Newsletter of the early Brazilian missions, #158
February 13, 2013
Olá, irmãos! Thank you for your encouragement to issue these newsletters. And thank you for sharing your insights which I am pleased to pass along. Like every missionary who ever served in Brazil, I love the saints of Brazil . . . their faith, their food, their music and their language. I have learned many of life’s lessons from these people.
In this issue:
Missionaries protected in 1968 – Were you there?
Called to Serve
Visa wait recollections and one strange twist
First missionaries to fly to their missions in Brazil?
Missionaries protected in 1968. Were you there?
From Brazilian Rafael Bertani of Campinas, SP, Brazil: “Alf, You probably don’t remember who I am. I've read your newsletter since when I was mission secretary during my mission (Brazil Cuiabá Mission 06- 08). Later I met you at a session of a General Conference, and you added me to your mailing list again. Here is an item of interest: Recently published in Brazil, the book Marighella – o Guerrilheiro Que Incendiou o Mundo, authored by journalist Mário Magalhães, (Editora: Companhia das Letras, 2012) describes the life of Carlos Marighella, a Marxist revolutionary guerrilla and one of the best known political terrorists during the military dictatorship in Brazil in the '60s and '70s. On page 382 of this new book the author describes a 1968 plan by Marighella to kill a U.S. Army Captain named Charles Chandler, who they suspected was a CIA agent who supported the military regime. (Translation here by Bertani and Gunn)
‘In São Paulo, they made a rigorous study of Captain Chandler’s routine, and there was no way they could fail. Marighella assigned his comrade Marquito, and the VPR (the militia) came with two other seasoned fighters: Diogenes Carvalho de Oliveira, graduated in Cuba, and Peter Wolf, former sergeant of the Public Force. On October 11, a beige Volkswagen Beetle parked a dozen meters from the house of the American officer on Petrópolis Street in the Sumaré neighborhood. Peter drove the stolen car, and the others sat in the back seat. They waited for two hours, however the captain did not come out and they left the area. On the road, they came upon two young men in white shirts and ties, apparently Mormon missionaries. Marquito, one of the terrorists, immediately ordered Peter to stop the car. He unzipped the bag, and grabbed the disassembled INA (Brazilian made Uzi-type) machine gun he carried and screwed on the barrel, saying: "If we don’t kill the military gringo, we are going to kill the religious gringos." Taken by surprise, Peter hit the accelerator and sped off without allowing the infamous act.’
The next day the terrorists returned and assassinated Captain Charles R. Chandler with 14 shots at point-blank from a handgun and machine gun as he left his garage.
Brother Bertani notes, “Alf, two Elders were walking in the streets of São Paulo on October 11th, 1968. They cannot imagine how close they were to being killed. That is evidence to me that unseen angels of the Lord are protecting our missionaries, and many times missionaries never imagine the level of protection they are receiving. It would be interesting to identify these elders. The neighborhood was Sumaré, which is pretty near to Perdizes and Pinheiros. The date was October 11, 1968. Regards, Rafael Bertani” (email@example.com)
Called to Serve
Elder Reed W. Dilworth (BSM 64-66) and Sister Pamla B. Dilworth or Jerome, ID, have been called to serve in the Cambodia Phnom Phen Mission, reporting to the MTC March 25, 2013. “We have appreciated your service of keeping everyone informed of happening in the Brazilian missions. We even thought it possible to return and serve once again in that beautiful country. It seems our Heavenly Father has other plans for us with this call to Cambodia and trust He will make us equal to the task, that our talents might be used to accomplish his purposes. Sister Dilworth’s assignment is to labor as a mission Nurse Specialist and Brother Dilworth as an office specialist. Assignments may be modified according to the needs of the mission president. Thanks again for your service. Bro. & Sis Dilworth (RdDilworth@netscape.net)
Elder Vernon (BM 61-63) and Sister Jerry Christopherson of Orem, UT, have joyfully returned to Brazil and began serving in the Recife Brazil Temple in January. “We both wept tears of joy and knew that the Lord had granted us one more of His tender mercies.” Elder Christopherson previously served as Executive Secretary to the President of the MTC São Paulo from 2008 to 2011.
Don Markham (BSM/BCentM 68-70) and his wife Luanne of Saratoga Springs, UT, are called to serve a Perpetual Education Fund mission at Area Headquarters in São Paulo, Brazil. They are awaiting visas with hopes of entering the MTC on March 25, 2013.
