Newsletter of the early Brazilian missions, #150
October 5, 2012
Bom dia, queridos irmãos e irmãs!
Yes, this is the 150th edition of the Brasulista, sent to former Brazilian missionaries since December, 2002! Even I am amazed! Thank you for all your support and kind words, and stories shared along the way. Years ago a young whippersnapper of an elders quorum president told me what High Priests do when they get together: “They reminisce!” he said, speaking in an old man’s voice.
Okay, I guess we do. But we also go forward and accomplish much good while we can. Thank you for your association.
In this issue:
Stories of Faith: Givaldo do Nascimento and the Elder who baptized him
Called to Serve
Trivia on Trivia: More on Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil
Item: Givaldo do Nascimento and the Elder who baptized him
A few years ago, Givaldo do Nascimento of Santos asked me to try to locate the missionary who baptized him at Santos—Elder Brent Merrill. I was unable to do so until recently. I learned he was Alan Brent Merrill, and I was saddened to learn from his wife Carol that Brent died of cancer at age 39, leaving four young children. Sister Merrill was very pleased to hear that Brent had baptized this man, Givaldo do Nascimento, who became a leader in the Church in Santos. First, read my account of Brother Nascimento’s story below, from Brasulista #24, in May of 2004, and then read about Elder Merrill:
At the CTM one Sunday in February (2004), we listened to a marvelous devotional fireside talk by Givaldo do Nascimento, President of the Santos Stake, who was born in 1960 and joined the Church at age 15. From my notes, here is his talk. He was from a very poor family of 11 children from the slums of Santos, and one night he walked past the LDS meetinghouse on his way home from the Presbyterian Church, and saw a friend inside. He went in and never returned to his previous church. He loved the gospel and this Church, and was taught and baptized. He was unable to pass or bless the sacrament because of the “matter of lineage,” as he says, at that time. Never mind; he loved the Church and knew it was true. So he would arrive at 6:50 am every Sunday, open all the classrooms and set them up with chairs, chalk, erasers, and clean all the pews. Finally, the bishop gave him the key to the building, saying he arrived before the bishopric each week anyway. The only mission Brother Nascimento could hope to serve was a construction mission, and when he reached the age to do so he was told that unfortunately the Church was discontinuing construction missions. He decided to serve his own mission, by speaking to friends. He brought 24 persons into the Church.
He was a young married man with a one year-old son when the Declaration on the Priesthood was announced. From then on his goal in life was that his son would one day serve a full-time mission, which he later did in fulfillment of President Nascimento’s dream. [This son and his wife were at the devotional, with their young child.] Following the revelation regarding the priesthood Brother Nascimento received many phone calls from missionaries with whom he had served in Santos, who called to express their joy. The bishop called him in, interviewed him immediately and ordained him a priest. The next meeting he was called and ordained an elder. Then a high priest, and called to serve on the stake high council. Six years later he was called as a bishop. But he may hold the record for the shortest term as a bishop. One week later, at stake conference, President Kent Jolley called him to be the new stake president. “My wife cried a lot—we never expected it.” One week later he had to release himself as bishop and he called the recently released stake president to be the bishop.
When he had married his wife, she a returned missionary, they had nothing—no stove, no fridge, no table or chairs—just one sofa bed. Their table was cardboard on the floor; their stove was a milk can with alcohol. They had purchased a stove but were unable to make the payments so it was repossessed, with their only pan in it!
He had no job. He promised the Lord he would read the scriptures 30 minutes daily, would pray, fast weekly, and attend the temple weekly and always pay his tithing. Two days later he took an insurance course, where he was invited by a classmate to go to work where she worked. He says, I wasn’t worthy, but the Lord knew I would do my part, so he fronted me the blessing. His new co-workers bought him a stove and a set of pans. He saved his money and bought an ugly VW, and surprised his wife by opening the door of the car on the street. It was sufficient, he says.
“The Church changed my life and my heart,” he says. “I knew I could make something of myself with the Lord’s help. The Lord has opened many doors. Without the gospel we reach nothing of worth. It is truly a safe port.” President Nascimento has had a very successful insurance business for years now, and five children plus one adopted child, which he counts as great blessings. Now the Lord blesses him with a new car every year. “Our trials,” he says, “are our blessings, and we need to recognize them as such. We ought to conquer step-by-step,” he counseled the missionaries. “Make your lives an eternal quest for learning. Read the scriptures. We have the gospel, prophets, and apostles. The Lord is with us. This should be our goal—nothing will stop us. After 18 or 24 months you will count your blessings and not want to go home. Show the Lord that His sacrifice was not in vain. Show your parents you are valiant. The Church is true. I love you missionaries,” he told them.
We don’t usually announce missionary deaths in the Brasulista, as there would be too many of them. But Sister Merrill provides a real-life story of faith and courage on her part as well as Elder Merrill’s, which is worth sharing. She writes:
“Alan Brent was extremely faithful all of his life and cherished his missionary experiences in Brazil. He married soon after returning from his mission and had two beautiful daughters. Unfortunately, his wife chose to leave him and the Church. He was devastated. A year later Brent and I met, while I was working full-time in the Los Angeles Temple as a secretary. We were married less than a year later and had four beautiful children within the first eight years of our marriage. Unfortunately, when our youngest was just 6 weeks old Brent was diagnosed with terminal cancer and he was told that he would have less than a year to live.
