News Release

"It was unforgettable!"  First Ever Youth Conference Held in Senegal

Youth Unite Together and Draw Closer to Christ in 3-day Event


On April 20-23, 2023, the very first youth conference in Senegal was held.  District and Branch youth leaders organized 3 days of uplifting and fun activities for the youth in Dakar.  This was an opportunity for the young people of Senegal, who come from different congregations, and don’t all speak the same language, to gather and get to know each other while they worked studied and prayed together.   

“They made new friendships and bonded, which was very important since the majority of our youth are alone in their schools and also in their branches,” said Denise McCollaum, District Young Women’s President. “This was their first opportunity to participate in a youth conference with other Young Men and Young Women.”

Senegal is a country in West Africa with a population of over 17 million.  The country has a Muslim population of over 97%.  On May 22, 2017, Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, came to Senegal and dedicated it for the preaching of the gospel.  Senegal’s government gave the Church legal recognition in 2018.  In 5 years, the Church has grown to 257 members in 4 branches. The official language of Senegal is French.

The theme of the conference was Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  The 13 youth who attended the conference participated in many activities that helped strengthen their testimonies and develop personal habits that brought them closer to their Savior.  They reviewed the youth guidebook and discussed making personal goals and read the entire book of 1st Nephi. “Our goal was to help them make reading the scriptures a daily habit,” said Sister McCollaum.  They prepared and shared short devotionals with each other and learned a medley of songs that they sang together at church on Sunday. Together they also hiked to the westernmost tip of the continent of Africa and built a giant cairn to help them remember the 2023 Youth Theme.

They also had a lot of fun.  The youth participated in the “Great Race” where they divided into two teams - solving clues from scripture stories and executing challenges much like Nephi of old, all while racing each other all over the city of Dakar to the finish line.  The race began at the Dakar Lighthouse, where Elder Bednar had dedicated Senegal for the teaching of the Gospel.  Some other challenges included a family search activity and dancing at the Renaissance monument.

Most importantly, the conference gave the youth in Senegal the opportunity to bond together.  Sister Rebecca Armstrong, Young Women’s President in the Ouakam Branch, noted the differences in age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background of the youth and said, “those things didn't seem to matter; they all just yearned to be together. They taught me through their examples that the gospel of Jesus Christ truly transcends all and how as children of our Heavenly Father, we really are just one big family.  And when these young people all sang together, it was a little glimpse of heaven.”

Although the youth did not all speak the same language that didn’t hinder their ability to communicate. “We witnessed the gift of tongues!” said Sister McCollaum. “We seemed to understand each other easily because of the gifts of the spirit, without which we would have stumbled in our efforts to communicate in two languages.”

The culmination of the conference was an activity to help the youth experience the challenge of holding onto the iron rod. They did this by climbing a route in semi darkness. Along the way they were aided by their leaders who helped them to not succumb to the distractions and temptations which were along the path, which led to a symbolic tree of life. One by one, the entire group reached the top to emerge onto a heavenly area on a rooftop terrace, lit by twinkling white lights and a glowing campfire. They were welcomed by their branch presidents, Djessy Leiz Nkenko (Ouakam), Matt Pearson, (Dakar) Adrien Mendy (Parcelles) Komla Mawuena Agboyi (Saint-Louis) as well as the District Presidency, President Essan Niambe, 1st Counselor Andy Armstrong, and Second Counselor Adrien Mendy. The activity concluded with a beautiful testimony meeting on the rooftop, complete with fire and marshmallow roasting.

In another conference miracle, the youth were joined by Patriarch Kohou Don Paul, who happened to be on assignment as the first visiting patriarch for the District in Senegal.  Some of the youth were able to receive their patriarchal blessings during the conference.  

“I still have the conference in my heart, and I can't stop thinking about it!  It has helped me to remember to read the scriptures every day. In each of my actions, I will always remember the lessons and principles learned,” said Timothé Ameke from the Parcelles branch. Moise from the Saint Louise Branch added, “since the past activity I have started to base myself in the scriptures and pray morning and evening.”

Sandra Atsou of the Parcelles Branch reflected the feelings of all participants saying, “this conference helped me to understand what it is like to be unified one with another. I especially appreciated our youth leaders who guided us, and each of the young adult counsellors who were always by our sides throughout the conference. It was just unforgettable!”

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