Lucien and Agathe Affoué—Pioneers in Cȏte d’Ivoire

Lucien and Agathe Affoué—Pioneers in Cȏte d’Ivoire

In the early 1970’s it was not uncommon for Ivorian Catholics to travel to France for schooling. When Lucien Affoué traveled to Lyon to study industrial arts, he had no idea that the most important education he would receive there would be spiritual. After arriving in France, Lucien, Agathe, his wife, and their two young daughters went to the church in their neighborhood every week. However, they quit attending because they did not feel at home there. The desire to find something to compensate for this lack began to gnaw at Lucien. He wanted to know God, but in what way? They searched for three years to satisfy their religious belief. Towards the end of 1980, two well-dressed young men knocked at their door. They told Lucien that they had a message for the happiness of the family. Lucien, his brother and oldest daughter embraced the gospel almost immediately and were baptized in 1980. Agathe was not interested at first, having been born into a very strong Catholic family, but she did attend church with Lucien and their children. The Bordeaux Branch welcomed the family into the Church and with the member’s love and example, it wasn’t long before Agathe requested baptism. Eventually the Affoués and their daughters were sealed in the Swiss Temple.

Speaking of this time, Brother Affoué recalled, “You know when you receive the Holy Spirit you want everyone to feel that joy that you feel. I said to myself that Africa, especially Cȏte d’Ivoire, absolutely needed this gospel. Although I had not yet a year in the Church, I desired to come and settle down to bring the gospel to my brothers and sisters. So I asked my district president how it would be if I had to go home for missionary work. He said he did not know, but the time would come.” The branch president let Lucien grow in the gospel. Eventually he was called as second counsellor to the branch president. He began to learn the operation of the church.

When they returned to Ivory Coast in 1984 the Affoués, now with the addition of an infant son, were disappointed that at first they were unable to find any other Church members. Nevertheless, they diligently held meetings in their home, praying for the fellowship of another Latter-day Saint family. Lucien also had difficulty finding employment.

Times were difficult. Well-paying jobs in Ivory Coast, a French colony until 1964, were, and still are, scarce. Most industry is foreign owned. Unemployment has reached as high as 80 percent in this nation, where most people live in small villages and make a living as farmers raising tropical agricultural products such as cacao seeds (from which cocoa and chocolate are made), coffee, pineapple, bananas, and palm oil. Scarce jobs often are made available only to those who can pay a cadeau, or fee, for the privilege of working. More-enterprising Ivorians get involved in small business ventures. Most commerce is conducted from a stall or roadside table.

Despite their difficult economic situation, the Affoués rejoiced in April 1986 when they received a letter from Phillipe and Annelies Assard. (Read the website article about the Assards here.) The two families soon began holding joint Sunday meetings in the Assard’s backyard. As they worked, worshiped, and prayed together for work, the families grew close and strengthened each other spiritually. Sister Affoué and Sister Assard became as close as sisters.

The Affoué’s prayers were answered when Brother Affoué found a teaching job in Bouaké, the nation’s second largest city, located approximately 200 miles northwest of Abidjan. As much as he needed the work, Lucien was reluctant to leave their beloved branch. He prayed about this decision and one morning, while studying the scriptures, he read section 99 in the Doctrine and Covenants. He felt the Lord was commanding him to go and preach the gospel. They had to leave their growing branch in Abidjan, but with strengthened testimonies and faith, the Affoués moved in 1988 and helped establish the Church in Bouaké. There the family spread the gospel, eventually receiving welcome help from a missionary couple assigned to the area. From the start of one family, the Church grew to four branches including one in Yamoussoukro by 2002. Brother Affoué served as branch president, then continued as branch president after the branch was divided. Later he served as a counselor to the mission president. Sister Affoué served as Relief Society president and in other callings. The children taught classes and helped out their small branch in other ways.

When a civil war broke out in 2002, Brother Affoué moved his family back to Abidjan. Many church members moved to Abidjan from the villages at this time, increasing the church membership in Abidjan. A second civil war in 2011 was also disruptive to the lives of Church members. In spite of these challenges and hardships, the Church continued to grow in strength and numbers. From the small beginnings and hard work of pioneer members, such as the Affoués, Cȏte d’Ivoire now has seven stakes, three districts and two missions.

Lucien Affoué continues to build up the church by accepting the assignments he is given. He is currently serving as first counsellor in the Vallon Ward. “It doesn’t matter to be a stake or branch president.” He said, “Whether I have a calling or not does not bother me. My responsibility as a priesthood holder is to be the servant and not be served. This is how we will obtain salvation, and not by being a mighty king.” He is grateful for the growth of the church in Cȏte d’Ivoire and looks to the future with optimism. “The church is really growing. Almost every place there is a little growth. Our vision and hope is for a temple in Cȏte d’Ivoire.”  

Adapted from an article by Robert L. Mercer (Ensign, Sept. 1997)