Alf Gunn BadgeBrasulista #101


Newsletter of the early Brazilian missions, #101

July 16, 2008


In this issue:

This issue includes many comments about the 100th issue and also some marvelous accounts from those who visited Curitiba for the dedication of the Curitiba Temple. Thanks to all who contributed.


Administrative note: As of this date, there is no ex-missionary trip to Brazil planned for us this year, partly due to dramatic increases in plane fares within Brazil and some airlines schedule changes that made reasonable travel difficult. Perhaps next year. Alf


Ron Talbot (BSM 61-63) shares the following: “Hi Alf, Parabens on your 100th issue of the Brasulista.  Many thanks for your tireless efforts in providing uplifting stories and a communication forum for all us "missionários antigos."  You have enabled us personally to have many "tender mercy" moments starting with the first return mission tour in April 2005, where I was able to introduce my wife to our beloved Brazilian Saints.  This opened the door for us to serve in the São Paulo Temple two years ago and to develop additional friendships with many other Brazilian saints.  We were able to renew many of these friendships last month as we attended the dedication of the beautiful Curitiba Temple.


“We were given the privilege of attending the first dedication session in the temple with the Paulo Grahl family.  While sitting in the temple with Elder Grahl's two oldest daughters, their husbands, and his 12 year old grandson, Felipe, we experienced a very "tender mercy" moment.  As I watched the pride on the face of Felipe as his grandfather translated for the prophet, President Monson, during the dedication, I realized that Felipe is the same age that Paulo was when the Spirit led Elder Eric Gessel and me in 1961 to the Grahl family in the city of Bagé.  Felipe is very much like his grandfather at the age of 12--intelligent, enthusiastic, and with a great desire to learn and serve the Lord.  However, now as a fourth generation member of the Church, Felipe's opportunities to progress in this life are much greater than were the meager opportunities available to his grandfather (Paulo), who came from a very humble environment 47 years ago.  Felipe's parents are very refined and educated. His father is a physician.  Great joy filled my heart in witnessing the affects on the lives of those families that embraced the gospel, and have served well through the generations.  What a wonderful blessing to witness living testimonies of the truthfulness of the restored gospel.

“Since we are currently serving full-time in the Los Angeles Temple as an Assistant Recorder and Sealer, it may be some time before we are able to serve in Brazil again.  Therefore, thanks again for your service in helping us and others experience the joy in seeing the fruits of our labors from our missions in Brazil.  
Abraços, Ron Talbot (


Brother Gary Neeleman (BM 54-57) of Sandy, UT writes: “Dear Alf: In case any of your return missionary readers wonder about the long term effects of their missionary labors, let me add a little side bar to the Curitiba event. Before leaving São Paulo for Curitiba on the Friday before the dedication, Rose and I had lunch at the Humberto and Maria Silveira home. The Silveiras surprised us with the presence of Patriarch Jose Lombardi.  Elder Sherman Hibbert I had knocked on Jose Lombardi's door and taught him the gospel in 1956.  


A few years ago, when Rose and I were in Portugal, we called the mission president to find out where we could go to Church that Sunday. He suggested we accompany him to the branch of Santo Andre outside of Lisbon so that I could help him set apart a branch presidency in a little Angolan immigrant branch.  We did this and then attended the fast and testimony meeting.  Many of the members present stood and bore their testimonies about an amazing Brazilian Patriarch that came and gave them all patriarchal blessings. They said before he left every person received their blessing all typed up and ready for them. In that testimony meeting I was able to stand and say that my companion and I were the missionaries that knocked on that Patriarch's door in 1956. It was a very emotional moment.


During our recent lunch at Silveira's with Brother Lombardi, I mentioned this experience and he told me that he had been back to Portugal on two additional visits to give patriarchal blessings.  It was a great opportunity to see this great friend who had been our branch president when Rose and I returned to Brazil in 1958.  Since then he has served in practically every capacity you can imagine.  In fact, he told us he had just completed his 5th mission and was planning to go on another.  What great faith. 


