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.


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.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


Shop Construction In Sierra Leone

Here is a shop being built in Bo.  This particular building is a stick and mud construction.  Notice the "sticks" used to create the frame.  These are nailed together.  They then stuff mud into the small gaps between the sticks on the sides.  The roof will be covered with "zinc".  This is a corrugated steel sheeting that is electroplated with zinc to reduce rusting.  The sticks are very "hard" wood and in spite of the first look it is surprisingly strong.  After the mud dries on the walls.  They will put a "cement" stucco coating on the outside that helps it last longer.  The other types of construction are concrete block and mud block.  This is the fastest and cheapest.  Could be finished within a week. Might last 10 years or so.  May have electrical power in it.  Will not have any water service or septic/sewer in it.

Big Kitchen

This is the kitchen at the Bo School for Boys which we toured a few weeks ago.  You can see the size of the pots on the left.  There were about 8 of these.  There was enough rice and stew cooking in these pots to feed 500 boys.  It must be hot in here when they are all going.  This will be where the are holding the youth conference in August for all of Sierra Leone.

Some Children

We had taken some diesel to the 5th street apartment, and were met by some of the friends we have made around every apartment the missionaries live in.  They were climbing all over the truck while we were in the apartment.  When we came out and wanted to go they wouldn't get out of the back of the truck, Sister Sherwood offered to take a "snap" of them.  They all got out of the truck to have their picture taken.  Elder Sherwood was able to back the truck out with no kids on it, around it, or under it.  They love to have their pictures taken.

Baptism at Batiama Branch

Went to the baptism in Batiama branch where 7 new members were baptized.  Pretty much all of the baptisms are done on Saturday.  We have 17 branches here in Bo.  Typically 3 or 4 baptismal services will be held with 4 to 6 of the branches.  Two branches will combine sometimes to save water.  We think these beautiful people are even more beautiful dressed in white.

Neighborhood View

This is looking out from the Pyne street apartments out over one of many swamps in Bo. Most of the neighborhoods are separated by these swamps.  They are cultivated and most of their vegetables, rice, and groundnuts(peanuts) are grown.  I was struck by how picturesque this was.  The natives call Bo "Swit Bo" (Sweet Bo).  We think so too.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


This time of year, water is very important in West Africa.  Missionaries can't "brook" without it.  On Monday we got pictures of missionaries in two different apartments "brooking".

Here at 5th street apartment, brooking is easy.  There is plenty of water in the well.

Here at Kandeh Town apartment the well has gone dry and the pump is not working.  Somewhere between the water tank and the house we are losing all the water.  But they still need to wash their clothes and cook and drink and clean their apartment.  So what do we do?

We bring in water on a daily basis if needed.  Here is Elder Sherwood unloading cans of water and pouring them into barrels.  We fill the cans from our well and take them to where ever they are needed.

So this week we had an added challenge.  The pump in our well stopped working.  We are in the middle of the hot, dry season and the water level has lowered.  We had a water truck come and fill our tank with 3000 liters of water.  The truck was too big to come in the compound, so they ran the hose over the fence.

This picture gives you an idea of how tall the water tower is.
We then had to have them dig in our well.  They took out a lot of accumulated mud and made it so we could pump water again.  

They dug the well deeper by hand.  One man 60 feet down in the well filling up buckets and the others on top dumping the buckets. All in 90 degree weather.  We tried to keep them supplied with cold drinking water for the all day project.

We are hopeful next week to be able to pump water from our well again.

We are so grateful for the blessings of life, especially water.We also are so grateful for the source of "Living" water.  Our Savior Jesus Christ.  We are grateful to be in Sierra Leone, helping the missionaries to provide this "Living" water to a country that is ready for the Gospel.  We know He lives and wants to bless us.  We pray that all of you will drink daily from His "Well of Living Water".

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Gospel of Jesus Christ in Sierra Leone

It is March already.  We were chastised by our daughter for not blogging enough.  Guilty as charged.  

It is Hot, Humid, and Dusty.

We are into the Harmattan season here. The Harmattan is a season in the West African subcontinent, which occurs between the end of November and the middle of March. It is characterized by dry and dusty northeasterly trade wind, of the same name, which blows from the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea. It means the sky is "hazy" all the time. Dust collects everywhere. March is the hottest month of the year.  We are feeling the heat.  This is also the time of the year when everyone is clearing the land of the dead savanna grasses and all the dead weeds that have grown during the wet season.  There are small fires everywhere, even in the towns.  So the haze includes smoke and dust.  It is hay fever time.  We feel like we have had one single cold since the middle of December.  But that is the only health problem we have so that is a real blessing.

