Argentines focus on pioneers

By taking part in pioneer sesquicentennial activities, many members in the South America South Area are learning firsthand the deeply rooted values of the pioneers.

Under the direction of the South America South Area presidency, pioneer activities and lessons are being held during 1997 throughout Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, as in other areas.What makes this sesquicentennial particularly significant is the fact that about half the members in the area have been members less than five years and know little about the pioneering roots of the Church.

Members, both longtime and recent, are also learning about the roots of the Church in their own cities by locating their early members and hearing from them of their struggles to establish the gospel in difficult times.

In this way, said leaders, members are coming to know of the great heritage they have of the pioneers who first crossed the plains in 1847, and whose descendants brought the gospel to Argentina in 1925.

Activities have been geared to help the families understand their ancestors, and to begin the tradition of maintaining a book of remembrance.

In March, wards and branches held sacrament meetings that were dedicated to the pioneers. The youth studied histories of the local pioneers and obtained reports, photos and journals that will be presented in multi-stake exhibits in August. A program, "Mission Legacy" will be presented in October by returned missionaries of each stake for the benefit of future missionaries and their families.

In addition, all stakes and districts are making preparations to join the Churchwide day of service on July 19.

Church leaders said these activities are contributing substantially to spiritual unity and brotherhood, and are overcoming cultural barriers of nationalities and languages. The Saints of the South America South Area claim as their own the heroic lives of the pioneers who arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.

In the Buenos Aires Argentina North Stake, deacons and Beehives recently held an outing where they dressed in pioneer clothing and did pioneer-type activities. Leaders told histories of the pioneers to the youth.

"During the activities I realized that the pioneers had to have great strength to travel to Salt Lake," said Barbara Calvo, 12. "I remember some of the things they had to do during their trip. I give thanks for their great spirit of sacrifice; they will always be an example in my life."

Maria Vasquez, 13, added: "Imitating the pioneers helped us to feel the great sacrifice they made in the exodus from Nauvoo to [the] Salt Lake Valley. This activity helped us realize the great price they paid. I am very grateful to them, and thank the Lord for the great legacy they left in my life."

One of the youth on the hike was Sergio Alberto Pino, 17, who was baptized in 1991 but who had fallen away from activity until recently.

"I have been able to feel and understand the sacrifice the pioneers made to leave everything for a just cause, and for the love they had for the gospel. I wonder if I would be able to make such a sacrifice. Now my goal is to fill a mission as soon as my studies are completed."

In north Argentina in the city of Tucuman, Relief Society sisters have become interested in searching out the first members baptized in this city. They learned that the first member was Maria Rosario Omill, baptized in 1960. The first sacrament meetings were held in her home.

The woman who located her was an earlier acquaintance, Maria de Valle Gomez de Carrasco.

"I first met Sister Omill in 1978, when my family was receiving the missionary lessons," said Sister Carrasco. "We became good friends and later visiting teaching companions. I learned much from her and developed my ability to serve under her direction in the Relief Society."

As years passed, the two became separated, said Sister Carrasco. Sister Omill moved away and the two lost contact for more than 10 years.

But Sister Omill wasn't forgotten. "I always thought of her, and remembered the questions I used to ask."

In the past year, she thought more frequently of Sister Omill. Her name was spoken among the names of those the Relief Society should visit.

"Finally I decided I had to find her," Sister Carrasco said. "I visited some families who lived near her previous home that were not members and obtained her address. They helped me find her.

"When we knocked at her door, she was filled with joy to see us. She asked how we had found her. I answered that, really, I felt that the Holy Spirit had guided us to her."

Sister Omill commented, "When I saw them come to my home, I was very surprised and very happy. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It was beautiful to see them. I am very grateful that Sister Carrasco searched me out." Sister Omill recalled her baptism in 1960:

"As we were leaving after my baptism in the river, one of the missionaries, Elder William Sill, said to me that we could not understand the importance of this moment; that my baptism would be a great help in starting the Church in Tucuman."

In Salta, Uruguay, Nelida Sosa was one of the first converts. She spoke of her conversion:

"The missionaries did not speak the language well but they were excellent leaders. We learned the scriptures and we were taught the way to govern the Church. I feel gratitude for the missionaries who came to my door 48 years ago and brought me the gospel."

Describing the beginning of the work in Salto, she said:

"There was much opposition, but it was a marvelous epoch with much work. On Sunday mornings we attended Sunday School, and in the afternoon sacrament meeting. On Tuesdays, we had Relief Society. Mutual was on Wednesdays and we had Primary on Saturdays. We did not have any facilities for activities, nor did we have the teaching materials that are available today. Still, we held many activities - the annual Relief Society bazaar, dinners among the auxiliaries, picnics and other programs."

Pres. Heber Dario Gimenez of the Salto Uruguay Stake, observed:

"Upon receiving my call, I reflected on the toils of the pioneers of the Salto Stake. They worked shoulder to shoulder with the missionaries to cement the foundation of the gospel in this city.

"Now we have more than 4,000 members. I feel on my shoulders a heavy weight of responsibility to safeguard the great legacy we received from the missionaries and members in Salto."

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