(Pictures coming soon! They get better internet connection in Sierra Leone.)
4 July 2010
It was a Happy Independence Day in Sierra Leone. We had breakfast and then met up with the Assistants. I drove up through some narrow, crowded roads filled with people, motorcycles; beat-up old cars, wagons pulled by people. It is without a doubt some of the worse road conditions I have ever seen. We went to the Kissy Branch and attended sacrament meeting. They had about 120 there. It is another dilapidated building, but in this country that is considered average. The sacrament meeting was great. It was fast and testimony and they had some wonderful testimonies. They asked Cathy and me to speak. I talked about the contrast between last Sunday sacrament meeting when we were in Utah at the MTC with the Prophet, first presidency, and ten of the twelve apostles and then this Sunday here. Yet the spirit is present, lives, and is blessing both places. After the sacrament, I interviewed three brothers to be possible Branch Presidents. This branch is going to split. We left after the interview and went to the Congo Cross branch. There I met a lot of the people and interviewed a sister for baptism. She is repentant and ready for baptism. We then went back to the mission office where I released a return missionary. He faithfully served in Nigeria and is now back home on his way to Kenema. After all this, we went home, had some supper, and I spent the rest of the evening going through files getting up to speed on the four member districts and all the missionaries. I got to bed at 2300.
July 5, 2010
It was our first P-day in the field so we slept in until 0730. That was nice. We had breakfast and then spent the morning cleaning and organizing the house. I talked to two of the senior couples and it seems that someone is stealing diesel fuel from the house. We have security guards, but the corruption is so rampant here that even the guards are in on the stealing. Cathy and I had dinner with the three senior couples. They are the salt of the earth and a great blessing to me. I don’t know what I would do without them. They handle all the temporal things that would occupy my time if I had to do it. Plus, they are spiritual missionaries in their own right that are teaching the gospel to many. I really admire them. It was a great dinner and lasted about three hours. We talked about many things. There isn’t a lot of time in this mission to organize yourself because there is a constant flow of little fires to put out, ankle bitters to deal with and serious support issues for the members and missionaries. I can see that I will need to make sure that I have time with the Lord to receive guidance and recharge my batteries.
July 6, 2010
I was up at 0230 with ideas, revelations and inspiration as to the teaching of the missionaries today and the direction that I need to take the mission. Then I went back to bed and got another couple of hours sleep. We were up and had breakfast and at 0800 the Assistants with about eight outer Elders arrived. They set up for their "meet the president" meeting. In the next hour, the others arrived bringing our total to 22 Elders, three missionary couples, and us making it thirty people. We had prayer and an opening song. Cathy then bore her testimony and told a little about us. I just said that I was happy to be here and my actions would be my testimony. The Assistants took a half-hour and presented the new simplified curriculum and the changes to the mission schedule. We then had a break followed by musical numbers from each of the districts. For the next two hours, I presented the first lesson of the new curriculum: the Doctrine of Christ – The Missionary Purpose. It went great and you could feel the spirit fill the room and everyone received revelation. We had lunch. The sisters prepared a wonderful meal. Then we practiced teaching and the invitation to be baptized some more. After that, we had haircuts, weigh in, and then split-up to go out teaching. Each leader went with a companionship. I went with the Elders from Congo Cross. We taught two times. The first was a single sister who just happened to have four men from the provinces visiting her. The spirit really blessed our teaching because at the end each one in the room was invited and accepted the invitation to pray and ask God about the truth of our message. The sister was invited to prepare for baptism and she accepted. We then went and picked up the Relief Society President and she took us to visit a single sister with a young son and daughter. This place could only be described as a slum or a little hovel in the middle of a shanty town. The spirit was in the lesson and this lady and her son were touched. We also invited her to prepare for baptism. We returned to the mission office where we had a debriefing and evaluation with each of the six groups that went out. It was a marvelous meeting where each reported that their teaching was dramatically changed by following the spirit and focusing on their purpose. I can tell that today I won the hearts and minds of my missionaries by teaching, practicing, doing and following up with them. They also won my heart. It is so amazing to see their dedication and devotion to the work when the conditions they are doing it in are so hostile, sparse and difficult. The entire day there was pouring rain. It is the beginning of the rainy season and when it comes down it is just like pouring a bucket of water on your head. They are a wonderful group of young men. I wish I could let the church leadership and their families know how much I admire them. They are truly an inspiration to me and build my testimony. After that meeting, I went to the District Presidency meeting. There I met the district leadership. From there, I drove back home alone and settled in for the night. What a day this has been! I have been filled, drained and filled again.
