Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Dear Family and Friends!

December already?  Where did November go?  I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving.  I had planned to cook a chicken but when I woke up I decided I wanted to do more so I made stuffing (kind of), mashed potatoes and gravy, and green bean casserole(again, kind of).  With that we had pao de queijo since I haven't mastered rolls with these ovens like Jalayne has, guarana and chocolate cake.  We had so much food that Howard decided to invite some friends.  I had a fun day in the kitchen and we had a fun evening together roasting in the warm weather on our deck.

It's hard to get in the Christmas spirit, but I'm enjoying all of the Christmas music that Howard downloaded for me as I sit in front of the air conditioner.  Our good friends found a live little tree for us that we decorated with some of our most precious ornaments that we brought from home.  Now we're anticipating Emily's visit in a couple of weeks to make everything complete!  I've decided that what I miss most this Christmas season other than family is singing with Friends!  It's just not Christmas without those wonderful women, their beautiful voices and their precious friendship!

We have a couple here who has been called to oversee missionary housing.  They're lifesavers!  They find new houses when a move is necessary, oversee repairs, and when things are beyond repair purchase replacements for everything from blenders to beds.  This week Howard and I went with them to make some deliveries and do some surprise inspections on the houses.  For the most part I was pleasantly surprised with how tidy the houses were.  The ones that weren't up to snuff really weren't too bad .  Word's out now that we're making surprise visits and leaving candy to the clean houses, so I expect things to get even better.  All in all it was a good day with good friends and the missionaries.

Transfers again this week!  Howard just called a new assistant.  He was so cute.  He literally looked ill when Howard finished talking to him, he had tears in his eyes and was truly humbled by the call.  He'll be great!!

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas season, remembering always the reason for the season!


 Stake Conference in Botucatu

Saying goodbye to one more wonderful sister

Brazilian BBQ Piracicaba Zone

Mission home christmas tree

A wonderful afternoon with District President Bonini and his family

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hello From Piracicaba

Dear Family and Friends!

Tonight Howard is at a Stake Priesthood Leadership meeting so I figured I'd take a few minutes to try to catch up on the news.

Time is flying by!  And we're loving every minute of it.  

At the end of October we had a visit from Elder Bassatt and his wife.  He's the second counselor in the area presidency.  We got the whole mission together for this visit.  We understand that getting the whole mission  together is not something that's done, but we've been able to do it twice so far.  It is so much fun to have all of the missionaries together in one place!

Elder and Sister Bassatt were wonderful and we received excellent training from them.

Just before they came we got a new group of missionaries.  They come to the mission home for training and lunch and then over to the chapel for their assignments and new comps.  This is one of my favorite moments in the mission.  The new missionaries all stand and sing Called to Serve and on the second verse their new companions come in through the back singing.  It gives me chills just to write about it.  The volume doesn't just double but it's like all of the angels in heaven have joined in!  I always get too emotional to sing along.

This last week we had our Brazil Mission Presidents Seminar  in Iguacu.  It was amazing.  I felt like I'd been invited to a very exclusive event by mistake.  The training was amazing and being able to be with other presidents and wives and pick their brains was a real blessing.  I was somewhat jealous of other missions where there was another mission president and wife in the same city (like Paulo and Jalayne) or other Americans close by (Paulo and Jalayne) or a beach (P&J).  But the more I learn of other missions compared to ours the more I feel Heavenly Father picked this one just for me.  I feel really blessed.

It was also great to spend time with Paulo and Jalayne.  With more than a year under their belts they were a great source of information and it was wonderful to be with family again.

On Thursday we went on an excursion to the falls that was so much fun!  This group can be wild and crazy which made me feel like I fit in a little better!

The week before we left we started with interviews.  Okay, Howard started with interviews while I attended a special zone training meeting-a wonderful idea from Elder Bassatt.  We'll finish up with those this week.

Today we had the privilege of attending a meeting where one of our branches was made into a ward.  So great to see the church growing.  We have a lot of work to make sure those who are baptized are really converted and stay active and to seek out our "lost sheep".  Howard got some great tools from Paulo when we visited with him last Spring that he's ready to implement.  We hope to see a lot of work done in bringing many back to the fold.

We love our work.  We love Brazil.  We miss you all and hope you will come visit us!  Piracicaba is not really a destination spot but we've found some fun things to do and we're not far from Campinas International Airport, so we can be a jump off point for anything you want to see here!



