The Field Is White...

It was an incredible blessing serving among the people of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

Brasulista #180

Brasulista #180

Alf Gunn Badge

Cristo300Brasulista #180

Newsletter of the early Brazilian missions, #180
February 4, 2015

Bom dia!

In this issue:

Passing of Sister Sheryl Neeleman
Moroni Bing Torgan elected to National Congress of Brazil
Were you there? Construction of the São Paulo Temple
BSPS Mission Reunion at São Paulo set for May
Called to Serve
Seniors serving at Portugal
Fond remembrances of President George Oakes
Top soccer shootout ever with Scott Sterling (link)


NeelemanWe were saddened at the passing of Sister Sherri (Sheryl Lynn Hunt Neeleman), at age 70, on December 23, 2014, as a result of cancer.  Sister Neeleman served with her husband, Stanley Duane Neeleman when he presided over the São Paulo South Mission (90-93) and as Temple Matron when he presided at the São Paulo Temple (09-12).  Brother Neeleman is a retired professor of law at BYU.  In his youth he served less than one year in the Brazilian South Mission in 1963 and returned to the US on medical leave. He returned when called to preside over the SP South Mission.  Our hearts go out to him at the loss of his beloved companion. 



Moroni-TorganItem:  LDS member Moroni Bing Torgan has been elected to a four-year term in the National Congress of Brazil.  It will be his 4th term in the Congress.  He had taken time off of his congressional service to preside over the Portugal Lisbon Mission (09-12) and in 2012 was called as an Area Seventy. (

Read more about this notable Brazilian LDS member at


From Dan Fish (BM 64-67):  I recently received a call from a Sister in my old ward concerning the building of the São Paulo Temple.  Her father Ross Jensen was the on-site supervisor.  I was also in Brazil at the time (1977 and 1978) but left before the dedication. Janice Nielsen, Ross’ daughter, is putting together a book from her father's journals and asked if I would help her gather information.  We are looking for members who were involved and their memories of events that occurred during the construction of the Temple.  Could you include a note in the newsletter asking former Missionaries and members for stories and or memories during the construction of the temple.  They may contact me at and my phone number is 801-836-7517 and I live in Lindon, UT.  Thank you, Dan Fish (BM 64-67) (

Alf’s note:  Please also send me your short remembrances of the temple construction.


President John Hawkins and Rebecca Hawkins will host a mission reunion on Saturday, the 30th of May, 2015 at the Santo Amaro Stake Center building of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from 4:00-9:00 p.m. and would like to invite anyone who served in the Brazil São Paulo South Mission anytime from 1981-1984. Those missionaries that are planning on attending, Brazilians, Americans or any other nationality are encouraged to RSVP to Eliane (Sant’Ana) VanHorn 909-520-2313 ( or to Brian Merrill ( or Elder Jurandir Machado da Cunha at São Paulo (


From Jim Urry (BSM 67-69; BSPE 03-06) of Ogden, UT writes: “Alf, Thanks for sharing the information about President Benjamin Puerta [Brasulista #178].  In 2010 when my wife and I were called to be the auditor trainers in Brazil, he had an office next to ours.  He was then around 87 years old and showed up each day to work with stake presidents on completing their stake missionary goals.  We grew to love him and his wonderful wife.  Once in our Sunday School class the teacher asked some to share the stories of their baptism days.  After the meeting I asked Pres. Puerta if he could remember his baptism day.  He replied, "I sure can.  I knew the Church was true and on the bus going to my baptism, I smoked my last cigarette.  I have never looked back since."  What an amazing man and what an amazing family he has raised.  Jim Urry” (


Elder Dean Reid Burgess (BM 65-67) with his wife Annette Christensen Burgess, of Sandy, UT, have begun their service as President of the Provo Missionary Training Center in mid-January.  President Burgess is a Seventy who served in the Young Men’s general presidency, and previously was President of the Belo Horizonte East Mission (97-00).  Sister Burgess is a former member of the Young Women general board. They love serving with the young men and women of the Church.  We wish them well in their continued service.

From Elder Leland D. Thomson (BSM 63-65) of Mesa, AZ, and I served together in the Brazilian South Mission office in 1965.  He reports, “My wife, Lianne and I have been called to serve in the Brazil São Paulo East PEF Self Reliance Center.”   (

Paul (Brazil Central/North Central 72-74) and Danette Garrett of Charlotte, NC, entered the Provo MTC January 5, 2015 assigned to the Philippines as Area Mental Health Advisors (AMHA).  Their responsibilities will allow them to serve in all of the missions in the Philippines.  (

