Like many young LDS men, Sedrick Tshiambine is going on a mission. He has a testimony of the restored gospel. He's been active in church for years, and he's been faithful as a new elder. Unlike most young LDS men, however, Sedrick has been selling bananas to earn money for his mission.
I met Sedrick when I was traveling in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) this summer. He had just turned 20. He would have gone on his mission earlier, but it's taken a while to save enough money. In his country, jobs are scarce. People live day to day, just trying to find food for their families. His family has no money to help him.
But Sedrick is one of the lucky ones. He has an old bicycle.
Each day, Sedrick pushes his bicycle, laden with 200 pounds of bananas, for two hours to get to the market. He sells the bananas for the best price he can, then rides back for another load. He does this several times a week. Sedrick has been doing this backbreaking work for four years.
Sedrick told me that he makes about $3 a trip. From that he must buy his food, repair his bicycle and save for his mission. His savings will only pay for the high cost of getting a passport in the DR Congo. Member contributions to the General Missionary Fund will pay the rest.
As I watched Sedrick leave on another trip to the market, it was painfully obvious that he knows how to work. On his mission, he will learn how to teach and how to lead. Upon his return to his homeland, he will have the skills needed to be a leader in the church and in the community.
The fruits of Sedwick's extended labor will be sweet, and deservedly so. They will no doubt surprise the rest of us as the church grows at a dramatic rate deep in the heart of Africa. How could it not when members like Sedrick have the heart and determination to do whatever it takes to share the gospel?