Area Authority Seventy in Africa
When the Nigeria Aba Stake was organized in 1988, David W. Eka was surprised to be called as president. Familiar with the various tribal loyalties and languages involved with his stake members, he knew it would be a challenge. Yet through faith in the Lord, he accepted the assignment and went to work. With that start, the Church has since grown to nine stakes in Nigeria.
Brother Eka was born at a Protestant mission in Etinan, Nigeria, the oldest of eight children. His father was a carpenter, and by age 13 David was working alongside his father buying materials and supervising the workers. As a young man he joined the army and fought in the Nigerian-Biafra War, an experience, he says, that helped him grow up. He recalls one memorable incident. While in a bunker, he heard a voice instruct him to quickly move out of it. He stood to leave and urged others to leave with him, but when they refused, he climbed out without them. Immediately a bomb fell on the bunker, and he was the only survivor. With this assurance that his life was being spared, he began kneeling in prayer daily. If you will take me back alive to my people, I will serve you, he recalls saying many times in prayer. He was never wounded and returned safely home.
David married Ekaete Dennis Akpan in 1975. While working for an oil company, he took the opportunity to continue his technical training in England. There the Ekas met the missionaries and began studying the Church. After their return to Africa, David was invited to assist in proofreading a translation of the Book of Mormon into the Efik language. By the end of the project he knew the book was true and was baptized. His wife, meantime, was impressed as she saw him stop smoking and drinking, and within a year she too requested baptism. “I did not push my wife,” he says. “I just went about quietly doing my Church business, and in time she realized I was in a good church.”
In 1990 Brother Eka was called to serve as a regional representative and in 1997 as an Area Authority Seventy in the Africa Area. In 1998 he was assigned to the newly created Africa West Area.
The Ekas have six children, including two they adopted from a brother who died in an automobile accident.
Sewing Dresses for Tots and Teens
Nancy Church of the Federal Way Fourth Ward, Federal Way Washington Stake, recently looked for a service project she could do at home. Learning of the desperate need in Third World countries for children’s clothing, especially little girls’ dresses, she thought, What if I were to sew 100 dresses? After reading a pamphlet from the Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center, she visited a fabric shop and purchased a simple pattern for a girl’s dress.
Ten days and 10 bolts of cloth later, Sister Church had sewed 102 dresses ranging in size from 2 to 14. After checking with the humanitarian center, she learned that she could drop the dresses off at a bishops’ storehouse and that they would be sent to Utah.
Sister Church, who first began sewing at age four to make clothes for her dolls, felt blessed to be free from headaches that often plague her after sewing long hours. “When we wish to help others,” says Sister Church, “the Lord helps us magnify our talents and opens the way for us to serve.”—, Auburn Seventh Ward, Auburn Washington Stake
Finding Fun for the Family
Finding something fun to do with the children in September isn’t hard in the Mililani Hawaii Stake, where members invite friends, neighbors, and investigators to join them in pony rides and pottery making at their annual Labor Day Family Fest. Over 2,000 people dropped in during the latest Labor Day celebration to enjoy the many family-oriented fun activities as well as a day-long concert featuring a number of entertainers and artists.
“The events were donated by both members and others in the community,” explains stake president George Parkhurst. “Each ward prepared lunches or light snacks, and people brought their mats, relaxed on the ground, or participated in the many family activities.”—, Waialua Ward, Mililani Hawaii Stake
International Scout Delegate
Jonathan D. Rodriguez, 23, from Plano, Texas, was selected by the Boy Scouts of America out of a field of 2,400 candidates as one of three delegates from the United States to attend the Second International Youth Gathering for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage held in Cairo, Egypt, in September 1999. The 10-day event was held to promote the exchange of knowledge about and respect for other cultures and to build respect for our world’s cultural heritage, including antiquities such as the pyramids and the Sphinx.
The 50 delegates, chosen from various nations, were all Eagle Scouts who had demonstrated leadership both in and out of the Scouting program. They learned about Egyptian culture while making friends with many young men from different countries.
“As the only Latter-day Saint, I was able to answer questions about the Church,” said Brother Rodriguez, who served a mission in Argentina. “Because I speak Spanish, I was able to talk to delegates from Spain, who had many questions about our beliefs.” Also, a young man from Canada became interested in the Church. “Because of similarities of background, we became close friends, and I was able to share my testimony with him,” adds Brother Rodriguez. He continues to correspond with these new friends and to tell them about the Church.
He and his wife, Betsy, currently attend the Brigham Young University 140th Ward, Brigham Young University Sixth Stake.—, Plano First Ward, Plano Texas Stake
In the Spotlight
Donald M. Gale, Provo North Second Ward, Provo Utah North Stake, has received the William T. Hornaday Gold Medal from the Boy Scouts of America for his conservation work. Only five gold medals are awarded nationally each year to adult leaders. Brother Gale is chairman for the Leave No Trace program for the Utah National Parks Council.
Larry E. Tolpi of the Bon Air Ward, Richmond Virginia Stake, has been honored with an award for humanitarian service from the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). Brother Tolpi serves as a multistake public affairs chairman for the Church and has participated in numerous humanitarian endeavors over the past 15 years. He has helped develop a community youth program called Metrotown, has organized resources from within and without the Church to help homeless people, and has helped with the resettlement of refugee families in the area.