Every year there is a huge, national celebration in Brazil called Carnaval. For three days and nights crowds of people fill the streets. They are drinking and dancing, parading and partying. Many ignore moral constraints, searching for the ultimate “good time.”
But young Church members in four Brazilian stakes know how to find a better kind of “good time.” While other Carnaval-goers were trying to find happiness by entertaining themselves, these youth were busy serving others in special youth conferences. And in so doing, they were proving one of the Savior’s most central teachings: that “whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 16:25).
This teaching may seem a paradox. After all, isn’t getting more of the things you want the way to be happy? The youth of the São Paulo Brazil Santo Amaro Stake know better. Two weeks before their youth conference, they began collecting food, toys, and clothing—loving gifts for the children of a state orphanage. The donations came not just from members of the Church, but from other neighbors, too.
“I learned that we must love one another and not just ourselves. I also learned that everyone needs to live in harmony. I believe we should help those who need help like the mentally ill, the homeless, and the orphaned.”
Carlos dos Santos Souza, Diadema Second Ward
On Saturday, the conference opened with a day of soccer, volleyball, other sports, and a roadshow. But on Sunday, the two hundred young members of the Santo Amaro Stake turned to serving their brothers and sisters. They wrote more than a hundred letters to full-time missionaries from their stake. Sixteen of the priests teamed up with full-time missionaries for some missionary work. And others went to the homes of 120 young people who had not been taking part in Church activities, inviting them to join with them in the youth conference. Several accepted the invitation to hear Elder Helio da Rocha Camargo of the Second Quorum of the Seventy speak at the fireside that evening. Some took part in activities the next day.
On Monday, the youth turned their efforts to the community—specifically, to Guarapiranga Park, a large park within the stake boundaries. Painting roadside curbs, picnic tables, and fences, the group drew attention from many of the thousands of people who were at the park. Some of those who noticed the group joined them for a picnic lunch and found out more about the Church. The park administrators said they had never seen such an act of service, and city officials expressed their gratitude for all the youth had accomplished.
“Although people in general are cheerful, they don’t realized what true happiness is all about. Happiness is not something you receive, but something you give.”
Simone, Jabaquara Ward
But hearts were touched most deeply when the two hundred young people visited the state orphanage on Tuesday. With them they took the goods they had collected during the previous weeks. But they also took gifts the children needed even more: love and attention. Visiting with the four hundred orphans—from newborn to age six—they changed diapers, told stories, and sang Primary songs. They took children to the playground and simply talked with them. When the time came to leave, there were many tears. With hearts overflowing, the youth of the Santo Amaro Stake found that even a three-hour-long testimony meeting was just too short to express their feelings. They had served, they had loved, they had felt joy. And they wanted to have this kind of youth conference every year.
The idea that a small group of young people can actually change the world might seem improbable. But the Savior taught that even a single candle gives light to all who are in the house. (See Matt. 5:15.) And those who carry the light of the gospel within bless all who see them—as well as those they directly serve.
“If there are unforgettable moments in my life, this must be one of them. I’m looking forward to enjoying more such moments with my brothers and sisters. I had the opportunity to meet some special people.”
Antonio, São Paulo Thirteenth Ward
The S¶o Paulo Tabo¶o Stake chose the theme of “Changing the World” for their youth conference during Carnaval. As they cleaned the square of a local public building, they had opportunities to introduce several people who passed by to the Church. They also knelt in prayer before giving copies of the Book of Mormon to many of their neighbors, none of whom refused the gift.
“These were the most wonderful days of my life. I learned how to help and serve my fellowmen. I am very happy to be a member of the Church. I want to serve a mission and help the people of the world to be as happy as I am.”
Debora, Second Ward, Bosque
The São Paulo Interlagos Stake held similar activities for more than 250 young people. They wrote more than four hundred letters of love to less-active members of their stake and made and delivered cakes to elderly members. They also painted and cleaned a local school, visited an orphanage, and offered copies of the Book of Mormon to family members who had not accepted the gospel.
And young members of the São Paulo West Stake raised money for the stake missionary fund and visited a home for elderly people, as well as writing to full-time missionaries and giving away copies of the Book of Mormon.
Did these young Brazilian Saints feel cheated of the fun of Carnaval? Not at all. For as they learned, you cannot share the gospel light without having that light grow even brighter within yourself.
“This conference was a great idea. The time we spent serving others was very special to me. I have been a member of the Church for thirteen years, but this was the first time I have participated in an activity like this. It helped to bring the youth of the stake closer together.”
Marcelo, Thirteenth Ward