Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sunday....African Style!

We were 45 minutes early to our first week in the Wuse Ward in Nigeria...only because it started an hour later than we thought!  Otherwise, we would have been our normal 15 minutes late.  Having the time wrong spared us the usual embarrassment of slinking into the back pew during the Sacrament hymn while trying to remain unnoticed.  Instead, we had the rare opportunity to find our seats early and observe everyone as they arrived. 
I chose my Sunday dress carefully because I was a little concerned about being  too dressy or flashy for a humble African ward.  I was worried that my American fashions, 4 inch heels, and glitzy jewelry would be a little over the top so I settled on a plain knee length blue dress accessorized with a small pair of pearl earrings, skinny black belt and a silver bracelet. 

As more and more people arrived it became increasingly apparent that I was the one under dressed!  I may as well have been wearing gym-shorts at the prom.....Massively under dressed.

Since it would have been bad-form to whip my camera out in the chapel, I had to find similar dresses on-line to show how the women were dressed.  It was AMAZING.  The fabric headdress is called a Gele' and it is considered a fashion Must-have for Nigerian woman.  Looks like I'm going to have to find myself a seamstress and some colorful fabric!

Here are a few things that struck me about the Wuse Ward

  • The reverence was crayons, no toys, no snacks.  My kids were the only one's having a Pavlovian response to the opening prayer causing them to uncontrollably crave Cheerios and fruit snacks. 
  • There was no Piano-  The Chorister sang the first line as an introduction and then the congregation joined in. Everyone sang, and sang loudly.... but slightly different tunes than we recognize from the hymn book.  Since there wasn't a piano, I figured that over time the tune was changed little by little by the person leading, until the resulting tune was noticeable different.  It's a bit like the "Telephone Game" we played in elementary school where one student whispers a secret into the ear of his neighbor, and it is passed down the line to the end of the class.  The last kid that receives the message  and says it out loud is usually met with roars of laughter.  The end message almost always lacks any sort of resemblance to the original message.  Such was the music on Sunday. 
Norman Rockwell's depiction of the game "Telephone"

  • The ward was incredibly friendly!  The Nigerian culture is to greet people saying, "You are Welcome!!"  We had dozens of hand-shakes, back-pats, and felt very welcome.
  • Difficulty understanding in an understatement.  A lot of the time I just stared at the speaker picking up a few words here and there.  They speak English, Just English that is very different than mine!  Among some of the words I understood was "Woodruff"!  That caught my attention as I realized the Stake President was calling the newest ward member, "Brodda Tyson Woodrouff" up to the pulpit to bear his testimony.  Tyson gave a beautiful testimony of the Gospel, and thanked everyone for making us feel so welcomed.  The Stake President may have been inspired to call him up...or just wanted to make it easier for everyone to stare.  If he brought the white guy up to the front then no one would have to crane their necks and turn around to get a glimpse of him!
  • Nursery made me realize that African kids don't know about Snowmen!!!  This was devastating to me!  One of my favorite Nursery songs " Once there was a snowman, snowman, snowman.... was rewritten as Once I was a baby, baby, baby!!! 
An African Snowman.......

  • The Nursery and Primary kids could not keep their hands off of Sawyer.  Who needs toys and bubbles when they can play with Sawyer's baby-fine blond hair?!  He was a good sport, but had a melt down after at least two dozen kids had run their fingers through it. Now he knows how the neighbor's puppy feels after he visits! 
  • There's no A/C in the building.  Instead, the walls have vertical slats in them that open up allowing a cross breeze to flow through the building. 
  • The bathroom-  I discovered the hard way that  like most of Nigeria, it is a "Bring your own toilet-paper" situation. Aggh Crap!
  • The Youth are strong.  Over 70 youth from the area were visiting our ward while attending the area Youth conference and spending the weekend doing service.  They went to poor settlement communities and spent the weekend beautifying the area and helping with projects from hut to hut. 
  • White people all look the same-  There was another LDS couple from the Embassy that arrived in Abuja a few days after we did.  They are older, with 6 kids and a few grand kids.  During church, when the young women's president came to find me to talk to me about my high-school daughter I told her that I only had small children and directed her to "the other white lady".  I had to laugh because they really do think all white people look the same!
  • The Gospel is the Same-  The true Gospel of Jesus Christ is the same here in Abuja, home in California, and all over the world.  Todd and Heather Woodruff (who are in Taiwan), gave us a beautiful book as they said good bye.  It is called, "Children all Over the World Believe in Jesus."  It has striking pictures of different children from countries all over the world.  One LDS child depicted on each page either having Family Home Evening, reading the Book of Mormon, attending church, or just living the Gospel at home. 
 Attending the Wuse Ward, as different as it was, gave us an immediate feeling of familiarity and connection.  The knowledge that God is aware of us, and his other sheep brings a lot of comfort as a lot of our friends and family are scattered through out the world.  Our good friends the Peacocks just arrived in Ahman, Windy and Joseph Price are posted in Germany, Todd and Heather in Taiwan, Meagan and Chris Purdue in Singapore, our friends Matt and Monica Harrison have been in Singapore for the last year,  my friend and old roomate Leslie Aufderhyde and her family are in Japan after living abroad for years, and everyone else we love are far away in their own homes.  As different as our day to day lives are in each of our locations, we can all be united in our belief in the Gospel. 


  1. This is an inspiring post! It is true that the gospel unites and such a blessing that everywhere you go in the world, you have a built-in community of people who will love and care for you.

    Oh, and poor Sawyer! ;) That must have been a bit confusing to him!

  2. Diana - I love your post - - actually, ALL your posts! This is a wonderful entry, tho - and it is so comforting to know our family has their church family in such a far-away home!

  3. I love this. My cousin served in Ghana and he was blonde, too. Everywhere he went, everyone wanted to touch his hair and see his hands. I still remember all the Nigerians I taught in Italy. It took some concentration, but you eventually get used to their accents/dialects. I'd forgotten about the "you are welcome" welcoming. I loved that. Your little family will never forget this adventure. Man, I thought living in Arkansas was primitive.:-)

  4. I love reading this!!! I love to hear about life and the culture there. This is the first post that i have read so I look forward to reading more:) So grateful you have a big ward family there to help to take care of you.