When you throw a rock into a lake, there is a ripple effect. Wikipedia defines the ripple effect as a situation in which, like ripples expanding across the water when an object is dropped into it, an effect from an initial state that can be followed outwards incrementally.
Merriam-Webster elaborates further, calling the ripple effect a spreading, pervasive, and usually unintentional effect or influence. And this is what is now happening in Tongo. Since Rebecca and Grace have returned to Tongo, there has been a lot of “talk” about their trip to America for Grace’s life saving surgery. Rebecca herself says that she was a “nobody” and now she is a “somebody”. She said she has gone from zero to hero. I asked Brother Kongoley if people are aware and he said, “oh, yes, people are talking about it.” So what have the ripple effects been thus far? Last week the elders started teaching David Rogers. I met him once when we were teaching Messie’s two nieces who live with her (Mamie and Messie (Jr.)). Elder Matchowa said David told him that he knows about Rebecca and Grace and was very impressed with the Church. Elder Matchowa tried to explain that it was not the church that did this for Grace, but rather it was MEMBERS of the church that did it. Understandably, and perhaps correctly, it is difficult for people here to differentiate between the actions of the church and its members, especially since the only manifestation the community has of the church is its members. Elder Matchowa went onto explain that the church did not pay for this to happen, but individual members who try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. We are still not sure people understand this, but since it is the absolute truth it is what we will continue to explain. There are definitely people in two camps on this topic, both perhaps caught up in the ripple effect of Grace’s miracle.
The first camp of people are those who, like David Rogers, are impressed that the Church has members that would be willing to do this. They feel the power of the commitment and they themselves want to be a part of something so overwhelmingly wonderful. They see the goodness in the members and that attracts them and they naturally want to know more. The second camp is made up of people who think that if the Church did this for little Grace, then the Church will do great things for them as well, specifically when it comes to money. While money attracts people in nearly every society in the world, here it seems to be magnified many-fold. There is so much suffering, poverty and scraping by from day to day, that anything that appears to “look” like money-help will be a popular attraction, regardless of the source.
On Friday, there were 5 people who approached us about teaching them. The first was a group of three women, living not far from the church. Watta, Maseray, and Isata all came up to the drivers side window of our truck where I was behind the wheel and Br. Kongoley was in the passenger seat. We had just loaded up a table and some chairs that I would take back to Kenema for Br. Kongoley. All three of them wanted us to come and teach them each Friday when we come to Tongo. It was interesting that they brought up the point that they have children, as if that was a requirement to be taught the gospel. Br. Kongoley, in his wisdom, simply invited them to come to church. He also said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God”. He sensed their initial interest was more temporal than spiritual. As a footnote, none of the three came to church on Sunday.
Later that day, on the far end of Tongo where the Kanu family lives, after teaching a discussion to Sarah and Mary (the mom) on the Plan of Salvation, Joseph and Sonnie (Sonnie is Joseph’s son) approached the missionaries and asked them to come teach them also. Elder Hansen took their contact information, invited them to come to church on Sunday and promised future meetings. It’s important to note that missionaries are only in Tongo about 5 hours a week. There has been no door to door tracting and no public events to introduce the church on a wider scale. Everything thus far has been by word of mouth of the members and those who see us on Friday’s and approach us which is starting to happen more and more.
I would say there is definitely a ripple effect occurring in Tongo right now. Is it bad? We don’t think so. We believe if handled properly, it will open many doors and many more hearts to the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Little Grace is already having an impact for good on the larger Tongo community….perhaps part of her earthly mission.
Monday was a true preparation day. We went to the Total Station and picked up 10 Gerry Cans (20 liters each) of diesel to be used in our generator as well as a couple of the missionary apartments. With solar in all but one of the apartments, we don’t use a significant amount of diesel, but we need to keep the generators running each week so that when we need them we have them. Also from time to time, the power will go out for several days at a time requiring some use of a generator. Our 30 day unlimited internet had also expired so we went to SierraTel and purchased another month’s worth. We also purchased 2 GB of Africel Data on a small 3G mifi stick for use in Kailahun later in the week as SierraTel does not work in Kailahun. Couple that with purchasing a few groceries, some Sierra juice from Capitol Trading and by the time we returned back to the apartment we were prepared for the rest of the week!
