Aba Nigeria Temple Open House

Aba Nigeria Temple
Aba Nigeria Temple

Before its dedication in August, an Open House held for the Aba Nigeria Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Open House started on June 16-17 for VIPs and media, then continued from June 18 through July 2, 2005, for the public. Over 25,000 people toured the temple during that time. These included members of the Church from all over Nigeria, many of whom have faithfully prayed for a temple to come to them, as well as VIPs, the media, and local people who came to see the beautiful edifice on a hill in Aba. Much credit must be given to Sister Donna and Elder Vern Whisenant for the wonderful service they provided. The Whisenants are full time missionaries assigned as Africa West Area Public Affairs Directors. They have worked tirelessly for many months to make the Open House a success, while handing out credit to everyone else involved. Others will be inspired by the tremendous contribution a faithful couple can make.

Because we (Elder and Sister Markham) did not attend the Open House, the pictures and stories all came through Elder and Sister Whisenant. They took most of the pictures themselves, but some came from their Public Affairs' file. The pictures of the temple came from the media package distributed at the Open House. They were taken by Matt Reier, a Church photographer. Brother Reier came to Ghana and Nigeria on assignment to take pictures for brochures, magazines and manuals. Thanks to the Whisenants for sharing and Brother Reier for his excellent work.

Aba Nigeria Temple
Evening View of the Temple

When the Temple was announced over five years ago, many outsiders who knew area thought it would take a miracle to build a temple there. They were wrong, it took many miracles, but it happened. Some people also said that Aba, Nigeria could not have met the criteria (economic stability, security, member density, infrastructure) used by the Temple Department to select locations. We don't know that any such criteria even exist or what they might be. The only thing that matters is the prophet directed that a Temple be built for the people of Nigeria in Aba. The Temple location is Upper Aba on Okpu-Umuoba Road.

Okpu-Umuoba Road Before The New Road
This was Okpu-Umuoba Road at the
time the Temple site was selected.
The Church received government
permission to build a new road and
bridge, all at Church expense.
Locals now call this "Temple Road."

The Bridge Before The New Bridge
All materials to construct a Temple had
to cross a small river at the base of
the hill. This was the old bridge.
Construction was directed by a missionary
who is a retired engineer. Good work,
Elder Stratton. The new bridge is still
used for laundry, but it holds more now.

Temple Entrance
The Recommend Desk Just Inside the Temple Entrance

Aba Stake Service Project
The road and bridge have been in place for a few years, so dirt and trash had accumulated along the road and on the sidewalks. The Aba Stake cleaned the road before the Open House as service project. Many members took part in work that was very hard and even dangerous along the busy road.
Aba Stake Service Project Aba Stake Service Project
Sisters, brothers and youth swept
and scraped the street and sidewalks.
Piles of dirt and trash were
left along the road.

Aba Stake Service Project Aba Stake Service Project
Brothers with shovels, wheelbarrows
and dump trucks removed the piles.
Some trash was too big for manual
loading, so dismantling was needed.

Aba Stake Service Project Aba Stake Service Project
This derelict van on its side... ...was rolled off the sidewalk.
Great Service Project, Aba Stake Members

Stained Glass in the Baptistry
Stained Glass Windows in the Baptistry

The Open House Volunteers

Whisenants with Volunteers
Elder and Sister Whisenant with Volunteers

A key for success of the Open House was having enough Church member volunteers to staff the various posts. Elder and Sister Whisenant spoke with choked voices when they talked about the volunteers. There were plenty, they were good and they worked hard. Some came from hours away on uncomfortable transportation, then stayed for days and asked to work double shifts since they were available. They all came dressed to show their respect and reverence for the temple. Their dedication and obedience was inspirational.
Volunteer Usher Volunteer Booty Fitters
Many volunteers were guides and ushers. Youth were assigned to help each guest
put on white shoe covers before entering
the Temple. They liked being "booty fitters."
Volunteers Volunteers
Sisters did everything including
providing medical attention if needed.
And missionaries were there to harvest
self-referral cards from visitors.

