Missionaries serving in Brazil during the ongoing 2014 World Cup soccer tournament face some unique opportunities and challenges.
Yes, the excitement and festiveness surrounding the massive event bring crowds of happy people together like few other things can. But the revelry and spectacle that define the month-long tournament is not always conducive with the day-to-day missionary activities — or their sacred gospel message.
Many mission presidents in Brazil have asked their elders and sisters to stay at home during the soccer games. Missionaries are utilizing their down time during World Cup games for personal development. They are brushing up on their teaching and language skills and spending quiet time with the scriptures and other missionary materials.
In the coastal city of Salvador, many missionaries in the Brazil Salvador Mission spent the weeks leading up to the tournament helping the city’s public transportation workers learn English.
The World Cup is, of course, a global event. Hundreds of thousands of fans from across the world are gathering in Brazil to support their native countries and celebrate all things soccer. Most international visitors don’t speak Portuguese — Brazil’s national language. But they likely speak at least a smattering of English. So many bus and taxi drivers in Salvador are eager to learn a few basic words and phrases.
Enter Cliniriam Barroso.
Sister Barroso is a diligent Latter-day Saint and a Salvador city employee. She was asked to help coordinate an English-language program called “Transporte na Copa,” or Transportation for the World Cup. The program was designed to teach basic English to help bus drivers, taxi drivers and airport workers better interact with their foreign visitors.
Sister Barroso does not speak fluent English, but she has many friends who do: the full-time missionaries. She invited several English-speaking missionaries to serve as instructors in the class. Several elders and sisters joined in — including Brazil Salvador Mission President Jim Hart and his wife, Sister Lauren Hart.
“Teaching English to the transportation workers has been a wonderful blessing for us,” said President Hart.
Many of the students in the classes have developed friendships with Sister Barroso and the missionaries.
“The drivers were so appreciative of the missionaries,” added Sister Hart. “Some even gathered donations to pay for the missionaries’ bus fare to the class.”
The students frequently commented on the peaceful feelings they felt whenever they were in the presence of the missionaries. A few asked Sister Barroso if they could learn more about the Church.
“Sister Barroso is a great missionary, herself,” said Sister Hart. “Whenever one of the students asked about the Church, she would invite them to family home evening at her house. Several were interested in learning about the gospel.”
The missionaries then taught interested students the discussions, and a few have been baptized, including a bus driver named Geraldo, who was a speaker at the course graduation.
The English classes, said Sister Hart, “have been a great way for the missionaries to feel like they are a part of the World Cup.”
The missionaries have made many new friends in Salvador. Now it's not uncommon for bus drivers to recognize companionships walking down the street and offer them a friendly honk and a wave — or even a free ride.
President and Sister Hart also organized World Cup-themed training lessons and games for zone conferences in the weeks leading up to the tournament.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “The missionaries would answer questions about ‘Preach My Gospel’ as a way to score goals and win the game.”