All Because of the Dog

All Because of the Dog
 Members of the Church are often asked 'How did you first come in contact with the Church?'  Modiba Diarra, the first person to be baptized a member of the Church in his native land of Mali, can honestly respond, 'The dog did it!'  He recalls that he and his wife were living in a home which consisted of four square walls surrounding a large open courtyard.  Small rooms opened onto the yard where a tall tree shaded family gatherings.  Against one wall were pens for chickens and rabbits, and a goat wandered freely, seeking food. A lively dog completed the domestic scene of a peaceful, if simple life.  Then one day the dog got sick.
Pioneers of Africa

Modibo recalls, 'I thought it might be a case of rabies. At that time I was a schoolteacher, and one of my students told me about an American veterinarian, Dr. Jerry Zaugg, who was working in Mali. I arranged for Dr. Zaugg to come to our house.  I asked my wife to prepare tea for him, as is the custom here. But our guest declined to drink the tea. He said it was contrary to the teachings of his Church. That interested me, and I asked him many questions.

'Several good things came from that visit. First, I learned that my dog did not have rabies. But, more importantly, Dr. Zaugg asked me to tutor him in French. I agreed to do so, and after each of our French lessons, Dr. Zaugg would tell me about his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

'He invited me to attend Church services with two American families who were meeting in a house. The meetings were in English, which I did not speak well then, but the Church members gave me books in French: the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. The Spirit was beautiful and strong, from both the books and the meetings.  Eventually I was converted and baptized.

'As a Church member, I received many blessings, but afterward came a period that greatly tried my faith. In February 1988, I lost my job as a teacher and my position as a leader in the teachers’ union. I was thwarted on all sides in my efforts to find work. My life had been dedicated to teaching. How would I now support my wife and six children? And how would I feed the eleven other relatives who, for economic reasons, were living in our home? I pleaded with the Lord to help me provide for my family.

'During this difficult time, a package arrived from Church officials in Salt Lake City containing a simplified version of Gospel Principles, which had been translated into Bambara, our local language. They asked if I would check the translation and then translate twelve hymns. As soon as I began this work, I realized its importance and tried to do it as correctly as possible. I struggled many times to find the right word or expression. Then, at other times, my mind would open in a remarkable way—as though someone were dictating to me. When I finished the translations, I asked them to keep most of the money they were to pay me, which I considered my tithing.  I continued to pray constantly because of our desperate situation.

Gospel Principles

'Our family’s trial of faith lasted five more months. I often felt like a man who was drowning in a deep river. Daily I entreated the Lord to deliver us from our economic crisis. Then, in November, the miracle came. A humanitarian organization that I had applied to for employment  many months previously notified me that I had been hired as their new field director. I knew without a doubt that only the Lord’s hand had plucked me from the river.'

As of 1993 Elder Diarra was the only member of the Church in Mali. He said he sustained himself spiritually 'by praying in all circumstances and continuing to read the Book of Mormon.' He looked forward to the day when the Church would be organized in Mali, and pledged he would ' remember forever how the Lord has poured out his blessings upon me.'  He is now familiar with the phrase, 'And a little child shall lead them,' but might also point out that sometimes a little dog does, too!

Taken from “After My Trial Came Blessings,” Modibo Diarra, Ensign, August 1993

Taken from “After My Trial Came Blessings,” Modibo Diarra, Ensign, August 1993