“Fatu Gamanga—Eastern Province, Sierra Leone,” Liahona, December 2019
Portraits of Faith
Eastern Province, Sierra Leone
Through the gospel literacy program, Fatu not only learned to read and write, but she also learned about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Before joining the Church, Fatu struggled to support her family. Now she has developed skills of self-reliance and runs her own business making and selling beautiful handmade rugs. She also serves as the Relief Society president in her branch.
Christina Smith, photographer
I was a little child when I lost my father. It was hard to be fatherless. My mother tried to support her family, but she didn’t have enough money to educate me. I was discouraged because I had to cease learning and I never learned to read. My mother and I tried to do many things in our village, like farm work, to support ourselves. For years, we struggled together.
Eventually, I got married and had children. Several years later, my husband died, and I struggled as a single parent to take care of my children.
My friends came to me and said, “You have lost your husband. You are now suffering. We want to invite you to our church to see what Jesus can do for you.” I followed my friends to their church. I also went to other churches.
One day, a woman from a few houses away came to me and said, “I have a church. Will you come?”
“No,” I said, “I have tried church after church.”
“Please,” the woman said, “I want to invite you to my church.”
“What do you call your church?” I asked.
“My church is The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints.”
She convinced me to learn more. She invited the missionaries to pay me a visit. The first day the missionaries came, I called my family together. The missionaries sat down and started to teach us.
The first time I went to church, I sat next to a woman singing from a hymnbook. I tried to pay attention, but I didn’t know how to read. I couldn’t even understand what she was singing. I felt discouraged. “I’m not going to this church again,” I said to myself.
I told the missionaries I wasn’t going to church again. One missionary said, “I’m not going to force you to be a member of this Church, but I’m going to tell you the truth. If you want to believe that this Church is true, read this book.” He gave me the Book of Mormon.
“You can’t give me this book,” I said. “I am not educated. I don’t even know how to read. I don’t need your book.”
The missionaries told me, “Your children are learning to read. They will read this for you, and you will understand.”
“I will try,” I said.
My daughter started reading the Book of Mormon to me, and I went to church again. A sister at church came to me and told me about a class for those who are not able to read and write. She said it was the gospel literacy class.
“We need a student,” she said.
“I really want to know how to read and write,” I said. “So I will go attend that class!”
As I attended the class, I learned reading, writing, and more and more about the gospel. My daughter read more from the Book of Mormon to me. One day I said, “This is the word of God. I can’t deny it.” I decided to be baptized.
Shortly after my baptism, the branch president called me and said, “Sister Gamanga, the Spirit has directed me to call you to be the Relief Society president.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” I said. “I don’t know how to read, I don’t know how to write, and you want to call me? What is the meaning of that?”
He explained that I would invite the women to church, talk to them, and help them. “With God, I can do it,” I said.
Since that day, so many things have happened in my life. I started reading only two-letter words, then three-letter words. I then moved from three-letter words to four-letter words, then five to six-letter words. This has helped me teach in Relief Society.
If there is something I don’t understand, I ask for help. My problem is spelling. I don’t know how to pronounce some spellings, but I get help so I can understand. When I’m teaching, I ask one of the Relief Society sisters to help with any words I don’t know. That is the way I teach in class. Each time I ask for help, I learn more.
Before I joined the Church, I tried to make money selling handmade rugs, but I didn’t have money to buy material. I used to tell people, “If you want a rug, go buy your material and bring it to me; then I will make it for you. You can pay me when I’m done.”
Now that I’m here in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have learned about self-reliance. The Church has given me more endurance to learn to read, write, speak, and try to do something for myself to be self-reliant. Now I go to the tailor’s shop and ask for the leftover scraps they cut from the clothes and leave on the floor. I buy the scraps for a small price and use them to make my rugs. I now sell more than I ever have before.
Since I joined the Church, my life has changed. I have gone from zero to hero! I’m proud of Jesus Christ and I’m proud of His Church. I’m so thankful for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.