Carlos Wizard Martins: Brazilian entrepreneur and Latter-day Saint

As Antônio Martins entered an elevator in Curitiba, Brazil, in the late 1960s, he noticed the elevator operator reading a book that looked like a Bible. “Brother, are you reading the Bible?” the young father and businessman asked.

José Athaydes, the elevator operator and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, replied: “I am reading the Book of Mormon. Are you a Mormon, too? To which branch do you belong?”

Antônio Martins, who wasn’t familiar with the Church, answered, “I belong to the branch of business and commerce.”

With a smile, Athaydes asked if he could send missionaries to visit his home. When Antônio Martins asked what they were going to talk about, Athaydes simply said, “About Jesus Christ.”

It’s a story Carlos Wizard Martins, the oldest of Antônio and Hilda Martins’ seven children, often tells. He remembers well the day the missionaries dressed in suits, white shirts and ties came to their home, accompanied by Athaydes. Carlos and his parents joined the Church when he was 12 years old.

Now a 65-year-old father, grandfather and one of Brazil’s most successful entrepreneursCarlos Martins’ eyes fill with tears when he thinks about Athaydes, his willingness to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the influence he has had on generations of the Martins family.

“He was a very simple man,” Carlos Martins said of Athaydes. “He rode a bicycle to work. He didn’t have much instructions. He was never a leader in the Church; he was just a member. But somehow he believed that every member was a missionary.”

Athaydes, 90, still lives in Curitiba. Antônio Martins died April 6, 2022, at age 88, leaving behind a legacy of faith.

Carlos Martins, right, is pictured with his father, Antônio Martins, middle, and his wife, Vânia Martins, left.

Carlos Martins, right, is pictured with his father, Antônio Martins, middle, and his wife, Vânia Martins, left, at a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse in Orem, Utah, shortly before Antônio died in April 2022.

Provided by Carlos Martins

All seven of Antônio Martins’ children have served or will serve missions (one is preparing to serve a senior mission with her husband), in addition to several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “Indeed we are a missionary family,” Carlos Martins told the Church News.

Carlos Martins’ missionary service includes a full-time mission to Portugal as a young man, presiding over the Brazil João Pessoa Mission from 2001 to 2004, and a humanitarian mission from 2018 to 2020 helping Venezuelan refugees. Now he and his wife, Vânia, serve as ward missionaries in the Taquaral Ward, Campinas Brazil Castelo Stake. They have six children and 19 grandchildren.

“I like the concept that when you open an apple, you can count the number of seeds. But once those seeds turn into an apple tree, you can never tell how many fruits that tree will give,” Carlos Martins said. “That is what I believe now, is the great impact the gospel has had in my family.”

Gospel influence on Carlos Martins’ career

Carlos Wizard Martins, born Carlos Roberto Martins, is known in Brazil for creating the Wizard language institute, which he built into a chain of 3,000 English-learning schools. He sold his multi-million-dollar business in 2013. Since then, he and Vânia have expanded their investments and philanthropy.

A graduate of Brigham Young University, Carlos Martins said throughout his career the Lord has often put like-minded people in his path, people with similar purpose, direction and values. He has also found answers in the scriptures — not necessarily in the words on the page but in feelings from the Spirit.

“I do believe that the Holy Ghost impacted me, influenced me in many of my decisions, everyday decisions as a matter of fact,” he said. “Somehow, someway that we don’t understand fully, the Lord directs our path.”

For him, inspiration comes through intuition and talking with others. As he discusses an idea and seeks input, his plan is adjusted and it becomes a more sound concept. “It’s what we call in Church ‘counsel,’” he said.

Starting a project is like moving through a dark tunnel with only the light from a cell phone, he explained. “If you’re paralyzed, if you don’t move because you’re afraid, all of a sudden the battery is going to go dead and you’re going to be completely lost in that time.

“But if you have the faith, and you believe in yourself, the people, the project and your plans, you’re going to follow one meter, two meters, three meters, four meters until you see the light at the end of the tunnels.”

This lesson of moving forward in faith has proven valuable not only in Carlos Martins’ business endeavors but in his family’s Church service as well.

