When resources are scarce, creativity rules. It reminds me of the old adage, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” That is certainly the case here. There is little that is not used multiple times before it is trash. For example, Sierra juice plastic bottles are cleaned and then sold for Le 1000 (about 12 cents) with homemade Ginger Beer in them. In an earlier post I mentioned the broken glass that is used as a wood shaping tool by the carpenters. Yesterday I bought a used blazer for district choir for $5. Inner-tubes are cut into strips and used as bungie cords, tie down straps and even water jugs. Tires are recycled into sandals. Strips of black plastic bags are used as Teflon tape for sealing water connections. 20-liter vegetable oil containers are used as “cans” for fuel. We see a lot of “slide-locks” that are rusty and dirty that are resold, taken from a gate or door no longer in use. We even
recently walked behind a man carrying a wooden handmade dolly with repurposed wheels. The list of items is endless. These are only a few of the items of which we are aware.
I want to talk about another kind of creativity. This is the creativity of the children, and especially the boys. They are quite creative when it comes
to creating games to play. One of the more common scenes is a boy with a stick, rolling a tire or a rim. There are two boys living near us that often “race” the two bicycle tires. One day while driving back from one of the missionary apartments I stopped and took a short movie of a group of boys “high-jumping”. They were using palm fronds as the standards and a stick as the cross bar. They were having a great time. Another fairly common pastime is pulling a sardine can made into a car. The wheels are plastic bottle caps with a nail through them as axles. A string is tied to the front of the can for pulling. One day I saw a boy with about 5 cans with wheels linked together
forming it into a train. I thought to myself, “this boy has broken a paradigm and is going places!”. Another young man in our neighborhood rigged up a “push” car. A repurposed tomato paste can with wooden tires (plastic bottle cap was like a hub cap). He had about a 4-foot-long square stick (probably a remnant from a carpenter shop) which he put into the can. He then tied string onto each side of the can and back up to the top of the stick to keep the stick inside of the can as he pushed it. It looks like he has an old flip-flop sandal that he uses as a handle on the stick which he wrapped the string around. Pretty amazing engineering for a young man! I think my favorite though was something we saw this week. Two boys
were trying to connect an old paint roller to a stick. They had something like a twisty-tie, or perhaps just strips of wire that they were trying to connect the paint roller to a longer stick so they could push it. Such creativity! Unfortunately, that venture did not appear to be headed towards success. Just one more comment. Because I go running a couple of times a week and LaDawn and I go walking a couple of times a week, we repeatedly greet the same people over and over. There is one group of kids that always greet us and are excited when we come by. One day, when they saw us, one of the older boys picked up a log and started “exercising” with it as if it were barbells. A few days later when we passed by again, a small boy was trying to do the same thing with a big rock. I couldn’t help but smile and take a picture of these future weightlifting champions!
On Sunday afternoon I went over and spent some time with the Simbeck Branch presidency. They were interested in talking about how the work in a ward is divided in a branch presidency and what each counselor’s responsibilities are. We made a chart with the names of the Branch President, 1st Counselor, 2nd Counselor, Clerk and Executive Secretary. Then under each name wrote their responsibilities. We talked about stewardship interviews, attending presidency meetings, spending time with the youth and working with members with welfare needs. We had a very good discussion. President Foday, the Branch President has asked for some help to come and train his Relief Society and Elders Quorum President on how to help members with welfare needs. I told him that we would be meeting with Br. Bundu (his District Councilman) on Tuesday and would work out a plan to train them.
On Monday morning we went for a walk and met Christopher. He was a kind man with good English skills. He knows the church and the missionaries. When we asked him how he knows, he simply responded, “this is my street”. He has lived there for 27 years and during the time he has seen much, including civil war and Ebola. I always find it most interesting to speak to the older generation. He was gracious enough to allow us to take a picture with him. That evening we went back to Simbeck Branch and presented Family Home Evening for the Young Single Adults. We talked about the importance of the Book of Mormon and the power of reading it every single day. One of the quotes we used that I really like came from President Nelson’s October 2017 talk titled, What Would Your Life Be Like without the Book of Mormon? “Whenever I hear anyone, including myself, say, ‘I know the Book of Mormon is true,’ I want to exclaim, ‘That’s nice, but it is not enough!’ We need to feel, deep in ‘the inmost part’ of our hearts, that the Book of Mormon is unequivocally the word of God. We must feel it so deeply that we would never want to live even one day without it. I might paraphrase President Brigham Young in saying, ‘I wish I had the voice of seven thunders to wake up the people’ to the truth and power of the Book of Mormon.” LaDawn shared a story from Ardeth Kapp and her great-grandmother Susan Kent. We had a wonderful discussion about how the Book of Mormon can change us as we read and study the doctrine contained therein. It was a wonderful evening. For desert we had made cupcakes with chocolate frosting. I think they liked them!
