Sunday, November 18, 2012

LDS Pioneers in East Africa

Following up on the April article on pioneers in Africa overall, the October 1994 Ensign included an article on pioneers for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania in east Africa. By the time of the article, the Church had only been officially recognized by each country for 2-3 years. Here are some of their stories that weren't shared in the April article.

Charles Asiago 
The first Kenyan to join the Church was Charles Asiago. Charles studied at a theological college for three years. In 1978 he was introduced to the gospel by Boyd Whipple, a Latter-day Saint who was working in Kenya with USA Aid. “I asked him many questions and he answered them,” said Charles. “I began asking myself, ‘How can someone who is not a theologian answer the questions more perfectly than the principals of the colleges to whom I had already asked the same questions?’ The Spirit of God touched me.”2... 
 Since his baptism on 15 March 1980, Charles has visited the old men of the tribe who know the oral histories back to A.D. 1500. He has collected his family history from them. Temple work has been completed for about three hundred of Charles’s ancestors.
It took until 1985 before the government gave permission for more than Charles to be baptized, so some people had been investigating the Church for more than 5 years, including the first missionaries from Kenya.

Joseph Sitati, First Kenyan District President
In 1989 government officials in Kenya restricted members to meeting in groups of no more than nine adults. In July 1989 all full-time missionaries were asked to leave the country. Joseph Sitati, a convert of only three years, was set apart as the first Kenyan district president. ... On 25 February 1991, President Sitati, Charles Asiago, and two other brethren were asked to come to the attorney general’s office. They were overjoyed when they were presented with the registration certificate for the Church. President Sitati recalled, “It was a very, very happy occasion. We cried. I thought I was dreaming.”
Today, Joseph Sitati is a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, the most senior governing council in the church after the apostles and First Presidency. In fact, he is part of the Area Presidency overseeing us here after being a mission president in Nigeria. He studied mechanical engineering and accounting. 

Edward Ojuka
One of the first to join the Church from Uganda was Edward Ojuka.... In 1982 Edward traveled to Perth, Australia, with a scholarship to study physical education. His wife and children remained in Africa with her family. The first people Edward came to know in Perth were two sister missionaries who knocked on his door the night of his arrival....
After studying the gospel for four months, Edward was baptized in May 1982. Of this experience Edward recalled: “My baptism was one of my most special days. I know that I was born on this earth for an important mission.” ...
Before long, he decided to pursue a doctorate in education at Brigham Young University. Three months after their arrival in Provo, Grace was baptized. A year later their family was sealed in the temple. As Edward reflected upon what is of greatest worth, he said: “I have a very strong testimony, and I want my posterity to know that I know the Church is true. I have no doubt about it. The Church’s power is based on the truth of the gospel. My desire in life is to serve. I will be returning to Uganda to work with our people.” 
The article also praises various LDS pioneers who helped establish the gospel in east Africa as foreigners:

Guy and Peggy Denton, who served in Uganda, are two people who have helped the gospel take root in East Africa. In October 1989, Brother Denton moved his family from Logan, Utah, to Uganda to organize agricultural education programs at Makerere University. During the next four years, the Dentons provided strength and leadership and were instrumental in helping gain official recognition for the Church in Uganda. 
Similarly, the Church in Tanzania was established in part due to the efforts of Bruce and Ruth Wilson, who moved to Dar es Salaam from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The family ... began to hold Sunday services in their home. The first baptisms in Tanzania were performed in the Indian Ocean in March 1992. When the Church was officially recognized by the Tanzanian government in October 1992, Brother Wilson was called as the first branch president in that land. 
Ted and Jaclyn McNeill were the second missionary couple called to serve in Uganda. ... The Africa Area Presidency asked Elder and Sister McNeill to open the work in Jinja, a city about sixty miles from Kampala, the capital of Uganda. “We left Kampala with a little boiled water and a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread, and we headed out to Jinja,” said Elder McNeill, a retired mechanic. When their mission was completed, Elder and Sister McNeill left behind two branches of the Church and many marvelous experiences and eternal friendships. 
Lervae and Joyce Cahoon from Cardston, Alberta, Canada, served a mission in Nigeria following Elder Cahoon’s retirement as a high school music teacher. After their mission they returned home to their ten children and forty-five grandchildren. After eighteen months in Canada, they accepted a call as the first missionaries to Tanzania. In spite of many difficult challenges and obstacles, they were successful in helping to move the work forward and endearing themselves to many. This humble couple spent their golden wedding anniversary serving the Lord as missionaries in Tanzania.
More information on the growth of the Church in Africa can be found here.