Newsletter of the early Brazilian missions, #115
June 4, 2009
In this issue:
Called to Serve in the Cape Verde Islands
São Paulo State Legislature pays tribute to the Church
A big administrative note – the Brasulista project
Some fine mission recollections of Elder Stan Benedict
Can anyone give me a good member or leader email contact at Salvador, Bahia, of whom I could make inquiries regarding early members there, etc?
A note from Elder Larry Goff (BSM 64-66): My wife Pat and I have been called to serve in the Cape Verde Satellite Area Welfare Office. I served from 64 - 66 in the South Mission under Pres. C. Elmo Turner. We don't know any details yet, but if anyone out there has personal knowledge of the Church in that area of the Atlantic Ocean, we would like to know. We will enter the Provo Missionary Training Center September 14th. Thanks, Larry Goff (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The following marvelous report comes to us from Elder Dean (BSM 64-66) and Sister Ieda Packham who are serving a Public Affairs Mission in the Brazil Area Headquarters. It gives a rather amazing report of how well recognized the Church is in Brazil today. Brazil, a leader in nationwide Helping Hands initiatives has set an impressive example of what faithful saints can do when they put themselves to it.
“São Paulo State Legislature Pays Tribute to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
(On) May 18th, the state legislature of São Paulo called a special session to pay tribute to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to recognize the Church’s efforts to strengthen families, its humanitarian aid programs, and its “Helping Hands” community service projects.
The solemn assembly was called and presided over by Deputy Chico Sardelli, with various public officials and religious leaders in attendance, among them: Elder Stanley G. Ellis of the Brazil Area Presidency, who represented the Church leadership; Councilman and teacher, Professor Marcos Cintra, currently serving as Labor Secretary for the City of São Paulo; as well as many councilmen from neighboring cities, state representatives, legislative assistants, Area Seventies, and Stake Presidents.
A band from the São Paulo State Military Police opened the session by playing the Brazilian National Anthem. Several elected officials then spoke on record to praise the Church. Among them was Secretary Marcos Cintra who noted: “I’m not a member of the Church, but I have known and respected the Church for more than 15 years. I have friends who are members. They are admirable people. One in particular I remember was Elder James E. Faust, who served as an apostle and left an indelible mark on Brazil.” (It should be noted that in 1996, Mr. Cintra worked with the city council to award Elder Faust the title of “Honorary Citizen of São Paulo.”) Cintra went on to say, “This is a people who show their love of Christ through their actions. They really live their religion.”
During the session, Maria José Ribes, the Public Affairs Director for the São Paulo Multi-stake Public Affairs Council, recounted and showed some of the Helping Hands projects in word and video clips. After her remarks, an eighty-voice choir of missionaries—Elders and Sisters—from the MTC (Brazil’s Missionary Training Center) presented two musical numbers which touched the hearts of those assembled. Many were visibly moved by the missionary spirit as they sang, and tears were shed. President Afrodízio Nascimento of São Paulo’s Parque Pinheiros Stake was in attendance and summed up his feelings in just a few words: “I was really moved. I felt the Spirit very strongly. It was incredible.”
As the session drew to a close, Elder Stanley G. Ellis, 2nd Counselor in the Brazil Area Presidency, took the stand. In the name of the Church, he officially thanked the legislature for the tribute. He went on to remind those present of the strength of the Church of Jesus Christ in the state of São Paulo: “This is where Latin America’s very first stake was organized, and the very first temple in Latin America was built. In Brazil today there are more than 1,100,000 members, with nearly 300,000 of them in this state alone.” He recalled the Church’s efforts to strengthen families. He emphasized the teachings centered in Jesus Christ, the Savior. He testified of the truth of the Restored Gospel. With great emotion he concluded by expressing his love for Brazil and its people.
At the conclusion of his remarks, Deputy Chico Sardelli presented Elder Ellis with an official plaque, commemorating the occasion. Sister Ellis, representing the women of the Church, was presented with a gift of flowers. Elder Fernando Araújo, Area Seventy, who accompanied them, also received a plaque in gratitude for the many Helping Hands projects of the Church.
One not-to-be-forgotten moment was vocalist Suellen Yamaguchi, as she sang “Suas Mãos” (“His Hands”) while images of Christ’s ministry were projected on the screen behind her.
Deputy Chico Sardelli brought the session to a close by emphasizing the Church’s role in society: “What we have witnessed here today shows a part of that great work. I must confess that I’m very happy. I fear God and I try to do what’s right. Today I’ve learned even more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” He then turned to Elder Ellis, and said, “Thank you, Elder Ellis. In the name of this legislative body I thank the Church of Jesus Christ for the services you’ve rendered. And finally, I announce that I have introduced legislation to recognize the 23rd of September of each year as “Day of THE FAMILY: A Proclamation to the World.” In gratitude, Elder Ellis presented Mr. Sardelli with some literature about the Church, a Tabernacle Choir CD, and a framed print of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Elder Araújo presented the same gifts to Secretary Marcos Cintra. Each of the legislators also received copies of “The Family,” “The Living Christ,” and the Articles of Faith—suitable for framing.
