Part of the reason for the timing of our trip was to attend Stake Conference. It was here that I saw the Congo Pioneers for the first time. We had often talked about how alike the Congo people were to the early Church pioneers– meeting outside, walking long distances to go to church, living the lifestyle of the early pioneers due to their austere living conditions, etc. But there is no question that here, at this conference, were pioneers to match the early years of the Church!
The Luputa Stake covers a large area, including Mwene Ditu and Ngandajika (we took 4 hours to drive here form Mwene Ditu, and Ngandajika is even further!). Yet the desire and faith of these Latter-day Saints is so strong, many walked two days to attend this conference! In Utah, it is hard to get people to walk two blocks to attend conference– but here in the Congo, faith in Christ is strong, and their desire to learn of Christ, and follow his teachings is so strong, they are willing to travel 40 kilometers and more– sleeping out in the bush under the stars, treading the dusty roads, just to meet together as fellow servants of Christ. It is inspiring!
There is a school next door to the Stake Center that was rented to be used to house members who had traveled to come to conference, and had no place to stay while there.
Inside the Stake Center there is seating for about 150. This is a crowded building on a normal Sunday, with two wards meeting here (there are at least two wards in each of 3 buildings here in Luputa), but with Stake Conference, and some 1,000 + people attending, well…
This covered porch area was filled with seats (Terri and I sat in the back of this porch area during conference)
Then they added an additional area to the side of the porch…
And an additional area to the side of the school next door. In all, there were 4 x as many people sitting outside, than inside where the speakers sat!
The missionaries practiced before conference began, as they would be singing during the conference.
Many children came, with their parents, and began sitting hours before conference was to begin. They had hundreds of children, most sitting quietly, and with little supervision!
The sisters were hard at work cooking outside for those who had traveled to get here, and had no place to stay, or cook. They were preparing food for after the Conference.
Here are just a few pictures of the conference. I don’t think they do justice to show how many people were there!
They had set-up a sound system outside, which worked pretty well, and some TVs, that worked on and off. Keep in mind that we are right on the main road into Luputa. There were people walking by, trucks and vehicles coming by (think noise and dust), children playing soccer across the street… and then the wind came and began to blow the orange tarps off!
Pres. and Sister McMullin waiting for conference to begin. They both spoke at the conference.
They made an effort to repair the tarps, during conference… with limited success.
Even sitting in the back, we had children looking over our shoulders!
After conference, everyone gathered for some photos
The best part of conference was seeing all the children!