The reunion with Brother Lombardi at the Silveira home was particularly sweet as Rose and I had been in the Mission home (at São Paulo) when I was working there with United Press International, when Humberto Silveira called and asked a series of questions about the Church.  When he was satisfied with the answers he asked if he could come to the mission home that very evening for further discussion and he and Maria joined the Church within weeks.  Maria later became Rose's counselor in the Mission Primary Presidency.  Rose was the first Mission Primary President in Brazil, when there was only one mission, and Nair Camargo (Helio Camargo's wife) was the other counselor.  


When Rose and I were standing in the line to attend one of the temple dedicatory sessions, a man came up to me and embraced me and reminded me that I baptized him in Ponta Grossa in 1955.  He then reached into his pocket and pulled out my missionary photograph, which he insisted he had carried around with him for all of these years. I was flabbergasted.


These are the small miracles, which seem to happen on almost a daily basis in Brazil today. We have been blessed to have had an opportunity see the fruits of missionary labors in Brazil over many years. Gary Neelaman (BM 54-57) (


Brother Val Carter (BM 51-54) of Morgan, UT, shares some history and recollections: “I read with interest Greg Christofferson's account of the birth of the Brazil North Mission.  We were living in Rio at the time.  President Hickin came up and found a home that would serve as the mission office and residence for the Mission President.  He asked my wife and another Sister if they would acquire the basic items for the mission home.  We were there to welcome President Hal Johnson and his family when they arrived and assisted them in getting settled. Their daughter Jill would come to our apartment after school on Tuesdays so that she wouldn't have to go home and return for MIA during the peak of the rush hour in Rio.  After MIA a member of the mission staff would come and get her.  The Johnson's became like family to us and we continue to enjoy a great relationship with them. 


“In the 7 1/2 years we lived in Rio it was our privilege to see the Church grow in numbers and spirituality.  While serving in the Mission Presidency I was given the assignment of preparing the priesthood for stakehood.  Three months after we returned to the U.S. the first stake was organized.   Now there are two missions in Rio and stakes where you would have never dreamed that it would be possible.  Isn't it great to think that just perhaps our service in Brazil contributed building up Zion in that part of the world?  Those who have served there or are serving there now are some of the best our Father in Heaven has.  I am proud to be an American, but I am also proud to say that, "eu sou parte brasileiro."  Would love to go back for a visit but I am afraid that age and some health problems won't allow it.  Thanks for your continued efforts to keep us aware of what is happening in Brazil.  Hopefully our paths will cross some day and we can sit down and "matar saudades." Abraços,  
Val Carter (BM 51-54) (


Alf’s note: Brother Carter and his companion Hermine presided over the Montana Billing Mission from 76-79 and over the MTC at SP from 94-95 and in 1999. Sister Carter, also a BM returned missionary, passed away in April 2006.


Throwing stones in the water

Terry Morley (BNM 67-69) of Springville, UT, shares this:   “Alf, I so enjoy your newsletters.  Thank you so much for all your work.  My wife Teena and I recently returned from service in the São Paulo Interlagos Mission.  I have a nephew now serving in the São Paulo North Mission.  In one of his emails I detected a hint of discouragement.  I sent him the following letter.  You and others may find it interesting:

Nick, One of the things that I told the Elders on our last mission was that they have no idea what they are doing. I said that because of an experience that I had toward the end of our recent mission. It started on my first mission.

I was transferred from São Paulo to Tijuca in Rio. A family with five children (all over 8) had just been baptized except for the father, Ramiro Silva. He claimed to be an atheist. ‘There is no god!’ he declared. ‘My family can join the church, but I never will.’
We worked with him daily for about four months. We almost lived at their house. Slowly, with thousands of prayers and a lot of missed meals, the Spirit touched him and I was able to baptize him. It was amazing to see the rest of the family greet him as he came from the font.

  Shortly thereafter I was transferred to João Pessoa and then to Recife. I wrote a couple of letters, but basically I lost contact with them. About two months before the end of my mission I was transferred back to Rio, but this time to Jardim Botânico clear on the other side of town from Tijuca. One Sunday evening I was in the chapel visiting with the members after sacrament meeting when someone laid a huge abraço from behind. I turned around and it was Ramiro Silva. He said he was there for a meeting. I was a little confused because the only meeting that night was a meeting of the branch presidents in Rio. I told him that, and he said he was aware of that and he was the branch president!
A couple of weeks later I was released and I went home. I did not hear anything about the Silvas again.