Thanks to those who have sent notes, we have gathered some recollections of visa wait challenges over the years. Here are some more, with a surprise or two.
First, from Dean Meservy (BPAM 77-79), currently serving with the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, Austria, as a Foreign Service specialist in communications recalls his visa wait:
“Alf, I don't know if you realize just what a wonderful service you are providing. There is history here in every issue that you just can't find anywhere else. Where can you read that sisters once served 27-month missions? The last issue has prompted two visa-related thoughts.
“Two days after I received my call in October 1977, a large visa application package arrived from the Church's contracted travel company. It came with detailed instructions permeated with a palpable sense of urgency. The forms were long and complicated, it said, but it was imperative to return them as quickly as possible. I was instructed in large capital letters absolutely under no circumstances to send the paperwork to the Brazilian consulate in San Francisco, as the Church had tasked this travel company to be the go-between. If I sent the application to San Francisco instead of letting the travel company handle it for me, it could delay my missionary service.
“That was the last thing I wanted. At that time, missionary calls typically arrived six weeks before departure; for Brazil and Mexico the lead time was doubled to three months. Anxious to avoid any delays, I gave the application my full attention, pushing aside all other commitments and following every instruction to the letter. Within 48 hours, I was shoving the thick sheaf of documents and into the pre-addressed envelope provided and sprinting up the street to the post office.
“Then came the wait. Three months later, I entered the MTC. No visa. Finished the eight-week program. No visa. Short of teachers, the MTC put us in a newly finished chapel and told us to study by ourselves all day. Every week more elders joined us, preaching in Portuguese to the brick walls. Soon what we came to call the "Slush Fund" had swollen to over eighty elders. Discipline was decaying as our morale dragged. No one was getting a visa!
“Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the Seventy was presiding over the Texas San Antonio Mission at the time. He heard of our plight and asked for all of us. The Church allowed him only 26. We flew down and were welcomed as if we had been called there. To this day, Elder Featherstone stays in touch with all of us and treats us no different from the missionaries he had for a full two years.
“With no visa forthcoming, the Church eventually sent us to Brazil, two by two, on 90-day student visas available on arrival. We would jaunt across the border into Uruguay to renew them. Then Brazil put a halt to that and insisted the missionaries stop abusing the system and get proper visas. We had to fly to Montevideo, obtain a visa there, and then return. That process turned out to be surprisingly straightforward. We filled out the form, we turned it in, two days later our visa was ready to be picked up, valid to the end of our mission time. We saw no trace of reluctance on the Brazilians' part to give us visas.
“All the while, my mission president, Jason Garcia Souza, a Curitiba attorney tasked by the Church to interact with the Brazilian government on missionary visas, was being told that there was no holdup, no discrimination against Mormon missionaries. We assumed the Brazilian government was being disingenuous.
“Eight or nine months after I returned home, I received a thick package in the mail. It was from the Church's contract travel company. An accompanying letter said, ‘We found these documents in a drawer, along with many others. We don't know what they are, but your name and address are on them. Perhaps you would like them back.’ It was, of course, my visa application. Exactly as I had filled it out, in triplicate, and sent it in as instructed three years earlier.
“I shrugged it off, but I realize now I shouldn't have. Had I been a little older and wiser, I would have seen that the letter and returned package needed to end up on the desk of a General Authority on the Missionary Committee. The Brethren were tasking people like President Souza to resolve a problem whose cause, at least in part, resided in Salt Lake City.
“On a more positive note, we had a secretary at the LDS Institute at Utah State University who had served in Brazil, probably around 1972-73. While on my mission, I spotted her in a photograph and learned her story.
“When her visa did not arrive, she was eventually reassigned to a stateside mission. She continued to faithfully study the discussions in Portuguese, every day. When she was only a matter of days from finishing her mission, she was advised that her visa had come through. There didn't seem much point, but if she wanted to finish her mission in Brazil, she could. She said she did. During the two weeks or so that she was in Brazil, she found, taught and challenged (I was told) over thirty people who were baptized, all of whom had remained faithful and were building the Church in Brazil. Some of your readers may know who I am talking about. I cannot recall her name now. She was petite and quiet, with light brown hair and blue eyes, and she was working at the USU Institute of Religion. Thanks again for the Brasulista. I look forward to every issue. Nile Dean Meservy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
President Wilford A. Cardon (BM 60-62) was presiding over the São Paulo South Mission in the same time period as Elder Meservy served, and while not aware of any documents lost in a drawer he did share some insights about visas:
“Hello Alf, Thank you for your unflagging efforts to promote missionary work and missionary history in Brazil. The article by Elder Meservy is accurate. He explains what all the American missionaries experienced during the time I served from July 1978 to July 1981. He served under President Jason Sousa during that time. Our missionaries experienced the same frustrating delays. When our family was called to go to Brazil in 1978 we were informed that it might take nine months to receive a work visa.
