In an earlier post we mentioned that there are many dwelling places in Kenema which are partially completed and then abandoned because of a lack of funding. This is primarily due to a lack of home mortgage availability. When someone sets out to build a home, it may take as many as 10 years to complete. Many start a home and are then unable to finish due to factors such as income loss, illness, other priorities or even death. I did a search on mortgages in Sierra Leone and found this article from a national news source dated 2010.
“The need to develop a modern, deliverable sustainable and affordable housing finance scheme suitable and adaptable to the need of the people of this country cannot be overemphasized. The National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT), in pursuance of this need, formed a private limited liability company, the HFC Mortgage and Saving (SL) Ltd. to provide residential mortgage loans and mortgage linked consumer loans to prospective and quality applicants. This NASSIT sponsored pioneering mortgage finance institution
aims at making it possible for individuals and groups with ascertainable incomes to borrow to finance acquisition of houses and spread the repayment thereof over a period of time through longer term mortgage loans. The home mortgage finance act is part of the broader objectives to establish a sustainable and affordable housing finance system by introducing the enabling legal environment for mortgage financing.”(Sierra Express Media – 2010).
The problems here are obvious. First of all, there are few “quality applicants”
because there is no way to develop a credit history. How could the quality of an applicant be assessed when there is no track record to review? Second, there is a problem with “ascertainable incomes”. So many are self-employed in small businesses that to be able to validate earnings would be very difficult. And even if they could prove their income, I doubt many could afford a mortgage payment. And so as it is,
most people will rent a place to live. Sometimes it is a room with other renters inside of an already rented apartment. Cost of housing is unclear to me, but I do know that contracts generally are written for one or two years. One room in a small house might cost $100 for two years. A house with 2 or 3 bedrooms (no lights, no inside water and no power) could cost about $200 a year. While that doesn’t seem like much based on Western standards, here the average income is less than $2/day. And so it goes. The dream of owning a home remains elusive for the vast majority. A few are able to start building a home, and fewer are able to finish. The result? Unfinished business.
Last Sunday we attended the Simbeck Branch. There were 130 in attendance at sacrament meeting and we were stuffed into the chapel. The chapel itself has a small L shape to it so there are some members who come who sit behind the leg of the “L” and cannot see the pulpit. There are others who had to sit in classrooms off of the chapel because there were no more seats. Couple that with the street sounds coming through the open windows on one side, the sound of the generator running (to power the lights and fans) on the other side and a microphone system that neither picked up nor delivered sound very well and what you have is a recipe for a disastrous meeting. Except that is not what happened. Despite the crowded room, the noise from outside, and lack of a decent microphone, there was an amazing spirit in attendance. It was fast and testimony meeting and many of the members stood and bore testimony of the truths of the gospel and of the church. What was difficult to hear with ears, was easily understood in our hearts. We were sitting about 2/3 of the way back and my guess is that I heard and understood about 20% of what was spoken. And yet my heart and my spirit got 100% of it. How can it be? “…for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.” 2 Nephi 33:1. Just one more testimony that this is indeed the work of the Lord!
With LaDawn’s birthday on Tuesday, I wanted to do something fun for her. So, I agreed to drive to Freetown on Monday to stock up on food items which we cannot purchase here. We arranged to stop in Bo and pick up Elder and Sister Moomey who
came with us and made the drive enjoyable. What LaDawn didn’t know was that I had arranged with all of the senior missionary couples and the mission president and his wife to join all of us for dinner on Monday night. It was not a huge surprise, but it was enough of one that it made it fun. We ate at a hotel near the mission home called Brookfields. The restaurant was really nice. Each of us had something different, from pizza to steak – and all of it was good. For a moment, I felt we had been transported back to the states for the evening. LaDawn had chicken kabobs and I had surf and turf. They forgot to bring the “surf” portion which was a nice big prawn, so to make up for it they brought two. Yummy! We then went back to Elder and Sister Evan’s apartment at the mission home complex where we had delicious cake and ice cream. We were then able to visit a bit longer which we all thoroughly enjoyed. It was a fun evening and so different from our life in Kenema.
On Tuesday, we did some shopping. It was made a bit difficult by the rain which came down in torrents. On one street, I was thinking we might be swept clear to the
ocean as the rain turned that street into a small river. We still managed to make our stops though at a couple of grocery stores, a stationery store, a pharmacy and a restaurant to pick up some whole rotisserie chickens to take back with us. I have to say it was a lot of fun going into these food stores and buying things like Jello pudding (in boxes), maple syrup, cream, Hormel chili, Ravioli, tomato sauce and ground beef. I even found a can of WD-40 that I bought to keep the small steel wheels on our gate at our apartment from rusting. All in all, we had a great trip, getting back to Kenema at about 7:30 pm on Tuesday.