“We put our lives in order and moved from California to Utah, where I would be able to afford to raise our children. One year and one day after his diagnosis and just three months after moving to Utah, Brent left this mortal life. I always felt that God must have needed him more than I did. Our love and faith in Heavenly Father's plan for us was never questioned!
“A year after his death, I went to college for the first time earning my Bachelor's Degree and then my Master's Degree. I came from a family where my father did not go past the 9th grade and my mother never went to college. Therefore, we were never encouraged to go either. I was determined to set a good example for my children. (Brent had earned his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees after his mission). I have been working at Weber State University for the past 16 years, as the Director of the Women's Center, helping other single moms find ways to get their education and raise happy, healthy children in the process. I also own a small Art Academy and teach oil painting in the evenings. www.merrillfinearts.com
“I am so proud to say that each of our four children have gone to college—two gaining postgraduate degrees to date—and the cycle of under-education has been broken. I have no doubt that Brent would be so very proud of each of them. I chose to stay single and raise my children alone for 25 years, so that I could give them as much time and attention as possible. No regrets! Three years ago, a member of my prior bishopric, lost his wife to cancer. Ten months ago we were married. He is such a good man and all of our children have such beautiful testimonies and care very much for one another. I am truly blessed. My current husband had the chance to know Brent, as we were all in the same ward when Brent and I had moved to Utah. I am sure that Brent would be happy knowing of my remarriage to such a good man. Thank you again for calling me with the story of Brother Nascimento! I look forward to emailing him. Warmly, Carol Merrill-Flitton
Layton, UT 84040” (email@example.com)
Thank you, Sister Merrill. There are so many stories out there, I wish we could tell them all.
Called to Serve
“Dear Alf, My wife and I have received a call (our third together) to the Utah St. George Mission, beginning Oct 22. We will serve for a year at the Cove Fort Church Historic Site. It will be a unique and different way to share the gospel with the visitors who come to experience the early pioneer history associated with Cove Fort. We are excited!” Lamar and Elaine Hansen (BSM 60-63) Centerville, UT (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Hansen’s previously served in the Brazil Maceió Mission (08-10) and a service mission at the Church Office Building where they co-ordinated the Church Feedback Response Team with team members around the world (11-12).
Trivia on Trivia
Regarding our trivia question in Brasulista #149: What was Emperor Dom Pedro II’s full name? The answer was Dom Pedro II’s complete name was Pedro de Alcântara João Carlos Leopoldo Salvador Bibiano Francisco Xavier de Paula Leocádio Miguel Gabriel Rafael Gonzaga. Whew!
From a blog: Por curiosidade, e só por curiosidade, importa dizer que D. Pedro tinha 18 nomes. Ouf! É bem verdade que D. Pedro devia ter grandes dificuldades para se lembrar do seu nome completo. Mais tarde, para que o filho sucessor não viesse a ter o mesmo problema, deu-lhe apenas 15 nomes: Pedro de Alcântara João Carlos Leopoldo Salvador Bibiano Francisco Xavier de Paula Leocádio Miguel Gabriel Rafael Gonzaga.
From brother Fred Hanke (email@example.com) Brazilian American living in Monrovia, CA: “A funny tidbit of a train taking off without Dom Pedro II on that same trip to Utah. Everything happens in California first. From a tourist blog:
"A volunteer with the California State Railroad Museum narrates historical and sightseeing side notes over the loudspeaker system. He's on board from Sacramento to Reno. He tells us that Emperor Dom Pedro of Brazil was left at a scenic overlook above the North Fork of the American River. 'They went back for him when they realized he wasn't on board,' our railroad buff reports.
Also, Brother Hanke was touched to read of Dom Pedro’s last days (from WikiPedia):
“The Positivists launched a coup d'état and instituted the republic on 15 November 1889. The few people who witnessed what occurred did not realize that it was a rebellion. Historian Lídia Besouchet noted that "[r]arely has a revolution been so minor." During the whole ordeal Pedro II showed no emotion, as if unconcerned about the outcome. He dismissed all suggestions for quelling the rebellion which politicians and military leaders put forward. When he heard the news of his deposition he simply commented: "If it is so, it will be my retirement. I have worked too hard and I am tired. I will go rest then." He and his family were sent into exile in Europe on 17 November, 1889.”
“Empress Teresa Cristina died a few days after their arrival in Europe and Isabel and her family moved to another place while her father settled in Paris. His last couple of years were lonely and melancholic, as he lived in modest hotels without money and writing in his journal of dreams in which he was allowed to return to Brazil.”
“One day he took a long drive in an open carriage along the Seine, even though it was very cold. He felt ill after returning to the hotel that evening. The illness progressed into pneumonia during the following days. Pedro II rapidly declined and died … on 5 December 1891 surrounded by his family. His last words were "May God grant me these last wishes—peace and prosperity for Brazil". While the body was being prepared, a sealed package in the room was found and next to it a message written by the Emperor himself: "It is soil from my country, I wish it to be placed in my coffin in case I die away from my fatherland." The package, which contained earth from every Brazilian province, was duly placed inside the coffin.”
So, that is what is new in the newsletter this month. If any of you missionaries happened to know young Givaldo do Nascimento in Santos in the late 1970’s, I would welcome your recollections of him. Attached is a photo of Givaldo in about 2004, with his son Fabio.
Alf Gunn (BSM 62-65)
Gig Harbor, WA firstname.lastname@example.org 253-851-1099