Alf Gunn’s Brasulista
Newsletter of the early Brazilian missions, #130
December 24, 2010
Feliz Natal e Próspero Ano Novo! Que Deus os abençoe sempre e ilumine vosso caminho.
In this issue:
Senior mission service: James and Vickie Urry at São Paulo, Jay and Pat Clark to Mongolia, Orson and Marilyn Hartog Porter in Australia
The excellent adventure of 74 Mormons cruising from Italy to Brazil
(Attached group photo furnished by Cordell Atkins (BM 69-71)
Mission experiences: The Goff’s Welfare Services mission in Cabo Verde and the Hill’s Medical Mission in the Brazil Area.
For those who love Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil, see this CNN report:
From the Field
Elder Jim Urry (BSM 67-69), former president of the São Paulo East Mission (03-06) writes: “Alf, My wife Vickie and I arrived here in São Paulo on the 4th of November to serve as Brazil Area Auditors. We were originally called to serve in the PEF and weren’t scheduled to come until the end of January. That all changed when Elder Carlos Godoy of the Seventy and the Brazil Area Presidency called us just after conference. He had been an advisor to my mission when I served as a mission president. He asked if we would come serve as the auditors to which we agreed. The Missionary Committee approved the change and he asked us if we could be here in three weeks. The day after we arrived we went to Campinas for two days of training. We have 26 assistants assigned to the different missions to help us. Each of the assistants has served either as stake president, mission president or area seventy. All of them have been members of the church for over 25 years. We are supposed to train them and then they train the stake auditors and stake audit committee. I think we are the ones being trained.
“It was good to meet Elder David Arntsen (BSM 64-66) who was one of my Portuguese teachers when I was in the MTC many years ago. It was also good to meet Elder Vernon Christoferson again who was in charge of the Portuguese zone at the Language Training Mission when I was there those many years ago. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Elder Richard Call (BSM 65-67) who was my very first companion when I arrived in Brazil as a young man and who left a lasting impression on me.
“Thanks for all you do. We really enjoy the Brasulista. Abraços Jim & Vickie Urry” (email@example.com)
Mission call to Mongolia
“Dear Brother Gunn, Thank you for all that you are doing to keep us informed, united, and reminiscent of the wonderful experiences we had as missionaries in Brazil. Your newsletters are always uplifting! Any Portuguese speaking missionaries who should find themselves in Mongolia during the next three years will have friends in the mission home. Pat and I will be going to Ulaanbaatar a week from now where I have been called to serve as mission president. Due to VISA challenges, the overwhelming majority of missionaries serving in Mongolia are now Mongolian Elders and Sisters. There are almost 10,000 members in Mongolia, including one stake and two districts in a mission that is only 15 years old. Senior couples are an invaluable part of the priesthood and auxiliary education of these wonderful new converts. Any newcomers who can join us will be received with a warm abraço!” Jay D. Clark (BSM 66-68) (firstname.lastname@example.org) Dec 5, 2010
From the field: Australia
Sister Marilyn (Hartog) Porter (BM 66-67) and her husband Orson are serving a mission in West Australia, where he served his first mission. She writes: “Love reading about other missionary couples. We are serving in the northernmost branch in West Australia, Broome. It's a lovely tourist town with average church attendance of 12. We met a Brazilian couple from Belo Horizonte and gave them a first lesson. They accepted Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon totally, but Satan is very strong here and they became "too busy" to have time for more lessons. It broke my heart. We are planning to take a "Joy to the World" DVD to them for Christmas and see if we can rekindle the flame.” (email@example.com)
If you would like to improve or maintain your Portuguese language, how about reading aloud articles from A Liahona each month? Subscribe through Church Magazines for only $10 per year. You can also listen to General Conference talks in Portuguese online (lds.org) while you read along the printed words online or in A Liahona.
Please excuse my rather long account here of our amazing cruise from Italy to Brazil, November 20 to December 8, 2010, while I share some of our experiences. See the attached photo of our group, with names of our travelers.
