It’s been a busy and a rewarding week. Therefore, this week we will only focus on the highlights and I will talk about the “Appliances of Kenema” next week.
On Monday afternoon, Phillip Bunduka, a man we have spoken of a couple of times in the past, came to our apartment and told us that he wants to be baptized. He said that no one else knew and he wanted us to be the first. He wondered what the next steps were. We explained the missionary discussions and although he has heard them all in the past, he never really “heard” what was being taught. His heart is now soft enough to want to learn. We asked him if he had a Book of Mormon and he said, to our surprise, that he did not. We immediately gave him one, provided him a short explanation, said a prayer together and he left. On Wednesday evening, the sister missionaries that are teaching him came over and told us that he had already read half of the book and wondered how anyone could doubt its truthfulness! We just chuckled as it is further evidence of what happens when someone is ready to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness.
In the evening, we attended the Kpayama Branch Family Home Evening. We love being with the young single adults here in Kenema and Monday was no exception. There were 17 in attendance. We again discussed the atonement of Jesus Christ and how simple it is to access its power in our lives. LaDawn made some more delicious peanut butter cookies. It is getting dark earlier here now, so by 6:30 pm the sun is down and it is gets dark quickly. Even though we are near the equator, there is about a 45-minute swing in sunrise and sunset times year-round. Once it gets dark here, most people are shutting down and either already at home or on their way. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights seem to be the exception.
On Tuesday morning, we took Sister Musangani to Bo for an eye exam. She is one of the sister missionaries that lives next door and is from Zimbabwe. She has been having trouble with her eyes lately and as it turns out she needs glasses, so our mission nurse in Bo, Sister Moomey asked us to bring her to Bo. We also took the Zone Leaders with us as they needed to get to Bo to catch transport to Freetown so they could do exchanges with the Assistants to the President. While there, we were able to visit two small grocery stores that stock some items we cannot get here right now in Kenema, so it turned out to be good for us to make the journey.
Once back in Kenema, Clinton Gaima came to our apartment and we discussed what he had left to do in order to get his papers submitted for a mission. He was nearly complete about 18 months ago, but the doctor that had done his medical exam, got transferred and the paperwork was lost before Clinton could get it back. Now he has to do it again and that takes time and money. We discussed how we might help him find ways to earn enough money to get his medical, dental and police clearance. He really wants to go on a mission so I hope we can find ways to help him. Clinton is part of the Kpayama Branch and was in attendance at family home evening on Monday. While he is only 21 years old, he has awaiting his final paperwork to graduate from Polytechnic here in Kenema with a degree in business management. He will be a tremendous missionary.
On Wednesday morning, I spent some time arranging for 4 young men (Clinton was one of them) to do some yard work and general cleanup at one of our buildings. It has been neglected for a very long time and was desperately in need of some love. As I mentioned last week we have arranged for one of our young single adults with a small cleaning business to supervise the work, but because transportation is so difficult I drove his wheelbarrow and tools to the building and walked around and explained what we wanted to have done. These prospective missionaries worked for two solid days at the building getting it in shape. I was very proud of the work that they did and grateful for their willingness and desire to earn money towards a mission. This was one of those projects where so many people were blessed: the young men preparing for missions, the young single adult managing the work, the entire branch who will enjoy a better experience at church and least of all, me for helping to make it happen and see the cooperation and diligence to do this work.
At 11:00 am, LaDawn and I met President Cobinah at the central police station where we again met with Commander Alpha. President Cobinah was giving him an update on the work being down at the East Station by LDS Charities. Again, the police chief reiterated if there was ever anything that we or members of our church needed to let him know and they would do it without cost. A very kind offer and one I hope we will never need.
