My first church experience in Lagos last summer was a Stake Conference and it was an amazing experience. This weekend was another Stake Conference (this is a larger church meeting that is held twice a year) and it was another really great experience. We were able to attend both Saturday and Sunday sessions -- which was nice because, again, we had to go with the whole security entourage -- bullet-proof van and trailing security escort van with 3 guys with machine guns. Even though they had announced that there would be no on-site parking, this time they let our cars into the gate even without the guy waving his machine gun. I think the security is a bit excessive -- but I guess it's good that the company cares enough about our safety to provide this service which is at an extra cost for them.
Saturday Brent went to the priesthood session at noon while I visited with some of the senior sister missionaries in their air-conditioned apartment next door to the stake center complex (which is not air-conditioned). I'll write about that later... Later in the afternoon was the adult session. A counselor in the Area Authority presidency was here presiding -- Elder Craig Cardon.
The Stake Choir sang both Saturday and Sunday and they were fabulous. They had different matching outfits both days. (The white shirts with scarfs were on Saturday and taffeta dresses -- men with matching suits and ties -- were on Sunday. Just so you know, I took these pictures before the meetings.) These Nigerians just LOVE to sing and it's wonderful to hear them and see their enjoyment of the music in their faces.
There were beautiful flowers at the pulpit. The speakers and stake leaders were impressive. We also heard from the new mission president and his wife. In January, the Lagos Nigeria mission was split in half. The new mission president of the Lagos East mission (our mission) came from the Nigeria Ibadan mission -- one that was just closed for what I assume were security reasons. I don't know how many people were in attendance on Sunday, but the huge room had a bunch of people standing and there were people in overflow rooms as well. There were hundreds there, but I'm not good at estimating. I have pictures here of members entering the building and then milling around outside afterwards.
We came in on Sunday an hour before the meeting started and the chapel area was full except for a couple of reserved rows in front. The available seats started back in the cultural hall area. We made our way to those seats and an usher came to us and said we had reserved seats up in front. It was a little unnecessary -- I don't expect or need to have any special treatment. But I didn't want to refuse their offer of giving the "white people" a seat of honor.
I love to see the women all dressed up with their incredible headdresses and colorful dresses. The men were not as colorful -- I think every man there was wearing a white shirt. In his final message, Elder Cardon referenced Joshua 24 and spoke on the importance of putting away all our false gods and choosing to serve the Lord. He pronounced a beautiful blessing on the people there and on the country of Nigeria -- blessing us with safety and peace and other good things which I can't remember now... But it was quite moving. This country and its people need all the blessings from God they can get!