Can you believe it? We attended a baptism in Mindelo, Cabo Verde Islands. Our ship was greeted in Maceió, Brazil, by a choir of full-time missionaries, mostly Brazilian, singing Christmas carols in Portuguese. We gathered at the feet of Cristo Redentor on Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro and sang ‘Tal Como Um Facho’ (The Spirit of God). With our fellow Brazilian saints we enjoyed the Spirit in the most beautiful and peaceful settings in all of Brazil, the celestial rooms of the Recife and São Paulo Temples. These were some of the more notable highlights for the 74 of us who are LDS and were enjoying our 17-day trans-Atlantic cruise from Italy to Brazil.
Except for fine dining and attending some shows, our cruise experience was very different from the other 2,600 passengers on the Costa Fortuna, who were mostly French, German, Swiss and Italian, with perhaps 10% of them Brazilians.
All three Sundays we were at sea, so we held great sacrament meetings and Sunday School classes, with attendance of almost 100%. These were sweet experiences. Keyboard organ, sacrament trays, linens made by one of our traveling sisters—all was well in order. Our speakers were called on from among our travelers, who all gave excellent talks, and our last Sunday was fast and testimony meeting. We heard many wonderful testimonies there and at our firesides. Those meetings and the firesides we held were all spiritual highlights of our on-board experiences.
In short order we formed bonds of friendship and love, including during our daily two-hour dinner experiences. We took care of one another. Later we would comment on the great people that comprised our group.
I must say that Larry (BSM 66-68) and Cheryl Stamps were extremely helpful as hosts throughout the trip. Not just helpful, but often on top of things that I would have missed. We worked very well together and it was always a joy.
At Milan many in our group were able to see the original Leonardo Da Vinci painting of The Last Supper. Two busses carried us down from Milan to the departure dock at Savona, Italy, where we began our 17-day cruise on Saturday, November 20.
Our Sunday at sea on the Mediterranean was great. After the obligatory 10 am ship evacuation drill, we gathered for sacrament meeting at 11 am, in a room on the 12th deck at the bow. The forward windows were a big windshield looking out ahead and the day was beautiful. We had perfect attendance. Our speakers were three of our travelers, called on the previous evening: Barbara Thomas (BPAM 71-72), Jill Jolley and Bruce Thompson (BSM 64-66). They did a great job, all speaking on the Holy Ghost, as it turned out, and bearing testimonies. After, we had Sunday School taught by Steve Watson (BSM 66-68), also very well done. That afternoon we passed Mallorca—the big island off the mainland of Spain. We had a nice get-acquainted fireside that day, which I understand resembled a speed dating activity. Folks were laughing and enjoying it.
Málaga, Spain, was lovely as we walked plazas, toured cathedrals and Roman ruins, spent a few Euros and spoke whatever Spanish we could muster. That night we sailed through the Strait of Gibralter and out into the Atlantic.
The next day we were in the Kingdom of Morocco, and storied Cassablanca, with a tour of the huge Hassan II Mosque, built by a recent king for only $2 billion. It was really quite impressive. Then off through the countryside by bus to the capital, Rabat, where we toured the royal palace grounds, visited the royal mausoleum, ate a meal and did some shopping.
Limitations will not let me send photos, but if you Google these places you will find some generic photos online.
Next stop was in the Canary Islands, an autonomous island community of Spain, and the colorful and friendly city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. A few of us rode their modern streetcar a few miles uphill to the city of La Laguna.
We had a warm day in Mindelo, Republic of Cape Verde, about 400 miles off the coast of Africa. Mindelo has a deep water port that is an old volcano crater. A senior missionary couple, Elder Larry and Sister Pat Goff, had arranged with a member, Mauro Reis, to provide two busses and four members who speak English as well as Portuguese to give us a tour of Mindelo and the mountainous island of São Vicente. The day’s highlight for those of us who did it was to attend a baptism service in one of the two chapels we visited. A fine young man was baptized. We met Sister Jamilee Lords from Washington and Sister Peralta from Portugal who had found and taught him, and four Elders too, two from the USA one from Brazil and the other from Portugal but raised in Australia. The Sisters are confident that the young man who was baptized, Saturnino Rodrigues, age 20, will serve a mission.
Elder Goff had served in Brazil during my mission in the mid-‘60’s. He and his wife Pat are serving a welfare mission in Cabo Verde.