Training from Salt Lake

The 1st week in March we went to Freetown for a special conference for Young Women and Primary leaders.  We were there for 3 days.  Members of the two general presidencies of these two organization were here from Salt Lake.  Sister Carol F. McConkie from the Young Womens, and Sister Joy D. Jones from the Primary.  We also had Elder Nash from the Africa West Area Presidency who spoke with them.  They were here to train the leaders from though out the mission.  It was a major effort to bring about 70 leaders from Bo, Kenema, and McKinney into Freetown.  They stayed one night in a hotel and needed to be fed several meals.
They did a fine job of training.  Our hearts go out to them.  They work hard at developing programs for the whole world.  Teaching in the Saviors Way, and Teachers Councils were two of their priorities. Then they come into West Africa.  They find the biggest challenge in West Africa is to have teachers called.  Most branches have a primary president and maybe a counselor.  They take turns teaching a primary that has 10 to 30 children.  Rarely are separate teachers called.  Many have never been to a Branch Council, so what is a Branch Teachers Council.  They went back to Salt Lake with a much better picture of what life is like in West Africa, and our members felt the love of those in church leadership who cared enough to come all the way to Africa to teach them.

Growing in West Africa

Here in Bo, we created two new branches 2 weeks ago in the Bo North District.  They now have 7.  Today, the Bo West District also created a new branch giving them 6.  There are 2 district/stake center buildings being built which should be completed before we leave.  There is a district/stake center building being built in Kenema and they are also splitting branches. 

In Freetown, they are getting ready to create their 2nd stake.  It has now been approved.  We are hoping for 1 or 2 stakes in Bo before we leave. The church is growing in Sierra Leone, West Africa. 

We testify that our Father in Heaven is preparing the world for the return of His Son Jesus Christ.  We in West Africa are just a small part of this great kingdom that is rolling forth through out the world.  "No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing...The truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, until it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear.  Til the purposes of God have been accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say 'The Work is Done'".  (Wentworth Letter).

We are witnesses daily  of His great love and miracles.  We love working in His Kingdom.  We await anxiously for his return.  God bless you all.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Where Did January Go

Bo, Sierra Leone Relief Society Conference

 Mid January we had a Relief Society Conference for all three districts in Bo.  That's 15 branches.  So Question:  How many  eggs to you have to boil and peel to make egg salad sandwiches for 350 women?  Answer:  600 eggs.  It was an all day project.  We are not in the picture, but Elder and Sister Sherwood were in the middle of peeling eggs.  We also spent two full days baking 450 banana bread muffins.  One pan at a time since that is all the oven can hold.

Here we are at the conference getting ready to unload the coolers full of egg  salad, rolls, and banana bread muffins.  Notice Sister Sherwood's new favorite dress she had made for the conference.  It is beautiful, befitting a beautiful lady.

Today We Were Tank Movers

Here we are moving water tanks from one chapel to another chapel.  It must be the beginning of the "Dry" season since water is now one of the biggest issues.  The bigger the tank you  have the more water that can be pumped from the well, or brought in by truck.  This will hold enough water for two weeks use of the chapel.  Their main usage is for toilets.  Notice how big a tank our little truck can handle.

I helped with this smaller tank, mostly by cheering them on.  We were swapping tanks from two chapels.  The chapel that had the bigger tank could not fit it on their tower, so we moved it to a chapel that could use it.  We then put the smaller tank on the first chapels water tower.

A little rope to keep it from bouncing off as we travel over the rough roads.

The African Pumpkin

Here is an african pumpkin.  The 2nd picture tells you it's size with Sister Sherwoods hand in the picture.  This one is a little smaller than average.  It makes a great ponky soup to go over rice or mashed potatoes.  One of our favorite dishes.  They do not know pumpkin pie here but they do know ponky soup.  The pumpkin is essentially the same as we know at home, Just a different color on the outside.  Same on the inside.

Sister Sherwood Can Not Resist the Children

We went over to Elder Kays apartment to get a picture from him.  While there these two neighbor boys wanted to be our friends and wanted their picture taken too.  How can you resist cute little faces like this.

Here they are with Elder Kay and Elder Wokoma