Institute Students in Nigeria Celebrate National and Latter-day Saint Heritage

Contributed By Melissa Merrill, Church News and Events

  • 8 November 2011

“I know by following the teachings of Christ, I will be a better Nigerian.” — Ekpenyong Ekpenyong Etim, 19, a student at the Calabar Institute

Young adults who attend the Calabar Nigeria Institute held an activity, called “Our Heritage,” on October 1, 2011, Nigerian Independence Day. Some 200 Latter-day Saints and their friends attended the event.

At the activity students sang cultural songs and the Nigerian national anthem; participated in a fashion parade in which they were adorned in traditional Nigerian clothing, and performed a drama portraying the story of the country gaining its independence. In addition, Solomon Asha, president of the Calabar Nigeria Stake, addressed the students and encouraged them to continue to participate in institute.

Ekpenyong Ekpenyong Etim, 19, enjoyed the drama—both performing and watching others in their presentation. But the activity also helped instill in Ekpenyong a sense of identity, both nationally and as a Latter-day Saint.

“People see us and want to know the organization we belong to because of the way we behave—things we like and do,” he said. “I tell them I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know by following the teachings of Christ, I will be a better Nigerian.”

Ekanem Jane Ekanem, who has been attending institute for 10 years, had a similar experience.

“When we honor our national heritage, it becomes easier for us to honor and uphold our religious heritage as Latter-day Saints,” she said. “We are members of one large family of God. I know that the Church is that of Jesus Christ and not an ‘American church’ as the world sometimes sees it. The activity reminded me that I need to apply the teachings of the Church in my life to make my country stronger and better.”

Ekpenyong Ekpenyong Etim (who has the same name as a student quoted earlier in this article), 24, was among the members of the institute council who helped plan the activity. He said that the council wanted to accomplish two main purposes: (1) help young adults appreciate their national heritage and become better citizens of their country and (2) help friends and investigators of the Church understand the Church. He felt this as the entire group sang Nigeria’s national anthem.

“The singing of the national anthem reminded me of the great sacrifice made by our founding fathers, which sacrifice gave birth to an independent nation … and my [opportunity] to protect, serve and honor her,” he said.

Amuzie Nwachukwu, the Seminaries and Institutes coordinator for the Calabar Nigeria region, said that the students who planned the event saw the anniversary as an opportunity to attract students to an activity in large numbers and to teach gospel principles in the context of an important anniversary.

“The topic of heritage was selected for the activity because the independence of our motherland, Nigeria, is very special and important to us, and so is the Church very special and fundamental to our spiritual survival,” he said. “The students felt it will be good idea to view this anniversary side by side with the Church and its teachings.”

Because many students live away from their parents while they attend university, the institute can be a “home away from home” Brother Nwachukwu said. That’s the case for day-to-day life, when the institute provides a place to study, play games, and chat with friends, as well as for larger events, like Independence Day. The activity, he said, gave students and their friends an opportunity to celebrate without their having to participate in less-wholesome parties.

“Our leaders have been teaching us the need and importance of strengthening the rising generation,“ he said. “These youths and young adults are the future leaders of the Church and their communities. No sacrifice and effort that is tailored toward teaching and preparing them for this future task will be too much.”