Ministering at the border

As Carlos and Vânia’s son Nicholas Martins prepared to serve a full-time mission, they worried he would not be able to serve for two years away from home due to developmental challenges. Vânia suggested that she and Carlos serve a service mission and bring Nicholas along with them.

The timing was inspired, Vânia Martins said, as the Brazil Area presidency was looking for a couple who could work with the Venezuelan refugees in Boa Vista, the capital of the Brazilian state Roraima bordering Venezuela. They accepted the assignment.

Carlos Martins, right, is pictured with his son Elder Nicholas Martins, middle, and his wife, Vânia Martins, left.

Carlos Martins, right, is pictured with his son Elder Nicholas Martins, middle, and his wife, Vânia Martins, left.

Provided by Carlos Martins

She will never forget the heart-wrenching scenes she saw when they arrived in Boa Vista in July 2018. Refugee camps were crowded and thousands were sleeping on the streets, hungry, sick and desperate for assistance. There were elderly individuals and pregnant mothers, and young families with babies in need of diapers and clothing. She was overwhelmed.

“When we arrived, I saw so many problems, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do the work,” Vânia Martins recalled. “I started to pray, ‘Heavenly Father, give me a little bit of your love for these people. Put a little bit of that love in my heart so I can do this work.’”

Her prayers were answered and the love came. “I started to see them as God does. I started to have compassion, compassion that Christ showed. … With this feeling, it became easy to help them, helping them resolve their problems the best way we could,” she said.

Carlos Martins is pictured with a young child at the Venezuelan refugee camp in Boa Vista, Brazil.

Carlos Martins is pictured with a young child at the Venezuelan refugee camp in Boa Vista, Brazil, where Carlos and his wife, Vânia, served a humanitarian mission from 2018 to 2020.

Provided by Carlos Martins

Carlos Martins, too, was initially daunted by the task at hand and offered a similar plea to the Lord for help: “A very strong feeling came to me and said, ‘Easy, easy Carlos. This work is not yours. This work is mine.’

“At that moment I became very humbled because I thought that I was doing everything. I thought that I was solving all the problems. But really I was just a small instrument in the Lord’s hand and He was taking care of His children.”

With Vânia’s compassion and Carlos’ business connections, as well as support from various organizations, the Martins helped relocate some 20,000 refugees to other parts of Brazil to find work and have a more sustainable future.

Carlos Martins, right, and his wife, Vânia, middle right, are pictured with a family of Venezuelan refugees at the airport in Boa Vista, Brazil.

Carlos Martins, right, and his wife, Vânia, middle right, are pictured with a family of Venezuelan refugees at the airport in Boa Vista, Brazil. During their mission from 2018 to 2020, the Martins helped relocate some 20,000 refugees to other parts of Brazil have a more sustainable future. 

Provided by Carlos Martins

Carlos and Vania Martins were recently named Freedom Award recipients at the 2022 Freedom Awards Gala in Provo, Utah, for their service at the Brazil-Venezuela border.

“What we do for missionary work in the Church brings a lot of joy,” Vânia Martins. “It’s a different kind of joy that we can’t find in other things.”

‘Love, share, invite’

During the pandemic, after returning home from Boa Vista, Carlos Martins received a message from a woman who wanted to talk to him about his faith on an Instagram live. Soon Vânia Martins and the woman’s husband joined in the conversations.

Carlos and Vânia invited the couple to attend church and meet with the missionaries. A few months later, the woman, her husband and children were baptized.

They continue to hold weekly Instagram lives to talk about the gospel. “It’s been two years now that we have done that, a weekly, Sunday evening devotional Instagram live,” Carlos Martins said. Dozens of viewers across Brazil have requested copies of the Book of Mormon and visits from missionaries. Several have gone to church and some have been baptized.

The Instagram live experience reminds Carlos Martins of the principles of “love, share, inviteThat Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized in the April 2022 general conference.

“That’s what we’ve been doing, really. We are loving, sharing and inviting people over the internet,” Carlos Martins said.

Vânia Martins added: “We’ve seen the difference the gospel makes in their lives. That joy we see in them is the joy we feel too.”

And it’s the same joy Carlos Martins feels when he thinks about José Athaydes, the elevator operator, and the innumerable fruits that came from his willingness to quite literally open the doors to the gospel to the Martins family in the elevator that day.

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