From: Ethan Cade Brimhall [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, October 24, 2016 7:35 AM
We had no national power for a lot of the week, and the diesel fuel for our generator ran out a while ago from not being replenished since I got here. Sleeping without fans working is really, really rough. I should probably change my bedding…
Day one of no power.
We got out of the apartment early since I knew the bank would cause problems with getting our subsistence. I had no idea how screwed up this would be. Bro. & Sis. Sherwood came by our apartment to drop off subsistence for those lucky enough not to have ATM cards. I am not in that crew. They gave my comp and me a ride to the bank (you know banks are usually respectable establishments, but this branch wasn’t much nicer than a gas station convenience store) where the sisters had already encountered issues. A couple of the sisters and I worked with the branch manager, the general manager of operations in Sierra Leone, and Elder Miner, the finance senior missionary, for a good long time. Eventually we were instructed to just do our normal p-day stuff and let Elder Miner and upper management take care of it. I got a call a few hours later where an exasperated Elder Miner told me that we would all have to get our subsistence from the Sherwoods until further notice. The mission is paying a good amount of money to GTBank for this service, so they should respect our deal.
Being without money for the day, I relied on my amazing companion for expenses. He carried spotted me on the Internet café, groceries, and transportation. And he cooks for me. Can I marry him? Ha-ha.
After p-day activities, we went with Bro. Sweet, went to the Branch presidency first counselor’s house for Family Home Evening. It was a nice, Spirit-present, albeit somewhat unconventional meeting. The sincerity of these new members in trying to do the right thing is so inspiring to me. They may not get everything logistically correct, but their drive and attitude is perfect. And that’s all that matters. Branch President Musa invited us for next week and wants me to conduct and give the spiritual thought. How could I refuse an opportunity to teach a less-active daughter and 2 nonmember nieces, not to mention strengthen a family? Bro. Sweet accompanied us to some investigators’ houses so that we could find them on our own throughout the week. I only hope that the fact we saw them in pitch darkness doesn’t make it so we can’t find them during the week. Well, I guess that’s what prayers and locals are for.
Day two of no power.
We walked around way too much for my neck to handle. The fact that my bag can only hang on one shoulder doesn’t help either. Most people we either couldn’t find their house and couldn’t reach their cell, or they weren’t at home. But we did teach Augusta! She told us about how she had now gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon [see promise in Moroni 10: 3-7] and the Prophet Joseph Smith. She was previously so opposed to those two concepts because she had been told they were of the devil. Now that she has actually tested them through study and prayer, she knows the truth as revealed to her by the Holy Ghost! It’s amazing what you can learn if you put forth a good faith effort. I told the elders who had taught her before that their efforts had finally come to fruition.
Day three of no power.
Today started out like any normal day, but it was anything but (though to be honest, how many days of a mission can be considered “normal”?). Studies were spiritual. Shower was cold. I wished I could sleep another three hours. The usual. After companionship study, however, my companion totally broke down. He told me about his social problems (absent father, distant girlfriend) and basically related to me his entire life story. He also feels super restricted by mission life and views me as his only real friend in the mission. We reviewed his patriarchal blessing (that he disliked because it wasn’t what he expected, but I think he appreciates it a little more now). I also shared with him my favorite sections in D&C: 121 and 122. We talked for a really long time. I used some experiences I had in my past transfers to comfort him. I could honestly empathize with some of what he was saying because of the difficulties I had over the past few months. I realized that God placed me in those situations to learn something not just for myself, but also so that I can help other people. Tears were shed and hugs were shared as we connected soul to soul. I am humbled to have been able to help him recognize things he can do to solve his problems. One thing I really stressed that I have only just begun to understand is using the power of prayer. It really works. As I look back, I have seen small miracles worked through my prayers as a missionary, and I know it can do the same for him.
