Sunday, November 11, 2012

Our first trip to Nigeria

By Debi:
The collapsed building is behind where the crane is

This has been a very sad week here in Accra.  Last Wednesday an eight story commercial building collapsed on itself early in the morning.  There were workers in the building preparing for customers when the building just fell apart.  It was a new building; the store had only been open since February.   There has been a huge rescue effort and the last we heard 70 people had been rescued but 12 people have died so far.  I don’t know if any of this has been on the world news but it has been on the people’s minds here in Ghana.

Not a clear view of the sight, but close
Today in Church we heard a very special story.  
The store is owned by a family originally from India.  Even though they do not believe as most Ghanaians, they allow the workers who want to join together to have a morning devotional and prayer before they start work.  Wednesday morning a group of Christians were gathered for their regular prayer meeting when the building collapsed.  All who were there in the prayer were shielded from the collapsing building and were able to call on their cell phones and let their families know that they were still alive inside of all of the rubble.  They have been rescued and are all right.  One woman who is usually there didn’t come to the prayer meeting that morning and she wasn’t saved from the terrible accident.  She was found dead. 

We drove by the building this morning on our way to church and there were still rescue crews there and a large crowd of people there watching and praying that somehow their loved ones would be rescued.  So the story isn’t over yet.  We could not get very close and they made us detour around the sight, which is right on the road we take home from church.  We have heard that the building was never inspected and probably there was some bribing of an official to look the other way.  The cement was very poor quality and no rebar was used in the building.  We are praying for the people and their families. 

This last Friday Greg and I flew to Lagos, Nigeria.  Lagos is one of the largest cities in Africa and also one of the fastest growing cities in the World.  We left our apartment at 2:30 in the afternoon and we arrived at our Hotel at 11:30 at night.  Mind you that it is only a one hour flight.  Why did it take so long?  Traffic, Delays, Long Lines, and lots of checking of our passports, visas, and our bags made the journey so arduous.  We decided that the next time an American complains about the airports in the United States we are going to tell them to come to Africa and give it a try.  They are so cautious here and they check everything.  Even after I had gone through security and they had screened our bags and we had walked through the metal detectors they thoroughly patted us both down.  Then we walked down a long hallway on the way to the gate.  Now we have to fill out an immigration card and be inspected again with a man looking at our cards we have filled out.  He asks a lot of questions and then he decides to let us through.  Then in order to get into the hallway with the gates we have to show our passport, visa, and airplane ticket.  Now we are almost to the gate but wait, we have to go through one more check.  They looked thoroughly through our bags, patted us down again, and looked at our passports and our tickets and our visas.  Again they ask why we are going to Nigeria and then we wait to board the plane. 

We thought we were on our way but we still had to show the stewardess our tickets one more time and then we were on our way. 


When we reached Nigeria (the plane was delayed by two hours because it took so long to get everyone checked in) I was surprised that the airport had Muhammad in the name.  We entered the airport and  had to do the whole process in reverse.  It is so intimidating to have men hold all of your papers and ask very serious questions and wonder if I am going to get into the country or am I going to jail. 
On our return, we had to do all of this again, again!
Probably the most frightening time of the day was when we came to the doors that led out to the driveway of the airport. There was a huge throng of people just standing there looking in the doors.  Many men and women, a lot dressed in Muslim attire, looking in. They may not have all been Muslim, some may have been in native African dress, it is often hard to tell the difference. We didn’t know what was going on.  We thought maybe they were protesting or something but we realized that the airport does not allow anyone in the airport without a ticket so everyone has to wait outside for their family or friend that is arriving.

This is the view we saw in the morning outside our hotel, the Best Western of Lagos (really).
When we pulled into the Hotel at night, the gate was opened by armed guards and they had mirrors that they looked under the car of the Church member that drove us.  Then we were able to get out as they closed the gate.  There was very high security so we felt save, sort of.
One very interesting thing for me while we were waiting for our car was the dress of the women.  They were dressed in the most beautiful clothing.  They looked Muslim but they didn’t have their chador (black robes and head covering)  on they had their beautifully designed clothes with beautiful colors and jewels and their headdress matched their outfit.  Their skin and hair was perfectly covered but in gorgeous colors and material.  I wished that I could have taken a picture but that would have been very rude and I was not in a position to take a picture without them knowing.

This is the street we had to walk down to get from the hotel to the church office building.  We really had to watch what we were doing.  Greg was carefully walking and some ladies accross the street started yelling and laughing at him.  He looked and smiled and then gave them a big wave.  They all waved back and giggled.  We are not sure what that was all about, but they were having a great time.


