Among the great pioneer families of Argentina was the Avila family of Buenos Aires. In 1974, Juan Carlos Avila, became the first native Argentine to be called as a mission president. His brothers and their families have also provided important leadership in the Church, in Argentina.
In 1910, seventeen-year-old, Ramon Avila, left his home in Spain to live with relatives in Argentina. In 1925, he married Elisa Leonor Melga, the daughter of Italian immigrants. By 1936, they were the proud parents of five sons. During this year, one-year-old Jose Luis Avila came down with a severe case of meningitis. Ramon and Leonor took their baby to Buenos Aires Children's Hospital. The doctors told the worried parents to take the baby home and wait out the disease, because there was nothing they could do for him.
"The anguished parents took their baby home where tiny Jose Luis continued to cry and suffer. They watched helplessly. A neighbor, seeing the anguish on the face of the mother, asked about the situation. She then spoke to two LDS missionaries, and they came to administer to Jose Luis. The night after the blessing, Jose Luis slept peacefully and the next morning began to eat and recuperate.
"This event is regarded as a miracle by the Avila family. Afterwards they began investigating the Church and attending the meetings with their faithful neighbor, Maria Lopez. The missionaries taught the Avila family the lessons. Three years later, on October 19, 1940, the Avila family was baptized in Liniers, a suburb of Buenos Aires."
Miguel Angel Avila later recalled:
"In this period when we joined the Church, the branch was very poor. Although there were many faithful and hard-working members, few were in a good position economically. Few owned their own homes because it required all their efforts to maintain their families. This was an era of sacrifice, but it was not difficult to belong to the Church. When going to Church, we wore mended clothing and tennis shoes, and when it was necessary, our school uniforms, for we had nothing else. In this we were not unique; this was the condition of most of the members then."
Three years later, tragedy hit the family. Leonor died, leaving her husband with six sons, the youngest only age one year. Brother Avila was faced with the difficult task of rearing the boys by himself. He later recalled: "In this unfortunate situation, I began to learn to cook, wash and iron clothing, leaving my work as bricklayer. I placed a sign on the front of the home: 'Heaters, stoves, pots and clocks repaired.'"
The older boys, Juan Carlos and Miguel Angel, began working in a butcher shop. The younger boys worked at the repair shop in their home. Brother Avila faithfully took his family to church each Sunday. At 7 a.m., they would walk for more than an hour from their home in New Pompei to attend services in Liniers Branch.
Two of the boys, Juan Carlos and Miguel were among the first local missionaries from Argentina. Since that time, the Avila sons have continued to make great contributions in the Church. Miguel, the oldest, served as bishop and later as stake patriarch. Juan Carlos Avila, who died April 3, 1995, served as counselor in the stake presidency of the first stake in Argentina and later as regional representative and as the first native Argentine mission president.
Jose Luis Avila, the baby with meningitis who was blessed by the missionaries in 1936, served as a counselor in the presidency of the Buenos Aires Argentina Temple. He reflected: "Those were times of great sacrifice, but thanks to the examples of our parents and our brothers and their perseverance, I have had the blessing of baptizing my wife, starting a family and being sealed to them in the temple. I have watched our family increase and grow within the light of the gospel. We have the goal of being a family eternally united."
Brother Ramon Avila, the patriarch of this pioneer family died November 6, 1979
Church News article by Nestor Curbelo, July 22, 1995
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.3, SOUTH AMERICA, THE CHURCH IN