Conversions do not usually hinge on tragedies, but in this small South American country recently, tragic occurrences played essential roles in three baptisms.
The roots of this story trace back nearly 14 years and several thousand miles from La Paz, to Brigham Young University. At that time, a Bolivian couple, Oscar and Olga Lobo, had arrived in Provo, Utah, to study, and became acquainted with Steven R. Wright, a graduate student teaching English to non-natives.The Lobos were among Wright's students, and on several occasions, the young couple expressed to their professor the strong desire that Oscar's parents join the Church, as Oscar and his younger brother, Luis, had previously done.
During the years that followed, Oscar's parents, Jorge and Elena Lobo, had various contacts with the Church, but never arrived at the decision to be baptized. On one occasion, the couple became acquainted with Pres. Grant Faucett, former president of the Argentina Buenos Aires North Mission, and his wife, Betty, as the Faucetts were traveling through South America with their son. But despite the example of their children and friends, the Lobos remained only superficially involved in the gospel.
Then a major development occurred. Tragedy struck in May 1989 and two missionaries, Elders Todd Ray Wilson and Jeffrey Brent Ball, were assassinated by terrorists in La Paz. Arrangements for the services of Elder Wilson were made in Wellington, Utah, by Faucett Mortuary, owned by Grant Faucett, the former mission president in Buenos Aires.
During the funeral, Sister Faucett was seated by Marsha Bryner, whose son, Bill, had been working in the La Paz mission office at the time of the two missionaries' deaths. While they were conversing, Sister Faucett mentioned they had some non-member friends in Bolivia whose sons were members of the Church. Sister Bryner sent a letter to her son, telling him to see if he could locate Jorge and Elena Lobo. "Maybe now is a time to see if they are ready to hear the gospel," she wrote.
When Elder Bryner received the letter, the possibility of ever finding the couple seemed minimal, as he had no current address, and La Paz is a city of more than 1 1/2 million inhabitants. The weekend after receiving his mother's letter, however, Elder Bryner was invited to attend a family home evening at the home of Jorge Vidovic, a recent convert in his area. Vidovic's mother, Celfa, who was investigating the Church, had invited two friends over to hear the missionaries' presentation. The couple was Jorge and Elena Lobo.
The Lobos readily agreed to attend Church and listen to the discussions. Soon, they asked for baptism, along with Celfa Vidovic.
This was the news that Oscar Lobo, residing in Arizona, had hoped to hear since his days at BYU. He quickly called his younger brother Luis, who lived in Alabama, to pass on the good news. Upon hearing the scheduled baptism date, Luis realized that he would be in South America on business during that time, and phoned his parents to tell them he would be there to perform the baptism.
Oscar made one more phone call - to his former English teacher, Steven Wright, now president of the Bolivia La Paz Mission.
A week before the baptisms, Elder Bryner was transferred to a city 12 hours from La Paz, and it appeared that he would be unable to attend the baptismal service of the family to whom the Lord had so miraculously led him. Once again, a circumstance intervened to allow him to see the fruits of his labors. On his way to his new assignment, a car accident injured Elder Bryner. In order to allow his fractured collar-bone to recuperate, he remained in the mission office, making it possible for him to witness the baptisms.
The Lobos and Celfa Vidovic were baptized on Aug. 2 by Luis Lobo, and confirmed by Pres. Wright, who reaffirmed that "despite the great tribulations that this mission has endured, the Lord continues to bless the missionary efforts in this part of His vineyard."