Wednesday, November 23, 2016

November in Bo, Sierra Leone


These are the bananas on a tree at one of the elders apartments.  Notice the large purple pod at the bottom of the stem of bananas.
The pod feeds the undeveloped bananas until they are fully filled out.  Then it drys up and shrivels away.  This stem of bananas is not fully developed yet.  It is still feeding off the pod.
This stem of bananas has fully developed and the pod is gone at the bottom.  It is ready to be harvested.


While Sister Sherwood was learning about bananas, Elder Sherwood was putting chemicals in their well.  We treat them once a year with chlorine and alum to keep the algae and other growths gone.  In this well there was a squirrel.  Sorry no pictures.  Half way down the well on top of the inner concrete liner.  Sister Sherwood was very worried.  What if it died in the well?  How could we get it out safely.  We couldn't.  So the Elders left some food in a bucket and lowered it down to the level of the squirrel.  The next morning the squirrel was in the bucket eating food.  The elders were able to carefully bring the bucket up and remove the squirrel from the well.  As a side note, the squirrel did not die in the well but did not survive the incident.  The elders had squirrel for breakfast that morning.


Here we are at Torkpoi Town District center on a Saturday morning for a district baptism.  There were 3 branches baptizing 20 new members of the church.  Across town at the Njagboima chapel they were baptizing 13 new members in their district.   The church continues to grow in Sierra Leone.  We had a conference last week broadcast from Salt Lake to all of the West Africa area.  Elder Stevenson presided and spoke.  He pointed out that in West Africa in 2016 there will be a total of 16 new stakes created.  That is amazing.  It is clear that this is the time for Africa as the gospel goes to all the world.

Here one of our elders takes a new member into the font.  In Bo, a 3rd member district will be created this weekend.  From some of the branches is the two other districts.  The hope is that during 2017 they will be ready for at least 1 Stake in Bo.  That will be a glorious day.


We just started up the Gospel Literacy program in the 4th branch in Bo East District.  This was the Yemo Town branch.  We have 15 women in the beginner class and they are excited to be learning to read and write from the scriptures.  In these pictures you are seeing them in the Sunday School hour in their Gospel Literacy class.


Jestina is teaching me how to pound and sift dried casava root to make casava powder called tor.  She did most the pounding because I did not pound it hard enough.  I did most the sifting.  We ended up with over a gallon of casava powder.  It was a lot of hard work.  I am learning to appreciate how hard the women here work to provide food for their families.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

We are almost through the rainy season here in Sierra Leone.  We occasionally have a heavy rain but mostly during the night.  During August, September, and October they were during the day and night.

Rainy day in Bo.  Video did not work

Last week as we were coming back to our apartment, a heavy rain started.  By the time we got to our compound, the rain was so heavy that the guards could not hear us at the gate because of the noise the rain makes on the guard house tin roof.  We also did not want to get out of the truck and didn't want the guard to have to open the gate in the rain..  We waited for about 15 minutes for the rain to slow down.  Since we had nothing better to do, we took this video of the rain on the truck window.  You can see the water coming down in a solid sheet on the windshield.

Sister Sherwood and JJ
This is the nephew of Sister Sherwood's cooking teacher, Jestina.  Notice how he is carefully examining her hand.  Little ones are so intrigued by a white man's hand.  They sometimes try and wipe your hand to take off the chalk and reveal the black underneath.  They are so precious.  The smaller ones are sometimes afraid of us and won't leave their mother's side.  JJ made himself right at home in our house during the cooking lesson.  He was happy to color with markers while we cooked.  However later I found that he had colored the back of my skirt as well.

The other night we were surprised by the sound of hymns outside our compound.  It was an apartment full of Elders(6 in all) coming to get some supplies for their apartment.  What a delight to hear their spirit and their harmony.  When President and Sister Clawson came a few days later, we called the same elders and had them come and sing again.  They live about 1/4 mile down the street from us.  They came over and started singing for President Clawson and we decided to record it.

Elder and Sister Heckle return to Bo.

Elder and Sister Heckle, the area literacy specialists from Ghana, were with us for another week.  We are in the process of starting 2 more branches doing the Gospel Literacy training here in Bo.  We now have 4 branches going.

We have been thrilled with the progress of the Gospel Literacy program.  The definition of Gospel Literacy is not the same as normal adult literacy.  It is "the ability to use the Gift of the Holy Ghost to READ, WRITE, UNDERSTAND, TESTIFY and LIVE the Words of God."

