Saturday, December 29, 2012

Young Single Adult Activity

We were invited by the Young Single Adults from the Lumley Branch to attend the activity they sponsored for the YSA's of the whole stake.  Marian Campbell, who was on the organizing committee, asked us to judge their "quiz competition."  She had written some questions about the Church and its doctrine.  Each branch who attended had an opportunity to answer the questions.  We kept track of whose turn it was and kept score. 
We  awarded the certificate for highest points to a young man from Goderich Ward and the certificate for the “Best Quizzer”  to a young 11-year-old girl, Virginia, from Congo Cross Ward, who answered 3 questions—all of them fairly difficult.  She quoted 1 Nephi 3:17 for one of the answers! The YSA’s had an opportunity to bear their testimonies and then they had a dance, complete with loud music out in the courtyard of the Church.  We left just after the dancing started, but we could tell they were all ready to dance and celebrate.
The Young Single Adults enjoy watching the organizing committee introduce themselves with a little dance exhibition.
The committee and their dance exhibition.  Notice the young men all have matching blue shirts and the young women all have matching pink shirts.
Our young friend, Marian Campbell, who helped organize the activity.  Not long after this activity she received her mission call to the Nigeria Enugu Mission.  She will be the first sister in the Freetown Sierra Leone Stake to serve at age 20.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas in Sierra Leone

We decided to do something for Christmas in Sierra Leone that we could not do at home.  We decided to have a barbecue.  Elder Lauritzen offered to be our chef.  The Roggias had brought a barbecue grill with them and had only used it one other time, the Christmas after they arrived, so we asked to borrow it.  Elder Lauritzen filled it with the local charcoal that the locals cook on and it performed beautifully.
Hamburgers are not traditional Christmas dinner fare, but lots of things are different here in Sierra Leone, including that water tank you see in the background. 
Here is our happy group, including Sister Cathy Burns, Elder Ron Burns, Sister Marlene Lauritzen and Elder Mike Laurizen.  We had hamburgers, potato salad, deviled eggs, pasta salad and lemon bars, coconut cookies and ice cream for dessert.
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Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve with Basma and Nadia

We were invited by our landlord, Mohammed Basma, and his wife, Nadia to have dinner with them on Christmas Eve.  It was a lovely occasion.  Nadia cooked most of the day to prepare our food.  We had three different kinds of meat, including some whole fish, all of it prepared so well.  There were some Lebanese vegetables, some hummus and Lebanese flatbread as well.  We enjoyed some lovely pastries and ice cream for dessert.  Best of all, Basma, who is Lebanese, but who was born here in Sierra Leone, told us a lot about the history of Sierra Leone and some of the progress that is being made.  We discovered that he is a good resource for people to help us, such as a good mechanic to fix our cars.  He lives next door to us and has helped the Church find properties to rent for apartments and chapels for many years.  He is Muslim, but is a good "friend to the Church."

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Visit with the Haws

We had a visit from a couple serving in Ghana on 18-20 December 2013.  They are Elder Greg and Sister Debi Haws.  They are assigned as auditors and they travel around to each of the ten countries in the Africa West Area and train the local auditors to conduct the audits of the church units.  They will see a lot of West Africa before their mission is over.  We love meeting new couples and the Haws were no exception.  We enjoyed a lovely dinner with them at Country Lodge and had a nice visit in the two days they were here in Sierra Leone. We took these"snaps" on Lumley beach on our way to the hovercraft which took them to the airport.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Primary Day"

Sunday, 16 December, 2013 was what the members were calling “Primary Sunday.”  It is a tradition in the Freetown District (now Freetown Stake) to have all of the Children’s Sacrament Meeting Presentations on the same Sunday.  We have been serving for several weeks in the Belliar Park Branch (now Belliar Park Ward) and so I decided to try to attend all four sacrament meeting presentations.  We started at 8:30 with the Freetown Ward.  They had a simple program but it was beautiful.  Two young girls gave talks (probably at least 5 minutes each).  One of their Primary teachers spoke and then they had a group of about seven children sing two Christmas Primary songs.  At 10:30 we attended the Dwarzak Ward presentation and it was picture perfect.  I was so proud of Sister Pieh-Sharkeh.  She had asked me how to organize the program and I had shown her how to do it, but she had written it all herself and handed out all the parts.  Each child had about three speaking parts and the Primary as a whole sang six of the eight songs for the year.  Many of those songs they had learned just in the last six weeks because Sister Pieh-Sharkeh had not known before what the Children’s Sacrament Meeting presentation entails.  She has been a member less than a year.  She spoke at the end of the presentation in a well-prepared talk, praising the children and encouraging parents to teach their children the gospel.  Bishop Oneil closed the meeting with a wonderful address thanking the Primary leaders, but especially Sister Pieh-Sharkah. At 12:30 I attended the Belliar Park Ward Children’s sacrament meeting presentation.  There were about four children with parts to say, then two children with well-written talks prepared and then the children sang five songs.  It was well-done and I was so proud of Sister Charlie.  She gave a wonderful talk at the end highlighting many of the gospel principles she has taught the children this year in sharing time (she has taught the Valiant Class and taught Sharing Time and Singing Time all on her own this past year; she has a counselor who teaches the CTR class.) Bishop Sesay spoke at the end praising her and her counselor and saying that he has seen changes in his own daughter this past year and knows that the Primary leaders have played a big part in those changes.

