Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Week #22 - She Says

Dear Family and Friends,

Sunday, September 8, 2013
We attended the Wellington 2 Branch Conference today. The choir of mostly ladies was all dressed the same and were so excited to sing. In this particular building, the generator is running during services, and with no microphone, I can barely hear what is being said; combine that with West African accents and/or Krio and I am in a world of hurt trying to stay interested and engaged with the speakers.

A budding organist in the Wellington 2 Branch

From Wellington, we traveled to Kissy and attended services of the 1st branch. Tiangay Mazani was the chorister in Sacrament meeting. I continue to refer to her as Whitney Houston, because of the similar looks. After Sacrament meeting she came up to me and as I began to ask her if she had found employment, she quickly chimed in that she had and would be starting this week. I was so happy for her and with tears running down my cheeks, she took her beautiful black hands and wiped them away. Two weeks ago, she had called me and wanted to talk to me; Scott had a meeting two days later in Kissy, so I asked if she could meet me at the church to discuss what was troubling her. She has been married for only 6 months and her husband left shortly after the marriage to work in South Africa. They have been saving money so she could get a passport, other documents and airfare to reunite with him. Well, all was going smoothly and the plan was for her to leave this month, but they had a set back when some of his funds went toward medical costs for his mother. So in our meeting, Tiangay wanted to counsel with me on how to get a job so she could earn money in order to help replenish the funds. 
The happy working girl!

The matriarch of the family to my right. Augusta Melville - a wonderful woman!

This all stems from the Career Workshop I have been participating in and teaching. There really aren't many jobs for people in the Freetown area and I didn't know what to tell her, but after praying with her, some thoughts came to my mind and were felt in my heart. I counseled her to follow any promptings to make contact with merchants, etc. and I assured her if she paid her tithing now and committed to pay after she got a job, she would, in fact, find employment. She starts this week working for a merchant just down the street from the church. Truly a miracle.

We visited with the branch president's wife today at the local government hospital. She had some minor surgery last Wednesday and must remain hospitalized for a few more days. Scott rated the hospital as barely a twinkle with no stars whatsoever. There is no accurate description of what we saw; let's just say, I am very grateful I had some bleach water in the car.

I participated in the District Choir practice getting ready for District Conference next week-end. Goodness, do these people love to sing, and sing loud! It is such a treat for me to sing with them.

Monday, September 9, 2013
P-day! It has been quite fun sitting most of the day beside Scott on our laptops each doing whatever. He has his Midway baseball hat on and looks so cute along with his BYU t-shirt with a red vine in his mouth. We received packages from home on Friday and included was his favorite licorice. He is in heaven!
One happy man - red vines!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013
How fitting on this day to record a couple of experiences we had while we drove to Makeni and took our dear friend, Markus Wallace with us to look at the apartments, and meeting house we had scouted out on our previous trip out to this beautiful city. Markus fought in the civil war for 9 years and was shot 5 times and survived. We drove up to one little community named Lunsar and stopped because I needed to find a restroom; we ended up at the home of his uncle. He hadn't seen him for over 3 years and it was a wonderful reunion. Markus later told us that during the war, his uncle was captured in Lunsar and the rebels were executing 3 prisoners a day (men, women and children). When Markus got word of his uncle's capture, he took his platoon of men and raided the prison and freed him and all others. Markus also discovered today, that his cousin who he dearly loved and grew up with had just passed away 2 weeks ago from a liver disease. That was a sad moment for him.

On our way home, we stopped in Kissy to re-address an apartment we saw there and across the street from it is a cemetery. While the men looked at the apartment, I strolled through the cemetery with the caretaker as he showed me some very old burial sites. One was of a christian missionary who died in the early 1800's and he took me to the other side of the headstone where there was a very small overgrown opening. Come to find out, it led underground and on both sides were additional burial plots of people related to the missionary. During the war this cavern was discovered by some locals, and they hid in there from the rebels.
The Kissy cemetery.

