News Release

Sierra Leone Family and Friend Find the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Tokyo, Japan

Rainstorm Leads to Inspired Encounter with Missionaries

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When Sister Gurney and Sister Chambers started their day, they never could have imagined the series of tender mercies Heavenly Father had in store. As missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these young women have dedicated their time and talents to share the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ in Japan for a year and a half. 

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On that day in March 2023, they were caught in a pouring rainstorm, without phone service, transportation, or umbrellas. Soaking wet, they hurried to a home, where they had hoped to find a Japanese member of the Fuchu Ward. Although the resident there was not the church member they were looking for, they were directed to try a nearby apartment, where some “foreigners” were living. 

Hurrying through the storm, they knocked on the apartment door of Theresa Akuye Amui, from Sierra Leone, Africa. She was neither a member of the Church nor Japanese, but the missionaries were dripping wet, and so she invited them in. Theresa is in Japan to work on her master's degree in Conflict Studies, specializing in Migration. She plans to work for the United Nations. Her husband (Peter) is still in Sierra Leone.

Entering the apartment, the two missionaries met Theresa’s friend, Andrea Treasure Sam, who is also from Sierra Leone. The two met through a mutual acquaintance in Tokyo. Andrea’s husband (Wusu) recently received his PhD in Global Studies from the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. He is now working for the United Nations in Sudan, but at the time, he was in Sierra Leone, preparing to bring their three children: Patricia (13), Irene (6), and Bennison (1) to live in Japan.

Just moments before the missionaries knocked on the door, Andrea, who was waiting out the storm in Theresa’s home, was sharing a concern about finding a family-friendly Christian church to attend with her children when they arrived from Sierra Leone. She knew that even if she found a church, it would be a Japanese speaking congregation, and they had just started trying to learn the language. She didn't know what to do.

After getting to know Theresa and Andrea a little, Sister Gurney told them she felt that there was a reason they were there, and asked if she could share a message from The Book of Mormon. Although they had been told bad stories about the book in their country, and were warned to avoid it, Theresa and Andrea agreed. Sister Gurney shared one of her favorite scriptures, Ether 12:27, along with others. The friends were surprised; it wasn’t what they had been told about at all, and it testified of Jesus Christ!

The missionaries gave their English copy of the book to Theresa and offered to get one for Andrea. She explained that her husband had previously received lessons from missionaries while he was studying here in Japan. At that time, Andrea was still back with their children in Sierra Leone. Wusu had told the missionaries that he wanted to share it with his wife first, so that they could be baptized together. However, when he returned with a Book of Mormon, she was alarmed, and hid it from him. She was ready to find it again and read it.

Sister Gurney and Sister Chambers invited Theresa and Andrea to attend church the following Sunday, but it was General Conference Weekend, so there were no regularly scheduled meetings. They gathered with others at the church to watch the broadcast of the Saturday morning session of the conference. The first two talks, “The Greatest Easter Story Ever Told” and “Never Give Up an Opportunity to Testify of Christ” were amazing! Both were all about Jesus; Theresa and Andrea were anxious to learn more.

The friends began to receive the missionary lessons. At each lesson, a different member of the Fuchu Ward would attend. Brother Yoshiki Goodwin, who serves as a counselor in the Elder’s Quorum (men’s group) explained that when representatives from each auxiliary group in the ward meet in Ward Council, they always discuss what each of them can do, working together, to support the ward mission plan. So, when Theresa and Andrea’s family (the Contehs) began attending, everyone looked for ways to support them.

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The Relief Society President, Sister Kawashima, who is over the women’s group, assigned ministering sisters to be special friends to Theresa and to Andrea. The Bishopric called a Coordinator to organize a team of interpreters, involving more than 10 people. They were surprised to find how many were able to speak English, and they have seen their skills improve. The Sunday School arranged to always have someone who spoke English sit by them. The young women and their leaders reached out to Patricia, developing new friendships. Everyone in the ward wears nametags, which helps them connect with each other.

As Elder’s Quorum President Taira explained, “It’s been more than three years since Bishop Ishii was called. He has been telling us continuously about the vision he has, which is that we will never lose ‘one sheep’ within the Fuchu Ward. We have experienced many challenges together. Through these, we have learned to serve each other, and we have been blessed by the opportunity. We were prepared to serve these new sisters when they began taking the lessons. I have learned that the gathering of Israel is not one big event; it is accomplished one-by-one.”

