Santa Lucia, Venezuela, June, 2010
After serving a mission in her native Venezuela, Ines Pinate married another returned missionary only to have the marriage end three years later in a divorce. Now, with an 8-year-old son, this single mother is attending medical school. In her interview, Ines expresses her love for her Heavenly Father and explains how being a doctor helps her be a better Christian.
How did you learn about the church and gain a testimony of the gospel?
I knew about the church through my older brother who lived in another city at the time. I was around twelve years old when I knew that he was attending the church. At that time, I did not have much contact with my brother. One day he invited me to go to his house and to the church. When I visited the church, I liked it so much. I felt peace and I saw that it was different. My brother took me to the baptismal font and he said to me, “Sister, here is where I will baptize you.” At that moment, I did not understand him.
Then I came back home. I lost contact with my brother again. Later, he sent the missionaries to my home when I was 20 years old. That was when the missionaries started teaching me the gospel formally. I was not ready to accept the gospel but everything they taught me I felt was true. I felt it and I knew it even though I had not yet prayed and asked about the Book of Mormon. Those missionaries taught me and my family for one year. Finally, I was baptized on October 23, 1994. By that time I had read the Book the Mormon. I prayed, and I got the confirmation that the Book of Mormon was true and everything that the missionaries had taught me was true. I had a testimony. My sister and I were baptized. So, we knew the gospel through my older brother. It was a long process in order to get baptized but finally I did.
You served a mission soon after you joined the church?
I served in the Barcelona, Venezuela, mission from 1997 to 1999, after I had been a member of the church for three years. It was my best experience. I feel like it was yesterday. Through my mission I got to know Jesus Christ. I could understand him more. I lived experiences that I thought Jesus Christ might have had when he was teaching the gospel. I was so close to him. At the Missionary Training Center I fulfilled all the rules that the president of the MTC said. If he said that I had to go to bed at 10, I did it. I obeyed everything. My Heavenly Father blessed me so much when I was on my mission.
I served a mission with a purpose, which was that my sister who was so reluctant to the gospel would accept it. I made a covenant with my Heavenly Father. I was going to serve a mission but when I was done with my mission I hoped my sister would join the church. It was a personal covenant with my Heavenly Father. Every month I sent a letter to my sister with a scripture. A month before I finished my mission, I received a video on which was recorded the baptism of my sister. That was so exciting for me. It was so wonderful to hear the testimony of my sister. When I returned from my mission, I saw my sister so strong in the church. She was a great strength to me. I could see that our Heavenly Father fulfills his promises, if we fulfill our promises too. My mission was a good experience for all the people that I met, all those who I converted to the church. But the greatest reward was to see my sister as a member of the church.
Would you tell us about your marriage and your divorce?
I married eight months after I came back from my mission. I was 23 years old when I met the father of my son. He was a returned missionary too. He served his mission in Maracaibo, Venezuela. I met him at a single adult dance. He started a courtship with me. One year later we were married and sealed in the temple in Venezuela. After three months, I started feeling some difficulties in my marriage. I realized that my husband was doing things that were not right. I was so frustrated and disappointed about it. He started not to attend church because he was more and more concerned about money. He started working on Sundays. He did not fulfill anymore his calling at the church. He became inactive in the church. I got pregnant three months after getting married. I was very sensitive to everything. I tried many times to ask him to go to the church with me but his heart started changing. I was in that situation about three years. I told him that I had married with him to be happy and to have a family. I shared my testimony with him. I said to him that I wanted a man of God. I remember that it was a Sunday when I forced him to make a decision. I said to him, “If you won’t change your attitude, we can’t be together.” He made the decision to leave our house. He abandoned my son and me. He did not have more contact with his son. My son was one and a half years old when my husband decided to leave me.
Finally, he asked me for a divorce. He started living with another person. I meditated upon my marriage, if I should keep it or finish it. I decided to file for the divorce. Now I think it was really a good decision because he hurt my feelings many times. He started to hate me. I think that my separation was something good that happened in my life. He always blamed me for his mistakes. He lost the communication with our Heavenly Father. I know marriage means two people but I could not handle that situation anymore. It was the best decision that I made for me and for my son. Sometimes some members of the church disagree with the idea of divorce, but I think there is a reason why divorce exists, especially if your marriage is hurting you so much. I feel good now. I have peace even though I haven’t heard anything about him for a year. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for giving me strength to keep going in my faith. My son is a happy kid even though he doesn’t have his dad next to him. My son is attending church and he is a good kid.
You are now a medical student at the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela. Why did you decide to enroll in medical school after your divorce?
