ITU, Brazil — As Church pioneers living in Petrolina, Moacir Valerio Paixao and his wife, Zuleide Andrade Paixao, have shared the gospel with not only their eight children but also with friends and neighbors as Church pioneers near the easternmost tip of Brazil.
Baptized in 1980, Brother and Sister Paixao moved from Santo Andre in March 1988 with their two children to Petrolinal. They were concerned, however, to find there were no branches organized in the area nor in the neighboring cities.
"It is interesting that, before we left Santo Andre, my wife's sister-in-law came to visit and said she knew someone in Petrolina who had a Book of Mormon. So when we arrived we looked for that person," said Brother Paixao.
They found him. It was Ariovaldo Saraiva, who had been baptized in Recife, Pernambuco, along with his wife, Acacia Galvao Saraiva. The Saraivas had lost contact with the Church when they moved to Petrolina.
Some time later they met another family who were members of the Church, Venancio and Mariana Leite da Cunha, who lived with their five children.
With determination, Brother and Sister Paixao decided to contact the president of the Brazil Recife Mission to obtain authorization for their first Church meeting as a group of 12 members.
On June 19, 1988, they had the first sacrament meeting in the city of Petrolina. "Sixteen people, twelve Church members and four friends, participated in our first meeting. Twenty people attended our second meeting," remembers Brother Paixao.
The arrival of two sets of missionaries in September preceded the organization of a branch of the Church in Petrolina. With them came Church manuals, furniture and a portable organ. In October of the same year, the first branch was organized there.
Brother Paixao was called as branch president while his wife was called to be the Relief Society president. Sister Saraiva was called as the Young Women president, and Sister da Cunha as the Primary president.
The first baptismal meetings took place at the home of the Saraiva family. Brother Paixao joyfully remembers that, in the beginning, they had at least three baptisms per week and that in less that two years, the first chapel was built and dedicated in Petrolina.
No branches had been organized in the neighboring city of Juazeiro, known as Petrolina's twin city, across the Sao Francisco River — one of the largest in the country. Missionaries were sent to create the Juazeiro Branch. Within two years the Juazeiro Branch joined the two other branches already established in Petrolina by then to create the Petrolina District.
"In January 1991, President Donald Clark of the Brazil Recife Mission, transferred me to Juazeiro, as branch president, where I stayed until 1994, when I saw the dedication of the first Juazeiro Branch chapel," mentioned Brother Paixao.
In 1998, with the addition of the Juazeiro 2nd Branch to the Cohab, Petrolina 1st and 2nd Wards, the Petrolina Brazil Stake was created. It was the first in that region, with Nilo Manoel de Sa, a convert to the Church, as its president. By 1998, 54 members had been sent to the mission field, who afterward were called to serve in the local leadership. According to Church membership records, the number of members in the Petrolina region grew from 12 to 3,450, largely as a result of the work initiated by Brother and Sister Paixao.
Yet they did not stop there. In 2002, after serving as missionaries in the Sao Paulo Brazil Temple, they served another mission, this time proselytizing as full-time missionaries. Brother Paixao is the patriarch for the Itu Brazil Stake and is a temple missionary with his wife in the Campinas Brazil Temple.
Although their 25 grandchildren would like to see them around more often, they continue to serve with joy, building the kingdom of God and establishing Zion's cause.
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