At the airport in Accra while we were waiting in line I saw a beautiful young woman.  She was decked out and was showing her shape off without any worries.  I decided to get brave and I asked her if I could take a picture of her so I could send a picture of a beautiful African woman to my daughters in the United States.  She was happy to oblige and I took her picture.  I asked her if she was a model and she said “yes”.  The women here are not embarrassed about what they have to show off and she would have given Jennifer Lopez a run for her money.

Greg and I went to Nigeria to do training for the Assistant Area Auditors for the Nigeria area.  We met at 8:30 in the morning and the training lasted until almost three oçlock.  The men were so happy to meet us after three months of e-mailing and phone calls.  It was like meeting an old friend that we had never met face to face.  The training went great.  The Church’s presence in Nigeria is even more than here in Ghana.  We met at the Church offices in Lagos which were very nice.  There is also a beautiful Stake Center on the grounds and some apartments for the missionaries and the mission president and his wife.  We are so grateful for these good priesthood brethren who dedicate so much of their time and their talents to help protect the funds of the Church.  They truly understand the seriousness of their callings and they are very faithful in their work.  We are so thankful to be able to work with them and now we can call them our friends.  They were so grateful that we were willing to come to Nigeria and spend the day with them and have this training for them. 

 This is Brother Sowah and Elder Haws on the Church property.  This is the Stake Center and in the distance is the Church Office Building that serves Nigeria.

We also had a luncheon with the group.  This was our first truly African meal. We have had a few dishes offered to us but now a whole meal.  They had a dish with “meats” in it.  There where livers and gizzards.  Then there was a pot of fish with their heads and tails still on that had been smoked. They also had parts of chickens that had been fried.  They had a pot of rice with some vegetables in it and a tomato sauce that was very, very spicy.  Needless to say, I couldn’t bring myself to eat the livers or the fish with their heads and tails but I did have some rice with the tomato sauce and that was very good. All of the men thought it was pretty funny that I didn’t want to eat the meat.  They all ate with gusto, the heads and bones and all!


Well, that is the life of an African Missionary for the week!  I hope you enjoyed it!

By Greg:

Everyone said we could not take a taxi to the airport, but we did not want to leave or car there (it might not be there when we returned) and we did not want to put someone out to take us, so we paid the 15 cedis and got in this really little cab.  I did not even try to put on my seat belt.  I did not worry as my bags were on my lap and they were as good as any air bag.  When we got to the airport were were quite the sight trying to get out of this little car with our stuff.  Debi almost broke her leg as her foot went the wrong way between the curb and the car as we tried to unwind ourselfs.

This is a Nigerian taxi.  It is a cross between a golf car and a motorcycle.  They are all over the place.
I went around the building and found this group of Elders.  It was transfer day and so they were all there waiting.  I held a min-zone conference with them.  The elders in the coats just arrived from the MTC in Ghana.  In fact, we met them there the week before.  I taught them the importance of member referrals.  "How many of you have been a member less than 5 years?" Over half.  "How many love the person that introduced you to the gospel?" Everyone.  "So go help the members show their love to their friends, tell them their friends will love them more!
Besides the golf cart-motor cycle taxis, there are millions of real motor cycle taxis.  This woman is riding on a taxi!
Debi is the Assistant to the Assistant Area Auditor, or AAAA!  She also carries a lot of stuff wherever we go.  She took part in this training and the men loved her.  She now has seven best friend in Nigeria.
One more thing,  Today in church, one of our new friends told an experience he had just had.  He has been learning how to design web-sites.  He has done a few for friends and on the side.  He got a call from some people who had seen his work and offered him $10,000 US to design a couple of sites for them.  This always turns into more as the sites must be maintained.  He was so excited.  Then he found out that they are not sites that we as Latter-day Saints can accept and agree with.  They may acutually be hosted here for display in the US and other places. He and his wife prayed about it, and his wife was very firm in her feelings that he not do it.  So he turned it down.  His conclusion was interesting.  "I have not stopped them from doing the web-sites, they will probably get someone else, but I have stopped me for being part of it, and that is what matters."

We either believe what we believe, or we don't.  If we believe it, we must live it.

God bless him.


1 comment:

  1. I am so glad you are back in your safety zone in Ghana!! I am also thankful for your successful trip to Nigeria. Great work!! I am so proud of you both.