We met Mara, her sisters and her mother soon after they moved from Argentina to Chile. It was always a party over at the Ariza household. With five beautiful Argentine women, always up for lively conversations and a steaming cup of mate, we were instantly drawn to their friendliness. After a couple of visits, however, it was obvious that the girls weren't looking for religion. We would have moved on and left our Argentine friends in favor of more interested parties, except for one of the daughters: 18-year-old Mara.
For some reason, Mara stuck with us. She read the Book of Mormon. She prayed, although she didn't get answers right away. She really listened to our lessons and asked questions. And when we asked her if she would like to be baptized, she readily accepted. I will admit, we were a little shocked when she said yes. She was young, attractive, quite alone in her interest in the church, and was experiencing many forces pulling her to live a different lifestyle. I am a bit ashamed to admit that I questioned her readiness to be baptized and make serious covenants with the Lord.
I still remember getting an answer to my prayers about Mara. It was as if God was telling me, "She is my daughter. If she has a desire to be baptized, let her go." And so, Mara was baptized. This was not just any old baptismal service, mind you. Take a look:
Our mission had scheduled a special Christmas-time baptismal service in a real live river, and Mara was excited to take part in that. It was a special, special day!
When I saw Mara last month, 4.5 years after her baptism, it was immediately obvious that she is a changed woman. She has kept true to her baptismal covenants. She got married in the temple to an amazing, spiritual giant of a man. (He shared a scripture and a heartfelt thanks, a beautiful moment for us.) She is a new mother. Mara is softer. She is even more beautiful than before. I believe this is because she has the image of Christ in her countenance.
It is so fitting that her name is Mara:
And Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea, and they marched three days through the wilderness, and found no water;
And they came into Mara, and they, could not drink the waters of Mara, because they were bitter...
And the people murmured against Moses, saying: what shall we drink?
But he cried to the Lord, and He showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, they were turned into sweetness.
Mara and her sweet husband, Jonathan.