Friday, December 8, 2017

It Is Coming To An End

Only 4 more weeks before we leave Sierra Leone.  We are going to miss it so much, but are looking forward to seeing all the family again.

The Church is Still Growning

A lot has happened since our last blog.  When we got to Sierra Leone nearly 2 years ago, there was 1 Stake (in Freetown) and numerous Districts in the mission.  Here in Bo we had 2 Districts and 11 branches of the Church.  A year ago a 3rd District was created in Bo and we had 15 branches.  A month ago, 2 of the Districts in Bo were made Stakes.  There are now 12 wards, 7 branches.  A week ago the Freetown Stake split.  There are now 3 Stakes in Freetown.  There are 5 stakes in Sierra Leone.  Here in Bo we have 2 Stakes, 1 District.  We are  getting ready to create a new District in the Sierra Rotile and Moyamba area.  We now have 23 wards and branches that we support in Bo and Rotile.  This gives you a picture of why they call the Africa West Area the fastest growing area of the Church in the world.

Holiday Season

We haven't blogged since September.  October and November just flew by.  While they do not know Halloween here, we did enjoy a touch of it.
Jack-O-Lanterns are still fun here even though the pumpkins are green.
November we had guests here in our apartment over the Thanksgiving time.  They also do not celebrate Thanksgiving here.  We had a great dinner with roasted chicken instead of turkey.  Mashed potatoes and gravy.  Jello Salad.

The Jack-O-Lanterns became pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.  We ate too much but it was a great Thanksgiving that we shared with good friends from Church Headquarters.

Christmas is coming and we have our "tree" up by Dec 8.  They do not do Christmas here like we are used to either so we make do.

We have had our nativity up for several months since we finished having it made.  We first of all purchased the figures from a West African craft store in Freetown.  We wanted a stable to go with it that looked like a stable would look in Sierra Leone.  We had this made by our local carver in Bo.  We love it. It feels nice to see it and think of Christ every day, not just at Christmas.  

You add the Christmas music playing on the computer and if feels like Christmas anywhere.

We hope you all have a very merry Christmas.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

3 New Branches

3 New Branches in Sierra Rutile

In our last post we documented the creation of the new Moyamba Branch.  This past Sunday we created 3 more new branches, this time in the Sierra Rutile area.  What a day.  We left Bo at 5am, before sunrise, to get to Mogbuemo for their 9:00am meeting.  During the Sacrament meeting the new branch was created by our Mission President, President Clawson.  Here you see those in attendance. Brother Conteh, the leader of the home group was called to be the new Branch President.


After the Sacrament meeting was over, President and Sister Clawson hurried on to the next home group while President Robin Taylor and Elder Sherwood and Brother Vandi stayed behind to set apart the newly called positions.  We then went on to Moriba Town for the next Sacrament meeting at 11:00am.

At Moriba town there were well over 100 people in attendance so there was standing room only for that branch creation.  Brother Jumu was called to be the new Branch President.  There is no picture because the rain was so heavy we did not get one.  Again President and Sister Clawson left to go to the next branch meeting while we stayed behind to set people apart.  We then went to Mosenesee Jct for that home group Sacrament meeting at 1pm.

Here we created the 3rd of the new branches.  Brother Bannister was called to be the new Branch President.  Below you see a picture of the adults and a separate one of the children who were present.


What an exciting day for these three new branches in these 3 villages.We left about 3pm and had a 4 hour drive home.  It was dark when we got to our apartment.  It was a long but satisfying day.

Now that these branches are created, the missionaries can begin teaching and baptizing.  There are two sets of missionaries living in Moriba Town.  They will be working in all 3 branches.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

New Branch

Moyamba Branch Is Created

On September 3 the Moyamba Branch was created by President Clawson in the Freetown, Sierra Leone Mission.  President Banister, standing next to Sister Clawson, was called as the new Branch President.  He had been in charge of the home group that has been in this town.  There were close to 90 people in attendance at the Sacrament Meeting.  About 12 of them were members of the church.  The rest were investigators who have been attending regularly and are waiting to to be taught and baptized.  They were so excited to finally become a branch.


