“From a Single Seed,” New Era, June 2000, 25
One of the most discouraging parts of my mission was four months I spent in Tulancingo, Mexico. The work was difficult. Day after day my companion and I spent long hours tracting. The people were generally hostile, and no one seemed interested in listening to us.
Finally, we found two men who seemed very interested in our message. Our efforts seemed at last to be paying off, and I knew these men would be great assets to Tulancingo’s struggling branch. But when these men both decided not to accept baptism, I was devastated and began to wonder if I was accomplishing anything of value by serving a mission.
About this time a 12-year-old girl came to Tulancingo to visit a family in the branch. She became interested in the Church and asked us to teach her the discussions. She seemed to accept everything we said. A short time later her father came for a visit and gave permission for her to be baptized.
But this baptism did little to lessen the disappointment I felt regarding the men who had failed to join the Church. I had hoped they would help to build up the Church in this area. Because the girl was so young and the only member in her family, I didn’t think there was much chance that she would remain active. She left Tulancingo a few days after her baptism, and I lost contact with her. In fact, I completely forgot about her.
It has been more than 30 years since my mission, and not long ago I unexpectedly received the following letter:
Dear Brother Cooper,
My name is J. Jovita Pérez Acosta. I was baptized December 1, 1965, in Tulancingo. I always thought I would very much like to thank you for having brought the gospel into my life.
About a year ago I moved into a new ward and [met a man who] knew you and knew your address. So I have now taken advantage of the situation to send greetings and tell you a little about my life in the gospel.
When you taught me the gospel, I was 12 years old and was spending the summer in Tulancingo. I remember clearly the day that I heard the history of Joseph Smith. I felt that it was true, and that same night I knelt for the first time in my life and prayed as you had taught me. On that occasion I learned how to talk with my Heavenly Father.
My mother was angry with my father because of my baptism, and they sent me to live at a Catholic boarding school. There was no member of the Church in all the area. I didn’t even have a Book of Mormon. But I continued to pray, and the seed that you planted in my heart began to germinate.
One day, analyzing my religious situation, I felt that Heavenly Father was not pleased with me. I was confused. I told Him that I wanted to belong only to His church. I asked that He would help me be a good daughter to Him. A little while after this, I felt impelled to write to the [LDS] Church school in Mexico City to ask that I might be enrolled there. I was accepted. It was then that my testimony began to form.
Seven years later my three younger sisters joined the Church, and they also went to live at the Church school. My mother had us attend her church during the summers; but even so, we read the scriptures, and we began to have family home evenings. Ten years after my baptism, my mother and my youngest brother were baptized. A year later my father was baptized. We were the first member family in our town and in all the towns roundabout. The nearest church was four hours away. My parents would travel every two weeks to go to the church services there.
During this period I became very ill and went to live for some months with my parents. We had family home evening every week. My mother would invite almost everyone around, and we would have about 30 attend.
One day I called the mission home in Mexico City to ask that missionaries be sent, and this was how the first branch was born in all that region. My father was the branch president, and my mother was the Relief Society president. Now there are many branches in the other towns, and they have been formed into two districts.
My youngest sister converted the man who is now her husband, and they both served missions. He is a bishop in Ciudad Juarez, and they have five children. Two of my nephews and a niece have also served missions. My oldest son returned last year from his mission, and my daughter is presently serving in Washington, D.C. My youngest son leaves next month to serve a mission in Mexico.
In all, my parents have 26 grandchildren who are members of the Church. As you can see, one of the little seeds you planted many years ago has been transformed into a tree, and it is giving fruit and producing seeds for new trees. Isn’t it glorious? When my oldest son left for his mission, I told him that all he had to do was plant with love in the vineyard of the Lord. Perhaps he would never see the tree grow and produce fruit, but the Lord would.
The gospel has given me much happiness, and without it, I don’t know what my life would be. I know that Jesus Christ is my redeemer and that His work will move forward, blessing the families of the earth.
Your sister in the faith,
As I read this letter, I was filled with joy and amazement. I now realize that perhaps the most important thing I accomplished on my mission was something that had seemed almost insignificant and that had occurred at a time of great discouragement.
What this sister said about planting with love in the Lord’s vineyard is very true. Many missionaries will never be aware of all of the results of their labors. But if we spend our lives doing all the good we can, without wondering and worrying about the consequences, we will find the true joy of the gospel.