Monday, May 27, 2013

Week #6 - She Says

This past week has been a very emotional one for me - I have debated with myself whether to share it with you or not because previous emails have been more along the lines of humor and light heartedness; unfortunately, living in a third world country, not everything is funny and try as I might, I can't seem to find humor in certain situations. Please know through these difficult experiences, I continue to trust in God, that He is over all things, and "all flesh is in His hands."
Sunday, May 26, 2013 - Today, we attended church at the Kissy 1st Branch for the first time. We were greeted by the Branch President and he asked that we sit on the stand and take a few moments to introduce ourselves and share our purpose for being in Sierra Leone. Of course while sitting there, thoughts are just running through my mind as to what to say, let alone praying that they will be able to understand I shared with them where I was from, that I left my home in America, my children, my grandchildren, my mom, my siblings, and my friends to come on a mission to Sierra Leone and that these wonderful Saints were going to be my family and friends for the next 18 months. I told them of my love for them and when I am with them and look into their eyes, I see the windows of was very emotional for me to share with them of my love for Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ and because of that love, I was willing to make such a sacrifice to come on a mission. 

After the meeting, this cute little girl who was about 10 years old came up to me and said, “I want to share something with you.” So, I took her aside and put my arm around her and she then proceeded to tell me she was an orphan, that her parents had passed away, and that she had two other sisters (YW age) as well and the three of them had been taken in by their auntie who was a member, and thus these three young women had been baptized. She pointed to her two other sisters across the hallway and motioned for them to come over to me and be introduced. I just started to weep and told them how sorry I was for their loss but how pleased I was for their faith and faithfulness. I couldn't contain the tears as I wrapped them in my arms as best I could (Sierra Leoneon's don't really hug) and we wept together. Because I had said they would be my family for the next 18 months these 3 young ladies wanted to become part of my family.

We traveled to Waterloo again today and attended church there as well. Scott and I decided to visit the Richard Carlos home and welcome their new baby boy; he was born yesterday morning around 5:00 am. So as we drove around the corner to the Carlos home, the rest of the members of the leadership of the Branch walked over to his home along with some of their children. In America, a baby isn't even exposed to other people for weeks (at least I think this is so...). This baby is less than 48 hours old and men and children are crowded in the house to see this precious little one. Mind you, these people don't have running water, no lights, no refrigeration  They live in a 3 room cinderblock home with no windows or screens, and the floor is hardened dirt. Sister Carlos was up carrying on with all her household duties. As I walked in, she placed the baby in my arms, in a clean little white and green outfit as you would see on an American baby. 

He was so clean and sweet with a precious little mouth that looked like his mom's and a head of soft, black curly hair. Richard, the dad was in the throws of packing. He was leaving to travel 5 hours by bus to a neighboring city for on-the-job training for his job and will be gone for an entire week, leaving his wife with a newborn, a 2 year old daughter, and a 10 year old son. There is no maternity leave for women in Sierra Leone. Life does not stop or get placed on hold for these people. These children in this family have the best of possibilities for happiness and safety. The rule of thumb in Africa is for children to be beaten by their parents, but because of the gospel, Richard and his wife are raising their young ones with love, kindness and respect.

Every week there is something I see, or hear for that matter, that fills me with sorrow and compassion and I drop to my knees to plead for Heavenly Father's help.

More Snaps:

 "5 minutes before church - everyone either walks or takes Taxi's to church."
"5 minutes after church."

 "Kind-of looks like Hawaii."

 "Picture this and torrential downpour and unable to see out the front and Scott driving!"

"The missionaries recommended a different way home - Big mistake!"

Monday, May 20, 2013

Week #5 - She Says

Another week behind me/us, and the adventures continue.....
Sunday, May 12, 2013 - We stopped off at the Grafton elders apartment and left them with cookies. Elder Edwards, from Grafton, handed me a Happy Mother's Day envelope and inside I found a sweet note from him. These little gestures make it all worth while to be on a mission even though it is so very hard.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - The Grafton elders wanted us to visit a school today; it is in need of desks for the children and chalkboards. The missionaries are hopeful that we can get together with the Humanitarian couple, the Burns and see what they can do to help with this need. It is a Christian school and they have 222 students from four-five years of age up to age 12. They were attending a Muslim school 7 ½ years ago, but had to cross a very busy street in order to get to the school and two of the children were killed attempting to get cross, so this wonderful man, opened up a school on the other side of the street. It was so fun and delightful to be among these wonderful children. They had us sit down and put on a little program for us that concluded with them singing the 1st verse of I Am A Child of God (taught by the missionaries). Afterward, I was asked to introduce myself and tell them a little about our purpose for being in Sierra Leone; I concluded my presentation and surprised them by singing the last verse of this Primary song. We then went outside and took a group picture of all the children and their teachers. 