While the friends were fellowshipped by the ward, and taught the gospel, they grew in their desire to be baptized. When Theresa was taught the Word of Wisdom, she immediately went to her kitchen and dumped out all her green tea. She has been so excited to have the gospel in her life, that she has been teaching her mother, who is back in Sierra Leone. On the day that Theresa first opened the door to let the sister missionaries into her home, she was so impressed by their sacrifice. She thought, “They are so young and beautiful. They could be doing many other things, but they are here, and they’re dripping wet! God must be so proud of these ladies.” Just two months after that rainy day in March, on May 14th Theresa entered the waters of baptism. When asked how her life has changed since joining the church, she explained, “My view of life has changed. I have found peace. I used to have so many questions. Having the Book of Mormon has opened my perspective; it has helped me to understand the Bible more fully.

Soon after she was baptized, Theresa began preparing to go to the Tokyo Temple to perform vicarious baptisms for her deceased ancestors, who did not have the opportunity to receive the fullness of Christ’s gospel in this life. Through the efforts of those around the world doing indexing of public records, and with help from ward members and the missionaries, Theresa was able to find information long lost about her father, who died when she was young. This was such a blessing, as many family records were destroyed by bombings during wars in Sierra Leone. The database was updated just before her baptism. She was then able to prepare his name, her grandmother’s, and others to receive baptism and other temple ordinances.

About this miracle, Sister Natsue Kyomen, who is the Relief Society counselor over Temple and Family History, said, “We knew that we were working with not only members and missionaries; we also understood that we were working with [those] on the other side of the veil. It was truly a gathering of Israel on both sides of the veil, as Elder Bednar taught. We felt that both sides were related to each other.” It was such a special experience for Theresa to be baptized in behalf of her grandmother, who died before she was born. She felt especially close to her while she was in the temple.

Although Andrea was baptized as an infant, when she was older, her parents encouraged her to be baptized by immersion, but it never felt right. When Sister Gurney and Sister Sasaki came to teach a lesson, they told her that Theresa was going to be baptized and asked her if she would also want to get baptized. Andrea told the Sisters that she would pray about it. She had experienced the influence of the Holy Spirit in the past and said that if she had that same feeling when she prayed about joining the Church, then she would be baptized. If not, then the answer was “No.”

She later shared her experience, “When I prayed about baptism, I had this eagerness; I became so anxious to do it. I discussed it with my husband because he was waiting for me to be ready, so we could get baptized together. I said, 'Let’s continue to pray.' So we did, and I kept having the eagerness.” Wusu was going to be leaving in two months, so when they attended Theresa's baptism, they told the missionaries that they wanted to be baptized right away. The whole family spent the next three weeks learning about the gospel, and on June 4th, Wusu, Andrea, and Patricia were all baptized, and then confirmed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Soon after her baptism, Patricia was able to go on a youth trip to do vicarious baptisms for their ancestors in the temple. Andrea was invited to participate, but the idea was new to her, and she was skeptical. Following her previous pattern, she decided to pray about it, and she felt that same eagerness to provide baptism for her ancestors as she did for herself.

After the families were baptized, the missionaries were wondering if they should encourage them to attend an English-speaking ward in Tokyo. Leaders of the Fuchu Ward said, “We need them, and they need us. We don’t want to lose them.” The ward members continue to wrap their arms around Theresa and the Conteh family.

Speaking of the Fuchu Ward family, Bishop Ishii said, “We have a good strong team. The members serve each other, not by assignment, but because of love.” The children, Patricia, Irene, and Bennison feel and experience that love through their teachers, friends, and other ward members. Andrea said, “Ever since I joined the church, I found another family. When I came to Japan, I didn’t have anyone.” She shared a recent story about when she was sick. The sisters in the ward brought homemade soup for their family and a surprise package that cheered her up.

Theresa and the Conteh family are also a blessing to their new ward. Their decision to be baptized and join the church will have a lasting effect, not only on them, but on many who will be touched by them along the way. After their baptisms, a ward member came to Bishop Ishii and told him that their story has inspired him to make changes in his life and to do better. Since Theresa’s experience in finding her family’s records, many of the ward members have had a greater desire to search for their own ancestral records, and to perform temple ordinances. The Young Women who attended the temple with Patricia were inspired to get involved in family history, and the Young Men had an opportunity to help with the ordinances. The Fuchu Ward has grown through this series of miracles – in unity as well as in size.

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