In the afternoon we met Ibrahim Williams, the Elders Quorum president of the Dauda Town Branch, and went with him to visit Josephine Kamara. This sister joined the church in 2002 and was very active up until she lost her mobility. We are not sure what happened, but she has a very difficult time walking. President Williams did a wonderful job encouraging her and helping her understand that her Heavenly Father loves her very much and that is one of the reasons we were all there visiting with her. She really wants financial assistance to buy a machine that will help her with physical therapy, but doesn’t have the resources herself. We discussed along with President Williams that there are many ways to help her that do not involve buying an expensive machine. He indicated he would bring her concerns to the Branch Council where they can discuss how best to help her. What I didn’t mention is that about 10 minutes after we arrived, Elder Pyrah and Elder Ogbanayah showed up. They said they felt inspired to come see Sister Kamara, without knowing we were there. Now they work 2 huge areas supporting the Dauda Town Branch and for them to show up at the same time we were there was no small miracle. Elder Ogbanayah is a young man of great faith. We asked her if she would like a blessing and this good Elder explained to her that Heavenly Father could in fact heal her if that was His will and if her faith was strong. I could feel the spirit testify of the truth of his words. We gave her a blessing and Pres Williams acted as the mouthpiece. It was a wonderful moment with all four of us with our hands on her head as a blessing was pronounced. There is much more to come in the future for this good sister.
From there we hurried home in time to leave again for the Kpayama Branch. We had arranged some training with the Branch Presidency at President Lamina’s request. We talked about what it means to be united as a presidency, what a good agenda looks like, their role as the presidency of the Aaronic priesthood and priesthood leaders responsible for young women. We also talked about how a branch presidency might divide up the responsibilities of leading the branch. This was an especially valuable conversation based on President Lamina’s feedback. We also talked about how to make branch council meetings effective. Overall time very well spent. We love these good men!
On Thursday, we attended District Council of the Hangha Road District. While we had just recently visited this District Council meeting, Elder Allen had just replaced Elder Adjety as the District Leader. Elder Adjety was made a zone leader here in Kenema. Though Elder Allen is still only 18 years old, he is an excellent leader and did an outstanding job leading the council meeting. The thing we liked most about the way he led the meeting was his ability to actually turn the meeting into a council meeting, where we all counseled together about how to be better missionaries. Great job Elder Allen!
Later that day we went with Elder Serano and Elder Gray to the Ngekia family to help them put their family history information into FamilySearch. Because the internet is so expensive here, it is very difficult to get names uploaded and ready for temple work. We
spent a couple of hours with them, using our mifi and computers getting the information that was there (they had been sealed as a family and so some information had been uploaded) corrected as the mother’s line was showing different from that of the son. For some reason we were having a problem with FamilySearch, as we would make changes and in one place it would show it changed, and in another place it would show it unchanged. it was a mystery. Even today as we looked at it some of the information that was entered it appears to have been lost. We will stay with this and make sure we get it all properly documented for this wonderful family.
On Friday morning, the sister missionaries serving Simbeck called and asked if I could come and give the child of an investigator a blessing. The investigators name is Sister Umo Mojueh. Her daughter’s name is Esther and she is not quite 2 years old. We met them at the missionary activity at Simbeck last Friday night. She has been suffering from a cold and had a fever and a cough. Mustapha Dassama and Maxwell Foday went with me. Unfortunately, the little girl was scared to death of us (mostly me I think) and cried, well screamed, the entire time. We were still able to complete the blessing and I am confident it will help her recover. From there we drove to the Hangha Road building
to review the work done by the pre-mission boys. They had done a lot of great work, but there were still a few things that I wanted them to complete before we considered it done. We talked through the “punch list” and Max and Dass who were managing the job said they would make sure it got done Saturday morning. I am happy to report that it was done and when I called President Domowa, the Branch President, he was thrilled with the work and the way the building now looked.
At noon, we went over to see Eku Scotland. We had reserved some time with him to talk to him about the gospel and to gauge his interest in being taught by the missionaries. The timing was great as only one person dropped in during the entire 2 hours we were there, that alone was a miracle. We had a wonderful discussion with him about premortal life, the fall of Adam, Jesus as Jehovah, the atonement of Jesus Christ, the apostasy and the restoration including the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. He was so excited to learn about the Book of Mormon and promised us that he would read it. We didn’t have one with us, but promised we would bring one back by a couple of hours later, which we did. This good man is spiritually sensitive. He knows that God loves him and he has seen God’s hand in his life. We love his humility and desire to continue to learn. About three years ago he joined the Jehovah Witnesses because he loved the literature that they brought him to read, and he learned much by doing so. We are hopeful that we can build upon what he already knows and share with him the fullness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
At 4:00 pm we arrived at the District Center to do literacy training in the IDA Branch with the two new teachers who were just called. The IDA branch wants to get literacy going and build upon the work done while Melissa and Dempsey were here. We had a wonderful experience with Joseph Kaintibie and David Nabieu. Both of these good men were just baptized last week and they are already contributing in a big way. We love this revised literacy program because it not only teaches a person how to read and write, but more importantly, it teaches them the gospel of Jesus Christ and does it using the methods in “Teaching in the Saviors Way”, the same as the “Come Follow Me” curriculum. It is an amazing program as we have previously indicated and we are excited to be a small part of it.
