A few weeks ago in our post titled “Harmattan”, I mentioned that I had gone over to a tire repair shop to get air in my front left tire. As I feared, the air was only a temporary fix. A week later, I was again low on air so I filled it up at a different shop, right before heading to Tongo. I am pretty sure the bumpy road helped the air to escape just a bit faster because early last week, after 4 trips to Tongo, the tire was losing more air than ever, so I figured I needed to bite the bullet and get it repaired.
I drove to the first tire shop twice on Monday to get it fixed, but in both cases, there were so many trucks and cars there that I couldn’t even find a place to park. I decided I would need to go first thing Tuesday morning, and I was not disappointed. They immediately came out and helped me. I thought it might be interesting to walk through the process including a few pictures along the way.
They put some rocks in front of the back tires, which to be honest confused me. Maybe there was another one behind the tire, but I could not see it from where I was. They used my jack and tire iron to remove the tire and then placed a great big rock under the exposed hub in case the truck fell. I am pretty sure had it of fallen the rock would have ruined the hub! The tool they used to remove the tire from the rim was something like the picture here on the left.
I found it at Amazon and it is called a Powerlift manual tire changer base. It took two to remove the tire as one pulled the handle to break the bead and the other stood on the tool at the base so it wouldn’t tip over. The guy was very good at getting the tire off the rim. Reminded me of removing a bicycle tire using screwdrivers as leverage tools. He had long steel rods that he used.
Once he had the tire off he quickly found the nail and removed it. Now to repair it. No plugs are used here. He took an old innertube, likely from a motorcycle and filed it with a rasp like tool in order to create a rough surface. He did the same thing to the inside of the tire, but it was more difficult for him to get at so he had to push the tire up against a rock to push it in enough to create a flat surface. He then used a hacksaw blade to extract what I believe was rubber cement from an old plastic bottle. My sense was that they buy the rubber cement in a gallon container and refill this smaller bottle.
He then cut the rough area that he had filed from the innertube, put the rubber cement on it, letting it sit for about 10 minutes to dry and then he put the patch on the hole and rubbed it on with a steel rod with a blunt end to ensure the patch was well adhered to the tire. When he put the tire back on the rim, he unintentionally pulled the balance weights off the rim. No worries, once he got the tire back on using the long steel rods again, he simply pounded the weights back on. No where did he mark the tire to know how the tire was on the rim originally. The weights were simply put back where he could see they had originally been.
In order to get air in the tire, he soaped up the bead. This is the same thing we do in the USA, but I was impressed with their soap water container which consisted of half a tire. It worked great! After putting air in the tire, he went over to the truck, checked the air in the other front tire and then matched the one he had just repaired to the pounds of pressure in the other one. When he finished, I asked him how much I owed him, he said 30,000 Le ($3.60). I told someone the next day how much I paid, and they told me it should have been 10,000 Le! I guess that is the consequence of having a white face in Kenema. In any case, the tire has not lost any air since the repair, which makes us very happy!
If the theme of last week was Tongo, the theme of this week should be Family History. It has been an amazing week.
On Wednesday we went with Elder Bledsoe and Elder Marava to Sister Monjama Saidu’s home. She is a very recent convert and has already begun work on her family history. We brought our computer and MIFI and Elder Bledsoe helped her to put the names of her parents and her deceased husbands into FamilySearch. We then prepared PDFs of the names and sent them to the Family History Elders in the mission who send them to various former missionaries to complete the work in the temples around the world. It is hard to explain the joy she felt as she pushed that final button to submit the names. The spirit of Elijah was alive and well in that visit. Sister Saidu is the first new convert in over a year to submit a name to the temple in the Kenema District. We are so proud of her and so proud of the Elders who worked with her to make this possible.
At the Missionary District Council meeting on Thursday, the bulk of the meeting was focused on counseling together about how to move the family history work forward here in the district. Elder Hadlock and Elder Sparks both did a wonderful job introducing and then discussing the topic. At the end of the meeting, Elder Hadlock asked us if we might be available that afternoon to come and help them with 5 members who were committed to come to the district center at 4 pm for help inputting their family history. Tobechi Inmpey, the district family history consultant, would be there, but he felt if everyone showed up they would need more help. We were pleased to be available and to go.
While we love to be involved in helping the members, we want the missionaries to learn how to do this work and become proficient consultants, so we let them drive the computer with the member next to them and then help with questions as they come up. Mustapha Smarth, a recent convert in the IDA Branch was there right at 4 pm. We fired up the computer and Elder Hadlock helped him load most of the records on his father’s side into the computer. A bit later, twins Hawanatu and Saodatu Amara came. Since they share the same ancestry, they needed only to input those who were living on both accounts, and then they were able to link to the names of those who have passed away. Elder Hadlock helped Hawantu and Elder Makaafi helped Saodatu. There was such joy working with these young single adult sisters and seeing the happiness they experienced as they prepared these names for the temple. Generally the biggest issue we have here is with dates. Names are generally known back to 2 or 3 generations, but the dates get lost. This is often further complicated when a muslim man who is a chief in a village has multiple wives and often will take young brides in his 50’s and 60’s. We manage to work through it until it feels right to the members we are helping. We are grateful for the ability to estimate dates in many of these cases.