Iguacu Falls with Howard's brother Paulo and his wife JaLayne 
(serving as mission presidents in Salvador Brasil)

 Iguacu Falls

Members from the old days in the 1960's

Elder and Sister Bassett

Lunch at the mission home at Leadership Council

 At the cemetery on Dia dos Finados (Memorial Day)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

EMILY ENGAGED! Mission News, Departing Missionaries

Dear Family and Friends,

Seems like we're always busy, but interesting stuff comes in spurts.

The big news is Emily's engagement to Peyton Moss.  They'll be getting married on January 14th.  I'll be coming home for a couple of weeks and can't wait to see many of you.  Most of you I'll get to see around and at the reception, but missionaries and parents even if you don't get announcements, I would love to see you.  I'll send out the info later when I know more.

<3 <3 <3

Last Sunday was the Primary Sacrament Meeting Program.  There were twenty children.  Every single one from the oldest to the youngest sang every single word.  It was amazing.  I loved it.  Good thing I don't know the songs in Portuguese or I'm sure I would've been singing along and embarrassing myself.

This week we're losing eight missionaries.  Yesterday we went to the temple with them.  For two of them it was only their second time.  For four others it was they're first time in Portuguese.  One Elder's stake was there.  They'd rented two busses and had been their all week.  Such a coincidence!  I know they'd traveled a long way but found out today it was a 24 hour trip just to get to the temple!  They were actually from Nick's mission and one of the sisters remembered Nick and called him her filhote.

Today we had their training, lunch and testimony meeting here in the mission home.  Sweet day.  They're such good kids, full of hope and enthusiasm.  I'm going to miss them.  We'll receive 14 new missionaries on Tuesday and so it continues.

It has become very hot and humid here and it's not even summer yet!

Still trying to figure out when to decorate for Christmas since there's no Thanksgiving here to guide my decision.  I may enjoy the music and the decorations a little longer this year although I'm not sure it'll feel much like Christmas in the 100 degrees.  Maybe I'll go to the pool on Christmas!

We love you all and miss you.  We are having a great experience and are grateful every day for this opportunity.



 The departing missionaries and their self sufficiency teacher

Departing missionaries

Departing missionaries 

Members who traveled 24 hours to get to the temple

Monday, October 3, 2016

Zone Conferences and General Conference

Dear Family and Friends!

What a wonderful couple of weeks we've had!  This last week we had four zone conferences.  We'll have two more this week.  We try to keep them small.  It gives us more of a chance to deal one on one with the missionaries.  They are so wonderful and these times are my happiest!  Doing smaller and more zone conferences means more traveling but I don't mind.  The countryside here is so beautiful.  And spending three nights in hotels means no meals to prepare or beds to make.  I even had a chance to go out and work with the sisters!  I felt like I was able to make a difference and that was great.  When I go out with the sisters, it's not to teach them or observe them, it's just to learn from them.  And I have so much to learn.  I have a couple of work days planned this coming week that I'm looking forward to.

Conference was wonderful!  We could've watched it in our apartment but chose to watch it instead at the stake center with the members and missionaries.  It's much more fun that way.  On both Saturday and Sunday we were able to attend baptisms between sessions.  On Saturday between the afternoon session and Priesthood, we attended the stake mission prep institute class.  I don't know what I was more impressed with-the teacher or the students.  The saints here are really amazing.  Between the two sessions on Sunday all the missionaries brought snack food and we snacked together.  In our family we always have breakfast casserole for breakfast on conference Sunday, but with just the two of us I figured we'd skip that tradition.  When we heard about the lunch, I made our traditional casserole, with just a few ingredient changes due to availability, cut it in squares and served it cold. During the afternoon session Howard leaned over to me and suggested we have a recap with the missionaries who were there.  It was so great.  This is a tradition we've had since we married and since we wouldn't be doing it with our own families that evening, we ended up having it with part of our new family.  It was just a quick meeting where everyone was able to share their feelings on conference and a talk or two that impacted them. It was a sweet experience. We're hoping to do that with our own family tonight via Skype.

Today the skies opened and it poured.  Running into the store I felt like I'd gotten into the shower with my clothes on.  Very reminiscent of running Ogden. The streets were absolutely flooded. Made me happy it was p-day for our missionaries but I'm sure they experience plenty of rain.

We love you all and appreciate your prayers.  We need them and feel them!


