On 19 August 2023, His Excellency Adama Barrow, the President of The Gambia, welcomed Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, a General Authority Seventy and President of the Africa West Area of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to his home at the State House in Banjul, The Gambia. Elder Nielsen was in The Gambia to attend three donation ceremonies in local villages. The Church recently completed the construction of 18 mechanized boreholes throughout the West African country.
“We are forever grateful to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the charity they have shown to the people of The Gambia,” remarked the President. “During my campaign, I saw firsthand the plight of the Gambian people. Improving conditions for them has been the focus of my presidency. Your generous contributions have not gone unnoticed by me, the government, and the people of the Gambia. They have made a real difference.”
President Barrow told President Nielsen that he understood how much the clean water would mean to the 18 villages. He reminisced a little about growing up in a small village of about 200-300 people with no clean water source. “I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it is to live without a clean, close water source,” he said. “Water is life, and you’ve given these people life.”
Accompanying Elder Nielsen were Flint Mensah, Director of Temporal Affairs for the West Africa Area, and Marian Esiape, Manager of Welfare and Self Reliance for the Church. Also attending were President Samuel Owusu-Amako of the Banjul branch of the Church. The Banjul branch, created in March 2022, is the first branch established in The Gambia.
The Church had worked with Her Excellency Madam Fatoumata Bah Barrow, the First Lady of The Gambia, and her foundation, to identify the villages where the boreholes would have the most impact. The First Lady accompanied Elder Nielsen at the donation ceremonies in the villages of Bonsa, Giboro Gidda, and Kubariko.
Prior to the meeting with the President, Elder Nielsen and the other Church leaders had lunch with the First Lady and members of her foundation board on the grounds of the State House. At the conclusion of the meeting the First Lady escorted the guests to the beach outside the State House grounds.
“We are honored to meet with you here today. I can feel your goodness and the love that you have for your people,” Elder Nielsen shared with the President. “We believe that we show our love for God by serving our neighbors, and our donations are representative of that love. We are bound together in our desire to bless the lives of Gambians for generations to come.” Elder Nielsen also noted how the Church has assisted the people of The Gambia in the past by supporting food initiatives, donating equipment and supplies to hospitals, and working with disaster relief efforts throughout the country.
Elder Nielsen presented the President with a ‘Family Circle’ statuette and shared his love for his own family and his knowledge of the importance of eternal families. “I have noticed the love that your family shares and hope that this memento will remind you that your family is eternal,” he shared with the President. Elder Nielsen was presented with a plaque that recognized the contributions that the Church has made to improve the lives of all Gambians.
96% of the 2.8 million people in The Gambia are Muslim. Until President Barrow’s election in 2016, The Gambia was an Islamic Republic. Since that time the country has focused on freedom of religion, and this allowed the Church of Jesus Christ to be recognized in 2022. Elder D. Todd Christofferson dedicated the land for the spreading of the Gospel in February of 2022 and the first branch was established a month later with 14 members. “We have been here a very short time, just 18 months, but we are thriving,” Elder Nielsen told the President. Today there are 67 members in the Banjul Branch.