Last week in Tongo, I was sitting under the Mango Tree speaking with Rebecca Koroma. She got up to go to her home to retrieve some paperwork and I stayed sitting with 2 year old Grace sleeping in my arms. After a few minutes I looked down to retrieve something from my backpack and I was shocked to see what appeared to be the ground moving. It took me only a moment to realize there were ants EVERYWHERE, going in all different directions. Somehow they ignored my backpack, my shoes and the chair as if they knew what they were looking for. I was grateful it wasn’t me.
I thought the best way to portray these Driver Ants was simply to make a very short video of them. You can see that above. It is only 26 seconds long and gives you a very brief view of these vicious creatures. These are pictures and videos that we took, not something from the internet.
These ants are apparently quite ferocious. I found an article that describe these little beasts, and it is quite interesting (if not scary). The article is titled “If You Thought Fire Ants Were Bad, Just Wait Until You Meet Driver Ants…“. The article goes on to mention 10 reasons why we should fear these small carnivorous creatures, calling them one of the deadliest species on the planet (okay that got my attention). Here are the ten reasons from the article: 1) These ants are notorious for being nomadic, in that they will travel from place to place. 2) When they are migrating between colonies, driver ants travel in a massive line forming a column with attack ants posted as sentries on either side so that the worker ants can run through in the middle. 3) Colonies of driver ants are HUGE! Driver ant colonies are actually the biggest ant colonies in the world. They can number up to 22 million at a time. 4) Driver ants are carnivores. Their main food is earthworms, but they also been known to attack and consume any animal that isn’t smart or fast enough to get out of their way. 5) When driver ants are on the move, they behave like one giant “hive-mind”. If one ant is hurt by another creature while the colony is on the move, the entire column of ants may attack the aggressor.
6) Their bites hurt, a lot. It’s incredibly difficult to remove a driver attack ant once they’ve latched onto you with their mandibles. 7) Although it’s not very common, driver ants can kill humans. 8) Driver attack ants can be up to an eighth of an inch long, which is pretty big for the ant kingdom. Driver ant queens can grow up to two inches long and are known as the largest ants in the world. 9) Driver ants are movie stars, having starred in this scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. 10) Maybe the most terrifying thing about driver ants is how smart they are. Many species of driver ant are known to coordinate and carry out “raids” on neighboring colonies of insects, like termites.
Okay, had I of known all of that last Friday, I probably would have been much more concerned about getting out of their way more quickly. It was actually quite a scene to behold. They came out of the ground, spreading out in search of food (I’m guessing here), found something that they ganged up on and within 30 minutes there were only a few of them remaining above ground. Definitely eerie.
Monday morning was transfer day again. I took Elder Barrezueta, Sister Senaoane, Sister Ebuche and Sister Ahiamatta to Bo, leaving Kenema around 8:00 am. It was gently sprinkling, so it meant I needed to take the tarp to protect the luggage.
This slowed us down a bit as we packed and tied it so it would not unravel in the wind caused by the travel to Bo. Coming back the other way, I brought Elder Nwangele (headed to Kailahun replacing Elder Barrezueta), Elder Mathowa (new zone leader replacing Elder Dube) and Sister Vena (replacing Sister Senaoane. Much of the rest of the day was spent by LaDawn working on downloading Bible videos for the branches to use in Sunday School and putting them on DVDs, while I worked on navigating the USA visa process for Rebecca and Grace. The problem with the state department website is that the site is not aligned with the process, so it requires going to different branches of the website in order to complete disconnect process streams. Figuring all of that out has been very painful.
In the afternoon, David, Peter and Emmanuel (pre-mission boys) along with Ibrahim Senesie Kamara came over. For David and Peter, we printed out all of their forms, including the dental and medical and sent them off to get their physicals. Emmanuel already had his paperwork completed so we took the time to enter it into the system for him. Ibrahim came over because he too wants to serve a mission but is at ground zero and is looking for any opportunity to earn money and start on the process. The problem is that without exception, the money needed to go on a mission requires a young man or his family to find work and save money. Both very hard things to do here.
On Tuesday, we headed back to Bo with Ibrahim Morison and Junior Bendu (solar electrician).
