Alejandra Salas enjoys writing, especially when her words can strengthen and support other women and their families. She felt prompted to use her gifts in creating in a new website called Refugios Fuertes (Strong Shelters) to share faith-based materials with women around the world. (Haz clic aquí para leer la entrevista original en español.)
Refugios Fuertes is a new collaboration with the LDS Women Project – they will be assisting in translating interviews and essays into Spanish.
Were you born in the Church or are you a convert?
My grandmother was a very devout Catholic until she learned about the Church at 30 years old. All the missionaries had to do was tell her it wasn’t good to smoke, and she threw her cigarette down and never returned to smoking. That’s how determined she was when she felt that something was right. Years after, her only son, my father, was married in the temple and gave her five grandchildren.
I am grateful that my grandmother had the courage to change her life to follow Jesus Christ. I treasure that legacy more now that I am an adult, and I can understand how many things she left behind.
Tell us about your family.
My brothers and sisters and I were born in Argentina and then my parents decided to move to Europe to live. I lived in Italy, England, and Spain until I turned 23 and felt strongly that I should return to Argentina. My parents trusted my decision, and I came to live alone in Buenos Aires. Just two months after arriving, I met my husband, and six months later we married in the Buenos Aires temple.
That experience taught me that the Lord shows us the path, and we move forward with only our faith, never knowing exactly what will happen. But He does know.
This year my husband and I celebrated eleven years of marriage, and we have two daughters, one little boy, and we hope that more come in the future.
That’s wonderful that you have the faith of your grandmother to act on the impressions you receive. Are you like your grandmother in other ways?
My grandmother carried a diary with her and took notes everywhere. She loved to write. I think that is something that we share as a family because my mother is a writer as well.
A year ago, my husband shared something that made me ponder a lot about “writing.” We have the potential to receive the blessings in our Patriarchal Blessings, but they won’t come to us if we don’t do all that we can to bring them about. That changed the vision I had with respect to one of my promises in particular. I was “sitting and waiting” for opportunities to help and strengthen others by using my words. I pondered, I prayed, and finally, I decided to begin to write and record a podcast for women.
Taking that step helped me to trust more in God, to see how He magnifies our actions when we try to use our talents to begin a great work.
I see that a lot of women, like me, feel insignificant when thinking of how to help in such a depraved world with our “tiny” talents. We think maybe we can’t change anything and that makes us delay our small but good initiatives. But what if we decide to think differently about our talents? Each one of us could use her talents to do something small and afterward pray, asking Heavenly Father to consecrate that small effort so that it might be magnified and be of benefit to someone.
We have to motivate ourselves to turn on our light, because as small as it may be, it is still brighter than the darkness of the world.
I completely agree! I think that we have some talents thanks to our genetics, and it’s not that we don’t need to consecrate those talents, but I believe that we have all inherited talents from our Heavenly Parents as well, and that They hope that we consecrate those talents to bless the world.
And the things we inherit from our Heavenly Parents are even more significant because they give us a purpose in God’s plan. I also believe that it’s from that part of us that we inherit from God that we get “divine discontent,” basically a feeling in the difference between who we are and who we could become. This divine discontent can motivate us and help us to remember our divinity.
I am sure that we can make small steps towards becoming who we really are. I feel that I still lack so much! But I keep walking and trust in my Heavenly Father because He trusts me.
It’s hard at times, especially when we feel like the answer is out of our comfort zone. For example, when the answer is “move to Argentina alone” or “start recording a podcast,” you have to trust that God will consecrate your intent and will help you.
For example, when I committed to recording the podcasts, the Lord put in my path my friend Analía who had the same feeling about starting a project to support women. So we got together and built a website called Refugios Fuertes (Strong Shelters) where we share free materials, upload podcasts, and have a blog reflecting on strengthening the family.
I notice that in the podcasts and blogs of Refugios Fuertes that you concentrate on encouraging and consoling women around the world in their efforts to live the gospel and strengthen their families. Why do you focus so much on this? What were the needs that you saw in the world?
I think we’re living in a unique period in the world. Our leaders say that all the time. Evil is all around us, but the truth is that opportunities also abound, especially for women. Today we have a lot of privileges that our mothers and grandmothers didn’t. We just need to keep focused to feel encouraged and strengthen our homes.
Our goal in Refugios Fuertes is to share that vision with other women and encourage them when they come up against life’s different situations with resilience and courage. I have been strengthened by listening to the experiences of other women and I have learned a lot from them. I think that we all have stories that could strengthen others.
I spoke about emotional resilience in a podcast, and a lot of women wrote to me after saying that it had helped them. My youngest son was born without sight in one eye, and this condition is physically apparent. He looks a little cross-eyed. That week, I had taken my son to the park and for the first time, I heard other children pointing at him and laughing at him. Obviously, I immediately felt dejected; I couldn’t speak. To see that they were making fun of him was like a dagger to my heart. My eyes filled with tears and I started to be filled with sad thoughts: that my son was always going to be like this; that my son was going to feel bad when he was older; I even thought, Why him? Why, when there were these children in the plaza with perfect eyes, why did my son have to be born with this problem? I had a knot in my throat and felt worse and worse. After a few minutes passed, my soul was in so much pain that I realized what was happening. I said to myself, “I am not going to think like this anymore!” I made the decision that day and I shared that in the podcast with other mothers. I realized that I was in control of my thoughts and could decide intentionally to change them. I replaced them, with a lot of effort, and decided that I was going to teach my son that his physical difficulties were not an impediment. God has a mission for him, just as he is, and he is exactly as he should be. My son needed a mother who admired him, who accepted him as he is, and that didn’t feel like crying when she thought of him, who could share that confidence in him that he will need to develop in life. We have the ability to change our thoughts and learning to do it will be key in our motherhood, especially in situations we can’t change. My positive thoughts can’t cure my son, but they do change me and my experience in the world.
