Monday, August 19, 2013

Week #17 - She Says

Dear Family and Friends,
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
We had 3 missionaries come into the mission office from their fields of labor today – Elders Donaldson, Nickel and Stewart. They begin their journeys home tomorrow after serving faithfully for two years. I have had encounters with all 3 of these wonderful young men in the East. They were there when I arrived in the mission field and my second Sunday in Sierra Leone began my sweet association with them. 
At the dock in Freetown as Daniel Donaldson begins his return home to California.

At the dock as Hunter Stewart begins his return home to Louisiana.

At the dock as Jacob Nickel begins his return home to Arizona.
These four all came together but Elder Liufau goes home in 18 days.

This is a continuation of farewells that started with Elder Adah last week, of missionaries going home with whom I have a connection, a bond. For a brief moment in time, I cared for them, prayed for them, worried over them, loved them – maybe just a little like their moms would if they were here; I am grateful for this experience I am having serving with these young men and women – an experience parents don't get to have, that of serving along side their children in the mission field. It feels good and I am grateful for Heavenly Father's tender mercy in allowing me these feelings/experiences to help fill in the space in my heart that was left open for the children I didn't have as a young woman.

Thursday, August 8, 2013
The mission president had his new car delivered yesterday, and we were fortunate to get his old one and our truck went to another senior missionary couple. We are now driving an SUV that has more room and can be secured without too much worry of our things being stolen out of it. The truck had a cover over the bed, but it didn't lock so we could never lock anything in the back; we are hauling stuff all the time out to missionaries – books, rain gear, mail, water pumps, cooking gas, water filters – it would all be gone if we left it briefly to enter an apartment. 

So today, with the “new” vehicle, we are at the mission office loading it with all the items that must go with us and I am re-arranging everything Scott had just arranged in the back end with the hatch open (that swings like a door – nice feature). He is back there with me, but it starts to rain (so what else is new now that the rainy season is here) so he moves towards the front of the vehicle and I assume he is getting in! I go to shut the door and he yells “don't shut that door!” How was I to know he had left the only set of keys we had in the car and my shutting the door locked them in there! I decided to stay outside while he went inside to call the mission president and have him drive down from the mission home with the other set of keys.

Once we got the keys all figured out, off we went out East to look at apartments for missionaries. We currently have 90 missionaries but by the end of November we will have an additional 42 new missionaries and no where to put them at this time. With the mission president's directive, no missionary or member is to live beyond 20 minutes walk from the church building (center of strength). Presently, some of our missionaries, if they were to walk, spend over an hour just getting to their area of proselyting. Members spend more money than they should to travel to church and the mission president wants the focus now closer to the church.

We took Marcus Wallace with us to inspect the apartments. He works for the church with the specific assignment to help find apartments, and then to maintain them. There is so much that goes into keeping an apartment running in this country. There is a generator that needs maintenance and fuel, there is a stove that requires cooking gas that is always needing to be replaced; the water filter/pump system that has a hand pump the missionaries use to take contaminated water, hand pump it through a filtering system into water bottles so they can cook and drink it. The hand pump is made out of pvc pipe and the missionaries get a little carried away with their muscles and they break quite often, so those are in constant need of repair/replacement. Each missionary has a fan for their use, as well as a net for their beds that need replacement and repair. What can I say about the bathrooms – they always need repairs (I need my brother-in-law Stan here).

Back to Marcus. He joined the army when he was 17 and when the civil war broke out he was 19 and fought for 7 years. While he was fighting the rebels in Kissy, his wife and daughter, who was 7 at the time, were in Freetown, but the conflict was so horrible, they escaped and made their way to Guinea, then eventually to Liberia. Marcus lost all contact with them and he has not seen them since and his daughter is now 22. He has tried to find them through the Red Cross but been unsuccessful. 

So, as I continue my story about Marcus; the church produced a video of 4 West African countries, one being Sierra Leone, that traces the history of the church, and the difficulty the members had during the civil war. While watching the video on Sierra Leone, we saw actual footage of the war, and suddenly, on the screen is Marcus as a soldier! It was not staged and Marcus was so surprised when he viewed it for the first time to see he was part of church history in Sierra Leone. What would be the odds of one soldier out of thousands to be filmed and be a member of the church? Remarkable...

