Updates from My Parents - On Mission in Sierra Leone
My parents embarked on a year-long mission in Sierra Leone, leaving behind the familiar comforts of home and family. Though I dearly miss them, their unwavering dedication to spreading love and light fills me with immense pride and inspiration.
For those curious about their journey, I've received periodic updates, and I'm excited to share some of their experiences. As you read their story, I hope you'll be inspired to embrace a more expansive love and appreciate the beauty of simplicity in life.
Finally, feeling like a missionary. Well almost.
We arrived in Sierra Leon. Things run a little differently here. During the first week, we stayed at the Mission Leaders' home because they wanted to take us to our area. They had a crazy week with 26 missionaries coming in on several different days, a visit from the general RS and primary President (Sister Freeman), and a week later, the area authority with two half-mission conferences. We never had it that bad. So we tried to help and enjoyed a "busy" week.
That week did help me break into the way things happen here. For example, there are no tow trucks in this country. So if a car breaks down, they just leave it on the two-lane road and wait for a mechanic to take care of it. There is no KAT scan machine or MRI in the country. Groceries are tricky. In the capital (4-5 hours away) are two markets smaller than an All a Dollar. They have treasures like flour, cheese, honey, peanut butter, TP. I was warned to stock up. But the prices were so exorbitant it was difficult to swallow:
-Butter: $16 a lbs
-Peanut butter: $16
-Hamburger $14 a lbs
-Milk $6 for a small box
How would I transport much when we wouldn't get to our home with a full day of travel (a zone conference squeezed in between)? I did my best and bought a few boxes of supplies. I filled a cooler. WHAT WAS I THINKING? I should have filled a Uhaul...but those don't exist.
The good news is they have pineapples now and mangoes in the spring. I'll buy up a ton when I return to the capital every month. The worst part is that we have six young Elders here in Moriba Town who have longing eyes for a homecooked meal. Soon enough.
Back to getting here... and skiing...
After traveling 2 hours on a decent road, we turned off on a dirt road. Nope, not on Google Maps. We began okay for the first 20 minutes; then we started getting swallowed up in moguls as big as any I've skied on. If they were compared to rapids, they would have been thrown from the boat. Both sides of the road were lined with tall grasses, corn stalks, palm trees, and jungle beyond that. Occasionally, we would pass a small village with around 5 to 10 homes. It was almost dusk, so fires started in the front yards, and children played in the dirt. Every town had the same skinny dog. Occasionally, a motorcycle would pass us with four people and supplies squeezed on, making it look top-heavy. Out of nowhere, a couple of children would pop out of the tall grass to see who was coming up the road. I had an instant love affair with how adorable they were, their big white teeth, smiles, and waving with excitement. Goats, pigs, and chickens freely passed here and there. After an hour, we thought we must be getting close, but nope, we were on those moguls for 3 hours. Our ribs hurt. It felt as if we'd been on a bucking bull ride.
We pulled into our compound a little after dark. Our property is about a half acre with 12-foot cement walls surrounding it. Then, barbed wire loops on top of that. Two guards, always working around the clock, let us in the metal gate. Yes, it's very dangerous here after 7 o'clock. But no worries, it's only because the mosquitos come out at night. 10-15% of our missionaries always have malaria, and many have had typhoid. We need to be careful. The town is safe.
They have guards mainly to give our prospective missionaries a way to earn $150 over three months to buy a passport for their missions. The young men are so grateful for this opportunity. It's heartwarming. During this time, we can help them prepare to be incredible missionaries. Yes, we could just pay for that passport, but the wisdom in them earning it is inspiring. They came over today and are so excited to start Mission Prep again. The last senior couple set this program up and sent out 31 missionaries.
When we arrived in the dark, we entered our abode, which had been shut up for three months. The humidity and dust storms hadn't been kind to our home. Let's just say I went to bed in my clothes. I've come to really be grateful for electricity. We're spoiled with a generator that works most of the time. There is no electricity in this area. We're blessed to have fans and a fridge, not to mention a toilet. Whew.
Come to find out, along that road are eight branches in the District we're presiding over. There are lots of members behind that tall grass road that we get to meet.
It all paid off yesterday when we finally visited our neighbors and met a few branch presidents. It is heartwarming. These people have nothing but strong testimonies of Jesus Christ.
