In 1952, Gene Kelley, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Conner started in the now iconic musical, “Singin’ in the Rain”.
The movie, set in Hollywood in the 1920’s, portrays struggles of the film industry as movies transitioned from silent films to “talkies”. The three main characters were caught up in this transition and the movie depicts failure and success, love and aversion, competition and cooperation, deception and honesty. The film was initially only a modest “hit” at the time, but is now often referred to as the greatest musicals ever made. In 2007, The American Film Institute named it the fifth greatest motion picture of all time. It is definitely a classic! The title track featured Gene Kelly’s character singing his heart out in the pouring rain, giddy as school boy, after having just kissed his girlfriend, played by Debbie Reynolds, goodnight.
I’m singin’ in the rain, Just singin’ in the rain
What a glorious feeling, I’m happy again
I’m laughin’ at clouds, So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart, And I’m ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase, Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain, I’ve a smile on my face
I’ll walk down the lane, With a happy refrain
And so it was for us on Saturday. We started the day early as all of the branches in the Kenema District converged upon the law courts in Nyandeyama at 7 am to “brush” the weeds that surrounded the building. It was wonderful to see so many faithful Latter-day Saints working together to improve and beautify the community. The term “brush” has a distinct meaning here in Africa. Since there are no lawn mowers and very few weed eaters (based on what we have seen), this work is done with cutlasses (machete’s).
It is back breaking work (literally requiring the person to constantly bend over to cut the grass and weeds) and requires determination and grit to see it through to the end. The entire time we were there taking pictures of the event (about 45 minutes), there was a gentle rain falling. Many were soaked with sweat from the inside and rain from the outside. And yet, what we noticed was smiling faces everywhere. People happy to be serving their community and basking in the fellowship of their brothers and sisters in the gospel. If only we could all sing like Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds!
From there we picked up Elder Allen, Elder Matchowa and Brother Kongoley (he had just returned from Freetown), and headed to Tongo for the baptism of 3 more beloved sons and daughter of Heavenly Father. It rained all the way there and continued the entire time we were in Tongo. We stopped to pick up Joseph Kanu and his mom, sisters, brother and friend, but it was raining so hard they couldn’t ride in the back of the truck. We first drove over to the location of the baptism and I dropped off LaDawn, the missionaries and Br. Kongoley and then came back and got Joseph’s family and took them there. I then drove to the chapel to pick up the members who were gathered there. We all crowded in the truck and returned to the baptismal site.
This is the same place we have performed the first two services in Tongo, at the “lake” home of Gert Van Der Westhuizen, Messie Senesie’s boss at Sierra Diamonds. By locals it is simply known as Aqua. By the time we got everyone there and the baptismal candidates dressed in their whites, it was after 11:00 am (the service was scheduled to start at 10:00 am). And the whole time it just kept on raining.
Fortunately, the rain slowed sufficiently that it wasn’t really an issue for any of us. We had a beautiful service and John Charles baptized all three of the candidates. Adama Mansaray, Ishmael Bockarie and Joseph Kanu. We sang hymns, heard talks from Bockerie Konuwa and Elder Matchowa and enjoyed the spirit of the moment. It was a grand day. Following the baptism, I returned the Kanu’s to their home, Sahr and Daniel Lahai and Br. Kongoley to the chapel and Ishmael to his home where I also dropped off John, Konuwa and Adama who live close to him. I made a short video of some of the drive to give readers a feel for Tongo in the rain. Beware if you are prone to motion sickness!
I returned to the site of the baptism, picked up LaDawn, the missionaries and Rebecca and Grace who returned with us to Kenema as they begin their journey to America this week for Grace’s surgery. Truly the words of the song were echoing in my mind, “Let the stormy clouds chase, everyone from the place. Come on with the rain, I’ve a smile on my face. I’ll walk down the lane, with a happy refrain.”
Rebecca and Grace’s grand adventure starts tomorrow. Grace’s surgery will be on the 26th. We want to invite anyone and everyone who reads this blog this week to pray that the surgery will go better than planned, that the doctor will feel the hand of God directing his own, that overall the surgery will be successful and that she will heal quickly.
We did apartment checks last week but they were not as good as they had been the previous month, with the exception of IDA apartment. Elder Winters, Elder Ihentuge, Elder Allen, and Elder Matchowa did an excellent job making their apartment spic and span. Since they had the cleanest apartment, LaDawn baked them chocolate chip cookies and blonde brownies. The good news is that there were more than a few left over for us to keep (well, for me to eat if I am honest). The Dauda Town apartment was a mess, so much so that when we came on Wednesday we turned around and didn’t even do the inspection, promising them we would come back the next morning. Which we did. The second time it was much better, but still not as good as it could have been. We have learned when there are two sets of elders in an apartment that work well together, the apartment inspections reveal a much cleaner result than when the elders are not communicating or collaborating. Enough said.
Tuesday morning at 10:00 am we had our first ever literacy teacher in-service training. Unfortunately, not all of the teachers were able to make it, but the good news is that those who came were inspired and encouraged. With the class still being held after church, many learners find it difficult to stay. We are still hoping to hear soon that the literacy class is authorized for second hour, but nothing yet. LaDawn spent some time talking about how to effectively utilize the letter cards during a lesson and at the end we showed the literacy video on Charles David. It is an inspiring story and we were all once again inspired by what is possible with gospel literacy.
On Tuesday afternoon, we walked into the bowels of the market in Kenema as Sister Cobinah was kind enough to go with us to help LaDawn pick out some fabric for two dresses and then take her to the tailor that Sister Cobinah uses.
