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Vanessa Fitzgibbon: The field is still ready in Brazil and South America

Vanessa Fitzgibbon: The field is still ready in Brazil and South America

After a recent trip to my home country of Brazil, my thoughts have been on the Church’s growth in Brazil and missionary work there.

I spoke with some missionaries from the missions in the new Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple district and began to realize the progress of the Church there and across South America.

One elder was from São José dos Campos, São Paulo, where my family moved after I finished high school in 1978. As I tried to find some common ground by naming families I knew there, the missionary told me that city now has two stakes. I thought he was confused and meant two wards. It used to have one small branch as part of a district covering much of the eastern part of the state of São Paulo. But he was right, there are now two stakes in that one city.

My reaction of surprise was promptly replaced by an overwhelming feeling of joy for those members and missionaries who worked so hard to build the Church in that area, and in many others throughout the country.

Later, I met another missionary, whose excitement was contagious. He had a smile on his face while crying and smiling simultaneously. He was from the northern part of Brazil, in Óbidos, Pará, where one of my sons served during his mission.

We used to say that the Church in Brazil was so small that all its members knew each other. As the Church has grown, this situation has changed. The Church in Pará, and in the rest of the country, has grown beyond my poor imagination, and many promises have been fulfilled.

Elder Carlos Miguel de Castro Ferreira at a mission meeting in Brazil.

Elder Carlos Miguel de Castro Ferreira at a mission meeting in Brazil.

Credit: Vanessa Fitzgibbon

This elder had been a member of the Church for only 18 months and was the only member of his family who joined it. Since he couldn’t go to the temple there (the traveling distance by car between his hometown in Pará to the closest temple in Manaus is 1,457 miles/2,345 km), he received his endowment when he went to the missionary training center in São Paulo.

At that moment, he had been in the mission field for only four days. The overwhelming feelings he was having were undoubtedly evidence of the blessings he had already experienced in this short period as a missionary: “Four days, sister, and I’ve already gone through the temple. I have a temple right here, in my mission. And I shook hands with an Apostle. I could never have imagined all this.” Then he shed more tears.

He said serving a mission has been hard without his parents’ support, but he kept repeating the incredible blessings he’s seen, crying with a mix of joy and sadness. It was the pure and sincere testimony of a young, converted missionary of the greatness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings of temple covenants in His holy house.

In Matthew 5:8, the Lord said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” This young missionary had a brief glimpse of the many blessings the Lord has reserved for him and many others who have a heart that is pure enough to believe in things that cannot be seen but are true. And in my heart, I prayed that he may never forget such feelings because they are genuinely beautiful.

The history of the Church in Brazil started in 1913 when two German immigrants, who were members of the Church, arrived in the Southern part of the country. In 1978, when the São Paulo Brazil Temple was dedicated, 54,410 members lived in Brazil. Ten years later, there were 265,286 members of the Church, representing a growth of 487%.

In 2021, the number of members of the Church in Brazil was 1,456,238. In 43 years, the Church there has grown more than 2,600%, and it went from one temple dedicated to eight, with another eight under construction or announced.

After the São Paulo Brazil Temple dedication, the area covering the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Mission at that time became 17 other missions, and the four missions from 1978 originated today’s 36 missions.

The numbers are impressive. I remember so many pioneers at the São Paulo Brazil Temple dedication that came from all over South America to be sealed as families. They sacrificed everything they had for their testimony of the gospel’s truth. I have no doubt they were the foundation for the growth and strength of the Church on the continent.

And the good news is that the field is still ready there, and everywhere, and many more temples will continue to populate the world and bless families for eternity.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Friday, May 6, 2022.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Friday, May 6, 2022.

Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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