Saints in Botswana Rejoice at Creation of First Stake
By Heather Whittle Wrigley, Church News and Events
“The stake will be a place of refuge, a place of learning, a place of goodness and safety, a place of order, a place of kindness and love, and a place of God.” —Daniel Hall, Roodepoort Stake president
On Saturday, November 3, Saints from several local wards were busily washing windows, emptying trash, and setting up chairs in the Broadhurst chapel in Botswana, Africa, in preparation for a momentous event that would take place the following day—the creation of the country’s first stake.
On Sunday, an atmosphere of reverent excitement pervaded the spotless meetinghouse as 881 members witnessed the organization of the new Gaborone Botswana Stake and the division of the Roodepoort South Africa Stake.
Africa Southeast Area President Elder Dale G. Renlund and Elder Bricknell, Area Seventy, presided over the meeting, during which Clement Matswagothata was called as stake president, Geoff Tembo was called as first counselor, and Oduetse S. Mokoeni was called as second counselor. The new stake comprises three wards and five branches.
“The creation of the Gaborone Botswana Stake is a momentous occasion both for the members of the Church in the newly formed stake but also Botswana as a whole,” Roodepoort Stake President Daniel Hall commented. “The stake will be a place of refuge, a place of learning, a place of goodness and safety, a place of order, a place of kindness and love, and a place of God.”
One young single adult expressed her excitement at being involved in this historic moment: “What a blessing it has been to hear that Botswana will have its first stake and that I can be a part of helping Heavenly Father’s kingdom grow in this part of the world. I am overjoyed and look forward to serve and to do the things that Christ would do and do the things that Christ . . . wants me to do.”
Just weeks earlier, local Saints received the news that the First Presidency had approved the application for a stake of Zion in Botswana. They had been hopeful they would become a stake late in 2012 or early in 2013. No one expected the application to go through so quickly.
For many years, members in the southern region of Botswana have belonged to the Roodepoort South Africa Stake, while those in the northern region were part of the Johannesburg mission district.
Local member Leonard Thebe said Saints in Botswana are looking forward to many stakes to come. “Botswana is doing fine in the Church membership growth,” he said. The Church currently has 2,071 members in Botswana, up from 1,693 at the end of 2011. Monthly baptism growth in the southern region, which includes seven units, averages out to four to six converts per unit.
President Hall compared the effect the stake will have on the country to the scripture that says, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9).
“Put differently, the stake in Botswana will bless the country and its people because from this stake will spread the gospel of Christ into the lives and the hearts of the Botswana people,” he said. “From this stake hundreds and even thousands of prayers on behalf of the Botswana people will be offered up to God.”
As Sunday’s meeting concluded, many members expressed their faith that the Lord has more blessings in store for the people of Botswana as they are patient and obedient.
“The needs of the Saints will be met promptly, and the stake will be a defense for the Saints,” said Theodore L. Obonye, deputy director of public affairs for the Church in Botswana.
The Church’s history in Botswana dates back to 1983, when the first branch was formed in Gaborone. Active missionary work in Botswana began in 1990. In 1992, the branch was divided into two branches to accommodate the growth in membership. Later that year, a third branch was organized in the city of Lobatse.