by Glen Mella
A returned missionary’s dream is to learn years after serving that the families you introduced the gospel to are still active in the church and happily progressing. Imagine how excited and surprised I was thirty-three years after serving a Spanish-speaking mission in San Diego, California, to wake up one morning to the following unexpected email message on Facebook:
Nicolas Cadavieco (October 4, 2010)
Hello my name is Nick… We were wondering if you happened to serve a mission in San Diego around 1977…. At that time, my mother was 12 years old and her last name was Blanco. She was in the 20th Branch, Spanish-speaking and President Wright was the Branch President and your companion was Marc Jensen. If this is you, my mother and my whole family would like to hear from you. Please let us know… Thank you.
Nick….YES! I am the same Elder Glen Mella and I taught and baptized the Blanco family. I still have pictures of their baptism. I would LOVE to reconnect with your mother and family! Where do you live? Are you members of the LDS church today? This is so exciting to hear from you. Thanks so much for your note and I look forward to your reply.
Yes we are members…. strong at that…. I served a mission in Argentina and I have been back for about a year now.
Needless to say, I called Nick’s mother, Diana (Blanco) Cadavieco, right away and we had a wonderful reunion over the phone. I learned that she has seven children, and that they’re happy, faithful members of the church in Southern California today.
Our Facebook conversation continued:
It was wonderful to hear from your Mom today! What an amazing family you have. You should come to Utah sometime and see our mountains!
All the best,
Hahahaha… I’ve seen them and I would rather have my blue oceans… But thanks… I truly am grateful you decided to serve a mission… It has blessed my life eternally.
Thanks Glen, and congratulations on the wonderful things that are happening in your family. I’ll never stop thanking you for teaching us the gospel. I love it!
Our brief online conversation and phone call brought back a flood of memories for me that day. I recall teaching Diana and her family – her father, mother and two brothers – in the summer of 1977. They lived in a predominately Spanish-speaking neighborhood and my companion and I loved our visits and lessons with them. Diana’s parents asked us a lot of challenging questions, but her mother had been searching for the right church to join and they both felt the truth of our message as we taught and testified. My companion, Elder Marc Jensen, and I were blessed to witness their doubts and concerns give way to faith in the Lord and acceptance of the message of the restoration. After a few months of honest searching and many prayers, they accepted our invitation to be baptized!
In the days leading up to the Blanco’s baptism, we encouraged them to let us invite several relatives, friends and neighbors to attend the service. We knew it would be the first Latter-day Saint meeting of any kind for most of them, and that they would feel the Spirit while witnessing that special ordinance. When the day arrived, we formed a caravan of nine cars with fifty-four people driving to the chapel. The baptismal service was a beautiful and sacred experience for all of us, and I still remember posing outside the red-brick chapel for a group picture afterwards. (That’s me with my hands up celebrating in the back. My companion was the more reverent one in the picture).
Today, the Cadaviecos live near Los Angeles and they are happily serving in the church and growing in the gospel. Diana’s husband, Nick, is a counselor in the bishopric of their ward, and their children have been raised as active church members and have received the saving ordinances of the gospel. One son served a mission in Argentina, and two of their children have married in the temple so far.
This past spring, Diana, Nick and their children decided to come to Salt Lake City to attend General Conference for the first time. I was excited to see them and spend time together, and our family invited them to stay with us in Orem, Utah during their visit. We were thrilled to see the impact the gospel has had on their beautiful family.
Our conversations about the past three decades and our respective journeys through life were fascinating. Though time and distance have separated us, the gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessing of raising our families in the Church are our common bond. We feel as if we’ve been close friends all along and our conversations are as easy and natural as if we were next-door neighbors.The experience of re-discovering one of Heavenly Father’s faithful daughters and her special family has inspired me and is an extra blessing from my full-time mission that I never expected.
I can’t help but recall Alma the Younger’s experience when he encountered his former companions, the sons of Mosiah, in the 17th chapter of Alma
“…therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth;” (Alma 17:2)
I cherish my friendship today with the Cadavieco family and with others that I served as a full-time missionary. No other feeling compares with the happiness of seeing the Savior’s love reflected in the smiles and countenance of those who strive to follow Him and live His teachings. It strengthens my testimony and is a powerful witness that Jesus Christ lives and His gospel is the key to eternal happiness! The Lord described this joy to Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer in 1829 and it’s as true today as it was then.
(Glen Mella serves as 1st Counselor in the Orem Utah YSA 1st Stake Presidency. He and his wife, Elizabeth, are the parents of eight children and two grandchildren). He is former CEO of Control4 and now CEO of the startup CypherCorp.