Aba Stake Volunteers
Volunteers from Aba Stake on the Last Day
The weather was very cooperative considering it was the rainy season.
It only rained once, on the last day of the Open House.

The Celestial Room
The Celestial Room

VIPs and Media
The first two days were reserved for VIPs and media. Over eight hundred VIPs and forty media representatives attended. The Africa West Area Presidency members were there to lead tours, teach and respond to questions.
Tribal Leaders Royality
VIP guests included tribal elders
and leaders in traditional dress.
There were also tribal royalty.
This is His Royal Highness Oba (King)
Ebenezer Agboola Ogungbemi and
Princess Mary Ogungbemi.

Aba Stake President, Loveday Nwanpka
Aba Stake President, Loveday Nwanpka, leads a goup of VIPs.
President Nwanpka has been hired as the Security Chief for the complex.

President Child President Workman
While leading a tour, President Child
listened to the deputy governor (from
the group) of Abia State bear testimony.
He is a member.
President Workman led a group
of media representatives.

President Schultz Area Presidency
President Schultz taught
local and tribal leaders.
Africa West Area Presidency, from left:
Sister and President Schultz (2nd Counselor)
Sister and President Child (President)
Sister and President Workman (1st Counselor)

Build It and They Will Come
Throughout the Open House the parking lot stayed busy and often full. Guests and volunteers arrived in buses, vans, private cars, and taxis, including the famous Nigerian motorcycle taxis, okadas.
Parking Lot Parking Lot
Vehicles arrived in the parking lot
from near and far. Some traveled
ten hours to reach Aba.
The happy passengers disembarked
and streamed into the Temple complex.

Lines Lines
The flow of guests was steady
for most days.
No one seemed to mind the short
wait to enter the Temple.

Lines Lines
Canopies were installed over the
walk from the Stake Center in case
of rain. They provided shade.
Spirits of guests in line were high, as all,
members and non-members, anticipated
entering the beautiful temple.

Elder Whisenant in the Crowd
No one was happier about the crowds and the activities
than Elder Whisenant, seen here in the center.

Guests Guests
The guests included the young... ...and the young at heart.

Guests Guests
Many families attended together. All came dressed in their very best.

The guests were very impressed by the Temple structure and the spirit they could feel when inside. Several made comments like, "If man can build a place like this, just imagine how wonderful heaven must be!"

Guests Guests
There were some very special guests,
like these twins being admired by
Sister Whisenant.
And a there were pioneers,
the Obinna family.

Baby Temple
This baby was the most memorable guest.
His name is Temple.

The mother shown holding her new son, Temple, was very pregnant when she boarded the bus with her husband for the five hour trip to visit the temple. They are members in the Warri, Nigeria District and traveled with a group from that District. The rough ride induced labor and her baby was delivered on the bus in the parking lot at the Temple site. There were volunteer nurses at the Open House to care for the mother and the baby (her second). The parents named the baby boy, Temple. Needless to say, Temple became an instant celebrity.
Baby Temple Baby Temple
Mom and baby were taken in (after
touring the temple) by this local
Relief President and her mother.
Aba Temple President Kirk and Sister
Kirk also met little Temple who stayed
in the area for a few days before
attempting the rough ride home.

Elder and Sister Whisenant Report
Elder and Sister Whisenant Sharing Their Experiences

Two days after returning to Accra, Elder and Sister Whisenant had lunch with other missionaries to share their experiences from the Open House. We were all spellbound for over an hour with stories of small and not-so-small miracles. The faith of the saints in Nigeria had left a lasting impression on the Whisenants. As we were getting ready to leave, a new missionary asked the Whisenants how long they had left on their mission. Elder Whisenant looked at his watch for the date, smiled broadly, and said, "Today is the day we were to have been home!" They extended their mission to cover the Open House and the upcoming dedication (Sunday, August 7, 2005) by President Hinckley. They both said the Open House experience was well worth the stay and much, much more.

Elder and Sister Whisenant
Well done, thou good and faithful servants.

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