Wednesday, January 30, 2013

This week in Nigeria

Did a lot of shopping this week at Balagun Market and another smaller market for missionary apartment items. Balagun is enormous...would take 3 or more days to walk through even without buying anything. It is packed with people, stalls and moving vehicles squeezing through narrow passageways. Items that are carried are on people's heads...usually women's heads. After making our purchases, it took 7 women with 3 large boxes balanced on their heads to carry everything to our car...quite a caravan!

We love Skyping with our children and had a double dose with Shireen as we talked to her again on her birthday this week. 

This week we had missionaries depart and arrive. At the departing missionary dinner the missionaries shared their testimonies and talked about what their mission meant to them. One missionary said, "I am free from guilt, free from shame, free from sin because of our Savior." This was quite touching. Another said, "The Book of Mormon brings tenderness to my heart."...Interesting way to express his feelings. Spent a long day training and interviewing new missionary arrivals. We were very impressed with their enthusiasm and spirit. 

No end to missionary excitement...We were called one night by some panicked missionaries who had two snakes in their apartment and didn't know what to do. This week our mission helped in training nurses, doctors and caregivers how to care for newborn babies. Five medical people came from the States to lead this training with missionary assistance. The infant mortality rate is very high here because medical people have not had sufficient training in newborn resuscitation, etc. This is part of the Church International Humanitarian Outreach Program.

A hotel where we stayed in Akure.  Looks great from the outside, but not so good inside.

A papaya tree

A cattle yard near our mission office (15 min away).  Seems as many people in the yard as cattle. 

Another hotel.  Loved the name - "His Grace Hotel and Suites"

The restaurant we have told you about: Seven Eagles Spur

Penny's Fajita dinner

An unexpected downpour.  Streets were really flooded. 

Balogun, Lagos Island shopping for missionary needs.

Penny and local shop keepers.

Women transporting our purchases; seven women in all.  Mostly kitchen goods.

Penny following the transporters through a very narrow street/alley 

 Ready to unload the goods.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

We just returned today... and no one even tried to kidnap us!

Tuesday morning, Elwood and I went with the mission president to visit several branches and groups of missionaries in our mission.  (Whenever the mission president leaves Lagos, there is always an additional vehicle that accompanies the one in which he is driven.  Again, because of security issues.  In case one vehicle breaks down, he would not be subject to highway bandits, which are quite common here.)  The president interviewed individual missionaries while we trained them on planning their time, appropriate missionary behavior, dedication to their work, etc.  We traveled Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; returned on Thursday, and then traveled Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

I know we should be used to the highways in Nigeria... giant pot holes, drivers continually changing and creating extra lanes, okadas (motorcycles providing public transportation) weaving through traffic, people casually walking with small children or animals in the middle of the road, and hawkers carrying large loads on their heads attempting to sell their wares to passing vehicles.  I must admit that when our driver decided that our side of the divided highway was too congested and headed up a steep embankment to the other side, facing oncoming traffic, we became a little nervous.  He drove along the side of the road until the appropriate side was a little clearer, and then cut across the steep divide and back into traffic.

We first went to Abeokuta, which is about 3 hours north of the mission home, for our initial meetings. On Wednesday morning we awakened to find that we had no water.  We called the hotel desk a couple of times to inquire when the problem would be fixed.  The second time they told us that we would have water in 15 minutes.  Sure enough, 15 minutes later we heard a knock at the door and were handed a bucket of lukewarm water.  As we frequently say, "Welcome to Nigeria."  We pressed on to Ijebu-Ode and then returned to the mission home on Thursday.

That afternoon we went to the village of llewo-Orile.  There is a church branch in the village as there are not enough members for a ward, even though there are about 10,000 people living in the village.  We examined problems with the church building as well as a potential apartment for missionaries.  When we stopped to get the key to the building from the branch president's house, he was preceded out of the house by a chicken.  Frequently, goats and chickens share space with families.  This village is on the church list to have a bore hole as their only water supply is a stream, which is used for washing, drinking water, etc.  They now carry water to their homes and to the church in buckets on their heads for all needs.

Friday evening celebrated three senior missionary birthdays.  Went to the Jade Chinese Restaurant...  Was great and a real treat since we rarely go out in the evenings because of security issues.

