Newsletter of the early Brazilian missions, #151
October 22, 2012
In this issue:
Reminiscing - Mission memories
I am reminiscing a little with the group of us who went on our missions together 50 years ago*. I hope that our memories will trigger some of your own.
Monday, October 22, marks 50 years to the day that 13 of us reported to the Missionary Home in Salt Lake City for one week of training to begin our missions. We were all called to the Brazilian South Mission, which was then three years old.
I came from Bellingham, WA, where we had held church in a house up to that time. Four days after reporting to the Missionary Home some 300 of us went by bus to the Logan Temple, many of us for our own endowment that day. One other day that week we were all set apart and given blessings by general authorities at Church Headquarters, at 47 East South Temple. Many of the Elders were Eagle Scouts, but I was not. Joseph Fielding Smith, President of the Twelve, spoke to us at the Missionary Home, answering any questions that were posed to him. We learned how to lead music and how to make and apply a foot medicine. We bore our (30-second) testimonies from the pulpit in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square.
At the end of the week part of our group flew to New York where Elder Dale Foote’s uncle hosted us to a trip up the Empire State Building and a restaurant dinner. That night we flew to Rio de Janeiro and then on to Curitiba. The next afternoon, after getting our papers in order, the missionaries at the Curitiba mission home took an hour to teach us to say our first words in Portuguese (translated): “Good day. We’re from the church. We have come to visit. May we come in?” That night I was on a bus heading two states to the south to Canoas, Rio Grande do Sul. I had already forgotten how to say “Good day, etc.” The bus made a bathroom stop in the middle of the night and the bathroom featured two foot pads and a hole in the floor. Oh, my goodness! I wasn’t in Bellingham any more, Toto.
The mission would be an absolute life-altering experience which would allow me to go to BYU and marry a sweet Mormon girl and provide a career and retirement jobs and a lifetime of service in the Church. Out of small and simple things . . .
Anyway, Hurrah, Hurrah for Israel! I am thankful to the Lord for the blessing of my mission. It is His work and He deserves the credit. Alf
From Larry Mellor of Globe, AZ, my M.O. companion: “Dear Alf, I remember vividly that week we spent in SLC. I can't believe that I was able to memorize the first discussion in English, in a week. For all the good it did me, as we all had to do it over again in Portuguese. I was set apart by Elder Mark E. Peterson. I spent a short time with the young lady who is now my wife, on the day we were scheduled to depart. I was in love, but I honestly didn't expect her to be there when I returned, but she wrote to me faithfully for 30 months, every week. I was fortunate enough to be an Eagle, one of nine in my Idaho troop that all received that rank in the same court of honor, a worldwide record at the time. I remember that in addition to the Empire State Building we toured the United Nations building and were able to listen to a small bit of a session there. I have been so blessed by my mission experience in any number of ways, but mostly it gave me a foundation of undeniable faith and faith promoting experiences. I know of no other mission which has left the missionaries with such a treasured and lifelong love of the country in which we served. One last memory: I am still amazed that we were able to go to Brazil with very little language experience and begin to participate almost immediately in the teaching of those precious Brazilian souls in their own language. I have to give a great deal of the credit to my earliest senior companions, chief among them for me being the late Lyman Daniel Covington. I thought at the time that he was going to kill me with the number of hours we worked each day. He was still recovering from a bout with hepatitis B. I probably should remember more, but these days I'm lucky to remember my own name. I love you companheiro. Adeus, Larry Mellor” (email@example.com)
From Dale Foote of Mesa, AZ: “In the middle of that week 50 years ago the Cuban missile crisis occurred. Some of us wondered if our draft boards would call us up and we wouldn't get to serve our full mission. But it passed and all was well. The Salt Lake Temple was closed that week so our one missionary temple session included a bus trip to the Logan Temple. When I arrived early on Sunday before starting mission training on Monday, I went to the part of the three hour missionary testimony meeting in the assembly hall for the previous week's missionaries. I got bored and left early. How different it was, one week later, when we were in our testimony meeting and the time flew by and I was not a bit bored. What a change. Seven of us Brazilian South Missionaries flew to New York and during several hours layover, my uncle picked us up and gave us a New York City tour and a meal on or close to Times Square. After arriving in Curitiba at the mission home on Halloween, we were processed and got our Brazilian identity card (little booklet), and learned a small prayer and four line door approach in Portuguese...Bom dia...somos da igreja...viemos visitar…podemos entrar?..Four or five of us were put on a bus to Porto Alegre with our memorized door approach and an address to give a taxi when we arrived at our particular city. Elder Hardy and I got off at São Leopoldo, gave our address to the taxi driver and went to the modified house that was to be our living quarters and church. Our senior companions told us we had to memorize a new door approach that was better suited for our area...Bom dia...somos da lua...viemos vender queijo...quantos quilos quer?... Being from the southwest, we had known about queso in Mexican food, so we didn't buy it, but it would have been fun for them to have us do it at a member's house. It was great to be part of the missionary force of the Church. The experience of my mission has been so much of an influence on the rest of my life so far as I have served in almost all possible callings in a ward except organist and chorister. I am very grateful for my testimony. Dale Foote.” (firstname.lastname@example.org)
