“Building the Church in Senegal,” Global Histories: Senegal (2018)
“Building the Church in Senegal,” Global Histories: Senegal
For many years, the only Church presence in Senegal consisted of small group meetings held in the homes of Latter-day Saints from other countries who were working in Dakar, Senegal’s capital city. In 2014 David and Christine Peterson learned their family would be stationed at the U.S. embassy in Senegal. Through blogs, the Petersons found and contacted other Saints who had lived in Dakar and learned that only two Church members remained in Senegal: Ben Faour, a Frenchman who operated a furniture store in Dakar, and Chung Hung “James” Chen, a Taiwanese fisherman.
On their own, Faour and Chen were building up a local group. In June 2014 they baptized three converts and began holding weekly meetings in Faour’s small apartment. Each week, the new converts brought friends and acquaintances to the meetings. When the Petersons arrived that August, they offered their larger home as a meeting place to accommodate the quickly growing group.
In 2015 Jacques Niambé, a clerk in the Abobo Côte d’Ivoire Stake, began having spiritual impressions that he needed to move his family to Dakar to help build the Church there. As young converts to the Church in 2006, Jacques and his brother had both wanted to serve missions. Family opposition, however, led Jacques to stay home while his brother served. “I told myself that even though I did not go on a mission,” he recalled, “I could serve the Lord in the way I could and where I was called.” Now, he felt the Lord was calling him to Dakar. At first, Jacques’s wife, Marie, did not think that the move was right for their family. Jacques asked her to pray about the decision and within a week, she had a dream that confirmed that the Lord needed them in Senegal.
Jacques went to Dakar first, planning to arrange for Marie to come later. At the time of the move, he knew of no Church members in Senegal. Alone, he studied the Book of Mormon, fasted three days a week, and prayed for the Lord’s guidance. Eventually, members in Côte d’Ivoire gave Jacques the phone number of Alphonse and Patricia Samadé, an Ivorian member couple living in Dakar. Jacques called the Samadés to arrange a time when they could meet. Meanwhile, Patricia asked friends in Côte d’Ivoire if they knew of a Church group in Dakar. She was given the phone number of James Chen.
Chen invited them to attend weekly meetings, and the following Sunday, Niambé and the Samadés met with the group for the first time. They worked together with other group members to share the gospel, inviting friends to be taught by missionaries outside the country via online video chat. They also began making arrangements for a missionary couple to come to Senegal.
On May 1, 2016, the Dakar Branch was organized with Jacques Niambé as president. Under his leadership and with the help of Elder Gary and Sister Helen Parke, the branch grew steadily. In February 2018, eight members of the branch traveled to Accra, Ghana, to attend the temple. In April, less than two years after the Dakar Branch was organized, it was divided, and Alphonse Samadé was called as president of the newly organized Parcelles Branch. Just weeks later, during a visit to Dakar, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles marveled at the potential he saw in the branches in Senegal. “The little branch I attended [in Brazil as a boy] became three stakes,” Elder Soares said after his visit. “I can see a similar future in Senegal.”