Paederus sabaeus Erichson or more commonly known as the Champion fly in Sierra Leone is a Staphylinid beetle (beetles attracted to animal and bird dung in order to feed upon maggots) found in both East and West Africa where it thrives in warm tropical climates. The beetle is actually a “good guy” as it is a predator of a number of crop-damaging insects as well as reducing the population of flies as a result of it maggot laden diet. The insect breeds in wet rotting leaves and soil and its population generally increases quickly at the end of the rainy season (November and December) and then diminishes equally as quickly with the onset of dry weather in January. The beetle doesn’t bite or sting, but when smashed against the skin releases a toxin known as pederin that results in itching, burning, and oozing about 12-24 hours later. The resulting contact of the toxin to the skin is known as Paederus dermatitis (also referred to as night burn). Studies have shown that the most common region of the body impacted by the smashed beetle and resulting burn is the neck. This is because the afflicted person will feel the sensation of a bug on their neck and reach up to brush it off, inadvertently smashing the beetle and releasing the toxin. Often this happens during the night while the person is sleeping. The pederin only occurs in female beetles, and then only those with the capabilities to produce the toxin. Those with the capability are known as (+) females and those without it are known as (-) females.
Because the mucus-like surface of the eye is less affected by the toxin than the skin, if the pederin comes in contact with the eye, conjunctivitis can result. Here in Africa it is often referred to as Nairobi eyenamed after the common name of the champion bug (especially in Kenya). [source: escholarship.org – Paederus dermatitis In Sierra Leone]
As you may have surmised by now, the reason we are writing about the Champion Fly this week is because of personal experience.
Last week we talked about spending a day in “paradise” at Tokeh Beach near Freetown. What we didn’t realize at the time was the LaDawn unknowingly had a run-in with a Champion Fly, most likely while sleeping Friday evening. Since we are still in the dry season, perhaps it was because we were near the beach. We are not really sure, but Sunday after church LaDawn began to mention that it felt like she had a rash or a burn on her neck and shoulder. When I took a look, sure enough there were three separate burn streaks which we believe came from a smashed Champion Fly.
On Monday, she woke up with a swollen left eyelid and two separate spots that appear to have also come in contact with the toxin. Fortunately, it did not turn into conjunctivitis and after a few days of ciproflaxin (antibiotic) and at least one treatment of antibiotic ointment, the burning sensation left and the streaks on her neck and shoulder began to heal.
There is not much one can do to avoid these bugs as they do not announce their arrival on your skin. For most of us, the natural reflex is to swipe at anything that feels like it is crawling on us, rather than taking the time to determine if it is a champion fly so that we can gently blow it away with a small breath. O Africa, what other surprises do you have for us?
On Monday, I met with President Paul Aruna (1stcounselor in the district presidency) and Francis Kamara (district clerk) and we drove one of the boundaries between the branches so that I could send President Clawson the coordinates to include on the revised boundaries that will go in to Church Headquarters. As mentioned last week, we are trying to get the boundaries on ChurchofJesusChrist.org to reflect the boundaries as they are known here in Kenema. I was able to “pin” points along the way on Google Maps and then once I got back home was able to draw it and save it in the file that President Clawson will review and then eventually send in to Salt Lake. Just one more thing I have learned on our mission – how to draw custom maps!
On Tuesday, I went over and picked up President Martin Foday (Branch President of Simbeck Branch) and we traveled over to where Joshua Laundeh’s father (Patrick) works as a carpenter. LaDawn needed to stay at the apartment because a member was coming by to pick up a temple garment order that we had brought back from Freetown. Joshua asked if I could go with him to speak with his father about his desire to serve a mission. I had mentioned this to President Cobinah and he suggested that President Foday should also go, so we went together. Joshua’s father is also the father of Bernard, and if you read the story on the Africa West pages of ChurchofJesusChrist.org, you will come to know a bit about his life story. While President Foday knows Patrick and his family well, I had never met him so I did not know what to expect. What Patrick told us surprised at least me. The first thing he said is that he wants to come and be a part of our church. He said he has watched his five children who are members of the church and the types of lives that they lead and he is impressed with the church. He said he is supportive of Joshua serving a mission and wants to help him, but has been out of work and just recently found this new job. He said he would come to church on Sunday. There are still some family issues that they need to work on regarding what Joshua does to earn money and prepare for a mission over the coming months, but overall a very positive outcome on a very short visit. We were pleased on Sunday when we received a text from Bernard saying that his father did indeed come to church. This is the second time in the Simbeck branch where a non-member father became interested in the church through the example of his children. The first was Philip Bunduka and now Patrick is the second. Perhaps Patrick will also be baptized.
