NORTHRIDGE, Calif. Every convert has a story to tell. I have carved mine in my heart and mind. I grew up in a tropical country of more than 7,100 islands, the Philippine Islands.
I was baptized in a river in one of the small islands in the Visayas region when I was 14 years old. I studied in an exclusive high school operated by nuns. One of my classmates was a Latter-day Saint and we instantly became friends. I was so impressed by her good character that I asked her if the missionaries could teach me the discussions. I decided to be baptized in 1978.
At that time, there was only a single district and two small branches in our entire city. We met wherever we could. Finally, the first chapel was built in Lapaz, Iloilo City. Since then, there have been numerous chapels built all over the nation.
In 1984, the Filipino saints gathered in Manila to witness the dedication of the Manila Philippines Temple. Tears ran down our cheeks with so much joy and happiness that beautiful day.
In 1986, before I completed my teaching degree, I served a mission in the Philippines Davao Mission. I was called to be the first Filipina welfare coordinator. We helped establish the welfare program in the islands of Mindanao. With a country like ours beset with typhoons every year the Church's welfare program is perfect for our people. There was no greater joy than to witness the members of the Church learn the principles of self-reliance by taking care of themselves and their families.
After I left the mission field, the Philippines Cagayan de Oro Mission was created. Originally, it was part of where I was assigned to serve on my mission. As sisters with an additional assignment in welfare, we had the chance to visit the mission home before it was opened. My brother, who joined the Church several years after I did, was called to serve there. That was very meaningful to me. Needless to say, both our lives have been blessed by the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
Undeniably, there were difficult times, but all in all, it has been a good journey. My life is one filled with sincere prayers, humbling experiences, undaunted faith and a burning testimony. As I look back, I am filled with gratitude to my high school classmate whose example made a difference. I know the gospel is not only taught, it is also lived. We certainly teach by example and, in my story, the ripple effect of being a good example holds true. Sister Alcazar is a member of the Northridge 2nd Ward, Granada Hills California Stake