Sometimes senior missionaries are able to provide keyboard lessons to those interested in gaining the skills to support their ward or branch music program. Both Sister Betty Jonson and Sister Susan Hansen had the privilege of teaching a particularly motivated student, Elder Nigel Richard Lipengah, currently serving as a missionary in the Uganda Kampala Mission. Not only was he willing to arrive early on his preparation day to gain the skills to provide music at Church services, but he was also anxious “to bring back the music that was once in our home.”
Richard was just three years old when his father, who had sickle cell anemia, passed away. He has only two photos to help him remember his dad: one is of his parents walking together, and the other is of his father after he had performed at a concert. A jazz musician, his father played bass guitar and lead guitar and sang with a well-known band.
When Richard was 10 years old, missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knocked on the gate of the family home in a suburb of Gweru, Zimbabwe. His mother told the missionaries she was not interested, but Richard spoke up and said, “I’m interested!”
What attracted him was their message: “They gave me hope that I would see my dad again,” Richard recalls. Two weeks later in June of 2004, he was baptized into the Church.
Richard says, “I was very active in Church and performed all the duties and callings I was assigned. I served as president in both the deacons and teachers quorums and later became an assistant to the bishop in the priests quorum. All this happened in a short space of time and made my family notice how responsible I had become. This led my entire family (mother, older sister and older brother) to investigate and later join the Church.
“The highlight of all these events was when my mother sacrificed all that she had in order to acquire the necessary preparations for us to be sealed to my father in the Johannesburg Temple in 2009. This was the moment that brought a very bright and certain hope that I would once again greet my father with whom I had spent so very little time here on earth.“
Elder Lipengah credits his brother, who played for the meetings at church, for teaching him to read music. Sister Susan Hansen, who has been teaching Richard keyboard lessons on his mission says, “Elder Lipengah has been a thrill to teach. He is a gifted musician and pushes himself to play everything he can get his hands on. He has played for sacrament meetings, priesthood meetings, and baptismal services in his branches. He is currently accompanying a branch choir. He has not been satisfied just learning the hymns, but is also learning “Fur Elise” and “Minuet in G Major” from the Casio Keyboard Songbook.
Two months before he left on his mission, his brother gave Elder Lipengah a guitar. He left it home, but he plans to study it further when he returns from his mission. Developing his musical talents is important to him because he would like to leave a musical legacy in his own home some day. Elder Lipengah states, “I want to take these memories and skills into the next life, where perhaps I can play music with my dad!”