On Wednesday we went with Elder Pyrah and Elder Pace to visit Thomas and Josephus. Thomas is 22 and Josephus is 17. They have been taught by the Elders for a few weeks now and Thomas tends to ask good questions, but doesn’t believe the
answers the Elders give him. Sounds like he is being fed “anti-Mormon” questions from the preacher at the church he attends now. He is extremely bright and promised that he would put the Book of Mormon to the test by reading and then praying about it. Whether he has enough courage to actually do it will remain to be seen. I think Josephus tends to follow whatever his older brother chooses to do. We will see. We certainly enjoyed being out with the Elders.
On Thursday President Cobinah (District President) came to our apartment and we spoke for about an hour and a half on a number of different topics ranging from branch conferences to the training plan for young men and young women leaders. I love this good man who dedicates so much time and effort to growing and strengthening the church here in Kenema. Afterwards we drove over to the Kpayama building and met with Br. Bundu (District Councilman) to finalize the training for the Relief Society and Elders Quorum Presidency on solving welfare issues in the branch. Br. Bundu teaches physics at the Methodist Secondary School here in Kenema (equivalent to a junior high school). He is dedicated and faithful and a joy to work with.
On Friday morning, I spent most of the morning with Junior Bendu, the contractor who did the solar power installation in our apartment as well as the sisters’ apartment next door. I am trying to help President Clawson determine if there is a justifiable case to be made to do some solar installations at the missionary apartments. It has been fun reaching back into my financial background and building an investment analysis spreadsheet based on research of the cost of materials and labor. We will have to see if it makes sense to do this. I know for us, we love having the solar power available to us, especially when the National Power goes out, which it often does in the evenings. In the summers when it is hot and there is less water to run the hydro generators, I understand the electricity from National Power is even less frequent.
One of the things we are doing now is helping members who have been endowed in
the temple buy new temple garments. We help take their measurements and then order them through Sister Clawson out of Freetown. Because of distance we only do this for the 5 branches closest to us. For those closest to the District Center, Sister Emilia Samai, the branch president’s wife of the IDA branch has agreed to be the focal point. So, on Friday, in the pouring rain, we made our way to where she was and LaDawn went over the process for measuring and ordering new garments. I think this new process will be a blessing to members who have needed new garments but have been unsure how to get them.
Today (Saturday) we were planning a trip to Kailahun to visit the members there and take the zone leaders with us to show us the way. Unfortunately, Elder Mbuva, one of the Zone Leaders has contracted malaria and has been sick all week. We did not want to disrupt his recovery so we changed the trip to next Wednesday. Kailahun is about 3 hours east of here. They have a branch there which is growing rapidly and are part of the Kenema District. We are excited to get to meet them!
Because our trip was cancelled we were able to attend the baptism of two wonderful new converts in the Kenema Branch. Elder Isaac and Elder Gray were able to teach these individuals and prepare them for baptism. It was especially a sweet experience for Elder Gray as these were the first individuals to be baptized that he actually taught. It was a good meeting. Br. Yambasu and Br. Jimmy, the counselors to President Komba conducted and spoke. They did a great job! Elder Allen led the music and Elder Bledsoe and LaDawn said the prayers. Always great to end the week with a baptism. Two weeks in a row!
One last thought for the week. I mentioned once before that one of our guards, Charles David has an insatiable desire to learn to read. We have been working on the first chapter of the Book of Mormon for nearly a month. Today he was able to finish reading through verse 20. It may seem like a small thing, but for him it is huge. He comes from a strong Mende background and was never able to attend school. Never. Everything he has learned he has had to work and push himself to do. Please take a close look at the markings on these pages of the Book of Mormon. Do we put this much effort into reading our scriptures? Charles we are all so proud of you!
As I stated at the start of this post, there is much unfinished business here in Kenema. Yes there are buildings that need finishing, high school and college degrees that need to be finished and most obvious are the roads that need to be finished with asphalt. But there is a greater work of unfinished business here. It is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the bringing of the light and joy and happiness of the fulness of the gospel to the wonderful people in this amazing city. The Kenema District needs to become a stake. That is unfinished business that we fully intend to help finish!