Sunday, January 2, 2011

Miracle in Sierra Leone

I was most fascinated to read the following account today about some of the first Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in Sierra Leone. The first converts in Freetown were baptized in 1988. By 1990 there were a number of LDS congregations with chapels, including several in Bo, second largest city in Sierra Leone. But then in January 1991, Ezra Taft Benson - then president of the church - sent a letter to the local leadership, Brother Touray,
in which he asked the Saints in Bo to abandon their meetinghouses and to gather again in their homes to worship. The young leaders were very discouraged, feeling that the buildings were such an important milestone for the Church in this part of Sierra Leone.
Uniformly, members were disappointed and unhappy about the request. Some members of the infant congregations were offended that the prophet in Utah would give such unwelcome advice. Others were heard to question whether or not the prophet understood their circumstances, and, lacking faith in the Lord's servants, they left the Church. Others felt the stirring of testimony and confirmation of the Spirit, and while they didn't understand why President Benson would ask such a thing, they knew him to be a prophet. They had also come to trust their mission president who they loved. President Touray spoke recently of those days with grateful appreciation. He was sad and discouraged, but "recognized that we had been given a formal commandment, and I had to obey. I realized it would be very important for us to obey although I did not know why at the time." The chapel doors were closed.
In March 1991, civil war erupted in Sierra Leone and this little nation became engulfed in a fiery battle that lasted more than a decade. Communities collapsed, infrastructures deteriorated, banks were shuttered, food was in scarce supply and repeated military coups left uncertainty as to who was a friend or foe. Churches were frequently targeted by the rebels with bullets and firebombs, and thousands of people lost their lives while sitting on pews hoping to pray and worship.
But the members of the Lord's Church were safe from this harm for they were home worshiping in obedience to a prophet's counsel.
President Touray spoke of the miracle that had come to the people because of their obedience. "No member of the Church died in Bo during the war — not one. The LDS Church was the only church that continued operating during the war in Bo — the only one. Every other church closed its doors. It was too dangerous for the people to walk to church and too dangerous to sit and worship. None of us (the Latter-day Saints) had any problem during the war. We worshipped through the whole war no matter how grave the situation was. Because we were obedient, our members received this great blessing."

1 comment:

Jen L said...

That is a GREAT account. Thanks for sharing!