The Giants Of Kinkondja

The Giants Of Kinkondja
In Likasi we met three men whom we hope never to forget. When we begin to think we have challenges, we will think of these three Congolese Saints. We don't even know their names, but their faith and courage are beyond our imagination.

These three men live in a village in the bush North of Kolwezi called Kinkondja. Having seen how it is in the villages, we would never have guessed that they lived there. Somehow, we're not sure exactly how, they learned about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and were baptized. There are now 15 members, 6 priests, and 20 investigators, all of whom usually attend Church on Sunday. There are, however, 30 tithe payers.  These men bring the tithing from the village every 6 months when they come to District Conference. This helps us better understand the sacred nature of tithing.

These people do not have the full programs of the Church. They hold Sunday School and study only from the scriptures. They have not been given permission to administer the sacrament, but they are faithful Saints.

For District Conference some of them come to Kolwezi twice a year. This time it was only these three. It's the rainy season and it rains almost every day, making travel hard. In the dry season 10-20 people will come. Sometimes they come for a week or so in order to go to a regular church meeting to take the sacrament. It is such a show of strength and faith that they continue to meet and, even more so, that they come to District Conference. We have known too many in our life who think that Stake Conference is a vacation weekend in the church.

The reason we find their coming so inspiring is that the village they live in is 520 km from Kolwezi. That's roughly 300 miles and they walk all the way. Either there is no transport that goes that far or they can't afford to pay for it. So, they walk 300 miles to attend District Conference. It took them 2 weeks this time. That's 20 miles a day. They will stay for a week or so and then walk another 300 miles home. On the way  home they will carry boxes on their heads containing copies of the Book of Mormon that they requested. I wondered to myself--If I got up one Sunday in Tempe, Arizona and my car wasn't working, would I walk to the church a few blocks away from home? Or would I just stay home because it was too far or too hot? And if it was raining all day as I walked, would I choose to go?
Before I knew who they were on Saturday, I actually noticed them. They were sitting on the front row in the chapel at the Saturday adult session and they seemed to be listening intently and taking notes. Then we were told about them. Again on Sunday I saw them on the front row, never missing a word. They had walked 300 miles to hear the gospel messages and to feel the spirit of a group of Saints. I wished so much that I had something profound to say to them and prayed for the ability to give the message I had prepared. I wanted to at least be able to be understood. I had spent many hours of work on my talk and five hours of hard traveling to get to Kolwezi, but it seemed like a pathetic offering compared to their offering made to the Lord by being there.

After the meeting Elder Jameson met with them for a few minutes. They asked if we were going to come to see their group. It almost broke our hearts. I'm not sure that a car could even get to their village and even in a car, traveling for another 300 miles down those dirt roads seems beyond our ability. But I will never forget those three great men, very small and humble in the eyes of the world, but amazing giants among men to me. I hope their demonstration of faith and devotion will be heard by many and inspire us to be more committed and willing to sacrifice.