July 7, 2010
We spent the morning getting ready for our trip to Bo, Kenema, and Liberia. We packed everything at the house and then went to the mission office. There I meet with all the church employment resource people from the Freetown district. I talked with them about taking perspective missionaries and return missionaries through their carrier placement programs. They would be very helpful to missionaries. We finished up some other unfinished business, went through some emails, and then the assistants, Cathy and I headed out for Bo. We took a short-cut over a very bad road that went over the mountain to hit the main road to Bo. Once we got on the main road, it was paved and very good. We left at one o’clock and got to Bo about four. We stopped and visited one of the missionary apartments and dropped off some goods to them. Then we went to the Imperial hotel. It isn’t much quality compared to the states but compared to anything in Africa it is pretty good. Then we went and I interviewed a branch missionary at the church to serve as a companion for a full-time missionary for a couple of weeks in Freetown. Then it was back to the hotel where Cathy and I had a rice and chicken dinner and went to bed. It was a long day.
July 8, 2010
We left Bo early at 0730 and drove to Kenema where we visited the elders there. One of them, a Tongan, is just getting over Malaria. We dropped some supplies off at their place and then headed on to Liberia. It is a dirt road filled with holes and puddles from the rain season. We were blessed in that it didn’t rain all day. On the way, we started hearing a grinding sound on the axle. We stopped in the middle of the jungle and searched all over. We took the tire off to try and find what was the matter. Along came one of the natives who watched us and then got down and started moving the wheel. The break cover had hit something and pressed up against the break drum and was making the noise. He banged it out and all was ok. He was a real angel sent from God. I gave him some money for his help. We were back on the way and after passing through about twenty check points and border stations along the way, we arrived in Monrovia Liberia. We went to the Kimbell’s apartment. They are the senior couple for Liberia. We and a wonderful dinner and spent the night there after twelve hours on the road. I was dead tired.
July 9, 2010
We were up at 0600, showered, had breakfast and then went to the Sinkor chapel. At 0800, I called Elder Golden, the Area President, about some missionary business, then I interviewed a brother for my second counselor in the mission presidency. After that, we held the training meeting with the 20 missionaries from Monrovia. We did the same training we did in Freetown. It went over well. At noon, they went in to eat and I started interviews. I interviewed the twenty elders one at a time and finished at six o’clock. Then we had zone leader council. That lasted two hours. At eight, we followed the Kimbell’s back to their place. We talked to them until nine and at that point I was so tired I couldn’t stay awake. I was just dead beat and exhausted. It was one long day, but filled with spiritual experiences. God is good to me.
July 10, 2010
I had breakfast and then went with Elder Kimbell to the Bushrod Island District presidency meeting. There I met five of the branch presidents. I gave some counsel at the meeting. After that, we went to the Imperial Hotel and met up with our wives and had lunch. I had a cheeseburger. It was great. Then Elder Kimbell and I went to the Monrovia District presidency meeting and I met four more branch presidents and gave some more counsel. Following that, we had the bi-district fireside and Cathy and I spoke. There were a couple hundred there. The choir was great and the spirit really spoke through me. I talked on the story of Enoch and his vision of Zion in the last days. Following that, I had a brief meeting with one of the district presidents and gave a blessing to a missionary who had some of his best friends killed in a car wreck. Then we went back to the Kimball's and had supper and talked for a couple more hours. I was able to get online so I checked email until midnight.
July 11, 2010
We went with the Kimbells out to visit two independent branches. They are both located on rubber plantations. The first branch had 96 present and they were meeting in a rundown old school. However, their spirits were strong. I talked on Nemaha and Zurrubbel and the rebuilding of their countries after war. The spirit was really strong and it was a good time fellowshipping with one another. We left for the second branch and arrived just as they were finishing. We were able to attend about twenty minutes of their Sunday school class on eternal marriage. It was a beautiful lesson. I talked with the branch president. They had 56 out to the branch today. We returned to Monrovia and spent the rest of the Sabbath in rest. We leave tomorrow for Bo in Sierra Leone.