In 1978, Isaac was eight years old. He lived in a small village in Cross River State, Nigeria. His house was made of bamboo poles packed with mud and had a roof made of palm leaves. Isaac loved his village and all the people who lived there.
The village was surrounded by a lush, green forest. There were palm trees, banana trees, ferns, and bamboo. To get to the next village, Isaac walked down the dirt road through the forest or rode his cousin’s old bike.
His family had a small farm on which they grew their own food. They ate soup and gari, a dish that looks like oatmeal and is made of boiled roots. One of Isaac’s chores was to walk down to the river and get water for his mother.
On Sundays, Isaac and his family went to church. Their meetinghouse was also made of bamboo and mud, and it had a neat, white sign: THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS. There was a big brass bell in front.
At church, Brother Ekong taught them about Jesus Christ. He read to them from the few books they had received from Salt Lake City. They sang hymns. Isaac’s favorite hymn was “Come, Come, Ye Saints.”
Isaac and many other people in his village had strong testimonies that the Church is true. They were waiting for missionaries to help them learn more about the restored gospel. Brother Ekong did not have the priesthood. He could not baptize them. More than anything, Isaac wanted to be baptized and become a member of the Church. His father told him, “The time will come when we can be baptized.”
When Isaac and his sisters went into the forest to cut sticks for firewood, he prayed for missionaries to come. While he sat on the bank of the river and watched the colorful fish swim back and forth, he sang hymns. He often pretended that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was singing with him.
One day his father told the family that they were going to have a special meeting on Saturday. Before the meeting, they would fast for twenty-four hours. The meeting was to pray for missionaries to come.
On Saturday, Isaac and his family put on their best clothes. Isaac’s stomach growled with hunger, but he didn’t notice because he was so excited.
Soon the bell rang and the people of the village gathered at the small meetinghouse. It was very crowded. Brother Ekong led them in a hymn and then prayed that the Lord would send missionaries. Many other people took turns praying. Isaac’s mother had tears on her cheeks. They sang again; then it was time to go home.
As the people were leaving, they heard a motor. A car pulled up in front of the building and stopped. Two men and two women got out. Isaac had never seen anyone with skin so pale. Brother Ekong talked excitedly to them. Then he went to the bell and rang it loudly. Everyone quickly returned to the meetinghouse.
Brother Ekong welcomed the four strangers and sat them at the front of the building, facing the people. He told them that the village had been waiting for this glad day for many years. One of the men, Elder Rendell Mabey, stood and told them he was a missionary sent to them by the prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball.
Elder Mabey bore his testimony of the restored gospel. Then Elder Cannon bore his testimony, and their wives also bore theirs. The day was very hot, but no one wanted to leave. The people asked many questions. Elder Mabey promised to return and teach them more. He said that their time had come and that they soon could be baptized.
On the last day of December, 1978, Isaac’s family and many others gathered on the riverbank. They found a spot in the river that had a deep pool. When it was Isaac’s turn, he waded into the gentle river. Elder Mabey took him by the wrist, said the baptismal prayer, and lowered him into the water. The sunlight sparkled on the surface as Isaac waded back to shore. His heart felt warm and sparkly, too.
Twenty-one years later, Isaac stood in the pool of water with his eight-year-old son, Raymond. Isaac now held the priesthood and could baptize his son. His heart was filled with joy as he remembered the beautiful day he had been baptized in that same river. He was very grateful that his time had finally come.
[To the World]
“Through missionaries and members, the message of the restored gospel is going to all the world. …
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers all the children of God the opportunity to learn the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored in these latter days. We offer everyone the privilege of receiving all the ordinances of salvation and exaltation.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (Ensign, May 1998, page 57.)