Sunday, September 1, 2013

Finding the Gospel in Nigeria: 1996-99

Several articles in the Ensign describe how individuals in Nigeria found the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and much happier their lives are as a result.

Florence Chukwurah was born into a very poor household in Onitsha in southeastern Nigeria. She determined that she would escape poverty by staying close to the Lord, working hard with her hands, obeying her elders, and working hard in school. She decided to become a nurse, which was possible because of a government subsidy and a loan her father was able to get to pay for her schooling. While working as a nurse, a woman noticed that she went home after work instead of spending time with the men. So she sent her nephew to propose marriage to her. She prayed about his offer, felt he was a religious man, and accepted.

Both she and her husband very much wanted to find a church that filled their longing for truth but could not find one. They fasted on New Years Eve 1981 to finally find a church they could stay in. Their prayer was answered nine days later as they both had separate impressions to visit some friends.
When they arrived at the home of their friend, they were surprised when he offered them a soft drink instead of the more usual beer. He explained that because he and his wife now belonged to a church called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they no longer drank alcohol or smoked.
“My husband and I looked at each other,” recalls Sister Chukwurah. “We love each other so dearly that we can speak with our eyes. After looking into each other’s eyes, we immediately asked, ‘How can we become members of this church?’”
Ten years later her husband was called as a mission president in Ghana which gave them the opportunity to be sealed together, along with one of their sons. At the time of the article, her husband had just been called as one of the first area authority 70s. While her husband was away, her son was very sick and not responding well to the medicine. She prayed and felt impressed to stop giving him one of them. He quickly grew better. She knew her prayer of faith had been answered.

Dr. Pius Ozoemena was worshipping in a meditation room while at a conference in Italy. There he found two books that drew his attention, the Book of Mormon and Elder LeGrand Richards' A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. He wanted to know more, so he paid to have the books photocopied and professionally bound so he could study them. "Because of the revelations contained in these books, I guarded them jealously upon my return to Nigeria. For almost a year I read them faithfully and compared their messages with other scriptural texts."

When he went home for Christmas, he noticed that his cousin was no longer smoking or drinking. When he asked why, he shared that he had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Pius was overjoyed; he hadn't known the Church could be found in Nigeria. He went out into the streets of Enugu to find the missionaries at once. He was baptized and had the privilege of baptizing his wife. Interestingly, they asked him to teach Sunday School the week after his baptism. Since he had been studying intensely for a year already and was a university teacher by profession, he fit in beautifully. "I am thankful to Heavenly Father that I have found the gospel! It is so true, and God is so good!"

Two missionaries in England shared how they visited the husband of a new member, Adebayo Oganmokum, who was the ruler of 5000 people. Even though he encouraged his wife's religious interest,
“I can’t pray,” he admitted. “I don’t know how. Every morning and night my wife kneels by our bed and prays, and I hide my head under the covers like a little boy because I have never learned how to pray.”
It was such a joy to teach Ade the restored gospel of Jesus Christ because he was so excited about each principle. He knew they were true. “I brought electricity to my people,” he said, referring to a civil engineering project he had completed in his homeland. “But now I will be able to bring them the gospel of Jesus Christ!”
Peter Arungwa shared how as a 16 year old in the army, he was told to run 15 miles as a punishment for admitting he was a Mormon. When his captain confronted him that Mormons worshipped Mormon, he testified that we worship Jesus Christ. The captain eventually recognized that Peter was the only one he saw teaching other people about Jesus. He invited Peter to his home to learn more. A year later, the captain who had punished him for being a Mormon was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By the time of the article (1999), Peter was a missionary in the Enugu Mission where I live.

Houston Chinweoke Nmeribe and Raymond Idio Egbo were baptized early in their lives and were converted through attending LDS seminary Tue-Fri evening. The article provides several quote from each of them about their growing testimonies of obedience and sacrifice. They ended up serving as missionary companions, both being transferred from areas just before people they cared for were to be baptized, and both later became assistants to the mission president. By the time of the article, they had returned from their missions and were serving in the same district of the church in Calabar.

Sandra Rogers shares how her Relief Society president in Nigeria, Faustina Otoo, was moved to invite her to her home for dinner after a lesson she taught in Relief Society about being no more strangers. Faustina had been afraid Sandra would look down on her for her poor circumstances, but decided to reach out so they would be no more strangers. They quickly became fast friends:
“… We read the scriptures together, and that was the first time I had had that type of experience.
“… I told Sandra that she has show[n] me the life I think Christ wanted his children to have. I will send her my birth certificate and other papers, so that should I happen to die, she can go to the temple and do my temple work for me."
Aileen Clyde, second counselor in the general Relief Society Presidency, shared about an experience confirming the faith of some priesthood and Relief Society leaders in Lagos. Even though their meeting was cut short by a terrific rainstorm, pounding on the tin roof so hard they could no longer hear each other, she testified that each of them walked into the rain, they had "new courage to face, with hope, their immediate journey and their eternal future. They gave me courage too."

More of my LDS in Nigeria series can be found at the link.