Elder Uchtdorf comforts Latter-day Saint family after their missionary unexpectedly died in Portugal

Less than three weeks after a missionary unexpectedly passed away after collapsing during a soccer game with peers, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles met with the missionary’s parents in their Sao Paulo, Brazil, ward meetinghouse and in their home to console them in their grief.

Elder Uchtdorf, who chairs the Missionary Executive Committee for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was on assignment recently in Brazil. The fortuitous timing provided him an opportunity to gather with family of Elder Joao Victor Rodrigues Gondim, 20, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, who had been serving in the Portugal Lisbon Mission since July 2017.

“The testimony of the members in the stake concerning ministering is strengthened every time I bear witness that I have seen an Apostle of Jesus Christ ‘weeping with them that weep,’ when I saw him embrace Elder Gondim’s mother and cried with her,” said President Paulo Ferreira of the Sao Paulo Brazil Jaraqua Stake, citing Romans 12:15.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shares a tender embrace with Rusana Gondim Rodrigues and Raimundo Ferreira Rodrigues in a Sao Paulo, Brazil, in the hallway of a meetinghouse on Feb. 17, 2019. Their son, Elder Joao Gondim, who was serving in the Portugal Lisbon Mission, collapsed and passed away unexpectedly after the missionary had been playing in a soccer match.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shares a tender embrace with Rusana Gondim Rodrigues and Raimundo Ferreira Rodrigues in a Sao Paulo, Brazil, in the hallway of a meetinghouse on Feb. 17, 2019. Their son, Elder Joao Gondim, who was serving in the Portugal Lisbon Mission, collapsed and passed away unexpectedly after the missionary had been playing in a soccer match.

On Monday, Jan. 28, Elder Gondim collapsed during a soccer game with other missionaries and soon passed away.

President Ferreira recalled the early afternoon call on that fateful Jan. 28 from the mission president in Portugal, nearly 5,000 miles — almost 8,000 kilometers — across the Atlantic Ocean.

“He was already crying, and hearing the report, I could not believe what I was hearing,” the stake president told the Church News.

Later in the evening of Jan. 28, President Ferreira joined Bishop Rodinei Fernandes Hegedus of the Jaraqua Ward in sharing the sad news of Elder Gondim’s passing to his parents, Raimundo Ferreira Rodrigues and Rusana Gondim Rodrigues.

“I can testify that I personally saw all the sufferings of the parents — they cried so much that only after 1 a.m. they were able to remain calm enough to receive a blessing of comfort,” President Ferreira said.

“In the following days they were comforted by the daily visits that I and the bishop made and also of friends and relatives, members and non-members.”

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, right, listens to Rusana Gondim Rodrigues in the Gondim home in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Feb. 17, 2019. Her son, Elder Joao Gondim, passed away Jan. 28, 2019, while serving in the Portugal Lisbon Mission, and Elder Uchtdorf sought out the grieving family at their meetinghouse and in their home during his recent two-week assignment in Brazil.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, right, listens to Rusana Gondim Rodrigues in the Gondim home in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Feb. 17, 2019. Her son, Elder Joao Gondim, passed away Jan. 28, 2019, while serving in the Portugal Lisbon Mission, and Elder Uchtdorf sought out the grieving family at their meetinghouse and in their home during his recent two-week assignment in Brazil.

Elder W. Mark Bassett, a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Brazil Area presidency, presided at the missionary’s funeral in Sao Paulo earlier this month. “As can be imagined, this was a very difficult time for the parents and siblings of this dear missionary,” he said.

On Sunday, Feb. 17, Elder Uchtdorf — in Brazil on a nine-day assignment to meet with leaders, members and missionaries in the cities of São Paulo and Salvador — visited the Jaraqua Ward in Sao Paulo, to console the Gondim family and the ward family.

It was still very fresh for the ward and for the family — they were quite devastated,” said Elder Uchtdorf of his visit in the meetinghouse and with the Gondim family in their apartment. “The whole ward loved him and knew him from his growing up there.”

The Apostle also made a visit to the Gondim home, finding a number of family and friends having gathered in the humble, clean and small apartment. The Gondims had invited a less-active sister and a yet-to-be-married young couple expecting their first child to join them in hopes that they and the others could be uplifted by Elder Uchtdorf’s presence, message and priesthood blessings.

Family and friends of Elder Joao Gondim gather with Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Gondim home on Feb. 17, 2019. Elder Gondim passed away Jan. 28 while serving in the Portugal Lisbon Mission.
Family and friends of Elder Joao Gondim gather with Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Gondim home on Feb. 17, 2019. Elder Gondim passed away Jan. 28 while serving in the Portugal Lisbon Mission.

“It was a very humble environment but very spiritually oriented,” he said, mindful of a struggling, distraught mother and a father who is returning to activity in the Church.

“There was a wonderful spirit there … a peaceful acceptance of what had happened and that the gospel is really the answer for any challenge.”

Elder Uchtdorf said he was impressed how the Gondims, who could have turned inward while mourning their loss, were instead turning outward and concerned about the welfare of others. He celebrated them as “examples of goodness and a radiance of happiness and of the gospel.”

President Ferreira underscored the difference in his first visit to the Gondim home and that of Elder Uchtdorf.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles joins the Gondim family for a photo outside their meetinghouse in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Feb. 17, 2019. At right are parents Rusana Gondim Rodrigues and Raimundo Ferreira Rodrigues; at left are friend Aline Lima Pereira and brother Matheus Gondim Rodrigues.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles joins the Gondim family for a photo outside their meetinghouse in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Feb. 17, 2019. At right are parents Rusana Gondim Rodrigues and Raimundo Ferreira Rodrigues; at left are friend Aline Lima Pereira and brother Matheus Gondim Rodrigues.

“I want to testify that the family felt completely consoled after the visit of Elder Uchtdorf,” he said, “because I had the opportunity to see the day of greatest suffering when I brought the news and the day of greatest comfort when Elder Uchtdorf visited.”

He explained the ministering, mourning and consolation provided moments of great respect as well as a strong presence of the Spirit — and that the experience not only moved the people who witnessed the interactions but also those who have heard others speak about it.

Added Elder Bassett of Elder Uchtdorf: “While many of us have spent the past year talking about ministering like the Savior, it was inspiring to see this sincere and love-filled ministry at work. He left blessings and peace with a family who was in great need for just this.”