SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Samuel Lumore and his cousins Christian Yao and Godwin Kofi Zometsi, all from Kpong, Ghana, discovered the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as young schoolboys and were later baptized members of the Church. For Evelyn Jepkemei, a curriculum specialist in Nairobi, Kenya, contact with the Church came through an American on a business assignment in Africa.
Evelyn and the young men from Ghana represent some of many recent converts to the Church who live beyond the North American continent. All signify the ever-increasing Church population in many areas across the globe and also indicate the rapid growth in Africa.
According to the Member and Statistical Records Division at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Church membership during 2006 increased by 7.5 percent in Africa and 3.5 percent in the next-fastest-growing country, Mexico.
“We are always enthused to recognize the continued expansion of the Church,” noted Clifford W. Higbee, director of the records division. “The membership in Mexico, for example, crossed over the one million mark in July 2004 and neared 1.1 million at the end of 2006.”
Since 28 February 1996, a landmark date, more than half of the members of the Church live outside the United States and Canada. Of the current 12,560,869 reported members worldwide, approximately 6.7 million live outside North America.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, in anticipating this 1996 milestone, commented: “A crossover of that line is a wonderfully significant thing. It represents the fruits of a terrific outreach. The God of Heaven, whose servants we are, never intended that this should be a narrow, parochial work.”
For recent converts to the Church, such as Evelyn, Samuel, Christian and Godwin, the path to membership is often blocked by challenges and obstacles.
Evelyn, who now serves as a choir director in her congregation in Nairobi, Kenya, found common doctrinal ground with her colleague despite a number of previous misunderstandings she had about the Church of Jesus Christ.
After a lengthy discussion and clarification of incorrect ideas, Evelyn’s friend said to her, “Evelyn … I know you seek the truth.” As soon as he made that statement, Evelyn recognized a “most wonderful feeling; I did not want it to end.” She studied with the missionaries, accepted baptism and now counts the Church as “a vital part of my life.” Though she lost friends and family, she found a “joy that never leaves.”
The three young men from Kpong, Ghana, grew up under the care of their grandmother Aku Hunyametor Pomevor and farmed, peddled farm produce and tackled many odd jobs to help support the extended family. School tuition was difficult to come by, but the boys continued with their educations, even after their nurturing grandmother passed away.
Friends introduced the Church to the orphan cousins when they were in their early teens. Samuel described his first meeting with a congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I was welcomed to my satisfaction,” he explained. “I fell in love and wanted to be a member. Once in my lifetime, I felt very important in my shoes.”
Those shoes, and those of Samuel’s cousins, Christian and Godwin, are trudging along the roads of Ghana and Nigeria as each of the young men currently serves as a full-time missionary for the Church.
As Samuel summarized his preparations for his missionary service, he admitted: “My clothes are worn out, my shoes are not nice and all my things need replacements, but all these troubles in my poor young life do not make me change my mind or compromise. I will go and serve the Lord.”
With such strength and testimony in convert baptisms, the Church continues to increase membership in Africa, in Mexico and in many parts of the world.