Getting to the Temple from the DRC

Getting to the Temple from the DRC
I met Nestor Illunga at a small cassava processing facility deep in the interior of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He spoke a little English; I spoke no French or Swahili. But Nestor was able to tell me of his plans to take his family of nine to the Johannesburg, South Africa Temple.
Nestor Illunga.jpg

For the faithful saints who live in remote and impoverished locales, many lack the means to attend a temple even once in their lifetime. Many people live off the land and have little outside income. For families that travel to the temple for the first time from regions as remote as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Church has established the Temple Patron Assistance Fund. This fund provides financial assistance to those who otherwise could not afford to attend a temple and participate in the sacred blessings available only in the House of the Lord.

Even with the assistance of the Temple Patron Assistance Fund, members are asked to pay a portion of their expenses--often equal to an entire months' income--for each person travelling. For Nestor and his wife, Sombodi and their seven children, that meant saving money for several years. Nestor told me later, through an interpreter, that he had only been able to save enough to take four of their seven children. The oldest and the two youngest, all boys, would go later. 'They will be endowed when they go to the temple at the start of their missions,' said Nestor. With the youngest only two years old, this was quite an expression of faith. That faith was rewarded, however, when a way was discovered to take all of the children.
Illunga family.jpg

Nestor is one of the faithful saints in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Unlike many other Congolese, he was employed, albeit only temporarily. He was the site supervisor during the development of the cassava project in Luputa where hundreds of Latter-day Saint families have planted - and harvested - an improved variety of the starchy root.

Because there are no cars or buses in the interior of the DR Congo, overland travellers must walk or hitch a ride on the back of a transport truck. Such transportation is slow, dangerous, and often fraught with breakdowns because of overloaded conditions.

I also discovered that saving money was only part of the sacrifice that members in the interior of the Democratic Republic of the Congo must make. When the Illungas obtained their passports, they would ride 5-7 hours in the back of a transport truck to Mbuji-Mayi, board a plane for the capital city of Kinshasa, then fly 1,730 miles to South Africa, where they would be sealed as a family. They understand the significance of their sacrifice - and are extremely grateful to those who sacrifice for them to be able to take this journey as well.