I've loved the day. We had six prospective missionaries come over early, and 6 Elders who live nearby just left. Absolutely incredible... They are amazing.
Love you to pieces.
Fast Sunday, Yay!!
So what's for dinner? Thankfully nothing. It was so nice not having to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I found time to enjoy a peaceful space that opened up. Cooking takes more time than ever before. Everything is in the rawest form. But the truth is we are eating better than ever, and all three meals are together at the table. You get creative when you have to think about what you will conjure up. I'm getting smarter and using the internet to find ways to use cabbage, pumpkin, rice, and beans. I'm rationing the food we stocked up on the first week in the capital, and it bugs Dad to death. But that fills in the gaps nicely. I made oatmeal raisin coconut cookies. I've made homemade bread by hand kneading. I won't do that too often.
We are going to the second largest city (3 hours away) tomorrow during our p-day to see if we can stock up again. Word is they don't have much. We will be taking our lunch, for there are no safe restaurants in that city to eat at. In the capital of Freetown (4-5 hours away), there are only two safe restaurants and a couple of beach resorts that Europeans go to. Trust me, we will check them out if we can store up some p-days.
If you think not eating is a problem, you're wrong. Eating is hard because of preparation, but the hardest part is knowing those around me are hungry. As I explained, we have a rotation of guards earning their way to become missionaries. No money is exchanged. We, and other donors, just send them off, paying for their visa, luggage, and clothing. One day, the most adorable young guard said, "Sister, I'm hungry. Can you give me some food?" You know me... I would give them all I had. But we can not. It would be a snowball catastrophe. I tried my best to explain that it's against our rules. Which, of course, sounded ridiculous. So now I try to make extra and act like they are doing me a favor to get rid of it. And I try not to do it often so they don't expect anything. Why? Why? Why? Very humbling.
Everyone is suffering from - not enough. With time, maybe we will think of things you can try and send to start small businesses. We brought $132.00 of garden seeds. It filled only a tiny Home Depot bag. Those seeds are worth more than gold. Now, trying to be wise with them is our goal.
I noticed one of our friends had goats roaming in the yard. I asked if he milked them. He looked at me as crazy as I looked at him.
"What? Milk them? No, we eat them. I've never heard of milking them."
I said, "What? You eat them, not milk them? I've never heard of someone eating goat meat."
We started brainstorming how he could sell goat cheese. I came right home and googled. We might get something going. Cheese is one item I bought in the capital for a very high price. When I had several guards in the house that evening, I asked if they had ever heard of cheese. None had. They loved it.
On the other hand, google tells me goat meat is sweet and doesn't have the game flavor like lamb. It is one of the healthiest meats, even better than chicken. I'll let you know.
Speaking of things I’ve never heard of... We are learning they only know about what is happening in this little area. They have never been far from home, never had a TV, and computers are rare. Some have cell phones but only use WhatsApp. Without electricity, imagine what they don't have. They have yet to learn who the Beatles are. Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean get us blank stares. There is beauty in their simple lives. Is mine filled with static and gibberish? Yep.
Oh, the music is worth the trip. Every meeting we go to gives me goosebumps. They all just belt it out. Luckily, I can't even hear my own voice. Today was the first day with someone playing a keyboard. He was just as off-key as the congregation. I'm not sure what he was playing, but it all sounded great together.
My favorite thing is being out with the people in their homes' front yards (they bring plastic chairs outside for us and a bench for them). These people have strong testimonies of Jesus Christ and the restored gospel. There is no fluff. They are converted, and it means everything to them. Really! They love the Book of Mormon and focus on its teachings. I have discovered that when you don't need God that much, you can take your relationship with Him for granted. When your life and comfort depend on Him, you take it seriously. Yes, I have much to learn.
Let me paint a real picture. Last week, I made it sound very grim. That's probably natural because it is a little different. But the truth is we live in an incredible home with a room full of generators and solar equipment that keep us comfortable. Let's just say we have the nicest home within 50 miles by a long shot. It's now clean and has everything we need, including a large guest room with a king-size bed. I'm just trying to tempt anyone to come. And did I mention I'm very popular here with the kids?
The only thing we are missing is all of you and our most amazing grandkids. Thank you for Instagram. I feel connected.