Friday, August 9, 2013
What is it about some days that feel so good and sweet? This morning was one of those days, at least at the Mission Office. It has been raining heavily for 4 days, but this morning, the sun was out momentarily and so I went out back and up the little hill to burn some garbage. It was then I had a moment with Heavenly Father, and Nature; Grandkids came into my mind and heart. I prayed, as I was missing them, Heavenly Father wouldn't let them forget me...then I turned around to see a banana tree with fruit ready for picking, and thanked Nature for her bounties. It felt good being in Sierra Leone....

And then.....the past 3 days or so, the foulest order has been wafting from the bathroom – every time I went in there I didn't think I would come out again, succumbing to the fumes, but I couldn't figure out what it was or where it was coming from. I could smell it in the sink and at one point, I saw something dark and thought it was the hind-end of something dead thinking that was the reason for the smell, but as I pulled it out (with tweezers) it was a twig with something attached. Then I got closer to the drain (?) or whatever it is that I pour a cup of water in every week – Oh my goodness! That was where it was coming from, so I poured anything I could get my hands on to try to “flush” out the problem – Draino, bleach, baking soda, boiling water. They all worked momentarily but then back it would come (truly awful). So I checked with my neighbor across the hall. She advises more water than just once a week. Because we use more water during the rainy season (so much more flushing), the drain is dryer (go figure) and the fumes come back out into the bathroom! I also had a stroke of genius (doesn't come very often) and took a dryer sheet (thank you people for sending me dryer sheets!) and placed it over the drain. A little bit of heaven....

Love, Robin

More snaps:
An ordinary day hitching a ride.
Bo dental clinic

Kissy Zone Conference - Meet the new mission president and his wife.

The fillings from digging well. Like a miniature city. Once the lighter color is found water is imminent.

The foundation of the Waterloo font. Soon, we will no longer walk to the river for baptisms. 

Waterloo Zone Conference - meet the new mission president and his wife.

Week #17 - He Says

Dear Family,

The weeks seem to be picking up momentum. The experiences continue to strengthen are faith and build our love for the people of Sierra Leone.

We continue to meet weekly with President Kpullum.  This time we had our monthly missionary correlation meeting with the zone leaders, Elder's Nickle, Animba, Nwosu & Burton.  For July the Kissy Zone had 19 baptisms (which included 1 family) and the Waterloo Zone had 26 baptisms (3 families completed).  President continues to be concerned with retention and how the new members are being fellowshipped into the branches.

The Districts office now has power, however the computer is still in the box, it's now going on for 3 weeks.  President Kpullum did interview 4 brethren from the Waterloo Branch to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. Kelvin Kamara (BP Exec. Sec), David Bangura (branch mission leader) and Komba Moiwo, & James Coker.  The first 2 have been members less than 3 months, but are extremely faithful and very active in the branch.
It was wonderful being apart of Elder Adah's testimony meeting.  We have been around him ever since we arrived in Sierra Leone.  We are learning that enduring to the end here and returning with honor will bless their lives forever.  To think that he is the oldest member of the church in his family, he lost his dad at age 12 and his non-member mother financially supported him is quite a testimony, we love him and pray he will stay close to the Lord.

Thursday we went to the Allentown apt. with the assistants and shared the vision of the mission with the zone leaders about building around our centers of strength in our proselyting areas.  Challenging them to suggest how to build proselyting areas around chapels and being no more than 20 minutes away.  Plus looking to find apartments close to the chapels.  They currently are a hour to an hour and a half by walking to their proselyting areas.

Saturday we started in Thunder Hill where we witnessed 6 baptisms. Five by Elder's Serafine and Melville (3 of them were a mom & 2 children, not sure the status of the father) and 1 by the Kissy 1 Elder's Ngerem & Narteh.   The man is married and his wife lives in Utah and is a member. The Thunder Hill branch president presided, the branch mission leader conducted and the members gave the talks.  At the end Robin and I were asked to share our testimonies, it was a wonderful service.

Then back to the Kissy Chapel where Robin trained the district primary presidency on how to present the August theme on prayer.  She trained them on how to present each week and gave them some very helpful ideas to share with the branchs primary leadership.  She was touched by the faithfulness and dedication to the gospel and their calling.