While we were working with the elders and Hawanatu and Saodatu, Tobechi and Mariama Gendemeh (IDA branch consultant) worked with Jessica and Gloria Kallon to input names. All in all together there were over 60 ordinances prepared for the temple in a little over 2 hours. The district is having a temple trip in two weeks and these names will be sent with the group so that they can be completed soon. We all left the building feeling such gratitude and joy for the blessings of temple work and the spirit of Elijah.
While these experiences with the missionaries and members here in Kenema were exceptional, for me personally they paled in comparison to my own family history success. Last week I mentioned that a 4th cousin contacted me about my great great grandfather Jan Vesely and through this cousin and a researcher she hired we were able to find the home village of the Vesely’s, the name of my great great grandmother (Frantiska Kuncova) and subsequently many Vesely ancestors and cousins. After completing the work with the Vesely’s, I went back to that same researcher and asked him if he could check to see if by chance the Beran’s were from that same village. My great grandfather (the son of the woman whose name we had found) had married a Beran and I thought it might be possible they were from the same village. Turns out that is exactly where they were from! I was excited to finally be able to complete the last missing line in my family history, at least back to the late 1700’s. LaDawn was terrific at taking the names from the individual word documents provided by the researcher and putting them into family group sheets so we could make sense of all that we had. This week alone we have input over 150 new family names! If that was not enough of a miracle, a “cousin” in the Czech Republic that was matched with me through Myheritage DNA named Zdenka Pazdera provided me even more information that I was seeking. I had sent her a note back in October, and did not realize she had responded soon thereafter confirming that we were indeed related through my Pazdera line. We corresponded back and forth several times during the week and yesterday she sent me a note about my great grandfather Joseph Pazdera. Turns out her great grandfather was Antonin, Joseph’s younger brother. He had kept a journal for some period of time and had information about Joseph and the entire family. I knew that Joseph had left the village of Kozly near Prague and traveled to Slovakia close to the Ukrainian border where he found and married my great grandmother. I could never understand what it was that took him from Bohemia to Slovakia in the mid to late 1800’s. Turns out Antonin wrote about Joseph being in the 66th regiment of the Army and stationed in Uzhhorod, Ukraine where he met Julia and married her. Uzhhorod is within 10 miles of the home village of my great grandmother Julia Rehon. The mystery has now been solved! Zdenka has even agreed to make a copy of Antonin’s journal and send it to me. Also this week, another second cousin, the oldest great great grandchild of Jan and Frantiska Vesely, has agreed to write a few paragraphs on memories of each of our forebears who lived in and around Dardanelle, Arkansas that she knew. I have felt an ever increasing need to preserve more memories about my mom’s family and this was just one more miracle. Hard to argue about the blessings of full-time missionary service!
Friday was Tongo Day and it was another wonderful day. In fact, we now have our first 3 baptismal dates scheduled for March 16th. John, Rebekah Grace and Konawa have all accepted that date. I am sure they wish it were sooner. However, with putting it into next month, I am confident we will have others who will be ready to join them by then. There are at least 10 that are moving towards that date. James, Peter, Lasana, Sahr, Hannah, Fatmata and Braima to name those that easily come to mind. I think March 16th is going to be a glorious day!
The other key development was the meeting of the Burma Branch clerk’s family. Jelius Kanu lives in Kenema but his family lives in Tongo. He spent the day with us on Friday, as we only had one branch missionary with us and at the end of the day, we stopped by to meet his family before bringing Jelius back to Kenema with us. Wow, I was impressed. Here is an intact family with 6 amazing children. Jelius is the oldest. They are eager to learn about the church so we met them with the promise to go back next week and teach them. I only wish I would have snapped a picture. I will do so this week. They all promised to come to church next Sunday so we will see what happens. The strength and faith of the people in Tongo continue to impress me!
Last week we visited Eku Scotland twice. Once on Tuesday and once on Saturday. On Tuesday we spoke exclusively of the Plan of Salvation. We had drawn the plan out on a paper the Saturday before, but this week we walked through each component of the plan, much of which we had spoken of before as part of other discussions. While he had never really thought much about a pre-mortal life, he had to admit that it made sense, especially after we read through a number of the pre-mortal life scriptures in the Bible and Book of Mormon. He was also intrigued by baptism for the dead and the opportunity for everyone to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ in the spirit world. We had a good discussion on the degrees of glory and that God has prepared a kingdom of glory for even the vilest of sinners.
