As a Brazilian, I was surprised when I received my mission call to serve not in Brazil or even in South America but in the Texas Houston South Mission in the United States. My surprise soon turned to deep gratitude.
Four days after I arrived in my first area, the bishop of the local ward invited my companion and me to go with him to the hospital to visit Brother Noel Stevenson, an older member who was ill with leukemia. When I met Brother Stevenson, I was amazed that he started speaking Portuguese. He told me he had served a mission to Brazil in the 1950s. He mentioned several cities where he had served, including Ponta Grossa in the state of Paraná.
“When you were in Ponta Grossa did you know Raul Pimentel?” I asked hesitantly.
With an expression of joy, he replied, “Yes, I knew Raul. I baptized him.”
I told Brother Stevenson that Raul Pimentel was my grandfather, the first member of the Church in our family. We embraced, and tears rolled down our faces.
Then I told him that my grandfather was 84 and still active in the Church. His 8 children were also active, all who are married having married in the temple and 5 having served full-time missions. And his 30 grandchildren were active in the Church as well. As we talked, the Spirit of the Lord filled my heart with joy and gratitude.
My grandfather was baptized in 1958 by two American missionaries. He had heard that the other elder had now passed away, but he had never had any news about Elder Stevenson. When my grandfather learned that I had met the missionary who baptized him, he was overwhelmed with joy.
He and Brother Stevenson began exchanging e-mail messages almost every week. Then the e-mails stopped abruptly. I received a telephone call telling me that Brother Noel Stevenson had passed away.
Although I felt sad, I felt even more grateful that the Lord had allowed me to meet the man who brought the blessings of the gospel to my family. This experience helped me be a better missionary and strengthened my testimony that mission calls are inspired.