With or without Piranhas

“With or without Piranhas,” Liahona, Feb. 2002, 30–32

With or without Piranhas

While serving in the Bolivia Cochabamba Mission, my companion and I were assigned to labor in Villamontes (now part of the Bolivia Santa Cruz Mission). This remote village lies in the southeastern corner of Bolivia. The closest town is 90 kilometers away. Because Villamontes did not have a baptismal font, we performed baptisms in the nearby Pilcomayo River.

Our labors were meeting with some success, and we were having quite a few baptisms in the river. It seemed a good location until we began to hear rumors about piranhas. Standing waist-deep in water infested with carnivorous fish did not sound like something we wanted to do, but we didn’t have another place to perform these important ordinances. We ignored the rumors until a Church member actually caught one of the fish and showed it to us. The piranha’s sharp teeth alarmed us. Still, the Lord’s work must go forward, and we trusted in Him to protect us.

We needed His protection at our next baptism because seasonal rains had caused the river to rise to treacherous levels, clogging it with logs, sticks, and other debris. We were convinced we had to find another place to baptize.

After days of looking, we finally decided to perform a baptism in a member’s cistern—a small water tank. The cistern was so small we wondered if two people would fit into it. But both the convert and the priesthood holder climbed in, and the convert was baptized by immersion.

We had another baptism the following week, and the cistern was no longer available. So we performed the baptism in a small cement tub. Again both the convert and the priesthood holder stepped into the tiny makeshift font. The boy being baptized had to kneel down to be immersed.

After that baptism, we started thinking about where we could have future baptisms. The problem was urgent because three more people were scheduled for baptism the following Sunday. Fortunately, a district conference was going to be held in Yacuiba, and the meetinghouse there had a baptismal font. We traveled there for the baptismal service.

At the service, our mission president told us that because of the growth of the Church in Villamontes, that small village would receive a baptismal font. We were overjoyed.

Our experiences in Villamontes taught us that when we work hard, the Lord always provides a way for us to accomplish what He has asked. The Lord’s work will always move forward, with or without piranhas.

  • Ramiro Ruiz Ceja is a member of the College 44th Ward, Ricks College Third Stake.