On Tuesday evening, we again attended Family Home Evening with Charles and his family. This time it was because we had been asked by Justin Cook, the producer of the literacy training videos, to capture some photos and video for him to use in the short segment the gospel literacy team is doing on Charles. While he already has quite a bit of material, he is eager to show Charles’ progression and how gospel literacy is blessing his family. Since everyone in the pictures had to sign a release (or if a minor their parents had to sign), we had to work hard to keep only Charles, his family and the missionaries in the photos. To the right is a picture of the audience we had and all of the kids in attendance. Can you imagine trying to track down each of their parents? Impossible is the word that comes to mind!
The topic of the home evening was being honest and trustworthy. It was amazing to watch Charles teach his two youngest boys about these principles and express to them how important it is for them to be honest and trustworthy in their lives. Here in Africa, these are two attributes that are often in short supply, so to have a father teach his family these principles at home was inspiring. After teaching the current lesson, he went back and reviewed some of the prior scripture stories. The Prodigal Son and The Good Samaritan are two of his favorites. It was so fun showing them the video of the Good Samaritan on LaDawn’s iPad and having Charles give his family a “play-by-play” narration of the story. For those who have seen the video, you understand as there is no speaking and only soft music playing in the background. Charles has such joy in teaching his family and that in turn brings joy to us.
On Wednesday, we drove to Bo and took one of our full-time missionaries, Elder Ihentuge as well as a sister from the Kpayama Branch, Sister Isatu Sesay, to receive their patriarchal blessings. Elder Ihentuge is from a stake with a patriarch, but never took the time to get his blessing before leaving. Coming on his mission has awakened his spirit and he developed a great desire to receive his promised guidance from a patriarch. Sister Sesay is the mother of 5 missionary sons, the last of which just left. Their only daughter Zainab recently married a returned missionary. All of the sons have served in Nigeria. She so desired to receive her own blessing after all of this time that we looked for an opportunity to take her to the patriarch. It will be such a wonderful day when Kenema is a stake and they have their own patriarch here in the city.
After returning to Kenema we worked on editing the pictures we took the previous night at Charles’ Family Home Evening and recorded some audio that Justin Cook had requested from us. It was interesting sitting outside in the compound (we were trying to match the sound from “outside” since that was where we were in the original filming) with Charles sitting nearby listening to us answer questions about his progress. These were the questions we provided our input on:
- What was Charles Family Home Evening/teaching at home experience like? How did it tie into what he learned during his Gospel Literacy Class (Book 2 Lesson 2)?
- How has he been able to exercise the priesthood to bless his family? (Baptism, confirmation of his son, other ways?)
- How has Charles’ faith grown as a result of having access to Gospel Literacy?
- How can his example inspire others as they progress along the covenant path?
- What does Gospel Literacy do to help encourage family home evening and gospel teaching for those who may have never done it before?
- Any other thoughts/experiences you would like to share?
We won’t go into any detail here, but suffice it to say that after we finished I asked Charles what it was like to sit nearby and hear us talking about him and his family, he simply said, “It was very nice.” I think it helped him to realize just how much progress he has made and how his progress is now helping others, most importantly his family.
On Thursday, we attended the Hangha Road district council meeting. Elder Marava, a young missionary from Zimbabwe led an outstanding spirit filled discussion on finding people to teach. There were four notable quotes that we captured and will share here:
- “Whatever it is we want others to experience, we must experience it first”
- “Angels are preparing the people so we have to do our part to go find them” (see Alma 13:24)
- “As missionaries, we often move swiftly while people all around us are perishing” – see D&C 61:3
- “We must see people through an eye of faith – seeing them as the can be rather than who they now are”
We cannot say enough about the quality of discussion. Often the district councils will try to cover two topics, but I am a big believer in just having one topic and spending sufficient time to delve deeply into it. This was the case last Thursday. Kudos to Elder Hendricks as the District Leader for being wise in his planning and Elder Marava for teaching in the Savior’s Way.