Piracicaba and Nova Piracicaba


 Siao Carlos and Pirasioanunga

 Mission Prep Piracicaba

 The whole Piracicaba mission! 9/8/16

Zone Conference Siao Joao da Boa Vista

Lunch between conference sessions 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Visiting Authorities and Transfers

Hi Family and Friends!

It's been an eventful and exciting couple of weeks!  First we had our visit from Elders Anderson and Aidukaitis with their wives and Carlos Martins and his wife.  We had a great lunch here at the house prepared by a ward member: salads, salmon, beef, chicken, sausages, chocolate cake and passion fruit mousse.  At the same time all of our missionaries were gathered at the stake center for lunch and then we headed over there.  When we entered the chapel and saw all of our missionaries reverently standing for Elder Anderson, I thought my heart would burst.  I knew I'd love my missionaries, but I didn't know I'd LOVE my missionaries.  The brethren taught us for a couple of hours.  Not a bad way to spend a day!

You may remember that the next day we had planned on marching in the Independence Day parade.  Because of the political unrest the area presidency asked that none of the missionaries in Brazil participate in the parades for safety reasons.  Piracicaba is a pretty safe little refuge in Brazil but of course we didn't march.  We did take all of the missionaries to the Piracicaba falls to film a little something for the kiosk at the CTM.  It was fun, even if it wasn't a parade.

When I say all of the missionaries were there, there were a couple of emergency appendectomies on Monday and Tuesday.  Both in the same district.  What are the odds!  Anyway unfortunately not everyone got to participate in our wonderful days together.  We missed them!

We had 10 missionaries going home on Monday and since we'd brought them in for the conference, we didn't think it was worth sending them back for one day and then bringing them back in again, especially since some of the bus rides are a few hours long and they needed to be back Friday for post mission training and interviews.  Long sentence.  Sorry.  With an extra day we were able to go to the Campinas Temple with them.  That was a wonderful experience. We spent some wonderful hours with them and it was hard to see them go!

Before we could catch our breaths we got 28 new missionaries yesterday.
They arrive first thing in the morning, having left at the crack of dawn from the Sao Paulo CTM and sit through a day of training.  I feel kind of sorry for them.  They have a look that switches between deer in the headlights and excitement to be here.  We serve them a lunch (also made by a ward member) and head over to the church for them to meet their new trainers.  The trainers have been there receiving training. The new missionaries gather in the chapel and we start with the opening song-Called to Serve.  During the second verse the trainers all march in from the back of the chapel.  It gives me goose bumps and gets me emotional just thinking of it!  They meet their trainers and then it's off to the bus station which looks like it's own mission conference with all of the transfers taking place and just about all of the meetings up taking place there.  This time I only had to drive one set of sisters to their area here in Piracicaba so it was much less hectic than last time. Maybe we're just getting the hang of it.  I hope so!

I still get excited and kind of fluttery every time I stop to realize that I really am in Brazil serving a mission!

We love and miss you all!


 We love our Sister missionaries!!

 So many missionaries all in one place!

 More of our beautiful Sisters

 These departing missionaries will be missed!

Departing missionaries at the Campinas Temple

Adding to our army! 28 new missionaries!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Leadership Council and Mission Life

Dear Family and Friends!

Time continues to fly by.  We've been travelling quite a lot with interviews and Stake Conferences.  We live pretty much in a concrete jungle but it always takes my breath away when we're out on the road.  It only takes a couple of minutes to be out where it's so green and lush and the dirt is red and the hills rolling.  It's so beautiful!

Today we had our Leader Council.  Dad wanted to have it here in the mission home.  In the past it's been at a ward building, but I think he was jealous of Paulo's having it at his place and decided to give it a try.  It was a lot like Thanksgiving at the farm-pretty crowded but lots of fun.  I like to have the missionaries here with us!  

It was a great meeting and Dad talked about the leadership qualities from D&C 121. Also we talked about the logistics of next week, which will be a red letter week for the mission.  Dad had already decided to bring all of the missionaries in to march in the Independence Day parade on September 7th and then have a conference with all of the missionaries together.  Then we received notice that Elder Anderson and Elder Aidukaitis and Carlos Martins were going to visit the mission on September 6th and wanted us to gather all of the missionaries,  It's so perfect!  They'll all arrive on the 6th for the conference, will march in the parade on the 7th and then will head back to their areas.  It's not often that they all get together so there are a lot of details to work out, but everyone is super excited, including me!