Then we met the Kossoh Town Elder's and picked of some CDE's for the zone leaders.  From there we headed to Waterloo and took part in a baptism.  The man baptized had to use a crutch (not sure why), he made the mile and a half walk to the river, a real testimony of his commitment to the gospel and what he had been taught.
From there we dropped off a medical kit to the Grafton apartment, some mail and headed home.  We managed to get through the back road, a little muddy in some places, but did not need the 4 wheel drive.  It saved us 1 hour and no Kissy road, yea!

Sunday took us to the Wellington 2nd Branch. We wanted to attend there because it was Elder Nickle's last Sunday. The investigators class was taught by a returned missionary Bro. Sivalie, he did an excellent job on the atonement, handling the questions with great maturity and knowledge.  The BP taught Elder's Quorum trained on how to correctly administer priesthood ordinances.  One concern was that the YM's president was in Elder's Quorum and not with the YM.

We then made our way back to the Kissy 1st Branch.  The BP, President Dassama bore his testimony at the end on paying tithes and offerings.  He shared that those who have paid their tithes and offerings have not had to come to him for help, that was powerful.  Robin then met with the YW's president about next Saturday's young women in excellence program.

We love the work!  Have a great week, we feel your love and prayers.

Elder & Sister Kanzler, Grandma & Grandpa, Scott & Robin

Week #16 - She Says

Dear Family and Friends,
Sunday, July 28, 2013
I don't know what it is about Sunday's, but I am not very functional. I was up this morning before dawn and by the time we arrived in Waterloo at 9:00 am it was already hot there and Sacrament meeting wasn't even over before I was in the car to sit down (it didn't help that there were not enough chairs for the number of people who attended church) because I was so warm and exhausted. I spent the next 2 ½ hours in the car with the windows down, either asleep or entertaining little kids who needed to be in class but just kept hanging around the truck. One little boy just couldn't keep his hands off stuff inside the truck – up and down with the automatic locks, messing with the steering wheel and then he decided to honk the horn which brought me out of a sleeping stupor! 

We went from Waterloo to Kissy and I attended Relief Society – I sat in the back where windows were open and because they are closer to the ocean, it is at least 10 degrees cooler than Waterloo; I still fell asleep and came to when one of the sisters came around to collect the books that had been handed out at the beginning of class and she retrieved mine from my lap. At that point it was time for the closing prayer, and the RS president singled out another sister who had been sleeping and made her give the prayer. I thought I had escaped her seeing that I was asleep – not so – she just waited until class was over and everyone was filing out to comment on my inability to stay awake. That was a little embarrassing to say the least!

We got back home by 8:00 pm this evening. The long days add to my overwhelming exhaustion.

Monday, July 29, 2013
“Preparation” day! In order to do laundry, I wait for Monday's because of an issue we have with generators at the mission home; the old generator, the work horse, is extremely loud and literally rumbles and shakes the walls of the senior couple across the hall from us. The newer generator which is much quieter, has a shut-off mechanism so when there is a power overload, it automatically shuts down. This issue was discovered late one night as I was using my clothes dryer and the upstairs couple were using their dryer at the same time. All of a sudden, no power, no lights, pitch black. Solution – Monday's when everyone is in the office, unlimited use of the washer/dryer.

Had the couples over for dinner tonight. I think it was enjoyed by all.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013
I saw a post on FaceBook today; my dear friends Bill and Rosemary Preece are officially full time missionaries. They were set apart on Sunday evening.  They will serve in the London South Mission, living in Bristol. I am so grateful for their friendship. It has been well over 40 years that I have been friends with Rosemary, and it all started at the Hurley Ward building and a Single Adult volleyball game.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Yesterday while at the mission office, Scott walked me up the little hill just outside our office to the new mission home that is under construction. It was supposed to have been completed this month but now the projected date is the 1st of the new year. is going to be so delightful once it is done; lots of windows (for West Africans to try to get through) for light. 

Our apartment sits on the second floor so it will be up and above any security walls and will offer more of a free feeling, rather than the “imprisonment” we feel where we currently live. There is also going to be a small step-out balcony so we can sit outside in the mornings and early evenings before the mosquitoes arrive. Because it is within the church compound of mission office and Stake Center, I will also be able to start walking again without having to be accompanied by anyone. It is the little things that make such a difference and I don't even realize it until they are unavailable. To be able to walk again and feel safe! In the meantime, I use my jump rope for exercise.
The entrance to our compound
And this is our guard - ready for a trip to Hawaii. In the event of danger we will be protecting him! Notice his shoes.
The steel door that leads to our apartment complex
The steel barred door and wooden door that leads down the hallway to our apartment

The door to our apartment

He is back in the kitchen now that he assures me he uses bleach in the water.
Our future mission home - someday.

