From Tony Rodrigues:
The Manaus Brazil Stake Temple Excursion Trip- Report
December 1997 - January 1998
Reported by President Tony Martins Rodrigues,
First Counselor in the Stake Presidency
Translated by Marcus Martins
The Manaus Brazil Stake Temple Excursion Trip- Report
Total Number of Participants .................. 101
Total Number of Families ....................... 31
Families Sealed ........................................ 20
Own Endowments ..................................... 35
Officiators ................................................. 03
Participants Who Traveled by Plane ...... .. 08
We don't know whether people are going to understand our feelings in relation to the recent temple excursion. For our family that was no sacrifice at all.
The night before the excursion we could not sleep well. We woke up at 5:00am. Cristina prepared hot dogs, cornmeal cake, cookies and other treats. We prepared our suitcases and some of my colleagues from the Brazilian Air Force gave us a ride to the harbor.
We got to the 3-decked boat, named "Deborah," and found good accommodations. The boat was full, and several of our people had already had occupied the whole second deck, having spent the previous night aboard, sleeping in hammocks. We accommodated all mothers and children in the cabins.
We found a family from another religious denomination in the boat with a letter addressed to me, asking me to help them travel from Manaus to Porto Velho. Since I had been warned by other Church leaders of similar problems in the past, I simply asked the family to leave the boat. To my surprise, we found that that family's belongings were already in the boat's cargo hold, and it consisted of a full household move. This family was composed of a couple and 3 children, and they had come to the Amazon to preach the gospel, but due to lack of support they were heading back home for good. You can imagine the sadness of the people when they saw that family in tears seeing their furniture being unloaded. I talked with our stake president, Pres. Alvaro Esteves Jr., who was with his family at the harbor to watch our departure, and we decided to take that family with us. Many among the passengers complimented us for the decision.
After giving instructions and a prayer, we sailed towards to Porto Velho. We waved to our friends and leaders who stayed behind in Manaus. The Spirit of the Lord guided us at the start of our trip. ...
During those 4 days on the boat we held devotionals at morning and evening. Cristina, my wife, was in charge of the Primary. In the first devotional I read an e-mail message I received from Marcus talking about the rich blessings the Lord had in store for the participants in these excursions and about the eternal gratitude they would receive from those beyond the veil. All were very touched by that message.
On the 31st of December, New Year's Eve, and second day of the trip, we held a very special program, and each family presented a spiritual message. Our family sang "O Amor É Falado Aqui" ("Love is Spoken Here") and we shared our testimonies. On the first day of the new year (1998) we had already left the Amazon river and were sailing down the Madeira river. The landscape was beautiful; it transmitted peace and tranquility, and while we appreciated nature's beauty we also testified that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ prepared all these things for our enjoyment.
That day we helped a couple from the state of Santa Catarina (southern Brazilalmost 2,000 miles away). The man was a truck driver who was traveling in a barge when they received the news that their son had passed away in Santa Catarina. They traveled with us for about 12 hours so they could get to a city where they could embark on a plane to travel south. We shared our knowledge with them about the purpose of life and the eternity of the families.
On January 2nd the boat presented a few problems which would delay our trip, and after calculating the delay I became concerned over the time of our arrival in São Paulo. So, in the afternoon I concluded that if we traveled by boat to Porto Velho we would not reach the temple at the scheduled date. I called the priesthood together, explained the situation, and asked for their sustaining vote to the decision that seemed to be the most sensible. The unanimous decision was that we should interrupt our boat trip in the city of Humaitá.
When we reached Humaitá I contacted the only bus company in town and they charged us R$ 800.00 (approx. US$ 760.00) for two buses to take us to Porto Velho. We stayed in Humaitá for only two hours. That was sufficient time for the full-time missionaries working in that city to come visit with us on the boat, and to telephone to our leaders and friends back in Manaus. Traveling by boat with no delays, that leg of the trip between Humaitá and Porto Velho would have taken 18 hours. By bus, we reached Porto Velho in 3 hours.
On January 3, at 1:30am, we left Porto Velho towards São Paulo. The trip by bus is more uncomfortable, since there isn't much space to move around, and the roads are not in good state. But the Spirit of the Lord was with us, and we still held our devotionals on our buses.