We had no idea that this maze of mostly clothing and cloth stalls existed off the main market road. The women were moving quicker as I was able to move, as I was constantly stopping and talking to people, who were amazed to see these “white-faced” people walking through these narrow alleyways. It was fun and interesting! The dresses look great, but a bit too big in the shoulders. When we get back to Kenema (we are in Freetown Monday – Wednesday) LaDawn will take them back and see if they can be adjusted to be a better fit. I will have ties made out of some of the remaining material.
We also had the freezer guy back over to change out the thermostat on the freezer where he had earlier replaced the non-working DC compressor with a new AC compressor. After running it for a day, it was obvious that the thermostat was not working with the relay as the compressor ran constantly. Unfortunately, we spent the money for a new thermostat and the labor for him to put it in, but the result was the same. It is still not cycling properly. More work to do. Ah, the things we learn on a mission!
On Wednesday, we had two family history appointments. The first with Elder Kennelly and Elder Edun (Hangha Road) where they were able to help Ibrahim Jeima submit 25 ordinances to the temple for 6 ancestors.
In the afternoon, we helped members from the Kpayama branch working with Elder Moyo and Elder Abara. There we helped 3 members, Christiana Kallon (33 ordinances submitted), Edna Yatta (33 ordinances submitted) and Francis Lamboi (18 ordinances submitted) who together submitted 84 temple ordinances combined. The spirit that accompanies this gathering of family names is special. Truly the spirit of Elijah is touching the hearts of the people here as family history work continues to accelerate. It is so rewarding to be engaged in this work!
On Thursday, we attended the Kenema North District Council under the leadership of Elder Ihentuge. Once again the discussion focused on answering inspiring questions. This time, I gained a couple of new insights. 1) An inspired question, when answered, will progress the learner to a greater level of commitment. 2) Answers to inspired questions leads the learner to be more responsible for their own learning. To achieve both of these we must give the learner time to ponder the question being asked and if possible, help the learner answer the question honestly rather than deflect it.
That afternoon we were engaged with more family history work, this time with Elder Fajardo and Elder Tovomaro. Philip Ansumana (44 ordinances submitted) and Amara Sam (58 ordinances submitted) making a total of 102 temple ordinances between the two of them.
Philip was baptized in 2007 and is just now catching the vision of family history work. Amara, however, was baptized on the 3rdof this month. He is on fire with the gospel and had gathered his family names prior to being baptized. This is the experience that I mentioned earlier. The spirit of Elijah is becoming more and more evident in the lives of the members here. We are so happy when we see these Elders and Sisters working with members (and especially new converts), to extend the blessings of receiving ordinances to their ancestors.
On Friday, the missionaries and I left early for Tongo as we knew we needed to setup the pool and fill it water from the lake before beginning to teach. We left Kenema by 7:15 am and arrived in Tongo about 8:45 am. The road is getting worse, both in terms of potholes and in a few places, thick, deep mud. This makes what used to be a 70 minute trip into a 90 minute trip.
It took us longer than usual to fill the pool with water because Konuwa could not get a prime on the pump. Turns out there was too much air leaking around the hose that came from the water. The hose is secured by taking a strip of innertube and wrapping it around the hose to form a seal. It takes some expertise, which Konuwa is usually very good at mastering, but Friday was an exception. By 11:00 am the pool was up, filled with water and treated with bleach and we headed to John’s house to teach the people.
A couple of key points from our Friday experience. 1) We learned that when 11 year-old Agnes is taught with her family she says little. When she is taught by herself she both answers and asks questions. Just the opposite from what we might expect. 2) We also spoke to Foday, whose father is a Muslim and does not want him to be baptized a Christian. The problem is Foday knows the church and the gospel are true and he understands the consequences if he chooses not to follow the personal revelation that has been given him from God. His dilemma is that if he does get baptized, his father will shun him. We have encouraged him to pray for Heavenly Father to soften his heart.
We had another great lesson with Moinya, Esther, Hanna, John and Sahr and about a zillion kids that were listening in. They had come to church on Sunday and are now progressing quite well. Sister Iye, who is a steady church attender, but has never been keen on being taught by the missionaries, has now committed to making herself available every week so that she too can be baptized. Every day in Tongo is a glorious day, and Friday was no exception, only to be eclipsed by the glorious day we had on Saturday as we witnessed the baptism of three more children of God coming into the fold.
On Sunday, we attended the Simbeck Branch as it was their branch conference. There were three speakers. Sister Vena, a full-time missionary, who spoke on …. You guessed it, missionary work. She was followed by President Martin Foday, the branch president, who spoke about forgiveness. President Cobinah also spoke about forgiveness but he also spoke of pride and how it keeps us from repenting. As he was speaking about the great and spacious building, I began to think about why it is so spacious. I concluded two possible answers. First, the more space there is, (less crowded) the more inviting it is to come into. Second, we need a lot of space, because once we unleash our pride, it will grow and grow and the more our pride grows, the bigger the building becomes (and the greater the fall). For the second hour, I again taught a lesson on Family History. What it is, why we do it, what the blessings are and how to get started. It was a spirit filled experience for us and we hope for everyone else. There were a lot of questions at the end about getting started and we ended up about 10 minutes overtime. We love this topic of family history! We might add that Bernard Laundeh lives in the Simbeck Branch and since he is the poster child of family history work in Kenema I asked him to say a few words, which he did. Inspiring!
Whenever we are engaged in the Lord’s work, we feel like singing as it brings joy to our heart. Yes, it is the rainy season, and at times it makes the simple things difficult, and yet the people here have learned to live with and work through the rain – and we are catching the vision of doing the same. Rain brings life to a country that has been parched by the dry season, just as the Spirit of the Lord brings refreshment to a country that has been steeped in traditions that move away from God rather than towards Him. We are so grateful to be able to work hand in hand with the people here, to bring spiritual rain, and the joy associated with coming to know Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ in a more full, more complete way.