This morning we enjoyed a peaceful sacrament meeting with our mission Assistants, Elder N’cho and Elder Wanani. These are remarkable young men who help administer the affairs of the Abidjan East Mission. They are helpers and teachers and trainers.
Today we thought it would be interesting to learn about their conversion stories and their decisions to serve missions. We continue to learn from each other.
Elder Yapo N’cho
Elder N’cho is from Abobo, not far from here. He was called to serve in Ghana and he learned English and he speaks really well. He returned here with other Ivorians when they came back during the COVID missionary movement. He’s 26 years old and did 3 years studying law at the university before his mission.
Elder N’cho told us that he comes from a family with 4 children, his is the 3rd and he has a “junior brother” he is very close to. His dad worked in the Abidjan area as an elevator repair technician (now retired and living on a pension). It was a good job and he earned good money, but sadly, he spent much of his money on alcohol. The family wasn’t happy, his mom wasn’t happy.
There was an LDS Church being built in their neighborhood, across the street from the home of his dad’s best friend. They were curious. They thought it might be a hospital or an orphanage because it was so big. The friend and his dad went to investigate what was going on there when an open house was held on a Saturday. They liked what they saw. They were invited to go to the church meeting the next day (Sunday).
At church, they met the missionaries, who asked for his contact information. They would come to teach the family, but he’d hide. He even hid under the bed. The family didn’t like the drinking problem, so they encouraged him to meet with the missionaries so he’d stop drinking. Eventually he came out and listened. When they were taught the Word of Wisdom the family was very happy. Three months later only he and his friend were baptized (2007). This friend is now a bishop in Akoupe.
Elder N’cho’s family was happy their dad stopped drinking, but they made fun of his church where they sang songs that sounded like funeral songs (no drums or dancing). When his dad read scriptures, they continued to make fun of him, but he continued and was faithful. Once his dad invited Elder N’cho to read with him. He did, but he thought the church was too religious. He said his father played CDs of the hymns every morning in their home.
Once American missionaries came and challenged Elder N’cho to play PlayStation. If they won, they got to teach him. If he won, they’d leave him alone. The Americans won. He had to agree to listen to the lessons and go to church. When he went, he said he noticed the young people coming and going at the church. He could see that they were all smart and they knew how to speak well and read well. He thought he would like to be smart like they were (he said he could never speak in front of people.) He started attending church with his dad. He took it all in and decided he liked it.
The missionaries taught him and his younger brother and they were baptized. He learned about eternal families and desired that more than anything. He went to seminary and he received the Priesthood. He and his dad and his brother went with the stake on a temple trip to the Accra Temple to do baptisms for the dead when he was 17 in 2010. In Accra he got a copy of the Duty to God booklet and after returning home, he happened to leave it out on the table for about a week. His mom noticed it and read it. She asked him if he had the Priesthood and he told her yes. She said she wanted to see him blessing the sacrament for all of the people. She attended church with him the next Sunday and watched him do it. She said, “now you are a man.” That booklet changed her heart.
His mother and older siblings were all taught and baptized and they later went to the Accra Temple as a family to be sealed (August 2012). He loved it. He was about 20 when he decided to go on a mission but he had things with school that kept him from it. He finished a degree, studying for law.
His dad once gave him 40,000 cfa to get a passport so he could apply to go on a mission. He spent it on other things. Time went by. One day his dad told him this was his last chance to go on a mission–he was 24 years old. His dad gave him money again to get a passport. He said, “I know that when I gave you money last time for a passport, you spent it on other things. You can do what you want, but I hope you’ll go on a mission.” This time he gave him the 40,000 plus 30,000 extra, and this time Elder N’cho went the next day to get a passport. He decided that he needed to go on a mission. He said he wanted other people to have the opportunity to have eternal families.
Elder N’cho was thrilled to open his call to serve in the Ghana Cape Coast Mission. The call letter was all written in English and he couldn’t read any of it except for “Ghana” and “MTC in Accra.” He’d studied English in school, but couldn’t really speak it. When he arrived in Accra, he had an American Mission President named President Hillam. He went into his first arrival interview with him very scared and nervous, but he was able to understand and be understood–every word. He’s loved being able to speak English. Elder N’cho will finish his mission here in August.
Elder N’cho’s 2 older siblings are both married. He baptized his sister’s husband. Everyone in the family is active and they love the gospel. He told us that as a family they had family prayer and family home evening. Their family has been blessed.
Elder Junior Wanani Bukembo
Elder Wanani’s story was very different. He is 25 years old and he’s from the Congo. His father had 4 wives, his mother was the youngest. She was very young and he was her only child. Because of contention in the compound (between wives and families), his mother left the family when Elder Wanani was 9 months old. She went far away, eventually remarried and had a family.
Elder Wanani was close to his father. There are 13 children in the family, 10 sisters and 3 brothers. One brother has died. The other brother isn’t that close to the family. So Elder Wanani’s father took good care of him and they were very close.
When he was a young boy, about 16 his father sent Elder Wanani away for school because of the contention in the compound. He lived on his own. There was an LDS church in his neighborhood and he and his friends would watch people coming and going. After graduating, he found work doing yard work, then at a customs office, then working for a petroleum company.
Once there was a baptism (outside font) happening at the LDS church. He and his friends watched over the wall. He had good feelings when he saw what was happening. Not long after he watched young men and women coming and going to an Institute class. He went in to see what was going on. The course was on Marriage and Family Relations. The members were kind to him and invited him to join them. He met the missionaries.
Over a 4-week period, Elder Wanani was taught the discussions and was baptized. He was 20. No one in his family had any interest in the church. His father was a teacher (now retired). He’s had no support from anyone in his family. He’s not sure who he will go home to, although he calls his dad every month and he hopes someday his dad will join the church.
Elder Wanani was very diligent and intent about learning about the gospel after his baptism. His bishop noticed that and gave him things to read. This bishop encouraged him to serve a mission. Now Elder Wanani is a gospel scholar and he loves to memorize scriptures. Today he said the sacramental prayers by heart. Only one of his sisters has joined the church. She’s taking care of his father right now. She and her husband want to move to Belgium after COVID, so Elder Wanani is not sure where he’ll go after his mission. His dream is to go to BYU.