I am grateful for the things that mean the most to me: Paul, you, and God.
Keep in touch.
All my love and hugs,
It is said here, "The white man has it so easy." TRUE!! Never take your can opener, washing machine, toothpaste, job, or car for granted.
This week, I took the car by myself to the market. I would be the top story if there were a news station here. Our guards freaked out, and everyone in town pointed. "What? Women drive? Wow, when did you learn?" They had never seen a woman drive.
Speaking of vehicles, our favorite is a rotor tiller that's been turned into a car/carriage. They replaced the grinder things with a wheel. The driver sits on a makeshift trailer and holds the wide handlebars. Brilliant. I love to see people thinking outside the box.
How do you spell Nike? Is it Neik, with the check logo? Most of the time, they wear knockoffs. Ralph Lauren, Gucci, and Walmart are all on the same level. Ahhhhh, no labels. How nice.
This weekend, we had a zone conference at our house. And 14 missionaries had meetings and lunch here. Every pot, pan, plate, and bowl were used. Even 2 Tupperware lids served as plates. Everyone had to choose between a fork and a spoon. The food turned out, and the missionaries were thrilled. It's interesting how creative we can get if needed. Maybe we're here to prepare for more camping when we return. Or the apocalypse.
Our mission focus was on "True Conversion." The Book of Mormon is an important part of that. Its teachings are pure, beautiful, and packed with ways to become closer to Christ. I'm repenting of my lack of attention to it and finding joy in studying. It's a spiritual feast.
These people aren't complicating the gospel with extra stuff. I'm trying not to as well, but it's a process... little by little.
I'm so happy you're getting together. I LOVE the nutcrackers and nativity evening. Keep posting.
Enjoy this wonderful season, and try to miss me.
All my love and then some,
The Latest Update:
Charlie Red Dog, Come in Blue Squirrel. Yes, that's been Dad's military name since I met him. Is it a myth or make-believe? We all know about Clifford, a red dog...but what about a blue squirrel? I've seen a few on the road to a remote village. I just looked up if there is such a thing. All web pages say no. Except one sight said there is a rare or extinct breed of blue squirrels. Hmmmmm, it's true.I feel like everything is starting to click now. For example, the light switches turn on backward, and now it seems natural. I know where to buy everything in town, and I am comfortable teaching the first discussion—lots of little stuff.You'll be proud that I'm finally on the "Save the Earth" team. I wash out all baggies and red plastic cups. I would never think of using paper products unless it's an emergency. Have even cut way back on TP. Everything is recycled to the last degree. Even meat bones. We had a prospective missionary spend the night, so that tomorrow, we can take him to an eye clinic a few hours away to have possible eye surgery. (A group of American doctors will be there for three weeks.) I served chicken legs and thighs. When we were finished I looked at his plate and thought I saw a pile of shredded beef. When I was clearing the plates he asked if he could eat our bones (and all the fatty stuff we don't touch).On New Year's Eve, I picked up a Sister, just leaving for her mission, to catch the bus. We had to stop at the tailor's to pick up 7 skirts she had made. It was 9:00 pm on a Sunday evening. I was shocked to see the place buzzing. Remember there's no electricity. The small room was full of tailors with headlamps on. Pumping their manual sewing machines with their feet. I especially liked their iron. It was full of hot coals. Imagine ironing with that. See photos. Never going to take my iron for granted.To have a shirt made is $2.00 and a tie $1.00. It's crazy.Had a mini Zone conference again yesterday at the house. We served huge steaks. My problem is I don't have utensils or plates for everyone. And steak knives....haha. We have to get creative and share. I cracked up to see dad with his little Swiss army knife and President Jarvis with the 14 inch bread knife. See photo. I'm still laughing.Spending time training and coaching our new POWER TEAM is thrilling for me. To introduce business principles and ideas has been so rewarding. They have never heard of any of this Vision stuff. Never paid tithing. Never thought they could have their own business. Never set a goal. They study the concepts I've shared.Reading the Book of Mormon has been a joy as well.There is a beautiful spirit about that book. I love it. Testifying of Jesus all day can change a soul. It's changing mine.Have I mentioned how much I love the children? I might bring some home with me.xoxoxoxoxooxALL MY LOVE,mom