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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended December 08, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 05Dec00

By Gerry Spencer

Dedication Of South America For Gospel Commemorated

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA -- The dedication of South America for the preaching of the gospel by Elder Melvin J. Ballard took place at 7 a.m. Friday December 25, 1925 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in Parque Tres de Febrero, in a small grove of weeping willows near the banks of the Rio de la Plata. The 75th anniversary open-air commemoration was held on the Buenos Aires temple grounds with ten stakes attending Saturday evening December 2nd and thirteen stakes on Sunday evening. Crowds of thousands, members and non-members, excitedly arrived in colorful old school buses, trucks, cars, or by walking, looking like a modern-day Children of Israel leaving Egypt scene.

Clark Ballard, great-grandson of Elder Melvin J. Ballard addressed the gatherings both nights. During his visit, a commemorative granite stone was placed in the midst of three young oak trees planted on the temple grounds. Program speakers included Elders Jay Jensen, Keith Crockett and Claudio Zivic of the South America South Area Presidency. Sisters Ballard, Jensen, Crockett and Zivic, Elders Lopez, Aguero and Del Castillo, area authority seventies and their wives, were also in attendance.

An enthusiastic choir of 250 voices accompanied by piano and organ, magnificently performed eleven songs at the events. During their musical numbers, images of Elder Ballard at the original dedication, early church pioneers and first Argentine baptisms, Joseph Smith, The Nativity, Crucifixion and Second Coming and other images were projected onto a huge screen set above the choir.

On Saturday night the benediction was offered by Sister Maria Meta Biebersdorf de Parraga, who was just 5 years-old when her family became the first converts in South America. On Sunday night, Brother Antonino Gianfelice, 7 years-old when South America was dedicated, was a guest of honor.

Saturday dawned cloudy, heavy with humidity and with forecasts of rain, usual for the springtime here. Unfortunately, the rain hit hard and many were without umbrellas, including most of the choir. However, that didn't dampen anyone's spirits or voices as the choir and congregation joined in singing with great gusto "Praise to the Man".

The rain continued pouring down hard, causing microphones and some lights to go out and the meeting was about to be terminated early when the clouds parted, clearing a circle directly over the choir and congregation. The moon and a star could be seen. Outside the circle, the rain continued pouring down but inside the circle, the program continued beautifully as planned, with sound and light partially restored.

While no rain threatened the event on Sunday evening, we did endure a strong cold wind. While that may have froze our faces, our hearts remained warm and full. It was just so wonderful to see and hear the touching messages and uplifting music and to be one with the thousands of saints gathered together for this special Christmas event.


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