“I have not heard of any visa applications lost in a drawer by Murdock Travel (the travel agency that worked exclusively for the Church until Church Travel replaced them); however, Murdock Travel would often take months before they applied for a Brazilian Visa. “That was what happened in our case. They held our completed papers 90 days before applying for our work visas. Since that timing would have delayed our entrance into Brazil until December instead of our scheduled date of July 1st, I asked Murdock Travel to secure 90-day tourist visas for us and we would resolve our visa problem after we arrived in Brazil. At that time, many of our missionaries were stacked up in the San Antonio mission. President Vaughn Featherstone is a saint because of the kindness and Christ-like love he showed to the Brazil visa waiters. Our missionaries experienced marvelous miracles during their San Antonio mission. There has to be a special place in heaven for President Featherstone.
“Murdock Travel was completely opposed to our traveling on tourist visas, but changed their minds after I told them to forget it, I would apply myself. Thus commenced a period of several years where all the American Missionaries sent to our mission arrived on 90-day tourist visas. We could extend the 90-day visas an additional 90 days within the country. Before we were in Brazil 180 days, we would exit Brazil, generally to Paraguay or Uruguay, and secure a fresh 90-day tourist visa from the Brazilian Consulate. We would repeat the whole process every 180 days. Imagine how exciting it was to preside over a mission where more than half the missionaries (all the Americans) traveled to another country for several days every six months. Sometimes they traveled together, often they traveled by themselves. To their credit, they would often work with the missionaries in Paraguay. The Mission President in Paraguay told me our missionaries were outstanding, often committing families to be baptized during the few days they worked with the missionaries in Paraguay. “The companions who remained in Brazil while their companions were away faced additional challenges. All of this activity produced a vibrant and exciting mission. We never knew what to expect. One moment we were searching for a missionary missing in Paraguay for a week, the next we were greeting a missionary we had no idea was coming to Brazil who arrived at the Mission office by taxi wondering why no one was at the airport to greet him. What a great time to preside over a mission. Thanks Alf for all you do to bless our lives. Um forte abraço, Wilford”
First to fly to Brazil?
From Larry Storrs (BM 57-60): “Alf, Love getting the Brasulistas with news about Brazil and early Brazilian missionaries. We are still basking in the memories of our Six Temple Trip last April. Interesting reports on the Manaus Temple and Manaus Mission in your last two issues. The daughter of a friend was just called to serve in the Brazil Manaus Mission, to enter the SP MTC in March, assuming she receives her visa in time. So we had them over to show our pictures of Manaus and São Paulo and to have guaraná and some other Brazilian treats.
“I think Elder John Grant and I may have been the first missionaries to fly to Brazil, along with six missionaries on their way to Uruguay. When we received our call to serve in the Brazilian Mission in early November 1957, we were told to report to the Mission Home in Salt Lake on Dec. 4, then go by train to New York, and sail for Brazil on the SS Brazil. A few days before entering the Mission Home we were informed that the SS Brazil was going into dry dock for repairs and we would be unable to sail as planned. Instead we were to fly to Brazil from New York, the first Brazilian missionaries to do so. We left Salt Lake by train on Dec. 13, and after touring some in New York, we flew to São Paulo on Dec. 18-19, with stops in Caracas and Rio de Janeiro. President Sorensen met us at the airport, got us through customs, and took us to the Mission Home on Rua Itapeva 378.
“Thanks for all the good you do by maintaining the Brasulista newsletter. Um abraço, Larry Storrs” (email@example.com)
Alf Gunn - Gig Harbor, WA - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Peninsula Gateway, weekly Gig Harbor, WA, newspaper published another On Faith column reflecting LDS beliefs, on February 6, 2013. This one appeared under their headline "What motivates a missionary to leave home and social life for 18 months?" and highlights one LDS family's missionary service. These are submitted on behalf of the Gig Harbor Stake Public Affairs Council. See it online at