On Saturday we went back to talk about 3 Nephi chapters 15-18. These are such sacred and holy chapters as the Savior teaches the Nephites profound doctrine in profound ways. We discussed the law of Moses and how the Gospel of Jesus Christ fulfilled the law.
He had even underlined the sentence containing the word “fulfilled” when he had read it, being impressed by the implication of the statement. We also talked about the other lost sheep and how the Book of Mormon reveals those sheep to the world. We spoke about who the Gentiles are and how they will accept the gospel in the last days and then be the ones to bring it to the Jews. When we got to chapter 17, LaDawn’s favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon, we read nearly every verse. He loved the idea of “pondering” and felt it described his own thinking on the things we have been discussing. He loved the imagery of Christ praying for the people and then blessing the children one by one. It was a spiritual feast for all of us as we read and discussed this wonderful chapter. His last question was about the sacrament that Christ instituted among the Nephites in chapter 18. In their Jehovah Witnesses congregation here in Kenema, they have what they term as the Lord’s supper once each year. They pass the sacrament, bread and wine, but not a single person partakes of it. Eku says not even the leaders. Apparently the perspective is that if you have any sin within you, you should let it pass you by. That makes everyone else afraid to partake because they feel they will be judged as seeing themselves as better than everyone else. It is a strange practice that has evolved from a simple practice of partaking of the sacrament to renew our covenants with God each week. As we left, Eku offered a heart felt prayer. He wants to know for himself and is so grateful for the opportunity to talk about these things with us. And we are also grateful to be able to discuss them with him as he is a man of deep spiritual roots.
I have continued to teach Charles David, our guard, how to read 5-6 days each week in the evenings. We are using the church’s new literacy program and are currently on chapter 7 of Book 2. (There will eventually be five books). Book two focuses a lot more on teaching doctrine from the hymns and incorporating reading into learning those hymns as well as new grammar rules.
I was especially impressed with Chapter 2 on how to have Family Home Evening. After studying this chapter for a few nights, Charles put together a plan and then held his first ever Family Home Evening at his home, complete with a game at the end. The evening after holding the FHE, he came to work so happy. Imagine someone who loves the gospel, but feels incapable of teaching his family. Through the literacy program, Charles has now learned how to begin to teach his family in small, but important ways. The following week the lesson was on choosing to do good. The central story was that of the Good Samaritan. We studied that story for almost a week until Charles could tell it to us in his own words. He then went home and taught that lesson to his family. This is nothing short of miraculous to see a man who a year ago could not read or write begin to have the confidence to tell scripture stories and teach his family how to apply them in their lives. It is a blessing for us to be involved with literacy and especially to continue to help Charles progress both in gospel scholarship and reading capability and comprehension.
For church yesterday we attended the Kenema Central Branch. Baindu Kallon will be leaving on her mission next week, so she was asked to bear her testimony. She is such a wonderful young adult and will be a great missionary. She bore a sweet and powerful testimony of her love for her family and her God. Both of her parents have passed away, and her older brother, himself a returned missionary, does an amazing job caring for his three sisters, a niece and nephew and his wife. How we love this family!
Sunday school was okay, but the teacher had to prepare at the last minute because he indicated that while they have submitted names of teachers to be called, it had not yet occurred. In his mind, this meant that he, as a counselor in the Sunday school presidency needed to do the teaching. After the lesson was over, I took an opportunity to extend two invitations to him. 1) Consider how might he get more people involved in the class (there were only 5-6 that made all of the comments), and 2) Consider thinking about how he could talk 30% of the time and the class 70%. Which would be the opposite of our experience on Sunday. I loved his response. “Those are both very good suggestions and thank you so much for helping me be a better teacher”. I also found the young men’s president after sacrament meeting and challenged him to have the Aaronic Priesthood prepare, bless and pass the sacrament each week. They are doing well having the deacons pass the sacrament, but the preparation and blessing is being done by elders. As we have mentioned before, the young single adults in the elders quorums across the district have taken over the sacrament (purely out of a desire to be helpful). Our goal is to turn this Aaronic Priesthood Ordinance back to the Aaronic Priesthood. What was the young men president’s response to my invitation? “Okay, I will do it”. I love the humility of the members of the church here. They have such a desire to be better and do better. It is an honor to serve among them!
After church was over we made our way to the district center for a meeting of the district choir. District conference is now scheduled for April 13th-14th which is eleven weeks away. Choir will start on Saturdays and Sundays during the month of February and we will then consider how many practices we will need in March to be prepared.
The need to fix the tire on our truck meant finding a place to remove the nail, patch the hole and replace the air. This allowed the truck to keep us moving around the district as we try to help to build the kingdom here in Kenema. Fixing a flat is a lot like repentance, it is something that we all must constantly be thinking about so that our spiritual tires remain full, allowing us to keep moving forward. There is so much good that we see here, both inside and outside of the church. We consider it an honor to be a small part of this work and to witness the hand of God moving upon this city and upon this country.