Dwarzak Ward Primary before their Children's Sacrament Meeting Presentation.
Dwarzak Ward Primary
Dwarzak Ward Primary Leaders
This girl and the one below both helped direct the music for Dwarzak Ward during the Children's Sacrament Meeting Presentation
Belliar Park Primary
Belliar Park Primary Leaders
Mt. Aureol Ward Primary
Mt. Aureol Ward Primary leaders

Saturday, December 15, 2012

On Our Walk

This woman is carrying a building block on her head.  This is a common sight near any building under construction.

We walk every morning, six days a week for about 40 minutes.  We walk up around the American Embassy.  Most mornings it is too dark to take good pictures, but on Saturday mornings we go a little later.  These are some pictures we took on our morning walk.

This is Adama plaiting her daughter, Zainab's, hair.  She has another daughter, Mariama, and a son, Ibrahim. 
Here is Zainab's happy, smiling face!
And this is Mariama.
You can carry anything on your head in Sierra Leone.
Just had to have a snap of this little beauty.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas "Carolers"

They have an interesting twist on the traditional Christmas carolers in Sierra Leone.  A few days before they plan to carol or play (if it is a band) they drop off a letter announcing when they will be coming by.  This informs you that they will come to entertain, but it is also understood that you will hopefully have a little money available to them.  This band followed that procedure. They were affiliated with the police.  The Lauritzens invited them into the compound to play and they were actually quite good.  We enjoyed it so much and it really brought the Christmas spirit.  (They are standing just inside the gate of our compound.)  Both couples gave them a little money for their performance--when in Sierra Leone, do as the Sierra Leoneans. 


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Freetown Sierra Leone Stake Creation

The weekend of the stake creation was a time to gather with old and new friends.  We met, for the first time, Elder and Sister Kirkham who are serving in Liberia.  We email back and forth to each other about mission concerns, but had never met face to face.  Markus and Rose Wallace are our good friends here in Freetown.  Markus was ordained a high priest and called to be a bishop. Rose had her baby five days later and they named him Jeffrey Moroni Wallace.  Elder Holland had Rose stand in the meeting and pointed out that she had waited to have her baby so she could be there for the stake creation.  Elder Holland announced that his birthday was the next day and if the baby was born then, he encouraged them to name him Jeffrey.  Jeffrey Moroni doesn't share the same birthday, but he does share the same name.
President and Sister Roggia, Sister and Elder Dickson, Africa West Area President,   and Elder Freebody Mensah, Area Seventy.  Note the beautiful transfer board that Sister Lauritzen designed for President Roggia's office.  Elder Dickson had just honored the couples by telling us in advance that the Freetown Sierra Leone Stake would become the 3000th stake of the church.  It was a secret we were happy to keep until Elder Holland made the announcement.
The hovercraft coming in with Elder and Sister Holland.  Note that dog in the foreground.  He stayed there until the very last minute.
Because the hovercraft rides on a layer of air it can come right up on shore on this cement pad, but it always blows a big cloud of sand ahead of it.
Our honored guests, Elder and Sister Holland.
Here are four of the seven couples in our mission:  Randalls, Kirkhams, Burns and Lauritzens.  We were invited to have lunch when they fed the guests who were interviewing all of the leaders.
With five of the seven couples in our mission gathered for the conference, it was an opportunity to socialize and rejoice together with President and Sister Roggia.  We met at the Mamba Point restaurant.  Elder and Sister Schlehuber had arrived for this dinner and added the fifth couple.  They serve in Bo where there are not any restaurants like this.  Elder Schlehuber said the next day that he dreamt all night about eating yummy food in a good restaurant.
Feimatta Doe and her son, Bob.  Her husband, Sahr, is a student at BYU-Hawaii.  She joined the church in September.  She brought her iPad to the meeting and Skyped with Sahr so he could be a part of history in the making. 
Elder Holland and Elder Dickson with the new Freetown Sierra Leone Stake Presidency--Abibu Charles, 1st Counselor, President Patrick Swarray, Jr, Stake President, and Theophilus Minnah, second counselor.  An article in the Church News appeared  in the afternoon after the stake creation saying, "A historic milestone was reached today (Sunday, Dec. 2) with the creation of the 3,000th stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve organized the Freetown Sierra Leone Stake, the first stake in this nation in western Africa.'It is part of the latter-day miracle, evidence of our "marvelous work and a wonder" that the Church has grown to the point where its 3,000th stake is in far-off Sierra Leone,' Elder Holland said to the Church News.  'What is particularly poignant for me is not only that this historic stake is created in a distant land for a people who have only relatively recently had the gospel brought to them but it is also created in a war-torn and tragic land where there has been so much bloodshed, so much violence and vice in an earlier time.'"

