This year in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is celebrating 30 years of its existence in our country. It is impossible to celebrate this date without thinking of the many people who laid the foundation for the Church to be established and spread in our country, bringing the blessings of the Gospel to many individuals and families. What is happening today is the fruit of the sacrifices of these Brothers and Sisters, living and dead, and the result of their faith in the Lord and love for future generations.
A few years ago, I lived with my grandparents and with them I learned to enjoy working on the field. Whenever I had to go to the field, we would get up in the morning around 5am to enjoy the freshness of the morning breeze in order to have enough strength to travel the distance of one hour to one hour and a half leading us to the field. Many times we happened to be the first to go down the path and I noticed that my grandmother was shaking the grass that littered the footpath to drop the dew. We would get to the field wet with dew. When I asked her why she was doing it; she said to me: “This dew is troublesome because it wets you and can give you shivers. So I do it so that those who will pass on this path after me will feel comfortable and will be spared from this trouble.” What my grandmother did was a pioneering work; she prepared the way for others.
I am grateful to the many people who prepared the way for me. I think of my mother, Francisa Ngoy Banza, who, although not a member of the Church, taught me some principles that prepared me to easily accept and live the principles of the Gospel. She is a pioneer. I also think of my paternal uncle, Polydor Mbuyu Ngoy, who was the first member of the Church in our family, and who invited me for the first time to the LDS Church and prepared my heart and mind to understand and accept the teachings of the Church taught by missionaries. My meeting with the District Missionaries at the time was quick and easy because my uncle had already prepared the way. Although being dead, I can easily hear his testimony echoing in my mind while I was not yet a member: 'These things are true.' I followed his path.
In our country where the Church is still growing, many members of the LDS Church are first generation Mormons and therefore pioneers. Their faith and commitment will serve as an example for future generations. So whether you are the first generation or not, everyone can be a pioneer when he or she shows the way and is a light to those who follow him or her. By studying the history of pioneers, whoever they are, and by observing their lives, I noted some common characteristics that qualify us to answer the call of President Monson that the world needs pioneers today. These include:
- Love for the Lord and His work, which is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. When we understand this, we do what is needed to help His work progress till it fills the whole earth
- Love for others motivates us to open up the way for them. We become less selfish by focusing on the needs of others who will come after us
- The spirit of sacrifice inspires us to give all that the Lord requires of us to prepare the way for future generations
- Obeying the Prophets and those whom the Lord has called to direct us and sometimes without knowing why: like the early pioneers, we follow the path and the voice of our modern prophets even when it is not consistent with our reason, our traditions and cultures knowing that the Lord will do nothing, but revealth his secret unto his servants the prophets (Amos 3: 7)
- Courage to move forward even when things get tough because being the first member of the Church requires courage to face misunderstanding, oppression and sometimes mockery coming from others and even from close relatives like our family members
- Faith and hope: It is believing in the things we do not see. I imagine that the pioneers of the early days could not imagine what would be the Church as we know it today. To faith we need to add hope that our faith and efforts will bring blessings to future generations
- The testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which will sustain us in difficult times and when our faith will be put to the test
These characteristics and many more are those that characterized the faithful pioneers and will make us pioneers too. Every day, I meet with members of the Church who are driven out from their homes, who have lost their marriage, a job or other privileges because of their membership in the Church. All these people are today’s pioneers and I think the Lord referred to them when He said, 'Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundations of a great work ...' (D&C 64: 33).