My mother advised me that the best thing for me to do after my divorce was to study because if I stayed at home, I would get depressed. The new government in my country introduced a program which gave people without a lot of money the opportunity to enroll in medical school. In my hometown, there was an education school and a medical school. The degree in education was not very interesting to me. So, I decided to study medicine. I study Integral Medicine known as well as Family Medicine and I will be graduating next year.
How old is your son?
My son is 8 years old now.
How do you find time to be with him while studying?
It has been a difficult challenge for my son. He always tells me that he doesn’t like that I study medicine because I have to be on call some nights. I have to leave him with his grandmother. He has to sacrifice because I don’t have as much time as I used to have before I studied medicine. The only time that I have to be with my son is the afternoons after work and Sundays when we go to church. Also, when we have our family home evenings and when we read the scriptures together. I always say to him that when I am done with my studies we are going to make up all the time that we are not together now. I always hug him and we say beautiful things to each other. The most difficult thing about my studies is not having enough time to be with my son.
How does studying medicine help you be a better member of the church?
To be a doctor is to be supportive, charitable, and honest. When you are a doctor, you have to live the things that you tell other people to do. For example, I cannot tell others not to smoke or drink if I am doing those things.
I feel that I help my fellow men with medicine because many of the patients come with emotional problems. I teach them the gospel indirectly through the medicine. For instance, the Word of Wisdom. I tell my patients there are things that are not healthy for their bodies. I teach this principle and I help them to live it. The education that I receive at medical school helps me to live with professionalism, ethics, and with truth.
All the principles that are taught at church I can apply in medical school. For example, the principle of honesty. I cannot lie in a diagnosis of a patient because it would bring a lot of consequences and I would cause chaos. Another principle that I apply is to be a good example all the time. I need to be a good example for my patients. Service is another principle that I can apply in medicine. The principle of sacrifice. I give my time and if it is necessary I will give my own life to save others. I have to work as team with a lead doctor and other coworkers in order to help others. I think all of this has helped me strengthen the principles of the gospel within myself. I like medical school because it helps me to be a better person and to be better Christian.
How do you feel Heavenly Father guides you?
The communication that I have with my Heavenly Father is so special. I pray so much. When I sleep, I relate what I dream with the things are happening in my life at that moment. Through the members of the church and the scriptures, the Father answers my prayers. I think if I had not this kind of communication that I have with the Father, I would not be strong in the church. I feel that my Heavenly Father takes care of me and protects me. I know that He loves me and I know that He wants me to look for him.
What are some challenges of being member of the church in Venezuela?
There are many challenges. It is not easy to live the gospel in Venezuela. President Thomas S. Monson said recently in a General Conference that we are living in world of perversity and iniquity. Venezuela in particular is a country in which it is difficult to live the principles of the gospel. For example, my coworkers live together with their partners without marrying because they think that marriage is not necessary according to the world. It is difficult for me as a single mother because men don’t want something serious. Men don’t believe that a single mother like me cannot just live together with them. It is a big challenge for me right now. I live the gospel. Men cannot understand that a woman like me who is 35 years old cannot have a relationship with them without marrying. Even though I teach them the gospel it is difficult for them to change. I am alone. I don’t have many friends. I cannot become friends with other members of the church because I am so busy. This a great challenge for me at this moment.
What are the good things about being a member of church in Venezuela?
To have the truth in our lives is an advantage because it helps us avoid difficult situations. For example, in Caracas, Venezuela, there are many night places. We know as members of the church that those places are not good to go because they don’t help us have the Spirit. Being a member of the church helps us avoid those places and gather together in the right places. Even though Venezuela is a country that it has so much violence, we are protected. We are in our homes or in right places.
Do you feel supported by the Relief Society sisters or ward members? Do you have support from your family members?
Thanks to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in this town, thanks to my family and to the sisters of the Relief Society, I can do what I am doing right now. I am grateful for my bishop who is a wonderful man, the president of the Relief Society who is my friend and my mother who has been a great support for me in this moment that I live alone with my son. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for everything that I have. The gospel is my great treasure. I know that the gospel is perfect even though we live in a world of iniquity. There is piece of heaven here. I have had the support of everyone here which it is why I can keep going.
At A Glance
Location: Santa Lucia, Venezuela
Marital status: Single (divorced)
Children: 8-year-old son
Occupation: Medical Student
Schools Attended: University Boliviana of Venezuela
Languages Spoken at Home: Spanish
Favorite Hymn: “Oh Say, What Is Truth”
Interview by Neylan McBaine. Translation from Spanish by Luz Moronta. Photos used with permission.