Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Porque Ando de Ônibus: Because I Ride the Bus, Part 3

Finally this morning, I had a chance to talk with the guy with the curly hair on the bus. He explained it was his brother who was involved with the international exchange students to support English as a Second Language. He surprised me in that he was not a former missionary who had served in Brazil, but he learned his Portuguese by living there when his dad was in the Foreign Service. They lived for for a time in Porto Alegre where I served my mission. I asked when, and it was the same period of time I was there! It sparked a memory that I had actually met his dad! There was an LDS guy in the American Consulate. I recalled sitting down in his office and talking about his work and family life living in a foreign country. The memory came to me rather vividly even as I recalled I had not recorded it in my missionary journal or letters.

My new friend explained that at that time he was in the eighth grade in an international school that was run by some US Citizen hiding out from the IRS. It wasn't a very good situation for education so his dad got himself transferred to Brasilia where they had much better international schools. My friend graduated from high school there.

Tonight I went back to my missionary personal history (my journal, letters home, meeting notes, etc. are all consolidated in digital form) and did a search to confirm whether I had made any mention of the Consulate. I did find a reference, and even a name. It matched my new friend from the bus:
Monday, May 22, 1978
That night we went in to the stake house for the priesthood or general leadership session of stake conference. While waiting in the foyer in a crowd of members, Elder S---- crouched low and speaking with someone waved me over to him. I first thought he wanted me to talk to some people from Canoas with him but I arrived and he said in Portuguese, “This is Sister Wirthlin, you can talk to her.” He has trouble speaking English because he never does it. He can’t speak either one of the two languages very well now he’s so confused, but he’s a good guy. Anyway, I didn’t catch the name so I struggled out in my awkward English, “Oh – then you’re from – there?” I thought she might be Brother Brown’s wife – the American Consulate's assistant. She said she was here with her husband all smiling and radiant.  I thought, “Wait, this isn’t a normal American.” I asked, “Who is your husband?”  “Joseph B. Wirthlin.”  “Oh,” I said. She added, “He’s in the First Quorum of 70.” I was totally embarrassed and explained, “Well – we’re a long ways from everything!” But then we talked a while about where we were from and things like that. The meeting that night was great. The theme was “reactivation of members” the same theme as the conference I attended in March in Rivera, Uruguay. But here it was better prepared and carried out. It was the first time I’ve seen live, simultaneous translation. . . . 
Today we went to a special missionary meeting with Elder Wirthlin. The PA and N Hamburgo Zones participated. It was great! President Souza’s talk really impressed me the most. The talked of inheriting an earthly crown – of being a crown prince like Prince Charles. He said he was a descendent of Dom Pepino, King of Italy. He then talked of the 4 sons of Mosiah giving up their inheritance of their father’s kingdom to preach the gospel being that it was more important than earthly kingdoms. Then he said how we were like those 4 princes. The princes and princesses of our homes and families. We left comfort, position, many things because we have a great desire to preach the gospel. I am thankful for and love President Souza. I bore my testimony in that meeting because by heart was leaping so within me.
So, there it was in the middle of my embarrassing story about meeting Sister Wirthlin not knowing who her husband was or that we even had a visiting GA at Stake Conference (we were serving in a branch on the other side of the Bay of the Guaíba). And there is the reference to "Brother Brown," my bus friend's dad.

Sister Elisa & Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Sister Lindamir & President Jason Garcia Souza
Escritório da Missão Brasil Porto Alegre, Avenida Princesa Isabel e João Pessoa
May 22, 1978
I don't know what this all means other than that life is full of human connections across time and across continents. Sometimes they come out of surprising places and contexts. And any hope of meaning only comes when we keep a good historical record.

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