“A World Away,” New Era, Oct. 1997, 20
That’s probably the first thing you’d hear from Omer Machuca if you paid him a visit in his home in Monterrey, Mexico. Then again he might also offer you a courteous, “Wilkommen.” Or he just might grin and say, “Hi, how’s it goin’?”
Changes don’t seem to faze Omer very much. Living much of his life in the Tijuana, Mexico, area, just across the border from San Diego, California, Omer had a lot of exposure to both American and Mexican cultures. He speaks fluent English, and, of course, fluent Spanish. When his family moved from Tijuana to Monterrey, a large metropolitan city almost 2,000 miles away from the costal town he knew and loved, Omer made the best of it and made new friends.
Now Omer, a 16-year-old priest, is tackling the study of German. Someday he’d like to travel far and wide, using the languages he knows and learning new ones. But for Omer one of the most exciting places to travel is a place where he knows everyone can feel welcome whether they speak one language or ten.
For Omer a trip to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead is better than any exotic travel. And although he is a master of adapting to fit into different cultures, there are certain things Omer will never change about himself. He knows that it is how he lives outside the temple that determines what kind of experience he will have when he enters its doors.
When Omer and his parents moved from Tijuana to Monterrey, they left behind family, friends, and a home they knew and loved. It was hard, but it was also exciting for Omer. One thing that wasn’t so exciting, however, was leaving behind a conveniently located temple in San Diego. Now a trip to the temple involves considerable travel.
“I really miss the temple,” says Omer. “Here you usually get only one chance a year to go to the Mexico City Temple. In Tijuana we would cross the border and go to San Diego on the first Saturday every month. The feeling in our family was always a little bit different, a little special on those days. The people in the temple always seemed glad to see us there. I know that it will be the same when the temple is here.”
A temple has been announced in Monterrey, and although construction hasn’t yet begun, Omer and many of the other youth in Monterrey and the surrounding areas are ready and waiting.
“We feel very excited that the temple will be built, and it will be our temple,” says one seminary student. “We will soon be able to go to the temple any time we want.”
When the youth in Monterrey speak about the temple, certain things happen. Their voices get softer, and they seem to become more calm and happy. Even though the nearest temple is several states away and most of them haven’t been there many times, their reverence is evident when the temple is being discussed.
“I think the temple is the most beautiful place on earth,” says 16-year-old Carlos Cadena.
The word cadena means “chain” in Spanish. That has special meaning for Carlos, his parents, and his two brothers and two sisters. They say that attending the temple keeps them linked together, as well as keeping them linked with their past.
Ana, Carlos’s 15-year-old sister, talks about how meaningful her temple baptisms feel when she does them for ancestors she has found at the family history library—ancestors who have likely been waiting a long time for their work to be done. Carlos talks about the happy, peaceful feeling that exists when the family has recently been to the temple. Leon Cadena, a deacon, says that in preparing to go to the temple, he tries extra hard to be good.
The youngest Cadena brother, Moises, spends time in the nursery with his little sister Laura while the rest of the family does temple work. It is this shy, quiet 10-year-old who seems to sum up the whole family’s feelings the best when he says with emotion, “When we go to the temple, our hearts are very full.”
The Alonso family has also made the trip from Monterrey to Mexico City many times, but the most memorable one for them was when the teenagers in the family, Carlos, Emilio, and Rosa, were very small.
“I was four years old the first time we went to the temple,” says Rosa, who is now in the Beehive class. “I remember that when we were sealed we knelt around the altar, all dressed in white. Every time I remember that occasion, I feel warm inside.”
Carlos and his twin brother, Emilio, were nine years old when the family was sealed, and they too have wonderful memories of that time.
“It was very beautiful,” says Carlos. “I remember the mirrors where you can see for eternity.”
Emilio feels very much the same way. “It was beautiful because we were all together in the temple, and that is where we learn to be an eternal family and how to live.”
Although the Machucas, the Cadenas, and the Alonsos are eager for the temple to be built in their city, they all know that there is temple-related work they can do right now, while they are waiting. All the youth agree that trying to live the gospel principles as fully as they can is the best preparation for the temple.
“We are preparing to have more names ready,” says Emilio. “We are reading the scriptures, having family prayer, and fasting regularly.”
But spiritual preparation isn’t the only thing to consider. Soon members will travel from cities far away to attend the new temple here, and they will depend on the help of the members in Monterrey. Carlos says that he and his family are saving money to help others attend the temple that will soon be in their city. And even something as simple as helping with chores at home can help the temple effort.
“If I help around the house and take care of my younger brothers and sister, my parents will feel more secure about leaving us at home while they attend the temple,” says Ana. “Helping out at home helps the temple work, too.”
Temples are miraculous places, and it seems that no sacrifice is too great to get there. Carlos and Ana’s father, Jesus, once rode on the floor of a bus for 14 hours to get to Mexico City, since there wasn’t an empty seat. All of his children say that sacrifices leave no doubt in their minds that temple attendance is important.
In northern Mexico, where Omer used to live, crossing the border occasionally presented a problem. But Omer says that sometimes, when it seemed that people weren’t going to make it to the temple, circumstances changed at the last minute, allowing people to go.
“Passports were a problem [for people] trying to get to the [temple] dedication,” says Omer. “One sister went to get permission to cross the border, but she didn’t have any papers except for her temple recommend. The officer let her through.”
The Alonso family can think of no greater miracle than the fact that their family is sealed for time and eternity—except for maybe the miracle that very soon there will be a temple in their own city.
Emilio says, “Now that the temple will be here, it is very special because we’ll have the opportunity to come to the temple more often. We will be greatly blessed as a family when we have the temple here.”
Like any big city, Monterrey has its share of hustle-bustle and noise. At any given time there is a traffic jam in the making or an event drawing large crowds, or both. It’s exciting and exhausting all at the same time. But soon there will be a place, somewhere in this mass of activity, where calm and order will be the rule instead of the exception.
Omer Machuca is a lot like most boys his age. He is fascinated by the excitement that surrounds new places, different people, and unique cultures. And yet he knows that the most important border he will ever cross is the threshold of the temple. He knows that no matter how many languages he learns to understand, his understanding of the gospel will be more important. Emilio knows it, too. So do Anna and Rosa and all the other youth that can hardly wait for the temple to be built.
They are excited and happy that the house of the Lord will soon be closer to their own houses. And they are counting the days until a trip across town, instead of across the country, will take them a world away.