Five Laps


In 1993, I began five years in the Nigerian Army, where I served as a peacekeeper in Liberia and Sierra Leone. I had enlisted after finishing school at age 16. I had many experiences at such a young age, but one I will always remember—it serves as a defining incident in my life—happened while I was in Liberia.

My commanding officer, a captain, learned I was a Mormon. He asked me, “Trooper Arungwa, are you a Mormon?”

“Yes, sir,” was my reply. “I am a Mormon.”

My punishment was to run five times around the camp, which was a total of about 25 kilometers. As I finished on that hot, tropical day and reported to him, he told me in stern language that I had received the punishment because I was a Mormon.

He explained his understanding that members of the Church worshiped Mormon as their God. I replied just as sternly, “No, sir!”

“Good night, trooper,” he barked back at me. “I will see you tomorrow.”

This conversation was very upsetting to me because I did not know what tomorrow would bring.

Eventually I was invited to his home and had the privilege of discussing the Church and my testimony. We discussed Adam’s transgression, the Apostasy, and the need for a restoration. At this young age, I discussed with him the coming of the Savior. I was thrilled as we talked about who Mormon was—an abridger, a prophet, and one of the writers of an ancient record.

I presented the commander a copy of the Book of Mormon. He was amazed that I was not afraid to share these things with him. He said I was the only one in the Nigerian Army he had seen preaching of Jesus Christ. He asked me if it was because I was a Mormon. I answered yes.

A year later this same commander, then a major, was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I experienced the deep joy of helping someone gain a testimony. I felt the happiness of bringing “save it be one soul” (D&C 18:15) into the fold.

This event was a great inspiration to me, and after my military service was complete, I obeyed the call of our prophet to serve a full-time mission. I answered that call in April 1998 and served with much enthusiasm in the Nigeria Enugu Mission.

I thank my Father in Heaven for His protection and guidance throughout the time I served in the military. He blessed me to be able to keep the faith. There was much temptation to go the way of the world, but my commitment was to remain an obedient son of my Heavenly Father. I am grateful beyond expression to have labored in the Lord’s vineyard helping others feel the joy I have and, I hope, to earn the eternal reward He has promised His faithful servants. I know there is no greater service on this earth than the work of a missionary. My commitment is to work to help prepare the way for the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

[illustration] Illustrated by Sam Lawlor