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A Congregation of One

A Congregation of One
Those who join the Church first in an area are often isolated from friends, family, and even the rest of the Church.  But if they seek it, they are never isolated from the Spirit.
Pioneers of Africa

Among the first to accept the gospel in Tanzania was Robert Israel Muhile.  Robert attended his first LDS meeting in Egypt, where he was working and studying.  At Church, he met a missionary couple who taught him the discussions and baptized him.  In May, 1991 he was ordained an elder and decided to take the gospel back to his family in Tanzania.  But when he returned to his village—one thousand miles and three days by bus from Tanzania’s capital, Dar es Salaam—his efforts were not successful.

After six months, Robert traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, and secured permission from the mission president to administer the sacrament to himself.  “I know how important those emblems are,” Robert says.  “I didn’t feel whole spiritually [without them].”  Back home, Robert continued to invite his family to join him for worship service.  They continued to decline, so he held his own services alone. He describes the service simply:

“I prepared water and bread and more water to clean my hands, and a small towel.  I sang an opening hymn out loud.  I had my hymn book.  After that, I offered an opening prayer.  Because I was alone, I didn’t have any “ward business” to conduct,  so I sang the sacrament hymn and prepared the sacrament.  Then I knelt and blessed it and partook of it.  After the sacrament, I covered it, as we respect it always.  Then I offered myself to give a talk—my testimony.  Afterwards I sang as in Sunday school and then read from Gospel Principles.  I finished with a prayer.  I then “attended” priesthood.  After singing a hymn, I’d offer a prayer, then read from the priesthood manual the lesson I had chosen for that day.  After that, I finished by singing a closing hymn and then offered the closing prayer.”

Gospel Principles

After being home for two months in his congregation of one, Robert received a letter from Lervae and Joyce Cahoon, the first missionaries sent into Tanzania.  They requested his services as a translator.  He accepted and traveled to Dar es Salaam to join them.  While there, he met and married Joy Nassiuma, a convert from Nairobi.  In July 1993, Robert and Joy had their marriage sealed in the Johannesburg South Africa Temple.

 Like Brother Muhile, other early members of the Church in Africa have valiantly gone forward alone. Their faith and persistence has paid off. Many, like Brother Muhile, eventually came to enjoy having their own family in the Church, and many other members in their congregations. 

Excerpted by Marnae Wilson from Gospel Pioneers in Africa, E. Dale Le Baron, Liahona, May 1994

Gospel Pioneers in Africa