From: Ethan Cade Brimhall [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 14, 2016 6:10 AM
Since last week’s email was terrible, and I have nearly unlimited time to write currently, prepare yourselves. This one is thick (word count: 2,669). Also, some stuff might be repeated from last week because my memory of what I wrote is about as comprehensive as a preschooler’s knowledge of long division.
I had by far the most baggage out of anyone. Even the other Americans. I felt a little embarrassed about that. The planes here don’t go up to the gates. You walk from the gate to the plane to get on, and from the plane to the gate to leave. I got checked for Ebola once I got here. I only got asked ONCE to have my bags carried. Much less crazy than I was told it would be. He even let off after just one denial. My MTC comp’s bags were lost. I don’t know updated information on that. We rode
on boats from one side of the harbor to the other because the airport was on the opposite side from the mission home. We met up with President Clawson and the Assistants, one of them being Elder Kochevar who is also from Henderson. We met with his family before I came to give me a little intro to Sierra Leone mission life. It helped quite a bit and gave me a friend upon arrival.
The mission home, or more accurately “compound,” is surrounded by a fence with guards at the entrance. It has the distribution office and a meetinghouse there alongside the mission home and some apartments for the AP’s and other staff. President and Sister Clawson are really amazing people. They are so nice and accommodating. I couldn’t have ended up with a better presidency couple. Definitely the best in the world. (I am low-key, now high-key, throwing shade at Cameron in the DR, Kiyah in Portland, and Jerry in Raleigh.) We had a welcome dinner (rice and cassava stuff on top, a common dish here) and then an interview with the President. The power went out in the middle of my interview, so that was a nice introduction to Sierra Leone. KO [knocked out] for the day right when I hit the bed.
First Day in the Field and Other Info
We got up, took pictures for the transfer board, ate breakfast, and left for what is referred to as Scott’s Peak, [where Elder Richard G. Scott dedicated Sierra Leone for missionary work]. The ride there was very scenic. We got a view of the mountains by which Sierra Leone got its name. Sierra Leone means Lion Mountain in Portuguese. There are so many trees and other green things here. Pretty drastic change from the moonscape of Nevada. So are the roads. Las Vegas roads are really nice. Paved evenly and very flat. Complete opposite here. Dirt roads with many hills and tons of rocks in the way. It’s a roller coaster ride every day man. Many of the buildings here look only half-constructed and are built mainly of cement with tin roofs. At the Peak, we learned about the history of our mission and got our different areas and companions assigned to us. I am in Waterloo with Elder Okpara from Nigeria. He and I are very similar people. Think of some quality that I have and he likely has it too. That makes him easy to get along with, at least for me. We are apartment mates with Elders Anku and Ebohon (he was in my district at the MTC). The apartment is well protected with a high cement wall topped with shards of glass and barbed wire. We missionaries are the only ones living here. We feel very safe. No running water, but we do have a generator that gives us power when we need it. The national power is incredibly unreliable. It usually doesn’t work. Beautiful sunrise and sunset. I have not yet seen the stars because it has been cloudy every day, but the moon is very bright.
The Market and Food
This is unlike anything I have ever experienced. Packed. Smelly. Muddy. Flies everywhere. Minimal ingredients. Luckily Elder Ebohon is a master chef and I love what he cooks, especially ground nut soup and gari. I LOVE FOOD. That is, when I get it. We go to the market on Mondays to buy about 200K Le worth of food (about $33) for the whole week, and if we run out, sucks for us. We use the whole fish in our cooking. Yes, that means the head, which actually doesn’t taste any worse than the rest of the fish. Supermarkets here are convenience stores back home, and everything is stupid expensive. I bought a babe ruth candy bar today that cost 8000 Le, which is comparatively very expensive here. The food here is VERY hot (temperature) and VERY spicy, a really bad combination. Each increases the other.
