Alf Gunn BadgeBrasulista #106


Newsletter of the early Brazilian missions, #106

December 24, 2008

Oi, irmãos! Feliz Natal e um Bom Ano Novo!


 In this issue:

“I believe in you, Santa Claus!” by Gary R. Nelson

Passing of Hudson Carrano

Memories of Itajaí

The Salt Lake Inner City Mission, Latin Branches

Called to Serve – Recife Temple, São Paulo medical

Missionary Spirit award

Report from Mozambique

Saudades do Brasil and the PEF

Bonus Christmas Message:


“I believe in you, Santa Claus!”

A Christmas recollection by Gary R. Nelson of Roosevelt, UT

(Brazil Porto Alegre Mission, 74-76,


I remember with fondness my two Christmases spent in the mission field. It was a wonderful time. You could bear testimony of the Babe in Bethlehem and His wondrous message of peace and love.

I was serving in the seaport village of Rio Grande of the most southern state of Rio Grande Do Sul in Brazil. My companion, Elder Carlos Rocha from São Paulo, and I, had put together a two-foot-high Christmas tree made of plastic and wood sitting on a table with red ornaments hanging down from its limbs, cotton strips spread out on top of the tree limbs to give the appearance of snow: a sight very uncommon this time of year so far south of the equator. The summer months of winter were upon us. We placed all our Christmas cards under the tree and any “knick-knack” that needed a home.  We drew names as a missionary district for a fun “secret elf” program. I drew my companion and I would learn he drew my name, too. We would give our secret friends any candies and gifts each day leading up to Christmas Day. Christmas is sharing. And sharing anonymously added great feelings of service.

On Christmas Eve I opened up packages, letters and postcards along with four Christmas cards from home. One Christmas card was from my girlfriend, Christine, now my wife, which I cherished.  I received a wonderful cassette tape from my family, too.

I had a strong desire to continue my “Santa Clausing” experience in a foreign land. The customs in Brazil were slightly different about Santa. The Brazilians have a tradition of “Papai Noel” or Father Christmas. He comes on Christmas Eve and fills shoes placed at the door with candy and goodies.

My first obstacle to realize my goal was a Santa suit. The Christmas season or Santa Claus for that matter is not as commercialized in Brazil as in the United States. Santa suits were not readily available. I learned of a sister in our ward, Emeri Machado, who was a seamstress. On Wednesday, December 10th of that year, I approached her with the idea of hiring her to make a Santa suit. She agreed to sew the suit and put together the complete costume for just the cost of the materials. I would leave the suit with the ward and the donation could go toward the building fund.  The deal was made. The next day, I dropped off a pair of my pants and a long-sleeve shirt to Sister Machado to serve as a pattern of measurement for the new suit.

I donned the new festive home-made suit on Christmas Day. It fit perfectly. My companion and I visited our investigators and members.  By American standards, the suit was primitive, simple, but real.  Its authenticity, however, manifested itself throughout the day by the many that recognized me. 

I can still remember the beard. Cotton balls had been glued onto a cut-out plastic form like one would use to make a home-made yarn scripture or book cover. To secure the beard, string was tied to the ends and pulled tightly around my head. I put the Santa suit right over the top of my missionary clothes. 

I wanted to surprise one of our recently baptized members, Brother Fernando. My beard and cotton mustache almost blew away in the wind as we walked the two short blocks to his house. While walking, a young woman came up to me with a child in her arms. The girl was excited to see Santa Claus. I talked with the little one for a few minutes. We continued to walk down the street. We must have looked quite a sight:  My companion dressed in his missionary apparel: white shirt, tie and slacks; and me, dressed as Santa Claus. I enjoyed greeting everyone I saw with a “Feliz Natal” or Merry Christmas in Portuguese.

Brother Fernando was waiting for us and excited to see this twenty-year-old gringo “Papai Noel” from the U.S.  Another little girl named, Ana Lucia, followed us into his house. She had seen me enter the house and was curious. I placed her on my lap and had a fun time talking with her.

We had a Christmas dinner appointment at 5 p.m. at the apartment of an LDS American couple, Maurice and Dianne Langston. On the way over to the Langston’s, I stopped off at my seamstress’ home to let her see the finished product on Santa. Sister Machado was beaming! She was so proud of her work and how the anticipated suit looked on me. I was right proud of her work, too! Living in one of the apartments next to the Machado's, was a small family. A little boy wanted to see Santa Claus, so I passed by his door. The little four or five year old boy was at first taken back as he couldn’t believe that “Papai Noel” had really come by. I encouraged him warmly to “be good for next Christmas”. And to think this young child could possibly now be a father with a son the same age as he was then! The Santa tradition continues . . . .

