When they are young, many of people have dreams of changing the world for the better. But as they grow older, they begin to realize that they are not really exceptionally talented or intelligent. What they often fail to understand, however, is that the Lord uses simple people to further His work and change the world according to His design, even when they are unaware of His hand in their lives.
Only a few years ago Angola was dedicated to the gospel, and since then the church has grown rapidly. Laureth Bernardo grew up in an LDS family, and as a young girl, she told her good friend Nelma Gomes about the gospel. Even though she was just a young school girl, Nelma realized that the Church was true. Her parents weren’t interested in religion, but they allowed her to get baptized. Nelma smiled as she recalled, “I was the pioneer in my family.” Through her influence, all of her siblings were eventually baptized, too. But her parents still had no interest in religion.
Still fast friends, Laureth and Nelma attended the same branch of the Church and supported each other as their testimonies grew. When they graduated from high school, they both decided to go on missions. And to their great joy, they were both called to serve in Mozambique. Then they discovered that they were going to be the very first sister missionaries to serve from Angola.
Since Angolans speak Portuguese, the two young ladies were assigned to attend the MTC in Sao Paulo, Brazil. While waiting for their Brazilian visas, they were set apart as missionaries and asked to be companions and begin their missions in Angola. So they were the first two sister missionaries to serve in Angola and well as the first sisters to serve from Angola.
While Sister Gomes was waiting to begin her mission, she was informed that her family was scheduled to receive a visit from Sister Claudia Hamilton, wife of Elder Kevin Hamilton of the Africa Southeast Area presidency. Sister Gomes was concerned about the visit because only her immediate family knew that the Gomes parents were having marital problems and were about to separate.
Sister Hamilton and her companion did not speak Portuguese, so they came to the Gomes home with a translator. The visit ended, and Sister Hamilton left, never realizing the impact her visit had had on the Gomes home. As Sister Gomes reported, “The Spirit was so strong during that visit that my parents were deeply touched. They decided to learn more about the gospel and began receiving the missionary discussions. When my aunt called from England to chastise my mother for letting me go on a Mormon mission, my mother explained about the restoration of the gospel and bore her testimony. Now my parents plan to be baptized while I am serving my mission in Mozambique.”
After waiting several months, Sister Gomes and Sister Bernardo were told that their Brazilian visa applications were cancelled. They were directed to go straight to Mozambique, stopping only to receive their endowments in the Johannesburg temple. The two Sisters were terrified. Everyone in Johannesburg spoke English. How would they know where to go and what to do at the temple? But with great faith and courage they left home and travelled alone to receive the blessings of the Lord in the temple, fasting and praying that they would be sent the help they needed.
These two young sisters have indeed begun to change the world as they leave Angola, a country new to the gospel, and begin to serve in Mozambique, another country relatively new to the gospel, while at home, a family is united in faith and testimony as they enter the Church and begin to receive the ordinances of salvation.