Ibrahim is a young single adult who has been disabled by polio. He is a member of the Hangha Road branch and about 6 months ago we took him to Bo to get a new tire and brake for his PET (Personal Energy Transport) wheelchair. Mobility Sierra Leone in Bo will do repairs for free for the disabled. This time his chain and sprocket had simply worn out and needed to be replaced. We dropped Ibrahim and his PET off at repair center and then drove over to the missionary apartment on Rogers Lane to take a look at their solar freezer. We had removed the solar controller from the non-working freezer in our apartment and brought it to Bo to see if it would work, but no matter what we tried, we could not get it to work. We finally just decided to bring the freezer back to Kenema to work on it. From there we went back and picked up Ibrahim and his refurbished PET, stopped at Bo Mini Mart for a few items, and then drove to the Borbor Kombor apartment where Elder Smith had reported a problem with their solar panels. Two fully taped wire “junctions” had come in contact with each other and the taped had fused together and was “smoking”. Junior rewired and retaped them and made sure they could not touch in the future. Interesting that the panels put out so much energy that this could even happen. Ah, the things we learn on a mission.
When we got back to Kenema and had dropped off Ibrahim and Junior, we stopped by OTC to make an appointment with Eku. They are extremely busy right now due to the project they have undertaken with “Engineers without Borders” from Denmark. The container shipment arrived late last week and they were still processing all of the paperwork. Hopefully by the end of the month their solar engineer will be here to begin the process of installing their solar panels and batteries. In any case, we agreed to see if we could meet on Friday evening.
Tuesday evening, Dassama came over with all of his completed mission paperwork and we sat down and entered it into the system for him. He now has everything ready to go and just needs his interview with his branch president and then with a member of the mission presidency. This young man has come a long way in the last year, from not wanting to serve a mission to now being on the cusp of a call. Michael Komba also came over Tuesday evening to wash the truck. It needed it.
On Wednesday morning, Momoh Swaray came over and we printed out his mission papers so he could take them home and fill them out, with the exception of his medical and dental, for which he still needed to earn more money. After Momoh left, we spent the entire day working on the visas for Rebecca and Grace and Bible videos. After downloading all of the Bible videos used in the Come Follow Me Sunday School lessons, LaDawn decided to download the rest of them as well and provide them to each of the branches. With internet speeds here, that was no small task. I had a breakthrough on the visa process and was able to get both of their information loaded so that on Friday I could go to Tongo and review all of the information with Rebecca prior to submitting it. In the afternoon, we took a break and took Dauda Town’s generator battery over to EDSA to be charged (for 10,000 Le – about $1 the local electric company will charge a battery). We also dropped off the picture files we wanted to have printed. They included the pictures of Rebecca with the rest of her children who live with their uncle in Kono.
Thursday was zone council day. The first week of every transfer there is a zone council meeting led by the zone leaders which all of the missionaries in the zone attend.
There were two key discussions. The first was on holding EFFECTIVE companionship study. This is a recurring theme. It has occurred to us that the bigger issue is actually just HOLDING companionship study. Once it gets going, most are able to make it valuable. My comment was that holding companionship study is simply about setting a standard time and then having the discipline to meet it each day. We talked about the importance of searching the scriptures and learning how to teach more complex subjects with simple responses without going into a lot of detail. The example cited was explaining the temple. The comment was made, “We cannot teach someone things that we ourselves do not understand”. I will add to that by saying in order to explain a complex topic with simplicity, it requires a lot of study, prayer and understanding on our part.
We also discussed how to listen to and recognize promptings of the spirit. A discussion that needs more time and understanding. As we talked about finding Kingdom Builders to teach, someone made a comment that we really liked, “We need to help branch members and new converts become kingdom builders.” In other words, if a new “kingdom builder” investigator comes to church and does not meet like-minded people, they will struggle to stay.
I spent the afternoon at Dauda Town with Junior Bendu. The breakers in the apartment do not seem to work properly. When a surge from National Power came through, rather than the breaker “popping”, it simply burned up the wire. This is a significant safety issue and is a problem similar to what we had in the IDA apartment last year. Junior replaced the circuit breaker box and installed better and newer breakers that actually “pop” when stressed. While there, I also asked Junior to replace the generator “charger”as it was not recharging the battery as it should have. This he gladly did as part of the overall electrical repair to the apartment.
Friday I was back in Tongo. It is always good to go back, especially after not having been there for a couple of weeks. My main objective was to meet with Rebecca and review all of the information that had been input for her visa, to make sure it was correct. This we were able to do while sitting under the Mango Tree in John Charles’ yard. It was there I had the encounter with the driver ants.