AP’s [Assistants to the Mission President] and ZL’s[missionary Zone Leaders] accompanied by the mission facilities manager came by and did haphazard apartment inspections and mini-interviews. I don’t think I am on the AP’s good side after the area book stuff earlier. They naturally assumed the worst of whatever situation they found us in. It feels like they’re looking for any way they can to catch me screwing up. *second meeting on Friday was better*
I got a call last night from a young woman in our branch asking me to play the keyboard for the branch choir (I don’t know how she found out I can play). They are singing at a wedding next month. I said I would if I had no teaching appointments, and today I had none. I went over to the chapel and met a small group of 10 people (7 women and 3 men) who told me that they are the choir. I had to make some calls to get the clerk’s office open for the keyboard, and I had to go buy some batteries for the keyboard, but we had the hymn books and voices! The rhythm of singing hymns here is very different. They usually just sing quarter notes throughout any piece unless there is a half note or full note, then they just hold for however long they want. Therefore, I also assumed the role of choir director. I put my 7 years of middle school and Zion’s Youth Symphony and Orchestra choral experience to good use today. For those of you who don’t know, I am entirely unqualified for this, as it is my very first time attempting to do anything like this. However, I am probably the only person in the whole city with a legitimate choral resumé. Shoutout to my past choir directors for showing me what to do! I split them into parts and led each section in learning the first line of Battle Hymn of the Republic (60) with the chorus of In Our Lovely Deseret (307). It’s weird but it works. They are very, very untrained, but they have a stellar attitude. I think we can do a good job by wedding time.
We came back to the apartment and decided to treat ourselves to like 8 potatoes worth of French fries we found at the supermarket on Monday. We fried them and some egg with onion and sausage like the chefs we are.
Today basically made me thank God for giving me the life experiences I have had. I am who I am because of them, and I have been able to help many people just today with what I have learned.
We had power this morning, but that’s it.
Special meeting today with Bo and Kenema missionaries! President and Sister Clawson, along with the AP’s, gave us some instruction on the use of personal electronic devices, obedience, and accountability. One thing in particular that struck me was something President Clawson said: “persistent, deliberate disobedience will send you home.” I think that was in response to some missionaries who try to skirt that line. He just removed the line and put in the principle of facing the right direction. A scripture I came across a couple months ago in preparing for a talk came to my mind. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobate?” This is all the more applicable to missionaries who have a massive set of rules and a demand for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. There are definitely some things I am persistently, deliberately disobedient to, and I need to examine myself to prove that I am worthy to bear the title of Elder for the Church. We were also given a Preach My Gospel challenge starting next week where we will all study the whole thing in 17 weeks. It’ll be tough but fun!
There was a small demonstration on basic care for the generators and the use of fire extinguishers in case they explode (just kidding, it was mostly for kitchen fires…mostly). All of us missionaries were treated to a wonderful lunch with some drink that tasted like confetti cake mixed with a ton of ginger. I didn’t particularly enjoy it.
I bought a hymnbook for practicing on the keyboard in my apartment. It’s a nice way to unwind after a rough day of teaching. Seriously though, there is nothing more exhausting (or rewarding) than teaching something as abstract and eternal as the gospel. Mohamed B is a teacher and told us today that he gets it. He knows at least a little bit about what we go through. By the way, our meeting with him today was great. He has found spiritual guidance on a job prospect and is moving forward with his marriage and subsequent baptism. We talked about the Word of Wisdom a lot. He had a non-literal problem with it, same as many people around here: Marijuana. After the discussion, he thoroughly agreed to give up Marijuana. I’m really proud of him.
It started to pour, and luckily I remembered I had laundry drying from Monday on the lines outside (it has rained every night since then, so all progress of the sun is reversed overnight). I quickly recovered them before they got soaked again. I will never ever miss this when I go back home.
President Clawson came by to interview my companion. We fed him some rice and cassava plasas that we had just paid a lady across the street to cook for us. Since they both know French, they interviewed with no privacy except for the language. It was really fun for my comp to be able to speak French.
Power all day! It saved my milk. Classic general conference story metaphor (fourth watch God sort of thing).
Training is exhausting. I feel so drained after every day, particularly this day. We totally attacked Fundamental 3 on Revelation Through Prayer for training today. It’s week six for him, so he’s taking the lead in everything bit by bit. He’s really uncomfortable practicing in study and leading discussions with investigators. He is feeling overwhelmed, inadequate, even assaulted by responsibility. He doesn’t think he can learn the scriptures like his trainer knows them (which really isn’t that well). I’m proud of how well he is adjusting and how quickly he is learning, especially in the language department. His feelings are not a far cry from mine. I feel assaulted by the responsibility of training. I’m still uncomfortable with practicing in study and leading discussions. I have MUCH to improve on with scriptural knowledge. There are so many things I lack that an older missionary has that would make his training so much more concrete. BUT I am his trainer and he is my trainee. I need only to acknowledge my weaknesses and ask for help, and I will be strengthened!