Fast-forward about 40 years. While on our senior mission we were working in Iguape, on the coast of São Paulo. Our zone leader was from Rio. I asked him if he ever heard the name Ramiro Silva. His eyes got big and he said, "Você batizou Ramiro Silva?" He said that that family is quite prominent in the church in Rio. I asked him if he could get a phone number for me.

A couple of weeks later he gave me a number. I called the number and a male voice answered the phone. I introduced myself as Elder Morley and asked to speak with Ramiro Silva. He said that he was Ramiro Silva, but I probably wanted to speak with his father. He gave me the number.

Another call, another Ramiro Silva. I didn't know if he would remember me so I again introduced myself as the Elder Morley that worked with his family when they first joined the church. He just about jumped through the phone. He filled me in on the family. The Ramiro Silva that I baptized had passed away, but not until after this atheist had been called as branch president, bishop, high councilor, stake president and patriarch. When he passed away he was in the São Paulo temple on a temple mission. All of his children served missions. The first Ramiro that I called is a grandson and is now serving as a bishop. The second Ramiro is head of the Church Educational system in Rio. His older brother served as an area seventy.

I told him we were coming through Rio on our way home. He said that he would meet us at the rodoviária and take us to our hotel. If you have been to Barra Funda you know how congested it was when we arrived, but a few minutes after arriving in Rio I saw a twelve year old boy who was now in his fifties, and I had no doubt who it was. Que abraço maravilhoso.

  As we drove to our apartment in Copacabana I asked him if we could join any family that was currently in town for FHE. He thought that would be a good idea. We agreed to meet at our apartment.

The next night six strangers showed up with Ramiro. One was Bispo Ramiro. The rest were other grandchildren. They had with them a huge shopping bag full of documents and photos chronicling the history of their family in the Church. They had the baptismal certificate of Patriarca Ramiro. The name of a 20-year-old missionary from California was listed as the one performing the baptism. I had no idea what would come of what I was doing. They all expressed their gratitude and bore their testimony. Four generations of faithful membership in the church. My atheist was a stone dropped in the water. I had no idea how strong the ripples would be or how far they would go. To see how strong they are was one of the highlights of my last visit to Brasil.

Throw lots of stones in the water Elder Nick. Keep in touch with the dear friends you are making. You may see their names in the Church News.  I hope that forty years from now you can have a similar experience. (  


Elizabeth Silva Hales writes: “Hi Alf. What a fabulous 100th newsletter!
I loved seeing the pictures of the Curitiba Temple on Brother David Beck’s website. Do you know who is the artist who painted the murals of the endowment room? They are breathtaking!
Then the tour pictures of Greg and Carol Allred sure made me feel lots of saudades. I was born in Porto Alegre, lived in Curitiba, visited Santa Catarina many times and lived in Rio also. Everything is so familiar and beautiful. Thanks for posting them.
The comments by Greg Christofferson on the Brasil North Mission also brought back sweet memories. I was living in Rio in 1967. My parents are Walmir Silva and Yedda Coelho da Silva. We had just moved there from São Paulo. When the north mission was formed we were excited. And President Hal Johnson chose my dad to be one of his counselors. The Johnson family and my family became very close. They were my sponsors to come to the US. They became my American family.
Thanks so much for all you do. I imagine it's a lot of work, but I assure you I read every word and enjoy every bit of it! Thanks again. Love, Elizabeth Silva Hales (


Ps My parents are alive and well, in their 80th year, living in Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro. I also have a sister, Janete, who married Orlando Pombeiro. They live in Itaguai, Rio de Janeiro. The Pombeiro family is one of the oldest member families in Rio.

