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LDS Church creates first stake in Togo

By Elder Douglas Green Stoker

By Rebecca R. Stoker

For LDS Church News

Published: Thursday, Dec. 26 2013 9:05 a.m. MST

Family in Lomé Togo Stake

Photo courtesy Africa West Area

LOMÉ— Members from 12 branches of the Church in Lomé, Togo, gathered in their recently dedicated Church building on Sunday, Dec. 8, to witness the creation of Togo’s first stake.

Togo is located on the Gulf of Guinea, between Ghana on the west and Benin on the east. Its national capital and main port is Lomé, nestled in the southwestern corner of this country of nearly 7 million residents.

Elder Terence M. Vinson of the Seventy and first counselor in the Africa West Area Presidency, organized the Lomé Togo Stake with the assistance of Elder Norbert K. Ounleu, an Area Seventy from Cote d’Ivoire.

“The members of the Church in Lomé have shown wonderful love for the Lord and have demonstrated a marvelous commitment to living the gospel. They now have the privilege of being a stake,” Elder Vinson said.

“From the small district that was formed less than four years ago, there are now eight wards and four branches in the newly formed Lomé Togo Stake. This historic event took place because of significant and rapid growth. But where rapid growth sometimes comes at the cost of maturity and depth, that is not the case in Lomé.

“The mission president, Robert F. Weed, and the just-released district president, Komlan Amegandji, have led the Saints of Lomé by teaching them the principles of conversion and focusing on leading them to an increased understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The beginning of the Church in Togo traces back to the late 1980s after several Togolese people who had been baptized abroad gradually returned to their homeland to find no established congregations in the country. Dieudonné Attiogbe, baptized in London in 1989, was unable to find other members of the Church in Togo.

In response to his letter to the Church’s African headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, the office sent Brother Attiogbe a list of several Togolese people who had been baptized abroad, along with their addresses. Brother Attiogbe, with Koffi Afangbedji and Agnon Didier, began meeting with a small group of members in Togo around 1996. Elder James O. Mason, then of the Seventy and president of the Africa Area, officially organized the Lomé Togo group in July 1997. By this time about 25 Latter-day Saints were living there.

In February 1999, Togo came under the Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission. That same month, the first missionary couple, Dermoine A. and Joyce Findlay, began missionary work in Togo and the Lomé Branch was organized, with Dieudonné Attiogbe as its first president. Legal recognition of the Church was granted in July 2000. The first district in Togo was created in 2009.

In 2011, to better align resources to changing needs, the Benin Cotonou Mission — comprised of Benin and Togo — was created from part of the former Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission. When President Robert Weed and his wife, Sister Rebecca Weed, arrived to lead the new mission in July of that year, there were just five branches of the Church in Lomé, Togo.

“Now there are 12 units in Lomé and there have been 310 baptisms in the last year alone,” Elder Vinson reports. “The future for the Church in Lomé is bright. The new stake president, Kcodgoh Laurent Edgeweblime, has a vision of continued growth for the Church in Togo.”

President Weed added, “The fruits of the hastening of the work of salvation are evident in the creation of the first stake in Togo.

“In a few short years the Church has grown from five branches to a stake of Zion. The maturity of leadership in such a new group of Latter-day Saints is a testament to their incredible faith, love and devotion.”

The stake center was filled to capacity as more than 800 members of the Church, missionaries, investigators, media and local tribal leaders listened to the new presidency address the congregation. President Edgeweblime and his counselors, Anani Kouegan and Boevi Edem Lawson, all expressed deep appreciation for the gospel in their lives and for the opportunity to help the work move forward.

“We may not see the importance of it now, but the formation of the Lomé stake will be a great blessing to Togo,” the new stake president, Kcodgoh Laurent Edgeweblime, said. “There are millions of people in our country who need to hear the word of God. The growth of the Church in Togo is a testament to how the gospel of Jesus Christ is spreading throughout the world.”

Members and missionaries alike shared their thoughts about the events of the day.

Y. Blaise, second counselor in the Attiegou Ward, said, “We have waited for this day for some time. I wanted to be present for the organization of the stake of Lomé, the first in the history of the Church in Togo.”

Elder Ounleu, Area Seventy for the French-speaking countries in West Africa, commented that when he first came to Togo to help organize the new mission, he had the impression it would be very successful. He expressed sincere gratitude for President and Sister Weed, noting that “they are for me angels sent to help do all this work.”

“My thoughts about this wonderful event are simple — God loves His children,” said Elder Ounleu. “I have seen His hand helping us during the conference. It is just the beginning of the growth of the Church in Lomé, Togo.

“We have faithful members who will move the Lord’s business forward. I have seen during the conference mothers, husbands and children being overjoyed. They strongly believe the stake will change their lives and protect their country.”

In his concluding remarks, Elder Vinson thanked the released district leaders, President Amegandji and his counselors, Mathieu Gbedevi and Koffi N’Sougan, for their service. Members of the congregation were reminded that, even though a new stake has been formed, there is still much to do.

“To have the opportunity of presiding at the creation of Togo’s first stake was a marvelous experience,” Elder Vinson said after the conference. “To feel the Lord guiding me and Elder Ounleu in the identification of the man the Lord Himself had already chosen to be the president of the stake is a wonderful privilege.”

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