Sunday, November 18, 2012

LDS Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland Leads A Delegation To Offer Prayer Of Dedication And Blessing In The Central African Republic

Although the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui, has a branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there has been no formal proselytization taking place in the country. In June 2012, the first step towards changing that was taken when President Brent Jameson, who presides over the Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa Mission within which boundaries the Bangui Branch is contained, visited the Republic and visited with the Republic's President, President François Bozize. President Jameson's purpose was to assess the country for expansion of the LDS Church, and he met with President Bozize, explaining the Church's purpose in his country, and presenting him with a Book of Mormon, a copy of The Family: A Proclamation to the World and a copy of the Articles of Faith. The meeting was facilitated by one of President Bozize's cabinet ministers, Roger Langue, who just happens to be president of the Bangui Branch.

Apparently Mission President Jameson delivered a favorable report back up the Priesthood chain of command, because on October 29th, a three-person delegation consisting of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy, and Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Seventy and president of Africa Southeast Area arrived in Bangui and offered a prayer of dedication and blessing upon the country and people of Central African Republic. Elder Holland pronounced the moment of dedication as a turning point for the small branch of members and all the country, and promised a new day for the people as the gospel light fills their land. Dedication of a land is a priesthood ordinance performed only by an ordained apostle as directed by the First Presidency. That same afternoon, Elder Holland and the others met in a special devotional with about 150 people, members of the Bangui Branch and some of their friends. They filled the chapel to overflowing so that some of the audience had to remain outside. There are a total of 406 members in the branch.

Of the meeting in Bangui, Elder Holland said, "I was so moved by their faith. These are believing people. They accept the gospel when they hear it — it is in their bones. They have genuine faith. They will walk scores of miles to attend meetings and perform their duties. It isn't superficial. It isn't a fleeting thing with them. They just believe. The thing I come back with from Africa is the spirituality and faith of the people who have so little materially."

Elder Holland's stop in Bangui was just one of many activities during his visit in the Africa Southeast Area from October 19-30. But this stop was special to the Church members in Bangui because the Central African Republic is one of many African nations with a tough history. After becoming independent on August 13th, 1960, the Republic was ruled by presidents and an emperor who either were not freely elected or took power by force. The emperor was the most infamous; originally known as Jean-Bédel Bokassa, he took power by a coup in 1965 and declared himself President for Life in 1972. Not satisfied with those honors, he then declared himself Emperor Bokassa I of the Central African Empire in December 1976. Bokassa squandered an estimated $20 million on his coronation ceremony alone, and acquired a reputation for personal brutality, although rumors that he consumed human flesh proved to be unfounded. Bokassa was overthrown in 1979. After another series of dictators, the first multi-party democratic elections were held in 1993. President Bozize took power, first by coup in 2003, then winning successive elections in 2005 and 2011. Bozize has a favorable reputation.

Satan's grip on Africa, historically strong, is weakening. God loves all His children.

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