It is impossible to travel to Africa and not return a better person, said Elder Neil L. Andersen after visiting the Church’s Africa Southeast Area this November.
“You see their enormous faith despite the challenges that beset them and you realize their happiness without all the things you think will bring happiness,” said Elder Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “You sense a peace and a simplicity that you admire and envy.”
During the visit to South Africa and Zimbabwe from Nov. 9-18, Elder Andersen addressed members, held leadership meetings, participated in an area review and spoke at a mission presidents’ seminar. He also met with Zimbabwe Vice President K. Mohadi.
The Church’s Africa Southeast Area has a membership of 226,000 with 17 missions and 735 congregations. The only temple in the area — the Johannesburg South Africa Temple — was dedicated on Aug. 24, 1985. However, two additional temples — the Durban South Africa Temple and the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo Temple — are under construction, with two additional temples announced for Nairobi, Kenya, and Harare, Zimbabwe.
“What a marvelous blessing the people of South Africa and Zimbabwe have been given to hear the Lord’s Prophet declare that their countries would each have a new temple, in addition to the currently operating Johannesburg Temple,” said Elder Terence M. Vinson of the Presidency of the Seventy, who accompanied Elder Andersen on the trip.
Members of the Africa Southeast Area presidency and their wives — Elder S. Mark Palmer and Sister Jacqueline Palmer, Elder Joseph W. Sitati and Sister Gladys Sitati, and Elder Joni L. Koch and Sister Michele Koch — also accompanied Elder and Sister Andersen.
During his meeting with the vice president, Elder Andersen said the pair discussed the importance of education and the great impact the future temple would have on the nation. They also discussed the humanitarian efforts in the nation, where the Church has given more than $20 million in the past 30 years to provide clean water and immunizations.
Elder Andersen’s visit followed a trip by President Russell M. Nelson to Zimbabwe six month ago. Elder Andersen reminded the members of the promises President Nelson left with them: “I bless you that you may be good examples among your neighbors, friends, family and co-workers, that they’ll want to be more like you and learn what makes you so different from the others around you. I bless your homes that they will be places of love, where peace and harmony may prevail, that your marriages will be strong.”
Members lined up hours before meetings with the leaders and traveled long distances “in their Sunday best to learn the word of the Lord for them,” said Elder Andersen.
He spoke to Latter-day Saints in both Zimbabwe and South Africa about honesty and the power of the Book of Mormon.
“Elder Andersen stressed the importance of using the name the Lord revealed for His Church and in all members embracing the concept of home-centered, Church-supported,” said Elder Vinson. “He also expressed the importance of families, the future of their country, the Savior, education, temples and testimonies in the meeting we held with youth and young adults in Harare, Zimbabwe.”
As a result of their faith and sacrifice, the Church is growing, he said. Among those joining the Church are students and young professionals who have a strong background and are searching for truth. “They find the Church and the Church finds them,” said Elder Andersen. As a result, he added, leadership is strong.
“More than half the mission presidents in Africa are from Africa,” he said. The leadership exhibited by both men and women in the Church is more and more impressive every time I visit Africa.”
African culture — that encourages individuals to care for a look after one another — also allows the members to excel at ministering, he said. “Africans are a kind, loving and spiritual people who understand the principle of ministering so much better and more naturally than those of the developed world,” said Elder Vinson.
He said during the trip Elder Andersen made a special point of welcoming and greeting the children, of which there were many, at every opportunity.
“My lasting memories of this visit will be the faith of the members of the Church, the joy in their eyes and countenances, and the smiles so readily offered in seeing and greeting an Apostle, and in reflection of the blessings of the gospel in their beloved countries and in their lives,” said Elder Vinson.
Elder Andersen’s meetings in Zimbabwe and South Africa followed a two-day visit to the Ivory Coast, where he broke ground for the Abidjan Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) Temple on Nov. 8.
The temple, announced by the late President Thomas S. Monson on April 5, 2015, is being built near the Cocody Côte d’Ivoire Stake Center.