Well-traveled teacher lands at BYU

BYU is the latest stopover in the global odyssey of Elise Dube.

She was born in Cameroon. Later, she was in Switzerland, where she met her husband, Kenneth; France and England, where she received part of her education, taught school and was married; Germany, where she taught at the University of Duisburg; Zambia where she taught at the University of Zambia; and Zimbabwe, where she taught at the University of Zimbabwe.After retiring in December, she came to BYU.

The Church caught up with her in Germany, and she was baptized in 1984.

She looks at her experience at BYU as "another challenge in my life. I've taught students in Germany, in England, in Africa, and now in America. It's a very good experience."

A delightful woman, Sister Dube has been warmly accepted by her colleagues in the BYU French and Italian Department. She visited BYU in March 1993 to assist with arrangements for her daughter, Valerie, to transfer from the University of Zimbabwe.

While in Provo, she met with Madison Sowell, chairman of the French and Italian Department.

"I introduced her to the members of my faculty," Sowell said. "They were impressed by her and encouraged me to offer her a visiting position."

The offer was worked out and Sister Dube accepted. She is teaching two classes - Francophone African Literature and an advanced French grammar class. Her literature class is full of students eager to learn, she said. "They seem to like it very much. The literature of Africa is still something new here."

She has been teaching for more than 30 years, at various times instructing students from kindergarten through university. But during a recent Church News interview, the story she enjoyed telling most was of her conversion to the Church.

She first met the LDS missionaries while she was in France teaching a short course in 1973. The missionaries invited her to see a film.

"I said, What is the film about?' " she recalled. "They said,You will like it.' The film talked about where we came from and what we're doing on earth. It was interesting. That was just after my father died and I was very fond of him. I had wondered if I would ever see him again, would he recognize me, and how we would meet.

"The film gave me hope that when I meet him he will recognize me because in the film they showed how people meet us after we die."

She asked the missionaries for a Book of Mormon, but they were short of copies. Since she was returning to Zambia, they took her address and told her they would mail her a copy.

After nearly a year passed, she had forgotten about her meeting with the missionaries. Then a parcel arrived, and it was a Book of Mormon.

"I must confess that I didn't have much time," she said. "I looked at the beginning, the end, and the middle. Those editions had pictures and I was most interested in the pictures.

"But I think I misunderstood something about the Book of Mormon, because I thought that Joseph Smith was replacing the Christ. I don't know why or where I got that idea. But I said to myself, `This is the wrong book. How can somebody else replace the Christ?' I put the book aside with the intention of reading it some more, but I lost it and never knew what happened to it."

She later lived in Germany where her husband, a medical doctor, was practicing.

In 1983, she made a trip to France to visit a cousin who was recovering from a heart attack.

"While we were talking, my cousin said, Some wonderful people have been coming to visit me. They are called the Mormons,' " Sister Dube remembered. "I said,You know what, those people gave me their book 10 years ago. I don't know what I did with the book, but I would like to see them again.'

"My cousin said they were coming that afternoon, and I wanted to be there. I was happy to meet them again."

She asked the missionaries many questions and told them of her feelings about her father, and they taught her about the plan of salvation.

"I told them it was a pity I couldn't meet with them again because I was returning to Germany the next day," she said. "They told me not to worry and asked for my address in Germany. They said they would send somebody to meet me there."

Three months later, the missionaries knocked on her door. She welcomed them and listened as they explained the Book of Mormon and the roles of Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ, among other things.

They arranged another visit for the following Sunday. Sister Dube said she and her four children - Kenneth, Jeanne-Helene, Jean-Claude and Valarie - busily prepared for the visit, making cakes, coffee, and tea.

"When they arrived, we offered them some cakes and they declined," she said. "We asked them if they would prefer coffee or tea to drink, and they said neither. They left us disappointed because they didn't taste anything."

For the next few visits, Sister Dube didn't prepare any refreshments for the missionaries. Then they gave her the lesson on the Word of Wisdom.

"So this is why you did not take our coffee or tea," she told them. "They said, Yes.' I said,You should have told us.' They said, No, no. we didn't want to frighten you about our religion that doesn't offer you what you are fond of.' Then I asked them why they wouldn't eat the cakes and they said it was because it was Fast Sunday. I said,You should have told us.' They said, `No, no. We can't start with that when we instruct people because we don't want to frighten them.'

"After a few months, I was baptized and I was very happy to be baptized."

Jean-Claude and Valerie were baptized with their mother. Jeanne-Helene was baptized last year.

Sister Dube had a strong testimony of prayer, and that helped her through a difficult time when her husband was seriously ill with cancer.

"I said to him, We can pray, and maybe the Lord can neutralize the tumor, because everything is possible to God.' He said to me,What do you think your prayer can do. I am a doctor. I can tell you that science is science, a tumor is a tumor. Your prayer can't do anything to my tumor."

Later, after doctors told her that her husband may die within hours, she went to a sitting room in the hospital and prayed fervently.

"I said to the Lord, `If you have decided to take my husband, let thy will be done. But I'm asking you one thing. (I was pleading with the Lord like somebody talking to a person in front of them.) Just give him seven days. During those seven days, maybe if he has something to tell me, he can tell me and he can prepare himself to come and meet you.' "

She was then told by doctors that her husband would not die soon.

A short time later, prior to surgery, Sister Dube asked the missionaries to give her husband a blessing.

After his surgery, doctors said they were surprised that the tumor had not spread.

"My husband had his eyes open, his mouth open. He didn't know what to say," Sister Dube said. "When the doctor left, I told him, `Now tell me a tumor is a tumor and science is science. Everything is possible to God. Science is from God, it is not from the doctors as you say. Because God made man in His image, man can do wonderful things.' "

After that, her husband told her that he wanted her to pray for him and she had a feeling he was going to be converted.

It was hard for her when he passed away.

"I said to the Lord, I can't understand how you disappointed me like that. You had given me hope.' Then something inside me said,Remember, you asked for seven days and you were given six months. Six months was enough time for him to tell you what he wanted to tell you and to prepare himself to meet the Lord.'

"That strengthened my testimony in prayer."

In 1987, a year after her husband died, Sister Dube went through the Salt Lake Temple, received her endowments and was sealed by proxy to her husband.

Through her travels, she said she has learned that the Church is the same everywhere. The people are friendly, just like brothers and sisters.

Wherever she went, she was happy if her family was with her.

"When I was with my family, that was my place," she said.

Now her family is spread around the world, but she is grateful to have a few months to spend with her daughter at BYU, and to still be teaching.

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