Tuesday morning was completely consumed with apartment checks. We now have 5 in Kenema (excluding ours) plus the one in Kailahun. We did the 5 in Kenema on Tuesday and Kailahun on Wednesday. All but one of the apartments were excellent. The one we told them we would be back next Tuesday for a re-inspection. We give them a grade on each of about 32 areas (includes repetitive scores for multiple bedrooms and bathrooms). Overall, the Dauda Town apartment was the cleanest, edging out IDA and Airfield. Not only that, but Dauda Town was the worst last month, so we were extra impressed with the effort to do so well. In recognition of their efforts, LaDawn baked some chocolate chip cookies later in the week, which they received on Sunday afternoon. Congrats to Elder Daniel, Elder Uyinmwen, Elder Moyo and Elder Paongo!
Wednesday morning we left our apartment at 7:30 am, picked up Tobechi Imnpey (district family history specialist) and headed to Kailahun to do some family history work. Seven of the eight members who were baptized in Dia a couple of weeks ago had already filled out pedigree charts on their family history. President Morison had eight more from the branch in Kailahun and so we promised him we would come to help put them into FamilySearch. Tobechi is also the district technology specialist, so while we went over to the Elders’ apartment and did an inspection, Tobechi worked on getting the router to play nice with the mifi so their new family history “library” setup would be functional. In the picture below, top left is President Morison Nabieu (standing), Tobechi Imnpey and Francis Musa. Top right is Elder Shill and President Morison. Bottom left is us working with Elder Wagner.
Since there is no Internet café in Kailahun, the mission purchased two computers and a router for the branch to setup a place where family history could be input into FamilySearch. This also provides a place for the missionaries to write home each week, so it is a win-win. Of the 15 pedigree charts, there was only one that we could not input due to unclear information. Only one of the 15 individuals came in and met with us face to face, and she is not a member herself, but the granddaughter of a member. It was good that the branch president and first counselor were there to help with names and places (we could not always understand the writing, nor were we sure where some of the villages were located). We worked from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm and then returned to Kenema, bringing President Morison back with us on the first leg of his planned trip to Freetown. It was a long, but very rewarding day. Elder Shill and Elder Wagner came by the last hour or so and helped input some names as well. We really appreciated their great typing skills and ability to learn quickly.
Thursday was again district council, this time with the South Kenema District where Elder Daniel is the District Leader. The zone leaders were also in attendance. There were two key takeways for us. 1) We have been called from all over the world to come to Sierra Leone and preach repentance unto the people. (See D&C 44:1-4). 2) As we read the Book of Mormon, there is much that the spirit will teach us that is not written in words. Because it is saturated with the Spirit of the Lord, there is much we can learn from its pages. Therefore, missionaries need to be giving the Book of Mormon out earlier in the teaching process. Because of issues with literacy here in Sierra Leone, we still need to exercise care about when the right time is to present it to those we are teaching, but if we err, we should err on the side of earlier rather than later.
In the afternoon, we drove to Bo and took the converted DC freezer back to the Rogers street apartment. Both Elder Gray and Elder Allen live in that apartment. Elder Gray met us and helped move the freezer in and get it going. The freezer worked great on the inverter, the only problem was that it almost completely drained the batteries before they were able to get home in the evening. That means that their fans ran out of juice at 2:00 am. So they unplugged the freezer and there it sits, because every missionary will prefer fans at night over a freezer. There is still more to come in this story!
From there we went over to the Moomey’s and picked up 8 cans of Afrigas. All of the apartments here in Kenema are down to one canister, meaning when they are out they are out. Our plan is to always have two in every apartment. When one is finished, we have them call us so we then know that they are again on their last can. Thanks to Elder Ron Moomey for being such a great Afrigas Distributor to us here in Kenema! And in return, we took them 10 new mosquito nets. LaDawn discovered that a guy just down the street from us makes them for 25,000 Le each (about $2.50). In Bo, the Moomey’s were paying 50,000 Le each. So by having them made here in Kenema, we eliminate the middleman (the guy walking on the street selling them) and save the mission money.
We recently replaced the solar batteries in the sisters’ apartment. At the time, there were no solar batteries available in Kenema and I allowed myself to be talked into buying big truck batteries that reportedly had been used with solar installations in other places without problems. Well, they worked great for about 6 months and then the trouble started. President Harper authorized replacing them with good solar batteries and so we did that last week. But rather than just throw the old ones away, one of our guards knew a place that could replace the battery acid and then recharge them. We took them over on Tuesday and returning home from Bo on Thursday, I went over picked them up. Turns out only 2 of the 3 could be regenerated, but hey, two are better than zero. Here in Africa, people are very good as recycling and repurposing just about anything that possesses some small amount of value. Happy to see these batteries get repurposed rather than end up in a landfill somewhere.
