The Church was not yet established in Benin when Mathias and Eunice Eguko moved there from Nigeria in 1997. The Egukos had joined the Church just two years earlier. During their first two months in Benin, Mathias took copies of the Ensign magazine with him when he went to the market, in hopes that another Latter-day Saint might recognize it. After writing a letter to Church headquarters, he learned that a small group of five or six members was meeting weekly to read the scriptures and partake of the sacrament in the home of Lincoln Dahl, an American living in Cotonou. Eguko’s discovery of the group was timely; Dahl was being transferred back to the United States in just a few weeks, and his departure left the future of the Church in Benin uncertain. “[Dahl] saw my coming as his prayer being answered by Heavenly Father,” Eguko later said. “The Lord really had prepared everything.”
When Dahl left Benin in 1997, Eguko led the group and the meetings moved to his home. Under his leadership, the group continued to grow. “The missionaries would call from Lomé [Togo] and teach the discussions,” Eguko recalled, but converts “were not allowed to be baptized because the Church wasn’t legal.” Converts attended weekly meetings and prayed for the day when they could be baptized. Soon there were more people than could comfortably fit in Eguko’s home, and a small meetinghouse was rented. Despite the group’s growth, it would still be years before the Church would obtain legal recognition in Benin.
Members of the group faithfully prayed while senior missionary couples worked tirelessly to obtain legal recognition for the Church. Finally, in March 2003, Eguko received a phone call instructing him to open the meetinghouse for six government officials. They searched the building and asked Eguko about the Church, his role in it, and why he wanted so badly to bring it to Benin. “I told them, ‘The Church is established almost everywhere in the world,’” Eguko later said. “They said, ‘What’s your interest?’ I said, ‘Well, my interest is for members, for people in Benin to love God, to know how they can change as they love God. I want to be able to let the people know that God loves them. That’s all.’”
Just a week later, Eguko received a phone call from the minister of the interior, telling him that the Church had at last received official recognition. Converts who had long prayed for this recognition rejoiced at the news that they could now be baptized. Proselytizing missionaries were soon assigned to preach the gospel in Benin.