Today, I wanted to write about our recent convert, Fernando Mercado. He´s such an interesting person, that it will be impossible to convey who he really is with just words and pictures, but those are the only means that I have to describe him so they will have to suffice.
When we found Fernando, he seemed like just a long-haired guy without a job who lived with his mom. He lacked social skills, such as eye contact and bathing regularly. The first time we talked to him, he didn´t even want to talk to us, but we sensed something special about him, so after 20 minutes of talking to him through the window, we persuaded him to accept that we could come beck the next day at 3 in the afternoon. We returned the next day, and after some more persuading, he accepted us into his house.
He entered into his room a few minutes and then came out with an old Book of Mormon in his hand. He showed it to us and we found out that he had read the whole book and marked his favorite parts with blue highlighter.
He told us that a few years ago the missionaries had visited his sister and given her the Book of Mormon. A year ago Fernando (who told us that he was never really the religious type) decided to read a bible that someone else had given to his grandpa many years ago. The person who had given this Bible to his grandpa had written something in the cover about finding the true religion and that when he read that, he felt a strong desire to find the true religion or true church.
He started reading, and really liked what he read, so he kept reading until he read the WHOLE thing. He said that at the end, he read something that Moroni wrote that told him that he had to pray to know if it was true. I assume that he was referring to Moroni 10:3-5 which says:
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
He said that he prayed and that the holy ghost testified to him that it was true.
That whole experience with the book of Mormon happened BEFORE we even knew him.
Despite having a testimony, Fernando had a great deal of mountains to cross before getting baptized. At first, he didn´t want to go to church because he didn´t feel worthy. Later, he didn´t want to go to the activities because of his basic fear of crowds and people. Later, he didn´t want to get baptized because he didn´t feel fully repented. During this month, I have seen Fernando change. In such a short time, he went from a shy, antisocial, long-haired kid - to the guy with one of the most beautiful testimonies of the Book of Mormon that I have ever heard, but didn´t want to go to church - to the young man who thought that he wasn´t worthy to participate in the atonement of Jesus Christ - the guy that a day before his baptism randomly decided that it would be a good idea to go with the missionaries and get a haircut - the shy kid who didn´t want to leave the bathroom in his baptismal clothing because he was too shy - the new convert who despite his shyness, decided on his own to bear un hermoso testimonio (beautiful testimony) in the baptismal service - the recent convert who went to all 5 sessions of General Conference and has now been interviewed to receive the Aaronic Priesthood.
Two weeks ago, he wouldn´t even look us in the eye when he shook our hands. Now he goes with us on missionary visits, jokes with the investigators, greets everyone with some-sort of goofy secret handshake, and shares his powerful testimony fearlessly with everybody that we talk to.
I am so grateful for the opportunity that I have been given to know and teach Fernando, and I anxiously await the day when I get to hear about his mission call.