Most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are familiar with the paintings of early pioneers who trudged across the American plains. It is hard to forget the images of handcart pioneers struggling through snow, mud, and sleet. In Africa, the first temple trip for the Saints of Cameroon has become a legendary example of faith in every footstep as well.
President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Aba, Nigeria temple in August, 2005. Just a week later, a group of forty-two dedicated Saints from two branches in Cameroon left to attend the new temple. They were unsure of the route, but had great faith in God. They prayed for strength and guidance that they might arrive safely and receive the blessings of the temple.
The Saints originally took two small buses to a city about 120 kilometers away. They had arranged to have three vans waiting for them, but when they arrived, the vans were nowhere to be found. Finally, after many hours of searching and prayer, they contracted two mini vans and drivers who were willing to take them to Aba. The members packed 42 people into space made for 36 and started off at 1:00 a.m. on the 190 kilometer trip to the Nigerian border.
Unfortunately, the roads were not paved, and it had been a very rainy season. For twenty-five hours, the temple group endured mud bogs that made the way almost impassable. In order to lighten the load in the vans, the Saints had to get out and walk all night and all the next day. Nobody suggested turning back; nobody gave up. They resolutely moved forward with faith in every footstep.
Nobody walked very quickly, because great time and effort was required to push the buses out of mud holes and scoop the mud away from the wheels. Sometimes the mud along the side of the road was actually higher than the van windows. The men soon discovered that going barefoot was the best way to progress. At each mud hole, someone had to wade in to test the depth. Everyone helped, and they always found a reason to smile, even though by that time, everyone’s Sunday-best clothing was covered in mud. They finally approached the Nigerian border.
After sixty-five hours of traveling through numerous road blocks, they arrived at the temple in peace. It is difficult to picture how they must have looked: tired, muddy, and yet triumphant. They were received with gladness and were well taken care of. In time, they all received food, clean clothing, and best of all, their temple blessings. Many were able to be sealed as families and do work for their kindred dead.
The return trip was about twelve hours shorter because they hired a 4x4 pickup to help pull the vans out of the mud bogs. Still, it was not easy, but they joyfully reunited with the senior missionary couple waiting for them at the Nigerian border. Everyone was able to recount with excitement the blessings of the temple and the kindness of the Lord.
The Cameroon temple trip is a story of faith in every footstep just as surely as any pioneer story from the past. It infused new strength into the Yaoundé Branch. Before the trip, it was averaging 40-50 people at sacrament meeting. Soon after the trip, they were seating up to 250, and the branch was divided the following October. Since their original trip to the temple, the branches in Cameroon have continued to grow and multiply, and the Saints have continued to plan additional temple visits.
Read more temple stories here.