The Savior Jesus Christ teaches us to follow Him by making the sacrifices necessary to lose ourselves in unselfish service to others.
As a group, Latter-day Saints are unique in following that teaching—unique in the extent of their unselfish service.
Our members’ religious faith and Church service have taught them how to work in cooperative efforts to benefit the larger community. Because of this, Latter-day Saint volunteers are in great demand in education, local government, charitable causes, and countless other efforts that call for high skills in cooperative efforts and unselfish sacrifice of time and means. (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2009/04/unselfish-service).
“Together we can do all things” was the theme for Church’s seventh annual All Africa Helping Hands Service Project, completed on August 17, 2013.
Latter-day Saints in Nigeria, Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone simultaneously volunteered time and energy at markets, police stations, health centers, neighborhood streets, community centers, orphanages, prisons and a host of other places in need of helping hands.
“This Church should be recommended for always thinking about the communities around them,” said Chief N.W. Akpan, village head of Ikot Okwot – now linked to the village of Oduo Atang by a new bridge built on the Ikot Okwot Road by 90 members of the Nsit Ubium Stake and 18 other volunteers.
These Nsit Ubium Stake members and other volunteers felled six palm and hard trees, lifted them to the site, prepared the site and constructed the bridge, among other tasks.
“This is a big relief to this village, especially our school children,” said Chief S.A. Udo, village head of Oduo Atang. The Ikot Okwot Road had been abandoned when the original bridge collapsed. Now children can cross the bridge to go to school.
At the Edo State Medical Stores Department in Benin City, volunteers trimmed weeds, de-silted roads and beautified the premises.
“In my 25 years of service, this is the first community service I have witnessed that is not attached to any financial returns,” said Dr. Eugene Udebu, Director and Programme Manager of the Edo State Essential Drugs Programme. “It is a marvelous experience!”
On August 17th 2013, the day set aside for the All African Helping Hands Project, eight wards, nine units and one branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Calabar Stake, Nigeria, embarked on a cleaning and beautification exercise in various locations across the State.
Members clad in their yellow vests with the Mormon Helping Hands logo worked at Mobile Police Headquarters Squadron 11, Calabar, Polyclinic Ikot Omin, Calabar Municipal, Police Training School, Odukpani junction in Odukpani local government area, Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) in Calabar South, Markets, Schools and other public Institutions in the State.
The event, which started at 7am, had in attendance, many prominent members of the community. Armed with shovels, machetes, rakes, brooms etc, they planted trees and flowers, cleared bushes, cut grasses, evacuated debris from gutters, opened blocked drainages and cleaned various public and private establishments in Calabar and its environs.
Interestingly, at various sites of work, non-members joined and took active part in the projects. Most of these people were afterwards taught the Gospel by the Full-time Missionaries and attended the Church on Sunday. Some of them have been baptized and are members of the Church today. For instance, on August 18th 2013, more than twenty members attended service in various wards and units across the State.
Particularly, in Ikot Nkebre unit of Ward 4, four new members who participated in the project worshipped at the Chapel the following day. The unit which is the home unit of the Stake President recorded a high number of new members following the Service Project.
The impact of the project is being felt by members of the community who now enjoy a cleaner and healthier environment.
In Ghana, Latter-day Saints gathered wheelbarrows, brooms, rakes, shovels, buckets and paintbrushes to serve their communities. The Church partnered with private businesses, governmental agencies and people of other faiths to provide this service.
“The reason we do this every year is to remind people around us that there is hope for the future as far as cleanliness, and also in doing good,” said Isaac K. Mensah, president of the Kaneshie Stake.
In preparation for the day of service, local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ met with community leaders to identify major areas of concern in Ghana. Many projects focused on improving environmental conditions in and around public schools, hospitals, clinics, police stations and marketplaces.
Along with weeding and cleaning the premises of the Pantang psychiatric hospital and its administration block, members of a Latter-day Saint congregation in Adenta donated several bales of clothing and shoes for the patients.
“We are really overwhelmed by this gesture from members of the Church, coming to clean our environment for us and also donating all these items,” said Alexander Agyei, an environmental officer at the hospital. “We are very grateful.”
At the Apremdo Army Barracks in Takoradi, volunteers mopped and scrubbed floors in the military hospital and replaced worn mosquito-proof netting.
“You people are not just preaching of Christ, you are also serving people just as Christ served,” said Naa Lamley Agyemang-Bediako, a member of the hospital medical staff.
The Sekondi Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital’s assistant health officer Ben Kwofie expressed his sincere appreciation for the service rendered by Latter-day Saints who cleared away overgrown bushes on the hospital grounds and cleaned ceilings, window louvers and floors inside the building.
“This hospital is big, and we have quite a challenge getting enough workers to keep the place in shape,” Kwofie said. “Your people are marvelous. God bless you.”
In addition to the contributions during the All Africa Helping Hands Service Project, Sisters in Sierra Leone initiated additional service.
On the 20th of October, 2013, members of the Relief Society Presidency and sisters of the Lumley and Goderich Wards in Western Freetown in the Freetown-Sierra Leone Stake, converged at the premises of the dilapidated government-run LUMLEY HEALTH CENTRE, Lumley, home to some fifty patients ranging from pregnant women to lactating mothers to children, to extend much needed helping hands to non-church members in our society.
After a short invocation thanking the Eternal Father for the opportunity to be of service to our fellow Sierra Leoneans and to one another according to our faith which is in Christ, the fifteen sisters drawn from the two wards cheerfully, vigorously and conscientiously carried out cleaning exercises such as sweeping, weeding unsightly grass near the front entrance, collecting the trash and tidying garbage sites near the hospital. The result was a clean hospital surrounding conducive to fostering good health and preventing prevalent diseases due to food and water contamination in particular.
Sister Tenneh Manly, Relief Society President, Goderich Ward, speaking of the outreach programme said, “leading by example will teach the community members the virtue of rendering service to one another, the importance of cleanliness and how they can keep their communities clean to prevent diseases, as cleanliness is next to godliness”.
Asked about the main motive for embarking on this venture, President of the Lumley Ward Relief Society, Sister Sarah Kona Minnna revealed that despite belonging to the same zone, this was the first time that the two sister Wards of Goderich and Lumley had come together to promote unity, camaraderie and cooperation among members of the two auxiliary groups, as the opportunity presented a chance for the sisters to get to know one another more. Sister Minna explained that serving in the church provided a unique way of demonstrating obedience and commitment to one’s calling in the Lord’s vineyard, love and appreciation of Christ our Redeemer and a visible exhibition of God’s Word in our daily living. She exhorted that blessings and prosperity will certainly flow, for “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God”. (Mosiah 2:17)