When Philippe and Annelies Assard joined the Church in Germany in 1980, they felt “overwhelmed with blessings.” As Philippe grew and gained experience in the gospel, he felt a powerful desire to return to his native country of Côte d’Ivoire to share the restored gospel. “So in 1986, after many prayers and fasting with my wife,” Philippe recalled, “I decided to return to Ivory Coast to give what I had received, to improve the lot of my family and my people.”
Before leaving Germany, Philippe consulted with Church leaders. Though there were no Church units in Côte d’Ivoire, there were a number of members there who had joined the Church while in other countries. The Assards were given a list of their names before they left for Abidjan, and Philippe was blessed to be a “shepherd of the flock” and gather the members in Côte d’Ivoire.
After arriving in Côte d’Ivoire, Philippe diligently wrote to each member on the list. The first response to his letters came from Lucien and Agathe Affoué, members who had been baptized in France before moving their family to Abidjan in 1984. For more than two years, Lucien and Agathe had held weekly meetings in their home, partaking of the sacrament, studying the scriptures with their children, and praying for the day when the Church would come to Côte d’Ivoire.
The Affoués were excited to know that there were other members in the area, and the two families began holding Sunday meetings together in the Assards’ backyard. Since both fathers were looking for work, they prayed together for opportunities that would allow them to stay in the country. After a long search, their prayers were answered, but with offers in different cities: the Assards remained in Abidjan, where they continued to minister to members, and the Affoués moved to Bouaké. By the end of 1988, there were branches in both cities.