Traveled to Makeni on Wednesday to deliver supplies for the Saints and met with a member of the church, Prince Kaillie who is overseeing the services for about 30 members of the church; he is very excited about the future when missionaries will be assigned to this area; we then drove over to the vocational school where church services are held. For the time being it is an adequate setting for church services, but the tribal council of the school met with us, and they are requesting funds be paid for the use of the room(s). Going forward, it will not be adequate for church services. From there we drove over to the apartment that has been marked as a possible site for 6 missionaries. Our observation of the site came with a couple of concerns: the apartment is like a duplex with another housing unit connected to the missionary's and an outside cooking venue shared by both tenants. Additional concern would be the possibility of females living next door to the missionaries.
One lane bridge on the way to Makeni
Our turn to cross the bridge
Bathroom stop for guess who! Quiet a view though.
The Burns (humanitarian couple) were with us, so we visited a school that has needs and then onto a polio camp. I was so impressed with these people – so desirous to be independent and self sufficient. All adults in the camp were either stricken with Polio, or their spouse. But there were also offspring stricken with the disease spread by a virus that continues to flourish in West Africa due to such unsanitary conditions. The kids just want to touch and be touched and I can't hold back from doing so. I am just grateful for all the shots and immunizations I had before we left on our mission.
In the office on Thursday to input Convert Data Entries (CDE's); 100's of people are being baptized each month and it is quite a laborious process to input the information on them, e.g. where they were born, the date they were born (typically no birth certificates, so frequently they just pick the same month and day as their parents who have likewise picked the same month and day). It just takes a lot of time; I want to do it right as this will be their permanent record in the eyes of the Church.
Friday, we had the wonderful opportunity to be part of the final preparation of 3 missionaries leaving from the Freetown area. We were originally advised we would be driving the missionaries to the dock around 1:00 and that was the extent of our assignment. In retrospect, we are so grateful we went into the office in the morning because it resulted in us feeling such excitement for these young people and their humble families waiting with them. I filled out paperwork for them to receive their Patriarchal Blessings and when the time came for them to be set apart, Elder Kanzler was asked to stand in the circle, and he was so touched and thrilled to be a part of this process. We then drove them to the hovercraft and while we were waiting for the craft, a gentleman came up to us and introduced himself as Elder Mensa the future mission president of two of the young missionaries we had with us. Back to the office to complete more entries of CDE's.
3 Missionaries leaving on their missions.
Missionary with his mom
Saturday, we drove to Waterloo to deliver baptismal clothing to the elders that were on loan from the AP's. From there we drove to Grafton to witness the baptism of 5 candidates. What a sweet experience for us. There were 4 brothers and one sister baptized – 3 from Kossoh Town and 2 from Grafton. The sister was disabled, having been stricken with polio and thus her legs very unstable. It was so sweet to watch Elders' Edwards and Evans help her.
While Elder Edwards prepared to baptize here, Elder Evans was also in the font to ensure she would not slip. They were so kind and gentle with her. All 5 newly baptized members were then invited to bear their testimonies. It was very powerful to hear of their conversions. President Sesay was in attendance and presided over the meeting. He welcomed the newly baptized members and gave a very powerful testimony of the restored gospel. Our hope is that more branch members will come to baptisms and support these new members. Pictures were taken afterward, and the sweet sister, motioned to me to come over to have her picture taken with me. She called me “momma” and I gave her a side hug, and she turned and kissed me on the cheek, not the normal sign of emotion I have seen in West Africa.
Today was historic as it was the 1st Stake Conference of the Sierra Leone Freetown Stake, the 3,000th Stake of the Church that was organized in December 2012. The talks were exceptional, and the Stake choir was wonderful. The harmony and melody of the Africans is somewhat nasal, for lack of a better word, and it sounds so primitive and ancient but it is so beautiful as they sing with such fervor and enthusiasm; and they just keep going even if the organ is 2 measures behind them, or the power goes out. The men have white shirts on and ties, and the women have matching blouses. It was like a Stake Conference in the states, everyone so happy to meet and visit but Scott and I were 2 of 12 members in attendance who were white and the remaining 945 were black. The youngest patriarch in the church spoke – he is 42 years of age; the 2nd counselor in the Stake Relief Society spoke and gave a powerful talk on commitment. At one point, I was so filled with emotion that I turned around to Scott and communicated with him through my eyes that this is why we are on a mission.
900+ saints leaving the conference hall on Sunday
I think I may be turning a corner in my adjustment to missionary life, just a tiny bit more light under my door as it drives out the darkness of adversity and challenge but I don't want to say it too loudly or boldly as there could be something just around the corner to set me back on my heels.
Looking at the church wall in Grafton with the razor wire
The scene looking away from the Church wall in Grafton
Elder Otaniyuwa who ends his mission June 7 and returns to Nigeria