Many members have felt on the outskirts of the gospel ever since they were baptized because they could not read the scriptures.  In church they get little out of the lessons.  Many come to Sacrament Meeting and then go home.  They feel the gospel is only for those who have been to school.  In just a few weeks of the Gospel Literacy Sunday School class they are beginning to read scripture and feel the spirit testify to them of the truth of what they are reading.  They are coming each week and staying.   They are now getting more out of the other lessons in church as well.  We are so grateful to the Heckles who have been giving decades of their lives to developing these inspired program training materials.  This program is putting the words of the Savior in the hands of the common people.  It is wonderful.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bo Zone Activity Day

Bo Zone Activity Day

This is the third time in the past 6 months that our Zone has had an activity day.  It is an excuse for the young missionaries to get together on their Preparation-Day, play football, eat and just enjoy each other.

This is half the full-time missionary team

This is the other half.  Oops, who are those old people?

Our Bo Zone has gotten too big for one picture.  We now have 31.  We expect 4 more next week.

Football in the real world means soccer to you uninformed westerners.  The people of Sierra Leone take their football seriously.  You will see even the youngest school kids and preschool also out on the field kicking a ball around.  Or something like a ball.

Elder Seaman is an experienced footballer from Great Britain.  As you can see he brought a real football.  Game on.

This was the 2nd time the football game has been a match of the full-time missionaries vs. the branch missionaries.  The problem is the branch missionary team seems to always have many ringers on it.  They are not all branch missionaries but bring some experienced players from local teams.  A member of the Bo West District presidency, President Mammy. is their coach.

Bo East District President Nasiru

The local members also bring the referees and enjoy the match.  They were convinced that for this match the full-time missionaries would be crushed.

When you observe that 1/3 of the full-time missionaries playing are white guys, you get the feeling maybe they don't have a chance.  However, this addition of the match ended up a 1-1 tie.  Same as last time.  No one wins.  No one loses.  But every one plays their heart out and has fun.  The consensus was that one of our brand new Elders from Arizona, Elder Cluff, was the star because of his great job as goalie.  They all played well.

After the game we brought out the food and the cool-aid and enjoyed a picnic at the side of the field.
Elder and Sister Sherwood did not play football.  Sister Sherwood made brownies and we helped get the other food the sister missionaries prepared to the activity.  A delicious chicken stew over rice.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

On The Road in Sierra Leone

It seems all of our pictures this week were taken from the truck.  So here we go.

First of all "okadas".  These are small motor bikes that are used for taxis.  They are the fastest transportation to get around town and they are the most dangerous.  In Bo, for every car or truck there are 10-20 okadas on the road.  This past month they began enforcing the helmet laws in the country.  Okada drivers must wear a helmet and now they must provide one for their passenger as well.  If they are caught without a helmet or without one for their passenger, they are given a heavy fine and their motorbike is impounded until they have paid the fine.  They also have rules about having too many passengers.

Here is an okada diligently doing his best to meet the requirements of the law.  Notice how the passenger does have his helmet, but had trouble figuring out how to make it work with the load on his head.

Here is another passenger. Women do not like to wear the helmets because they mess up their hairdos.  And some of the men just won't wear them.  Another valid question is "What qualifies as a helmet?  It is very common to see football helmets, baseball batters helmets, construction hard hats, as well as bicycle helmets etc.

Then there is the occasional interesting load.  You have to look closely at this picture to see what is going on.  The passenger is holder two pieces of "rebar" behind his back.  It is trailing behind the okada and swinging back and forth across the road.  We watched some people walking along the side of the road who had to jump over it to keep from getting hit.  This is about 1/2 inch rebar which is steel used to reinforce concrete structures.  Very heavy and dangerous.  Another okada almost ran over the rebar which could have created an interesting accident.  We hope he got to his destination safely.

The Roads of Kenema

These are the famous beautiful paved roads of Kenema.  It is the middle of the "rainy" season so most days have some rain and some days have a lot of rain.  The road you are seeing in these pictures is the main road in the city of Kenema.  It was totally paved at one time.  Notice the large piles of rocks dumped in the middle of the road.  These piles of rocks are there to be broken up and used to fill the potholes.  They have been there for about a month.  They must be waiting for the rains to stop.  In the mean time cars and trucks go very slowly as they try to maneuver around the rock piles and the potholes that can be very deep.  It takes about 30 minutes to go 5 miles through town.