After the "snaps" (that is what they call photographs in Sierra Leone), I was walking away down the hill, when I was suddenly overtaken and encircled by these little people wanting to touch me, and hold on to me. 

There just wasn't enough of me to go around, but I loved every minute of it - these beautiful children who have nothing, yet seem to have much more than some children in America. It was a wonderful day for me.

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - As of yesterday I have been in the mission field for exactly one month, and I can honestly say, it has been one of the most challenging, difficult months of my life! But today is the 1st day of month 2 and it has been a great day!

We drove out this morning to Kissy, Wellington, Allentown and Grafton to deliver umbrellas to the missionaries. Yes, the rainy season is moving in and when it rains here, it really pours! I love our missionaries in the East. They are my heroes. Scott was remarking to one of them this morning that his living conditions 40 years ago in New Zealand (and NZ was 25 years behind the states at that time) were far better than the missionaries in Sierra Leone. These young people are so dedicated and committed to the work, and not a murmuring word from the lot of them. Truly examples to me of faith and dedication.

I hear of people having “out of body” experiences – I continue to have “out of truck” experiences, as Rambo Scott drives up roads that scare the begeebers out of me. The other day we were driving to meet up with the missionaries in Allentown and he turns up this road I swear is straight up and when I suggest maybe he should put the truck in 4-wheel drive? Nope, and the wheels are spinning and sputtering and he stops long enough for me to bail out of the truck and walk away as I imagine him sliding down the road – one of the local ladies was on her way down the road on foot and when I referred to him as Rambo, she started to chuckle.

"The road Rambo Scott drove up and I got out"

We continue to use our new-found route to our areas of labor and with the rain, it is just beautiful and it really cheers me up to see all the green and to be able to roll down the window and not have a person so close to me I can touch them. I saw some sort of movement and thought it was a little fawn coming out of the forest and got so excited, but upon closer observation, I realized it was just a goat, baah!

Saturday, May 18, 2013 - We attended a baptism of a 22 year old single woman, Marina. She told me that she has been living on her own since she was 18 as her parents died within months of one another. Her father was sick and her mother went to sleep one night and never woke up. 
"Elders Wootton and Stewart with Marina."

"The regular Saturday crowd gathers to watch Marina get baptized."

For a living, she sells men's clothing. And of course, one might think in a department store behind a counter – no, she is on a very busy street in Waterloo and like all other walking vendors, has them on her head and in her arms walking back and forth selling to random people. Hopefully, now that she is a member and will begin to pay tithing, she will witness miracles in her life of more financial security and opportunities for a better life.

Only in West Africa!

More photos from the week:
 "Elder Nwosu from Nigeria. A very handsome young man."

"A very time consuming hairdo."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Week #4 - She Says

Dear Family and Friends,
We had another appointment in Kissy last week that was scheduled for 5:00 pm. We left in plenty of time – 3:30 pm but on our way to the Kissy chapel, there was some sort of traffic holdup, and we didn't arrive until after 5:30 pm. But, the real fun began leading up to the traffic jam. 

We were initially delayed when a big green armored truck was backed up to the entrance to the local Freetown prison, which by the way, is just down the road from the mission office – less than 5 minutes away. So they are unloading prisoners, some shackled at the wrist to one other, some not (it looked to me like they were tied together with a rope), with ½ dozen or so uniformed guards with their rifles. Traffic blocked on both sides. Keep in mind the streets in Freetown barely fit two-way traffic and I am forever rolling down the window to pull the side view mirror in because of my concern that Scott is going to tear it off because he has gotten too close to another vehicle, or human being for that matter. Anyway, back to my story. We finally are given the green light to proceed and because we are going to be late as it is, Scott proceeds to pull forward and around this big green armored vehicle with another stopped vehicle just to the left of us and perpendicular to the truck. He is always telling me to relax while he is driving (even though I am “breaking” with my feet all the time, closing my eyes, and sucking in my breath), but this time, he cuts it way too close and sure enough, a screech with the rubbing of metal against hard rubber around the wheel well. He knows he has hit something because I see his eyes popping out of their sockets, and I am coming a little unglued. His immediate reaction is to stop the car, like you would when you get in an accident at home, so you can exchange insurances. But he has just scraped our truck against an armored vehicle transporting prisoners with armed guards everywhere! I tell him, “Hit the gas and go!” We did and never looked back....our silver truck had a green streak for awhile on the right back wheel well, but when I looked this morning, it was gone. Scott used some elbow grease and it looks as good as new.

