In the hot, tropical climate of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the cold Saturday morning rain was unusual. But it didn’t dampen the spirit of the youth. They came from their various wards despite the rain. “Who will be the winner this month?” was the question on everyone’s mind as they arrived at the Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro Stake Super Saturday activity. The year-long competition between the wards had reached its halfway mark with the teams still neck to neck in the race.
The chilly air was filled with anticipation and excitement as the day’s activities began. When everyone was seated in teams, seminary coordinator Ramiro Martins welcomed the youth to the activity. With a twinkle in his eyes, he teasingly reminded them of the box of favorite Brazilian chocolates that awaited the contest winners. Then with a serious tone, he encouraged them to live Christ-like lives and dedicate themselves to the Lord. “The youth are the hope of Israel,” he said looking into the dark-eyed, olive-skinned faces of the youth. “You are children of God with a great purpose here. Let’s start today with more determination to live right.” Then the competition began.
Because the Old Testament was the Seminary scripture for 1988, each ward had a team named after one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Like the tribes, the youth combined their individual talents in hopes of being a winning team. The tribe of Judah was the Fonseca ward, Joseph was the Niteroi ward and the Alcantara ward was Manasseh. The Barro Vermelho ward was named after Ephraim, the Sao Goncalo ward was the tribe of Levi and the Friburgo ward was named after Benjamin. Points were awarded for the number of games won, the number of participants who brought their scriptures, the number of nonmember friends present, and for attendance.
An overhead projector served as the game board for “Battleship,” the first game of the day. Ten ships were hidden on the screen and with enough correct hits, the ship would be “sunk.” With each correct answer to a scripture question, the teams took turns finding a ship. The game turned into a race with the teams alternately finding and sinking ships. In the end it was the tribe of Judah whose collective efforts sunk the most ships and won the contest.
Next came the scripture chase game to test the seminary students’ speed and accuracy in finding Old Testament scriptures. Individual and team rounds were played, with an extra round for nonmember friends to practice their scriptural knowledge. The tribe of Joseph proved to be the experts at the game, winning both the individual and team rounds. The hours of practice and dedication in seminary class paid off.
“I like going to Seminary because I have the chance to learn more about the scriptures,” said Sergio Teixeira Simoes, who was a leader on his winning team. Patricia Ribeiro Amim, the proud winner of the individual round, eagerly shared her secrets of success: Regular seminary attendance and practicing scripture chase with her family.
“At the monthly Super Saturdays, the youth participate in various activities,” said Iclea Couto Megre, seminary teacher for the Niteroi ward. “Every month, the youth are given new goals to meet for the competition and, with each accomplished goal, points are given toward the year-end total,” she said. At the May activity the youth learned how to use the family history library. Each team was challenged to bring one hundred names for temple work to the next activity. The tribe of Judah accepted the challenge and doubled it, bringing two hundred names to the activity, earning enough points to put them in first place and take home the trophy for the month.
Because only four percent of the population of Rio de Janeiro are members of the Church, there are many opportunities to share the gospel. Bringing friends to the Super Saturday was especially rewarding as points were given to teams with nonmember friends present. Christiane Cardoso of the Fonseca ward likes to invite her friends to the activities. “It makes me feel good being able to share the gospel with others,” she said, her brown curly hair framing her dark eyes.
Sergio’s school friends often ask him about his religion because they know his standards are different from theirs. “I answer their questions and tell them about the beliefs I have,” said Sergio with a steady voice reflective of his firm testimony. “I invite them to Church on Sundays and to the activities. Some come and others don’t,” he said shrugging his shoulders. Since his baptism two and a half years ago, Sergio has helped the missionaries teach and baptize three of his friends.
After a satisfying lunch prepared by the Young Men and Women organizations, the youth can either play sports in the afternoon or attend a dance later in the evening. Volleyball and basketball are played by all, but the favorite sport of the Brazilians is soccer. The teamwork they used during the scripture games is present on the soccer field as they work the ball down the field to score goals. When the day’s activities are over, the youth return home; sometimes with sore muscles but always with renewed spirits and with anticipation for the next Super Saturday.
“Helping to unify the youth and show them that there are others with the same goals are the main reasons for the youth activities,” said Ramiro. One of the best activities is the annual youth conference held during, and in contrast to the Brazilian Carnival celebration, a four-day period of worldly festivities and merriment where the atmosphere may not be wholesome.
The Church youth go to a nearby farm or town where there is little or no Carnival activity. The four days are filled with sports events, games, dances, and uplifting meetings.
“The youth conferences are a good alternative to Carnival,” said Carlos Eduardo Pas. “I meet new friends and come back a better person.”
For recreation the youth play gospel-related games and participate in sports events. The family home evenings and Sunday meetings create a spirit that unifies the group. Some say the testimony meeting at the end of the conference is the best part of the activity. “There are some youth who bear their testimonies here for the first time in their lives,” said Iclea. “Some nonmember friends at the conference also bear their testimonies,” she said.
Through the activities of the Church, the youth of Rio de Janeiro build and strengthen testimonies that help them resist pressures they feel from their nonmember families and friends. “It’s easier for me to do what I should when my testimony feels strong,” said Sergio Barbosa.
And it’s because of their strong testimonies of the gospel that the youth work together toward their goals to become better members of the Church; young men and women with testimonies as strong and as intense as the mid-day sun in hot, tropical Rio de Janeiro.