Last Friday John had a conference for work which was held in San Francisco. Typically when these conferences are only one day - he flies out the morning of, and returns late that very same evening - making his time away from home just slightly longer than that of a standard work day. However this time around, John's Dad (and boss) suggested that he stay a few extra days, and take me along! John actually served his mission in Oakland, which is just across the San Francisco Bay. Though they are not far from Utah or Arizona, John hadn't yet had the opportunity to return to the areas of his mission, and visit the people whom he served and had grown to love so deeply. Finally he was going to get that chance, and how honored I felt for the opportunity of being right by his side.
We arrived in San Francisco Thursday, and spent the entire afternoon and evening strolling around the city. We spent most our time at the Union Square shopping district...and shop, we did! Being accustomed to, and very much enjoying the 90 degree Arizona weather we've been having, I was not at all prepared for the biting cold which we experienced in San Francisco, and therefore I had no other alternative than to purchase a new coat :)
Friday, John had his conference. Prior to our trip, I had every intention of going out on my own that day - to hopefully be able to experience more of the city; but when I looked out the window to the grey skies and buckets of rainfall, I felt perfectly content with the idea of staying in for the day.
That night, after John was finished with work, we went back to the city and met up with Jose for dinner. Jose is a man that John started teaching in his 3rd area, but who had a lot of doubts about the Gospel during this time. John felt, and actually told the branch President, that not only would Jose eventually become a member, but that he would also be a great leader in the Church. John was transferred from the area and had never heard what had become of Jose, until he was only two weeks from going home. He received a phone call from one of the AP's who informed him that Jose had decided to be baptized, and that he had requested John to perform the ordinance! We learned over dinner with Jose, that indeed he has served in many capacities including 2nd counselor in the branch presidency, and is currently serving as the mission leader in the San Fransisco Spanish Ward. He remains active, attends the temple, and has been instrumental in the baptisms of over 50 individuals! I watched John become emotional, as the Lord allowed him to witness, in this instance, the fruits of his labor. What began with just one soul, has led to the conversion of many, many choice sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.
The day of Jose's Baptism
John and Jose at the Oakland Temple
Saturday morning we attended the Oakland temple, and went through the Spanish session with Jose. John and I were chosen as the witness couple, which was a very rich and rewarding experience. I loved hearing the endowment in Spanish, as it brought back some very beautiful memories of attending the Buenos Aires temple as a Missionary. (The Buenos Aires Temple was actually in a different mission, however we missionaries, were allowed to attend every three months as a district or zone.) I enjoyed walking around the grounds of the Oakland Temple which was indeed every bit as beautiful as John had described to me over the years. We even went up to the terrace and enjoyed the breathtaking view which overlooked the bay and the city of San Francisco.
My handsome John at the Oakland Temple
The two of us in front of the temple
We then visited the Oakland Visitor's Center, took a ride down Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue - home to many restaurants, bookstores, clothing shops, and street vendors who occupied the sidewalks. We witnessed a diverse group of people from college students, Cal fans, tourists, street punks, and many eccentrics. It was there that we stopped and ate lunch, and then headed out to Richmond (home of John's 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Areas). After driving up and down the steep rolling hills, getting lost, getting car sick, making u-turn after u-turn, stopping to study the map, finding no one at home...we were pretty discouraged. John decided to at least take me by the church and show me where they used to meet on Sundays. That turned out to be the best decision, as we found several members in the parking lot having a ward car wash! John was able to reconnect with several members and delighted in the fact that so many of them remain strong and stalwart in the gospel.
Saturday night I was able to meet the Jerez family from Hayward. This was a member family who was not at all active when John began serving in the area. John and his companion began teaching their 10 year old son, Moroni, and were conducive in the reactivation of the entire family. Now they have 5 children, and are doing well as faithful active members of their ward!
The Jerez Family
Sunday morning, we returned to Richmond and visited the home of Gonzalo, one of John's baptisms. While trying to contact Victor and his wife (a couple who had requested a Lamb of God video), John and his companion happened upon Victor's two brothers, Mario and Gonzalo. They were both baptized along with Mario's wife and children. Although Gonzalo's brother and sister-in-law are no longer active, he faithfully attends every Sunday and serves as a ward missionary. It is our hope and prayer that he will remain faithful, and therefore be influential in the return of Mario and his family, and, maybe even one day, the conversion of Victor and his family as well.
John and Gonzalo 1999
John and Gonzalo 2007
After visiting the members of the Richmond Ward, and delighting in their joy and happiness upon reuniting with John, we raced to Hayward to attend their Sacrament Meeting. John took advantage of the fact that it was fast and testimony meeting by sharing his testimony with the members. His words were pure and true and beautiful, and I know that the members were touched by the spirit that he exudes.
After church, John introduced me to Ena, whom he had taught and baptized. Ena told John that her husband Marvin joined the church about a year ago, and that they have have set a family goal of taking their two daughters to the temple to be sealed!
Ena's Baptism - July 2000
Ena, John, and me in front of the chapel where Ena was baptized
From Hayward, we rushed back to San Fransisco, as John previously had been asked by Jose to share his testimony with the members of his ward. In fact, we were made aware that John's name had already been printed in the bulletin, making it official! He told the congregation that just as he had shared his testimony with Jose the day of his baptism, so he'd like to do again, over 7 years later. Jose was just beaming with pride as his missionary spoke directly to him.
I was beaming, too...the entire weekend. It was truly an awesome experience for me to live pieces of my husband's mission with him. To walk the streets that he walked, to meet the people that he taught, to visit the places that he frequented, to fall in love with the people whom he loved and served.
Can't wait to go back someday...