On Tuesday morning we met with Br. Bundu (District Councilman) at the Kpayama Building and discussed how we might train the Priesthood and Relief Society leaders in the Simbeck Branch in order to help President Foday help members in need of welfare assistance. We agreed to meet again this coming week and finalize the training. In the afternoon we held our fourth music class and gave out another quiz. This one also proved to be difficult. The best score was 15 out of a possible 25. But the young men are learning and really seem to enjoy figuring out the theory behind the music. Some who have never played the piano are actually beginning to play a few notes with the top hand and those who played the top hand are beginning to improve on their left hand. It is always good to be with them.
Wednesday was a special day as we arose early and traveled to Bo for a mission tour multi-zone conference with Elder Nash, our area president. Both Elder Nash and Sister Nash were wonderful. They were clear in their messaging and gracious in their delivery. Elder Nash spoke a lot about the importance of obedience to mission rules, with the first one being getting up at 6:30 am each day. He emphasized that how many baptisms that a missionary has is not
the measure of success. The measure of success is the person that each missionary is becoming because they are keeping the rules, studying the Book of Mormon every day, speaking and bearing testimony to more people and listening to and acting upon the promptings of the spirit. It was wonderful to be there. For lunch we had a piece of fried chicken, some French fries with ketchup and a bottle of Sierra juice. I have to say it was excellent. After that meeting, there was another one for stake, district, ward and branch councils. Over 100 people traveled from Kenema to Bo to attend this 1 hour meeting. In total, there were about 300 people in attendance, representing 2 stakes and 2 districts. It was so worth it. Elder Nash gave inspired instruction, showing how the ministering program is to work. He did this by having people stand in different parts of the chapel and then the progression of an investigator from teaching to baptism to the temple, always drawing nearer to God. He also depicted the role of Elders’ Quorum presidents, relief society presidents, Bishops and Branch Presidents and ministering brother and sisters. I could literally see and feel the light of understanding descend upon these good leaders in a way that they had not understood before. I was grateful to witness this inspired instruction. After the meeting we took the Zone Leaders and Sister Gramu (Sister Training Leader) back to Kenema with us. It was raining pretty hard and was getting dark. Driving in the dark and in the rain is not much fun here. There are people walking along the sides of the road, motorbikes and cars stopped along the way and big trucks without both headlights. It was definitely a challenge and we were grateful to get back home safely.
On Thursday we met with the District Councilor over the Youth (Br. Fomba) and both the District YM President (John Lima) and District YW President (Tiangay Kamara). We agreed on the training that we would all present to the branches during the month of September and into October. We will start with a discussion on Shadow Leadership (a special thanks to my friend Neal Rackleff who provided a presentation he had put together for the Klein Stake on the topic). We will then break out between the YM and YW leaders and talk about responsibilities, agendas for presidency meetings to fulfill those responsibilities and then a listing of class and combined activities focusing on Duty to God and Personal Progress. We are excited to see it all roll out.
On Friday we went with Elder Adjety and Elder Holi to visit Josephine, a less active young woman. We had a good conversation with her, but the highlight at the end was a prayer offered by LaDawn at Josephine’s request. There was such a sweet sweet spirit as we sat on that porch with two missionaries, a branch missionary, Josephine and her father. I will forever be grateful for that moment. While the discussion was good, I think the spirit of that prayer probably did more to help Josephine than anything else that was said. Josephine’s dad is a member but her mom is not. She is Muslin. The hug that Josephine gave to LaDawn at the end was heartwarming as it seemed as though she missed the spiritual connection with her mom and found that connection with LaDawn and did not want to lose it.
It is always nice to end the week with a baptism. This afternoon, Howa Konneh was baptized into the church and became a member of the Simbeck Branch. She is 14 and the adopted daughter of the sister of the Young Women’s president of the Nyandeyama Branch. Br. Lawrence Ene, a District Councilman performed the baptism. It was so good to be there and witness the joy this young woman felt as she entered into the waters of baptism and made a commitment to take upon herself the name of Jesus Christ. Sister Enock and Sister Musangani were the missionaries who taught her.
Is there creativity in Kenema? Yes, definitely. People here just make life work, using whatever is available to them for both work and play. Perhaps the greatest creativity though is the ways that people find to Come Unto Christ. It is rare to meet anyone over the age of 12 that is not a convert to the church. Many, if not most, are the only member in their family. Many are children of Muslim parents. And yet they find ways strengthen their testimony, serve others, attend church and bless their own families. It is marvelous to see the hand of God in this great work.