The Miracle of Fasting and Prayer
by Gene Romney
In 1960, I was called to be the
Branch President in the city of Ahuachapan, El Salvador, replacing Elder Jack Rushton
who was transferred back to the North Country (Guatemala). I was serving with Elder Don
Sellers of Bellflower, California.
There was a young single mother who was our cook, friend and “mother confessor” by
the name of BERTA LUZ DE MALDONADO. She was not a member of The Church. She had suffered
a hearing loss at about 8 or 9 years of age, but could read and speak very well.
Elder Rushton and Elder Sellers had worked with her, but because of the hearing problems,
not much had been done in teaching her.
In those years, the only Church literature we had available, were the Scriptures, A Marvelous
Work And A Wonder, Teachings of The Prophet Joseph Smith, the Church hymnbook (red in color)
and a few Folletos (tracts). As I would occasionally go to retrieve one or the other of the
books from time to time, I would discover them missing. I had no idea what had happened to them.
Then, another day they would re-appear.
One day I asked her (we began to communicate a lot by using a large chalkboard in the chapel
where we lived) if she had any idea what was happening to my books. She finally confessed
that she had been taking them home and reading them because she wanted to know more about
the Church, and she felt that the only way was to read, because she could not hear.
We asked if she really wanted to be a member. She began to cry and said “Yes I do.” Well,
we got out the old chalkboard, set it up in our living quarters, and on a daily basis began
to teach her. It was a very slow but profitable process.
She was easy to teach because she had already read all the books available to her in her
native language, and believed every thing in them. It was simply a matter of us asking the
proper questions (with the chalkboard) and making sure that we could make the proper
arrangements for her baptism interview. (In those days it had to be done by the District
She was baptized and was the happiest individual I think I have ever seen.
Shortly after her baptism, we had a District Conference in San Salvador. We had as our
visitor, Elder Harold B. Lee of The Council of the Twelve, and our Mission President Victor
Sister Maldonado wanted very much to attend the conference but was afraid that it would
almost be a waste of time except for the fellowshipping because she knew that she would
not be able to hear and would just have to sit in “silence” during the meetings.
Elder Sellers and I told her that she should fast and pray so that at least she would be
able to “feel the spirit” in the meetings. We promised that she would certainly be blessed
for attending, and would be able to meet Elder Lee and share in his spirituality.
The Ahuachapan Branch rented a bus and went to San Salvador for Conference. Elder Sellers
and I had to go in a day early for missionary meetings and interviews with Elder Lee and
President Hancock, so we didn’t get to visit with sister Maldonado prior to her arriving
in San Salvador.
After the conference, we asked her if she was able to enjoy the meeting and to share with
us her feelings of being in the presence of an Apostle of the Lord.
As she began to share this blessed event in her life she began to cry. She said that she
had begged The Lord in her prayers that he might bless her to have some understanding of
what was being said.
She told us that “As Elder Lee began to speak, the words came to her ears in English, and
she was able to hear and understand every work he spoke, in English, and did not have the
need to listen to his words being translated into the Spanish language.
That was the only part of the conference that she understood or heard. She was unable to
hear any of the other speakers in that Conference. A true answer to fasting and prayer.
She seemed to be a changed person after that unique experience.
I have been told that she later passed away as a result of an accident, but that her young
son grew up in The Church and served and honorable mission in Guatemala.