From James Hall of West Point, UT: One of my favorite memories was the plane ride from New York to Rio on VARIG. First of all, the only time I had ever been on a plane was the leg from Salt Lake City to New York, and everything was amazing and wonderful. Upon boarding VARIG, I noticed men stashing huge bundles of cartons of cigarettes in the overhead compartments, it seemed at the time, almost feverishly. I later found out that it was something to do with taxes. However, the biggest impression was my first taste of Guaraná Antarctica. The stewardess (in those days, we could call them that!) just sat a bottle and a glass with ice on my tray. The label said 'Champaigne', and it sure looked like it from what I had seen on TV! On the label, it said 'non-alcool', so under the disapproving glare from my travel companion, I risked a cautious sip. Oh, heavenly, exotic! From then on, I always ordered 'Guaraná Antarctica' but often had to settle for 'Guarana' da Brahma', but always with ice. James Hall Missão Brasileira do Sul 62-65 (email@example.com)
Elder Tom Price of North Ogcen, UT, writes, “Dear Alf, If memory serves me right—and at my age that is an iffy proposition—we arrived at the Mission Home, that beautiful mansion on the hill in Curitiba, for our "last supper" before heading out on our first transfers. I believe it was Elder Foote who approached an Elder who had finished his 30 months and was at the Mission Home getting his ticket home. He looked very much older and wiser, his suit dusty and worn, his shoes worn out, his luggage like it had been in a war zone. He spoke fluent Portuguese, perfectly at ease with the Brazilians who were there. Elder Foote asked him the question we all wanted to ask him—that question to which there was only one response that would make us, the new guys, feel very much better for having chosen to serve a mission. The question was, "Does the time really go fast, Elder." The answer we hoped for, of course, would be, "Elder, the time flies by, and before you know it, you have to say goodbye." Elder Foote asked the question and that taller missionary stared down at him, and with a cold eye, said "Elder, two and a half years, Elder . . . Two and a Half Yeaaaars" dragging out the years part. And that was that. Our bubble had burst. The truth was, we were there for a long stay and we had better understand it. It was sobering. As it turned out, the days went slowly, and the days flew by, all at the same time, and 30 months later, we were the guys in the dusty suits, speaking the polished Portuguese and having to say goodbye. It was, and remains, for me at least, the most important period of my life, which laid the foundation for every good thing that followed. Bless you all, on this 50th anniversary. Where has the time gone? Tom Price, aka, Rex Thomas Price, Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Elder Paul M. Hardy of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, recalls: “When we were in the Mission Home my companion was Elder Price, a great first companion. Sister Carr of our group and I discovered that we were distant cousins. Do you remember the shoulder holsters that they gave us to carry tracts and B of M's around in? I had mine packed solid with stuff on the trip to Brazil. The best parts of the trip had to do with the kindness of strangers. On the flight I got airsick and the flight attendant was so caring and kind. In New York Elder Foote's uncle came to the airport, took us on a tour of the city, and treated us to dinner. Then in São Paulo, Elder Dana had an aunt who spent time with us at the airport and again treated us to dinner. In Curitiba, Sister Paulsen, who went to high school with my father, was so gracious. Then we left Curitiba for our assignments. Elder Foote and I were assigned to São Leopoldo and you, Elder Gunn, just next door in Canoas. (email@example.com)
I asked Elder Hardy to share this more recent experience from January 2010 at the Columbus Ohio Temple where he serves. “The temple has called several Spanish speaking workers for Spanish sessions the temple has added. One of the new sisters, a Sister Price, who had been called because she has recently returned from a mission in Argentina, heard two of us talking about serving our missions in Brazil. After the other brother left she asked me if there was a way to find the missionaries who had baptized her mother in Brazil. I told her that there was possibly a way and I asked how her mother came to be baptized. She told me that her mother had been a Peace Corps worker who looked up the missionaries because she wanted to speak English with someone. They taught her the gospel and she was baptized. She then said that for several years she has wished that she could write those Elders and thank them. I asked her to tell me her mother's name. She told me that it was Rebecca and her maiden name was Dye. At that point, I dropped my notebook. I was so startled. I then said, "I baptized your mother." She couldn't believe that I was telling her the truth until I told her mother's full name, Rebecca Dale Dye, and that she had been from Harrisonville, Ohio. When that information penetrated, she started to cry and asked if she could hug me. She then tried to call her mother, but didn't get an answer.