Missionaries come to Moyamba and Sierra Rutile

On Friday September 8, we helped bring 8 missionaries to the Sierra Rutile area.  4 of these would be staying in Morriba Town and 4 would be going to Moyamba, where we created a new branch last Sunday.  Here is a picture of us, the 8 missionaries, and the assistants in front of the new Morriba Town apartment, which is still under construction.  The bedrooms were ready, so they were able to spend the night there.  The construction should be completed this week.


Morriba Town is situated near a small lake.  Here is a view from the front porch.
Morriba Town is in the middle of 3 home groups in the Sierra Rutile area.  All 3 home groups will have branches created next Sunday, September 17.  All are similar to the Moyamba branch, a few members and lots of investigators.  Here is a picture of the branch missionaries in Morriba Town with the 2 of the 4 full time missionaries that came today.  They are not yet members, but are trained branch missionaries.  They will be the first ones these elder will teach and baptize, so they can work with the rest of the investigators.


Relief Society Still Feeds Missionaries everywhere

Here we see the missionaries being fed by the Morriba Town Home Group Relief Society.
They prepared a delicious potato leaf, chicken stew over rice and served it "home style" to the 12 of us.  "Home Style" is 4 huge plates of food, and 12 spoons.  It doesn't take long for missionaries to put away a lot of good food.  We were so grateful for it.  It was a 4 hour drive all morning bringing the missionaries from Bo and we still had a 4 hour drive to go home again.  It was a long day.


These people in Morriba Town, Mogbuema, and Mossenese Junction are anxious to have their 3 branches created next Sunday.

We feel to bear testimony.  It is a thrill to be a part of the growth of the Kingdom of God on the earth.  The people are anxious to learn of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As they live the gospel they blossom and want to share it with others.  They are so humble and so teachable.  They live it whole heartedly once  they learn the truth.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true and has been restored and we are blessed to be in the fastest growing area in the world.  We witness that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and wants each of you to come unto Him.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

West African Wedding


In Western Africa there are three types of wedding ceremonies. Traditional, church, and civil. All are recognized as legal marriages in Sierra Leone and by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We were honored to be invited to the wedding ceremony of our good friend Solomon and his fiance Ngadi. They had chosen to do both the traditional ceremony followed by the civil ceremony 2 days later. Each tribe has their own traditions. They are mostly the same but vary a bit by tribe. This was the Mende tribe ceremony.

Traditional Wedding


When we arrived for the traditional ceremony, the bride and groom were dressed very casually and were mingling among the guests who were sitting and visiting around a large courtyard. We visited with them and others.

Notice the matching t-shirts that several of the bridal party were wearing.
Back

Front


They were preparing the stew for the bridal feast in a huge pot over the fire.

Traditional Ceremony

About and hour after we arrived, we were invited to go into the house as they were preparing to start the ceremony. There were about 30 chairs in the house filling the dining room and parlor. We were seated on the groom's family side. We were the first ones in besides the two tribal leaders.

15 members of the bride's family were invited in and they filled half of the room. The door was then closed. There then was a loud knock at the door. The bride's father answered the door, asked who was there and what did they want. He said I don't know you. He was told they had come to get acuainted and if he would let them in they would explain what they wanted. Would you please let us in. He opened the door and 13 members of the groom's family came in. We already were seated in 2 of their chairs. They all sat on the same side of the room as us. The rest of both families stayed outside but they could hear the proceedings over the speakers as they were using microphones.

The chief invited the muslim pastor on the bride's side to say the muslim prayer. Ngadi's grandfather was the person who gave that prayer. He then invited the Christian pastor on the gooms side to give the Christian prayer. A member of the Bo North LDS District presidency gave that prayer.