When we arrived back home, Dass and Momoh showed up to clean our water tanks as well as the sisters’ tank next door. The Kenema Water system water (SALWACO) is not the cleanest water in the world, so about every two months we have them cleaned. We had some trouble with the water connection into the tank and ended up having to call a plumber to come and repair it. Cost? $3. After cleaning the tank, we dumped some chorine bleach into it to try to keep it cleaner longer. We are not big fans of the chorine taste though so we might go back to no chlorine (or at least a lot less). We have a three-filter water system, but the chlorine managed to get through all three filters. When we took showers the next day, the bathroom smelled like a swimming pool. Probably fair to say that 2 cups of chlorine to 500 gallons of water may be too much.
Later that afternoon the Burma Branch missionaries called seeking help. They were working with the branch clerk to print out a baptismal certificate and they couldn’t get the Leader and Clerk resources page to load. I checked on my laptop and had no issues so decided to drive out to Burma and see if we could work it out together. As it turned out, the problem was with the Chrome Browser. It was Elder Winter’s idea to download Firefox and try it again and that solved the problem. We never did figure out why Chrome stopped working.
Later that evening we went over to visit Eku Scotland to see about setting up an appointment. We brought him over a GoalZero battery pack and recharger from the mission home that wasn’t working. He had us wait while he worked his magic, testing capacitors and thermistors and finding the problems and then replacing them. We plugged it in and it worked, but when we got home and plugged it in here, there was no current flowing even though the light was on. We will take it back to him for another look. We did set an appointment with him for Saturday night, but it never happened as he had to go to Freetown this week and wanted to make sure his car could make the trip so he had it in for service and it took longer than expected. His trip to Freetown is to bring the container through Customs without paying tariffs containing the solar panels and batteries that “Engineers without Borders” are installing at OTC. Since the material is for the benefit of the disabled there should be no additional Customs fees. We will look forward to meeting with him when he returns later in the week.
On Friday, I traveled to Tongo with the zone leaders and Elder Hadlock so that he (Elder Hadlock) could do interviews in preparation of the baptismal service on May 18th. Kadie, Peter, Daniel, Hannah and Lansana are all ready to be baptized. Sahr was traveling and Mary needs a bit more time. We are hoping that we can get Sahr his interview in time for him to be baptized the same day. Such an exciting day that we are all looking forward to. At this rate, Tongo will soon graduate from Home Group status to Independent Branch!
One of the highlights of the trip on Friday was sitting down with John Charles and entering his family history into FamilySearch and preparing names of his father and grandparents for the temple. The internet is not great in Tongo, so we had to drive from his house back to the community center where they used to hold church to get enough of a data signal to be able to enter the information. It was glorious to be a small part of bringing the temple ordinances to his ancestors.
After arriving home, LaDawn and I went over to the engagement of Karim Kenewah and Tiangay Kamara. Karim returned from his mission in England in February and Tiangay herself is a returned missionary who has been serving as the District Young Women’s president. They met right before he left and she waited faithfully for him to return. For us it seemed unusual to have an engagement the day before they married, but it was in lieu of having a full traditional wedding followed by a “white-man’s” wedding later. This way, they were able to honor tradition with an engagement and still fulfill their desire to have only one wedding.
We found it to be very similar to the traditional wedding, including the presence of a calabash, but there was no kola nut to share. Rings were exchanged as part of the engagement and the next day at the wedding additional rings were shared. It is actually quite wonderful to see two families come together, and especially in this case where both families were Muslim but the children being married were Christian. It is quite a celebration and joyous occasion in which to participate. Unlike the traditional marriage we attended, there was no last-minute resistance by a grandfather or anyone else for that matter.
