Monday, February 28, 2011

Mormons in Africa series

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put out a series of news reports last week on the church's activity in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Church's Africa Fact Sheet can be found here. There are nearly 320,000 Mormons in Africa, roughly 100,000 of them in Nigeria. The fact sheet also provides statistics for the church's humanitarian aid. The initiatives are described in more detail here and I regularly link to more information.

Elder Richard G. Scott, a senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, visited Mozambique in January. In his last visit in 1999 there were 40 Mormons in Mozambique, while there are now over 5000. He spoke to members in several meetings, with some members traveling two days for a chance to be there, as well as to doctors and nurses teaching neonatal resuscitation techniques to 53,000 medical professionals so far. His message was one of hope, reassurance, and encouragement. Another apostle, Jeffrey R. Holland, prophesied in Burundi that “Africa will someday be seen as a bright land full of ... hope and happiness.” Several African Church leaders tell their stories here.

This article tells several personal stories: one from a rural family in Madagascar who spent 27 years searching for religious truth and two accounts from South Africa. One of them describes the love expressed by white and black members for each other during Apartheid:
Dominic had never seen that type of affection generated from a white person toward someone of darker skin. “You don’t understand how big that was, how amazing it was to see that — how shocking. It went against everything society had taught me.” ... He was baptized and started attending church and was again amazed by the acceptance he felt. “They taught the same thing to me as the white boy sitting next to me at church. That broke a lot of boundaries for me. That said to me in my heart and mind that we are equal.”
This is a first-hand account by an LDS Kenyan journalist. Another article talks in a very introductory way about the 7,000 members in Uganda. The fastest Church growth currently is in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Church runs a program called the Perpetual Education Fund which provides low-interest loans to help people to receive education, usually in order to secure better employment. PEF is helping 2,300 people in Africa so far. The average loan in Africa is $1,200 for a year of schooling. 570 people have finished their education with the program and have seen large increases in income. Funds come from donations by members, myself included, and is run by volunteers.

Most genealogical records are preserved orally in Africa. The Church's FamilySearch program is attempting to record and preserve these family history records. The article quotes a Ghanaian proverb: When an old man dies, it is as if a library has burnt down.

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