We said good-bye to one of our missionaries today - Elder Adah. His home is in Nigeria.

Thursday, August 1, 2013
We were scheduled today to travel to Allentown with the assistants in order to meet with the missionaries there and discuss the area and future realignment of the proselyting area. We waited for Marcus to return with our truck; he was in Bo overnight and was supposed to have left early this morning and return in time for us to leave at 11:30 to be in Allentown by 12:30 pm. We waited and waited and finally borrowed President Ostler's car. As we were leaving the parking lot of the mission office at 12:45, who is pulling in but Marcus with the truck. Too late to switch vehicles. 

The lunch Scott bought for everyone that was to be eaten in Allentown, was eaten in the mission office as we watched a church video. It was while watching the film I discovered another use for missionary ties. I had already observed its versatility in other ways – that of a napkin and the other as a means to wipe sweat from one's brow. Today it was used as a means to wipe tears from eyes that were weeping from a touching scene in the movie. I happened to look over and see Elder Wootton dabbing his eyes and face as the tears ran down his cheeks. Thankfully, I have yet to see the tie used as a kleenex to blow one's nose.

Saturday, August 3, 2013
Today, I conducted training in the Kissy Building for the Primary leadership. When I was asked a week ago, and told 2:00 pm, I wondered if anyone would be on time and if it was for just the district leadership or did it include the branches as well. I arrived to set up at 1:30 pm and the District President, Sister Kalilu showed up. As 2:00 pm approached, she was frantically calling others to make sure they were coming. I suggested we begin even though it was the two of us and so we did. 
District Primary President getting a ride home from her husband.

It was such a sweet experience to train this woman and have her role-play as a child as I taught her ways to teach children and to capture their attention. At one point, I told her about using a bean bag to toss to children in order for them to either come forward in front of the class, or to answer a question. They don't have bean bags here, so I took some dried kidney beans and secured them in a handkerchief with a rubber band. When I tossed it to her, pretending she was a child, there was no pretense, as her beautiful brown eyes lit up like a child's in her attempt to catch the bean bag and then throw it back to me. It was just a wonderful few moments for me. As I concluded and expressed my love to her and gratitude for her faithfulness, she took a few moments and expressed her appreciation for the sacrifice I had made to leave my home and family to come to Sierra Leone to serve a mission. She also talked about the likelihood that at the end of mission, and my return home we would not see each other again, and the realization of that brought many tears to my eyes.

Love, Robin

More snaps:

A beautiful view of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Where sky and clouds meet ocean. The two horizontal objects are ships.

Week #16 - He Says

Dear Family,
OK, I'm a week behind, hope to get caught up this week.  Hope this finds all well and happy.  Deb, can we Skype next Sunday for mom's 91st BD?  Let me know!
This week we had a variety of things to do, starting with transferring missionaries to preparing members to go to the temple.

Tuesday started by transferring missionaries from their current territories to new ones in the Freetown West & East areas. Elder Mangalo came along for the ride as he was getting a new companion.  We were on the road at 8:30 a.m. and were done at 4:30 p.m. Elder Mongalo said that he is glad to be walking!

Then Robin and I headed to the Kissy building where we took part in a District Council meeting.  President Kpullum, President Thomas, Sister George (RS Pres.), the district Primary president Sister Kallu and YM president Bro. Kallon were all in attendance.  We talked about building families and how each of their organizations can help make this happen.  We gave them the assignment to come back in a month with ideas on what they can do.  We challenged them to pray, ponder and even fast to know what the Lord would have them do, first in their own family and then with their organization.

Wednesday involved taking the new missionaries to their new areas.  First Elder Melville to Kissy and then Elder Wilding to Grafton.  They were excited to truly get their mission started.  Then I brought Elder Adah into Freetown, I've learned to love him and appreciate him for enduring to the end, Returning with Honor.

Thursday we spent part of the day with Sister's Awuoche & Ndolo and Elder's McDonald & Gherkins doing a service project.  The project involved moving the Wellington 1st Branch RS president who has been less active.  We helped her move down the street, she was so grateful for all our efforts.