We continued our journey by foot to the Langston’s’ Edif-Impiritriz Apartment complex, where we would join  Elders Beck and Cummings, another member American couple, Curt and Moselle Pulsipher and their Brazilian friend, Ivonne . By this time, word had traveled fast. I had all the little kids in the area join me in the street wanting to hold my hand; several giving me precious hugs. One mentally-challenged young man with Down’s Syndrome, saw me coming a block away and started shouting while waving his hands excitedly, “Eu creio em Papai Noel! Eu creio em Papai Noel! I believe in you, Santa Claus! I believe in you, Santa Claus!” When I finally made my way to him, he asked me for a Christmas present. Elder Rocha had to be the bearer of sad news and tell him we had given all the presents away. He next asked for just 45 cents. The response was the same. We had no money. We would be mobbed by children wanting money from Santa, if we had. As we hurried more in a quick walk to outdistance the children, I continued shouting:  “Feliz Natal.” 

Upon entering the Langston apartment, shouting “Merry Christmas” in English, I soon realized I had scared Sister Langston. She almost jumped up and hit her head on the low ceiling. Pictures were taken with Santa.  Christmas carols sung. We enjoyed a wonderful meal of turkey, potatoes, peas, stuffed dressing, rolls, grape juice and dessert. It was wonderful to share memories, love, and happiness with those who were also far away from home.

Christmas in Brazil turned out to be just fine! My Santa Claus experience in the mission field would add to many more years of participating as the Jolly Old Elf. The words of the young boy, “I believe in you, Santa Claus” still ring true in my heart and soul. For I see in each child – the young Brazilian Down’s Syndrome boy’s face. A face of hope, of belief, of love, of acceptance … and I say out-loud and with emotion:  “I believe in you, too, Santa Claus!”


Sister Glaucia Carrano Brown (BNM c72) of West Bountiful, UT writes:

“Alf, Thanks for all the information you put together for us. Would you please mention to our friends of the Brazil North Mission and Brasilia Mission that my father, Hudson Carrano, died on October 4th, 2008, at age 84, after a struggle with his health. He was the first bishop of the Ala da Tijuca in 1972 when the first stake in Rio de Janeiro was organized. He was called by Elder Bruce R. McConkie after being a member only 10 months.  He then moved to Brasilia and served as bishop in the Asa Sul and other leadership positions on Lago Sul. He served with my mom, Vera Muylaert Carrano, on a mission in the São Paulo Temple Alojamento when it was first opened. Thank you, Glaucia Carrano Brown” (

Here are some memories from my shirttail relative, Elder Larry Nance (BSM 62-64) of Cedar City, UT: “Hi Cuz, I really was touched by the last Brasulista, about the flooding in Itajaí. Itajaí was my second city and I was there over six months. I have great memories of the members and some good baptisms. That river is so beautiful but dangerous. One time Elder Gardner and I were halfway across the river when the motor stopped.  We then were floating out towards the sea with a large cargo ship coming down on us. After a quick prayer the motor started and we avoided a possible disaster with a loaded ferry.

“I think I told you that when I transferred from Canoas, my first plane had an engine go out so we returned to Porto Alegre to get another. Halfway to Itajaí, both engines started missing. When I looked down, the propellers were hitting the ocean. The fog was at sea level so the pilot had to fly in zero visibility. He waited until he saw the big Itajaí river and then turned up the river until he saw a large red barn; turned left and landed on the runway. We were flying at a hundred feet for about an hour. The river saved my life. Exciting times being a missionary.

“I remember going out in a driving rainstorm with Elder Gardner and walking about two miles to a member's house who had six children down with yellow fever. The wind would come between the cracks in their walls. But the next Sunday, they were all at Church. I so much loved to play the organ for that small branch. Music was everything. Elder Gardner got a kick out of it that I could pump it and get that organ to make great music. Happy New Year, Larry and Judy Nance ( PS Thanks for the Memories” 


I pass this next on only to make all you folks in the Salt Lake City area aware of mission opportunities that seem to be in need of good people—in the Salt Lake Inner City Mission, Latino Branches. Thanks to Brother Mike Sanders (BSM/Brazil Central Mission 67-69) we have some information about these callings:


“My wife and I were recently called to serve in the Inner City Mission and we were assigned to a Latino Branch. We found out that there are over sixty Latino Branches in the Salt Lake Valley and they desperately need service missionaries. At the present time there are twelve branches in need of missionaries. The branches are made up of people from throughout the Spanish speaking world with a scattering of Brazilians who generally have married a Spanish speaker. The church meetings are conducted in Spanish, but if you speak Portuguese you can generally get along. If there are any former missionaries, or others, in the Salt Lake area who want an opportunity to learn Spanish from people who actually speak it, and at the same time to provide a real service in the area of welfare services they should contact their Bishop and volunteer to serve in the Inner City Mission and in the Latino Branches. Generally the Mission is looking for older couples or singles with no minor children. You live at home, but attend and serve in the Branch to which you are assigned. The length of service can vary from six months to two and a half years with the possibility of extending your service. If anyone is concerned that his or her spouse does not speak either Spanish or Portuguese, this should not stop them from applying. My wife didn't speak any language other than English and she has been readily accepted by the sisters in the ward and has actually mastered a few phrases. The only real requirement is the desire to serve. If anyone is interested they should contact their home ward Bishop to start the process. If anyone has questions I will be glad to try to answer them or refer them to someone in the Mission leadership who can. I can be reached at


