feeling that a person might need “a halo on top of his head to perform the responsibilities.”
Two years later, disaster struck. Ruben was diagnosed with cancer and given only five years to live. “Ever since that visit to the doctor’s office, I have always had a prayer in my heart,” Ruben said. “I didn’t want my children to grow up without a father.” Three years of chemotherapy wore on Ruben’s body and cost him his job, but in 1978 he sought his patriarchal blessing. “Toward the end of the blessing,” Ruben recalled, the patriarch said Ruben would “live [his] life to the fullest” and become a leader in the Church. The blessing “caused me and my wife to sob softly,” Ruben recalled. “I knew that day that the Lord had answered my prayer.”
“He became a different man after that,” Nenita said. Nenita and Ruben served more actively and willingly in the Church as they watched their four daughters grow up. In 1990 Ruben and Nenita were called to the Philippines Davao Mission, where they presided over both proselytizing and welfare missionaries. They also served on the review committee for the Book of Mormon translation into Tagalog. “The gospel has been the source of all the happiness that we enjoy as a family,” Nenita said. “I really know that this is the true Church.”