Sunday, November 4, 2012

LDS in Africa: Other Pioneers

One of the articles I shared in the last post had quite a lot of very remarkable and amazing stories. Here are some more of them. Everything after this comes directly from the article, so I won't indent it. - DW

Joseph W. B. Johnson of Ghana
One such pioneer in Ghana is Joseph W. B. Johnson. Brother Johnson was converted after prayerfully reading the Book of Mormon in 1964 [before the Church had sent missionaries there]. He relates that following his conversion “one early morning, while about to prepare for my daily work, I saw the heavens open and angels with trumpets singing songs of praise unto God. I heard my name mentioned thrice: ‘Johnson, Johnson, Johnson. If you will take up my work as I will command you, I will bless you and bless your land.’ Trembling and in tears, I replied, ‘Lord, with thy help, I will do whatever you will command me.’ From that day onward, I was constrained by the Spirit to go from street to street to deliver the message that we had read from the Book of Mormon.”

When the missionaries arrived fourteen years later, there were already many unbaptized congregations that Brother Johnson had organized, identifying themselves with the Church. Some of these early converts later rejected official membership in the Church, but many accepted it. A foundation had been established upon which later missionary work would build with increasing success.

Priscilla Sampson-Davis of Ghana
Priscilla Sampson-Davis first met the missionaries in 1964 while living in Holland. Her husband rejected them, but Sister Sampson-Davis was interested and read the Book of Mormon. When the family returned to Ghana, she found Brother Johnson’s group studying the doctrines of the Church and became an active participant. Fourteen years later, she and her children were among the first to be baptized when the missionaries arrived in Ghana.

One Sunday after joining the Church, Sister Sampson-Davis saw a vision. It was as if she were at sacrament meeting. A person in white apparel stood in front of the stand, beckoning to her. “I came and stood by him. He asked me to turn around and look at the faces of the people to see if they were all enjoying the service. I saw that some of them had bowed their heads. He asked me why some of those people were not joining in the singing. I said, ‘Because they didn’t go to school and they can’t read English. They can’t sing, and that is the reason they bow their heads.’

“Then he said, ‘Wouldn’t you like to help your sisters and brothers who can’t read and who can’t join you in singing praises to Heavenly Father?’”

Even though she couldn’t write the language well, she replied, “I will try.”

The vision ended, and she immediately translated “Redeemer of Israel” into her native language. Sister Sampson-Davis went on to translate the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, Gospel Principles, and various other Church materials. ...

“I felt good as I translated the Book of Mormon. I knew the Lord wanted me to do it, because at times when I would use a certain word or a phrase, suddenly, as if somebody was standing behind me, I would hear, ‘No, use this word,’ or ‘No, not that word.’ I always had an eraser with me, because the Spirit was always teaching me.”

Adjei Kwame of Zimbabwe
Adjei Kwame was guided into the Church by spiritual promptings he felt when he took a teaching position in Zimbabwe. “I had been searching for the true church,” he says. “I kept having dreams about a church building. When I went through Kwe Kwe, Zimbabwe, I saw it and wanted to go in to find out what kept coming into my dreams all the time.” When he visited the church one Sunday, he says, “I felt I was actually with some people that I knew a long time ago who had been good friends.”

As part of the service, members of the Kwe Kwe Branch bore their testimonies. Brother Kwame went to the pulpit. He said that he believed in God and wanted to be a member of the Church. He later met with Sister Hamstead, the wife of the mission president. “What actually descended upon the two of us I cannot explain. I became aware that I was weeping. I can’t explain the feeling. I was released of all burdens. I felt that I had gone to a place where I visited often, but now I was at home.”

Emmanuel Abu Kissi of Ghana
One of the first converts in Ghana was Dr. Emmanuel Abu Kissi. For most of his life he had struggled to find spiritual fulfillment. “I had read the Bible several times and expected something more than what the churches were doing. I felt that the churches were empty, although Christianity wasn’t. I made up my mind that there must be something more than what they were teaching us, but I hadn’t found it yet.” ...

Then he went to England on a medical scholarship. During his second year there, health problems forced his wife to quit her nursing job and remain at home for many months. He was surprised when his wife, Elizabeth, called one day to say that she was ready to return to work. She explained that she had met two young men who shared with her the word of God. During the discussion, Sister Kissi had asked them to give her a blessing. “They came and anointed her,” Dr. Kissi explains. “She said that in the presence of the anointing she felt something like an electrical movement in her, from head to toe. And when they finished, she was cured instantly.” ...

After their baptisms, the Kissis returned to Ghana, where Dr. Kissi served in the mission presidency. The Kissis also founded the Deseret Hospital in Accra. In 1992, when the first two stakes were created in Ghana, Brother Kissi was called as a regional representative.

As in the early days of the Church in the United States, most of the Africans who were baptized while the Church was in its infancy in their countries did not have spectacular spiritual experiences like those just related. Yet the Spirit moved upon them just as strongly and prepared them just as surely for service in the Lord’s kingdom.

Robert Israel Muhile of Tanzania
Those who join the Church first in an area are often isolated from friends, family, and even the organized church. But they are not isolated from the Spirit.

Among the first to accept the gospel in Tanzania was Robert Israel Muhile. Robert attended his first LDS meeting in Egypt, where he was working and studying. At church, he met a missionary couple who taught him the discussions and baptized him. In May 1991 he was ordained an elder and decided to take the gospel to his family in Tanzania. But when he returned to his village—one thousand miles and three days by bus from Tanzania’s capital, Dar es Salaam—his efforts went without success.

... He describes his [sacrament] service simply:

“I prepared water and bread and more water to clean my hands, and a small towel. I sang a song to myself out loud. I had my hymn book. After that, I offered an opening prayer. Because I was alone I didn’t have any business to do, so I sang the sacrament hymn and prepared the sacrament. Then I knelt and blessed and took it. After the sacrament, I covered it, as we respect it always. I offered myself a talk—my testimony. Then I sang as in Sunday School and then read from Gospel Principles. I finished with a prayer. I then attended priesthood. After singing a hymn, I’d have a prayer, then read from the priesthood manual the lesson I had chosen for that day. After that, I finished by singing and then offered the closing prayer.”

After being home two months, Robert received a letter from Lervae and Joyce Cahoon, the first missionaries sent into Tanzania. They requested his services as a translator. He accepted and traveled to Dar es Salaam to join them. While there, he met and married Joy Nassiuma, a convert from Nairobi. In July 1993, Robert and Joy had their marriage sealed in the Johannesburg South Africa Temple.

In Chyulu, Kenya
Due to the area’s isolation and primitive conditions, special arrangements had to be made for the baptisms. A water tank was brought from Nairobi to serve as a baptismal font. It took five hours to pump enough water from a well and haul it six kilometers to the new font. Then ten adults stood inside the font to raise the water level high enough so the candidates could be immersed. In preparation for the first service, forty people were taught the discussions and interviewed. When they were baptized and confirmed, the branch nearly doubled in membership. By August 1993, there were two branches in Chyulu, with a combined membership of three hundred and fifty.

... To help the Church members prepare for future emergencies, a program was established to raise drought-resistant crops. But even drought-resistant crops require some moisture—and the area had received no rain for nearly two years. And so, on 21 October 1992, forty members and sixty nonmembers planted a crop, then held a special fast, asking the Lord to bless them with rain. The Church film The Windows of Heaven was brought in and shown at one of the few public places with electricity. In less than a week, the rains came. The crops grew—and so did the faith of the people. There was a bountiful harvest.

It is evident that the Lord loves the people of Africa and desires to bless these patient people.