Sunday, March 28, 2010

The 222nd good thing about Lagos: Feeling the "sisterhood"

As a Mormon, I'm accustomed to the title of "Sister." In the church, we use the titles of "Brother" and "Sister" instead of saying "Mr." or "Mrs." as a reminder that we are all spiritual children of God and, therefore, brothers and sisters. And sometimes, even when we would call someone by their first name, we choose to put a "Sister" in front of it as kind of an endearing reminder of our spiritual family relationship. I love my sisters in the church here in Nigeria and consider them close relations even though no one would guess it comparing the colors of our skin. We are sisters of the heart.

But today I would like to write some words of tribute to these other sisters, some of whom I've gotten to know in my time here in Nigeria: these sisters of charity, nuns in the Catholic church, who have given over their lives in service to God and mankind. The Catholic church has taken some harsh treatment, probably well-deserved, in the news lately. I don't have any sympathy for child-abusing priests or their church leaders who have protected them. But I do feel confident that they are a small minority of priests and the great majority spend their lives doing things right and good. But I haven't gotten to know any priests here. In my contact with charities, the nuns are the ones I see who are establishing and running needed programs to meet the needs of their communities. They are setting up schools and clinics and orphanages and hospitals, food programs and drug programs and libraries and whatever is needed to meet the many needs of the poor in Nigeria. They do the hard work.

Last Saturday I attended a ceremony where the proceeds of our recent Small World fundraiser were presented to charity recipients. Although the certificates were ceremonial checks, the money was actually being transferred into bank accounts electronically, the occasion was an opportunity to celebrate together the good work being accomplished by the charities who were being awarded their portion of the funds from Small World. I wasn't surprised at all to see that a majority of the charity representatives were nuns in their distinctive habits. There were probably at least 10 different nun's outfits. I wish I could have gotten a group picture of them. When I have the opportunity to see the work they do and the devotion they have to their projects, I am always in awe and full of respect for the selfless sacrifices they offer to make their world a better place. When I've visited Cardoso, a charity that the American Women's club helps support, I've been touched to see the nuns, as they pass by an altar in a small chapel, pause, bow and show respect with the sign of the cross. I was privileged to be there and take part when they pause their work at noon and gather for prayer in the clinic. They have respect for God and for man and show their devotion to God by doing his work in service to him on earth. They inspire me to be a more charitable person and I'm grateful for the work they do and the example they are to me. Thank you, Sisters!

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