Others of our group who attended the baptism included Elder Kent Jolley, former member of the Second Quorum of Seventy, and his wife Jill, and Lynn and Kay Wallace, who presided over the Florianopolis Mission and the Maputo Mozambique Mission when it was organized.
Cape Verdeans are mostly of African descent and were left impoverished in 1975 when they gained independence from Portugal and the Portuguese took or destroyed the wealth of the area, so it is pretty bleak now, but improving. My guide, João “James” Tavares (who was born in Santos, Brazil), and the other principle guide, Mauro Reis, a Cape Verdean, were very impressive returned missionaries and spoke excellent English. Brother Tavares is in the district presidency at Midelo and is strong in the faith and excited to see the Church growth. One of Brother Tavares’ former mission companions, Manoel Coelho, was another guide.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is beautifully simple and simply beautiful and changes lives when lived, in any part of this world. I am thankful for what the Lord has provided at great cost for me and for all who will accept and live it. The gospel is true. The Church is true. That is our faith and there is nothing like it in this old world. What a blessing and privilege to be a member of this Church and have that testimony and the association of men like João “James” Tavares.
The seas continued calm as we made our three-day Atlantic crossing from Cape Verde Islands to Fortaleza, Brazil. We were happy to have some real Brazilians (born in Brazil anyway) in our group, including Katia Martins Powers (BPAM 76-77), Cleonice Carvalho Hermansen (BM 61-62), Teresa Eastman (Brazil Area 06-08) and Délgia and Adalton Parrela of Florianópolis. We were blessed to have David Eastman (BSM 62-65), who had sung with the Modern Melodaires during his mission, as one of our travelers. David still plays the guitar and sings beautiful Bossa Nova classic songs.
On a less-than-religious note, Larry Stamps, our erstwhile guide, was “baptized” on crossing the equator, which involved face painting, sliding down the waterslide, having something gross smeared on his head, and jumping into the saltwater pool on deck 9 with a bunch of other crazies.
Church services and firesides were highlights of this part of the voyage. Our speakers on Sunday were Bonnie and Austin Moses (BSM 66-69) and Greg LeCheminant (BNM 69-71). Brett Williams taught Sunday School. His father-in-law, Tom Harris (BPAM 72-74) brought the keyboard organ we used.
Brazil brought port calls at Fortaleza, Recife, Maceió, Salvador da Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and finally Santos. Two of our group, Greg LeCheminant and Robert Christenson (BNM 70-72), who had served in Fortaleza, were able to brief us on the place the night before. Jay Ostler (BM 55-58) briefed us on the history of Brazil and the development of the work there. We had resources like this at our call. In other firesides, the Jolleys and the Wallaces shared insights from their experiences in serving the Lord over the years. We also heard from Brother and Sister Parrela, recently released as a stake president in Florianópolis, SC. We learned a lot from all of these leaders and were inspired by what we heard.
In Recife our guides took us to nearby historic Olinda and we visited the arts and crafts shops there as tourists. Then off to the beautiful Recife Temple, an oasis of beauty and peace in an urban wilderness. I told the guides we would be out of the temple at 9:30 as we had to be back at the boat by 10:30 pm. We were greeted by Temple President Frederick G. Williams who somehow was able to accommodate our rather large caravan, once we all got through the clothing rental line. We did a session and enjoyed visiting with the saints there and were out at about 9:45 pm. On the bus ride back to the boat my brother Ronald, who was in our group, received a call from his daughter in São Paulo where he lives. The ship had called her asking where her father was as he was not back on the ship. Ronald then got a call from the ship and told them there were 60 of us and we would be there in 5-10 minutes. Larry Stamps and I were the last ones on the ship at 10:17 pm. Then they pulled the ramp. No problem. We made it. (I am still having weird dreams about missing the ship, not being able to find my passport, clothes, etc.)
At most Brazil ports a typical samba musical group would greet the ship, but at Maceió the ship was met by 45 great-looking full-time missionaries from the Brazil Maceió Mission and President and Sister Gary Beynon, singing Christmas carols in Portuguese. We loved it and took photos and then visited with each of them, mostly Brazilians. They had been practicing for this and really loved doing it for us. They will perform elsewhere too. It was the absolute highlight of a day that would include more shopping and some beach time.
