SPIDERS AND LIZARDS AND BIRDS (oh my!).
We had a great few days this week, so we hope you will read to the end to read about our experiences)
It is alway interesting to come to a new place and discover the different kinds of critters that you come across. Here are some pictures of a few of our favorites that we see both frequently and infrequently. This spider here on the left showed up the day after we arrived. The hand in the picture is that of President Clawson, our mission president. We have not seen this little guy since that day, but we trust he is helping to keep the riff-raff out of our home!
The next guy we met was this small sparrow like bird. There are at least two species, the other has a long beak. Whenever it is sunny in the morning they come and tap on our windows. We are thinking it is because they can see their reflection because when it is overcast or rainy they don’t come. To be honest, they get to be a bit annoying! It is interesting that they fly right onto the window sills, even though there are bars on all of the windows and they have to navigate them to get to the window. About a week later we saw a large black and white bird on the Sister’s apartment next door. It was humorous to watch it stand on the tin gable and slowly slide
down it. Unfortunately it flew away before we could get a good picture. But alas, a few weeks later we saw another one, this time on the roof of the District Center. When we asked what kind of bird it was, were were told it was a “Minister Bird”. No wonder it liked the District Center and the Sisters’ apartment! I looked it up on the internet and it turns out to be a Pied Crow. They look pretty cool in their white vest! We do have some normal critters here as well. Cows and Sheep. The cows were tied up but the sheep were free range!
There are two other critters I want to mention. The first are the snails. They are quite common and large, even for Texas standards! They seem to be always going somewhere, but not very fast. I have often thought they need to buy themselves an “S” car. Then I could say, “Hey, look at that S car go (escargot).
The last critter is my favorite. It is the agama lizard. These guys are plentiful and usually found around settlements. This particular guy is a male (based on the coloring) and is quite territorial. He keeps the other lizards in line and certainly keeps the outdoor ants in check. I am thinking we need to bring him inside to keep the indoor ants in check! I am sure we will come across more critters the longer we are here and perhaps later we will collect enough pictures to make a second edition.
On Sunday we attended the Burma Branch conference. I was a wonderful conference.
We sang in the Choir and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the members there. President Cobinah again did a great job, touching on Family History, Self-Reliance and the importance of Spiritual Growth over Numerical Growth. There were over 100 in attendance, which was their biggest attendance ever. This is the same building where the generator was stolen a few weeks back so there were no lights, no microphone, no fans and yet the Spirit of Lord more than compensated for the lack of physical comfort. I attended the Gospel Principles class, where those who are investigating the church as well as new members attend. The class was completely filled to overflowing. Matthew Kamara is the branch mission leader and although not yet a returned missionary, this 22 year taught with maturity and wisdom.
On Monday we attended the Kpayama Branch Family Home Evening for Young Single Adults. In attendance were Musa, Moses, Edward, Miriama, Emmanuel, Theresa, Clinton, Christian, LaDawn and me. The topic was “Love” and especially as it relates to marriage (they are using the Eternal Marriage institute manual). It was a good meeting for us to be a part of, as we had experiences as a married couple that no one else had (obviously). At one point a comment was made that if we love someone we can teach them and change them. I couldn’t help myself, jumping in and saying “No, that never works. The only person that we can change is ourselves, and if we get into a relationship because we think we can change the other person, the relationship is doomed.” We then discussed as a group how our example can provide a desire for someone to change, but that desire has to come from them, and not from us. We had a wonderful time being with these young people.
On Tuesday we held our 3rdmusic theory class and actually even ventured into a bit of piano playing. We were impressed that the two young men that had no musical background actually did the best on the quiz that we gave them. After our music class we met with Br. Fomba and Magnus Harding. Br Fomba is the District Councilor over the
Youth and Magnus is the secretary in the District Young Men (YM) organization. The young men’s president was planning to come but had something come up so asked his secretary to attend. We met to discuss the training for the youth leaders in the branches that we had discussed with Sister Kamara (District Young Women’s (YW) President) on Friday of last week. It was a fruitful meeting. We agreed to meet again next Thursday with both the YM/YW presidents and Br. Fomba to finalize our training ideas. We want to help them get organized as a presidency and also teach them about shadow leadership. We will then separate and teach the YM about how to use Duty to God for weekly activities and Personal Progress as a weekly activity for the YW. We are so happy to be associated with such fine members and leaders of the church.
On Wednesday we went with Elder Pyrah and Elder Ogbonaya and visited two less active sisters in the Dauda Town Branch. The first person was Martha. She is an intelligent school teacher who joined the church in 2014 but has since found it difficult to come to church each week. We talked about the Book of Mormon and its importance as being the “most correct book on the earth” with her and invited her to read from it every single day. She agreed she would do so and said she will come to church on Sunday.