Some people came over to fix problems in our apartment, so we had to stay in late to oversee their work. They fixed a very leaky kitchen sink, my totally clogged shower drain, a broken door, and a few other things.
We got off to a rough start this morning. When Elder Adokou prayed he said “in the name of Jesus Christ” twice at the end and then we remembered three separate times that we forgot things in the apartment as we were leaving. We also got lost for a little while.
I don’t know what it is lately, but no one answers their phones. We try every investigator we know every night to fill our day with member present lessons. It doesn’t seem to help much even when we get a hold of them because they are sleeping or have some prior engagement they didn’t tell us about when we set a time. Needless to say, it has been slow going in the investigator lesson area. We were able to set a lot of appointments for tomorrow in-person. That should make our day a little more reliable I hope.
We did, however, visit a lot of less-active members today with Bro Sweet. There are so many of them. It made me kinda sad hearing the petty excuses people made for no longer coming to church. A few seemed like they really would try to come back this Sunday, but others, I feel, just said “yes” to get rid of us. I can only pray that the Spirit will work on them. I only want the best for them.
The AP’s were at our apartment when we got there. They did another area book audit (I was ready this time. It was perfect). Then they looked at our planners and decided to hold an hour-long discussion on daily planning. The relatively few adjustments we had to make surely didn’t call for that long of a discussion, but I’m not the AP. They had good instruction, don’t get me wrong, but I was tired from the beating sun and boku boku (a lot of) walking. I just wanted to eat, plan, and then get to bed.
I have reflected on how I am training my companion and I have discovered that maybe I’m assuming too much responsibility. I talk too much. I have this problem where I feel that if I don’t do it then it won’t get done right, and that translates into our lessons. I dominate them. I need to let my wonderful companion have a little room to talk. We go out two by two for a reason. He supports me and I support him as equal partners (that sounded a little too much like marriage) in proclaiming the gospel (that’s better). The best way to improve is just doing it over and over. If I really want to train well, I need to let him grow. Being a father is hard. Shout-out to my own literal father for letting me learn on my own. I love you!
My personal studies centered around October’s Liahona. In the Africa West Area local pages, a story of one missionary praying for deliverance from malaria so that she could accomplish her goal of teaching a family had a scripture that really touched me. Mormon in 3 Nephi 5:13 says “I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.” Honesty, I do not ever remember reading that scripture, probably because it previously was not applicable. But today, it gave me a huge confidence boost.
Ambitious plans went south again. We set so many appointments for today, but only two worked out (even with backup plans). We met with Augusta and Hannah though!
We taught Augusta about priesthood and auxiliaries and the temple. She was very interested in the temple and had a lot of questions. I mean, if I were taking missionary lessons, I would have a lot of questions about the temple too. She is looking forward to her own temple trip a year after baptism. She passed the pre-interview for baptism we gave her in preparation for next week’s real one. Baptism a week after that!
Hannah is super serious about her studies. She had part of the introduction to the Book of Mormon memorized! It’s her personal goal to be as diligent as possible in fulfilling the assignments we give to her. Naturally, she accepted a baptism date for December 3rd. I need to get some really hard investigators. Otherwise, I’ll start thinking this work is easy!
God has really prepared some people in this area. I have found so much joy in the rapid progress of some of my investigators. The message we share is at the same time universally applicable and individually helpful. Even despite a few setbacks this week, my spirit is not dampened because I know the Lord is on my side. I love this gospel and I love this work!
All good news today. Branch council meeting happened (it was a little intense because it was only my second time), all of our less-active people we visited came to church, and we got another baptizee! James Sandi is an older man who has been coming to church for a while. We were only just today able to find his house and meet with him. He had a huge problem with the Book of Mormon when the first set of missionaries came to teach him, but now he loves it. It took a year away from the church to soften his heart and now he is ready. I love seeing these little miracles. It goes to show that as a missionary, every lesson you teach and person you meet can turn into something much greater maybe not now, but with another set of missionaries.