We spent Saturday attending 4 baptisms at Wellington building which involved Elder's Nickle and Animba, McDonald and Gherkins and Sister's Owusu and Kioko all had candidates being baptized.  The service was conducted by the branch and went well.

We then traveled to Kossoh Town to witness a YW activity that was suppose to start at 2 p.m., but had not started by 3:30 p.m. when we had to leave, we were disappointed that we missed it.

Then we were off to Waterloo were they had 3 baptisms.  The missionaries continue to conduct the baptisms, however the BP, President Kamara presided.  Having the baptisms in the late afternoon, there is much better support, 21 members were present.
Sunday was another full day.  It started in the Waterloo Branch, 102 were present for Sacrament meeting, the building needs to be converted to a chapel quickly.
Then back to the Kissy building where we met with the first 16 members that will be going on the November temple trip.  We have a follow-up meeting August 11th.  We will be starting a temple preparation class shortly after that.

We ended the evening by going to the Wellington Sister's apartment and Sister Kanzler met with Sister Awuoche who is having some health issues.  After that Elder's McDonald, Gherkins and I gave her a blessing. 

We don't always know where our weeks will take us, so we prepare to always be worthy of the spirit and then be ready to do His will.

Elder & Sister Kanzler, Grandma & Grandpa, Scott & Robin

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Week #15 - She Says

Dear Family and Friends,
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Not the usual 12 hour Sunday. We were out the door by 8:20 to take the back road out to Grafton so we could be part of the confirmations of 11 people baptized yesterday, but we got only so far and they had closed the road and turned everyone back including the motorcycles. So Grafton was out and we were too late to Sacrament meeting in Kissy, so we drove to Wellington and attended church there; Scott had some training to conduct in Wellington anyway. We were done by 2:30 pm and headed for home arriving by 4:00 pm.

Sister Awuoche who is a missionary in the Wellington area, continues to remind me of my friend, Shirley Rowley – her personality, sense of humor and facial expressions. Such a wonderful young woman who, by the way, has the same birthday as me – January 29th. I just happen to be 39 years older than her.

Our drive home down Kissy Road always takes us by a huge garbage dump and I keep spotting pigs in there eating to their hearts content, so Scott stopped long enough for me to snap a picture of them wallowing in all the stinking refuge. Remind me to never eat any pork products processed in Sierra Leone!

Thursday, July 25, 2013
Not much activity earlier in this week, but haven't experienced Saturday yet...

We drove out to the Wellington sister missionaries today to help an older woman move from her ground level apartment to an apartment on the 3rd floor and up a very narrow stairway. The sisters made the arrangements and when we got to their apartment, the District Leader, Elder Gherkins and the Zone Leader, Elder McDonald were waiting outside and there to help us. When we got to the sister's apartment, young men were already helping in the moving process so the sisters and I basically sat and watched it all happen, and it was fun to chat and laugh with them. Our truck was needed and that was the main reason we were there, but really the furniture got moved a lot quicker and easier when the locals just loaded couches on their heads and hauled them down the street. The truck moved the freezer that was so big that it wouldn't fit through the last door to enter the woman's home, so it is sitting out on her balcony and will need an extension cord to work.
The sweet woman who had to move didn't have any of her children living with her, but had about 4-5 extended family members' children she had taken in and was raising; this isn't out of the ordinary here – women with no husbands and raising a parcel of children many of whom are not their own.

Our little huddle just before going out the door to help a sister move.

Elder Gherkins and Elder McDonald helping on moving day.

How many people does it take to move a freezer through a door?

I challenged the elders to carry a piece on their heads.

Such cute guys!

Notice the human transport is ahead of the vehicle transportation.

I wonder which leg is mine.

Why would Lillian have diving flippers?

I was too late to stop her from using her teeth to take the cap off of the bottle.

The pet monkey was part of the move but he would have nothing to do with me.

Saturday, July 27, 2013
Started out this day in Wellington for the baptisms of 4 people. One was a woman who had to be baptized 3 times as she was not completely immersed; what is particularly touching is, that most West Africans are afraid of water. There are many beaches in the city of Freetown, and with nearly 2,000,000 people, I have seen only a couple of them at the beach and have never seen them swimming in the ocean. So for this woman to be dipped backwards and to be fully immersed in the water, took a lot of courage. The missionary didn't give up and neither did she and by the 3rd attempt she was successfully completely immersed in the water, though she was very happy to be brought back out as quickly as possible. 

