Ability by Faith

Ability by Faith

In some respects, Antonio Rivas is a garden-variety member of the Church. As a young man, he attended public schools and was admitted to La Cité Collegiale, a French college in Ottawa, Ontario, where he learned the technical trade of web design.  Like his peers, he’s a bit of a gadget-freak. “I use devices such as iPhones or iPads daily,” he says.

Most of all, Brother Rivas loves to get out. “During the summer, I’m always out. I love to go shopping and to the movies.”  As well, he relishes any opportunity to serve in the Lord’s church, such a passing the sacrament. “I want to serve my Heavenly Father every time I can. I always do it if they ask me. I feel joy and the Spirit.  Also, I know my Heavenly Father will bless me. I hold the priesthood and I feel like I have no excuse for not participating.  Every month, I share my testimony with the ward. I can tell the ward loves it when I bear my testimony.”

Brother Rivas’ life and faith are like that of many Church members. In other areas of life, he is, at least, above average. Born in Guatemala, he writes and reads English, French and Spanish.  What sets  him apart from  many of us is in what he doesn’t have – the use of his legs and his voice. “My condition is cerebral paralysis,” he explains. “When I was born, I couldn’t breathe for a while. As a result, the cells in part of my brain died. I can’t walk and I have difficulty speaking. When I’m at home, I crawl. For example, I crawl from my sofa to my bed, from my bedroom to the bathroom.”
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How then does such a man actively participate in family, church and community opportunities and duties?  “Easy,” says Brother Rivas. “I have a power chair. During the summer when I’m outside, my friends know me as the crazy driver when I use my power chair because I love to speed! When I’m at home, I crawl. That way I can keep my arms and legs active.”

That determination not only keeps his body active, it enables him to actively serve in the Church.  “The priesthood members in my ward allow me to participate in passing the sacrament by giving me a flat board to put the tray on my power wheelchair. The brothers hand me the tray to put on my board when I pass the sacrament. “

In addition to affecting his mobility, Brother Rivas’ condition has also deprived him of using his voice. Though he has never spoken, his condition fails to prevent him from being heard. “When I share my testimony or give an assigned talk, I do so by writing it on my iPad, then I pick someone to read it. The ward loves it when I give my testimony because I touch their hearts.

Remaining “active” in the gospel is an effort that some Church members struggle with from time to time, but even with Brother Rivas’ physical challenges, he exerts himself to remain active in the gospel -- and in life. “I’m an active member by doing the basic things, such as reading my scriptures, praying, sharing the gospel with Facebook friends and inviting the missionaries to dinner. I go to church every Sunday. What keeps me going? I want to be happy and I know that the key of happiness is the gospel, so I try my best to obey my Heavenly Father.”

“In 1995, I became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because I loved the plan of my Heavenly Father and the concept that families can be together forever. The gospel changed my life.  I’m happier than I was before I had the gospel. Before that, I didn’t know why He sent me to earth in the body that I have now, but now I know it was for a reason.  Also I know my Heavenly Father will bless me; he knows my limits.  I also hold the priesthood and feel like I have no excuse for not participating.”

“My goals in life include meeting someone special, getting married in the temple and to have a family of my own. I know that Heavenly Father lives because he always watches over me every day. I have faith in Him. Every day He blesses me with things like health, food, house, family and friends. I know this gospel is true and the Spirit testifies this to me whenever I go to church.”