The last thing we did before finishing out the day was to load 15 more chairs in the back of the truck from the Nyandeyama Chapel (authorized by President Cobinah) next door to take to Tongo the next day. We brought them home and then Charles David, our guard, put a tarp over them and tied them down. Nobody ties a load down as well as Charles. Nobody.
We have already talked a bit about Tongo and the ripple effects that are occurring there. Just a few more things we want to add. We taught 11 people on Friday. Samuel, Bundu, Hawa, Moinya, Sahr, Agnes, Messie, Sarah, Mary, Iye and David. There were another half dozen or so that were listening-in but we have not officially started teaching. Our heart aches that we are not able to teach them more frequently. We are so grateful for the goodness of the members there that are establishing a very strong foundation for upon which the Church will grow for many years to come. We are especially grateful for Brother Solomon Kongoley and Sister Messie Senesie who tirelessly work to share the gospel and solidify the foundation that is there. Brother John Lowell Charles, Rebecca Koroma and Bockarie Kenewa, the first three baptisms have already established themselves as solid gospel learners, teachers, examples and leaders.
Also just a word on Grace. She is doing so well. She is happy, playful and talkative. I add here the contrasting pictures of her neck before and after the surgery. She is a precious gift from God to all who know her.
On Saturday at noon, I attended a meeting with all of the branch presidents (a first!) and all but one of the clerks. There were several topics, but the one I helped with was tithing settlement. We talked about the details of how it works and what has to be done when, but we also talked about what the handbook says when it says that tithing settlement is a time to talk about “Other Relevant Matters” with the members of the branch.
It was a wonderful discussion and I hope we enlarged the thinking about what it is that makes tithing settlement such a wonderful time of the year for a branch president. At that meeting we also discussed the upcoming district conference, the use of the new needs and resources survey form for fast offering assistance as well as how general conference will be shown in each branch next Sunday (the plan is to show one of the Saturday sessions). All in all it was an excellent meeting. I have such respect for these men who lead this district and these branches and work diligently to serve the members.
On Sunday, we again attended the Nyandeyama Branch next door. For the second hour showing of the new Children and Youth Program Video, we brought over our portable projector with the file on a USB stick. We also brought curtains to dim the room a bit.
It was unfortunate that we did not have any of the materials that were used in the video, but are hopeful we will have them by the first of the year. If we had them now we feel like we could help the programs get started before we leave at the end of December. There is very little going on in regards to Activity Days for Primary and the Youth Activities are also sporadic. We have great hopes that this new program will bring some structure and order to these two programs. The idea of teaching the children and youth how to receive personal revelation is inspired and in 10 to 20 years will change the Church significantly here in Africa (and everywhere else as well).
After Church, I picked up Elder Ogbanayah, Sister Vena, Elder Uyinmwen and Elder Moyo and took them to Bo where they were to be taken to Freetown later in the day by John Conteh. Returning to Kenema, I brought Elder Obinna to work with Elder Maeser; and Sister Awortwe who will work with Sister Akwara and Sister Tweh. I got back home about 4:00 pm.
It has been a good week as we have reflected on the opportunities we have had to serve and be served. As we have thought about the ripple effect, it has reminded us also of the butterfly effect, a close cousin to the ripple effect. The butterfly effect is the idea that small causes can have large effects. Combining the science between these two ideas is exactly what we see both in Tongo and in Sierra Leone as a whole. The idea that cause and effect is not always linear, but often rather exponential in scope applies to the building of the Kingdom of God in this country.
Grace’s miracle is influencing others to seek out the Church in Tongo, and for the 1500+ members baptized every year in this country; they too have their own miracle. It is the miracle of hearing the still small voice confirm there is God in Heaven who loves and cares about each of them. It is the miracle of finding a better, more peaceful and joyful way to live. The natural result of that is that ripples begin to expand as members share the gospel with their families and friends and what initially starts as a small cause ends up having a significant effect. We are so grateful to be caught in these ripples as we work hand in hand with the members, the leaders, the missionaries and even the children in this great cause!