I have never really appreciated what people experience and the horrific circumstances they endure when their homeland is at war until I came Sierra Leone. I remember where I was on 09/11, sitting at my desk at work on Marconi Avenue in Sacramento, when I began to hear the reports coming in over the radio. Even then, though shocked and dismayed, I wasn't there and I was watching the scene unfold before my eyes on the television. Here, in Sierra Leone, I am experiencing war through the eyes, lives and memories of people who endured a 10 civil war.

Thursday, September 12, 2013
We had a teaching assignment in Kissy today; we were told we had an hour and thinking it was just the two of us, we planned 20 minutes a piece. Much to our surprise, the entire District was involved and by the time the meeting started at 4:15 pm, the room was full and the overflow was standing outside. It was in fact a 2+ hour training of branch missionaries and branch missionary leaders, by the full time missionaries and us. By the time it was our turn, the meeting had already been going for over an hour, so both Scott and I opted to modify our remarks and kept our time to about 10 minutes each. We needed to get home before it got too dark and my guess, the meeting went on for at least another hour. We love being with the saints out East.

Friday, September 13, 2013
Nothing better on a Friday night at 10:15 pm than sitting in our apartment with my favorite Walmart sweatshirt on (just had to bring it for comfort) even though it is 79 degrees outside with 89% humidity, eating a Big Hunk candy bar. How good can life get? Scott sits next to me at his computer and he is munching on licorice (his favorite). Thanks to loved ones who sent us care packages, we are enjoying life tonight with sugar!

I saw Tiangay (aka Whitney Houston) tonight at the District choir practice. She was so excited to tell me that she had worked all week for a family restaurant just down the street. She was sent to town with money to buy produce and fruit for the store, she cooked, she cleaned the owners back store apartment and she shared something very interesting – as she was making up the bed last Monday, under the pillow she found some money. She thought it curious that it was there, but left it alone and continued making the bed. For the rest of the week, through today, she found the same scenario – money under the pillow. She was convinced it was a test and thankfully, she passed with flying colors. With her working and her husband replenishing what had to be used for his mom, she now thinks she can be reunited with her husband in November.

It has been a very busy week with a lot of time in the car, but has been rather soothing as I have felt like I have been at the ocean with the waves constantly breaking at the beach....our car took on a lot of water not too long ago and for some reason just this week I noticed the sound of the “ocean” and asked Scott where it was coming from and then the explanation. It is somehow trapped in the undercarriage of the car and until some holes are drilled underneath to allow the water to drain out, I will continue to be at the “beach” for awhile.

Tonight coming home from Kissy in the dark, as we were driving down Kissy Road in stop and go traffic, 100's of people were walking on the sidewalks with many locals just sitting outside their shops with, I presume family and friends, chatting and eating. It reminded me of my West Jordan summers when the Russell family and I would sit out almost every evening until midnight talking, eating and watching the kids play. Neighbors would come and go, but the Russell's and me were usually the last holdouts to go in because it was so wonderful to be outside. Tonight I missed those evenings and was a little envious of the locals who seem to be unconcerned about the mosquitoes and aren't about to let them spoil their evenings with friends and family.

Busy week-end starting tomorrow with Freetown East District Conference. The saints are pretty excited about it and have been working very diligently to get the building ready for our visiting general authority, Elder LeGrand Curtis and his wife. It would be nice if they could clear out all the junk cars that are parked around the entrance, white wash the graffiti off the security wall, get rid of all the sand bags that are set up to keep out the water when it overflows out of the sewer drains during heavy rains, but it is what it is and it will be a wonderful 2 days in spite of how the grounds look.
Kissy Chapel - Getting it ready for District Conference

Saturday, September 14, 2013
First and second session of District Conference today; Sister George, the District Relief Society President conducted the women's auxiliary training session. She is such a wonderful woman. I know I keep repeating myself, but the saints out East are such wonderful people. Scott and I just love being with them; we just hope we are leaving them better than when we found them 5 months ago. They have certainly changed me.

Love, Robin

More snaps:

Cute little feet!

Dancing and singing together.

Okay, we have danced and sung together - now what do we do?

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