The blessings and challenges of missionary work in Africa

Ten white-clothed men, women and children came to the water's edge from various avenues of life -- teachers, students, orphans, gardeners, mothers, fathers and shopkeepers.

Some stepped hesitantly into the lake, determined but nervous. One stiff-limbed woman had to be submerged three times before her baptism could be deemed complete.

But they all emerged smiling and as new brothers and sisters in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Much like such converts throughout East Africa, these newcomers were attracted to the tiny LDS branch in Kigali, an hour's car ride away on bumpy mountain roads, and its welcoming community, its promise of close connections to the dead and its offer of new scripture.

The story of 14-year-old Joseph Smith's vision of God and Jesus Christ in a grove in upstate New York appeals to many Africans who have their own dreams and visions. Some also enjoy the unexpected feeling of respect and belonging when they take on the role of lay minister, teacher or missionary.

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