The All Africa Day Of Service

This was an event the church held throughout Africa.  Here in Bo, we worked with two branches that cleaned up along the main highway going through town.  By cleaning up, we mainly mean wacking down the jungle in the ditches so the rain water can run well.

Here, Elder and Sister Sherwood are with President Sheriff, the branch president who orchestrated this project.

Here you get an idea of how high the vegetation can grow in these road

Here are two companions enjoying the work and play together.  Two hard working Elders.  Elder Kay and Elder Ayabowei.

Here we can see about half the workers along the highway.

Notice the women on the left, working alongside the men.  Even doing hard, dirty work outdoors, they still wear dresses.

Saturday, August 6, 2016


Cleaning Day

Hello again from Sierra Leone,  Last Saturday was the last Saturday of the month.  In Bo that is a day when everyone stays at home or their shop and cleans until 10:00 am.  This is not just a custom it is a city regulation!  We have been out on the streets of Bo during these hours and it is EERIEE!  There are no cars, no okadas(motor bikes), no people out walking.  Everyone you see as you go by is sweeping their yard, cleaning the street gutters, or busy doing yard work.  We have never been stopped when we were driving, however people give you very odd, stern looks.  We made sure there was a very good reason when we drove(like checking on a sick missionary).  We are told they do stop you, and you will be fined 250,000 Leones.  That is about $40 US.  That is a very stiff fine for these people.  Bo is the only city in Sierra Leone that does this.  We have heard from some that Nigeria does this also.  

So we decided this month to join in and do a service project that would be beneficial to our neighborhood.  This is the rainy season and most days it rains off and on.  Sometimes a drizzle, sometimes a downpour.

Right outside our gate our street has a dip in it.  Not a deep pothole, just a dip that is the width of the street and 20 feet long.  It is always full of water.  Those walking by have to maneuver around it.  We decided we were going to fill it in with dirt from the berm on the side of the road.  This was a bit ambitious.

We spent about 15 minutes putting dirt from the berm into the puddle.  About that time a neighbor boy came up and said, "No, No, No.  You need to drain the water.  He took the shovel away from Sister Sherwood and began digging a trench, from the puddle to the ditch at the side of the road.  Elder Sherwood joined in with his idea.  After a few minutes other neighbors started coming with more suggestions.  A better pick/hoe was brought and the puddle was beginning to drain.

Another neighbor came by and felt like we were way to slow in our digging.  He took the shovel and started in on it.  After 10 minutes he said "What you really need is concrete blocks.  Bring your truck to my place."  He lived about 2 blocks away in a compound bigger than ours.  His business was making dredging equipment used to mine for diamonds in the river.  The home was under construction.

On the 2nd story there we a lot of broken concrete blocks.  I would have called it rubble.  These look much like what we call concrete blocks at home, but are much sandier and don't have much cement in them, so they are very fragile.  He began tossing them down to the landing and then out the window.  We began placing them in the truck.  By now we had about 8 neighbors all helping to load the truck.  We took 3 truckloads to our street and spread them out in our puddle.  He also had a small sledge hammer he brought.  Some of us would beat on the bigger blocks to make them smaller.  Here are some pictures and videos we took of the work.

Here you see our puddle.  Notice the ditch that is draining the puddle to the right.  It now is about half the size it was before it started draining.  We knew that over time it would just fill up again.

Here you see us unloading one of the truck loads.  Notice how you have to keep your tools in good repair.  Sister Sherwood added a nail to keep the hoes head on the handle.

Here you can see Sister Sherwood breaking up the blocks.  Notice how she didn't get much done before a man came and took the hammer.  We have found that these good people do not like to let women and older men work. If we are carrying something they insist on taking it from us.  

Elder Sherwood is moving the blocks.  Finishing up the project. Sister Sherwood finally gave up trying to help, and went and got water and cookies for everyone.  It turned into a nice neighborhood party.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

It Is What We Do

We Do Plumbing

This is the kitchen sink of one of the sisters apartments.  It is the only apartment with a double sink and the plumber who installed it used a double sink kit that would be used in the US with a sewage system.  You tell us if this drain would work in the US.  It certainly didn't here in Africa.  When ever the sinks were unstopped they either didn't drain at all or the water went all over the floor.  Someday we will tell you about having to vent a P-Trap.