From Wellington, we drove to Kossoh Town to attend a Young Woman activity that was scheduled to start at 2:00 pm. By 3:30 pm, we had to leave to drive to Waterloo and the activity still hadn't started! West Africans seem to have no concept of punctuality; maybe it is because the majority of them don't work and so they aren't required to be on time. We continually get to scheduled activities on time just to wait and wait and/or leave because we have to be somewhere else. It is quite frustrating. The young women were practicing as we waited and I could tell they were excited to have us as an audience, so it was difficult for us to leave.

We drove out to Waterloo and delivered mail to the missionaries, including more letters to Elder Penia. This saga of one young man's desire for mail will not soon be forgotten by him or me as we have been touched by the response of so many who answered the call for letters.

Love, Robin

More Snaps:

Little Bob sitting on Scott's lap.

Momma pig at the Kissy garbage site. It stunk to high heaven.

Note to self: do not eat any pork products produced in Sierra Leone!

Week #14 - She Says

Dear Family and Friends,
Sunday, July 14, 2013
We were up and out the door this morning by 7:30 and took the Ostler's with us as the much anticipated devotional was held at 4:00 pm at the Kissy Chapel. We attended church at the Wellington 2 branch that started at 9:00 am and once church was over at noon, we headed back to Kissy and attended Kissy 1's Sacrament meeting and then met with President Kpullum for an hour so President and Sister Ostler could get better acquainted with him. He is a very soft spoken man and speaks rapidly and I struggle to make out about every 5 words, but I actually understood most of what he said today; my language interpretation skills must be getting better.
President and Sister Ostler with the Sierra Leone church historian, Brother Sellu

We had a few moments after the meeting and before the devotional, so Scott, Rachelle (Ostler) and I sat outside the chapel on the plastic chairs that had been set up as overflow for the devotional. A nice breeze was blowing and we were just talking when all of a sudden – this loud snap and crack with a body moving out of the corner of my eye – I looked over and there is Scott on his way down to the ground, though trying to catch himself amongst a sea of plastic chairs that are moving right along with him. As he was sitting quietly in his chair, one of the legs just snapped off and the rest was just hysterical to me; everyone came to his rescue but me, as I was bent over in laughter. Apparently, African plastic isn't quite as sturdy as American.....
The chair leg snapped and down he went - I thought it was hysterical. The members doubled up on his chairs.
President Ostler speaking at the Freetown East District devotional
The Devotional was wonderful; the choir was exceptional. All the ladies came in matching dresses and even though I had on an African blouse, its color along with my skin color added much to my sticking out amongst these beautiful women. In my 40's while living in Utah, I wanted to be a member of the Tabernacle Choir, but when I inquired about the requirements, I discovered I had exceeded the age requirement amongst other stipulations and that was a disappointment. I love music and I especially love choral singing and have been a member of choirs for years – tonight, singing with these wonderful people was one of the highlights of my life – there was no previous formal training or music workshops for the choir director; just a wonderful gift and love for singing and the harmony was just beautiful. It may not have been the Tabernacle Choir, but I will long remember this experience and forever be grateful for the opportunity to sing with the Saints of Sierra Leone.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Today, Scott and I were in the office which I needed as I had many convert baptisms to enter and it is very tedious work and takes up most of the day to enter approximately 60 baptisms. After Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday out East all day and into the early evening, a day in the office is much needed to rest and recuperate after all the driving; I can't say enough or describe sufficiently how rough the roads are here. If I don't have an organ detachment before the end of our mission, it will be a miracle. That is how rough it is!

I sent out a distress email to friends and family regarding a missionary out East, Elder Penia who has not had a letter from his family since he entered the mission field. Every time we go out East to Waterloo and I deliver mail I feel so sad that I never have anything for him; this week-end is going to be different and I am excited to deliver mail to him from my home. Scott has been assigned the camera and video camera to capture this moment.
Yesterday was another Zone Conference in the East, specifically the Kissy Zone. 