My stuff arrived and we now have family pictures on every wall and in every nook and cranny of the mission home.  I also bought a canary!  The house was so stark and quiet, but now with my things and the canary who sings beautifully all day long I feel quite at home!  I only need a dog (and my family of course) to make it complete but we'll wait three years for that!

This is such a wonderful experience.  We feel the Lord's hand in all we do.  I knew I'd love living here in Brazil, but I didn't realize how much I'd love these missionaries.  It is truly a blessing to be able to get to know them.  The future of this church is definitely in good hands!

Communicating with the Americans is easy.  We understand each other's accents really well and if we don't we just switch to English.  Speaking with the Brazilians is not bad.  Usually if I don't understand they slow down and explain a little more and we come to an understanding.  But communicating with those who come from Spanish speaking countries can be a real challenge.  I don't understand their Portuguese and they don't understand mine.  We're working on it.

We love you all and pray for you everyday.  We have faith that the Lord is watching over and protecting our loved ones.

Leadership Council meeting at the Mission Home

With President Calssi and family, 
Hortolandia Stake Conference Aug. 28th

  A young woman headed to Paulo’s mission in September, 
Sao Joao da Boa Vista on Sunday

 One of Cory’s sister missionaries, her husband and daughter, 
in Sao Joao da Boa Vista on Sunday

 Sunflower field enroute to SJBV on Saturday

 Storm Clouds from our balcony last week

With Pres Campos (SJBV stake pres.) & family, 
and others in Aguas da Prata on Sunday after stake conference 

 President Campos’ wife could be Suzie’s twin sister! (although the photo doesn't show it very well) 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

First Transfer and First Interviews

Dear Family and Friends,

It's been a busy couple of weeks with a lot of firsts.  We had our first group of missionaries leaving, our first missionaries arriving, our first transfers, and now our first interviews.  Okay, most of this was firsts for Howard.  I get to watch, sympathize and appreciate.  

Saying good-bye to missionaries that we'd only known for a few weeks was hard.  They are such great young men and women, it's easy to get attached really quickly.

The new missionaries we have received are so sharp and well prepared.  It's fun to watch them jump into the work.

Interviews have been fun.  While Howard is meeting one on one with each missionary I get to hang out with the other missionaries and listen to them joke and find out more about them and their backgrounds and future plans.  

We have a television but haven't turned it on until this week.  We've been watching a little of the Olympics this week.It's a little frustrating because we haven't been able to see much of what's going on with the US.  They just show what's happening with Brazil.  Go figure!  I did watch some of last night's volleyball match between the US and Brazil.  It was fun to watch BYU's Taylor Sanders on the court again.

This weekend we start with Stake Conferences and will continue with another week of interviews.

We're having a rich and wonderful experience, loving every minute.

We miss you all a lot.  We hope to see many of you here in Brazil.  We have lots of beds.


Brazilian sushi!
Working with the sisters

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Finding Comfort

Hi Family and Friends!

I figured Howard covered everything pretty well but I can share some personal things.

I had a few days where I was having a hard time "Enjoying It", but I'm feeling much more comfortable now.  I can understand most of what's said to me on the phone now, which is a big deal because the missionaries call me when they're sick for advice.  Learning the medicines in Portuguese is another issue all together, but we're getting there.  Yesterday I filled up the car with gas, went to the bank, and drove to another city to help in an emergency transfer, all firsts for me.  And it all went well!

We've had multi-zone conferences and now Howard is in the middle of interviewing the missionaries who are going home and planning transfers.  He seems to be made for this calling, not that it's easy.  He's busy all of the time but he just seems to know what to say and what to do.  The missionaries have really taken to him, which is easy to understand.

We've had a sister here in the mission home who had her gall bladder out and is here recovering.  She is such a sweetheart and it's been a joy to have her here.  We've had various sisters with special needs come stay with her in the mission home so I don't need to be here 24/7.  It has been so much fun for me to get to know these sisters a little better.  Each one has an inspiring story.  

I've also had my cousin's 16 year old granddaughter here this week.  She is not a member of our church.  I was a little nervous wondering how I was going to juggle the sisters and Laura, but they're all having so much fun together that I hardly have to do anything.  I haven't found a ton of fun things to do here in Piracicaba, so I was worried how I was going to entertain her, but that hasn't been an issue.  She even joins them for companion study in the morning!