Sunday, January 4, and fifth day of the trip, we stopped at the city of Rondonópolis to attend sacrament meeting at the local branch. We were received by the members in that city with a lot of warmth. The branch president and the music conductor were inspired to choose as opening hymn "Come, Come Ye Saints." Without exception, all in attendance cried. That was a pleasant testimony meeting; a fantastic spiritual experience. We left strengthened and edified.
On Monday, January 5, at 4:00pm we finally arrived at the São Paulo Temple. It was the beginning of rush hour and the traffic was slow. When we saw the temple from inside the bus, our eyes shone with emotion and joy. It gave me a great feeling to see the happy expressions in those faces. The remainder of the day was dedicated to lodging and rest.
Next morning, at 6:00am I was at the door of the temple waiting for President Saul Messias Oliveira, in order to schedule our sessions. In the days we spent at the temple we had 4 endowment sessions daily, besides baptismal services for the youth, vicarious sealings and initiatories, and service hours in the cafeteria and laundry room.
Cristina and I spent some time in the Celestial Room, pondering, planning, and making decisions about some important family issues. I had the blessing of officiating in a few sessions and served as proxy in others. We received an enlightening training from President Aledir P. Barbour, temple president, about our non-member relatives. Through brother Antonio Fernandes, area public communications director, we learned about Marcus' e-mail to the LDS-GEMS discussion group talking about our trip. The days we spent at the temple were wonderful, filled with learning, spirituality, love, blessings, cooperation, joys, satisfaction, harmony, courtesy, and purity.
On Saturday, January 10, we started our trip back to Manaus. Before we reached Porto Velho one of the buses broke down, which caused us a delay of 17 hours.
But what really marked our trip back was the sacrament meeting we held on the road, under a tree. After the administration of the sacrament, all present expressed their feelings, and those were moments I will never forget. The Spirit was very strong. At a certain moment, we looked up and we saw the same circle we were forming on the ground reflected on the sky.
Another significant occurrence that Sunday happened at lunch time. We stopped at several roadside restaurants. In some we couldn't find enough food for all of us; others couldn't fit all of us together, and yet others were closed. Suddenly, I started to feel uneasy, and an impression came to me that we should share our food with those who didn't have. The feeling grew stronger and when I prayed about it I felt the assurance that we had to implement the Law of Consecration in that excursion. We stopped the buses and I shared my feelings with the group. We found a table and all families that had any food placed it upon the table. We had breads, cookies, canned foods, milk, fruits, guava jam, butter, and soft drinks. The table became small for all the food we gathered.
All were fed satisfactorily and we still had cookies and milk left for the children's snack in the evening. Next morning we had no food left, but we found another roadside restaurant where we had breakfast with a variety of foods and very low prices.
On Tuesday, January 13, around 10:00am we left Porto Velho towards Manaus. The trip went on without any problems, and we continued to hold our devotionals. In the last night I had the privilege and blessing of interviewing every couple that had been sealed in the temple.
We arrived in Manaus on Friday, January 16, at 1:30am. Our stake president, Pres. Alvaro Esteves Jr., his wife, and several leaders from the wards were at the harbor to welcome us. One of my friends from the Air Force was also there to give me the news that I had been transferred to the Civil Aviation Regional Service. Since we came to Manaus, 3 years ago, I have been trying to get this transfer with no success. I shouted for joy so loud that the people were scared.
Later, we learned that the exams my wife and I were supposedly going to miss at the university during the time of the excursion miraculously did not happen, and all our absences were waived. We are now hoping to have received passing grades in all our classes. I also learned that I got a second job, and I'll teach physical education at the Lutheran College. What a blessing! We certainly reaped the fruits of our sacrifice.
We are sure that all were edified in this excursion, especially my wife and I. The situations we lived during those days made us draw closer to God and Jesus Christ. We didn't have the same vision the prophet Joseph had that Spring morning, but we felt His presence very close to us. We hope our service is accepted by the Lord.
Thank you all for the prayers and messages.
Translated and edited from an original e-mail message by Marcus H. Martins, Ph.D.