Bernard Laundeh was born on 25 June 1992 in Moyamba District, Wonde Village in the Kayamba Chiefdom. His mother and father were both Christians, his mother being Methodist and his father Catholic. Each of them brought one child into their marriage from previous relationships. Within the first three years of marriage, two daughters were born, but neither survived infancy. Bernard’s mother would subsequently give birth to Bernard and then another daughter 3 years later. When Bernard was 5yrs and his sister was 2yrs, Bernard’s father left the village taking Bernard, but leaving his wife and daughter. They traveled to Kenema in eastern Sierra Leone where his father started a new family. Over the next 15 years, Bernard would live with his father and two different step-mothers. By the time he was 18 years old, he had 4 step-siblings and a sister. His childhood was anything but stable, but it left him with a desire for a better life for himself and his own future family.
When Bernard was 17 years old, his father took him to the Catholic Church. Bernard would see his peer group participating in activities at the Church and he wanted to be more involved. When he asked his father why he was unable to participate, his father responded that that is just how it is sometimes, some are privileged and others are not. It was during this time that he became aware of missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were teaching a man near their home. Bernard approached them and asked them to teach him about the Bible. They told him he was too young for them to teach and though deeply disappointed, Bernard eventually went back to his previous Church. Two years later he met a man named Usman Bangura who had moved to their neighborhood. Bernard was impressed with Usman’s example and his quiet nature and introduced himself and told him he needed help to find a better Church where he could learn about God. Usman invited him to come to Church with him the very next Sunday. It was there that he recognized young men in white shirts, ties, and a nametag and realized that this was the same Church that had denied teaching him two years earlier. Initially, he was angry but then the missionaries promised him that they would come to his home and teach him the gospel. When they kept their promise, he was impressed and agreed to continue to be taught. This was in 2009. After nearly two years of gospel lessons, Bernard finally convinced the missionaries he was ready to be baptized.
After his baptism, Usman continued to teach and mentor Bernard and told him that he too could be a full-time missionary. He encouraged Bernard to speak to the Branch President, Samuel Fomba, and after doing so his interest in serving a mission grew. He went back to his village in 2012 working to sell diesel in order to earn the money required for his mission. In October 2013, he left for the Nigeria Benin City Mission.
When he returned to Kenema in October 2015, the Ebola crisis was coming to an end. Within months he began working as a security guard for the senior missionary couple. The next year, while still working as a security guard, he attended Eastern Polytechnic and did a one year program studying business and Information Technology. It was there that he met his future wife Kadie Gbassa. Bernard introduced Kadie to the gospel and within 2 short months, in November 2016, Kadie was baptized. Two years later, Bernard and Kadie were married and in February 2019, they were sealed in the Accra Ghana Temple for time and all eternity.
As part of his preparation to go on a mission and be endowed in the Ghana Temple, Bernard went back to his village to find family names. He was able to discover and gather a significant number of names, but they were not well organized. The result was that he became frustrated and was unable to take any names with him to the temple when he left on his mission. After his marriage to Kadie on 22 December 2018, knowing that he would again be going to the temple to be sealed to his new bride, he decided to try again. This time he took a “My Family Booklet” with him as he traveled to his village. Simultaneously, Bernard encouraged Kadie to go to her village and try to gather family names as well.
During the first week of January 2019, Bernard went back to Wonde Village and spoke first with his grandmother on his mother’s side. She is currently the oldest person in the village. There are about 200 residents in the village and Bernard’s grandmother has a deep knowledge of the history of the people who live there now and their ancestors. When younger, she had had her own curiosity about her family and so had spoken many times to her own parents and grandparents about their history. Because Bernard’s father was also from that same village, her curiosity spilled over to his side as well. Though she cannot read or write and is now blind, she knows the oral history for the entire village. Still, Bernard didn’t stop there. He also spoke to his aunt on his father’s side. While not as old as his grandmother, she too knew much about the history of the family and the people in the village. Bernard’s great-grandfather on his mother’s side had three wives in his lifetime. One of those wives has a daughter that is still alive. He spoke to her as well. This aunt is now more than 80 years old and she was able to provide Bernard with additional information on that side of the family. He also spoke to his mother who provided additional details. He stayed in the village for a month, speaking to relatives and older villagers as often as he could in order to extract and confirm as much information about his family as possible.
During his time in the village, Bernard went to his grandmother over 10 times. Sometimes she would refuse to speak to him and other times she would open up. One day while in the village, Bernard’s step-brother from his mother showed up unannounced. This turned out to be a significant blessing as together the two of them were able to speak with and record their grandmother tell family stories for nearly an hour. At first, the step-brother was not interested, but once their grandmother started telling stories that neither of these grandsons had ever heard, his attention shifted and he became focused on learning as much as he could. It was the step-brother who was asking the questions that she would respond to most. Bernard’s grandmother was still angry at the way Bernard’s father had treated her daughter (Bernard’s mother) and as a result, sometimes she took it out on Bernard. When Bernard’s stepbrother came along, she willingly opened up and shared family information that was priceless to Bernard. Without his step-brother’s surprise visit, the number of names would have been significantly less.
In addition to the ten times he spoke with his grandmother, he spoke to his aunt on his mother’s side three times, his mother twice and the oldest aunt on his father’s side twice.
The day before leaving for the Accra Ghana Temple to be sealed to his wife, he spent time with the senior missionary couple inputting the last of his family names into FamilySearch late into the evening. The next morning he sent this text back to the missionary couple. “Yesterday after leaving your home, I walked a little way and felt great power from the Spirit. I couldn’t take any more steps, so I found a place to sit and started shedding tears of great joy for about 5 minutes before I was able to walk home”. He had been completely overcome with joy for the work he had already done to discover his ancestors and the work that he now could do to gather them into his gospel family through priesthood ordinances. Later that week while doing the baptisms and confirmations for their families, he again felt the spirit and experienced great joy. Because they had so many names, they spent every day in the temple while in Ghana. There were others in the group from Kenema who also help complete some of the temple work for their family as well.
His wife Kadie was in her village for about 20 days but did not have near the success that Bernard had had. The family history that Bernard gathered inspired her to want to go back to her own village and get more of her family names. Bernard promised her he would go with her and help her to do just that.
As a result of Bernard and Kadie’s efforts, they were able to gather and with help of the senior missionary couple in Kenema, uploaded information into FamilySearch for more than 80 of their ancestors, resulting in more than 350 temple ordinances.