I've had a few tender mercies this last week.  Last Tuesday I needed some stuff at the store and I knew Howard had a lot of letters to read, so I was going to wait until the next day, but he was insistent that we walk over that evening.  It was such a gorgeous evening, with a beautiful moon and we walked passed the falls on the way.  On the way back there seemed to be something going on at this old sugar cane factory we walk through.  Upon further investigation, there was going to be a concert in five minutes, it was free, and it was a cello orchestra.  Heavenly Father knew I could use a little peaceful and relaxing and lovely music that night.  And He knew the special place I have in my heart for cellos.  The only thing that would've made it better would've been a few violas!

Yesterday we brought a new sister into the mission home to stay with our surgery sister.  The first thing she did was sit down at the piano and play Clair d'Lune.  Those who know me well know that's my favorite classical piece ever!  I felt like Heavenly Father was reaching down and giving me a hug!

I found out this week that the president before Howard had to sell everything to be able to afford to come on this mission.  My sacrifice is so small!

We've been traveling quite a bit to visit different wards on weekends.  The open land between the cities here is so beautiful and green and lush.  The members are so grateful that we've made the effort to go visit their little wards and branches.  They treat us like royalty.  A lot remember the Bangerter name which just adds to their love for us.

I'm grateful for this opportunity to serve here in Piracicaba.  I'm hoping to have our crate from home soon so I can hang family pictures.  Then I think I'll be able to feel like this is home.

I love and miss you all!

Making chocolate chip cookies with Laura and the sisters

Pictures on the fridge from Coco and Gigi

A darling Portuglish note from the sisters

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Piracicaba Mission Times from Howard, July

Piracicaba, 20 July 2016

Dear Family,

I suppose it is time for me to break the silence, now that we've been here in Piracicaba 3 weeks. I'm sorry it has taken me this long to do any meaningful correspondence! We've been having a great time!
If I could sum up our experience thus far, I would simply say it has been completely awesome. From the moment we arrived here in Piracicaba, we have felt like the red carpet has been rolled out for us by so many people. President and Sister Canuto, our predecessors, really went all out to have things prepared for us including the missionaries, the office, and the mission home.  We feel so welcome, so embraced and so comfortable that it's like we have returned to a place where we already belong.
Piracicaba is a city of about 450,000, small by some Brazilian standards but large enough to host 1 stake, which is very close to being divided, something we hope happens before we leave. If you can believe it, there are 7 other stakes in the mission as well, in cities such as Rio Claro, Hortolandia, Americana, Sumare, Sao Carlos, Pirassununga, and Sao Joao da Boa Vista. We have a great District in Botucatu as well. Clearly, the Gospel has been established in this mission, and it feels like our purpose is to enlarge the place of God’s tent, to lengthen the cords, strengthen the stakes, and help Zion put on her beautiful garments. We truly feel that Zion is here! Having observed what has happened over the past 50 years here in Brazil, it is easy to imagine a future day when each city in our mission will have 5 or 10 stakes, and several temples will grace our beautiful and green landscape.
We live in a beautiful area near center of the city, with easy access a park where Lissa can run and I walk many mornings. We feel safe here, day and night . The people are warm, friendly and outgoing in their desire to please and accommodate us.

Piracicaba is mostly laid out on a grid system (much smaller blocks than we see in Utah) and is very “walkable”. We have shopping nearby, and there are great bakeries and stores with product selections comparable to what we find in the States.

Rookie mistakes: 1) if you pull up to an intersection and all the other directions but yours have a stop light, you're probably going the wrong way on a one-way street! Only done this a few times. I can almost make it across town without GPS navigation. 2) Only left one suitcase in São Paulo. No worries, I got by on 1 suit for a week. 3) Radar speed traps everywhere. Took over a week to discover Wayz warns you about them, Google maps does not. Navigate using Wayz.

You may recall Piracicaba was open to the gospel during our time in Brazil before, The branch was small, weak, and struggling. Even so we continue to meet people connected to those early days. The other night, we went to Festa Junina (“Country Party”) at our ward and met Brother Edno Soares, whose brother Eraldo was the first person from Piracicaba to serve a mission. Edno asked if I was related to Grant Bangerter, and I replied that he was my father. He told how Dad had come to Piracicaba and interviewed his brother and sent him on his mission. Having studied Dad's mission history carefully, I was able to reply, “Yes he came on August 6th 1959, and I was in the car with him along with my mother, my brother, and my baby sister. In fact I have a photograph that was taken at noon on that very day. Here let me show it to you.” I pulled out my phone and opened a picture of the four of us standing in front of the Piracicaba River waterfalls that day. Brother Soares was so overcome with emotion, that I would have such a direct and specific tie to his family, that he began to weep. He called his wife over, and said, “Look! This brother was here before! With President Bangerter!” His mother, who initially opposed Eraldo’s membership and mission, was baptized in 1960. Edno followed in 1961. So we see the foundations having been laid so many years before are still here, and growing stronger every day.