This is the much simplified drain that works.  All drains in these homes that are not from toilets just empty into the yard or the street.  No sewage system.  It took us 3 weeks to find the simple parts that would let this drain work.  Oh for a home depot or even duct tape.  We are also into fixing toilets, and showers, and water supply pumps.

We Do Nursing

This is the leg of one of our sister missionaries.  She got a very serious burn riding on an okada(motercycle taxi).  Her leg touched the exhaust pipe.  (Where was the protective cover?)  We helped her treat it and were able to not have to go to the hospital.  We disinfected it, and covered it with a gauze pad to keep it from getting infected.  She is doing well now.  It is healing nicely.

We Make Friends

Here are some of Sister Sherwood's friends in front of the Elders apartment.  They come running even though she doesn't have sweets any more.
They like pass-along cards and they like being snapped(have their picture taken).

We Do Training and Transporting

Here we are in the mission home with the MLC(Mission Leaders Council).  Here all the zone leaders and sister trainers gather each month to review things throughout the mission.

We sometimes are called upon to transport some of them from Bo to Freetown.  These young missionaries are marvelous.  They are dedicated, hardworking, and diligent in doing the work of the Lord in their mission.

We Hate To See Them Go Home

Here one of the Elders who went home last week can be seen with a shirt that shows how long he has been in the mission field.  Look closely at his collar.  He was a great missionary in Bo and bore a powerful testimony in his branch 2 weeks ago.

We will miss him and the others who went home and those who are soon to follow.  We started with experienced missionaries from other West African Missions and they are now coming to the end of their missions.  They are the ones who re-opened the mission after ebola was over.  They have done well.

We Laugh A Lot With Our Missionaries

This was a sign put up in one of the sisters apartments.  Doxy is the anti-malarial pill we all take every day.  It kills the malaria parasite before it has a chance to destroy the red blood cells.  Those missionaries who do not take it usually get malaria.

We Love It Here 

We also teach temple preparation classes, literacy classes, and train the local members so they can teach these classes.  Sister Sherwood teaches music conducting courses and keyboard lessons.  That is right, she is now playing the keyboard!!!  Learning the keyboard so she can stay ahead of her students.  One of her students is also the choir director in her branch. In our keyboard lesson two weeks ago she expressed a desire to teach the choir a hymn they have never sung. Sister Sherwood taught her how to play each part separately so that each voice could hear their part and practice it.  We were thrilled this week to hear the choir practicing.  They were learning all four parts for Branch Conference.  We have never heard people singing other than the melody in Africa.

We do miss you all and love you.  God bless you all.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Fish Pies in Africa

Fish Pies

This week in the cooking lesson we made Fish Pies.  Our lesson was interrupted last week and we did not get the pies made.

This is what it looks like when it is complete.   Basically like a tart with a stew inside.  The stew can be fish, or other meat.  We made fish.  We showed the pictures of Sister Sherwood preparing the fish in our previous blog.

This is the fish stew before it is put into the dough.  It is tomato, onions, peppers(mini jalapenos), and the crumbled fish.  Spicy and good.

Here is the most beautiful sister Missionary  preparing the dough.  It is kind of between a pie crust and a bread dough.  It has interesting flavors in it.  Nutmeg and bouillon.

Here they are ready to fry.  You can fry them in vegetable oil, or bake them in the oven.  We tried it both ways.  They were crispier and flakier fried.

Here is the instructor.  Every week she has her hair done totally different.  This week she was wearing purple ringlets in her hair.  These styles are very common here.  Sister Sherwood has yet to try one, however.  But she is becoming a very accomplished African cook.

Literacy Classes

The classes went really well this Sunday.  One of the instructors couldn't come so Sister Sherwood taught the new beginners.  It is fun to see these older women using a pencil for the first time in their lives.  They are thrilled that they are able to make letters, and then read the words they have written. Their homework assignment was to write the names of everyone in their family, with the help of family members who can read and write.  We teach a gospel principle in every lesson.  This week it was the importance of family.  The three letters they learned last week were I, A, M.  This week they learned F, L, Y.  For the first time in their church experience they are getting something from a class. They are participating and learning.  It is wonderful to see.

