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Sao Paulo is the largest city in Brazil and is full of people receptive to the gospel and opportunities to serve. The missionaries have been there for quite a while, and many people will recognize you and be very receptive to your message. The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, making it distinct from the rest of South America. The Brazilian people are mostly descended from a mix of European, African, and indigenous ancestry, though this varies from region to region. The Roman Catholic Church is Brazil’s dominant religion, particularly in areas such as Teresina, Florianópolis, and Fortaleza. However, the Roman Catholic church has been decreasing in popularity in recent years as various Protestant and Evangelical churches have been growing rapidly. Other religious traditions are also practiced in various parts of the country. There has been some conflict between these different religious groups. While Brazil’s culture as a whole is influenced by Portuguese, African, indigenous, and Roman Catholic traditions, there is great variation from region to region. The south of the country is more strongly influenced by German and Italian culture. Brazil has a strong history in literature, architecture, music, and film. Brazil is also home to many unique musical styles, such as samba, pagode, and funk (especially popular in Rio de Janeiro and Bahia), forró and frevo (popular in the northeast), and sertanejo (popular in Mato Grosso and Paraná). The yearly festival Carnaval (held each year forty-six days before Easter) is a major event, celebrated by parades, dancing, and music contests. Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Brazil, though volleyball, basketball, and several forms of martial arts (such as Capoeira and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) are also popular. Food in Brazil also varies from region to region, but there are some similarities throughout the country. There are a few rural areas in the mission but they are all a part of the city.
As of 2012 there were 11 stakes in the mission but the mission recently split, so there may be fewer. The people are very receptive, but many members have trouble remaining active after they’ve been baptized. There is a lot of room to work with part-member families and reactivation. Member referrals are the best way to find investigators. You will do varied amounts of street contacting daily, either as you’re on the way to visit somebody or if you don’t have any appointments.
Many people work on Sundays and so getting them to church can be a challenge.
Lunch is generally the main meal of the day, and Brazilians eat rice and beans at almost every meal, sometimes with meat as well as a small salad. Popular dishes include feijoada (a thick stew typically made with black beans and pork), pasta, and potatoes. Southern Brazil is famous for its churrascos (Brazilian-style grilled meat) and chimmarrão (a hot drink made using herba mate). Salgados (fried snacks similar to Spanish tapas) and the pasteles (pastry envelopes filled with meat or cheese) are popular snack items. Pizza buffets are also popular, with many different types of pizza available, though Brazilian pizza generally does not have sauce. Rather, people add either ketchup or mustard to their pizza. Other restaurants sell meals buffet-style where the consumer pays for food by weight (per kilo). Many types of tropical fruit are also available in Brazil, and drinks made from fruit such as açai and guaraná are quite popular.
Sao Paolo East is a walking mission; nobody has a bike. Within the city there is a pretty good bus system that missionaries can use, but it’s not as proficient in the suburbs and rural areas surrounding the city.
Like any mission, there are a few areas that aren’t as safe as others. Petty theft is a possibility but it isn’t very common across the mission. Traffic is fairly chaotic in the city, so make sure you are paying attention, especially when crossing streets. Some missionaries have contracted chicken pox while they’re serving.
Don’t assume that certain hand gestures mean the same thing in Sao Paolo as in your native country. Ask more experienced missionaries which ones to avoid.
There is a lot of slang that is unique to Sao Paolo, but missionaries should always speak use words that denote respect and formality. There are some things, however, that can only be explained with slang, or that most people won’t know the formal word for—be judicial in your use of slang.
It rains a lot in the summer, so make sure to bring a light raincoat. It will stay fairly warm while it’. Since you’ll be doing plenty of walking, make sure to get good shoes that will last a long time. If you have bigger feet it might be hard to find your shoe size in Sao Paolo.
Use the US Postal service for packages because several people have had trouble with Fed-Ex or UPS. They’ll sometimes hold it at the post office and charge you if you use one of those two carriers. Sometimes people will steal things from your mail, but if you put stickers of Jesus on the package or write that it is for a missionary, it may deter the thieves.
Rua Caa-Açu, 229 Belenzinho
03171-020 São Paulo – SP
What items were hard to get or not available?
It’s a big city so you can pretty much get [everything]. They don’t have peanut butter. Contact [lenses] might be hard to get there.
What was most surprising about the culture?
The people there are really open, even if they don’t know you they’ll start talking to you on the street – really friendly. They’ll say what’s on their mind.
What advice would you give to someone going to this Mission?
It can be easy to get discouraged. There are a lot of people maybe bashing you.
What do you wish you had known before you served?
I wish I would have practiced the language a little bit more before I left. Especially with how you learn the language now,