Georges Zokou’s parents were supportive when he joined the Church while away at school in Bouaké, but his father was taken aback several years later when Zokou decided to serve a two-year mission before his university studies. “This mission … will help me a lot,” Zokou pleaded. “I know that I am going to receive a lot of blessings in my mission and after my mission.” Zokou’s father agreed to sign the mission papers but made clear he expected results when his son returned. “I want to see the blessing,” he said.
Zokou was called to serve in Côte d’Ivoire, starting in September 1997. Late in his mission, he was assigned to train an American elder, Jonathan Barrett. Zokou was impressed with his trainee’s strong work ethic, his gentle demeanor, and his lack of complaints about missionary life. “[He had] no problem with food. No problem with the sun. No problem with anything,” Zokou recalled.
One rainy Saturday morning, however, a stranger stabbed Barrett. Zokou shoved the attacker away and rushed his companion to the hospital, but after an agonizing wait, he learned that Barrett had died.
“Why can this thing happen with one innocent boy?” Zokou asked himself again and again after Barrett’s death. He struggled to understand why a person so kind could be killed so senselessly, especially while serving as a missionary. “My mind was boiling like this. Boiling, boiling, every day,” Zokou recalled. Reflecting on the death, Zokou made up his mind: “I’m going to end this mission because I can’t stop all this suffering.”
The mission president assured Zokou he could go home if he wanted. “But I want you to know that God loves you,” he said. “And every member of the Church, they are praying about you and about the family of Elder Barrett.” He asked Zokou to work in the office for a week and think about what to do. At the end of the week, Zokou decided to finish his mission, writing regular letters and emails to Barrett’s family.
“I pray God to not have this same problem again,” Zokou later reflected, “[but] this problem change[ed] my person, my feeling, my personality.” Gradually, Zokou came to terms with what had happened. “You can be in the ministry of Jesus, but we need to be ready for everything, even death.” Though his mission was not easy, Zokou was confident after he finished his service that it had been worthwhile. “I have the faith and I have this testimony, so I have a lot of opportunity,” he said. “The blessing is come.”