I have been taught recently the 3 S's for cockroaches – Smash, Sweep and Stomp! That is how you terminate these crunchy little critters. If they are on the counter, you smash them with the palm of your hand, then you sweep it off the counter to the floor and finally stomp it with your foot. They really are very hard to kill! The other day, I found a big one belly-up in the freezer. I won't touch them, so I got Scott to come and get it out; he had it in the palm of his hand and within 15 seconds, it started to move! You can't even freeze them to death! Then, just last night, I was re-heating spaghetti in the microwave and as I took out Scott's plate, there was one in there! I know it wasn't there when I started, so they must hide out in the vents; took care of that little guy - left him in there and microwaved him for 10 seconds - gone!

The rainy season is coming and we have had a couple of torrential downpours during the night; it is actually kind of magical to watch the city green-up. We found a different driving route to take to our area of service, and it cuts out at least an hour of travel and it takes us through the country, such as it is, but it is lush and green and gives me a change to look out the window and see something other than crowds of people, podas and motorcycles.

Safe Journey! 

p.s. Here are some pictures taken from Leichester Peak. Interesting fact - Elder Richard G. Scott dedicated Sierra Leone for the preaching of the Gospel in 1989.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Week #3 continued...

Here in Sierra Leone, people transport themselves either by foot, motorcycle or poda (taxi). The podas are late model beat up Mazda mini vans (not sure how they all got here)....anyway, the original seats are removed and replaced with benches so they can cram as many people as possible along with all their worldly possessions. Normal capacity maybe 8? Two in the front and then 3 and 3. They stuff a minimum of 15 people in them and they are like sardines; all you see are the whites of their eyes, unless of course you see one or two with half of themselves hanging out a window. Keep in mind it is hot and muggy here, no air conditioning, and no deodorant.
Anyway, while driving out to Waterloo twice this past week-end I took note of the sayings they have decaled on the front of their hoods - enjoy!
be content
bongo man
mother's blessing
man united
God is in control
be patient, wait for your time
long life, pure water (is this ever the truth)
supernatural restoration
be honest to yourself
lucky move
fear judgment day
God's blessings
white boy (I have yet to see a white man driving a poda)
time will tell

Material for journal entries is unending!

More photos:
  85-90 people attended conference. It started at 9am and no one owns a vehicle.

Members and Conference.

Members of the Waterloo Branch watching conference. The boy on the left is the one who  walked/ran 7+ miles to church last week. 

Week #3 - Sierra Leone Mission

Dear Family and Friends,
The internet is so sketchy here, that's to say it is challenging to get emails off once a week is an understatement, let alone pictures, but I will do my best. The following is an observation list of what I have seen/experienced in just two short weeks in Freetown, Sierra Lone.

 - young babies nestled on their mothers' backs are beautiful
- men can use anything as the bathroom whenever and wherever they want (not fair)
- the people, for the most part, are very lean (they walk everywhere)
- chickens are scrawny (the Kanzler girl-chicks are 3 times the size)
- kids don't require electronic devises to entertain themselves (stick, rock, tire will do)

 - the head is a very important part of the body that is used to transport a variety of items to name a few - tires, food, blankets, mattresses, household products, televisions, jugs for carrying water, clothing, bread, eggs; my guess is, less pick pocketing this way
- women carry the majority of weight, literally and emotionally; they have one baby on their back, another toddler at their side and a head full of items they have purchased or are selling for the family
- dogs are not pets (some veterinary organization needs to come over here and spay and neuter 100's of dogs)
- no cats
- bleach is my scent of choice
- plaids do go with stripes
- no public restrooms and with my weak bladder, I have a major problem
- you sweat daily
- there are no trash receptacles and gargabe is just tossed and burned on the side of the road
- there is always smoke, there is always exhaust, there is always red fine dirt
- if the internet does work, it is very weak and doesn't last long
- if we are not short on water, then we are short on power
- anywhere we drive it is like “off roading” and anyone prone to car sickness will not survive (I will never see Sue S. here, not that she would have come anyway, but this seals it)
- I live to go grocery shopping (because there is nothing else to do)
- Sunday is like any other day with thousands of people going every which way, but the women dress up and look beautiful in their native garb
- always, always traffic congestion, but no road rage (go figure)
- you can't be faint of heart and use the motorcycle taxi
- everything looks the same to me so I can't pinpoint landmarks to help us find our way home
Carry on....Robin

Here are some more pictures from the last week:

Three Young Women from the Wellington Branch.

 It's a 15 minute walk down to the river for the baptism.

Coming out of the water!

 Elder Kanzler walking back from the baptism.

 Digging a well to the side of the Waterloo Chapel for water for a font.

11 new missionaries and the AP's.