Janaina da Silva Santos of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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“Janaina da Silva Santos of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,” Liahona, Dec. 1998, 14

Making Friends:

Janaina da Silva Santos of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro (often just called Rio) is a beautiful city that lies between green coastal mountains and the sea. Spectacular hills and peaks rise in the midst of the city itself. Perhaps the best known is Sugarloaf Mountain, which juts from a peninsula in Guanabara Bay.

The largest and tallest peak is Corcovado Mountain, a massive mountain that dominates the skyline. From the top of a cliff on Corcovado, an immense statue spreads its arms above the city far below. This famous landmark is called Christ the Redeemer. On Sunday mornings, tourists at the base of the great monument can look down on the Latter-day Saint meetinghouse where nine-year-old Janaina da Silva Santos is learning about Jesus Christ.

“‘The wise man built his house upon the rock,’” she sings in Sharing Time, planting her right fist emphatically in her left palm (see “The Wise Man and the Foolish Man,” Children’s Songbook, 281; The Friend, June 1997, 5). Later, in class, her teacher tells about the conversion of Zeezrom. Janaina listens intently to the story of how Amulek’s and Alma’s fervent testimonies led Zeezrom to repent and follow Christ (see Alma 10–15). Like Zeezrom and the wise man in the parable, Janaina is building her life upon a rock by following the Savior’s teachings.

Janaina is a convert. She first went to church with a friend and then with her Aunt Isabel, who is a member. Elder Nacimento and Elder Hill taught her family, and even when everyone else stopped taking the discussions, Janaina continued and was baptized. Her parents later joined the Church, too.

She remembers, “When I listened to the discussions and started going to church, I felt something good happening in my soul. Before, I was rebellious and argued with my parents, but now I obey my parents and try to honor them. When I learned that Jesus was my Savior and that there were prophets on the earth to guide me, I felt great joy. The missionaries taught me to pray, and when I prayed, something bad inside me left, and a good spirit took its place and is with me still. I’m a different person than I was, and there’s a lot more love and happiness in our home.”

Janaina plans to be a missionary herself someday and help others to be happy. She has invited friends to church, but so far none has wanted to come. When a friend invites her to do something, she explains, “I first think to see what is right, and if it’s wrong, I say, ‘No, we shouldn’t do that.’” If she sees her friends doing something wrong, she tries to let the Spirit guide her. “Sometimes I tell them that what they’re doing is wrong, and sometimes I stay quiet and just try to set a good example.”

The Santos family lives in an elegant apartment owned by the Montenegros, a prominent Brazilian family that employs both her father, Antonio, and her mother, Nadia. Brother Santos serves as chauffeur, repairman, and handyman of every kind. Sister Santos cooks and cleans, and the children help both parents whenever they can.

So Janaina not only does regular chores in the family’s personal living quarters, but she also helps maintain the whole apartment for their employers. She may be found peeling potatoes in the kitchen, dusting in the sitting room, or scrubbing a bathroom.

In between chores, she still finds plenty of time to read her Book of Mormon, play with her dolls, roller-blade, have fun with friends, and romp with Beethoven, the family dog. Sometimes the family plays a spirited game of football on the apartment building roof. Janaina also loves music but won’t listen to songs with bad words.

Although she lives only a few blocks from one of the world’s finest beaches, she doesn’t get to go swimming as often as she would like, because her parents seldom have time to go with her. Unfortunately, the crowded beach is not always a safe place to visit alone.

Janaina often chats with the family birds, Loro, Negão, Simba, Zazo, and Bonitinho. These feathered friends live on the roof. She has to be a little careful with Loro, a feisty parrot that obeys only Rafaela, Janaina’s 12-year-old sister, who has a way with animals.

Janaina’s father says of Janaina, “She is sweet, calm, intelligent, and responsible. She does her chores, gets ready for school and church, and does her studies on her own. Everything in her is good, and I admire her very much.”

Janaina feels a great love for little children, especially her four-year-old brother, João Paulo. She plans to be a pediatrician someday so that she can help children. In the meantime, she has some good advice for them: “You need to love your neighbor,” she says. “You need to love even your enemies.”

Her good advice and her good example can help all children build their lives on that rock Janaina likes to sing about.

Photography by Melvin Leavitt

1. A statue called Christ the Redeemer stands high above Rio on Corcovado Mountain.

2. The tram approaches the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.

3. Sugarloaf Mountain.

4. Janaina takes part in her Primary class.

5. Janaina feels great joy as she learns about Jesus Christ.

1. Janaina in front of a mural based on actual children in her Primary. 2. Rafaela. 3. The family pauses in front of the meetinghouse. 4. João Paulo. 5. Rafaela and Janaina with Beethoven.