From: Ethan Cade Brimhall [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 7:23 AM
This week can be summed up in one confusing question: has it already/only been a week?
Also, we still don’t have a phone, so every appointment we have has been made in person or we just show up. It works well some days, while other days we teach almost no lessons.
After emailing last week, I hit up the supermarket to get some real milk (not the powdered trash they have on the streets). I also got the British version of Frosted Flakes called “Frosties” and some jam for the bread I eat every morning. This has made my life so much better. After being in Africa for some time, you begin to cherish the simple things in life. Like the jam on your bread. I can’t stress enough how delicious jam on bread is. Jam on bread. Jam on bread. Jam on bread.
On Tuesday, I was studying Matthew 5. Verse 30 touched me especially “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” Oddly, I was reminded of 1 Nephi 4:13 about Laban having to be killed to save a nation “Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” A principle in both of these passages is that sin corrupts. You should not give sin a place in your life, else you will “perish in unbelief.” I saw the congruence between these two seemingly unrelated passages and
pondered the overall congruence of Christ’s Gospel. I got an entirely overwhelming sense of joy and peace as the Spirit testified to me of the divinity and truth of the Book of Mormon. Tears were brought to my eyes as I realized what had just happened. I gained a testimony! I had been praying for this for a while now, and it finally happened in the most unexpected of ways. I immediately thanked God for that witness. I had been thinking a lot about how I can share the Book of Mormon better, and this gave me extra strength in doing so.
We went out to proselyte despite the heavy rain and Elder Okpara’s lack of energy this week, and especially on Tuesday. We got back long after dark and in the midst of rain with no flashlight, but nothing could dim my spirits that wonderful day. It turns out that was absolutely critical. We visited Sis Jeneba and she told us that she discovered that her husband impregnated another woman. She was extremely upset and was considering leaving him. My companion and I were at a loss as to what to say for some time. In the mission handbook, it says to not counsel people on personal issues. What we did was share Elder Bednar’s insight on the character of Christ (shout out to Sister Clemence for recommending that talk). We told her that Christ served others when he was in greatest need, so she could find solace in focusing on her children and friends in this difficult time. We have been visiting her occasionally throughout the week to see how she is doing. She is making progress in reconciling with her nonmember husband as she talks with the Branch President.
Sis Conteh has not come to church yet, but she is recovering. She is able to walk now, but for a limited time. We visited her grandchildren who are not baptized. We went over the principles and ordinances of the Gospel and committed all of them to be baptized. We had interviews for the three of them on Saturday. The parents are less active, but we hope that this event will reactivate them. We, of course, asked their permission to baptize them and they, of course, said yes (who would say no to salvation?). I asked the father if he would like to baptize his children (he holds the priesthood, so he can). He said he is giving me that job. I don’t think he feels he is worthy to baptize his children since he is less active. This pricking of his conscience might bring him back.
Sis Anna is progressing well. She is accepting and KEEPING commitments, which is something I find is difficult for people here. They tell you they’re gonna do what you ask them, and then next meeting I find out that they didn’t even think about that after our previous meeting. She only speaks Krio, so communication is a bit slow, but the Spirit is helping us to teach her. She accepted baptism as well.
Bro Daniel accepted baptism, but his friends are progressing a bit slower than he. I am glad they think about it first. This gives me confidence that they are actually taking to heart what we are teaching them.
Bro Ephraim’s father had been in the hospital for some time, so we hadn’t been able to catch Bro Ephraim at home. On Friday we did just as he was leaving for the morgue to attend to details of his father’s funeral. Elder Okpara and I were not totally surprised at this because we got the feeling that his father was not going to recover from the sickness he had. We expressed sympathy for him and his family.
Elder Gary A. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and I think the presiding bishop, along with two seventies, are visiting our mission in September. That’s huge. I am meeting four general authorities in one day!
Elder Grant and I are becoming pretty good friends. He is in the Congo Cross area of Freetown. He reminds me a lot of my good friend Elder Jones in Raleigh, NC. We talked a lot at zone training and the zone activity. He is applying to BYU for Winter 2017. Assuming he gets in, I will have another friend at BYU upon my return in Fall 2018. At zone training, he shared with me a good piece of advice: “what makes a good missionary is how you respond to the crap you deal with every day.” I have dealt with my fair share of difficulty so far, and I am grateful that I had the character to respond in a positive way most of the time. I have seen the blessings from those decisions.
So much happened this week that it is impossible for me to fit it all into an email. I love all of you. Even the ones I don’t know! Know that God loves you as well and he wants you to discover His Gospel. No matter your knowledge of eternal truths, there is always more to learn, and I promise that “[God] giveth to all men liberally” (James 1:5) as long as you have faith.
Other Letter Excerpts:
Job went through almost every trial imaginable and came out with all that matters: an unshakable testimony. He applied gospel principles, which is much easier said than done. That takes faith, prayer, humility, and a host of other attributes he developed over his life, magnified by his response to trial. He is a true inspiration.
A big problem here is getting people to understand our message. We just have to take our time with them. To be honest, I could baptize almost everyone I meet but I wouldn’t be truly converting them. That takes a certain depth of knowledge I have to help prepare them to get first. Sierra Leone has been very very rainy or very very hot. Sometimes both. I am perpetually burned and now peeling because I keep forgetting to apply sunscreen. I love it (actually, no sarcasm). The cultures are very different. People here show fake emotion and hide deeply true emotion. They are taught to be emotionless by their upbringings and that makes it hard for people to take my sincerity seriously. I try as hard as I can to show my love for them but it doesn’t seem to have any effect at all. But, all I can do is try and leave the rest to God, right?
I do wear my hat, but the weather here is very unpredictable. It can be pouring rain in the morning and then scorching hot in the afternoon. I don’t bring my hat for the rain, but then the afternoon sun burns me. I hate the boots (very uncomfortable and hot), so I just wear the sandals I brought.
I have not used the outlet adapters since I came because the mission provides adapter extension cords. I am not sure if those are also provided in the provinces, however.
Transfers happened for people last week, but mostly in Bo because Pres Clawson wants to focus on growing that area. Next transfer he is focusing on my area.
I am happy as can be! I thank God often for how blessed I am. The more I teach, the more I learn, and I love it.