Almost everywhere we go, some of those pioneering, old, early converts present themselves. Way up in the nether part of our mission (2 hours away - Paulo wouldn't consider that very far away, with his 12 and 15 hour drives and/or plane flights - our experience will be very different from theirs!) Sao Joao da Boa Vista, last week, we met a man who moved his family there a few months ago and was immediately called as bishop of his new ward. Although he was only born in 1962, his parents had been baptized in 1961 in Sao Vicente by Elders King and Holsinger. We got on the phone with his mother and she told us all about her baptism, how she had been interviewed by Dad, and what a blessing the gospel has been in their lives ever since. This good brother, Luciano Ferrari dos Santos, served a mission, as well as as a bishop and a member of the stake presidency and ward mission leader. So we see the roots from those early days providing nourishment up in the top of the tree. Everywhere we go, we seem to run into Cory’s missionaries from the Rio Mission of the mid 1980’s. Cory and Gayle, they love you! Today they have strong and mature Gospel families and are the lifeblood of the Church!

We have 148 missionaries, but we’re about to reduce by 7 pairs. We’ll send home 28 next week, and only get 14 in return. They are wonderful! The more we get to know them, the more we love them! Already, we had “Get To Know You” meetings where we briefly introduced ourselves and family, and tried to set a foundation upon which we can build. Those of you who know me can already guess that I introduced the “Three Types of Missionary” and explained the fundamentals of how to become the 3rd - the “Faith of Power” missionary by having the Desire and being Obedient and listening to and following the Spirit. That is the foundation. In our 3 weekly letters to the missionaries, we have tried to reinforce this concept, and further introduced how to build that power based on many of the concepts Dad taught. Last week, in our first Zone Conferences, we focused on fundamentals of Preach My Gospel (Teaching repentance and baptizing converts; receiving revelation by prayer, reading the Book of Mormon, and attending church, etc.) with a heavier emphasis on the role of the Holy Ghost in the conversion process, and the responsibility of the Missionary to be qualified to be an agent of the power of the Holy Ghost in conversion. The assistants introduced “The Strength of Peter” and we did role play based on that section of Lessons of Faith. Many are sharing in their letters this week that they have applied this training in their teaching and it is making a difference.

The mission leadership has worked hard to establish a culture of obedience in preparation for our arrival. We feel poised on the brink of greater growth and success in our mission’s work. The leadership corps is strong, obedient, and capable, and they are not afraid of change or of learning new things. They seem to drink up any new idea with enthusiasm and energy. I’m excited to collaborate with Paulo and others to get the ball (or “stone cut out of the mountain without hands”!) rolling with greater speed and effectiveness. A shout-out to President Canuto for his efforts in establishing such a great mission culture! Almost every letter from every missionary (I've read hundreds!) says in it, “How can I help you? Just call, I'll do whatever you ask!”

About 10 days ago I was invited to attend and address a “Mini MTC” sponsored by the Piracicaba Stake. Think “Camp Helaman” Brazilian style! They had rented a lovely chacara, a country setting with an assembly area, lodging, and cooking facilities and they had about 25 or 30 young man, pre-mission age, who had been there overnight. When the stake president and I arrived we found them all dressed in white shirts and ties with nametags calling them Elder. They invited me to speak first and introduce myself and our family, and then weresponded as a panel to questions from the young men about serving a mission. Besides myself, we had President Mendes, President Queiroz, (son of Walter Guedes de Queiros, one of the famous “three ministers” who were baptized in the late 1950s. It was an emotional experience for me to meet this man whose countenance exudes strength and power and reflects the image of the Savior - he is the stake YMP besides being on the High Council), and several other members of the High Council. All were returned missionaries. I focused my remarks on obedience and commandments and tried to help the young men understand that with a mission they would grow in their capacity to keep commandments and therefore receive blessings. They had prepared a number of questions in advance, similar to how I handled our discussions with Priests and Laurels in our ward conferences when I was stake president. This was an outstanding group of young men, and I tried to convey to them the blessing that it was for them to have to have the gospel in their lives, and how much the church has grown since the late 1950’s and early sixties when there were almost no native Brazilian missionaries. At the conclusion I rounded out my remarks by teaching about the three types of missionary (go figure). It was a great meeting. Reflected in the faces if these YM was the hope and potential of the future of the Church here - it was a beautiful and inspiring sight.