We are having so much fun here.  God Bless you all.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Rainy Season and Ramadan are upon us

Here is one of the prettiest Muslim Mosques in Kenema.  June 5th to July 5th is Ramadan this year.  Muslims fast every day during Ramadan from 6:00am to 8:00pm approximately.  Up in the top of those towers there are loudspeakers that really are LOUD.  The first day of Ramadan we had Muslim music and sermons going from 3:00am til 6:00am preparing the Muslims for the upcoming fast. The small mosque a block away from our apartment gave a clear, long, loud call to fast and prayer that first morning.  Really loud.  Since the first day they have been much quieter and not so long but they go every day in the morning from 5:00am to 6:00am and from 7:00pm to 8:00pm in the evening.  I wish I knew Arabic and could understand the sermons.

Traveling back from Kenema one day, we ran across this van on the highway.  This little goat, tied to the top, was standing up while it was going about 60 mph down the road in the rain. He was absolutely drenched and looked very pathetic.

This is a group of sisters at the Bo East District conference in their beautiful outfits.  The women here always dress beautifully and colorfully.  You rarely see a woman wearing pants.  Some of their headdresses are very elaborate and match or coordinate with their dresses and I feel pretty drab next to them.

They thought Elder Sherwood should be in it too.

Jestina had me gutting and scaling these small fish for our cooking lesson this week.  We made meat pies and "King driver" biscuits which are like a shortbread cookie. You can see them in the pan in the picture below ready to go in the oven.

Here is Sister Sherwood in front of her favorite tree at the mission home in Freetown.  The leaves look like a fern and the flowers are stunning and look almost like small orchids.

I loved the leaves on this plant growing under  the tree above.

We had a busy two weeks with District Conference, literacy classes, a trip to Freetown for Mission Leadership Council and Temple Trip preparation meetings where we did training both in Bo and Kenema. We also spent time in Dr. offices and Labs with a sick Elder trying to figure out what was wrong and getting him well again.  We also delivered generator fuel to all nine missionary apartments and a bed, wardrobe, desk and chairs to one of the sister's apartment to prepare for a new sister coming to Bo this week.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Another Two Weeks in Sierra Leone

Good Bye to Good Friends in Africa
These are Elder and Sister Miles with us.  They flew out with us to Sierra Leone in February.  They had been in Ghana on a mission and had gone when their time was over.  They were then asked to come back for 3 months to help start up the Sierra Leone Mission.  We can't believe they are going home already.  They were our next door neighbors while we were in Grafton, before we came to Bo.  We will miss them.  They helped us adjust to life in Africa.
Sister Sherwood Is A Plumber
This is Sister Sherwood's attempt at fixing the leak in the shower until Elder Sherwood could go buy some parts.  When the shower is only a dribble to begin with, it is important not to lose a single drop.

Propane Gas Anyone
We just received 36 medium cans and 4 huge cans for our elders to use for cooking gas in their apartments.  I believe this will last for two years, or at least a year.  Aren't we lucky that we get to store it on our front porch.

From the Top of Leichester Peak Overlooking Freetown
These pictures are taken high above Freetown on the highest peak.  This was where Elder Scott dedicated the country of Sierra Leone for the preaching of the gospel many years ago.  We take our new missionaries up here for the view, a devotional, and a short lunch before we take them to their areas.  You can see the bay, the Atlantic Ocean, and the US Embassy down below, 

Gospel Literacy Comes To Bo East District
This past week we have been working with a couple, Elder and Sister Heckle, from the Africa West Area who are responsible for putting together a program to improve the Gospel Literacy in West Africa.  Another sister Mellissa Hawkley, who helped develop the teaching pattern, was here to help them.  We are starting a trial program in the New England Branch, Bo East District.  2 Instructors have been called, as well as a Literacy specialist in the branch and in the district.  They have materials to last for 2 months.  We will be helping train the teachers and specialists.  The Heckles will come back in two months, review what has happened and begin spreading it out to more branches.  We are really excited about this program and so are the Branch and District leaders as well as those who have been called to implement it.  We spent a week with Elder and Sister Heckle training the priesthood leaders and the people who have been called.  The classes are taught in the Sunday School hour.   Last week we taught all the adults in the 2nd hour to assess how many we would have in the beginning and how many in the intermediate class.  We are now ready to begin next week.
Elder and Sister Heckle
These are our instructors and Sister Heckle
Training the leaders and teachers

Melissa with the beginning class instructors
The Dice Game in Africa
We searched the market for two days trying to find dice so we could play the "Dice Game" with the Heckles and Melissa.  We finally found a vendor who said "Come back tomorrow and I will have the dice for you".  We came back and he did have them.  They were not quite what we expected but they worked.  After all "This is Africa".
How good are your eyes?

Busted again!