On his way home from a historic visit to Sierra Leone in West Africa, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve, accompanied by his wife Patricia T. Holland, paid a special visit to the tiny and remote branch of the Church in Rabat, Morocco, on Dec. 2-3.
In a special devotional Sunday evening, Dec. 2, with all 24 current members of the branch, plus visitors, Elder Holland shared his love for the group, noting that such a surprise visit underscored the love the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have for every member of the Church throughout the world, no matter how few in number or distant in location they may be.
"The Lord knows you and loves you," said Elder Holland. "You are not forgotten, and you are part of a marvelous work as the Lord identifies and hastens the gathering of Israel in this great last dispensation."
Rabat is the capital and third largest city of the Kingdom of Morocco with a population of approximately 650,000. The city is located on the Atlantic Ocean, near the tip of North Africa, not far from Gibraltar.
In 1146, the city's rulers used Rabat as a launching place for attacks on Spain. Rabat literally means "Fortified Place." The French invaded Morocco in 1912 and established a protectorate. Following World War II, the United States established a military presence in Rabat. When Morocco gained independence from France in 1956, King Mohammed V asked the United States to withdraw its presence. Rabat is the location for all foreign embassies in Morocco.
On Sept. 18, 2011, Elder Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy organized the Rabat Branch. The branch meets in the homes of members, the majority of whom are U.S. citizens employed by the U.S. embassy. However, Rabat Branch President Rodney D. Erickson said the branch serves as a melting pot of international experience as several members are from African countries, including the Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast and Kenya. One branch family recently moved to Rabat from China, while another family just arrived from Indonesia.
One visitor stationed in Germany, who, two years ago had been in a conference Elder Holland held in Bahrain, happened to be in Rabat on U.S. State Department business and attended the devotional. "I guess only in the big, wide, wonderful Church could you trail an apostle and his wife through Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa and have such a spiritual time doing it," she said.