On a personal note, this was a very special occasion for us.  We have been working with the Freetown District offering training for district and branch leaders since we arrived in the mission.  We are happy to have placed our small layer of service on the foundation laid by so many other couples before us and rejoice to see this wonderful day arrive for the saints here. This is only the beginning of many more stakes to come in Sierra Leone. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Our Friends, the Lauritzens

In June of 2012 the mission was fortunate to have the arrival of another couple to serve in Freetown, Elder and Sister Lauritzen.   We were so happy to welcome them. They have stewardship for the Freetown East District and the missionaries in that area.  In Ecclesiastes 4:9 it says:  "Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor."  We are so happy to have two couples in the office.  Everything is easier with another good couple to share the load. It really is true "two [couples] are better than one."

Elder Lauritzen demonstrates his novel way of making sure a key does not get lost. 
Sister Lauritzen is the self-appointed "fire boss."  We burn all of our paper trash.  City trash pickup is "small, small."
A super P-day with the Freetown Zone gives everyone time to relax.
Occasionally the "kingdom builders" get a little dirty in the work.
Elder Lauritzen knows how to use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.  Note the giant hole in our burn barrel.
Elder and Sister Lauritzen volunteered when they first arrived at the mission to do a very sorely needed dirty job.  They cleaned out the storage area under the mission.  As you can see, manuals are not in short supply in our mission.  Now we have a good view so that we can find what we need.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

How good it was to be with good friends, the Lauritzens, Roggias and Burns for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Each of us commented on what a wonderful meal we had with the culinary contributions of all. None of us have time or energy to make such a meal just for the two of us, but we enjoyed coming together and sharing.
Every occasion requires photographers to document it.  Sister Lauritzen and Sister Roggia are quick and ready with a camera.
Thank heavens for holidays so Elder Randall can enjoy BOTH chocolate and coconut cream pies on one plate!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sister Burton and Sister Dalton Visit Sierra Leone

Sister Elaine Dalton with Sister Fatmata James, Freetown East District Young Women President and Sister Petan Mansaray, Freetown District Young Women President

The evening’s activities were so spiritually inspiring.  Sister Mariatu Brown had arranged to have the Minister of Social Welfare, and Gender and Children (I know I haven’t remembered that title correctly) and the Director of SLANGO (Sierra Leone Association of Non-Governmental Organizations) who is also a woman, come to the dinner.  They were introduced before dinner and then given an opportunity to speak.  The Minister of Social Welfare said that she had actually joined the church in Liberia, but had not been able to find it when she moved to Sierra Leone.  She knows where it is now, of course, and had actually been encouraged by Elder Holland when he was here to come back.  She was very complimentary of the Church and all we do for the people of Sierra Leone.  The Director of SLANGO says she has wondered many times why the Church does not publicize more about the humanitarian projects that it does.  She also mentioned that she knows of our youth and really wanted to know what makes them so different from others.  She has noticed something about them that she cannot find in other good youth in Sierra Leone.  She wondered what it was.  We all smiled and knew that those young people have the Holy Ghost with them and the joy of the gospel shines in their eyes.  Previous to her speaking, Sister Dalton encouraged everyone at their table to recite the Young Women theme for her.  She was quite impressed.   President Roggia spoke next and  mentioned many of the humanitarian projects that the Church has coordinated in Sierra Leone including bore holes, wheelchair distribution, neo-natal resuscitation training, measles immunization campaign as well as others that are in the beginning stages through the work of Elder and Sister Burns including helping a polio camp orphanage, a blind school and a deaf school.  He said that the Church does not publicize a lot of the projects because that is just not our way, but that we are so grateful for an opportunity to be of service to the people of Sierra Leone. Both ladies were presented with a For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and a Personal Progress book.
Both Sister Burton and Sister Dalton had an opportunity to introduce themselves along with their husbands.  We were inspired by what the husbands said about their wives and we could see such a great example of valiant marriages that was inspiring to us and will be to the Sierra Leone saints. Elder and Sister Sitati each gave some remarks and I was impressed with what they said.  Sister Sitati just told of the daily habits of family prayer and scripture study as well as weekly Family Home Evening that had helped their family to grow and mature in the gospel.  Elder Sitati said that when they joined the Church many years ago, their oldest child was 9 and the youngest was 2.  The branch they were in had 19 members.  There was no one to look to for guidance about how to integrate the gospel into their families so they just listened to all that the prophets said and tried to follow their teachings.  Elder Sitati said, “We began to have family prayers, scripture study and Family Home Evening ‘because the prophet said so.’” I was so impressed with his example of a willingness early in their church membership to follow the prophet. 

Brother and Sister Burton told everyone the story of how they met.
Brother and Sister Dalton
The Minister of Social Welfare
The Director of SLANGO (Sierra Leone Association of Non-Governmental Organizations)
Elder Joseph and Sister Gladys Sitati
So many important sisters enjoyed the visit of Sister Burton and Sister Dalton
These are the leaders from both districts in Freetown enjoying a moment with our visitors.