Not all people who join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) experience such dramatic changes, but Ruben Bica was one who did. “The change that I experienced once I was baptized was like going from total darkness to a completely different way of seeing life,” said the Uruguayan member of four years. After undergoing a diabetes-related amputation that removed both his legs, Bica experienced a period of depression and severe health problems. Meeting the missionaries through a friend not only gave him a new perspective on life but also gave him a new purpose — in part because of his promptly given calling. “I went from feeling useless to feeling like my life had meaning, like I could help other people,” Bica explains.
As a new member of a small branch — with 15-25 regularly attending members — and one of the few men, Bica was asked to assist the traveling branch president, who lives in the neighboring town and can come direct services and meet with members only every few weeks. Because the branch is so small and fairly transient, being in a coastal city with irregular seasons of job opportunities, Bica dedicated much time to strengthening the small community and fortifying relationships. Now serving as president of the Elder’s Quorum, the adult men’s organization, Bica has often spent several hours a day “helping the missionaries knock on doors and teach lessons and visiting members” with the assistance of either a cane and prosthetic legs or his all-terrain wheelchair.
“I can help people see things in a different way, even with my own example,” Bica affirms. He points to his own moments of doubt and despair as opportunities to empathize with others and help them through their own personal and spiritual struggles: “Since my baptism, I have had even more trials — with numerous hospitalizations and failures in my kidney, my lungs, even my heart. When all of these things happened at once, I wondered, ‘What am I doing wrong? Why are these things happening? Why, when I love the Lord and am serving Him?’” He continues, “It was in the midst of these most difficult moments, when I felt like everything was lost, or my life was over, that I felt someone listening. I know God always listens, but I knew more than ever in those times of sadness that He listens to me, loves me, and gives me the courage and spirit to press on and keep fighting.”
Though his poor health prevents him from full-time employment (he paints landscapes and textured art to sell during the summer tourist season) and can sometimes impact his calling, Bica’s well-known optimism and mischievous sense of humor help over the phone when his personal visits cannot. No empty chair goes unnoticed. Sometimes, however, the challenge is learning to ask and accept help from others. “I don’t want to ask help or depend on others, but I know I can’t do it alone,” Bica admits. To help others, he sometimes has to ask for it himself — but ultimately, the interdependence reaffirms an important realization: “I know that I’m not alone. We are never alone.”