Miracles! And Disappointments…

July 4, 2016

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Hey Everyone!

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY. THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD CELEBRATES 240 YEARS OF FREEDOM TODAY. I ate a burger for the first time since I was in the homeland. It was a small patty with coleslaw on a bun. It was the closest thing I could get. I’m buying bacon cheeseburger stuff from a supermarket today (actually a convenience store). I don’t care how much it costs; America deserves my homage through barbecue.

Thursday marks two months. Twenty-two months to go. Thank goodness. That gives me some time to actually learn something.

I have calculated how much water we use with a very primitive eye-measuring system and some basic math. It’s about 800 or 900 Liters per week.

I still need to get my hair cut. Yesterday marks two months since my last haircut.

Tuesday

I studied the New Testament, because that is the most-understood collection of scripture here. It would be helpful to know as much as people do here. My companion has an institute manual from 1978, so I used that outdated piece of divine trash. A branch missionary came with us to our appointments. We taught Sister Rose and did a pre-interview for baptism. She is so not ready. We asked her if she believed in Joseph Smith and she said yes. Coast clear so far. Hopes lifted. We then asked her if she believes in modern-day prophets. The answer was a surprising no. Hopes crushed. That was only the second question. I won’t relate how the rest of the interview went. Needless to say, she did not get baptized on Saturday. We talked to a less-active man, Brother Bowe, who did not know we had a branch in Lumpa. His Muslim wife waved us over to greet us. Turns out Bro. Bowe was only able to marry his wife if he converted to Islam. He did so and stopped coming to church. Our visits brought a spark of faith back to him and he is intent on coming back. What a faithful guy! Small miracle of the day. We then taught Sis. Shaku who was taught by missionaries before Ebola. She committed to baptism. She fed us a nice meal. She only spoke Krio, so I had a hard time giving input. We then taught Sis. Contah who had not received her baptismal certificate for 13 years and did not know we had a branch in Lumpa. We contacted the elders in her baptism area and are getting her records moved to Lumpa. She came to church again on Sunday.

Wednesday

This day had miracles galore. Elder Okpara had an inspiring companionship study on using our time more wisely. This put us into overdrive for the day. First miracle. We then consulted the ancient area book for people to teach. We tried everyone in the “Former Investigators” section. Every number was invalid except for one. Sis Mary happily accepted our plea to meet. Second miracle. We arrived in her area, but we didn’t know exactly where she lived. We had also lost her number somehow. We had no clue where to go. After a few minutes, this man came up to us and asked us who we were looking for. He directed us to Sis Mary’s place. Miracle three. Sis Mary was so understanding of our message despite illiteracy. Miracle four. She had her daughter read scriptures aloud for her. Miracle five. She accepted all commitments we extended to her. HUGE miracle six. She referred us to two people next door who were willing to meet with us. Miracles seven and eight. We went back to 55 junction to street contact. We met Bro Bob, so we sat down with him and asked him how he was doing. Turns out all three guys sitting near him were interested in the church. Miracle nine. We had a great discussion and they all wanted to come (and did come) to church. Miracle ten. We had our appointment with Bro Ephraim next and discussed the Plan of Salvation. After that appointment, we left to go visit Bro Bowe.

We ran into the Branch President who was having difficulty getting into the church because the lock was rusty. He came with us to visit Bro Bowe. President Kamara, unbeknownst to us, had the exact same issue Bro Bowe had with marriage being conditional on conversion. They bonded over that, and he is so much more committed to church because of that. Miracle eleven. Bro Bowe was so excited that he wanted us to teach his neighbors and is bringing his brother to church. Miracle twelve. The lock has since been replaced, which my companion and I found funny:

I am thankful that God trusted us enough to give us all these opportunities. He rewarded us for our redoubled efforts immediately. I gained a newfound testimony of the Area Book and the guidance of the Spirit that day. Two more miracles of the day: it didn’t rain until we returned from the apartment; I was feeling sick that morning, but I was totally fine all day until I crashed when we got back. Fourteen miracles in all.

Everything that goes up must come down. That’s what happened for the next couple days.

