Swiss baptisms planted gospel seed in the Congo

By Ernie Shannon

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Dec. 29 2011 5:00 a.m. MST

Junior and Phillippe Banza with their families.

Dickson Call

In 2007, 28 years after baptizing a young Congolese couple, Mucioko and Mutombo Banza, in Geneva, Switzerland, Dickson Call and Todd Clement learned that the baptisms had assisted in the establishment of the church in the Congo and the conversions of thousands in the years since. At the time of the baptisms, however, the young missionaries feared the Banza family might never live their newfound religion.

On a warm August evening in 1979, the decision to contact residents in one more Geneva apartment building placed then-Elders Call and Clement at the doorway of the Banza family, which had come from their African home to pursue an education. The Banzas were among hundreds of Africans in Switzerland seeking additional schooling that was lacking in their native lands.

In 1977, the Banza family arrived in Geneva and Mucioko began his studies. In August 1979 when Mucioko Banza was nearly two years into his studies, Elder Call had come within days of being transferred away from Geneva when his mission president, Owen J. Stevens, changed his mind and decided to keep Elder Call and Elder Clement together in Geneva. President Stevens’ explanation to Elder Call was, “You have more to accomplish here.”

On the evening of Aug. 30, the elders introduced themselves to the Banzas and Mucioko invited them in. According to Elder Call's account, “We taught them a (first discussion) and they said we could teach them all the discussions. They were incredible, very kind, warm, and they are Christians.”

Elder Call continued, “The father was outgoing. They have two boys who are 7 and 5 years of age. We are going back on Tuesday to teach. There is a great feeling there — we’ll see.”

A week later on Sept. 7, the elders stopped to see the Banzas again and Elder Clement wrote:

“Tonight we passed by the Banza family and had a real good discussion. They are coming along great. They are looking sincerely and they are coming along really well. They said the whole family would be coming to church Sunday. They have two little boys. … Mr. Banza says that he wants to take the gospel truth back to Africa with him. So he is really studying hard. He and his family could very well be some of the first pioneers in the African country in which they live. They are from Zaire (as the Congo was known by for a period of time). They are a beautiful family and we’re really looking forward to their progress. I love it here in Geneva because you get the chance to teach people from all over the world. It’s a great experience.”

The elders didn’t teach the Banzas for another 12 days, but in the interim, the American missionaries made a banana cream pie and delivered it to the family. The effort solidified a warm friendship already developing. When the elders and the Banzas met again on Sept. 19, they taught about the Book of Mormon.

“We planned on teaching the commandments, but they had a friend there so we ended up teaching a 'C' … the First Vision and the re-establishment of the gospel, and presenting the Book of Mormon,” Elder Clement said. “It was neat. Mr. Banza asked us if he could tell his friend about it and we agreed. He did a pretty good job and then we explained it in more detail, but it was neat to see that he was excited enough about the re-establishment to tell his friend about it.”

Eight days later, the elders crossed the threshold with the Banza family and arranged a tentative baptism date.

“We fixed a partially good date for the baptisms of the Banzas — this coming Tuesday or Wednesday,” Elder Clement said. “He can’t say right now because he has to give some kind of presentation to the public for his schooling. We sure have been blessed with finding people. The Banza family wants to go to BYU. Hopefully things work out for them. They are going to be pioneers back in their home country of Zaire. They are excited about it too. They want to return and spread the gospel to their people.”

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