Members of the Church in Mali, a country of 4.75 million people in French-speaking West Africa, recently united for the first Primary program in this area. Ten children participated in the Primary sacrament meeting presentation, "I Believe in Being Honest."
The children had to face some special challenges to participate in the presentation.One challenge was their small number. Another challenge was the distances that separate them, and yet another challenge came in the form of language since some speak English and others speak only French.
Three American LDS families meet with two Malian families in Bamako for Church each week. Another LDS family lives in Dire, a village that is 16 hours away by an all-terrain vehicle.
Parents made special efforts to gather all Primary children for the program. Portions of the presentation were translated into French, but all the Primary songs were sung in English.
"Four non-member families attended the presentation," said Chirley Roundy Arnold, an American living in Mali. "The next day, one of the non-members said their family was striving to be more honest as a direct result of the program."
Sister Arnold said the program allowed the LDS children to "stand up and be counted for something they believe in. It also gave them a greater knowledge and stronger testimony of the principles of honesty."
In a letter to the Church News, she said one of the Malian members joined the Church while working on a graduate degree in forestry in Montreal, Quebec, in 1984. His wife, a cousin, and a younger sister regularly attend meetings with him.
Sister Arnold told of another Malian who joined the Church in 1981. "He and his family have never attended a regular ward or branch, but they have strong testimonies and have enjoyed the presence of one American Mormon family after another here in Bamako," she said. "The father, who is a school teacher, blesses the sacrament and his two sons pass it each week.
"The members here look forward to when the Church can be recognized in Mali, and to the day when a branch can be organized," she wrote.
Members in Mali always welcome visitors to LDS gatherings, she said. They particularly enjoy visits by Church members from anywhere in the world who travel in Mali. Guest speakers are a special bonus.