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Sister Reyna I. Aburto: New Relief Society leader says the gospel was something she didn't know she needed

Sister Reyna I. Aburto, who was recently called as second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, referring to the time when she learned about the Church, said, “I found something that I didn’t even know that I needed.”

Born in Managua, Nicaragua, to Noel Blanco and Delbi Cardoza, Reyna was the second of four children. “My life in Nicaragua was simple,” she said. “We didn’t really have much, but at the same time my parents always worked hard so they could provide for us, just the basics. I had a very happy childhood. I grew up playing with my cousins and walking to school.”

When she was 9 years old, tragedy struck just days before Christmas in 1972. Her family had gone to bed on Dec. 22 when an earthquake shook Managua.

“All of a sudden, I woke up, and I felt like I was in a nightmare,” Sister Aburto recalled. “I didn’t know what was going on because it was so weird. It was dark, and I could ... smell loose dirt. I reached [up] and I could touch something, but I didn’t know what it was because it was really dark. Then I heard a woman screaming, asking for help. So I also started screaming for help. Then I realized that it was not a dream.”

The earthquake destroyed their adobe house. Neighbors soon came to help dig the family out of the rubble. They found her trapped in her bed, but saved by a roof beam landing against a piece of heavy furniture behind her, forming a triangle of life. Her father, mother and 3-month-old sister also survived the earthquake, but her 10-year-old brother was killed in the collapse.

“After that, we received so much help from family, from friends, from neighbors, even people that didn’t know us,” Sister Aburto said. She learned from this experience that material possessions are “just so temporal.” What is important “is our family, the relationships that we have, the hope, the faith, the testimony that we have.”

Political and civil violence grew in Nicaragua, and when she was 21, she and some of her family fled to the United States.

While she was living in San Francisco, California, she came to a crucial crossroad in her life. She made the painful decision to divorce her first husband after years of trying to help him get out of a horrible trap of alcohol and drug addiction. She had a 3-year-old little boy and her soul was full of questions, fears, and longings for her and her son. “I felt lost, I felt lonely, I felt scared,” she said.

Weeks later, “My mother happened to meet the missionaries,” she said. “They invited her to go to church the next day, and I decided to go with her… .

“I had visited different churches, but I didn’t really like the feeling that I had in there. I was not really looking for a religion. I didn’t know what I needed,” she said. She decided that there was nothing to lose and to try the Church. “It was amazing how as soon as I stepped into that building, I could feel the Spirit. It was stake conference, and I felt that every single message was for me. I felt that I had found that safe place that I was longing for.”

A few weeks later, Sister Aburto joined the Church, along with her mother and brother. Soon after that, she met Carlos Aburto. He had been baptized in Mexico when he was 9 years old, but his family did not remain active.

“He came back after reading the Book of Mormon for the first time, cover to cover, and he felt that he needed that in his life,” she said. “We kind of came at the same time to that little branch with the same hunger and with the same amazement.”

They became good friends and stayed in touch, even when she moved to Utah. They would talk on the phone and meet up when she visited family in California.

“One day on one of those trips, we got together. We started talking about our lives and we realized we were wasting our time,” Sister Aburto said. “We really liked each other, we were good friends.”

They were engaged a month later and three months after that, they were married on May 8, 1993, in the Jordan River Utah Temple. They have lived in Orem, Utah, since then and have three children.

Since arriving in the United States, both Brother and Sister Aburto have worked at a variety of jobs to support their family. Brother Aburto said, “We came to the United States to work hard. Maybe the same way that the first people from Europe came to work hard and build this country. We came with exactly the same mentality.”

“We were just looking for stability in our life, for a better place for our future family,” Sister Aburto added. “When you are honest and you work hard, you are blessed.”

Working outside the home with a family was not easy, Sister Aburto said. Each person needs to find find the formula that works for his or her family.

Because of this, she said, “You learn to simplify your life. If you try to follow that revelation and inspiration that comes from heaven, and in counseling with your husband, it works out. It works out no matter what your situation is.”

Since 1991, Sister Aburto has been a part of the translation industry, working at Alpnet, Novell, Intel, and Lemoine International as a linguist and a project manager. In 2005, she and her husband started their own company, working together on translation for different agencies.

“That has helped us in our relationship because I think the way we do our work is a reflection of everything in a way that we complement each other. He has strengths that I don’t have. He can make the translation sound more natural, to flow better. I’m more like a technical person,” Sister Aburto said.

This desire to work also translated to their Church service, which became a family affair. The Aburtos included their children in everything. “They grew up setting up chairs and putting them away,” Sister Aburto said.

The gospel has made a night to day difference in their lives, she said. “To be able to pray with our children, to be able to sit down and talk about the gospel, not necessarily only in family home evening, but also at the dinner table, to share our testimonies with them in an informal way, to talk about our days, and having that faith that God will help us, that makes a big difference. Before, we didn’t really know that.”

Brother Aburto remarked, “We lived a huge part of our lives without the Church, and it was like a period of darkness. Then we found the Church, and our lives changed completely.”

SISTER REYNA I. ABURTO

Family: Born in October 1963 in Managua, Nicaragua, to Noel Blanco and Delbi Cardoza. Married Carlos Aburto on May 8, 1993, in the Jordan River Utah Temple. They are the parents of three children and have two grandchildren.

Education: Studied industrial engineering for four years at Universidad Centroamericana from 1980-1984 and earned an associate degree in computer science at Utah Valley University in 1997.

Employment: Created a translation business with her husband where she currently works as a project manager and translator. Has worked for Alpnet, Novell, Intel and Lemoine International as a linguist and project manager.

Church service: Has served in Primary, Young Women, Relief Society, Sunday School and Scouting callings in both ward and stake levels and on the Primary general board from 2012 to 2016.

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