For Prince Henry Omondi’s family, learning to keep the Word of Wisdom did not only mean learning to live without tea, coffee, alcohol and tobacco. It also meant an extra monthly expense for the family’s already tight budget.
“We really suffered temporally after my mother’s death,” says Prince. His father had to support nine children, ranging between 16 years and two months of age, on one income. During these tough times, “I had questions in my mind and I sometimes would doubt if God loved me,” he says. But when his family met the missionaries, the teachings they shared went “deep into my heart.
“As the missionaries taught us, I felt God’s love for me and felt God had a purpose for me,” he says.
Many of his family members felt the same. Except for two of Prince’s older brothers, the entire family was baptized.
Prince says that one way to know his purpose was to keep the commandments with exactness.
“One of the commandments which was new to me was the Word of Wisdom,” he said.
“Not taking alcohol, tobacco or any harmful drugs was not an issue, but tea and coffee was a challenge. I remember my Father telling the missionaries that drinking chocolate was too expensive, and we could not afford it. But the missionaries encouraged us, and my dad had the faith and courage to squeeze money to be able to buy drinking chocolate instead of tea or coffee.”
A year later, Prince was ready to serve as a full-time missionary in the Kenya Nairobi mission.
“I can say missions change lives,” he says. During the time he served, there was a lot of persecution of the Church in Kenya, with anti-Church sentiments frequently being printed as newspaper headlines.
“As I walked the streets of Nairobi, I was many times accused of joining the Church for the sake of money”. A particularly difficult confrontation with a detractor became his turning point. That evening, he says, “I realized I had to pack my bag and go home or know for myself.”
Prince received his answer.
“For the first time, like the Prophet Joseph Smith, I could say I knew it, the Lord knew it and I could not deny that I was in the true Church.”
After the completion of his mission, “life was not easy,” says Prince.
“We were still struggling as a family to put meals on the table, but that did not affect my faith in Jesus Christ.”
A former mission friend suggested that he try to move to America to study.
But in order to do that, he needed to secure a study visa. “When I went to apply for my visa the first time it was rejected because I did not have strong enough family ties to prove I would come back to Kenya after my schooling,” he says. “I was determined. I felt this was my opportunity to excel in life and somehow improve life for my family. So, I tried a second time. Again, my application was rejected.”
Undeterred, Prince decided to give it one more go.
On the way to the embassy to submit a third application, he stopped in at his older brother’s office, who had agreed to provide a bank statement to bolster his case.
His older brother asked someone to prepare a drink for Prince, and after a few minutes he was presented with a cup of tea.
“I told my brother, who was not a member, ‘you know I do not take tea.’
“He apologized and laughed and asked the lady to prepare drinking chocolate for me. I responded, ‘Do not worry, just give me the documents and I will rush to the embassy.’
“But,” says Prince, “he insisted.”
Prince waited while the hot chocolate was prepared, drank it, got the document, and left.
He was walking past the Kenya Cinema—only a few meters away from the American embassy—when he heard a blast.
That blast was the sound of gunshots.
“If I had left only three minutes earlier, I would have been caught in the middle of the August 1998 terrorist attack on the US embassy,” says Prince.
“Those extra three minutes waiting for the hot chocolate to be prepared saved my life.”
More than 200 people died in terrorist attacks in East Africa that day, “but I feel I was protected personally because I lived the Word of Wisdom,” says Prince.
“I can testify that if I had thought that drinking tea was a small commandment, I am not sure I would be alive today.”
Prince saw the very real promises contained in section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants come into play: “And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angels shall pass by them . . . and not slay them” (verse 21).
In the end, Prince never went to America. He discovered that “the Lord had great plans for me here in Kenya,” he says.
“The gospel changes lives,” Prince testifies. As the Lord’s children, all we need to do is “hear Him and do what is right.”
Prince Henry Omondi is the first counsellor in the Kenya Nairobi West Stake. He is the faculty leader in Seminaries and Institutes for the Nairobi Kenya and Kampala Uganda missions.