In 1960 Milton and Irene Soares were searching for a church. Neither had been raised in a religious home, but both felt that they and their five children needed spiritual grounding. Spurred by Irene’s persistence, the couple studied the Bible and tried attending many local churches.
When Irene met the missionaries, she enthusiastically scheduled an appointment for them to meet with her husband. Growing tired of the search, Milton had developed a skeptical attitude toward religion and rejected the missionaries’ teachings. Finally, in a fit of anger, he told them not to return. The missionaries requested he pray once more to ask God if their message was true. He agreed, but after praying he felt no different.
That evening, Milton was reading How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, by Dale Carnegie. He opened right to a passage in the middle of the book that explained how many things, such as our bodies or electricity, benefit us, even though we may not fully understand how they work. “The fact that I don’t understand the mysteries of prayer and religion,” Carnegie wrote, “no longer keeps me from enjoying the richer, happier life that religion brings.”
The Holy Ghost testified to Milton that though he did not fully understand the missionaries’ message, it was true. The next day, he told them he wanted to be baptized.
Milton, Irene, and their children were the first family baptized in Recife. Determined to share their new faith, they invited many people to join them in the small, windowless hall where the missionaries held services. “I told my friends that the true Church of Christ was here,” Milton recalled. Within a few years, the hall became too small to accommodate the growing branch. They hosted services in their home until a larger building could be found. On October 27, 1961, Milton Soares was called as president of the Recife Branch.
In 1967 Milton was called as president of the Recife District and Irene as district Relief Society president. Together they traveled throughout northeastern Brazil organizing branches, teaching new members, and helping the missionaries preach the gospel. Thousands were baptized in Recife, and in 1980 a stake was created with Milton and Irene’s son Irajá as president. As Milton reflected on his lifetime of pioneering efforts, he concluded, “It did not take courage to be the first member here; it took faith.”