As those attending the session left the legislative chambers, they passed through the hall of monuments. There they were greeted by some missionaries from the Brazil São Paulo South Mission with information about the Church, as well as by several volunteers who were wearing the distinctive yellow Helping Hands vests.
The event was covered by official state media. Before the session, Elder Stanley G. Ellis was interviewed by reporters from TV Assembleia (Legislature TV channel).
Big Old Administrative Note:
Time to remind ourselves what we are doing and how we are doing it.
As a labor of love, we are building a database of every missionary who ever served in the early Brazilian missions between 1935 and 1980 whether still alive or deceased. That is the project—to locate our mission alumni.
We have devised a way to keep track of each other by sending a monthly e-mail newsletter. (If it bounces, we can call to see if you are still, uh, okay.)
This project began among the Brazilian South Mission alumni in December 2002, and today the newsletter goes out to over 2,000 former missionaries from ALL of the missions in Brazil who served before 1980.
The newsletter is called the "Brasulista, newsletter of the early Brazilian missions." For the sake of manageability the newsletter is sent only to missionaries who served in those missions during the years BEFORE 1980 and interested Brazilian members. But recipients may FORWARD newsletters to younger missionaries and any others with an interest in Brazil and the work.
Also, to assist in identifying all who served in the early missions, thank you for sending me the names of all of your companions or associates with the most complete names you can recall and where they were from or last known to be. I will compare this information to the master lists I maintain and try to locate them. Yes, I spend quite a bit of time when I can find it trying to locate the persons you have told me about. Accurate information from your journals or old Articles of Faith cards is appreciated.
No, the Church does not maintain lists of ‘who served where,’ and they do not reveal membership information to inquirers, so we use public source information and search engines to locate persons, as well as your tips. I really appreciate it when you meet another early missionary and ask him if he is receiving the Brasulista. Thanks for your tips to help me locate folks.
You receive a newsletter every month or so, and are invited to respond with information, corrections, inspiring experiences that may be of interest to the others. As you can imagine, since I send Brasulistas to 2,200 people I get quite a bit of email in return. I have to ask you to ONLY send me messages related to Brazil, the Church, the missionaries and the work. Please DO NOT forward other email items—inspiration, humor, petitions, etc—that circulate.
I am pleased to pass on announcements of missionary reunions and to announce senior mission calls. Please let me know of any such. Due to space limitations, we do not post most notices of the passing of our alumni, but would like to be advised of any.
The database information is not maintained on an Internet Web site, for various reasons, one being that we are old. At least quite a few of us. The email works well.
Please be sure to note my email and phone number (below) and PLEASE ADVISE ME IF YOU CHANGE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. Much time is spent tracking down folks who move or change without notice.
There is no commercial aspect to this directory information. To date the information has assisted many in locating former companions, with me acting as a clearinghouse for inquiries. Feel free to e-mail me if you would like help in locating an Elder or Sister.
One of our alumni, a travel agent in Salt Lake City, has arranged trips to Brazil for us in 2005, 2006 and 2007, and some 150 persons have gone on these tours. Another trip is planned for January of 2010. If these opportunities arise in the future you will read about them in the Brasulista.
Alf Gunn (BSM, 62-65)
3720 26th Avenue Court NW
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
I first met Elder Stan Benedict (BNM 71-73) and his wife, Brenda, in 2006 when they were serving their senior couple mission somewhere in the Porto Alegre South Mission. Read her description of a senior couple mission in Brasulista #66. Stan recently shared some of his recollections of his first mission, with some references to later visits to Brazil, on a Brazil North Mission blog. I am pleased to share some of these recollections with you:
I love President Oakes! I believe he was hand selected for me as the ideal mission president and example for me personally. I grew up in a broken home. My parents were divorced (finally and for the second time) when I was about 9 years old. My father had gone off the deep end as far as the gospel was concerned. So while serving my mission, I received just one letter from him which was his very lame diatribe attempting to prove from the D&C how our church was led by a fallen prophet. It wasn’t a surprise but rather sad and silly. So, it was a great blessing to have a mission “father” that I could truly look up to.
I have some fond memories of experiences which caused my “personal president” to shake his head. When I was in Belo Horizonte with Elder Bybee, who was a great Zone leader, around May or June of 1972, the President came up with a program of a day of “without purse or scrip” where we were only to eat that day if offered food by an investigator (we certainly couldn’t ask for it). Elder Bybee and I decided that if it was good for a day why not do it for the entire week. We did survive the experience though it was slow going and the biggest meal of cevada and white (goat’s?) cheese went right through me. When President Oakes heard of it he shook his head and said: “You can come up with the perfect program and somebody can always mess it up.”
Here are some of the things that I remember that showed how the hand of the Lord was definitely in the mission work.
