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SEEDS PLANTED IN AMAZON HEARTLAND

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Pres. Aldo Francesconi of the Brazil Manaus Mission helped raise the profile of the Church in this Amazon Basin city by making a recent 18-hour journey down the Amazon River by riverboat and holding a community fireside.

Missionaries arrived in this city of 58,000, located some 225 miles by river from Manaus, about a month before Pres. Francesconi's arrival. The missionaries began holding meetings in a classroom of a public building. However, pressures from opposing forces led to the public building being closed to the missionaries.As a result, Church meetings were held in the shady backyard of an investigator. This resulted in investigators wondering if the Church's presence was fragile and tentative.

In order to change that perception, Pres. Francesconi, his family and five missionaries traveled down the Amazon to hold a well-publicized community meeting to strengthen the Church.

The district leader of Maues, Elder Luis Andrade, a full-time missionary in the Brazil Manaus Mission, remarked that many people are receptive to the messages and have felt the Spirit, but had not been baptized fearing that the Church would not have a permanent presence in the city. After the community meeting, two people have been baptized.

In taking the trip, Pres. Francesconi was accompanied by his wife, Francily; their daughters, Audrey and Stephanie; and the five missionaries, Elders Kevin Brooke, Peter Carlston, Ken Carlile, Edward Sunaga and Jeffrey Bair.

"The greatness and enchantment of the Amazon Basin can be felt as one travels her waterways," said Pres. Francesconi. "One feels the exuberance of the deep tropical rainforest, winding through the ravines cut by the sheer force of the river water. The green is so green and so alive, and the air is sweetly perfumed. The fresh breeze rocks the travelers' hammocks.

"This cinematic scene is one you will see traveling through northern Brazil from the Amazonas state capital of Manaus to the small river city of Maues."

He said that during the trip, the Amazon River also provided the food for the passengers. The typical Amazon River travel meal is a base of fish (tucunare, tambaqui, pirarucu, among others) along with the usual corn, rice and beans.

As they traveled toward Maues on the riverboat, Pres. Francesconi's party heard over a passenger's high volume radio system the frequent announcements of the Church's evening meeting that would be held that very night. The missionaries in Maues had worked with a local radio station to announce the meeting.

Many contacts were made with the passengers on the riverboat, so they, too, could participate in the meeting.

The mission president and his group arrived in Maues about 1:30 p.m. and the elders rapidly paired off to invite local citizens to participate in the event.

That evening, about 50 people attended, including some who had been on the riverboat.

In his remarks at the meeting, Pres. Francesconi emphasized basic gospel principles and the restoration of the gospel. He outlined the organizational structure of the Church and told of its worldwide presence. He also emphasized the importance of baptism. Elder Andrade shared truths contained in the missionary lessons. Elder Brooke shared his testimony of the gospel. Following their remarks, Sister Francesconi sang hymns.

"It was a special meeting in which the sweet influence of the Spirit was felt," said Pres. Francesconi.

Elder Andrade said that "real miracles have been happening in Maues since the first day the missionaries arrived in the city."

Pres. Francesconi's return trip was made on a Sunday due to the limited availability of boats leaving for Manaus. The departing Capitao Vivaldo was the only boat to leave Maues for Manaus. The trip took 24 hours because of the upstream current.

"It was a lovely, absolutely calm morning," said Pres. Francesconi. "Even nature knows that Sunday is the Lord's day. Aboard the boat, our small group held a sacrament meeting.

"Singing `I Need Thee Every Hour' to open and `We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet' to close, the meeting was a reminder of the simple meetings of the early Saints," he said. "It was a brief meeting but held strong spiritual meaning for each participant.

"This missionary experience was an inspiring adventure for all. The work of the Lord continues to press forth, extending even to the depths of the Amazon rain forest," he said.