The chief then introduced all the members of the bride's family. He paid special tribute and honor to the oldest member. The groom's family was then introduced and again paid honor and tribute to the oldest member. He then asked who was speaking for the groom. The president of the Bo East LDS District stood up and said he was representing the groom. The chief then asked him what inquires did he want to make.

He said that the groom had become attached to the most beautiful flower growing in the bride's family garden and wished to take that flower for himself and take it to his home with him. To help persuade them he had sent gifts to the bride's family. (Note; Originally these gifts were cola nuts which were very expensive and used as currency among the tribes. Today they used cash.) He then gave separate envelopes to the bride's father and mother, maternal and paternal grandparents, one for all the aunties, one for the uncles, one for the brothers and one for the sisters, and last of all one for the bride. The bride's family consulted and said they were in agreement.

The bride's family brought a jar of cola nuts and water and presented it to the groom's family. The groom's family brought out a bundle of cola plant starts, wrapped in leaves and presented it to the the bride's family.

They then called for the bride to be brought in. There was a delay, and a bridesmaid said she didn't want to come out. She was given a small amount of cash. She went back into the room, returned and said she still doesn't want to come out. She was given more cash and then a veiled young woman was ushered into the room amid sorrowful chanting. They unveiled her and asked “Is this the flower you are looking for?” It was the bride's sister. The groom's family said no, no, no and made a big protest. They took her back into the dressing room and after a couple more exchanges of money, brought in the bride.


The groom's family agreed that she was the one. She was seated in the middle of the room and given the envelope for the bride.

The father then asked her if she knew the groom and if she agreed to the proposal of marriage. There was a hush as everybody waited for her answer. She said she knew him and the groom's family cheered. The groom's family said they had a gift for her and presented her with a calabash (Note: A calabash is a very large goard bowl) containing a gift of great value. The bride and groom had previously agreed what this was going to be. It could be anything like a lump of gold, a diamond, or some livestock. Traditionally it was like an insurance policy. If her husband were to die it would give her the means to take care of herself and her children. The calabash also contained some sugar which signified that the groom would share all of the sweet times and everything he had with her. There was also something bitter, some buttons, a needle and thread, a cloth wrap and two straw mats. These represented her commitment to stay with him thru the hard times; to sew on lost buttons on his shirt and mend his clothes and if he couldn't provide her with a bed, to spread her mat next to his on the floor until times got better. This calabash was passed around and inspected by all the members of the family and then returned to her. The chief then asked her if she accepted the calabash. She stood up, took the calabash and gave it to her mother for safe keeping. The groom's family cheered again.

The groom was then called for.

He came in wearing the traditional clothing which matched her dress and was met by greetings and cheering from both families. He was seated next to the bride. He was then told that the bride had accepted the calabash and asked if she was the one that he wanted. He said yes. The chief then asked him if he had been previously married. He said yes but was legally divorced. There was murmur of approval from the bride's family. He was then asked if he had any children. He said he had a boy and a girl that were legally in his custody and care. The chief asked the bride if she knew of the children. She said yes. He then asked her if she were willing to take those children as her own and help raise them. She said yes. The chief then asked the bride if she had any children. She said yes, she had one. He then asked the groom if he knew about this child and if he was willing to take this child as his own and help raise him. He said yes.

The groom was then asked for the names of a male and a female god parent from his family. He gave those names, they were called forward and stood by the bride and groom. The bride was then asked for the names of a male and a female god parent from her family. She gave those names, they were called forward and stood by the bride and groom. The chief then asked the god parents if they accepted their role as protectors of the marriage. The chief then counseled with the couple, that when there was trouble in the marriage that they would turn to these 4 people for help and advice and not to others. These 4 people would be there for strength and help to solve their problems. They would do everything they could to keep the marriage from failing. They would be their best friends.

The chief then asked the two god fathers to clasp hands. He then took the veil from the bride and wrapped it around their joined hands. The chief then indicated that this couple were now married for this life and the next in the eyes of the tribe. The groom's family brought the ring and Solomon placed it on the bride's left hand.