My heart continues to wrap itself around the missionaries and the people of this country. It doesn't seem to be a question as to whether I am going to like a person, the moment I meet them, my heart surges with love! I had a call from the District Relief Society President tonight, Sister George. I don't know how much that cost her to call me, but I am sure it was more than a $1.50 (what the average Sierra Leonian makes a day). We are going out together on Saturday with a young woman to visit her “godfather” and request that he release her from her marriage so she can be baptized. Her husband left her and has already married another woman. When a traditional/tribal marriage is arranged, there is a godfather who coordinates the marriage and the acceptability of a dowry. Because she is not released at this point, we can't baptize her because she is in a polygamous marriage; so I get to go with Sister George and meet the godfather and negotiate a release for this young woman. I can't wait for this experience!

Thursday, July 18, 2013
Today Scott and I drove out to Wellington and went out with them to their assigned area and taught investigators. We took them lunch and as we were sitting around the table, Scott asked them about the dried fish that is sold locally and how they prepare it. The sisters actually purchase the fresh fish, which they then proceeded to tell me about how delicious fish eyes are and the brains! When they boil fish, the eyes are easier to eat, so they start to bite down and the eye pops out of a white membrane that they discard; and then there are the brains of a fish that are soft and sweet – I made them stop or I wouldn't be able to finish my lunch. Scott actually admitted he tried both on his mission to New Zealand – the fish brains were sweet and okay, but the eyeball was chewy and disgusting and he spit it out.
Sister missionaries in Wellington

Friday, July 19, 2013
Stayed around locally today and worked in the mission office, and much to our delight, we received two packages from home! I get every bit as excited as the young missionaries, and what added to the anticipation as to what was inside the boxes was the time it took me to open them. They were wrapped so securely with duct tape I couldn't get them open with scissors so I had to resort to a box cutter. I especially love the different stickers people find to place on the outside. The packages offer a little bit of home which I miss so much. Couple the delivery with a video call to the Kanzler's in Sacramento and a look at 3 of the grandchildren and I was ready to get on the next hovercraft headed towards home.

Saturday, July 20, 2013
Out the door this morning at 9:00 am, destination – Kissy, Waterloo and Grafton. The roads are so rough and we are gone almost 12 hours a day on the week-ends so as we are driving out East, Scott and I are grumbling about the difficulty of getting anywhere in a vehicle and how tired we are at the end of the day and somehow, we need to take more down time, that our 60+ year old bodies just can't keep up with 20+ year old missionaries. Then, we finally arrive at Waterloo and find just Elder Penia and his companion, Elder Nwosu. I get all the other missionaries' mail and packages out of the way and commence calling out Elder Penia's name as I hand him one-by-one, letters addressed to him from loved ones of mine in America. It was a very tender moment for Scott and me to see the excitement, emotion and then gratitude from Elder Penia; it was pure joy. Rough roads, long days, old bodies...I will do it all over again for the next missionary who isn't getting any correspondence from home.

Just as a side note to myself – watching the video exchange between Elder Penia and me, I particularly noticed the gray hair, the semi-decent haircut and the same old clothes. I am not looking my best these days and I am definitely looking like I am 62 years old! Not good, definitely not good...

When we arrived at the elders' apartment in Kissy, I unfortunately needed to use their restroom – mind you there are 6 elders in the apartment with only one bathroom. This is the bathroom that did not have a toilet seat and I managed to scrounge one up for them about a month earlier, but when I approached the room, the toilet seat wasn't even attached. Then, I close the door and the handle falls onto the floor, so when I attempt to insert it back into the door, in order to exit the bathroom, it won't work and I can't get the door open! I hear Scott's voice, so I bang on the door and call to him, and he tries to get the door open to no avail. Finally, out of desperation, I somehow get the door handle inserted just enough and the bolt clicks open and I am able to get myself out of another jam. I should write a book just on my bathroom experiences in West Africa.

I met with the District Relief Society President in Grafton in order to visit with the godfather to help out a sister; well, the story was completely different from what we were told earlier in the week. The husband had only the one wife (his previous wife had died), but he had 2 sons from the 1st marriage living in the home and they didn't respect the second wife. She in fact was not looking to divorce him, but wanted to reconcile; however in the meantime, he was in jail for being disrespectful to his commanding officer – he failed to salute him. So all my excitement to visit with a godfather was dashed by the revelation of routine domestic issues...

The letters continue to arrive for Elder Penia - it is so gratifying and as the need arises, I can modify them and address them to another missionary not receiving correspondence from home.

Love, Robin

More Snaps:

Doing the laundry at a very young age!
Kossoh Town recycle center - someones front yard!
They keep getting bigger! And yes I am holding it!