Saturday, December 22, 2007

THE WONDERFUL AFRICAN SAINTS

In this post, we want to introduce you to some of the most greatest people we know -- the members of the church here in Africa. All of them are first generation members of the church -- the church has only been established here for 15 to 20 years. Their faith and their stories are wonderful, and make us humbly reflect on the great blessings that we have taken for granted throughout our lives.

These two are members of the Dajeu family. Their dad was the branch president in Douala, Cameroon until the end of November. He applied for "the lottery", in which the U.S.A. allows a certain number of people from each country to apply for green card status each year. If you win the lottery, you can emigrate to the U.S. within a three month period. The family sold every possession they have to buy tickets for the 8 of them, and they moved to Richmond, VA. We get emails from them now -- they have so very little, but a wonderful family is helping them find a place to live and they walk 8 miles to and from the school. They are so happy and thrilled that their children will be able to attend school in the United States, even if it will be an inner city school. Some wonderful friends, Chris and Erlynn Lansing, are helping them get established, and hopefully soon they can go to the Washington D.C. temple and be sealed as a family. These two kids are amazing -- they "self taught" themselves the keyboard by "ear", but play church hymns pretty well.
I met this handsome couple in Douala, Cameroon on October 12th. Sister Marthe was baptized in January 2007, followed by her husband in May 2007. They are saving their money now to go to the temple in May 2008 and be sealed together as a family for all eternity to their three young children.

Here is a group of sisters with Sister Young, after the Saturday session for the adults at the Brazzaville Stake Conference. The sisters come from very humble backgrounds, but don't you love their smiles.


A typical scene in a Congoelse church -- this is the Stake Center in Brazzaville, after the Saturday afternoon meetings for all the adults in the stake. The meeting has been over for 30 minutes, but the members love to visit with each other and won't go home until it is dark. We love to see the affection and love they have for each other.



This lovely young woman with Marsha at the Brazzaville Stake Conference is Sister Rahaman. In early October, I worked with the missionaries in Brazzaville for two days, and one set of elders asked me to visit with a person they were teaching. She wanted to be baptized, but her husband was "deadset" against her doing this. The person was Sister Rahaman, and I counseled with her for 30 minutes -- we talked about the power of prayer, and I promised her that if she and the elders would pray and fast with me, she would be blessed. She was baptized one week later, and we met at the Stake Conference two weeks after that.








I had an interview with Elder Matshumba who helped teach her, on December 18th in Brazzaville. I asked how she was doing. He said, "President, last Sunday was one of the happiest days of my life. A man that we taught and baptized passed the sacrament to me, and Sister Rahaman was sustained as the first counselor in the Relief Society (the organization for the women in that congregation)." These are the blessings of the Gospel in these African saints -- both the new members and the missionaries who teach them.




At the Brazzaville Stake Conference -- a standard staple of any conference in Africa is that everyone, and I mean everyone, wants to shake the hands of the visiting Church leaders. This is Elder Allen Young, a member of the Africa Southeast Area Presidency, who reorganized a stake presidency in Brazzaville. We shook hands afterwards for about 30 minutes. But that pales in comparison with Elder Richard G. Scott, who spoke to a fireside of about 1,000 young adults in Johannesburg in early November. Elder Scott is 80, and his schedule is incredible. He flew from Salt Lake to Johannesburg, a 24 hour trip which started on Friday and ended Saturday night. Sunday, he met with the area church leaders for 8 hours from 9 to 5, then spoke to the young adults and afterwards shook hands with as many as wanted to (nearly all of them) for 90 minutes. Then on Monday to Wednesday, he led a three day seminar for Mission Presidents. To be taught by him, and have the blessing of a 20 minute interview with him was one of the highlights of our lives.





The youth choir at the Brazzaville Stake Conference -- about 60 youth strong, and boy, can they sing. We met in a large rented auditorium in the "Palais de Peuple" -- the Palace of the People where the national assembly meets. The youth sang wonderful arrangements of church hymns -- for 10 minutes before and 15 minutes afterwards, along with their special numbers during the conference itself. We've heard youth choirs at every conference, and they match up along with any choir we're heard elsewhere.






Meet "Frere Mike" and his family -- Mike is the man in the middle of the pictured, sandwiched between Elders Mbambu and Mampouya. I first met Mike when I interviewed him for baptism in the middle of September. Mike fought in the civil war that occured in the 1990's, and is a highly ranked officer in the Intelligence Division of the DR Congo government. He has a wonderful faith and rejoices in the truths of the Gospel. He and his family live in a protected compound for higher ranked police and intelligence personnel -- yet, note that the door to the apartment on the right hand side is only a curtain, and the whole area is quite humble. Mike is typical -- the men join the church first, and then their wives follow. We have visited Mike, his wife and family twice in their rather humble apartment, teaching her and bearing testimony. We hope the day will soon come when she joins the church.







The church has three temples in Africa -- in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. To get to the temple is a huge sacrifice for most Saints here -- an airplane ticket to Johannesburg costs about $ 800, or several years salary. Fortunately, if the members will save and make a "sacrificial donation", the Church's Temple Patrons Assistance Fund will help pay the rest of the trip. During the week in early November when we were in Johannesburg, we met three young families from Kinshasa and Kananga who were there at the temple to visit it and receive their temple blessings. We met three young fathers out front with their young children that we knew. When we asked them where their wives were, they replied, "Oh, we're tending the children so our wives can attend a session in the temple." What great young fathers and husbands they are.








At the Johannesburg airport on Sunday morning, Nov. 11th, we met the rest of the Congolese saints who had journeyed to South Africa that week to receive the blessings of the temple for the first time. In all, 12 members from the Congo went that week. These two couples are both bishops or branch presidents in wards or branches here in Kinshasa -- and don't they look wonderful. We went as a group of mission presidents to a session in the temple on Tuesday with Elder Richard G. Scott, one of the Twelve Apostles of the church. After the session was concluded, he visited with many of them and expressed his love and appreciation for them. It was a tender moment to watch the mutual love and admiration between them and him.









This is the family of Pres. Ilale of the Kolwezi District. They became members about 10 years ago, and he has served for three years as the District President. In this district of 600 members, there isn't a single person who has been able to save the necessary money to go to the temple. The Temple Patrons Assistance Fund will help pay part of the cost of the trip, but we generally ask them to save the money for their passport, which for Pres. Ilale would be about $ 260 or about a year's salary for him. When I told him that I would accept the $ 200 he had saved over the last three years as a sufficient sacrifice and help him get to the temple in the next three months, he and his wife sobbed in tears. What a blessing it will be for them to go. Three other member families will go at the same time, thanks to the reduced level of what they will pay. Thanks to the wonderful American and other saints who contribute to this Fund and help wonderfully deserving members in Africa and other places to be able to go. (The man in the back is the second counselor in the mission presidency -- Pres. Kazadi -- more about him in another post.)










December 2 -- at the Stake Conference in the Masina Stake. For some reason of which we're not quite sure, all the Primary children were seated in two lobbies in the Stake Center. They were incredibly reverent the entire two hours -- we didn't hear a peep from them as they watched the conference on closed circuit TV. I would guess that this is the only time that most of them see a TV. Note their fascination with the "mundeile" -- the word in the local dialect (Lingala) for white person. In Lingala we are "mundeile's"; in Tschiluba in the middle of the mission we are called "mutoka's" and in the southern section, in Swahili we are "muzungu's", and always a curiousity because we are the only white people in the entire congregation.











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