President Johnson and President Cordon see joy among African people

‘The message has been powerful, and it’s of joy. They have joy regardless of their circumstance. They are finding joy in the gospel of Jesus Christ,’ President Cordon said

Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson and Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon visited people in Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of Congo over the space of nine days. They met with Saints, government leaders and community organizations working to help the people of Africa in different ways.

“I’m amazed at the growth. These young people are inviting friends,” President Cordon said, after meeting with members in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. “And when they talk about love, share and invite, they do this always.”

President Cordon was joined by her husband, Brother Derek Cordon. President Johnson’s husband, Brother Douglas R. Johnson, accompanied her. Their visit to Africa began on Saturday, Feb. 25.

When the two leaders arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, they were greeted by a group of women dancing and singing outside the Church meetinghouse.

“I’m so thankful for the wonderful, beautiful greeting that we received from you,” President Johnson told the sisters, according to the Church’s Africa Newsroom.

President Camille N. Johnson, Relief Society general president, is surrounded by Latter-day Saint women in Nairobi, Kenya on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023. | Christina Smith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The visit helped connect the sisterhood of the Relief Society around the globe. Evelyn Jepkemei said she was grateful to listen to President Johnson and feel closer through her to other sisters in the Church.

“When we have opportunities to hear from leaders like Sister Johnson, I remember that we have this worldwide sisterhood and that we’re not really far from each other,” Jepkemei said.

Humanitarian efforts

President Johnson visited Uganda with other representatives of the Church to launch the “No Time To Waste” initiative with UNICEF in Napak.

The Church announced a $5 million donation to UNICEF in September 2022 to help children who are malnourished in multiple African nations. Part of that donation is benefitting children and their families in the Karamoja region of Uganda.

In Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, President Cordon visited the Kintambo Maternity Hospital, where the Church has supplied medical equipment like ultrasound machines and incubators.

“We saw new equipment that will help save little lives,” President Cordon said of her visit. “We saw rooms with freshly painted walls and newly installed floors and showers.”

Government leaders

President Cordon and Elder Matthew L. Carpenter, General Authority Seventy and president of the Africa Central Area, met with Kenya’s second lady, Pastor Dorcas Rigathi Gachagua, who said she is afraid for the future of her country’s youth because of increasing drug use. Pastor Gachagua is the wife of Kenya’s deputy president, Geoffrey Rigathi Gachagua.

“Now we have girls who are very well educated, but they have no husbands,” she said. “If not corrected, we’re going to lose a generation.”

President Cordon shared with her the Church’s focus on youth and eternal families.

President Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president, center, meets Kenya’s second lady, Pastor Dorcas Rigathi Gachagua, right, on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023. | Christina Smith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

While in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, President Cordon also met with Gisèle Ndaya Luseba, the country’s minister of gender, family and children. The two talked about how the Church supports youth and their families.

President Cordon shared the Young Women theme as an example of how the Church teaches young women to know their divine origins and mission on earth.

“We’ve talked to the leaders of the governments that have had a desire to help families, and we have been so impressed with the leaders who want to follow Jesus Christ,” President Cordon said. “As faith-based leaders, we share a common goal to help build families, so it has been remarkable.”

Meeting and serving with the Saints

While it isn’t uncommon for Church leaders to visit temples for open houses or dedications, President Cordon’s visit to the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple was special for Latter-day Saints in the area because she served in the temple alongside those who were there to be baptized for their ancestors. The youth loved spending that time with her.

President Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president, is surrounded by youth in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, on Thursday, March 2, 2023. | Christina Smith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“I came to do some baptism for my ancestors,” said 17-year-old Abel Eloges Mukubu. “I love my family because we’re trying to live the principles and we’re trying to get closer to our Savior all the time.”

That temple is currently the only one in operation in the area, but four others have been announced or are being built in Kenya, Republic of Congo and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

While in Brazzaville, President Cordon met with missionaries serving in the area and youth and their parents.

“She talked to us about some points like living the gospel of Jesus Christ, caring further for the ones in need, sharing the gospel and uniting families for eternity,” said Camille Ondzea, 16.

“The message has been powerful, and it’s of joy. They have joy regardless of their circumstance. They are finding joy in the gospel of Jesus Christ,” President Cordon said.

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President Cordon to BYU–Idaho students: The Lord ‘is eager to guide us if we will trust Him’
President Bonnie H. Cordon: Leading with power, promise and holiness
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