Thursday

I did White Handbook review in district meeting, which is where I lead the district in reading from the missionary handbook. That was a bit stressful since I had only seen that done a couple times, and I had never done it myself. It went okay. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe ate at our usual restaurant and the ground nut stew I got was unusually tasty. The cold I had made my nose run more than usual due to the spice and temperature. I’m pretty sure that will never go away. My mouth got used to the spice and the heat, but my nose won’t. We taught Sis Amiematu, a street contact, after that. It was really, really hard because she had a difficult time understanding us. It wasn’t the language. It was the depth of the gospel. We explained it in as simple terms as we could, but she was not getting it. Then she started breastfeeding her child as we were teaching. I felt bad for getting frustrated with her. I shouldn’t with someone who can’t help their lack of understanding, but I really have a hard time teaching people like that. I am not good enough a teacher to explain things to someone who (I am not being mean here, just descriptive) has the mind of a child. God doesn’t discriminate who gets to be saved based on intelligence, so I shouldn’t either. I just need to pray for the ability to teach her to her own understanding. It is my shortcoming also that is preventing her from understanding. We visited Sis Jeneba and taught her about the boy prophet Samuel in the Old Testament. We likened it to Joseph Smith and the Restoration. We found out she couldn’t read, so we taught her a few literacy things and gave her an assignment. She is very intelligent, but hasn’t had the opportunities to develop that into knowledge. We retired home early from mental and physical exhaustion.

Friday

I studied more of the New Testament, mostly about Christ’s birth and childhood. Good stuff in that institute manual. I want all four of those manuals (I’m dropping mad hints Mom and Dad). Three of our appointments fell through, so we only taught two people. We taught Bro Solomon, who was one of Bro Bob’s friends from Wednesday. He asked questions about the power of God and the power of man, idol worship, and some other things. He understands things really well, which was a nice break from the previous day. We then went to go teach Bro Bowe, but he was not home, so we taught his Muslim wife instead. She enjoyed our teachings and agreed to come to church.

Saturday

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Exchanges with Elder Carlson

Totally useless day. We just went and did baptism interviews for people. I am suffering from having a Zone Leader as a companion. We weren’t able to eat lunch due to scheduling, so we were starving by the time dinner came around. It was supposed to be free, but instead it cost 10K Le. And my comp doesn’t like shawarma, so he didn’t eat. The ride back to the apartment was cramped and expensive. I was frustrated pretty much all day.

Sunday

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESFinally. Sunday came around a lifted my spirits from three days of depression. Eleven investigators came. Eleven. That’s freaking incredible. We discussed the Sabbath Day and the Atonement in Gospel Principles. I helped share a few things. We got referred to a less-active man whose wife and kids attend, but he does not. We left after second hour to pack and get down to Jui junction to meet with Elder Samche. Elder Okpara and Elder Samche did baptism interviews at Freetown, so I went on exchanges with Elder Carlson. It stays that way until Tuesday night or Wednesday morning because our companions went to Bo for training. The guys at the junction tried charging us 10K or 15K for a ride, and we know it costs only 2K. Trying to rip us off because we are white. Some people say you can’t experience racism if you are white. Well guess what? You can. And it’s expensive. We decided to walk instead of cater to their racist/greedy attitude. It started raining while we were walking, but luckily we found shelter and hid out until it calmed down. We walked for about two miles. We had an amazing dinner appointment: sparkling fruit punch, sweet raisin bread, incredible grilled chicken, voluminous salad, spaghetti like Americans do it, and cooked vegetables. Snickers for dessert. Beautiful. We taught on the Atonement, and a thought came to me. The Gospel is less what you have to do and more what you must want to do. As we understand the Atonement, we are thankful for the Gospel providing a way for us to express appreciation for the Atonement. Grace took care of the have to’s. We need to developt he want to’s. That thought was no doubt a gift from Heavenly father. The hostess was kind enough to walk back with us to make sure we knew the way. Super muddy because of the rain. I wolfed down a couple bowls of unsweetened corn flakes and milky water because that meal was not enough for breaking a fast. We watched the France vs Iceland game (poor Iceland, I was rooting for the underdogs). We watched The Other Side of Heaven and part of The R.M. Good day.

This week, God gave me so many opportunities for growth. I have learned that I am rewarded for my efforts in one of two ways: miracles or trials. I was blessed with both this week. If the rest of my mission is similar to this, expect to be reading a lot as I try to relate to you in one email the numberless experiences I have every week. I have to be both introspective and interspective in order to be a successful missionary, and looking at the small as well as the big miracles helps me with that. I encourage you to look for the miracles in your own life and find a lesson you can learn from that. We hear all the time that trials teach us; I am confident that miracles can teach us as well. Have a wonderful week!

Love

Elder Brimhall

Other Excerpts:

Dear Mom,

Happy Independence Day to you too! I got a hamburger for lunch today, but it was just a small patty with coleslaw on a bun. We plan on buying stuff to make real good bacon cheeseburgers tonight. Have fun doing American things in America.