While I was talking with Rebecca, the elders taught Bundu, Sidie, Ibrahim and Adama. Bundu is new, the others have previously been taught. From there we went to another new family, the Moinya’s. We taught the mom, Agnes and the two daughters, Hannah and Esther. They too were once all members of The Winners Chapel congregation there in Tongo. We are hoping we can keep teaching them as they are terrific people. While Elder Allen stayed at the chapel and taught Foday, Elder Matchowa and I went to Sahr’s home looking for Emmanuel, but he was not at home.
However, Sahr’s 11 year old daughter, Agnes, who has been around many times while we have taught her father and brother came and sat down and said she wanted to be taught. That was a first. So Elder Matchowa taught her beautifully and her 15 year old brother helped out along the way. It would be wonderful to see her catch the vision of the gospel and continue to learn. We also visited the Kanu family on our way out of Tongo, but Joseph was not there, so we decided to wait to teach the mom and sister as he is the one showing leadership in learning about the Church.
After returning home, we drove over to OTC for our appointment with Eku. Unfortunately he had been stressed much of the day and was suffering from a headache. We visited with his wife and two of his children for a few minutes and rescheduled for Saturday evening.
On Saturday morning, President Cobinah had setup training for the new Elders Quorum presidency in the Kenema Branch. Steven Kallon is the president and his counselors are Kcombay Bockerie Feika and Titus Yamba Tucker. Such good men. I spent about 40 minutes walking them through their duties as a presidency (from the Handbook) and discussing how to function as a United Presidency. President Cobinah then spent about 90 minutes discussing the importance of honesty and integrity, especially when working with fast offerings as instructed by the branch president. It was an excellent training and all of us were edified.
In the afternoon we drove over to the Kpayama Branch and there met Elder Moyo and Elder Abara and worked with two recent converts on their family history. Elder Moyo did a great job inputting the information and Elder Abara was the Krio translator. We helped Mamie Lima and Satta Kallon. Between the two of them we submitted close to 70 ordinances for 15 people. It was glorious!
We received a call from Eku, who again had been working all day long and was still not finished. Usually on Saturday he finishes at noon, but with all of the work on the Engineer without Borders project, they have been buried. We will get with him this week once things settle down for him.
On Sunday we attended the Nyandeyama Branch conference. The Sacrament Meeting was excellent. Tiangay Kenewah, the district young women’s president spoke about gathering Israel and building Zion. President Moriba, the branch president gave a masterful talk on repentance. I wish he would have had more time. President Cobinah then spoke about what it means to sustain a leader. He used the story of Moses, Aaron and Hur. He also spoke about magnifying our callings as another way that we sustain our leaders. He said that as members of the Church there is no guarantee that we will reach heaven. We must do our own part in building the kingdom. We couldn’t agree with him more. Well done, President Cobinah!
For Priesthood meeting, I attended with the young men and collected this picture at the end.
In the afternoon we visited Charles and his family as their youngest daughter Abibatu has been ill for the last few days. She has not had an appetite, yet her stomach appeared to be overly full. I helped Charles give her a blessing and then he arranged to take her to the doctor the next morning.
After returning home, Emmanuel Vandi, Peter Ngekia and David Gbow came over and we helped Emmanuel fill out his papers and online and submit them back to his branch president. David and Peter would be back the next day (Monday) to do the same thing. We always love the Sabbath Day for the opportunity to rub shoulders with the saints and try in some small way to be of service to friends and families in the District. It is truly a marvelous assignment that we have.
Just like driver ants that march relentlessly towards their goal, in some small way the work we have been involved in this week with these young single adults preparing for missions is similar in nature. We see them eager and perhaps a bit impatient. They have worked so long and hard to get to this point that they want to take the ball over the goal line – NOW. Twice, Dr. Grant’s nurse at the government hospital has told me that our young men are impatient with getting their medical tests done. I remind them to remember who they are and to be patient, but to be honest, I like their zeal and their desire. These are modern day sons of Helaman here in Sierra Leone, and we feel it an honor to work with them, hand in hand, to get them out into the mission field where they can gather Israel and build Zion on a full-time basis and then come home and be leaders in Sierra Leone. Hurrah for Israel!