Sunday, February 28, 2016

Grafton Branch's First Baptism since the Ebola Outbreak

Waiting to go to Bo

We are still here in Grafton, a few miles from the mission home.  We still have at least a week until we can go to Bo.  Two vehicles came in Friday.  We hear that one of them is for us. We were out in Bo for 2 days with the mission facilities manager Bishop Markus Wallace, looking at our apartment and several of the young missionaries apartments.  He was inspecting new apartments for the missionaries who are coming.  It turned out that one of these apartments he and Pres. and Sister Clawson felt would make a better couples apartment then the one they were planning on for us.  They wanted us to see it first before making the decision.  Both of them needed a lot of work, but this one was smaller, less expensive, and could be done in a week instead of 2-3 weeks.  Sounded good to us.  It is located right across the street from the Bo West District center and is more central to all of the branches and apartments in Bo.

What a Baptism

Today is Sunday.  Yesterday the Grafton branch had a baptism.  15 new members were baptized.  15 were confirmed today in Sacrament meeting.  Six of them were ordained to the priesthood during priesthood meeting.  There was hardly time in sacrament meeting after all the confirmations for the district president to give the talk he was planning.  This was the first baptism in the branch since the ebola outbreak, so many of them had been coming for 1-3 years waiting to be baptized.  What a beautiful experience.
Baptismal Candidates

Notice the small lady in the front row with white hair.  She is 100 years old.  Her name is Vincent Gbassay.  She has been attending for four years.  She finally decided she didn't want to wait any longer to be baptized.  She now has her sights on the temple. She was so happy.  But a little scared.  She insisted on going last.  A couple of the younger ones were also afraid of going under the water.
Sister Gbassay, 100 years old.
Sis. Gbassay entering the font.
During the baptism meeting as they read the names of those being baptized the congregation said "welcome" after each name.  Such a nice touch, such a loving people.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Mission Begins

The Map in the MTC

We have been in Sierra Leone for 10 days and are starting to know what we are doing. We spent the first week helping the short term couples get the mission office cleaned and ready for missionaries. We need to put this all in perspective.

Two years ago at the height of the Ebola scare the country announced they were going to close the borders and not allow anyone in or out. The church gave the missionaries, young and old, including the presidency, about 2 days to pack and get out. The church sent a plane and they got out within hours of the country being closed.

The local members in the Sierra Leone Stake and surrounding districts emptied all the apartments that were used by the young missionaries and stored everything in the mission offices and the couples apartments. This included all the furniture, bedding, kitchen items, generators, and personal that were left behind in the rush. Those apartments were then let go. The couples apartments, which were now storage units were kept with full time security, along with the mission home and offices.

Fast Forward to spring 2015. The country is close to being Ebola free. The Clawsons received a call to be the new mission presidents. They came to the MTC for the annual mission presidents seminar/training in July. We were able to talk with them and share in their excitement. However, they could not go to Sierra Leone until it was declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization(WHO).

Fast Forward to November. President and Sister Clawson travel to Sierra Leone and open the doors of the mission home/offices. Wow! What a mess! For 3 months they have worked with the local members in trying to figure out where everything was and what needed to be done. They worked with the Stake and traveled to all the districts and branches. Reorganized the district leaderships, and split branches which had continued to grow while the mission was gone.

The church was sending experienced missionaries from other West African missions to start up the Sierra Leone Mission. They needed to find apartments for the 20 Elders they were expecting to arrive early February. February 8 the young elders and sisters arrived and 1 senior couple. The church had arranged for 3 couples to come to the mission for 4 to 6 months. These couples had been home from missions in West Africa less than a year. They were coming to help get things restarted.

After our week in the Provo MTC we arrived in Sierra Leone February 12 with the other two temporary couples. Those 3 couples were going to be working in the mission office, doing medical, financial, and distribution tasks. We are expected to go to the eastern half of the country to a city called Bo. There are two districts in Bo and another in Kenema, 1 hour further east. There are a total of 20 branches in these districts with 17 chapels. We will be the emissaries for the mission President to these three districts, and for all the missionaries that will be assigned there. Currently we have one set of Elders in each of the the districts. There will be more coming as they come from the Accra, Ghana MTC over the next few months. The next group comes in about 2 weeks.

Our couples' apartment in Bo is not ready for us. It is still a storage facility and is in disrepair and needs cleaning. We also do not yet have a vehicle. We also do not have internet capability. In the mean time we have been working in the mission offices helping to clean out rooms, and get things organized. We are going with the country Facilities Maintenance guy on Thursday morning to spend 2 days in Bo. We will meet with local leaders and contractors to see what it will take to get the apartment ready for us.
Elder Sherwood and President Clawson at Bo Apartment

While we are waiting for our apartment in Bo we are staying in a couples apartment in the suburbs of Freetown.

Temporary Apartment new Freetown
Here is a friend of ours in our Freetown apartment.  Notice
the reflection on the ceiling.

Last weekend we spent 3 days in Bo and Kenema. We accompanied President and Sister Clawson to attend district training meetings in those three districts. We were able to quickly meet many of the district and branch leaders. Some day we may begin to remember all their names and faces. That will come. Meantime we have been preparing organization charts and maps to help acquaint us with the people and to get around the area.

We are excited to get involved in our area and to get working with the people.

We love you all. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. The Kingdom is rolling forth. Not even Ebola could stop it. The people here are amazing.