I am sure I will have a larger perspective as I transfer different places. I feel like I am doing nothing of myself to be completely honest. All that I do is the Lord’s handiwork. It’s a miracle people understand anything I say and that I can teach like I would to little children. It is so much harder to teach simply than it is to teach deeply, at least for me.

I would love to read the updates on Clark. I am looking forward to it. You just reminded me that my birthday is next month. I don’t doubt that I would have forgotten it until the very day it came.

That’s definitely something I have become acquainted with more deeply while out here [referring to Elder Hollands most recent General Conference talk]. Even just a desire is powerful and life-changing. People’s simple desire to live the gospel makes all the difference while I am teaching, and my simple desire to teach and learn does the same.

I am getting to know that more too [referring to my comment that voicing what you know is quite different than just knowing it in your head]. Those kids [the 12-13 year old Sunday School class I taught] are already more experience than I was before I came out here. I thought knowing something was enough. Voicing it is so much more involved.

That is hard [that Dexter’s close friend, Deacon is moving away]. He is currently having the same experience I had when moving from California to Nevada. I don’t remember very much about how hard it was, but I know that it changed me, and not for the better. I became much less personable and outgoing. I hope that doesn’t happen to Dexter. He is a few years older, so he might be able to get through it better. [excerpt sent to Dexter in regards to this: “It must be hard to say bye to Deacon. I know how much fun you guys have had together. You know how we can have eternal families? I think it’s safe to say that also means friends. You two have a tight bond that can last forever (literally). It would be cool if you two sent each other letters or emails or called each other to keep that bond strong. I love you dude.”]

Clark County school district is splitting? I had no idea that that was even in the works. I hope everyone in our family is able to go to the same schools they were attending previously.

No cockroaches or mice. I don’t keep everything zipped up. We don’t have a problem with small animals in our apartment.

Rain starts and stops whenever it wants. There is no timing that I can attribute to it. I get cold occasionally at night, but my sheet is enough. I just pull that over me. Most of my clothes dry quickly when it is not raining. When it does rain, it takes a couple days. I dry indoors when there is room. only three lines for the four of us. One line outdoors, but that’s a gamble. Things dry faster when there is no rain, but if there is rain, it gets soaked again. Funny thing, there isn’t much lightning here. Lack of thunder makes it way less fun. Last night lightning struck pretty close to our apartment and there was a loud crack of thunder. Woke up everyone, but it was worth it to hear that (at least for me).

That storm sounds awesome! I’m glad you guys had a good bonding experience. I miss those times.

We visited the Cristiana family once more [the family where the parents are Muslim but everyone else is Christian], but we haven’t been able to go back yet. The daughter was the only one there. I doubt the parents are genuinely interested.

The food is good here, but some of the essential ingredients for certain dishes I doubt I will be able to find at home to be able to cook stuff for you. See if you can find okra, potato leaves, or cassava leaves.

People see my whiteness as a novel thing. Even people who seem interested in the gospel are really just interested in learning. They don’t want to live anything. If I use my whiteness as a gateway to teaching, they will be learning for me and not for themselves. I have tried a couple times to capitalize on my difference, but it ends up being a complete waste of a lesson (maybe not that harsh, but it feels like it) because people don’t want to change their lifestyle.

11 INVESTIGATORS CAME TO CHURCH. New record. That triples our previous record.

Send me a soap container. I don’t like leaving my soap bare in the sink. I want a plastic thing like dad brings on campouts. I have used the Holy Tabbs. Alex definitely needs some. It’s better to learn the scriptures before using those in a lesson because they become a crutch that you rely on instead of the Spirit to guide you to scriptures to share. I haven’t cooked yet since you sent me the recipe book, but I will break it out next time I do. I have really enjoyed all of the talks you sent. I want the audio versions of them so that I can listen when it gets dark and we don’t want to turn on the gen. Send me whatever talks you find interesting or inspiring along with the audio versions. You can put the audio in dropbox. I don’t need any more candy or snacks yet. I have barely gone through what I have. You guys sent me with a lot.

I love you Mom!

My mission is intense. People on American missions have such a privileged lifestyle. I am enjoying life about as much as possible. I make the best of any situations. I laugh at a lot of things just to make life easier. It’s a lot simpler if you just look at life as a temporary thing. I will only be here for two years (now twenty-two months and three days). I will only be on this earth for about 80. I have eternity to enjoy myself and my family, ya feel?