When I was first made senior companion, I was working in the Jardim Botánico Zone in May 1972. My companion Elder Hymas had just arrived into the mission and I believe this was his first assignment. He was a great humble companion. We started tracting a long street in Botafogo. At the beginning of the street was a Catholic seminary. I guess it was a school for training their priests. We knocked on the door and they allowed us to come in and teach a room full of them. I don’t know how Elder Hymas felt about it, but I really loved teaching that group about the apostasy and restoration. I could tell that many of them wanted to butt in and argue but the head of the group would motion for them to be still and listen to our message. So we were able to teach the whole discussion and bear our testimonies at the end. As a result of that experience, it appears that the message was sent along that street that we should not be listened to because as we tracted that street, no one would let us in. Finally at the very end of the street literally the last building on the street on the left side (how many times have we heard that story?) we knocked on the door of an apartment and a lady came to the door that was clearly very ill. We gave her a short presentation about the restoration of the priesthood upon the earth and then gave her a blessing. When we returned (the next day?), we found a smiling lady that we hardly recognized. Her name was Maria Batista da Silva and she was a woman of very great faith. She joined the church and then her sister and her daughter (Joana and Marcia) who lived across the street and a friend who lived down the street and her daughter (Zilma and Cristina) all joined the church. I also later baptized Maria and Joana’s brother, Benjamin, when I was working in Irajá. I never understood what Maria’s ailment was until Brenda and I returned to visit Brazil around March 2000 and located her niece Marcia. She told us that Maria was a severe alcoholic to the extent that Marcia was always afraid to be in the room alone with her. But after Maria received the blessing, she never drank the rest of her life and died a faithful member of the church.
Another experience that was a great testimony to me of the hand of the Lord in the work was when I was ZL in Brasilia and Elder Lass was my companion. Elders Robeck and Richards were teaching a very sharp family in Guará—the José and Luarita Pinho familia--during January of 1973. As ZL I went on splits with them and helped teach a lesson or two. The spirit was very strong in those lessons. Towards the end of this family’s instruction by Robeck and Richards Elder Lass and I went to Guará to meet with them for splits. They were detained for some reason and we never met up with them, So Elder Lass and I decided to go by and visit the family José. Because we missed the connection with the other elders, they were not able to inform us that José had indicated to them that they were not going to be baptized. So because of this missed connection, we proceeded to visit them one more time. When we entered their home, they told us the same thing they had told the other missionaries. By then I had a firm testimony that when we felt the spirit strong during the discussions, the people we taught were also feeling it. I simply looked at father José and essentially said.” José I know that this church is true and I know that you know it is true. So what are you going to do about it?” They were very faithful in their church and it was a very hard decision for them to leave it all behind. However José responded that what his family would do is go to their church the following Sunday and explain to them their decision to be baptized in the restored church and then be baptized the following week. That sounded great to me and that is what they did. Brenda and I found this family when we visited Brazil in 2000 which was a miracle in itself because we arrived in Brasilia mid week and stumbled on the church midday only to find José’s wife at the original chapel in Brasilia, involved in service work organizing clothing for what appeared to be something like Deseret Industries. She called her husband who was out on a small farm they owned outside of Brasilia and then took us to their original home where they were taught the gospel. It was then an English school being run by their son who had served a mission in the United States. (They used the BYU cougar—I guess a drawing they pulled off the internet--as their school mascot). What was earlier a house surrounded by dirt trails out in a sparsely populated area was now a bustling populated modern city with sidewalks and paved streets. José was waiting out in front of the school in a brand new full size GMC pickup. They lived in a nice apartment close by. He was patriarch of the stake and had two sons who were members of bishoprics in wards in Brasilia. Three or four sons had served missions for the church.
During the same 2000 trip to Brazil, Brenda and I also found Wanda Noronha in Brasília whom Elder Richardson and I taught in Belo Horizonte. Elder Richardson was the ZL who had to patiently take care of me while I was flat down with Hepatitis for several weeks. He was a good and patient person and I feel bad that I probably was a trial for him. She was a divorced single parent with one teenage son that was very active in the youth group of some other church. She joined the church by herself and her son had never joined. It was another miracle how we were able to meet with her. It was only made possible because we adjusted our travel plans to attend a 12 stake conference presided over by Elder Scott held in Rio. Because of that we were able to find out that Wanda was living near Brasília because we visited Belo first. When Wanda answered the door later in Brasília, she said. “Elder Benedito, I have prayed every day that you would come back.” She had been a faithful member of the church throughout her life. She had taught seminary, been Relief Society president and even served a mission when she was older companion with 21 year old girls in a southern mission (Curitiba I think). She had visited the original building where the first branch of Brasil had met. She was aware of 8 missionaries having served from the people she had taught and brought into the church on her mission.
I have come to realize more and more how much the Lord loves and blesses his missionaries throughout their lives. I also became more aware of how much the members remember and love the missionaries who taught them and introduced them to the church. Brenda and I served in the Porto Alegre South Mission in 2004 through 2006. During that mission we were impressed as we went into homes of members who had joined the church 30-40 years earlier and still had the faded picture in the living room on their wall of the missionaries who taught them so many years before. -- Stan Benedict
Até logo, amigos.
Gig Harbor, WA