Single-minded in their service to the Lord, Elder Ulisses Soares and his wife, Rosana, have spent their lives transforming obstacles into faith-building experiences.
Elder Soares, 46, was called April 2 to the First Quorum of the Seventy. His is an unruffled attitude with an eye to detail honed by many years of Church responsibility in which he served for 10 years as director of temporal affairs for all of Brazil, as a stake president, and as a mission president in Portugal.
He has a full partner in his wife who "walked by her own light." As a converted young woman, she unfailingly attended early-morning seminary during her high school years, though unbaptized.
For Elder Soares, it was an aunt who sent missionaries to his family in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in about 1963. His parents began attending branch services with a few others on the upper floor of a bakery. Even today, Elder Soares remembers the warmth of the members, mingling with the smell of fresh bread baking at mid-meeting. "I still have great memories of that time," he said. His parents were baptized after a few months and he followed when he turned 8.
Neighbors invited the 9-year-old Rosana Carecho and her older sister to Church meetings. Though her parents allowed her to attend, they did not allow her to be baptized, year after year, despite her pleadings. Finally, when she was 17, her father gave her the birthday present of permission. Her mother would not speak to her as she walked from the house into a rainy day of penetrating cold on her way to be baptized.
"I was very happy anyway," she said of her baptism. After her baptism, she served in the Brazil Rio de Janeiro Mission. After a year or so, she briefly encountered Elder Ulisses Soares, serving as a traveling trainer.
He completed his mission and returned home and became engaged to someone else. Seven months later, she completed her mission and these two, casual acquaintances, met at a dance.
"When we saw each other, something changed in our hearts," said Elder Soares. Not long after, he turned to his fiancee and said, "This is not right," ending the engagement. He and Rosana eventually began dating and after two years were married in the Sao Paulo Brazil Temple.
They were very happy and looked forward to having a family. But children did not come. In fact, doctor after doctor told them she would never have children.
"We have learned how to develop faith and obey the commandments," he said.
She underwent surgeries, all with the same disappointing results. "We both felt so strong that we would be able to bring souls into this world," he said.
"We were praying and fasting, but doctors all were saying the same thing and we were getting discouraged." One day they met a member with similar problems who referred them to yet another doctor. This doctor was optimistic and after more expensive surgeries, she became expectant and delivered a son.
Later, two more children were lost in pregnancy. "We felt we should be faithful to deserve to live with (them) again," he said.
More surgeries were experienced. Then two more children, daughters, were born.
"We were tremendously blessed," he said. Today, the family enjoys "just being together, telling stories and jokes," said Elder Soares. They enjoy vacations as well. A year or so ago, while vacationing in Paris, France, they were waiting in a crowded subway for a train. When it stopped, it was so crowded they decided to wait for the next one and stepped back, except for their 14-year-old daughter, who boarded the train.
As the train zipped off, the parents became frantic, surrounded by the crowds, speaking another language. They considered a taxi, but "we didn't even know where the next stop was."
They waited for the next train, trying to fight off panic. They boarded in a rush and when they climbed off, there was their daughter, calmly looking around.
"We jumped off the train and we ran to her and hugged her, crying. She turned to us and said, 'Why are you so upset? Everything is fine.' "
In their early marriage he received bachelor's and master's degrees. Then, while their son was a baby, it was her turn to attend the university. At night, he stayed home with the baby while she attended school, graduating in Portuguese and literature.
"The only time she could go to school was when I was home taking care of the baby," he said. "We made a covenant with the Lord that we would take care of our children when were finally blessed with them. When she became pregnant, she left her employment. She never went back to work."
He was working for Pirelli Tire Co. when Donald L. Clark, director of temporal affairs, phoned and offered him a job with the Church, for not as much money but a good future, said Brother Clark. Although at first reluctant to leave a situation in which he felt he could be a good example for the Church, Brother Soares accepted a job as senior auditor.
Two years later, "I promoted him to be my assistant, and when I was called to a mission, he became the DTA at 31, one of the youngest ever in the Church," said Brother Clark, who is now retired and living in Atlanta, Ga.
"He always had a level head and kept his emotions in control and thought through his decisions. He always tried to stay in policy and was completely loyal."
During his service, the office handled an estimated 600 building projects, and supported the Church as its membership in Brazil grew from about 208,000 to 548,000 members.
"He is very loved by the Brazilian people," said Marta Pessoa, who was his secretary. "He was not my chief, he was my teacher. Everything I know about this work I learned from him." She said working with his family was "very marvelous."
During this time, he also served as stake president, said Elder Adhemar Damiani of the Seventy, who was just called as president of the Campinas Brazil Temple. "He was a good teacher. He would teach the leaders and members, especially about the doctrine. As a stake president, he was a wonderful leader."
His service as DTA ended with a phone call from President James E. Faust of the First Presidency, who called him to be president of the Portugal Porto Mission. Seven weeks later, with visas in hand that usually take six months, the family landed in Portugal where they remained for three years and three months. In addition to missionary work, President and Sister Soares each located and took to the temple many thousands of family names from Portugal, the homeland of their forebears. Once, Sister Soares visited a small town where nearly all the residents were distant relatives. She was warmly welcomed.
"It was amazing to see how the Lord prepared all things just because of our faith to do what the Lord commanded," he said. "We fell in love with Portugal. That was the highlight of our lives up to that moment."
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