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

“I reread those lines over and over again just to be sure. I immediately called Todd. He answered the phone and without mentioning the reason for the call I just started reading from the Church Almanac. It was hard to breathe — for both of us. All I can say is that for the next hour, he was not Todd and I was not Dickson, but we were Frere (the French term for brother) Clement and Frere Call and we were companions again — back in Geneva.”

Discovering the reference to the Banzas was only the beginning for Brothers Call and Clement. Contacting the Banza family was now a priority, and it proved to be very difficult.

Neither of the former missionaries could remember the Banzas' complete names or knew the nation or stake of the church in which they now resided. After calling church headquarters, they were told they would need more information. The former companions decided to contact the Stevenses through an old email address that Call had saved. In the email to the Stevenses, Call shared their story, recent discoveries and their goal of finding the Banzas. The Stevenses responded from Brussels, Belgium, where they were on another church assignment, that they would forward the email to several contacts in Africa.

On the morning of Oct. 29, 2007, Brother Call arrived at work.

"As I sat down at my desk at work, I pulled up my email messages and saw a message from the Stevenses which said, ‘trying to find convert … FOUND!!!' The message said that someone who was contacted from all these people searching on our behalf actually knew the Banza family very well. They said that Frere Banza was a bishop there in Kinshasa, Congo, and that their two sons were living in Utah.”

Brother Call immediately found a listing in West Valley City, Utah, for a Banza Jr., and called the number and left a brief message about his relationship to the Banzas. The next day, Brother Call received a call from an 801 number and thought, “this could be it.”

It was, in fact, Brother Banza, and they were both thrilled. Brother Call said, “We spoke for an hour and he told me all about his parents and their story. It was an incredible story and very inspiring. We rejoiced mightily. I learned that he and his brother married returned missionaries from the Congo and that they now lived a block apart in Salt Lake City. I assured him that I would be calling Todd Clement that evening and would arrange for a meeting between us all.”

The next day, Brother Banza wrote Brother Call and told his family’s story. “We have spent the last 30 years wondering if we would ever hear from you again. My parents have always talked about you and the impact you had in their lives."

Ernie Shannon served as a missionary in the Switzerland Geneva Mission during the time the Banza family was being taught.

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