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Journey to the temple

Editor's note: For almost 20 years, Latter-day Saints from Manaus, Brazil, have been traveling by caravan to attend the temple in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and then Caracas, Venezuela. While the vast majority of these trips were taken without incident, one three-generation family was impacted by an assault on the way to the Sao Paulo temple and then a bus accident returning from the Caracas temple. Following is their story of faith.

MANAUS, BRAZIL

Returning from the Caracas Venezuela Temple with a group of Latter-day Saints on Jan. 11, 2008, Claudia Negreiros of Manaus Brazil Rio Negro Stake could not sleep.

She watched as the bus driver lost control on a narrow stretch of winding road in southern Venezuela's dense rainforest.

She doesn't remember anything after the bus began to roll. Moments later, however, she awoke lying on the ground, unable to move her arms and her legs. As she waited for emergency workers, she was frustrated and afraid. She was having a hard time breathing.

Her husband, Alexandre Negreiros, had helped organize the trip as the secretary in the stake presidency; he sustained broken ribs and a broken arm in the crash, yet was still able to lean over and give his wife a blessing.

Legacy of faith

For Brother and Sister Negreiros, the accident was but one moment in a family journey to the temple paved with sacrifice.

Alexandre Negreiros, with his wife, Claudia, daughter, Rebeca, mother, Nazaré, and grandmother, Delzuita Guerreiro de Negreiros.
Alexandre Negreiros, with his wife, Claudia, daughter, Rebeca, mother, Nazaré, and grandmother, Delzuita Guerreiro de Negreiros. Photo: Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver

Sister Negreiros joined the Church when she was 13 years old; Brother Negreiros when he was 15. Both served missions in Brazil.

Brother Negreiros was living in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2001 when he received a call from a stake president in Manaus. "You need to come to Manaus," President Flaviou Brito told Alexandre. "Your blessings will be here."

President Brito asked Alexandre how much time he would need to move. His answer reflected his family's long legacy of faith. "I need the time only to quit my job and organize my belongings and come," he replied.

At Church in Manaus, Brother Negreiros saw his future wife and immediately knew he wanted to become acquainted with her. Serving as the stake Young Men president, he had little time on Sundays, so he wrote her a note and invited her to lunch. Soon the couple were studying the scriptures and praying together. On Jan. 7, 2003, they were sealed in the Campinas Brazil Temple. Their daughter, Rebeca, was born on Dec. 5, 2003.

The couple was able to visit the temple once in Sao Paulo before joining the temple caravan to Caracas in 2008.

Because Manaus is surrounded by rainforest and rivers, travel by road to other cities in Brazil is impossible. Latter-day Saints had to fly to the temple, or travel days by boat and bus to Sao Paulo. Then groups began traveling by bus to Venezuela, a 36-hour ride that often included long delays at the border to stamp passports.

But Brother and Sister Negreiros were happy for the opportunity to travel to Caracas. The journey to Sao Paulo was more than twice as long and dangerous. No one knew that better than Brother Negreiros.

'I am OK'

Brother Negreiros' mother, Nazaré Negreiros, and his grandmother, Delzuita Guerreiro de Negreiros, were with a group of Latter-day Saints on a caravan to the Sao Paulo temple in 2001 when their bus was assaulted by robbers.

Sister Nazaré Negreiros was asleep on the bus and awoke to see five masked men with guns. The bandits stole the Latter-day Saints' money, cameras and cell phones. But the thieves were disappointed; they expected the group to have more money. Sister Nazaré Negreiros remembers the men asking her why a group of poor people were traveling together.

"Why are you going to Sao Paulo if you don't have money?" they demanded.

She told them they would never understand. "We are going to the house of the Lord," she said.

The Saints arrived in Sao Paulo with nothing, but found food and clothing — donated by local Latter-day Saints — waiting for them. The temple president helped them.

Sister Delzuita Negreiros remembers feeling an explosion of emotion in the temple. She didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. A temple worker told her both were acceptable. "You can laugh. You can cry. You are OK," the worker assured her.

The older Sister Negreiros looked at the woman in the safety of the temple, counted her "wonderful blessings," and replied, "Yes, I am OK."

Sister Nazaré Negreiros said not one person on the trip questioned how something bad could happen to faithful Latter-day Saints. After the assault, they were afraid, but they were not hurt.

"We were very happy," she said. "We had reached the temple."

Trust in the Lord

Sitting in her wheelchair in the modest home she shares with her husband's family in Manaus, Sister Claudia Negreiros also counts her blessings. A cement ramp winds around the house to their upstairs apartment. Her mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law live downstairs.

After the bus accident while returning home from Caracas, Sister Claudia Negreiros spent five months in the hospital. Doctors told her husband she would never breathe on her own again. But she has made progress.

"I am very grateful to Heavenly Father," she said. "He gave me my whole life. I am here because of Him."

Her husband recalls some of the many spiritual moments that followed the accident. He knows the Lord protected the group as not one person on the bus lost his or her life.

Before the accident, Sister Claudia Negreiros had a strong desire to memorize scriptures about faith. She placed them on the refrigerator.

In the hospital, she repeated one of those scriptures over and over again: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

She began to see small blessings in her life and realized, as a result of the accident, she was growing spiritually.

She worried that because of her disability she would never again hold a Church calling. Today, however, she serves as Young Women president in her ward.

"If I don't walk, I can help my daughter. I can help my husband. I can do my calling," she said. "Because of this I feel blessed and am very happy. My testimony grows stronger every day."

'I have my family'

The Negreiroses were able to attend the open house and dedication of the Manaus Brazil Temple with their daughter, who had just turned 8. Because his wife could not travel, the family had not been to a temple since the accident.

While in the celestial room of the Manaus temple during the open house, Brother Negreiros was overcome with emotion. He knew he and his family were "in the right place."

He is grateful beyond words for the new temple in his city.

Pointing to the only picture hanging on the wall of his home — an 8-by-10 inch framed photograph of the Manaus Brazil Temple — he said, "I have my family together. I am very grateful to my Heavenly Father."

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