Monday, June 17, 2013

Week #9 - She Says "My prayers are changing..."

Dear Family and Friends,
Sunday, June 9, 2013
We asked one of the members of another branch, today, Tommie Abu what he knew about the runway we saw yesterday and he told us of its use. He was a branch president during the war and we had a few moments with him today as he shared some of the horrors of the conflict. 2/3's of Freetown, Sierra Leone was destroyed by gunfire, bombs and fire. There wasn't a day in his life during the war that someone wasn't killed around him. He told us of other atrocities too horrible to mention, though very similar to the last wars in the Book of Mormon. 

During the 11 year conflict, members of the church continued to attend church and miraculously, during the entire war, none of the church facilities were damaged or destroyed. He also told of one church meeting, when rebels came to the church looking for money and food. Brother Abu then left the meeting, and went into his office with them, closing the door behind him to protect the congregation. He told them there was no money as there was no paid ministry and the members had no money either, but he offered them church pamphlets and church magazines and they took them and left; he then went back into church when another rebel showed up and he had to leave again to go to his office, and again closes the door behind him to protect his flock; this rebel wants a screwdriver for what only he knows, and Brother Abu manages to find one and send him on his way with out any harm to the parishioners, and then the rebel brings it back after he is done with it! 

As the war intensified and he feared for his family's life, he told his wife that they must leave their home and flee to the mountains and into the jungle. She did not want to leave her home but had no choice (sounds like the saints leaving Nauvoo), but as they were preparing to leave, two of their children had come home very tired and told them they would follow the next day, so Brother Abu left them and took the rest of his family and fled. Well, the very next morning rebels showed up at their home and took these two captive. Brother Abu later found out after the war, that his son was being forced to fight with the rebels, but refused and was later able to escape unharmed; his daughter on the other hand was conscripted to cook for the rebels and spent the rest of the war doing so, however was left unharmed and unmolested because one of the rebels recognized her and knew her father and told the soldier camp that when he returned, if he found that she had been harmed or killed, he would take the lives of all the soldiers in the camp (I know this sounds like something out of a novel, but it is real). 

So we asked, what became of the rebels once the war ended and he said many of them were given farm tools and returned to their homes; others became drivers and other service related jobs; a lot of these men live amongst the Sierra Leonians to this day and because, for the most part, the citizens of Sierra Leone are loving and kind, life is going on and they are re-building and re-structuring is ongoing. 

Quite a story and one I will never forget nor will I forget Tommie Abu and his goodness and great faith and trust in the Lord!

Last but not least, tonight I was making chocolate chip cookies for a missionary tri-zone conference tomorrow; I got out the hand mixer, plugged it in and started the process of mixing the dough, when one of the beaters fell out into the bowl; so I picked it up and proceeded to push it back into the hand mixer with my left hand, when unbeknownst to me, the mixer was on and it proceeded to churn all of my fingers on my left hand minus my thumb between both beaters and because it was on, it is pinching and smashing them! 

To say the least, it is quite painful and I call out to Scott who is in the next room to come and help me, please! He rushes to my aid, sees my fingers caught in the beaters, and unplugs the mixer and then pries the beaters apart in order to dislodge my hand. I shed some tears over this one as it really hurt. In retrospect, what does he ask me? Why didn't you unplug the mixer? Why didn't you hit the eject button and pop out the beaters? Well, let me fingers are smashed and hurting, and if I let go of the mixer with my right hand to unplug the mixer, not only do I have fingers caught in the beaters, but the mixer is now dangling from my left hand that is caught in the beaters, and they would still be caught because it took two hands to pry them apart!!! I would not suggest that anyone else try this!

Saturday, June 15, 2013
What a day this was – loved it! First thing this morning we were in the truck headed for the Kissy Chappel in order to participate in the Employment Workshop Class that started at 9:00 am. I had no idea I was to teach the class until I got there, but it was so fun to be with these wonderful people who are trying to better themselves and get steady employment. There are so few opportunities for them other than placing goods on their heads and walking up and down streets trying to sell. We hope to encourage them to attend either school or a trade school in order to increase their hiring potential. 

We were excited to announce to them today that the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) is coming to Sierra Leonel and this will give them the opportunity to attend school with a loan from this fund provided by the Church to pay for their schooling up front; they will be required to make monthly payments, but at such a minimum as to allow them to go to school; if they excel, and meet certain requirements the loan balance will be reduced. Scott introduced this exciting news to them and as he was talking about it, he shared with them the possibility of having extra money and what they could do with it...he is referring to it as some fun money, but when he opens it up to the group, one sister says she would use the money for food; I felt such compassion for these people at that moment. 

They have so very little to survive on; as I continue to see more light in my life here in Sierra Leone, my prayers are changing; I am not praying and crying so much for me anymore and feeling so overwhelmed by being here. I am praying and crying for these wonderful people, that they have jobs, shelter and enough food. Some of the people in this class this morning stayed at the church throughout the day; what else do they have? I believe the church building is such a safe haven for them. I feel it when I am there.

So after the Employment Workshop, we stayed for a baptism and what a process to get the font filled. Hand filled with buckets being dipped into two barrels, and when the barrels were drained, a missionary climbing on top of a water tower hand-dipping the buckets, handing them down to willing transporters, who then poured them into the font. It was getting late, so they finally stopped and the baptismal candidate had to sit in the font and then laid back in order to be baptized.

Next up after the baptism was a District Primary Activity. Oh my! 102 kids and 27 adult leaders! Were they ever cute! 

They started gathering around 11:30 am and by the time we left at 2:30 pm, they were still going strong. Once again, when we left in our truck, we were the only vehicle in the parking lot, so all those kids and leaders either walked or took transport to get there. 

It is so touching to see the dedication of these people and their children. Each branch had was asked to perform, and most of them sang a Primary song, but what was so impressive, a little child would stand in front of his Primary friends and conduct the song! 

They had us sit up in front as guests and when we had to leave to drive on to Grafton, the Primary President leaned over and offered us a soft drink before we left; I knew based on the headcount, that they didn't even have enough for the little ones and we weren't going to take from them, so we graciously declined. It was a wonderful day and I am so grateful to have played a small part in it.

Love, Robin

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