Helpings Hands Program Opens Way for Missionary Work, New Stake in Amapa, Brazil
By Michelle Sá, assistant director of public affairs, Macapá Brazil District, with contributions from Elder Fabiano Cavalheiro, a full-time missionary serving in the Brazil Belém Mission
- In Macapá Brazil, 21 people received the ordinance of baptism on the same day recently.
- Leaders, members, and missionaries credit the Mormon Helping Hands program with helping community members and leaders better understand and accept the Church.
“These projects simultaneously fill people’s physical needs, help people to be more accepting of the Church, and open the way to their receiving the gospel. What a marvelous program!”— President José Claudio Furtado Campos, president of the Brazil Belém Mission
On Saturday, March 10, 2012, 21 people—including both families and individuals—entered the waters of baptism. This is the largest number of people in recent years in the Brazilian states of Para and Amapá, both part of the Brazil Belém Mission, to receive the ordinance of baptism on the same day and to become “fellowcitizens” with the Saints (Ephesians 2:19), and walk “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
The baptisms came shortly after the announcement that the Macapá District is to become a stake, which will happen on April 14 and 15.
Several members who attended or participated in the baptisms on March 10 sensed the significance of the growth of the Church in the area. Among them is Brother Marcelo Soares, who expressed his gratitude by saying, “I am very happy to have the opportunity to baptize another child of God and help the growth of the work of God in my region.”
Leaders, members, and missionaries have joined forces in working toward this kind of growth. The work of the Helping Hands program has also been instrumental in recent missionary work.
“The Helping Hands projects held over the past two years in the state of Amapá have brought the Church out of obscurity, awakening in government officials, the press, and the society in general the desire to become familiar with this marvelous program and the church that promotes it,” said President José Claudio Furtado Campos, president of the Brazil Belém Mission.
In fact, the projects have helped so much in the state that government officials have introduced three new holidays in the region: April 6, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Day; July 30, Helping Hands Solidarity Action Day; and September 23, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” Day. Additionally, a vote of thanks to the Church was presented to Elder Jairo Mazzagardi of the Seventy, Second Counselor in the Brazil Area Presidency.
“The Helping Hands projects have helped the Church earn much more credibility amongst the people of Amapá,” President Campos continued. “When our missionaries introduce themselves as representatives of the Church, the people tell them that they have already heard about the Church because they have seen material on television, on the radio, and in the newspaper. They tell them how they have heard great things about the Church, and this often increases the receptivity to missionary work, increasing the number of baptisms significantly, especially baptisms of families.”
Moreover, the program has helped less-active members of the Church return, which has “significantly strengthened” the Macapá District, he said, and it’s fortifying the unit as a whole.
“These projects have contributed a great deal in this progress because they have strengthened the members of the Church, helping them become more united,” President Campos said. “When a group of people is motivated and united by a good cause, their faith grows, their testimonies increase, and their love for one another and for those around them in the community grows. …
“We hope that these projects will continue to happen in Macapá and throughout the Brazil Belém Mission because we know … how much these projects bless lives, not only physically but spiritually as well. These projects simultaneously fill people’s physical needs, help people to be more accepting of the Church, and open the way to their receiving the gospel. What a marvelous program!”
While the marked growth is exciting to note, growth and change is, of course, about more than mere numbers. Brother Klebson Gama da Silva, who, along with his wife and children, was among those who was baptized March 10, said, “Baptism is the beginning of a new life.”