By 1988, when the Church first sent missionaries to Sierra Leone, multiple members of the Church were already living and sharing the gospel in the country. Michael Samura had joined the Church in the Netherlands in 1981. After returning to Sierra Leone, he expressed his faith by sharing the gospel and organizing meetings, and soon he was overseeing several unofficial congregations. In 1984 he was joined by Hilda Quaye, a convert from Ghana, who began teaching a Primary class for children. Church leaders sent literature to support the groups, but over the years many grew tired of waiting and lost interest. Samura himself was strengthened by contact with members in the Netherlands, Canada, and the United States, and he was able to receive temple ordinances during a trip to the Salt Lake Temple.
Others, not knowing about Samura’s group, worked independently to build up the Church. Bai Sama Sankoh, who had joined the Church in Spain, discovered that Sierra Leone lacked a Church presence when he came home in 1987 after his father’s death. He began hosting religious meetings and soon attracted a small congregation awaiting baptism. Elizabeth Judith Bangura and her daughter, Monica Orleans, who had both joined the Church in Ghana, also shared their newfound faith with fellow members of a group that had recently split off from a Pentecostal church. Christian George, a new convert who had joined the Church while in Germany, had been given a list of members in the country when he returned to Sierra Leone, but he was unable to reach them and waited alone for the day when the Church would be officially organized in Sierra Leone.
“When the time truly came,” George later observed, “the Lord worked out his plan in a mysterious way.” After it was announced that a mission would be opened in the country, a Church member from Ghana came to Sierra Leone to visit George and share the news—and happened to see a member of Bangura’s group reading a copy of Gospel Principles. When George was told about the group, he met with them and explained that they had to wait for direction from Church headquarters before they could officially organize as a branch of the Church and be baptized. He offered his service as a Sunday School teacher in the meantime.
A short time later, John Sivalie, a member of Samura’s group who was stationed at a checkpoint near the Liberian border, met mission president J. Duffy Palmer and his wife, Jocelyn Palmer, as they passed through the checkpoint. Sivalie introduced himself as a member of the Church who was still waiting to be baptized. The Palmers gave him George’s contact information.
In May 1988, the first missionaries began their service in Sierra Leone. At Bangura’s home, 60 people gathered for a Sunday meeting with the missionaries, where the children sang Primary songs and recited some Articles of Faith from memory. On June 11, many members of Bangura’s family and church group became the first Saints baptized in Sierra Leone. After seven years of waiting, Michael Samura was overjoyed to see the Church officially organized in his country. “I felt that a new day had really dawned on us in Sierra Leone,” he said. On August 7, 1988, the Freetown Goderich Branch was organized, with George as branch president, Samura as his first counselor, Sankoh as branch clerk, and Bangura as Relief Society president.