[From BONIFACE OKORO, Umuahia; ANIEKAN ANIEKAN, Calabar]
Members of the Church Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Umuahia Nigeria Stake, trooped out Saturday to clean up the overgrown environment of Umuahia Event Centre located at the former Good Shed market in the Abia State capital.
Leaders of the church, adults and youth members participated in the three-hour clean up exercise tagged; “All Africa Service Project,” of the church which held across and in 21 countries of Africa.
It is a manifold annual humanitarian service when Stakes (Dioceses) of the church decide whether to embark on cleanup activities involving cutting of grasses of clearing of gutters, street sweeping; painting activities, tree planting or blood and food donation in their host communities.
Stake President of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Umuahia Nigeria Stake, Samuel Ekpolo, while participating in the exercise, told The Oracle Today that members of the church from different units that make up the Umuahia Stake were carrying out similar exercises at Michael Okpara University, Umudike, Ozuitem and Uturu.
Explaining why the church undertakes the annual humanitarian service, Ekpolo said: “We believe that the Saviour, Jesus Christ, engaged in teaching and preaching the gospel of His Father and also performed services, including washing of the feet of his disciples and so we take advantage of that to also perform services.”
He said the Umuahia Even Centre, which is nearing completion, was chosen for the exercise because of its unique nature and the desire of the church to complement the state governments’ intention to make the centre an outstanding place.
“We discovered that this place is bushy and unkempt, so we thought that our members will have the opportunity to also clear and clean it so that that the planned events and programmes in this vicinity can begin,” he said.
The clergy said that youths were the focus of the church this year, hence their overwhelming participation in the environmental sanitation.
“We want the youths to identify their potentials and to be actively engaged in what they can do, participate in activities in the communities that are wholesome and also acquire skills; cleaning the environment and helping government and the community to do the things that are necessary to keep us safe; to disengage them from activities that will distract them from the teachings of our Saviour, Jesus Christ,” he said.
Also, the Stake’s Communication Director, Kalu Iche Kalu, told The Oracle Today that the service was designed to give back to their host communities and to demonstrate the church’s belief in cleanliness.
“The essence of this service is that we believe in cleanliness, clean environment and that we can share humanity with cleanliness and that we can also render service to those who are not of our denomination or faith. We can partner with other groups, be they Moslems or Christians. It brings a kind of world brotherhood,” Kalu said.
The Communication Director, described as a good idea, the monthly sanitation exercise introduced by the government.
“We advise our members to participate in environmental sanitations because that is what we believe; we believe in working with the government, we believe that what government says, we have to do,” he added.
Highlight of the exercise was the planting of 40 trees at the Event Centre, with the Stale President assured that the church “nurse and see that they grow.”
Meanwhile, in Calabar, as and as part of the drive to beautify the environment and mitigate the effects of climate change, members of the Calabar Nigeria North Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, Saturday, planted 500 different species of trees in the Cross River State capital.
The tree seedlings planted by the organisation include; Temilia, Poliapia (Masquerade) and Delonis.
The project also marks the 15th anniversary of the All Africa Service Project of the organization.
The tree planting excercise was carried out along Parliamentary Road Extension, Marian Boulevard, Goodluck Jonathan By-pass, up to the Destination Calabar Roundabout.
This exercise, they believe, also demonstrates the commitment to the environment and community where the church situates and provided opportunity for the members to give time, service and sacrifice.
Flagging-off the project, Stake President, Calabar Nigeria North Stake, President Akwaowo, Joseph Ekong commended the Ministry of Environment and the State Forestry Commission for providing trucks, tree seedlings and for mapping out the area.
Commenting on the project, Chairman of the State Forestry Commission, Chief Tony Udiandeye said the project was in line with Governor Ben Ayade effort in the afforestation and beautification of the State.
He also commended the Calabar Nigeria North Stake for its choice of tree planting.
The Commission Chairman who was represented at the occasion by the Director Environment and Afforestation, Mr. Daniel Adado said, with increasing global warming and the COVID-19 pandemic, tree planting by the Church was apt and timely but said there has to be monitoring to nurture the trees.
Oracle Today learnt the Project is an annual event undertaken throughout West Africa.
It is a way of providing answers to many questions that affect the environment. The members make sacrifice and give service.
A member of the church, Brother Honor Ofem said: “I join Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the State government in its efforts to enhance a beautiful environment”.
On his part, Speaker, First Assembly, Cross River State Youth Parliament, Awatt Caleb said he was impressed that the Church could provide such a large number of helping hands.
He promised to build stronger relationship between his organization and the church.