On Saturday we left for lle-lfe for more interviewing and training of missionaries.  We drove through lbadan, which is the second largest city in Nigeria.  It seemed very much like Lagos with makeshift market stalls, small houses, battered looking apartment buildings, many shanties, open ditches along the side of the road for waste water, and gas stations with no petrol.  As we continued on, we saw many fires by the side of the road as people were burning their trash.  Roasted plantain mixed with spices, a delicacy, was sold in some areas.  Went on to Akure where we spent Saturday and Sunday nights.  While there attended to the usual missionary business and other church activities as well as attending church.  See pictures below for some adorable children that wouldn't leave our side on Sunday.  Drove home Monday, which took a little over 4 hours bouncing from one pothole to the next.  Glad to be home.

Woman street sweeper.  Very typical in Nigeria.  They are everywhere.

Kids playing in stream in llewo-Orile Village

Village kids at play

Villagers resting under the shade tree

Carrying water from the village stream

Bathing, playing, washing, going to the bathroom, and getting drinking water from the same source

Fruit and vegetable stand.  These are everywhere.

Cattle in a pen next to the house

 Woman and a goat in front of the church in Akure

Victor and Victoria, former branch president's children and Elder Brown 

Children with Sister Brown

Victor and Victoria and Elder Brown.  They were intrigued with my watch

 Big cattle yard outside of Lagos

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy New Year!

We had a busy week training missionaries and helping to solve some of the problems that occur when trying to house, train and take care of 150 missionaries. Our mission is responsible for the Perpetual Education Fund which is helping young people apply for scholarships allowing them to obtain skills which will lead to jobs available in this area. We also continue to provide Church money to dig bore holes giving access to clean water to many remote villages.   Yesterday's excitement was going to grocery stores looking for food that can be used to make meals that are somewhat nutritious and not overwhelmingly expensive.  The thrill of the day was finding frozen peas even though they were rather expensive ($10 per bag).  Today a driver took us to our mission president's ward to see him bless his new baby.  We look forward this week to traveling with the mission president to interview all our missionaries.  We will be staying two nights in a place called Abeokuta which is about 3 hours from here.  We will also be visiting their apartments to see what their needs may be. 

We received training this week on "How to Survive a Kidnapping".  Hopefully none of us will ever need this but here are some of the tips:
1.  If you are kidnapped, the first few hours are the most what they say.  Don't resist deadly force.  Fear is natural, but try to remain calm.  Be prepared to spend several days or weeks in this situation.  Have an attitude of survival.  Remember you are not alone.
2.  We were instructed to say to the abductors:  I am a volunteer missionary and I am here to help people.  I do not have money as I am retired.  I am poor like many others and my friends are helping to pay for this mission.  Local members will do what they can to resolve this situation.  Give the name and phone numbers of local leaders.  Tell family members not to take or make phone calls to Nigeria. Try to establish a friendship and do not argue.  Don't criticize or condemn them.  Ask if they have a name you can use; use "elder" and "sister" when speaking to each other.  Ask permission to have scriptures and pray.  Answer questions about Church teachings and bear your testimony.  Do not be loud or aggressive.
3.  Do not say:  The Church will pay a ransom or that the Church has a lot of money or that your family has money, property and wealth.  Do not discuss the Church or leaders in other countries.
4.  Eat their food.  Exercise.  Keep track of time and days.  Escape not recommended as you are not familiar with the area.  Leave only if you are sure you and all in your group will be successful.  Do not touch their weapons and be aware of surroundings.  You may be moved several times.  Okay to say "thank you".
5.  If police attempt a rescue lie flat on the ground, do not lift head, make no sudden movements, follow police instructions and do not pick up a weapon.  
6.  All kidnapped missionaries have been released and no ransom has been paid.  You will survive.
7.  Best way to avoid problems is to travel only in daylight hours.  Use local drivers, lock doors and keep windows up.  If you do not see other vehicles on a road for some period of time, the road may be blocked by robbers.  Keep vehicles in good mechanical order.

All mission Christmas Party; volleyball game 

Missionaries at play

Chimezie family, a solid family in the ward.  They know no end of service. 

Ikeja Ward Primary at ward Christmas party


Penny, Sisters Winget and Jennings - making a Christmas basket for delivery.

Delivering gift baskets

Our Christmas tree and gifts