The people here are so freaking nice. Everyone is inviting. They give us food even though they can hardly sustain themselves. Ebola hit these people really hard, especially in Waterloo, and attending church was banned for a time to limit the spread of disease. This wounded many people’s faith and set them on a path other than what God wants for them. Still, despite the many seemingly insurmountable challenges these people have faced, their perseverance is admirable. A sister in our Lumpa branch by the name of Jeneba is very nice and is willing to give us food every time we stop by. That’s lunch like every day. She shows us around to members’ and investigators’ abodes and stays to bear her testimony. She’s really an incredible woman. She has three kids who are all pretty crazy. The 9 year old girl reminds me a lot of my cousin Presley in almost every way. I am called obotto, or something that sounds like that, meaning white man, by most of the children and many of the adults here. It’s been fun messing around with the children.
We went to the hospital on Friday. I broke my collar bone. Just kidding! My companion is suffering pretty bad from Malaria, so we went and got it checked out. Elder Anku also has it. I am doing fine. They neglected to take their Doxy, and this is the consequence for their disobedience. We were there for several hours while my companion waited on a Malaria smear and Typhoid test. Malaria came back positive and Typhoid negative, so the two elders are taking Fantem Forte for it. They tried to charge us for a consultation, which we expressly denied to have as directed by Sis Clawson. I had to speak with many people in order to get that fee waived. My administrative capabilities came in handy that day. Medication helped Elder Anku, but Elder Okpara, now done with his medication, is not feeling any better. This has debilitated our proselyting efforts, thus we have not gone out much at all recently. He rests a lot.
I scrub my wrists raw doing laundry by hand every week. We rub clothing in between our wrists in soapy water to get rid of dirt and stains and stuff. We then rinse it in another bucket and hang it out to dry. It takes about an hour to do a week’s worth of laundry.
People here love discussing God’s word, though most don’t really understand the unique and eternal significance of our message. My job here will be prompting true conversion, mostly for less-active people. A select few are serious about religion. Many think that God will save them if they go to Church once a week and just believe, which is not at all what worshiping God is about. At least people here try. America is straight up apostate. All I can do to convince people of the importance of my message is to bear testimony to them of what I know to be true and actually life-changing.
It’s going pretty well so far on the teaching side. Bro Bockarie has not been to church for a few months due to some issues he was not fully open with us about, so we set up a meeting between him and the branch president whom he was willing to speak with. He is a very nice man who I think that we can help if he lets us. Sis Salimatu is very open and receptive to the Gospel. Her parents recently converted to Christianity from Islam. They ask questions often and are engaged in the lessons. I can say with about 98% confidence that Sis Salimatu will be baptized. On Sunday, I taught the Gospel Principles class for investigators. I answered questions about Joseph Smith’s prophetic office, the Book of Mormon and its importance, the priesthood, and other important topics. I am confident they understood the lesson and inherent principles due to the robust discussion we had as a group. My comp and I contributed greatly to Elder’s Quorum, which lesson was on family history work and the temple. The members in the branch, though very faithful, have a lack of knowledge that sometimes saddens me. That is one reason why I am here – to strengthen the members. We then had a Branch Council Meeting where leaders and the missionaries discuss how to help the branch strengthen and grow. My comp and I went out with some of the leadership to visit investigators and less-actives. We got 8 or so new investigators and less-active members to teach. There is one family that is bordering, if not already engrossed in, apostasy. The mother, though baptized, attends an evangelical church because her financial needs are met there and not at the branch she is a part of. She had many other concerns, and we addressed every single one, but she kept reverting back to old ones or came up with irrelevant excuses as to why she couldn’t come to church. All we can do, as Elder Stanfill counseled (later on in this email), is to pray for her, ask her to pray herself, and revisit her conversion story. She needs to remember why she was baptized. Her daughter once had a vibrant testimony of the Book of Mormon, but read a scripture in Revelations that gave her doubts (Revelation 22:18; 18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book) . We will address that concern next week. I have plans for it, including the same scripture having place in Deuteronomy and understanding the true meaning of that scripture (Deuteronomy 4:2; 2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.). That day, we did a lot of walking and visiting, which killed my ailing companion. He crashed soon after we got back.
