Friday, June 5, 2015
Service of Wife of Area Legal Counsel Has Far-Reaching Implications
Meet Elder Joseph Apoya (far right, next to Elder and Sister Curtis, far left is companion Elder Temidayho Ijiwole).
Elder Joseph Agana Apoya was abandoned as a child. Young Joseph Apoya was born in Kumasi on June 3, 1994. You can imagine his joy when over 100 missionaries (including senior couples) sang happy birthday to him on his special day. He has not always felt that love.
He is the youngest of three, with two older sisters. At the time of his birth, his father suffered eye problems and passed away. When he was four years old, the children were taken to the home of his father’s family and abandoned by his mother. His mother had been struggling to find food for herself and her three children and had been living on that which neighbors gave her. When he was dropped off at the village of these relatives, he was accepted because they were already caring for one of his sisters. This sister was spending all her time doing chores for the relatives including rummaging through the nearby forest for wood to sell. Living with these people was rough because they would not give Elder Apoy any breakfast or lunch and the supper he was given was often rotten.
In desperation for survival, young Joseph often went to the village to help the shepherds. One of them took pity on him and would give him food for breakfast and millet to soak in a bottle for later. He would help take the cows and a horse to the forest to graze each day. Life was difficult and during this time he even broke his arm and suffered as it healed.
A couple of years later, Joseph was sent to school in Bolga Tanga. After a couple of years, he was sent to Accra to live with his oldest sister, who he had not met. By this time he was 8 years old. She was working at a bar in an athletic club and had a baby. The three of them shared one room. Life was difficult and to survive there was only money for food, not school. Often his sister would beat him. Little Joseph had to hire out to help truckers with loading and also to pick up fallen tree branches to sell as well as to fetch water for neighbors. Eventually one of them hired Joseph to help him at her store where she sold food by the road. Joseph would pack the tables and chairs before the store opened and after it closed. With what meager earnings he could glean, he was able to attend a basic school in La Yahoshua.
One of the volunteer teachers noticed that he had a challenge reading and her name was Kathy Westerby. Her husband was legal counsel in Accra for the Church. She noticed that Joseph struggled with his vision and so took him to his sister’s home and pleaded for him to get treatment and offered to pay. Two years later this Sister returned and inquired about Joseph. She gave him some reading material among which was the Book of Mormon. And then this kind lady returned to the US. She however asked Sister Shannon Dunn, to look in on Joseph and to help him. They also forwarded letters from him to the Westerbys. It was Sister Dunn who put Joseph in touch with the missionaries. Inspite of the resistance of his Sister towards the Church, Joseph continued his study with the missionaries. Often he was delayed by his Sister and had to be late to meetings. Weeks passed and Joseph accepted the invitation to be baptized. He also shared the gospel with his friend Vincent during these weeks as well as another friend. Both of these friends attended his baptism on June 2, 2012 as he was baptized by Brother Gregg Dunn. From that day forward, his heart of sorrow, insecurity, and loneliness ceased. He felt the presence of the Holy Ghost with him and hears the still small voice. By the way, a couple of days after his baptisms, his referrals were baptized.
Since his baptism, he has been befriended by the Slaters (current legal counsel for the Church and his wife) and by the Elder and Sister Curtis (Area President and his wife). Joseph says that he knows the Savior is the Divine Son of the Living God and that they love us all. He has felt that love. He and his companion leave the MTC for the Nigeria Calabar Mission next Tuesday.