A member of the Bo North LDS district presidency gave a closing prayer.

Here we see a picture of the bride and groom after the traditional ceremony.


A large plate of food was brought out for everyone. There was music and dancing and lots of visiting. Most of the guests outside were already being fed when the two families came out.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

How Does Your Garden Grow In Africa

Sister Sherwood cannot get away from growing things, even in Africa.

She had one of our guards, Bro. Morigboi, plant corn for us.  
He planted the corn over the week of May 25th.  Look at it now.  The old saying "knee high by the 4th of July" does not apply here.  We took this picture on the 5th of July and some of the corn is taller than he is.  Can not wait for corn on the cob.  We are hoping it will be good.

Remember the yam from last month?
It had some buds starting to come on the end of it so she cut off an inch of the yam and planted it.  Three weeks later, here it is.  It will be fun to watch it grow.  It was planted in the middle of the corn.

Can you guess what this is?
It looks like somebody spray painted red into the middle of the plant.  That is the way it grows.  This is a pineapple starting to form.  We will probably get to harvest it before we come home in January.  It is the same one we harvested from last year, right outside our bedroom window.  

A really big butterfly!
This was on the wall of a compound here in Bo.  It is about 8 inches across the wingspan.  The white spots on the wings were actually kind of yellow, but the flash washed them out.  It was really pretty against the moss growing on the concrete wall.


Road Trip to Moyamba and Sierra Rutile 
Two weeks ago we spend two different days visiting the Sierra Rutile area then the town of Moyamba.  These  are potential new branches 2-1/2 hours to the West of Bo.  3 home groups in villiages in the Sierra Rutile area, and 1 at Moyamba.  They are preparing to make all 4 of them branches in the next few months and then will assign missionaries.  These are smaller villages not part of a big city like Bo.
Bamboo Forest
On the way we went through this heavily forested area.  Bamboo.  This is the first Bamboo trees we have seen in the country.  We knew they had them.  It was a potholed muddy road like this the whole way.
Now this is a narrow bridge

On the way to Sierra Rutile area we had to cross the Tia river.  This used to be a railroad bridge.  Now there are no railroads in Sierra Leone.  They made it a road bridge.  We had about 10 inches clearance on both sides of the truck.  There wasn't room for a person or okada(Motorbike) to pass.

Farmer on tractor/trailer in downtown Moyamba

Here we are driving in "downtown" Moyamba.  Sister Sherwood loved the farmer's straw hat.  This was the only paved road in the entire two days of travel.

Home Group Members at Moyamba 

Here we are at the building the group meets in at Moyamba.  It is part of a radio station that lets the church use their building for meetings.  We have not yet been to these 4 new areas on Sunday yet. We went to meet a few members and check out the roads. We are going to go to each one on Sunday over the next 4 weeks.  In all of them there are 15 to 20 members and more non-members coming then members.  They want to become branches so they can teach and baptize the investigators.  They need missionaries and branch leadership first.  The mission has approval from the area to make them branches but it takes time.

The church is growing in Sierra Leone and we are excited to help them get started.

We bear testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is going forth throughout the world and West Africa is the fastest growing area in the church.  These people are so humble and eager to embrace the truth in their lives.  We are so grateful to be here and love them.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Gospel of Jesus Christ in Sierra Leone (Part 2)

Today we will focus on 3 new district centers being built in Bo and Kenema.  Earlier we mentioned that a second stake was being created in Sierra Leone.  That happens on June 18.  The Kissy Stake will be created.  The Freetown area will now have 2 stakes.

They are talking about 4 more stakes in our country.  Three in Bo. and 1 in Kenema.  These are not approved but three are ready to be proposed.  We are not part of that proposal, review and approval process.  They eventually will need to be approved by the Quorum of the 12 Apostles and the 1st Presidency.  But we are witnesses of the longer term preparations being done here.

