Preaching harmonizes ethnic diversity

When many cultures merge, one can normally expect enormous social problems. But when that merger is made up of missionaries preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, a beautiful synergism results.

In the Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission are dozens of ethnic representatives from Ivory Coast, Zaire, the Congo, United States, Canada, France, Martinique and Tahiti.According to mission Pres. Robert Mercer, the diversity has brought strength and enthusiasm to the work in this western Africa nation.

The stage for the merging of cultures came with the creation of the Cameroon Yaounde Mission in 1992. The mission later permanently changed its headquarters location to Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Its name was also changed.

At first the handful of missionaries in the new mission was made up of Africans from Ivory Coast and four couples from the United States, France and Canada. Soon, though, more began to arrive.

In December 1992, Elder Daniel Darney of England and David Darius from Martinique in the Caribbean arrived. Then came Elder Alfred Brothers from Tahiti, and four elders from the United States, including Michael Swizer, who is half Navajo.

Following them, eight elders and a sister from Zaire arrived and then a sister from Ivory Coast was called to be her companion. All are members of only one or two years.

Additional American elders, longtime members trained at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, arrived and were paired with the African elders.

The next influx of missionaries came with the temporary closing of the Congo, part of the Zaire mission, because of political turmoil in that country. Ten Congo missionaries and two couples were transferred to the Ivory Coast mission.

With this conglomeration of origins, there have been, of course, many adjustments for the missionaries to make, said Pres. Mercer. However, none of the adjustments have been insurmountable. In fact, the most oft-repeated complaint is that one companion doesn't enjoy the cooking of the other. Pres. Mercer noted, however, that this situation is also common among missionaries of like cultures.

More important, the diversity of cultures has developed a dynamism of effort among the missionaries. "Morale and enthusiasm are high, hours spent working are going up, and conversions increase monthly," said Pres. Mercer.

Eternal bonds of friendship are forged as each pair shares an apartment, meals, prayers and testimonies. Individual commitment and the energy gained from diversity continue bringing success to the Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission.

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