Saturday morning was cleaning day so that meant we couldn’t leave the house until noon. Karim and Tiangay’s wedding was to start at noon, but we realized that actually meant 2 pm. We arrived about 1:30 and shortly before 2:15 it began. The pattern here for a “white-man’s” wedding in the church looks very much like a sacrament meeting, with no sacrament. Opening hymns, prayers, talks and choir numbers were all part of this meaningful event. Sister Elizabeth Konneh (the wife of Karim’s branch president) and Brother Jimmy Samuel, the first counselor in the branch presidency where Tiangay attends, both spoke. President Komba, Tiangay’s branch president then performed the ceremony. There was some whooping and hollering going on when they kissed at the end of it and even some silly string like spray that someone let loose with. Certainly not appropriate in a chapel, but we have to admit it was fun to see the joy this union brought to so many. As they kissed and hugged, Tiangay’s eyes filled with tears of joy. President Cobinah then spoke about the importance of the family in the church and in the community. We were grateful to be there. A couple like Karim and Tiangay will provide great leadership in the church here in Kenema for many years to come.
After the marriage, Tiangay, Karim and members of the wedding party loaded up in a few vehicles and traveled to their god-parents to greet them. In addition to greeting the god-parents, It is also a tradition to drive around town in celebration of the marriage. They were gone about an hour and 20 minutes. We had an appointment with Eku at 5 pm so we were leaving about the same time they were loading up when someone stopped us mentioning that Tiangay was looking for us. We stopped and I walked back to where she was and spoke to her. She needed our help to bring the food from where it was being prepared back to district center. We managed to push back our appointment with Eku (and as mentioned earlier it ended up not happening at all that evening) so that we could pick up and deliver the food. Somewhere in there we also managed to pick up our dinner meal at Food Masters that LaDawn had called in. We were back home by 5:30 awaiting Eku’s call. It was almost 7 pm when he called from outside our gate sitting in his car. He apologized for the car taking so long and wanted us to know that when he returned from Freetown we would find time to get together. Eku’s can do attitude is amazing. Here is a man who cannot walk and has no use of his right leg, yet managed to rig up his car so he can drive it with his hands. Now is he going to drive all the way to Freetown with a friend to get their container through Customs. What an example of persistence and confidence!
Sunday morning, we arose early and headed out to Kailahun by 6:10 am. We picked up the district “high” counselor over Kailahun, Stanford Moijeuh as well as President Cobinah and managed to arrive in Kailahun before 8:15 am. It was a wonderful Fast and Testimony meeting followed by a Sunday School class taught by Brother Sarty, the ward clerk. President Cobinah invited me to sit in with him and the branch presidency to evaluate how we felt sacrament meeting went. President Cobinah did a great job teaching the presidency some important things they could do to make a good meeting even better. I am impressed with his ability to teach and nurture at the same time.
After church, we waited for about an hour to give the branch president and the clerk time to pull together the highlights of 2018 activities in the branch for the branch history. They also provided us some pictures we can pull from. The zone leaders had traveled to Kailahun on Friday night so they could exchange with the Elders on Saturday with the plan to come back with us on Sunday. We crammed all 4 into the back seat and were back in Kenema by 2:30 pm.
I guess the biggest disappointment of the day was realizing that the seventh seal on the right rear wheel was now leaking (does that mean the 7thseal is now open?). The problem appears to occur more frequently at highway speeds rather than over rough terrain. We have to admit, we were simply beside ourselves about what more we could do. We called both Elder Pack (mission secretary) and President Clawson about solutions. President Clawson suggested that he send a driver to Kenema to switch vehicles and to take ours back to Freetown for repair. We really liked that idea. This morning (Monday), President Clawson called to say that Elder Pack reminded him that John Conteh was already in Bo to bring missionaries to Freetown for medical reasons and if we could leave and come to Bo with our truck right then we could exchange vehicles and John would bring ours to Freetown. Great idea! And that is how our Monday morning started…
We are grateful as we reflect back on this week for the continued opportunity that we have to serve with the dedicated leaders and faithful members of the Kenema District of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is still much work to do, but the momentum is growing. More and more young men and women are serving missions, those who have served are marrying worthy members who will soon go to the temple to be sealed, the leadership in the branches are improving in their capacity and understanding about how to minister to their members, young men and young women leaders are catching the vision of their callings to prepare the rising generation, family history is beginning to be seen as something everyone can do and the home centered, church supported curriculum is taking off. And this is only a small part of the momentum we are witnessing. We are grateful to be here, to be working hand in hand with this people at this time as we see the Lord’s hand revealed in the lives of the members of Kenema and all of Sierra Leone.