“‘We Had That Joy in Our Heart,’” Global Histories: Democratic Republic of the Congo (2020)
“‘We Had That Joy in Our Heart,’” Global Histories: Democratic Republic of the Congo
In 1989 when Daniel and Thérèse Kola learned about the restored gospel, much of their income came from sales of coffee, tobacco, and alcohol at their café. After accepting the Word of Wisdom, though, they wondered if it was right to market things they wanted to avoid. They debated what to do until the day of their baptism. They decided to give up their old livelihood, like Christ’s ancient disciples. “In the morning, the decision was made,” Daniel Kola recalled. They sold their shop and were baptized, confident they had done what the Lord would have them do. “We had that joy in our heart because we felt something.”
For the next seven years, Daniel and Thérèse served faithfully as the Church grew in their country. Like others in DR Congo’s first generation of Latter-day Saints, they learned step by step. In 1996 Congolese Church leaders were challenged to take the next step in their development. Although Kinshasa was nearly 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) from the nearest temple, in Johannesburg, South Africa, a group of over 20 local leaders were invited to travel to the temple together to be endowed with power from heaven and sealed to their spouses for eternity. It was the first group temple trip in Congo’s history.
The years after the temple trip were vital ones for the Church in Congo. In the late 1990s, stake after stake was organized in Congo. Most of the men first called as stake presidents, including Daniel Kola, had participated in that temple caravan.
In 2007 Daniel Kola was called as an Area Seventy. The next year, he traveled to Utah to attend general conference and was blessed to attend the temple an additional five times to perform initiatory, endowment, and sealing ordinances for his ancestors, including being sealed to his own parents. “When I received my endowment, there was a lot I didn’t understand,” Kola reflected. “But today, I understand and my knowledge is much more profound.”
As he developed a deeper appreciation for the temple, Kola also developed a greater interest in family history. Along with many others, he came to recognize that he lived at a crucial time, when the names and stories of many ancestors were still in living memory but at risk of being lost if they were not recorded. In 2018 Daniel Kola’s nonprofit organization contracted with FamilySearch to travel around the Democratic Republic of the Congo recording oral histories, aiming to gather 400,000 names in 12 months.