The second visit was with Lucinda. Her mom Jeneba and her Dad Amara (both non-members) also sat in on the discussion. She has not been to church in a while, but she had her Book of Mormon with her so we talked about what the Book of Mormon is and how it can help her have a better life. Her dad was very much into the conversation and told her she needed to read it. He agreed to read a copy as well and the Elders promised they would bring him back one. It was a wonderful visit. She offered the prayer at the end. Elder Pyrah gave an amazing and accurate description of the book based on the pictures near the front. He did in about 2-3 minutes and it was really well done!
When we finished in Dauda Town we decided to go by Augustin’s house and give him a Book of Mormon. This is the 30 year old engineer that had told us a few weeks earlier that something inside him told him to come and talk to us (we were with the Sisters and they were teaching a lesson). I gave him a 20-minute explanation on why a complete restoration of Christ’s original church was so important. I explained the First Vision and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. At the end I could see he was doubtful of the “fantastic” story I had just told him. I then handed him the Book of Mormon, had him open it to Moroni 10:3-5 and read. I could see his countenance change as he read and understood what he was reading. I explained that this Book of Mormon is the evidence that the “fantastic” story I had told him was true. He promised he would begin to read it that night.
Later on Wednesday President Cobinah and I went over to the Kenema Central Branch and trained the branch presidency. How I love these men. They are dedicated, kind, humble and teachable men who are working hard to do what the Lord wants them to do. From my perspective they are doing a great job.
And now for the experience of the week. On Thursday, at 10:00 am we went over to the Kenema South District’s weekly district council meeting held next door. Attending were Elder Carlock, Elder Pace, Elder Otakhoigaboigie, Sister Gramu, Sister Musangani, Sister Enock, Sister Achi, Elder Pyrah and Elder Ogbonayah. The Zone Leaders were also in attendance, Elder Mbuva and Elder Ogada. We had a wonderful discussion about what it means to preach the gospel with power. Elder Pyrah and Elder Ogbonayah then talked about using the Book of Mormon as a part of Preach My Gospel. He referenced our experiences together the day before with the two sisters that we visited. Elder Pyrah explained that as we taught these women about the Book of Mormon, it was as if from his perspective, the book was “vibrating with power” in their hands. We expanded that discussion in regards to the power of the Book of Mormon and the need of the missionaries to use it more frequently in their proselyting. This tied in nicely to the discussion on teaching with greater power. It was a spirit filled discussion!
At 1 pm the 9 missionaries from the Kenema South District along with LaDawn and I all went over to Hope Ministries. Last week Jacob Moseray and John ( I forget his last name) came over and knocked on our gate and indicated that they wanted our church to come over and take over their church and teach them our doctrine. They know our church from a wheelchair donation a couple of years ago from LDS Charities. Their congregation is made up almost entirely of Polio victims who have been disabled from the disease. He indicated they had about 50 members. After counseling with Pres Clawson and Pres Cobinah during the week, we agreed to go over and make a presentation to the congregation and offer to teach any one that wanted to know more, but only on a one-on-one basis. This was acceptable to Jacob and so we went over. It was a magnificent experience. There were 30 in attendance, including 3 very young children. The missionaries taught the first lesson on the restoration of the gospel and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. I was so proud of them, they were extraordinary. We then offered to teach anyone that wanted to know more. 14 people signed up including all of their leaders. They are some of the most sincere, humble people I have ever met. I had a distinct spiritual impression, which I shared with them, that if the Savior came to Kenema he would come to them first. They truly are grateful for their lives and were so happy that we would take the time to come and talk to them and teach them. A woman who is one of their key leaders, expressed appreciation at the end that we came and offered to teach them one-on-one rather than expect all of them just to accept our doctrines. She spoke in Krio, and for the first time, I understood exactly what she was saying. Another minor miracle among many.
Afterwards Jacob took us on a little tour of their facility. They have 3 main buildings that they use that were given to them by them by the government or other foreign peacekeeping powers who were here in 1985. This group of people is committed to
helping everyone who comes to them to be self-sufficient. They pay their own electrical bills, and make their own way. They have a sewing room where they sew bags and clothes, a workshop where they weld and make household tools and a room where they do electronic repair. It was literally a mini Deseret Industries or Goodwill type of operation. I have to be honest, when this whole thing started I figured they were reaching out because they were in need of money, but not once did that come up. The Director (Mr Oku”) who we met on our tour, indicated that they realized that for a person to realize their potential, they need to be spiritually strong. Because of the wheel chair donation and the people they met then, they figured that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was the best place to get that spiritual strength. How right they are! I continue to stand all amazed at this work!
One last set of pictures. I brought a Mavic Air drone with me and took a few pictures directly about our home. Hopefully this gives you a bit of a perspective as to where we live.