Friday, September 13, 2013

Week #21 - She Says

Dear Family and Friends,
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Made it through the night at the hotel in Makeni with about 2 hours of sleep. The locals gathered at the hotel during the night and talked, yelled and partied to music until 4:30 in the morning. Not only was the bed hard, but the pillows. Got up and had breakfast at the hotel (complimentary), and off we went to meet Prince so he could help us find the vocational school where church services were held. 

We were about 20 minutes before the meeting started at 9:00 am and people began to arrive dressed in their Sunday best. I still can't get over how beautiful the women are here. We manage to get through Sacrament meeting in relative peace, but as soon as Sunday School starts, two other congregations of different faiths begin to gather behind our building, and they have microphones as well as music. Loud beyond words and one is preaching hell-fire, while the other is preaching damnation. Didn't phase our Sunday School teacher one bit. These people are not easily bothered by little or big irritations. I on the other hand start to come unglued when I hear someone clipping their fingernails in church.

Now that Scott is the Mission branch clerk, we will be traveling to Makeni once a month to collect the members' tithes and offerings. I am not really expecting much in offerings as ½ the people in attendance are investigating the church. Thus, when Prince begins to gather the collections and hands them to Scott, I am humbled and touched as I can see the offerings because they have no envelopes and of course they don't write checks so it is all viewable to my eyes. One sweet and faithful sister, donated to every category on the offering slip. I became somewhat emotional when I saw it and thought of the faith and sacrifice of this woman. I reflected on the story of the Widow's Mite in the New Testament, and saw it first hand in Makeni, Sierra Leone. I have so much to learn from these people.

It was very touching and humbling to view this donation slip from a sister in the branch.

Prince Kailie and Scott

Prince Kailie and his family. 

Missionaries went with us to Makeni to interview baptismal candidates.

The wonderful members of the Makeni unit.

It is nice to be back home in our apartment. I appreciate it much more now that I have spent a night in a hotel in Makeni!

Monday, September 2, 2013
I completely forgot to mention the Couples Conference held last Thursday evening and all day Friday. I can only justify my forgetfulness to the memory of my dad's birthday as that was the only entry on Friday the 30th. The conference was wonderful. In attendance were the Burns', Schlehuber's, Lauritzen's, Assistants, Mission President and wife, and the Kanzler's. Scott and I are not only the youngest senior couple, but the least amount of time on mission. The Schlehuber's go home in December of this year after 23 months of service; the Burns' go home in Febuary 2014 after 18 months and their 2nd mission; the Lauritzen's go home sometime in April after 23 months of service. The Ostler's are serving for 3 years. All such remarkable and dedicated people. It is such a privilege to serve with them. So many moving pieces for a mission to run efficiently and effectively. I must do my part!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
19 new missionaries arrived in Freetown today. 26 more coming in October and Scott and I have an additional assignment of finding 5 missionary apartments before the next transfer in October. Quite a daunting task.

19 new missionaries and a boat-load of luggage!

Looking pretty chipper after 24 hours of travel the day before.

Welcome 19 new missionaries!

We took a branch missionary home tonight back to her village in Kissy, called Looking Hill. I believe we drove our car where no car has ever been before, and in the dark. Our original plan was to leave her at the Kissy Chapel and let her walk home, but when we picked up a fulltime missionary to transport him to the mission office later that evening, we discovered Looking Hill was his territory and there was no way this little missionary would be able to haul her luggage up the mountain to her home. She called her father, and had him meet us at he halfway point, and she kept telling us it was just a little further. Elder Hovley told us in all his days in this area, he had never seen a car and that was a blessing because if we had met one going up or coming down there would have been no way to pass.

Thursday, September 5, 2013
Spent a good portion of the day looking for missionary apartments. Finding apartments here will take nothing short of a miracle, and we have to expect that through faith, prayer and work.

We checked out a possible apartment near the new Hill Station Chapel that is under construction. The facility was supposed to be ready last November, but they encountered problems when they brought in heavy equipment to demolish the granite foundation and level it; they discovered that the size of the granite included homes just above the construction site and when they used the equipment the homes began to shake on their foundation so they had to stop. This resulted in them using jackhammers to break up the granite which took much more time of course and extended the completion date. We were given a mini tour of the almost finished facility. I walked into the chapel and looked up towards the pulpit and had a moment of reverence and gratitude and felt the spirit of what would transpire in this chapel in the future; I also viewed the baptismal font and had the same feelings, and was then shown the Relief Society room; nice and roomy for all the beautiful West African sisters.

The baptismal font.

The future chapel.

The building is built upon a granite foundation. The same rock as the home above.

They had to use jackhammers to break up the granite because the use of heavy equipment was shaking the homes above.

While looking around the area where the current Hill Station meetinghouse is, I came upon a woman by the name of Mama Jarr. She owns/runs a “mini mart” that is open from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm daily. I decided to check it out to see if she sold slurpies.....anyway, I struck up a conversation with her and she had just come back from 3 months in Maryland visiting 3 of her children. She was there for medical issues. She was sitting out in front of her store, surrounded by family members and behind the store was her compound or living quarters encased in a high wall and razor wire. I asked if she had any apartments for rent. She said no and also said if she did, she wouldn't rent them as they would be available for family members if they needed a place. She said, “I know what you Americans do.” “You place your family members in other homes, etc., and I get very good pay to take care of them.” She lived 20 years in America before she decided to return home to Sierra Leone.

Scott and I listened to a BYU Speech last night titled – A Miracle in the Making, Finding the Meaning in Adversity – Ramona Hopkins. 27.Sep.2011 - One of her final comments struck a cord with me. “The Refiner's fire burns bright! It is up to us to decide if it will consume us or mold us into something new, something better, something great.” Not that I have felt like I would be consumed here in West Africa, but I haven't always dealt with the challenges as nobly as I would have liked to, and if I could re-wind my Sierra Leone life's tape I would have handled situations better but, there is always today and hopefully more tomorrow's to embrace them, live them, and wait for them to pass through me, hopefully leaving me more Christ-like.

Friday, September 6, 2013
Grapefruit is in season here and I have been able to find pink! So I stopped at my local grocer and purchased 3 from her for 10,000 leones. As I was getting ready to leave, she impulsively placed another grapefruit in my bag for free, so I impulsively leaned over and kissed her on the cheek and thanked her. I have never felt to do that before here, but as we drove off and I waved to her, she looked up, waved back and smiled.

The 1st ever Sisters Conference was held today; Rachelle Ostler organized and planned a very fun and “active” day. She introduced a 7 minute exercise program and demonstrated it to the sister missionaries. I was exhausted by the time she was done and I barely lifted a foot off the ground! Fun was had by all; we have 10 wonderful African sisters serving in our mission at present.

Looks like the exercise leader is a little tired!

Sisters conference for the entire mission. 10 wonderful sister missionaries.

They always have to pose for a funny snap.

Love, Robin

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