In a presentation at the 2018 FairMormon Conference, I shared stories of some of the faithful Saints in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa). In this series of presentations, I would like to speak from a more personal perspective, reflecting on the meaning of that experience for Kathleen and me, and pondering some of the dynamics of numerical and spiritual growth of the Church in that country.
The series is organized into eleven parts:
- Prologue: What brought us to Africa?
- Snapshot of the Church in the DR Congo
- The missionaries
- What attracts people to the Church?
- Building from centers of strength — Kisangani
- Building from centers of strength — Wagenya and elsewhere
- Taking the Gospel to the “ends of the earth”
- The temple 1: Turning the hearts of the children
- The temple 2: “Holiness to the Lord”
- The temple 3: A light to the world
- “The labourers are few”
Jesus said: “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). In this eleventh and final episode in this series, I describe how fittingly this verse applies in the DR Congo. Despite the continued steady growth of the Church and the recent addition of a fourth mission in the country, there is only one full-time missionary couple serving in all of the DR Congo.
I discuss President Russell M. Nelson for all members to engage with greater vigor in the gathering of Israel. Though the gathering of Israel can be done in many ways, depending on the inspiration and personal situation of each member, he has emphasized that a key part of fulfilling the blessing of Abraham is the sending of “missionaries [to] take the gospel across the globe,” “infus[ing] the lives of all” with “the light of the gospel and the love of the Lord.” (https://churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/president-nelson-invites-record-crowd-in-arizona-to-help-gather-israel?lang=eng [accessed 12 February 2019]).
We will review the Lord’s vision of missionary work in section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The wholehearted nature of the service we are called to render is exemplified in the figure of the laborer, who is required to thrust in his sickle “with his might,” that he may bring “salvation to his soul” (D&C 4:4). Embarking in the service of God requires a firm resolve to leave one’s familiar labors and companions to take up a new work for which one is never fully prepared, and at a destination which is never adequately known or described in advance
We close with a testimony of Jean Claude Mabaya, former Area Seventy and newly called mission president in the DR Congo.
Thank you, dear friend. We share in common a deep love for the Lord’s work and for the people that we have tried to serve. You are a great example to me.
I have very much found joy in each of the previous episodes by my friend Jeff Bradshaw on his wonderful experiences in Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa Mission, and about the Church of Jesus Christ in the Congo. This last episode moved me greatly, and also made me feel guilty. Why? I had, of course, a missionary experience in New Zealand in 1950-52. Looking back, that experience was a huge blessing to me. I hope that in the ignorance of youth, I was able to able to help build the Kingdom in that land. Both of my missions to New Zealand now seem more of blessings to me rather than embarking of the kinds of ventures President Nelson now describes and Jeff’s own missionary experiences illustrate.
Twenty years ago, with my wife, I was able to serve as a “senior missionary” again in New Zealand. The fact is that this was not the kind of sacrifice that Jeff describes as badly needed in those five missions in the Congo. And so badly needed all over the world.
The Midgleys discovered that we were very busy doing our best, but in an entirely safe place where the Church of Jesus Christ has been flourishing for a hundred years. Jeff has made me feel guilty. Listening to him, I found myself wondering if I have even begun warrant divine approval.
I have tried to persuade myself that volunteering with those who constitute the Interpreter Foundation is, especially at my advanced age, is an element in an acceptable sacrifice on my part.