La Familia Quintana

I met this family in 2008 in Las Flores, El Salvador. They lived in a poverty stricken community just outside the main community. The houses were either constructed of poorly staked cinder block or adobe topped with scrap metal for roofing. The majority of the people had electricity which included two light bulbs per house, a small TV, and always a killer sound system that was financed.

The colony of houses was considered a very dangerous area. There was always rumors of murders, however I never saw anything alarming. Most people owned vicious dogs for protection.

This little community’s economy was based on little stores operating from the windows of living areas of various houses, gang members, and factory workers who commuted. However, the most lucrative business was owning one of the several evangelist style churches—operated out of the pastor’s living room.

The only members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the community at the time was the Quintana Family. Unfortunately, I do not remember their individual names.

I quickly became friends with the family. The mom didn’t work, she stayed at home to make sure no one broke in. The father worked as a fare collector on one of the privately owned public busses. The oldest son also worked on a bus, and the other children either did, or didn’t attend school depending on family funds.

The father was a very rough man, he had to be, he worked in public transit and lived in a gang infested area. At one time, when I knew him, He was the Elder’s Quorum President in the ward, an unpaid position. He was admirable in how much interest he took in the upbringing of his children.

The kids were all rough people too, but they were nice. They loved their soccer, and that was about it.

After knowing the family for a month, I was able to convince the oldest son and his girlfriend to get married. They had been living together for a few years and recently had a baby. A very dear friend of mine, Rosa Ester Alvarez, performed the wedding for $10. I paid for the wedding and also enlisted the help of Hermana Vasquez to make cake. We had a fun party and the girlfriend was soon baptized.

I loved this family, they were good people, and as much as I looked after them, they looked after me.

They had little to offer me in financial terms, but they did offer me their time. Every morning for several weeks, we would meet at 5:15am and go for leisure runs. Our daily exercise included running through cow pastures, sugar cane plantations, and all sorts of farms—always with a volcano in the background.

During the day, when Hermano (Brother) Quintana was working, the rest of the available family would offer to go with my companion and me to teach doctrinal lessons.

The best memory I have with the family was when Hermana (Sister) Quintana invited my companion, Elder Espinal, and me over for a Sunday lunch immediately following church. Following the last hour of church, Elder Espinal and I each shoved a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola and a 2-Liter bottle of Orange Fanta into our backpacks—it was my usual offering of thanks to those who sacrificed to feed me—and walked the 30minutes to their son’s house where we would dine. We were to eat at their son’s house because it has better air flow, it was only a block away from their house.

Upon arriving, we opened the barbed wire fence and entered the yard. We were happy to find the Quintana’s being home taught by the Blanco family with a pot of beans being cooked over wood fire in the background. They couldn’t afford a stove, much less the propane to fuel it.

We quickly found our seats on the wooden stumps and plastic lawn chairs placed neatly outside the adobe house. Hermano Blanco was teaching a lesson on Enduring to The End. We each shared conversion stories, missionary stories, and other spiritual experiences; we sang a hymn and concluded with a prayer.

It was a unique spiritual experience sitting in a primitive setting sharing our love of God.

While we were eating dinner in the same location of our home teaching lesson, we heard the roaring sound of a speeding diesel engine coming down the main road. We then heard an obnoxious blaring of a city bus. The kids all jumped up in excitement. I was confused. It was Hermano Quintana hanging outside of the bus that was barreling down the road. As he passed, he threw a handful of candy at the kids lined up along the fence. His way of saying sorry he had to work on a Sunday and miss the family meal. It was a great Sunday.

Unfortunately, relationships with the church and the family did not stay positive. Hermano Quintana was the Elder’s Quorum President, consequently he worked directly with the Bishop in distributing food to a few members in need of assistance. He became bitter that he was not receiving any food from the church. He stopped working at his job, and tried getting assistance from the church again which was denied. The Church can only help those in need, and he was not in need.

The family started asking me for money and I was not able to give them any. They stopped going to church. I visited the area several years after completing my mission, and to my understanding, they are still not active in the church.

A sad story for such a wonderful family.


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