From there we moved into training with the IDA Branch Presidency, Elders Quorum presidency, Relief Society Presidency and YM/YW leaders regarding Ministering. The IDA Branch has already started with the ministering program, but they want to do more. We loved the time we spent with them using church video clips and instructions from the ministering.lds.org website. It went really well and when we gave them time to start working on companionships and assignments, they didn’t want to stop so we could summarize and end. It is wonderful to see how quickly leaders fulfill their responsibilities once they understand what and how to do things.
This story though would not be complete though without the saga of the broken truck key. I have been having problems the past few days getting the truck key in and out of the ignition. One morning it simply did not want to go in. I tried to find some graphite, but as one man said, “this is Africa, we don’t have graphite here”. So I used WD-40 and that seemed to do the trick, but it was still sticky. When we got to the District Center for the training I noticed that the tip of the key was bent, and I reasoned that was the cause of the problem I was having. So I put it in the crack in the fuel tank door and tried to bend it back slightly. SNAP! The key was broken and would no longer open the door.
Not good. President Cobinah pulled up about that time and I explained what happened. He immediately called someone who came out and was able to open the door with a “Slim-Jim” like tool which allowed him to open the fuel door and get the broken piece out that had fallen inside. He then took it back and brazed it (the key was brass) and brought it back and it worked! Problem was that the crack was obvious and we were concerned that it could break off inside the ignition. So President Cobinah asked him to go back and now make a new key from a blank. He agreed and said it would take about 30 minutes. An hour later he returned indicating that they could not make a new key so they brazed it a bit more, but now the key was too fat and would not fit. For the next few minutes they filed and filed and filed the key. They just couldn’t get it to work. Finally, about 30 minutes later, it finally fit and the truck was running! We were so grateful as it allowed us to drive home. It was dark by then and leaving our truck there overnight was not something we wanted to do. We were especially grateful to President Cobinah for his help. We paid them 70,000 Le (about $9) for their work. They were hoping for 50,000 Le, but we were so grateful we gave them a bit more. Turns out the man who came out with them was the same man who helped repair the front of the bumper of the truck after the run-in with the Okada. It is even a small world here in Kenema!
On Saturday we arose at 4:45, picked the Zone Leaders up at 6:00 am and headed to Kailahun. We had promised to come up and do the same ministering training that we had just done with IDA branch. We had heard that the main road was closed and that we would have to take the bypass, which is supposed to be shorter, but also very narrow. We started down the bypass road and as it got narrower and narrower, it looked more like a foot path than a road. About then Elder Dunn decided to call President Morison, the branch president in Kailahun, and ask if the main road really was closed as it did not look like many people had traveled the bypass. Fortunately for us, the main road was open. There was no place to turn around so we had to backup about ½ mile to get back to the main road. If a vehicle came from the other direction I am not sure what one would do.
Back on the main road we found that it was still a mess. The biggest challenge of this road is the rocks that have been placed in the road to fill some of the larger potholes. The worst possible thing that could happen would be to land the oil pan on one of those rocks, so driving such to avoid them is quite a chore. Let’s just say that by the time we returned home that night our Apple Watches had given us credit for a full workout! On arriving in Kailahun, we first did an apartment inspection. It was spotless. We are so proud of these elders and we are sure their mothers would also be proud. From there we drove to the school where the branch is currently meeting on Sundays and where the training would be held. We got there at 10:03 and they were waiting for us. How we love the Kailahun leaders! They had been doing home and visiting teaching already so moving to ministering was much easier for them than the other branches. During the
breakout time where the presidencies review their companionships, we met with the branch presidency and spoke to them about what it means to be a united presidency and what topics they should consider in their branch presidency meetings. We also talked to them about branch council, something they were not aware of. Overall it was time well spent. President Morison is an impressive leader. He joined the church in Kenema in 2013 and returned to Kailahun a couple of years later. Today the branch has 82 members and all but three of them joined the church there in Kailahun. President Morison is only 29 years old, but he loves the church and he wanted to bring it to his home town so, like Sister Senesie in Tongo, began to share the gospel with everyone he came in contact with. What he has accomplished and continues to accomplish there is impressive by any standard.
