The Obinnas---Nigerian Pioneers
When the first LDS missionaries arrived in Nigeria in November of 1978, Anthony Obinna was a leader of a congregation in Nigeria that had assumed the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At that point, Brother Obinna had been waiting for missionaries for 13 years. The missionaries were Edwin Cannon (Sister Markham’s father’s cousin) and Rendell Mabey, and their wives. The problem was finding Anthony Obinna. All they knew was the name of the village where he lived. They traveled to the area and began asking if anyone knew Anthony Obinna. They finally found a man who said he would travel with them to the village, only three miles away. This man took them to a little church with painted words over the door, “Nigerian Latter-Day Saints.” In the little chapel they found a copy of the Doctrine and Covenants, three paperback editions of the Book of Mormon and a copy of Gospel Principles. They also saw stacks of the Ensign and several issues of the Church News. A picture of the Twelve Apostles was on one wall.
Anthony Obinna arrived and welcomed them with the words, “It has been a long, difficult wait, but that doesn’t matter now. You have come at last.” He explained to them that he had been directed in dreams to find the true Gospel. He finally learned about the LDS Church through an old copy of Reader’s Digest. He subsequently met some American businessmen in Nigeria who were members of the Church. They gave him information and literature. Brother Obinna prayed and studied and wrote letters to Salt Lake, asking for missionaries. He worked with his three brothers to organize a church based on Mormon principles and doctrines. Even though the Church was not officially organized in Africa, they wanted to live by its precepts. A few days after meeting with Elders Cannon and Mabey, about fifteen people were interviewed and found to have strong testimonies and to be worthy. On November 21, 1978, they were baptized. Included in this group were Anthony, his wife Fidelia, and his brothers Francis and Raymond. After the baptismal service the three Obinna brothers were ordained Priests and set apart as the leaders of the first authorized branch of the Church in West Africa. (The whole story can be found in the book Brother to Brother by Rendell N. Mabrey and Gordon T. Allred.)
Anthony has since died, but the three surviving brothers and their wives (the youngest brother is Albert) came in June from Owerri Stake to the temple in Accra. We asked why they came to Ghana when the temple will be dedicated in Nigeria in August. They told us they had made several previous attempts to come to Ghana to receive their endowments but had not been successful. They kept trying. They made the decision not to postpone until the Aba Temple was completed because they wanted to set the example for their family members that attending the temple is important. Four younger family members are currently serving missions in West Africa. Two are in Nigeria and two are in Ghana.
These are true pioneers.
The Obinna Pioneers
From left: Francis, Rita, Raymond, Elizabeth, Florence, Albert
Back: Pres. Workman (1st C), Pres. Child (Area President), Pres. Schultz (2nd C)
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