UYO, Nigeria The plain, concrete building is home to 47 orphans including 18 babies. The name of their home is the Ndipmong Uwen Akpabio Family Welfare Center. Ndipmong Uwen means "where should I hide my life?"
The children, ranging from a just weeks old to teenagers, look to Miss Alice Henry, the matron, for nurturing and care. Miss Alice looks to Nigerian Latter-day Saints and humanitarian missionaries with gratitude.
"They really helped. You see, the kitchen? They did it. They have been visiting us," she said during a recent visit with her and her "children."
The kitchen she speaks of was once falling apart. Then humanitarian missionaries, Elder Bruce Wilson and his wife, Sister Ruth Wilson, of the Nigeria Port Harcourt Mission, stepped in with their tools and built new cabinets.
During this visit, Elder and Sister Wilson and Sister Nnenem Pepple, second counselor in the Port Harcourt stake Relief Society presidency, which has directed humanitarian help to the orphans, brought pots, sheets, towels, school kits, books (which the children pored through) and even a soccer ball. They also brought a white apron Sister Wilson made for the home's cook, Beauty Effiong, who proudly wore it to cook the children's lunch over a kerosene stove in the center of the kitchen.
These kinds of service projects stretch across Nigeria. "The sisters have the gospel and they want to serve," Sister Pepple said, explaining that members don't always have the funds to help. But they have time which they give abundantly. "We are trying. A lot of people need help."
Thus, they work with humanitarian missionaries, who, with the help of Church funds, buy their supplies within the country.
Elder and Sister Wilson work closely with members to direct and help with service projects. "We have a new project helping a group of 36 abandoned children near Eket where a Church member heads an organization to protect children's rights," Elder Wilson explained.
Reaching out to their neighbors not only fosters love and Christlike service, but it also affects the growth of the Church here. Aba Nigeria Stake Relief Society President Mercy Ofoegbu related how several years ago during civil strife, some members were forced from their homes to a refugee area. She and others mobilized help. Their efforts resulted in baptisms in the refugee camp. Afterwards, when members returned to their village, a new branch was created where refugees once lived.
At the orphanage, one could feel the charity resulting from Christlike service. As the missionaries and the Church News prepared to leave, the children sang. The words to the song? "We welcome you in the name of the Lord."