After the training President Morison invited us to his home for some lunch. His wife had prepared rice and a “sauce” with greens and fish. At first I was worried whether we could eat it, but I have to say that it was absolutely delicious. LaDawn didn’t eat much because it was a bit spicy, but I ate my share and her share both. The fish were especially tasty. It was absolutely the best African food we have eaten. After lunch his wife gave us each an orange that she had peeled with a knife. I have to say that it was the sweetest orange we have had here. I think the food in Kailahun is definitely better!
We left to return to Kenema about 1:40 pm. Halfway through the 20-km bad road section we heard a horrible screeching of metal on metal. I was deeply concerned realizing that we were 10 kilometers in either direction to the nearest town. We stopped and looked to see if we could see anything, but there was nothing obviously wrong so we got back in and drove another 25 feet. The sound was so horrible that I was sure we had a serious problem. We stopped the truck (in the sun of course rather than the shade) and got out and jacked up the front left tire and removed it. There we found that the shroud that protects the backside of the rotor had somehow gotten bent so that it was rubbing against the rotor. The problem was at the top of the wheel rather than the bottom where the rocks may have impacted it. The damage was in a very strange place. I took the tire iron and pried the shroud away from the rotor and it seemed to stop rubbing. We put the tire back on, got back in the truck, had LaDawn say a prayer (figuring she was the best one to pray us out of trouble) and then started back down the road. We had no more problems and made it back safely. We were so grateful for this small miracle.
After dropping off the Zone Leaders, we went straight to the Simbeck Branch so that we could do another Ministering training with the leaders there. We had only 1 counselor from the Elders Quorum and 2 counselors from Relief Society and the Branch President. Not ideal, but we went ahead. President Cobinah was also in attendance. We are hopeful there will be some progress as a result, but I am not sure. By the time we got home it was after 7 pm and we were absolutely exhausted, but so grateful for the marvelous and miraculous day we had had.
On Sunday, we decided to attend the Nyandeyama Branch next door. While we often see the members, we have both only attended all of the meetings there one time. Sacrament meeting was excellent with talks on obedience and prayer. I was most pleased to see the row of wheelchairs at the back of the chapel as members of OTC (Opportunity Training Center for polio victims) who had joined the church were there. It was so good to see these men. We decided to attend the youth Sunday school class but they had no teacher, so I volunteered to teach the class. We were going to talk about how we get answers to spiritual questions that we have but when one young man said he didn’t understand what the iron rod in Lehi’s dream stood for, LaDawn suggested we talk about the Book of Mormon lesson that we shared with the young single adults. That was an excellent decision, as the youth really responded to the story and the understanding of all aspects of that vision. It turned out to be a great experience for all of us.
After priesthood opening exercises the Elders Quorum president announced that the youth would stay with them since their YM president was not there. I immediately volunteered to teach them and was so happy to do so. In the class we had John, Usman,
Joannes, Ansu and Judge. Usman was baptized yesterday. We talked about what it means to be converted and from there we discussed Justification and Sanctification. I promised them that by the end of the lesson they would know something that no one else in the district knew. What was it? It was a thorough understanding of the meaning of justification and sanctification. I explained that justification means we have repented and the penalty for the sin has been removed and that sanctification means that the effect of the sin has been removed. One of the young men said this, “I have been converted and I want to be more converted”. We all like it so much we decided to adopt it as our theme for the class. I was so impressed with these young men as they were so eager to learn and understand this doctrine. Just one more evidence that the people here are hungry for gospel doctrine and need good teachers who will teach them.
It was a very busy week indeed for us. We glory in the opportunity to serve in Kenema and the surrounding villages. The people here are kind, generous, resilient and spiritually sensitive. It is a blessing for us to serve among them!