On Sunday, February 26, 2023, Area Seventy Elder Hal C. Hunsaker presided over the Lincoln Heights Ward Sacrament meeting in which the Regal Branch of the Church was organized to better serve and gather African Latter-day Saints throughout Spokane County, particularly those who speak the Swahili language, the first of its kind in Washington State.
President Darrell Moseley called Moses Lwakihugo as Regal Branch President. His branch presidency comprises current church service missionaries, including Phil Huber, 1st Counselor; Michael Toth, 2nd Counselor; and Dave Ross, Branch Clerk. There was a unanimous sustaining vote for these brethren to serve in these key roles in the new branch.
President Lwakihugo is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and was displaced by civil war, fleeing to Burundi, and later Tanzania, before coming to the United States as a refugee in 2010. He joined the church in October 2020 and was a speaker in the Spokane Stake’s virtual January 2021 stake conference. His personal story was featured in an inspiring video recently released by the Church as well as other worldwide church media.
The Regal Branch has grown out of the Lincoln Heights Ward’s Swahili Group, first organized in January 2021 after beginning Swahili language Sacrament meetings in August 2020. Many members of the Lincoln Heights Ward have been very involved in missionary and service efforts that have made the creation of the branch possible. The branch is the only congregation of the Church in Washington State formally organized and oriented to serve Swahili-speaking African saints. Multiple countries of Africa are represented by branch membership, including the DRC, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania.
During the meeting, those in attendance heard from the new branch presidency, Sister Alice Huber, and Lincoln Heights Ward Bishop David Christensen, as well as regional leaders including Elder Hunsaker, President Moseley and President Chris LeBaron of the Washington Spokane Mission. President Lwakihugo expressed his thankfulness for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and acknowledged that he has been given a great opportunity to give back to others. Members were invited to write down the events of the day in their personal journal as a witness to the miraculous event. Following the Sacrament meetings, the congregation stayed for a slide presentation, music lesson and refreshments. The video below shows Sister Teresa Nabintu of the Regal Branch teaching the ward and branch members a beautiful song of praise.
The Regal Branch meets at the Regal Building at 2721 E 63rd Avenue. Like the former Swahili Group, the Regal Branch will begin services at 11:30am, holding Sunday school and other organization meetings alongside the Lincoln Heights Ward, followed by Sacrament meeting at 12:30pm.