In Bo they are building 2 new district centers.  In Kenema they are also building one district center.  Since Bo West district already has a nice large district center, that makes a nice size district center for all the districts in the eastern part of Sierra Leone.  Those of you that can predict the future, perhaps that says they are getting ready for 4 stakes in eastern Sierra Leone since all of these district centers are designed to be stake centers.  That is exciting to us.  We will now bore you with pictures of these 3 new District Centers.  All are scheduled for completion in the September 2017 time frame.

BO East District Center

Located on the east end of Bo, about 1/4 mile east of the current Gbondo Town chapel.  Just south of the Bo-Kenema highway.

These 3 district centers are all basically the same design.  The center building is the chapel and cultural hall.  The two side buildings contain Relief Society, Primary, classrooms, branch and district offices, baptismal font, and restrooms.

The steeple tower you can see here.  The steeple is lying on the ground in a crate.  All 3 district centers will raise the steeples this week.











This is the Relief Society building.


BO North District Center

Located on the site of the former Bo Chapel.  They leveled the old chapel and have been meeting in a temporary chapel while they are building this district center.




You can see they are getting ready to raise the steeple on Bo North.  These are all the same buildings, just a little tighter together.




 We got two pictures of the baptismal fonts on this building.  Indoors!!  Dressing rooms built in!  Not quite what they are used to here in Bo except for the Njagboima building which is already a district center.  It look like the baptismal font room is open air on the sides.









A closer look at the font.




Kenema District Center

Located at the far north of Kenema, north of the airfield and of the IDA branch and chapel.  Just west of the highway going north from Kenema.






 They are ready for the steeple here too.





We believe that is the font down near the end.  Notice the open air design.




This building is on the far north of Kenema.  The branches need to expand north so it is not so isolated.




It is very nice on the top of a small hill.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Farming in Sierra Leone

Palm Wine


We watched a guy in a palm tree outside of our compound preparing to make palm wine.  He is cutting off the fronds preparing to make a hole in the tree.  As best we understand, it is like tapping a sugar maple to get the maple syrup.  He is  tapping it to get the palm juices to make  “palm wine”.  The juice comes out white or milky.  They make a hole into the core of the tree.  They put a tap in it, collect the juice, and let it sit for about 3 days to collect and ferment.  Then they fill bottles with it and sell it.  We have been told it is good and makes them tipsy, but we have not tried it and do not intend to.  It has been fun to watch.


As you can see from the pictures they have tapped the tree and are collecting the “palm wine”.  They will collect about 2 gallons of wine from this tree.  This is a fairly short tree.  

The bottle is about 10 ft off the ground.  Some we see on the highway are very tall.  It takes about a day for it to ferment.  If they wait much longer than a day it turns to vinegar.  Every day they collect the bottles and sell them in the marketplace. 






An African Yam


Sister Sherwood was given a yam on Tuesday.  In the picture you see her holding an African Potato next to the yam.  Both of them are medium sized.  The yam is the big one.  They eat them in soups or just cooked in chunks with the soup poured over the top of them.  They also harvest the tops of the African potatoes,for potato leaf soup.  If they use the tops for potato leaf soup, they do not get any potatoes.  So they plant two gardens, one for the tops and one for the potatoes. 
All the rainy season gardens are planted and growing well now.  The swamp gardens are done and they are preparing them now to become rice paddies for the rainy season. The locally grown rice is pink instead of white.  The ground is very fertile

We planted a cornfield outside the compound this week.  It was sprouting in 3 days.  They are about 1-1/2 inches tall now.  We are looking forward to corn on the cob.  We hope we can harvest a few ears while it is still tender and milky.  Here in Sierra Leone, they harvest the corn when it is big and starchy.  Then they roast it.  We do not find it very good.  We shall see if our way works here.  It still may not be very good but at least we are going to try.  Our guards, missionaries and neighbors can harvest the rest of it after we get our early pick.