Well, both of us were so excited that we were almost bouncing off the walls; she, because she had at least half of what she had wanted and I, because I had often wondered what had become of Becky. We exchanged contact information. As soon as I got home, I got out my journal and checked out the details. I had not baptized Becky. I had confirmed her. My companion George Leavitt had baptized her on Sunday, 21 February 1965, almost 45 years ago.
That night Sister Price called and then handed the phone to her mother with no explanation. So I said, "Becky, fala portugues ainda?" She said, "Um poco. Who is this?" When I explained, she was almost as excited as her daughter had been. We then talked for 45 minutes. She and her husband will come to the temple, on Feb 13th when we work next. I counted this as one of the tender mercies of the Lord that comes from serving in the temple.”
Alf’s final note: I should mention how thankful I am for my first companion, Elder Wilson Lima, a Brazilian who had been a member of the Church less than two years himself and who spoke excellent English. He tolerated my weaknesses, including quite a bit of culture shock, and helped me begin to learn the language and a love of the people. After evenings of teaching missionary lessons we often rode home on our bicycles singing songs from West Side Story. It was the hottest summer of my life. Wilson and I are like brothers to this day.
*We of the 50-year group were Sisters Virginia Millward and Barbara Carr and Elders Warren Sweeten, Stan Hall, Lawrence Mellor, John Legerski, Alfred Gunn, David Michael Lorensen, Gerald Wilson Dana, Thomas Price, Jr., Burke Teichert, Paul Hardy and Dale Foote. Those of us still around continue to be true and faithful and thankful. Deceased at this writing are dear Sister Carr and Elders Lorensen, Dana and Sweeten.
Okay, while we are reminiscing, this last note comes from my good friend Glen Weeks (BSM 65-67)—not one of the 50-year gang—who alludes to the fact that I was the mission secretary who drove him from the airport to the Curitiba Mission Home on his arrival in Brazil. After his mission Glen would become a war hero in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot flying in and out of hot zones to save lives. He is a hoot to travel with on tours we have taken together to Brazil.
Dear “Pater to many of us when you were AP”,
After the speedy trip you provided for my January 6, 1965, arriving group from the Curitiba airport to the MO, I thought I was prepared for the bus trip to my first city of Criciuma, Santa Catarina. I knew after the bus busted a spring 20 minutes outside of Curitiba that we wouldn’t make Joinville. But we did. In the rodoviária there some of us also experienced the hole with the two foot pads, and one didn’t know that you were to remove yourself from the pads before flushing. He squeaked in his new American leather shoes when he walked back to the bus, wet to the ankles. After an equipment change, we promptly left Joinville in a driving rainstorm, only to witness from the first row directly behind the driver’s seat the windshield section in front of the him explode inward, forcing the motorista to stop, put his raincoat and hat on backwards, and press on into the gale to Itajaí. Remember the glass panel between the driver and the front row passengers? We were extremely grateful for it that night because it kept us dry.
In Itajaí we were forced to evacuate the bus in the middle of the night while being ferried across the river (the toll for the new bridge was more than the ferry fee) but were glad the rain had stopped. By then I was sure I had died from the rutty road rattle that had relocated every vital organ in my body to other places.
Thank goodness we held a district conference in Florianôpolis, and the final fatal leg to Criciuma was deferred for two more days. Yes, you read that right. By the time my first transfer to Joinville came three months later, I had resurrected. Actually, it took 40 more years for me to gain courage to want to make that road trip along the coast of Santa Catalina from PA to Joinville by bus on our January, 2010, missionary tour with Dick Jensen. Hurray! ! ! Asphalt had arrived by then in SC, and we even had a bus with air conditioning – sometimes. This time it was raining inside because the A/C condensation was dripping badly enough to require the occupants of the front seats to ride with umbrellas opened. Bad luck – the bus was full.
And we still miss all the adventures every time we visit the home of our spiritual birth. “O corpo é Norte Americano, mas o coracão e a sangue são verde e amarelo.” Que matem as saudades, tchau. Elder Vale Semanas (Glen Weeks)
Each one of you could tell stories such as these. Hope you enjoyed ours.
Gig Harbor, WA firstname.lastname@example.org 253-851-1099