Jacques Eric Nkwonkam, 30, found the gospel from an unlikely source: an atheist.
Brother Nkwonkam of Cameroon in West Africa traveled to Europe in 1988 to gain an education not available in his homeland.A promising student in high school, he was among those selected by his government to travel abroad to study. His assignment was to become a civil engineer and learn to build roads.
"I know I came to study how to build roads, but I also want to build roads you cannot see," he said. "I am studying to build spiritual roads."
He was reared in a religious home where his family held family prayer, often read the Bible, avoided alcohol and tobacco, and paid tithing.
"I went to different churches, but while studying the Bible, I discovered many things. I asked questions that other churches could not answer. I felt the need to find something more," he reflected.
His mother was concerned about his studying in East Germany because it was then an atheistic country. "She told me to take my Bible and pray, and that God would lead me and guide me."
In the German Democratic Republic, he investigated many churches.
"I already knew not to use tobacco and alcohol," he said. "I wanted a church with at least the standards I already knew. But I wanted to know more. I wondered, "How do I find the Church of Jesus Christ?"
He spoke with another student about his search.
"I told her there was a God, but she quoted from Marxism and Leninism, and said religion was the opiate of the people. We didn't come to an agreement. But one day, two young missionaries gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon. She brought it back to her dormitory and, knowing that I would be the only one interested, later showed it to me. It was the first time in my life I had seen the Book of Mormon."
Her description of the missionaries – two young men – confused him; the missionaries he knew in Africa were older people. However, his interest in the book led him to attend a meeting in the Tiergarten Ward, Berlin Germany Stake. There, he met the two young missionaries and asked many questions.
He was invited to receive the first missionary lesson but declined.
"I'd had many discussions with other churches and didn't want to be led in a way that I didn't know," he explained.
Instead, he asked for pamphlets that he carefully studied. He later was well-prepared when he received the lessons. During the lessons, missionaries asked him to be baptized. He answered that he had already been baptized by immersion.
"They told me to pray about it and left. I prayed and received an answer that I should be baptized, even though I didn't understand."
He said he was baptized in 1990, and then was invited to receive the priesthood. He studied all about that, as well.
"I joined the Church and found it was the will of the Lord. Many things confirmed that this was the true Church."
He was called as a Sunday School teacher, then as counselor in the Sunday School presidency, then to the bishopric, and is now an assistant to the high priests group leader in the Dresden Ward. He is an ordinance worker in the Freiberg Germany Temple.
"I am also active in the Cameroon community," he said. "I am president of the Cameroon Club. The club is to bring all Cameroonians together. We have many dialects in Cameroon, so we speak French or English. What I am doing as president is emphasizing that we are all brothers and sisters and we must love each other."
Now completing his doctorate in civil engineering at Dresden University, he plans to eventually return to his homeland, where there is only one branch of the Church.
"What will happen in Cameroon depends upon the Lord," he said. "But we need to be a light to the world."