Sharing these experiences and listening to the experiences of other women fills you with hope. It’s realizing that we can change, we can be better each day, and that we can give everything a higher meaning than it seems to have at first glance.
How did it make you feel to know that these experiences that you shared, and your decision to share them, helped so many sisters?
I learned that we can find deep happiness when we put our gifts towards serving others. I read somewhere that the recipe for finding your purpose in life is to mix a little talent with service to others and I think that’s true. Life has more meaning when we get over our own insecurities, trust in our Heavenly Father, and consecrate what we are to the service of others.
It also reminded me not to wait until I feel “capable” or “qualified” to act according to the promptings. When we begin to act, we learn as we go and train for that which we’re going to do. I remember an experience I had when I was 20 years old, and I went alone to live in London to learn English. I worked in a breakfast shop and we could take the paninis that were left over each day. On the way to my apartment, I always left a panini with a man who lived on the street and after a while, we started to talk. One day I told him that I was in London to learn English, but I didn’t have enough money to pay for a class yet. The next day, he was waiting for me with a notebook and a pencil, and he offered to teach me. When I told my friends, they also came so that he could teach them, and this man without a home became a volunteer English teacher. After leaving London, I didn’t hear anything about him and now, after all of these years, I meditate on how it would have felt for him to give that service. Maybe he found himself after beginning to serve others?
I sincerely believe that we pass through different phases of life and there are moments in which we can give and moments when we need to receive. And above all, there are moments when we receive more light because we are giving. Because of that, what I would like most is to see some of my listeners and readers record podcasts as well, or get excited in Refugios Fuertes to edify other women. I think that as the world advances against the family, we have to speak more about correct principles and strengthen each other. We can encourage each other to be more than what we are and that will only happen when we “listen” to what the Father wants from us and we start to act. He will help us to change into that which we have the potential to be.
I really like the emphasis that you put on mothers and sisters supporting each other. What support have you felt, and have your husband and your children felt from other women and other sisters of the Church?
I think my husband is the best example for me. He is my best friend and my counselor. But I’ve also been very inspired by the women in my family. When I go through times of change, and it’s hard for me to adapt, I remember how my mother traveled alone to Italy without speaking a word of Italian to look for a better future for us. Thanks to her, we were all able to go there to live with her. When I feel like giving up on a project, I think about my older sister who achieved so much success in her work because of her responsibility and determination. My younger sister served as a missionary in Brazil and changed the lives of so many people. My maternal grandmother was a nurse who helped people even if they couldn’t pay her. Even my daughters are an inspiration to me because I see how Heavenly Father has put in them divine qualities so that they can prepare this world for the Second Coming. Having been surrounded by such noble women has been a blessing for me and gave me the courage to make good decisions.
I’ve also been inspired by women like Heather Farrell and her books about the women in the scriptures. Not only have these books helped me, but knowing that she wrote them while a mother of six children is the most inspiring. Knowing her history helps me to be a better mother because my natural tendency is to dedicate myself 100% to my children. But seeing women like her who, besides being mothers, also use their talents to embark on other projects, helped me have a clearer vision of what Heavenly Father expected of me. Now, aside from dedicating a lot of time to my children, I also add other activities to my life that permit me to teach them by example.
Our leaders have mentioned a lot lately that in this moment women should step forward and take their place at the side of men in the Kingdom. The talk by President Eyring called “Sisters in Zion” is a clear example that the call to women is to edify each other and I think that’s through example, service, and love.
Having lived in different countries helped me to realize that there is a big difference between local cultures and the doctrine of the Church. Though the languages, the races, and the traditions might change, all women are called to take our places, trust in personal revelation, and act in accordance with it. I believe that God expects a lot of us and is telling us to be one, to help each other, to accept each other, and to welcome each other.
Just before returning to live in Argentina, I was living in the Canary Islands and I was the only young single adult in my branch. Making a fairly immature decision on my part, I decided to stop attending the Institute classes because I was the only student. A while later, I happened to pass by the house we used as a chapel and I noticed that it was open. I went in and found Elena, my Institute teacher, alone in the classroom. I asked what she was doing there since I had let her know that I wasn’t going to attend anymore because I was her only student. I still remember her loving look when she answered, “you decided not to come anymore, but I decided not to stop preparing the classes. My Heavenly Father has given me this simple task and I am going to fulfill my commitment. When you want to come, you know that you will find me here.” After discovering the selfless service, my heart was moved and I returned to those Institute classes that were so necessary for a young woman.
Even when we aren’t perfect in everything, we can all be examples of something specific. We can all fulfill our small part.
At A Glance
Name: Alejandra Salas
Location: Buenos Aires
Marital History: Married since 2010 to Ezequiel
Children: Two daughters, 8 and 6, and a son, 2 years old
Occupation: Right now, mother and independent worker
Convert to the Church: Baptized in 1994, but my conversion is ongoing
Schools Attended: Graduated in Business Administration from BYUI
Languages Spoken At Home: Spanish, English and Italian
Favorite Hymn: Abide With Me (Hymn 20)
Website or Social Media You Would Like Featured:: https://www.refugiosfuertes.com/
Interview produced and translated by Jenny Willmore