For the first time, an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has visited the West African country of the Republic of The Gambia. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles arrived in the capital of Banjul on Wednesday, February 23.
Thursday morning, Elder Christofferson dedicated the country for the preaching of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. This event, along with a visit with government leaders, allows the Church to be organized in The Gambia and receive official status.
Visit With the President of The Gambia
The senior Church leaders visited The Gambia as guests of the country’s president. They met with President Adama Barrow, Vice President Isatou Touray and First Lady Madame Fatoumatta Bah Barrow at the State House in the capital city of Banjul.
“The meeting is the best meeting I ever had since I became a First Lady,” said Her Excellency, referring to a collaborate effort between the Church and her foundation to help those in need. “It's the mighty God [who] works in miracles. I'm happy about this visit and I hope this is a beginning. … And we will continue in strengthening and changing the lives of people of this country.”
Elder Christofferson was joined in The Gambia by his wife, Kathy; Elder S. Mark Palmer of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Jacqueline; and Elder Larry S. Kacher of the Africa West Area Presidency and his wife, Pauline.
The Gambia stretches along the Gambia River and is surrounded by Senegal, except for a section of 60 kilometers (37 miles) of Atlantic Ocean front.
Elder Christofferson’s visit to The Gambia was historic because the Apostle offered a prayer at sunrise at an overlook near the ocean on Thursday, February 24, officially dedicating the country.
“As the sun begins to come now, we see it as a new dawning for the nation. Not just a new day, but a really a new day, a new era,” said the Apostle shortly after he offered the dedicatory prayer.
“It's a power that was granted with the Restoration. It was part of the charge of the Apostles in ancient times. It's part of the charge of the Apostles today,” Elder Christofferson explained. “This dedication opens the possibility now for us to be registered to establish the Church formally to begin to plant the seed and to grow.”
He continued, “I mentioned in my dedication prayer that this is an oft times unremembered place, but it's God's creation. These are his people. He remembers them. He knows them, and He is anxious to bless them as well as me or you or anyone in the world.”
Included among those who witnessed the dedication of The Gambia were some of the first members of the Church in West Africa.
“I'm so happy to be here today because this is a long-awaited opportunity for the people of The Gambia to have this blessing. We are good people. We have members who are here, have dedicated their lives so much, waiting for this day when the land will be dedicated to start the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Emelia Ahadjie, a West African Latter-day Saint pioneer from Ghana who attended the historic event. “It tells us how the Church is growing fast.”
Elder Christofferson and a delegation of senior Church leaders attended a baptism for 11 people on the day they arrived, which nearly doubled the membership of the Church of Jesus Christ in The Gambia. Only a dozen Latter-day Saints had been living in the country of about 2.5 million people. Now, the membership is 23 members.
The senior Church leaders are traveling to several countries in West Africa to meet with government and local Church leaders. At the beginning of the ministry, they offered instruction to stake, district and mission presidents in leadership meetings in Lagos and Port Harcourt, Nigeria.