Sunday, August 12, 2007

The 59th good thing about Lagos: Stake Conference time again

Home from the cruise for almost a week, I'm still working on getting my pictures organized, so that blog post will have to wait. First I'll write about today. Though I haven't really spent that much time in Lagos, I was able to attend my 3rd Stake Conference (held twice a year) here today. We managed to convince our company transportation and security people that we could travel without the trailing security car, so we just had our driver in the bullet-proof vehicle and one security guy with a machine gun riding literally "shot-gun." We got to the meeting about 40 minutes before the start, and the chapel was already full and members were half-way back into the overflow area, and the choir was already singing. We were ushered up to our reserved spot for "visitors," though we insisted that we were members of the stake, not visiting and it wasn't necessary -- they wanted all the white people to have seats in front. It kind of makes me feel bad -- I hope it's not interpreted that we think we deserve special treatment. The choir sang for at least 45 minutes before the start of the meeting. They were great, as usual. The women had lovely matching lavender outfits (different dresses from the previous conferences) and the men had matching ties and lavendar handkercheifs out of their jacket breast pockets. The choir director even had a matching top with her suit. It was pretty amazing. Notice the beautiful cascading floral arrangement down from the pulpit. Their main church exposure here is General Conference and I think they really look to that meeting as a model for their conferences. They see the Tabernacle choir with their matching outfits and think that's necessary for the choir. But also, clothing and appearance seems to be quite important to Nigerians. They can live in conditions that would be considered a shack to most Westerners, but dress each day very nicely -- formally by Western standards. But anyway, I'm always very impressed with the amount of music prepared by the choir and the enthusiasm with which they sing. The other impressive thing was that the Stake Presidency (that's the back of the President's head you see in the picture of the choir) was sitting on the front row for at least the 40 minutes pre-meeting that we were there (I don't know how long before we got there they were sitting there), listening to the music. They weren't running around completing business or getting things organized for the meeting, they were just sitting reverently. At the time for the meeting to start, they took their places on the stand. I thought that was pretty neat. The meeting was very good. The mission president mentioned how this conference could have taken place anywhere in the world. He quoted Ephesians 2 where Paul spoke about us being "no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God." (As he quoted Ephesians, I was thinking about being at Ephesus just over a week ago and seeing the theater where Paul spoke to the Ephesians -- a quite amazing experience!)

After the Conference, we were invited to have a meal with the senior missionaries. This was a fun opportunity to visit with these adventurous couples who have volunteered their time and money to come help support the church here and provide service to the community. Their life is more difficult than our lives as expatriates -- they don't get trips home or shipments of goods. One mission president's wife today compared her life here to being in prison -- she's serving her time. She was only partially joking. They served us a wonderful meal and we had a great time
visiting together.
In the group picture here, the
mission presidents of the two Lagos missions and their wives are on the outside, President and Sister Evans on the left and President and Sister Dyering on the right. The couples are, from left to right, the Rawlings, Wadsworth, and Griggs. They deal with the challenges of missionary life in Lagos with very good attitudes and spirit. I admire them all for being willing to take on those challenges.

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