Elder Milton Brinton (BNM 68-71) was President of the Wenatchee, WA, Stake when I became aware of him. He and his wife Barbara accepted a call to preside in Rio in 2005 and I met them in Rio de Janeiro when our group of returned missionaries was touring in 2006. He was making mission transfers from the same board on the wall on which his own photo had hung when he served there as a young missionary. Sister Brinton is the sister of Don and Mark Haslam who served in the BSM and BM missions back in the 60’s. Now residing in Spring, TX, Elder Brinton writes: “Dear Alfred, Barbara and I just returned as presidents of the Rio de Janeiro Mission (05 - 08) and will be leaving on Jan 8, 2009 to be the area medical advisers for the Brazil Area for 18 months. We are excited for this privilege. We will be living next door to the temple there. Um grande abraço! Milton & Barbara Brinton” (


It is wonderful to see such a willingness to serve among our good alumni. Here’s more:


George and Annette Leavitt (BSM 64-66) of Madera, CA, will serve a temple mission of 23 months in the Recife Brazil Temple, beginning April 6, 2009 with training at the MTC and Provo Temple. The Temple President is Valdemiro Skraba from Curitiba. “Getting ready to serve a mission is not easy,” says Elder Leavitt, “but definitely worth the effort.” Elder Leavitt is a retired college professor and I happen to know that he still speaks excellent Portuguese.   ( Parabens!

Shameless missionary plug: Even with the Leavitt’s, I am told that the Recife Temple has real needs for senior couples to serve there. From past messages received, I believe the same could be said of the other temples in Brazil, and many missions too. Currently the Church website shows a need for 14 couples to serve missions in Brazil and another couple for Cape Verde Islands off of Africa. Summer is beginning in Brazil and the weather this week in São Paulo will be between a high of 87 degrees and a low of 64 degrees. Recife will be in the 80’s, but may feel warmer. How does that compare to where you are?

Missionary Spirit Award

Robert Bringhurst (BM 59-61) of Draper, UT, and his wife Kathy have had 40 Japanese and 11 Brazilian exchange students stay with them over the years. Twelve years ago he went to Belo Horizonte to visit the family of one of the exchange students. She had one of those little prayer grottos in her yard, but it was empty. Elder Bringhurst bought her a Maria for her grotto at the Mercado aberto. “Is there anything you want me to pray about?” she asked him. “Yes,” he said, “Pray for BYU’s football team.” He also gave her a Book of Mormon, which she put into the grotto. In 2008 a relative, Luciana, saw the book and read it. Then she searched for and found missionaries on the street. She and her daughter got baptized, plus a twin sister. Luciana and her daughter came to live with the Bringhurst family for three months. She met and married a former bishop from Recife living in Utah. Elder Bringhurst has gone back down to Brazil and visited with Luciana’s family, staying in their house for a month, and attending church with them. Now Luciana’s mom and dad are interested in the church. (

Sister Jeanne Ross, serving with her husband Paul (BSM 64-66) in the Maputo Mozambique Mission in Africa, shares this: “We received good news this week. Elder and Sister Nebeker will be here the first of March to take our place. We were getting very anxious, because we had no word of replacements coming and know how much there is to do here. Paul actually served with Elder (Steve) Nebeker in Brasil in 1964-66 when they were on their first mission there.

“We were invited two weeks ago to represent the Church in two ceremonies celebrating the installation of 8 wells in the villages of Mbatwe and Ndunda. The wells were partially financed by our Church Humanitarian Services. Care-For-Life (an NGO originally begun by President and Sister Packard) is working in several villages near Beira and pointed out the immediate need for 25 wells to provide safe water. Paul was asked to say a few words; so he told the people he was only one person but was representing 13,000,000 members of the church that contributed the funds to drill the wells. One family in the church, working all by themselves, would have a hard time providing just one well, but working together, the world-wide group can provide wells in villages all over Africa. One family in their village trying, by themselves, to improve things would have a hard time making a difference, but everybody in the village working together can bring about miracles. In the spirit of celebration, he also sang and played the harmonica, which were probably the most peculiar things the people had ever heard.” (

Bruce King (BM 60-63) writes about his recent senior couple Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) mission and continuing service: “Alf, Thanks for another edition. You do a great work on behalf of thousands of us who await, read, remember and rejoice. Roxana and I have been home from our area-wide PEF mission in Recife about 7 months now and are still missing and praying for our precious friends there. We are still active in PEF, working with the HQ office in tracking and maintaining contact with participants from throughout Latin America who have migrated to Spain and Portugal. Each of them has a unique story and circumstance. It is enlivening to stay involved. For me, as one of the first young elders to start the work in the north in 1960, it was stunning now 48 years later to walk the same streets and find 11 stakes and a temple in Recife alone. The stone is clearly rolling forth. Thanks again and Merry Christmas. Bruce King” (




Alf Gunn (BSM 62-65)

Gig Harbor, WA





Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
0 Characters
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location