When husband and wife Alex and Sara Malavasi-Pires left their home in Brazil two years ago, they never anticipated how much their lives would change.
Leaving behind family and friends, Alex and Sara piled their car and began their journey to New Zealand. On their way to the airport, they drove past the Campinas Brazil Temple for the last time.
With Catholic backgrounds, the temple had no significance in their lives except as a visual reminder of home. They had no idea that another Latter-day Saint temple on the other side of the world would play a huge role in changing their lives.
Leaving Brazil was not easy. However, the terrifying ordeal of being robbed at gunpoint during a morning commute to work was the catalyst for change.
“We wanted to move away from the problems Brazil had and go to a safer place with good jobs. We wanted a better quality of life,” Alex said.
Although they initially planned to live in Auckland, they found themselves in Hamilton and quickly settled in. They grew to enjoy the city, particularly their daily walks around Hamilton Lake. On one such walk, Sara climbed a small hill and noticed a “white, shining building” in the distance. Unaware this was a Latter-day Saint temple, they were immediately comforted by its similarity to the one they left back home.
“We were reminded of home. It was good for our hearts and we felt safe,” said Sara.
Alex and Sara struggled to settle in to their new home. When their study and employment plans didn’t work out, they began to wonder if moving was a mistake.
“We felt lost about which direction to take,” Sara said.
They decided to visit the temple they had admired from the lake. They visited the Visitors’ Centre where Sara said she felt an overwhelming feeling of warmth.
Sara and Alex were overcome with emotion as they sat before the Christus statue and listened in Portuguese. Tears flowed and they accepted an invitation to attend Church on the coming Sunday.
Although there was a lot of opposition, Alex and Sara were baptized in May, just six weeks after their Visitors’ Centre visit.
“I did a lot of things I shouldn’t have in my past and I felt sorry. I could feel the burden lifted so I knew I had done the right thing. I’m amazed at the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ,” Alex said.
“Everything felt right. I knew I had found my home. The peace was amazing.”
Looking into the future, the couple have their hearts set on serving a mission one day.
But there was an even closer dream they set to achieve. They very much wanted to enter the “white-shining building” that caught their attention all those months ago.
Alex and Sara took out their temple endowments two days after the anniversary of their baptism. A month later they were sealed together.
“The temple experience was much, much more than I expected,” said Sara.
“It humbled me in a way that I could not explain. I just feel so blessed and amazed by His mighty presence in our lives. The sense of gratitude that is so profound in my heart will keep me doing everything that I can to be the person He knows I can become. It is like I owe this to my Father in Heaven... I need to be worthy of shining His Son's light in this world.”