Alf’s note regarding the next item: I know there are some of you who remember when the local priest in Santa Maria, RS, would incite his people to follow the missionaries down the street throwing rocks. Today there is a mission headquarters in the Gaúcho city of Santa Maria, and a great need for leadership training among members in some districts and branches. Sister Myrrha, wife of President Rodrigo Myrrha, writes this nice note:  


“Querido irmão Alf,  Embora seja uma conversa dessa época maravilhosa dos primeiros passos da Igreja no Brasil (meus pais se batizaram em 1969 quando eu tinha 5 anos), hoje acompanhando meu marido na Presidencia da Missão Santa Maria, sempre fico emocionada quando recebo esses newsletters, cheios do espírito missionário. Parabéns a você pelo trabalho. Sei que o testemunho de muitos é fortalecido e os joelhos que pendem são erguidos, ao ler sobre a maneira como o Senhor tem operado nessa terra abençoada. Sou muito grata a cada um que aqui serviu. Através do Brasulista encontrei com o missionário que realizou o serviço batismal de meus pais, bem na véspera de entrarmos no CTM de Provo. A experiencia, embora já tenha um ano, está vívida em meu coração. Muito obrigada  do fundo da alma.


“Aproveito para pedir-lhe que anuncie que esperamos por casais missionários que queiram servir conosco aqui na Missão. Temos 5 distritos, em cidades calmas e pacatas e uma necessidade enorme de prover treinamento para a liderança local. Qualquer ajuda é bem vinda e abençoada. Um grande abraço!

Sister Alessandra Choairy Myrrha (


Craig I. Benson (BM 70-72) of Arlington, TX, shares this history: “In 1947 my father, Leonard Daniel Benson, went on a mission to Brazil. After his mission, he came home, got married and started building houses. I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 1964 my mother and father accepted a construction mission call to Brazil. I was 12 years old in the 6th grade. My father built two chapels. The first chapel was in Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul. I learned how to speak Portuguese in Pelotas. I'm one of five children. My mother was very concerned about our school studies. My mother took school books to help us out with our studies. I still went to a Brazilian school. I only passed math and English. Each day the nun would teach English for 20 minutes. The fourth week she held up an eraser and said rrrrrruber. This is a direct translation of what they call an eraser in Portuguese. I said no, we do not say rrrrrruber. In English we never say rrrrrrr. We only say one r. She thanked me and asked me if I would like to teach English. I'm thinking she wanted to make sure they heard the correct pronunciation for all the words. I told her yes. She gave me the English book to use as a guideline. This helped me learn Portuguese much quicker.


“The second chapel was built in São Paulo in the bairo Bosque de Saude. São Paulo had an American school where I went. I was in São Paulo in June of 1966 when the first stake was organized by President Spencer W. Kimball. It was in the Bairo Pinheiros, this is where the mission home was. President Kimball said Brazil will have many stakes. Now only the United States has more stakes.


“In 1970 I returned to Brazil for my mission. When my father went to Brazil there was one mission. When our family went there were two missions, Brazil and Brazilian South. When I went, there were three missions, Brazil, Brazil South and Brazil North. Today there are 28 missions in Brazil. I worked in Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza, Petrópolis and João Pesoa. I have lived in more cities in Brazil than here. I loved the time I spent in Brazil, almost five years. I love the Brazilian people. My goal is to some day go back to Brazil for a visit and enjoy the wonderful lifestyle they offer. Craig l. Benson” (


From Jim (BSM 61-64) and Linda Smith of Alpine, UT: “Dear Family and Friends, It has been two months since we arrived home from Brazil. It was very difficult to leave our many friends there and especially the daily association with the missionaries. We loved our mission and Linda gets teary when we sing our morning hymn in Portuguese at our morning devotional or when she says our morning family prayer and blesses the missionaries. We testify that the Lord is at the head of missionary work throughout the world and that the Spirit of the Lord is very strong in the Brazil MTC as we are sure that it is in the other 16 MTC’s throughout the world. . . . The best line of (a recent family) reunion was from Jim’s 88-year old mom, Lenora: “Who would have known that I would send you off to Brazil again on another mission 46 years after the first one!” . . . . Jim has acquired a fly-tying kit and is enjoying learning how to use it. He has more success tying the flies than catching fish with them on the beautiful Provo River, but he is determined to become a skilled fly fisherman.” Jim is also Ward Mission Leader in a ward that only has two non-member families in its boundaries, and volunteered to teach Portuguese to a young man in the ward who just received a call to the Brazil Santa Maria Mission.” (


That’s all folks!! Forte abraços,


Alf Gunn (BSM 62-65)

Gig Harbor, WA



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