The other night, we were invited to attend and address a “Family Home Evening” (the only similarity to an actual FHE was that it was on a Monday night, and in a home. . . :-). When we arrived, we found about 25  YM and YW crowded into a small 10 X 10 living room. Of the standing room only group most were members, about 10 were invited friends, non-members. They asked if we would encourage the youth to attend the Ward Conference on Sunday, and each member should bring at least one non-member with them. Lissa led off, giving a excellent and fluent introduction of our family and bearing her testimony about families.  I was at a loss as to what i should say. At the last second, I was able to find a copy of For the Strength of Youth, and use that as a tool in teaching about Strengthening Families (thanks to Paulo and Julie for their help with that approach). I invited them all to attend church, and we talked about how living commandments allows us to qualify for blessings, and the more commandments we get, the more blessings we get (kind of a pattern here, no?). All raised their hands when I asked them if they would go to Church this weekend. The missionaries obtained 2 solid referrals from the meeting, and we ourselves felt invigorated by strength and power of these young kids! The YW President leading this whole thing is a single RLM who served under Bruce Muir in Maceio who hasn’t lost her missionary fire in the least! We see the strength and power of these Brazilian RM’s everywhere we go.

As we reflect back on the outpouring of revelation and effort it took to get the native missionaries going, we are humbled by our close connection to those events. I think about how in June of 1978, I answered a phone call in Dad’s office in Sao Paulo; it was Bruce R. McConkie’s office wanting to speak with Dad. He was announcing to Brazil the revelation on Priesthood, wherein all worthy male members were given the privilege of holding the priesthood. I remember Dad’s response to that news was, “Oh Bruce, that’s earthshaking!” And it was. In that little living room, and in our missionary force, with the YM at the Mini MTC, at the festa junina, everywhere we go, we see faces of every color and complexion and racial background. As we look at our District Leaders, Zone Leaders, and Sister Training Leaders, we see the same. We see a powerful force at work - the power of the Gift of the Holy Ghost - The Strength of Peter, gently but powerfully transforming and sanctifying and whispering and nurturing simple, humble people, into becoming individual and collective towers of strength, with seemingly boundless energy, and power! We witness the granting of the promises made since the foundation of the world, to this people and nation, to individuals and families, and recognize the influence of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in changing each one, of helping each to have the Image of Christ reflected in their countenance.

I was riding in the car with our two assistants  yesterday (they have given me permission to share this) and I mentioned something I had been curious about since our arrival. Elder Francatto  has tattoos peeking out from under his long-sleeved white shirt (he has NO short sleeved shirts), and knowing he had been a member all of his life (they are both Brazilians, and both are “lifers” in the Church, so to speak), I said, “So Elder, tell me about those tattoos!”  He looked at me and smiled, and said, “You know President, even though I was born in the Church, when I was 18 I forgot who I was and began seeking my self-esteem from external sources. While I was there, I made some mistakes that are a little harder to “erase” though the Atonement, if you know what I mean. But I know that as I testify of the power of the Atonement in peoples’ lives, inside I know that I am truly a walking, talking example of that power. I’m so grateful for it!” His companion chimed in: “President, I have some of those too. My father died when I was 1, and I didn’t have have a strong male role model in my life. When I was 13, I strayed and also made some mistakes I regret. When I was a little older, I began to remember the things I had learned in Primary and Sunday School about God, the gospel and the commandments, and I knew I wanted to change. I feel so blessed that the Atonement has helped me so much, and for the privilege I have of testifying of its power to those I teach.”  Yeah. that is what it is all about. Earthshaking, truly.

As we sit here in the waiting room of a hospital in Piracicaba waiting for one of our faithful sisters to have her gall stones removed, we feel so grateful and humbled to be here. We only hope we can measure up to the stature and faith of the people among whom we serve!

Much love,

Howard and Lissa

The assistants and the Canutos

Lissa tracting with the Santa Teresinha sisters

Dinner at a beautiful farm that used to belong to Pelé

Brother Soares (whose brother Dad set apart as a missionary)

Young Women's president at the family home evening