My husband and I had the unique opportunity to live in Brazil from 2004 to 2009. Our time there left us intimate witnesses to the blessings of that country – and also the trials.
Carnival is by far the biggest holiday in South America’s largest country. While it might have started out as a religious celebration, most people will tell you it is now as earthly and carnal as possible. Pleasure in all its forms is highly encouraged and acceptable. And for the suggestible teenagers of the church, it can be devastating.
For many years now, the church has encouraged holding their annual Girls Camp during Carnival as a way to get them “out of the world.” Now, that includes a Young Men’s Camp as well. (Keep in mind they don’t have the scouting program down there like we do in the United States; no High Adventure Camp!)
As bishop, my husband got to know and love these fabulous young men individually – and I did too. The contrast between what THESE teenagers were doing during Carnival compared to MOST teenagers in Brazil … it’s astonishing.
Can I mention that nearly ALL of these boys were recent converts in this picture?
Can I mention that eight months before this picture was taken there were only three young men in the ward?
Can I mention that there are young men pictured who have stopped drunken fathers from killing frightened mothers?
Can I mention that there are young men pictured who have been held at knife point while their step-father attempted to rape their sister?
Can I mention that there are young men pictured who have to deal with drug dealers at recess?
Can I mention that there are young men pictured who walk 3km on dirt roads to get to the bus stop that takes them to church?
Can I mention almost all of them are the only members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in their family?
Can I mention that I get goosebumps every time I see them in white shirts and ties, when I think of how they looked like gang members not long before I met them?
Can I mention that my heart wants to explode every time I look at this picture?