Today was our second Sabbath in Qatar. I say "Sabbath" because here we go to church on Friday instead of Sunday. For Qataris, Sunday is the first day of the work week. It is going to take awhile for us to get used to that. I keep thinking today is Sunday when it is really Friday. So our Thursday night is like a Friday night and our Saturday night is like a Sunday night back home. Get it?! For a planner like me, it has been driving me crazy. Part of keeping the Sabbath day holy now requires me to make sure and shop on Thursday.
The ward here is bigger than I imagined it would be, and there are still many people on vacation in the states right now who will be coming back in the next few weeks before school starts. I am told that the Primary has just over 30 children when everyone comes back. We belong to the Arabian Penninsula Stake, and get this - there are about 2,000 saints who live in Saudi Arabia. All the women there must wear the shayla (head scarf) or an abaya (long black robe/dress), and they are not allowed to drive. I cannot imagine being that dependent on my husband to just get groceries.
There are two wards here in Doha, and we meet in a large villa downtown that has been remodeled inside to serve the purposes of a meetinghouse. The Doha First Ward is made of all types of people from all over the world. Last Sunday, oh, I mean Friday, when I sat down by a sister named Minika, I received the largest and longest hug of my life. She smelled of spices and her British accent welcomed me to Qatar. She soon told me her background about how she had emmigrated from Nigeria to Great Britain and then from Great Britain to Qatar. She has three grown sons all living in England. Today her son, who is in his early twenties, was here visiting. Minika's very handsome son stood and introduced himself. His mom was very proud to mention that he is the Young Men President in his ward back in England. Last week a sister from India spoke and talked about her remarkable conversion story. The Doha Second Ward is made up entirely of Filipino saints. It is amazing to me to see the world represented here in Qatar, and I marvel at how the Lord has brought all these people together to lay the foundation for a new frontier in missionary work.
It is illegal for a Muslim person to attend church anywhere but the Mosque. So we are very restricted about who we speak to about our faith. In Utah there is a joke when you give directions. You say something like, "Make a left at the LDS meetinghouse." It is funny because there are so many meetinghouses. Well, the same joke stands here, only you replace the meetinghouse with the word "mosque". Knowing the restrictions placed on the people here makes me so grateful for a country where I can worship how and where I choose. Hopefully someday in the near future the Muslim people will also receive that kind of freedom. In Qatar the call to prayer is sounded six times a day and it can be heard from the loud speakers on the Mosques and the loud speakers in the grocery stores. So for now, I am choosing to use that time to remind myself of my blessings and my Savior, even when I'm trying to decipher the Arabic on a package of soup mix.