Reading Jesus the Christ has given me a lot to think about. I am about 600 pages in now, which is a lot considering I was at page 150 when I got here. In there, Nicodemus the Apostle is spoken about, and I identified with what was said about him. He was a very knowledgeable man, and a Pharisee member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish tribunal responsible for establishing and maintaining Jewish law. He came to Jesus asking doctrinal questions in a genuine desire to know more, but did not understand the simple truths that the Christ taught. This was because of his bias of professed knowledge of gospel peripheries. I know a lot about the Church and deep doctrine relating to the Standard Works, but I don’t know things that will help my investigators understand the importance that my message has for them. Nicodemus, because of his lack of understanding, was not willing to follow Jesus Christ irrespective of cost. I cannot afford to be that way. Although I am not sure how exactly to overcome this issue, I will study the PMG (preach my gospel) lessons and the Standard Works and pray often for myself, my companion, and my investigators.
An Area Authority spoke to us in a zone meeting at the mission home Monday after his flight was cancelled. I’m pretty sure it was divine intervention because I and many of the missionaries there needed that meeting. His message was truly inspiring. He said we were a chosen few. Not just as a generation. Not just as missionaries. But as missionaries in Sierra Leone, where growth is exponential. We are pioneers in the fastest growing place in the world, mission-wise. And we were put in this mission for a reason. We also discussed Doctrine & Covenants 1 and its significance and importance to us as missionaries. He spoke on feeling the Spirit. It is something essential to our work, and we will do things that will drive the Spirit away. All we can and must do is repent. We then asked questions and knelt in prayer together with him praying to close the meeting. I have seldom felt the Spirit as I did there in that meeting.
Feelings For the Past Two Weeks
I’ll fully admit that I freaked out the first few days I was here. I felt useless in our lessons due to my extremely weak knowledge of the scriptures, especially the bible. My companion had to lead the whole time and I just interjected with an occasional afterthought. Feelings of incompatibility with mission life, especially in a wholly new environment, set in and seemed unshakable. I prayed a lot for comfort. The experiences I have related to you, and others too personal to share, have given me a lot of comfort and guidance. I am incredibly blessed to be on a mission. Sounds weird, huh? How am I blessed to be in a country that ranks near the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index (181 of 188), far away from my family, and without access to any person or place I know well, doing what is so far removed from my normal life that I had to completely change my perspective? Those themselves are blessings of growth. God at once took my life as a rubber band and stretched it to breaking point. But He knew exactly how far I could be stretched and didn’t give me any more difficulty than I could handle. He has not left me without the tools I need to be successful. I am blessed to be among some of the chosen of God’s children. These people are strong in a sense that I don’t find common of people in America. My mind has been expanded and my heart has been enlarged. I grow every day in my testimony, knowledge, and abilities. Missions are a life-changing thing. If these past two weeks are indicative of what the rest of my mission is like, I have no worries about who I will be at the back end of this endeavor. God has prepared me and the people I am going to teach for what we have ahead of us. I KNOW this Gospel is true. I KNOW what I am teaching to be the word of God. I KNOW God has a plan for us. Nothing in my life up to this point, and conceivably after, can or will prove otherwise. I hope you can feel the sincerity of my words. I truly do love all of you who are reading this. If anything has come into your life that makes you doubt what I have confessed that I know to be true, look deeper. Search the scriptures. Pray for guidance. You will be comforted and answered according to your sincerity. These things I know to be true, as I have applied them as recently as this past week.
In closing, I would like to issue a challenge to you all. Every one of you reading this has someone in need of your help. Not your neighbor’s help. Not your mom’s help. YOUR help. Find that person and give them what they need. It will bless your life immensely, for Christ said “He who saveth his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”