Thousands of Africa’s Youth Gather in First FSY Conferences
Contributed By Elder Douglas Green Stoker, Church News contributor, and Sister Rebecca R. Stoker, Church News contributor
- Daily morning devotionals, classes, and activities contributed to creating a memorable, fun, and spiritually uplifting experience for each youth.
- Elder Edward Dube of the Seventy focused on three key principles—thoughts, actions, and habits—that will guide young people in realizing their full potential.
“My most proven sources of influence are the scriptures and good books.” —Elder Edward Dube of the Seventy
Nearly 2,400 West African youth, ages 14–18, participated for the first time in For the Strength of Youth programs in the countries of Ghana, Nigeria, and Ivory Coast.
All four events took place during school vacation time in August, which also made school campuses available for the large groups of LDS young men and young women, counselors, and leaders who gathered together for their five-day conferences.
The theme for the For the Strength of Youth conferences in West Africa was the same as the 2014 Mutual theme for the year: “Come unto Christ.” A program of classes, devotionals, and activities all contributed to memorable experiences, reinforcing important doctrines, principles, and practices that helped strengthen testimonies and deepen conversion.
Groups of 10–12 youth were assigned to each counselor. Every participant was given a handbook, an FSY T-shirt, and an identification card on a lanyard. They were encouraged to bring a set of scriptures to the conference.
More than 600 youth from three stakes and two districts in the Accra, Ghana, coordinating council arrived in buses and trotros (public transportation vehicles other than buses or taxis) at the Okuapemman School on August 4 to begin their much-anticipated FSY experience.
Company names and scriptures were chosen on the first day. Jessica Addo, a member of Company 13, said her group chose “Humility” as their name. They selected Ether 12:27 as their company scripture.
“We stand for humility,” Jessica said. “It is a sign of strength. When others hear our name, we want them to think of our standards, our principles, and that we follow Jesus Christ always.”
Each company was also encouraged to make commitments in mental, physical, social, and spiritual areas. A follow-up activity, called “Taking It Home,” reminded participants to do their part in keeping their commitments and helping members of their company to keep theirs.
For the Strength of Youth is full of inspiring teaching moments and uplifting activities. An especially moving experience touched the hearts of those involved as hundreds of young women and their leaders, under the direction of session director Comfort Egbo, stood and recited the Young Women theme in unison. It was a powerful reminder of the strength that can be felt as youth are brought together in the beliefs they share.
On the last day, Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr. of the Seventy and Africa West Area President encouraged the young men and young women to become better acquainted with Christ, pointing out the areas that need the most concentration—scripture study, attending Church and seminary, praying with all their heart, and repenting.
Elder Curtis also shared some counsel he was given as a young man when he was wondering how to gain a firm testimony.
“Read every word of the Book of Mormon,” said Elder Curtis. “After every chapter, ask yourself these three questions: Is this the word of God? Is this the work of man? Could any man have written this book?” He told the youth there will come a time in their lives when the Spirit will testify that the Book of Mormon is true. He encouraged them to be faithful and work diligently to keep that testimony.
The Lagos, Nigeria, coordinating council consists of four stakes and three districts. On August 11, 576 youth arrived at the Augusta International School for their FSY conference.
Every day was filled with activities that promoted unity and teamwork, with special focus on providing a climate where youth and counselors could be strengthened in their efforts to come unto Christ.
Session directors Babatunde and Bridget Ojaide taught several 50-minute morning devotionals. Brother Ojaide’s message was on self-reliance—temporal as well as spiritual. With the challenges that the youth face, it is crucial that the youth stand on their own by receiving a good education to support themselves and a future family; learn to work hard, knowing that honest labor, self-discipline, and self-mastery are crucial for success in life; and exercise to remain physically strong and to overcome many diseases.
At the end of the week, participants at the Lagos conference welcomed Elder Edward Dube of the Seventy and Second Counselor in the Africa West Area Presidency to their final group devotional. His message focused on three key principles—thoughts, actions, and habits—that will guide young people in realizing their full potential.
Environment influences thoughts, including the books read, the movies watched, and other people individuals associate with. “My most proven sources of influence are the scriptures and good books,” Elder Dube said.
Success and growth depend primarily on what individuals do in life. “We learn and think, but unless we act we can never experience true happiness,” he emphasized. Changing habits is hard work, but it is rewarding. “The time to make a difference is now. Establish good habits that will help shape your character.”
One thousand two hundred youth signed up for the Ivory Coast FSY conference. With no available venues large enough to hold that many youth and their 173 leaders, it was decided that the six stakes and three districts would split up and have back-to-back events at the Marine Teaching Academy near Abidjan—one event beginning on August 18 and the other on August 25.
Companies of youth designed flags and cheers, rehearsed for variety shows and musical programs, and participated in scripture study groups, missionary preparation activities, and devotionals. Each activity provided opportunities for the youth to develop their testimonies, learn leadership skills, and develop talents.
Young single adult leaders served as role models, teaching their younger brothers and sisters by example and through their testimonies. Many counselors expressed their appreciation for the inspired program, which helped them as much as it did the youth.
Responsible for the spiritual aspects of FSY, session-directing couples Alain and Madou Dagrou (first week) and Yao Marc and Affemian Echua Gnamien (second week) were an integral part of the conferences in Ivory Coast, lending support to the counselors and spending meaningful time with the young men and young women throughout the week. Both couples used daily teaching opportunities to discuss important principles of the gospel with the youth.
The concluding speaker at both sessions in Ivory Coast was Elder Terence M. Vinson of the Seventy and First Counselor in the Africa West Area Presidency. He asked the youth to do all they can to receive a testimony and prepare to go to the temple. He explained that living and keeping the principles of the gospel can sometimes be hard, but it will bring them great joy.
Elder Vinson read from Helaman 10 in the Book of Mormon, referring to Nephi’s complete obedience to the Lord. He said that the Lord’s trust and approval come by obedience to all of His commandments. Elder Vinson reminded the youth how important it is to heed the promptings of the Spirit. Only by doing so can individuals be sure they are living according to the Lord’s will.
The youth were also told that it is important to want what God wants. Elder Vinson said that as they prove faithful in the small things, the Lord will trust them with the greater things.
Memories created at these For the Strength of Youth conferences will continue to live on with the youth in Ghana, Nigeria, and Ivory Coast. They are strong and valiant members of the Church, and they will carry on with their lives knowing that other young men and young women are also staying true to their standards as they strive to “come unto Christ.”