From my friend Elder Lin DePaula, former Executive Secretary at the MTC São Paulo:  Hi Alf, We are in São Paulo serving as full-time missionaries assigned to work with Family History at Church Headquarters in São Paulo (Association office). Our original assignment was with FamilySearch, assigned to work at the São Paulo National Archives for the preservation of records. We’re excited with this new calling and hope to do justice with what is expected of us. One of our efforts is to pump up the number of trained volunteers serving in Family History in Brazil. We’re one of seven couples serving together in various positions. It is great to associate with them all, even having Family Nights together. The acceleration of Church work is evident all over and we feel privileged to be part of it. Keep in touch!  Abraços, Lin and Sharon DePaula (


Elder Clifford Jeffers writes from Portugal:  Dear Alf, I just subscribed to the Brasulista, although I have read it several times over the past year.  I served in the Brazil Central Mission from November 1968 to January 1971.  Like many other missionaries, I always appreciated my Brazil connection, but I did not have a desire to serve a senior mission.  Until about three years ago.  We hosted a Brazilian foreign exchange student eight years ago, and we have gone to Brazil three times since then on vacation to visit her and to travel around the country.  By the third visit, I began to feel that we were being prepared for a senior mission, and after our return we began the process of submitting mission papers and of retiring from my job.  We were called to the Brazil Salvador Mission in November 2012, but after waiting several months without getting a visa we requested and were given a reassignment, this time to the Portugal Lisbon Mission. We have been in Portugal for one year now and we love it.

The Brazil connection is very strong among the senior missionaries here.  Our mission president, President Fluckiger, and his wife, Dorothy, each served in the Brazil Central mission under President Hibbert, as I did.  Elder Phippen served in Brazil around the time of President Hibbert.  Elder Markham and I served in the same district, where he was my district leader.  Elder Sommer was in the LTM when I arrived there.  He was a few weeks ahead of me and he went to the newly established North mission.  Elder Crossman served in Brazil but I don’t remember where or what time frame.  Elder Stucki and Elder Ransom served as companions in the São Paulo area a couple of years ahead of me.  I think we all had hopes at one time to serve in Brazil but visas were not being issued to senior couples.  We are all very grateful to be here in Portugal.  There is another senior couple but they are out on the islands and I have not met them yet. I mention all this because there may be other senior couples who are contemplating a mission and would like to go to Brazil, but might have concerns about the visas.  Our experiences in Brazil are very helpful for the work in Portugal.  And we all talk about the good times we had in Brazil.  We plan to return to Brazil again, as tourists if not missionaries. I attach a photo of a recent gathering of the senior couples at the mission home on the occasion of three of the couples coming to the end of their missions and heading home.
Elder Clifford Jeffers  (


Photo caption Senior Missionaries at Portugal   
In the photos, the wives are standing in the second row in front of their husbands, so I will group the second and third rows together identifying the husbands and wives together.  Also, I will identify their young missions as (B) Brazilian, (BC) Brazil Central, (BS) Brazil South, and (BN) Brazil North.
Front Row, L-R:  Elder Clifford Jeffers (BC) and Sister Jeffers; Sister Dorothy Fluckiger (BC) and President Steven Fluckiger (BC);
Second Row, L-R:  Elder Joseph Stucki (B) and Sister Penny Stucki; Elder Ron Crossman (BC) and Sister Ronda Crossman; Elder Ron Sommer (BN) and Sister Shanon Sommer; Elder Don Markham (BS, then BC) and Sister Luann Markham; Elder Clair Ransom (B) and Sister Ruana Ransom; Elder Don Phippen (B) and Sister Phippen.

Dear Alf, We were sorry to hear about the passing of George A. Oakes. We are serving the last six months of our mission here in Alverca de Ribatejo in the Lisbon Stake where Elder Phippen has been serving as second counselor in the Ward (for the last four months). Our first year was on the Island of San Miguel where Elder Phippen was President of the Ponta Delgada Branch. We loved the beautiful Azores Islands, and the faithful members there.  The Lord is mindful of the work here and the mission is being divided in July.  Our good friends from Curitiba, Victor and Edgle Tavares will be President of the Portugal Lisboa Mission.  Love, Elder and Sister Phippen  (


George-Arthur-Oakes4Thanks for the sad information. Pres. and Sister Oakes were serving with the Area Presidency when Sister Shawcroft and I began our service presiding over the Campinas mission (2004-2007). The Oakes always made us feel comfortable and provided whatever information we needed. What a blessing they have been to so very many!  N.