Salvador da Bahia and its old town of Pelorinho is a must-see stop, with colorful Baianas in traditional costume. The celebration of Santa Barbara day filled the place with revelers dressed in red. My son Johnny, who was traveling with me, and I grabbed a city bus across town to spend an afternoon at Itapuã Beach and drink coconut water (bottled and frozen solid), before catching the bus back to the Baixa dos Sapateiros shopping area and Pelorinho, full of people. We were able to make it through the crowd, guarding our backpacks in front, and I only lost my ship ID card and a few reais when my swimsuit pocket was picked.
Rio was another great day. President and Sister Wallace went off to have a reunion with some of their missionaries. Our great Rio guides got us right up to Corcovado and the cogwheel train ride through the Tijuca Forest to Cristo Redentor. There, we were in the cloud with only furtive glimpses of the city below and the resurrected Redeemer above us. I had always wanted to sing a song of the Restoration at the foot of that great statue, and we did it in fine voice and in Portuguese. The other tourists stopped and admired and took photos and some came and spoke with us afterwards.
Then off to Copacabana and a churrascaria before riding the cable cars to Sugarloaf Mountain. Our best views were from the halfway rock, Morro da Urca, because again clouds were our companions at the top. Rio is too marvelous for one day, but we did enjoy the experience.
Two of our adventurers had birthdays at Rio—my son Johnny, 34, perhaps our youngest traveler, and Jan Hilton, 82, our most senior traveler. Ten years ago, as a widow, Jan went to Brazil, where her husband John Levi Hilton had served a mission in his youth. She learned the language well and spoke it constantly on this trip, to our delight.
The next morning we made our final port at Santos and caught our two busses up the coastal serra to São Paulo and our hotel just off of Avenida Paulista, the Park Avenue of Brazil. In a rush we took a bus to the São Paulo Temple, a quiet place of peace in one of the busiest cities in the world. Sister Sherri and President Stan Neeleman (BSM 61-64) met us, and Sister Lynette and Elder Larry L. Clark (BSM 62-65) who are serving there, also welcomed us and made our session possible. Our visit was particularly sweet for Elder and Sister Jolley who had presided at the São Paulo Temple after it was rededicated in 2004. Many of their dear friends happened to be serving in the temple during our visit. For me, it was wonderful to sit in that lovely celestial room and think, “The Lord must really love the saints of Brazil” to have provided and accepted at their hands such a beautiful temple. And the saints must really love the Lord as we saw them serving there. The Spirit there was unmistakable and we were filled with joy.
The temple and the stake center at its side, like all of our temples and chapels, are a beacon of light in a darkened world. On this visit and my previous one to the São Paulo Temple grounds I have been approached by persons outside the grounds wanting to know if they could attend church there (at the stake center). I hope the missionaries have made that possible.
Another personal experience I had was a short and delightful meeting with Elder Paulo Grahl, formerly of the Brazil South Area Presidency, who continues to serve the Lord and the Church in Brazil in marvelous ways utilizing his command of the English language as well as his native Portuguese.
Families with happy children were out on Avenida Paulista in the evening to see the many larger-than-life representations of Papai Noel and it was easy to catch the spirit of Christmas and long to be home with family after such a long absence.
Most of our travelers left the next afternoon to fly back home, but a few stayed on a couple days to visit member acquaintances. Complications in flights resulted in at least two couples having to overnight in Lima, which they turned into a blessing by attending the Lima Temple with the saints of Peru.
This was our 5th Brazil trip planned by Travel Agent Dick Jensen (BSPS 78-80) and each one is special (See www.dickjensentours.com) One Sister wrote of this experience, “We LOVED everything about this trip! It has been Robert's dream to go back to Brazil for over 30 years; and to think we actually did it is thrilling! We especially loved the people who were in our group. They were some of the most outstanding people we have ever met. Everyone was so very interesting to talk to. We loved having Sacrament Meetings on the ship, and the firesides were the best. Thank you, thank you!”
