My blog readers who know me personally know that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints -- a Mormon. The church celebrates its organizational birthday tomorrow --179 years ago it was organized by 6 members in upstate New York. It has grown and spread through the world since that time to a current membership of over 13 million members. This weekend in Salt Lake City is the church's semi-annual conference. It is attended by thousands in person and viewed on TV and satellite broadcast and the internet by millions more. I was able to watch part of the sessions yesterday -- we missed most of the first session because our power was out at the house for more than 6 hours, and my laptop battery and the UPS devices extending our power were finished by when the session started. Tonight, hopefully, we'll be able to watch the Sunday sessions on the internet. But church in Lagos today kept to a regular schedule, with our usual first Sunday of the month service -- a testimony meeting. I love this meeting in Nigeria because the Saints here are so sincere and humble. And now that I've been here long enough to get to know people on a more personal level and know more of the multitude of challenges they face, it makes their expressions of faith more meaningful to me.
We've gotten to know Ben, who moved into our congregation recently. He's a young man, 17 or 18 years old, and is an orphan, with no family to rely on for support. He's a very sweet young man with a friendly smile and a bright countenance and he's always quick to notice and jump up to help people out. He hasn't been able to receive much schooling in his life, so I was told he is not very literate. Last year he was homeless, living on the street. Recently he was able to get a job as a security guard which provides him some housing and income, though he says the job is not very good and life is still very difficult. I was able to get some information on an evening adult education program which has classes not far from where he lives, and I would be happy to sponsor his education there in the hopes that he would have better prospects for his future. But his work schedule right now wouldn't allow his attendance. In the meantime, I'm hoping that he will avail himself of the church's literacy classes -- they run a very good program here. And I've encouraged him to use the church's employment resources to try to find better employment options. The church is his only safety net. He stood and bore a sweet testimony of his feelings for the Church and his Savior, Jesus Christ.
Another testimony was offered by a woman I've gotten to know quite well with visits to her home. Victoria's husband is a policeman -- a very low paid position in Nigeria. They live in police barracks, a concrete housing block and they take pride and care in their small cubicle and have made it quite cozy, though the barracks themselves are something much below any standard of housing that Americans would allow. Her husband recently left for a peacekeeping service assignment in another African country -- last I spoke to her he was still in training and didn't know yet where he would be sent. He would be away for at least 6 months and at the time he left in March, he still hadn't been paid his regular salary since January. She had just returned from another trip to Abuja, Nigeria's capital city, trying to get the pension she is entitled to from her government job, which she retired from over 2 years ago. The government still has not paid her any of her pension. She always says that they will manage somehow. She spoke today about missing her husband, but expressed her gratitude for the church and said that it has made her able to face her trials and formed her into the person she is today.
Another man stood and talked about reading the message from The First Presidency in our church's magazine "The Liahona" and feeling so touched in his heart and filled with the Spirit and he was resolved to live a better life. He said "there is no wahala [the word used here for problem -- it can also be used to describe a disturbance or unrest] that will keep me from returning to God's presence."
People here have a lot of wahalas to face, but Nigerian Saints are facing them with faith. The young Nigerian Primary children today sang with gusto the new children's song "I am a Builder" -- a song about what they can do to help build their eternal family. Our women's meeting lesson was on supporting our church leaders, and for the closing song, they sang with fervent voices "We Ever Pray for Thee, Our Prophet Dear." Many of them are unaware of the church conference going on right now on the other side of the world, and won't learn of the spoken messages until they receive the church magazine in more than a month, but they are supporting our prophet and church leaders and praying for them nevertheless. They are supporting the church with their faith and service, just as the church helps to support them in their efforts to survive and endure through life's wahalas. That's a good thing for all of us.