Item: I would like to express my sympathy and love to Sister Oakes and family. President Oakes influenced my life more than anyone outside of my family. President Oakes Remembrance: I called President Oakes to get permission for Elder Mcintire and Elder Carver to teach the lessons to the Helvicio Martins family. He asked me to teach them the first two discussions and the last lesson on the priesthood policy, as it was at that time, in one meeting, and depending on how they accepted it then to proceed forward. I didn't know it at the time, but President Oakes was setting me up for one of the best experiences of my life.  We taught them the three lessons in one sitting and then I asked each family member over 8 years old if they could accept the priesthood policy. Brother Martins, who would later become the first black general authority, humbly and firmly said he accepted the policy. His son, Marcus, who would become one of the first black missionaries and who currently is over the religion department at BYU Hawaii and my son's former bishop, said he accepted the policy. Sister Martins, who currently attends the same ward as my son and daughter in Hawaii said she accepted the policy. I have never seen so much faith and testimony in all my life. I met with Sister Martins a few weeks ago, and she and I have the greatest appreciation for President Oakes' wisdom and inspired leadership regarding this elect family. Love to all, Mike Speed (

Alfred, This is Dave George (BNM c70) of Provo, UT. I served under President George Oakes.  I will share one story.  My companion didn't like street meetings because we had to talk so loud in public.  President Oakes had his feet up on his desk and responded saying, “Do you think Samuel the Lamanite whispered on the wall?”  (

Estimado irmão Gunn,  Tive o grandioso privilégio de servir ao Senhor Jesus Cristo como conselheiro do querido Pres. Oakes na presidência do Templo de Campinas e minha esposa como assistente da querida Sister Oakes.

Eu já conhecia superficialmente este grande servo do Senhor, desde a época em que ele serviu como presidente de missão e eu como líder no Ramo Juiz de Fora em Minas Gerais. Na verdade, ele já havia visitado a casa de meus pais em 1961, quando servia como missionário, dois anos antes de eu me batizar. Nunca poderia imaginar que um dia iria trabalhar junto com ele na Casa do Senhor.

Foram três anos de inesquecíveis experiências e aprendizado, sob sua inspirada e sábia liderança. Ele frequentemente compartilhava conosco princípios doutrinários e inspiradas lições aprendidas em seus estudos das escrituras, da vida dos profetas atuais e em sua convivência com muitas autoridades gerais. Compartilhava sempre seu firme testemunho da igreja e, particularmente do Profeta Joseph Smith.

Aprendemos muitos princípios de liderança com ele. Ele nos concedia liberdade para atuarmos em nossos chamados e responsabilidades, mas nunca abdicava de de seu direito de presidir e tomar firmes e sábias decisões, quando as situações assim exigiam.

Um de seus destacados atributos, como líder, que se esforçava para seguir os exemplos do Salvador, era a notável capacidade de amar a todos em seus redor, sem distinção de raça, cor, nível social, posição na igreja, etc. Falava aberta e claramente que amava as pessoas. Na verdade, eu pude observar que ele dedicava atenção muito especial aos simples e humildes. Ele expressava continuamente sua gratidão e seu apreço pela dedicação que líderes e membros ofereciam aos trabalhos do templo. Ele manifestava sempre seu reconhecimento aos membros que viajavam longas distâncias para servirem no Templo. Ele e Sister Oakes amaram muito o trabalho e os membros, por isso receberam também muito amor e carinho de todos. Eu costumava chamá-lo carinhosamente de PRESIDENTE AMOR.

Penso que nunca serei plenamente capaz de agradecer ao Senhor e ao Pres. Oakes por tantas experiências que vivenciei nesses três maravilhosos anos. Tive o privilégio de visitá-lo no início de dezembro e constatei sua serenidade e paz diante da grave doença que o acometia. Visitei-o no hospital dois dias antes de seu falecimento.Tive o privilégio de segurar sua mão e expressar-lhes alguns íntimos sentimentos, aos quais ele se esforçava para responder. Eu não podia entender, mas pude sentir o costumeiro amor que deve emanava. Ontem participei da derradeira homenagem a ele dedicada- seu serviço funeral. Foi uma reunião inspiradora, espiritual e confortadora. Muitos dos 400 missionários que serviram sob sua liderança estavam presentes. Cumpriu sua missão aqui na terra! Lembraremos dele sempre com saudade e gratidão por tudo que fez pelo Reino de Deus no Brasil. Paulo Ribeiro Oliveira   Ex-Conselheiro na Presidência do templo de Campinas (2011-2013)  (

From Elder Jeff Barneck: My interesting memory of Pres. Oakes was of the day that I landed in Rio in September 1973. As we were being driven from the airport to the mission home by a Varig employee on the Avenida do Brasil, the driver was driving somewhat erratically and President Oakes told us to not pay attention to the calm way that the man was driving, because he was driving in that manner due to the heavy rainfall. I thought that the driver was crazy for driving the way that he was. I later learned that he was driving in the usual fashion. President Oakes had a dry sense of humor that day. He was a great man and Sister Oakes was a great mission mother. Jeff Barneck (


Finally, Brazil had a bad soccer year in 2014.  But Scott Sterling came through like a champ.  See it at


That’s all for now.  Até logo,  

 Alf Gunn of Gig Harbor, WA - USA* 253-851-1099 *   * BSM 62-65




Vol.1 - Miky 01:27 - One Month Reflections

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