Paradise Found

“Paradise Found,” New Era, Nov. 1997, 20

Paradise Found

The peace in this paradise doesn’t come from sun, sand, or surf. It comes from living the gospel.

When was the last time an adult looked at you, smiled, and wistfully said something like, “Oh, I’d love to be young again, like you. Your life is so carefree.”

How long did it take for you to stop laughing?

Most youth in the Church are busy with seminary, school, Church callings, family activities, homework, recreation, employment, and volunteer work. With all the running around you do, wouldn’t it be nice to get away from it all? Picture a tropical island with warm white sand, gentle surf, and palm trees swaying gently in the background. Can’t you almost feel the sunshine on your face? As you drift off to sleep under the tropical sun, you might think something like, I could live in a place like this.

Well, some people do. Nassau, Bahamas, is a paradise that some people call home. It never gets cold there. Seafood is fresh and abundant. Dolphins frolic in crystal blue water. Plants that would wither and die most places burst into huge blooms in hues of pink, purple, and orange, gently perfuming the air with their scent. Music can almost always be heard playing somewhere in the distance.

The youth in the Bahamas do enjoy their beautiful climate and surroundings, but they’re not immune to the pressures of everyday life. They know that true peace doesn’t come from music or food or even sunshine. It comes from living a good life by being true to the gospel. Because the gospel has only been on their island for about 20 years, they are true pioneers. Many are the first and only members in their families. They not only love the gospel but are eager to share it too.

Her heart’s desire

Angela Vildor, a Laurel, moved to the Bahamas from Haiti a few years ago with her family. With the move came many changes, including learning English—a real challenge since she had spent her entire life speaking Haitian Creole. One afternoon a friend of hers invited her to a free English class sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Angela readily accepted the invitation.

“I met the missionaries in English class,” she says. “They gave me a Book of Mormon and later they talked to me about it. I told them that when I read the Book of Mormon, I felt very strong; it was a very different feeling. They explained that what I was feeling was the Spirit.”

Soon after Angela told the missionaries about her feelings, she was taught the missionary discussions and was baptized. A few weeks later, Angela’s younger sister, Annette, was also baptized. Together, the two of them help each other learn more about the gospel and share it with the rest of their family and their friends.

“Some of my friends are confused,” says Annette. “When they look at the Book of Mormon and see First Nephi, they say, ‘Oh, so this is Genesis for you?’ And I explain that Genesis is Genesis and Nephi is Nephi, and that I believe in both.”

Misunderstandings about the Book of Mormon aren’t the only challenges that Angela and Annette face. Unfortunately, since the Church is still so small in the Bahamas, there are many unfounded rumors about the Church’s beliefs and religious practices. In fact, Annette wasn’t so sure that it was a good idea for her sister to join the Church, but then Angela persuaded her to read the Book of Mormon and find out for herself.

“In the book of Mosiah, it talks about being a witness of God in all times and in all places. I like that,” says Annette. “Then it goes on to talk about desire, and I knew deep down inside that joining the Church was the desire of my heart. It was then that I knew I had to join the Church.”

Family fun

Much like Angela and Annette, Marco Dauphin is eager to spread the gospel by sharing it with anyone who will listen. Marco is pretty much like any young man his age, with a passion for basketball and a quick, easy smile. But there is something a little different about him, too. He is a leader, introducing his friends and family to things he thinks are good and uplifting. He knows how to include everyone and make them feel at home. When he first met the missionaries a few years ago, he immediately knew they had something special—something he wanted to have, too.

“I remember learning from the missionaries about the Second Coming,” he says. “I loved it.”

Soon he was ready for baptism, and so was his younger brother, Derek. Younger sister Sandra soon followed, and baby sister, Tina, was still too young (she has since been baptized). But Marco’s older sister, Rosenelle, wasn’t so sure that joining the Church was a good idea.

“I was strong in my belief that the Church was not true,” says Rosenelle.

But at Marco’s urging, Rosenelle continued to meet with the missionaries, never committing to baptism, but never completely rejecting the idea either.

“I never gave up,” says Marco. “I knew it would happen.”

And it did. While reading the Book of Mormon one afternoon, Rosenelle read about Alma the Younger. Soon she was thinking about her own life and the direction it was taking. She prayed for a long time that day and started to have some feelings that she couldn’t quite describe.

“Marco told me it was the Spirit,” says Rosenelle. “I knew he was right. I became converted and was baptized. I haven’t ever regretted it.”

The Dauphins’ mother, who is single, isn’t a member of the Church, and she often has to be at work on Monday evenings. So Marco and Rosenelle hold family night, complete with a game, songs, prayers, and a lesson. Sometimes the full-time missionaries are invited. It’s a challenge to coordinate their efforts, but all the Dauphins say it’s worth it.

“Joining the Church was a real relief for us,” says Marco. “When we have the Spirit in our home, we feel closer together. We just feel better.”

“White” Christmas

When the Rabasto family joined the Church a little over three years ago, they jumped into the gospel with both feet. After moving to the Bahamas from the Philippines, their dad, Adolfo, was called to the branch presidency. They hold regular family home evening. Archie and Roselle, the two high schoolers in the family, both attend seminary every day. They read the scriptures daily as a family. Rinna, the oldest sister in the family, is a student at BYU.

But what the family loves about the gospel most is the Christmas present they received last year. During the holiday break, the family took a trip to the temple in Orlando, Florida, to be sealed.

“I felt really excited to be in the temple,” says Archie. “I remember my sisters crying, and I felt happy, and peaceful.”

From Orlando, the family said good-bye to Rinna, since she was leaving for college. They miss her terribly, of course, but they say they feel calm about her being so far away in Utah, since they feel a lasting peace from knowing they’ll always be sealed as a family, no matter where they go.

“Everyone in the temple kept telling us how great we looked with our white clothes and jet-black hair,” says Roselle. “We felt great too. You could feel the air-conditioning in the temple, but I felt a warmth from inside. The feelings that I had there were indescribable.”

Strong testimonies

The youth in the Bahamas are few in numbers, but great in strength and dedication. They all have stories to tell about how the gospel has changed their lives. There’s Nancy Bowe, a soft-spoken Mia Maid who serves as the seminary president. There’s Kelford Gean, who helps his mom remember to study scriptures with him every night. There’s D. D. Wilson, who took her scriptures and her journal on a school trip to Florida because she didn’t want to miss a day of either habit.

Living the gospel in the Bahamas can be difficult, since members are so few and far between, but the youth seem to rise to the occasion with the help of their leaders and their friends. Someday they hope that instead of a small branch or two, the island will be filled with large and active wards. Very likely, when a history of the Church in the Bahamas is written, all of their names will be mentioned as pioneers who laid the foundation for others to build on. But for now, they are happy where they are, with a great love for each other and for the gospel.

And while they love their beautiful country, they know that it’s not where you live, but how you live, that brings peace and happiness. They know that with the gospel in their lives anywhere can be a paradise.

Photography by Janet Thomas

Annette and Angela Vildor (left) joined the Church after Angela was introduced to the missionaries at an English class. After reading the Book of Mormon, Annette says, “I knew deep down inside that joining the Church was the desire of my heart.”

Since many of the youth come from part-member families, the support of the other youth—especially the early-morning seminary class (top center)—is very important. They look to their branch president, Edward Smith (bottom center), and their other leaders to teach them how to successfully live the gospel.

Young women in the Bahamas are spread out over a large geographic area, but just like young women in all areas of the Church, they love their leaders, like Sister Willamae Kemp (above, center) and their moms, like D. D. Wilson and her mom, Ella Walkine (at left).