Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pioneers in the Heart of Africa

From the first day in September of 2010 that the missionaries taped up the hand-written sign to announce the reestablishment of the church and to hold the first sacrament meeting in Burundi, the eastern dwellers of the Democratic Republic of the Congo came! They had already been pleading in emails to Salt Lake City for years for the priesthood authority and missionaries to come to bless their lives with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
They came into the new little rented chapel and were hoping then that it would be soon that they could begin having baptisms.  They were told that the time was not yet. Their disappointment was real and a bit of agitation became visible when the man at the right who is known as Moise, stood and said, "Brethren, we have waited for years. Why is that a problem now?  Let us calm down and let God do His work."

Their sacrifice just to attend was not small.  They had sacrificed much to come and partake of the sacrament and make their wishes known. It was a great blessing to see their deep commitment and desire to follow the plan of Jesus Christ.

Some of the senior couples, expressed again their deepest desires and how they had been studying together. They reviewed with the missionaries their pattern of vigilance.  They were meeting in large groups three times every week.  When we asked what they were doing, they answered that they met every Sunday to worship, pray and read the Book of Mormon together.  They could not administer the sacrament because they had no baptism and no priesthood.  They met on Wednesdays to study from an old Institute manual that we are not sure how they had.  They said that they also met on Mondays.  When we asked them why, they looked at us like we should already know and answered, "For Family Home Evening, of course!"  They had very few Books of Mormon and requested more especially in Swahili.  They asked when they could serve missions as couples.  They asked how old their sons needed to be to serve as missionaries. But alas, they left to return across the border to their homes in Uvira, Baraka and Fizi, which is 30 kilometers and more, paying transport money and not knowing when they would ever have opportunity to come again because they had paid a huge price already just to be there that one Sabbath Day.

One month later in October 2010, President Jeffrey R. Holland came to dedicate and bless the land of Burundi in a private but powerful ceremony overlooking the city of Bujumbura.  He asked to meet with the few members and many friends of the church in the new little chapel.  Here again in largest numbers were the group who pled for baptism from the R.D.Congo.

Again these wonderful people were told, but this time by an Apostle of the Lord, that they would need to keep studying, keep meeting and praying.  Keep obeying the commandments.  They were told the time is coming but not yet. Again, they had sacrificed and pled for baptism and the priesthood of God. Again, they had paid a huge price only to return home not knowing how long they would continue to wait and pray for these blessings.

During the month of May 2011, eight months after the missionaries arrived (besides the many years, up to 14 years, that many have been waiting to gain membership) a small group has been traveling and staying in Bujumbura to receive the missionary discussions.  The sacrifice has been marked.....but their determination has been incredible.

Through it all, there has never ceased to be m-u-c-h opposition.....with each of them, with the missionaries serving them and with life in general.  Another force was definitely trying to keep these blessings from these fine individuals.

Even after much teaching and preparing on the day of the planned baptism, everything fell apart.  Doors closed and just finding a place for baptism was not happening!  Prayers were answered and miracles began to happen when we thought it just could not happen on that day! 

Leadership had scrambled looking at 6 other hotels and two other private pools trying to find a place.  A new member, Domin, had vision and led Elder and Sister Evanson to where she knew we could have the baptism.  They called Elder Frogley and said, "It is perfect.  We can have the baptism at 5:30 pm. at the Univeristy of Burundi after all of the swimmers go home."

So just at dusk, about 6 pm with excitement and gratitude..................................... finally happened!!!! Five families and other individuals gained entry into the waters of baptism with proper authority!
As the lights of Bujumbura began to twinkle in the evening light, these individuals who had waited soooooo long and sacrificed sooooooo much, came up out of the waters with huge smiles, satisfying chuckles and much praise and gratitude to their Heavenly Father and their Savior for the great blessing of baptism.  The Sabbath Day brought each of them to confirmation and then the Priesthood blessings they had so long awaited.

That night, it seemed as if all of heaven looked down on them and smiled. These people are pioneers in the heart of Africa...but now the stone continues to gather strength and size.

" this the beginning of the rising up and the coming forth of my church out of the wilderness---clear as the moon....." (D&C 5:14)


  1. Happy Day! The long awaited time has begun. You're blessed to be there. We saw Vincent and his wife and the man with the limp and the man who defended the patience they needed to have all there. It looks like Methode did some of the baptizing. It's thrilling. Thank you for all you've done to make it happen. We're so excited. If you have details and names, etc. send us an email. Congratulations!!

  2. This made me cry. What an amazing testimonial to the importance of the gospel. When you are surrounded daily, hourly, by the gospel way of life it is far to easy to be complaisant. I told you this would be a great adventure. You belong to an exclusive club - true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ bringing his light into dark places. Love you both, God bless.