Five Laps


“Trooper Arungwa, are you a Mormon?” My reply led to a penalty—and a chance to teach.

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

My commanding officer, a captain, was told that 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, nearly 15 miles. As I finished on that hot, tropical day and reported to him, he told me in stern language that the reason I received the punishment was because I was a Mormon.

He explained that his understanding of our Church was that I worshiped Mormon as my God. I replied just as sternly, “No, sir!”

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

This was very upsetting to me, and 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 Jesus Christ. I was thrilled as we talked about who Mormon was—an abridger, prophet, and one of the writers of an ancient record.

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

A year later, this same commander, now a major, was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Ibadan Branch in Nigeria. I experienced the deep joy of being a part of someone gaining a testimony.

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 mission with nearly 60,000 others around the world. I have felt the extreme joy of bringing “save only one” into the fold. I answered that call in April 1998 and am serving with much enthusiasm in the Nigeria Enugu Mission.

I thank my Father in Heaven for His protection and guidance throughout the time in my life when I served in the military. He blessed me that I was 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 labor in the Lord’s vineyard helping others to feel the joy that I have and, hopefully, to earn the eternal reward that is there for His faithful servants. I know that there is no greater service on this earth than the work of a missionary. My commitment is to put my shoulder to the wheel and help prepare the way for the Second Coming of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

[illustration] Illustrated by Sam Lawlor