Item: Here is more information from the Goffs concerning their mission in Cabo Verde, from a note sent last June: “My wife Pat and I are currently serving in Cape Verde as the welfare couple there in the country. There are about 10 islands in Cape Verde. We are on the island of São Vicente, in the city of Mindelo. All this is located about 400 miles off the west coast of West Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. Naturally the language is Portuguese, and I had to get my rusty Portuguese out and brush up on it. Pat learned a little at the MTC before we left, last September, and is still trying to understand what is going on here. We are involved with the Outreach program for young single adults, age 18 to 30. We meet two nights a week at the chapel with them. Wednesday evening is Family Home Evening night where we try to have a religious message delivered to the youth. On Fridays we meet and have an activity night. Last Friday we celebrated birthdays for all who had them during the past quarter of the year. We played games and then had cake and waffles. Other weeks we have movies, debates, talk about Pioneers, service projects etc. We are also involved with the Perpetual Education Fund helping the local institute leader. This also includes the employment specialist calling which we will over-see. Then there are the humanitarian projects we are working on such as supplying school kits to needy children in the town, helping at the local prison by teaching sewing to the women prisoners, helping paint a local school, helping the Neo-Natal doctor who came over to teach the local doctors, set-up a clean water project and then supervise it etc. Needless to say, we are keeping busy and loving it.” Elder and Sister Larry Goff (BSM 64-66)
The Goff’s are hoping for a couple to replace them early in 2011 when they complete their mission.
While in São Paulo we met Elder Richard Hill, the Area Medical Advisor. I asked him to tell me about his mission. Here is his explanation: “Dear Alf, I previously served in the Brazil North Mission (Rio de Janeiro) from 1969-1971. This is my wife's first mission and learning Portuguese has been optional for her. Kerma and I have been serving as Area Medical Advisor (AMA) and Area Mental Health Advisor (AMHA) for the Brazil Area since February 2010 for an 18 month mission ending August 2011. After a visa delay we arrived in São Paulo on the last day of March. My experience as a family physician was put to work as I took over the mission work of Dr. Wilson, a prior AMA, and Dr. Dent, a psychologist. We worked alongside Dr. Milton Brinton and his wife Barbara until they completed their 18 month mission in July. We have been alone since, even covering the medical office at the CTM until Elder Larry Dille RN and his wife Sandra arrived in September to run the CTM medical office. My wife jokes that we need to be paid or counted for doing three missions at once on this one.
“A weekend calling is to help in a branch presidency with other senior couples for English speaking branches at the CTM. I also am working as a veil worker in the São Paulo Temple for some English sessions. Our main job is to support the mission presidents of the 27 missions in Brazil as medical advisor. I work directly under and report to the Brazil area presidency. We also do pre-field medical review to see that all Brazilians applying for missions are meeting guidelines. I answer questions from mission presidents and their wives, and do telephone consults to advise missionaries in all the missionaries in Brazil. I use a smart phone and a computer in my office near the São Paulo Temple. After encounters I use a digital recorder which my wife uses to transcribe medical notes into the church electronic record. Currently 17 of the 27 mission presidents in Brazil are Portuguese speaking. Similarly about 2/3 of the missionaries are Brazilian. It took a few weeks to really begin to feel fluent again as I talked on the phone about health problems. With a referral from a mission president I can contact almost every missionary pair in Brazil by cell phone.
“I occasionally get the task of escorting a missionary home. The last trip involved flying to Teresina via Fortaleza to meet an elder, then escort him to Boa Vista, Roraima by way of Brasilia and Manaus, then return through Manaus and Brasilia to São Paulo. Elder Richard Call is called to join me hopefully in January as an AMA. We will then begin to catch up a task of doing an annual visit to all the missions in Brazil. I know I won´t have time to see them all. This is a wonderful country to work in. The Lord is blessing the people of this land. I often find the Lord´s hand supporting me to help fulfill my calling with the interpretation of tongues and enlightening my mind with possibilities as I work through the diagnostic tree with missionaries. This is clearly the Lord´s true church and he is guiding us in his work. We hope also that another Portuguese speaking doctor is ready and prepared to assume my position in August. My life has changed from this experience and their life will change too.
“It was great to see you in São Paulo and see the enthusiasm of the travel group. There are many positions for senior couples in helping in the area office and the missions of Brazil. The Church needs our sacrifice and consecration and blesses us many fold.”
Alf Gunn (BSM 62-65)
Gig Harbor, WA
Public Affairs article about Christmas: