The Circle of Life

From: Ethan Cade Brimhall []
Sent: Monday, November 07, 2016 5:38 AM

So I’m trying to teach my companion proper American English as opposed to the British-influenced African dialect. Instead of saying “electricity” or “power” they say “light.” I’ve gotten used to saying “light” in order to fit in, but now it’s become so habitual that even in trying to teach my companion American English, I still say “light.” I wonder how weird I’ll sound to you guys when I get home (or even just at Christmas in a month).

One casualty at the football match today. My camera. Football from a very wide penalty kick knocked out the lense and almost broke my nose. Glasses are fine though. I’ll try and get it fixed.

No one here has heard of Star Wars, much less seen it. Same with Harry Potter. What???

My branch is going crazy. A death, two new babies, and a wedding. Never a boring day in Africa.

I started running with some guys. It’s a mixture of branch missionaries and recent converts. Good fellowshipping activity!

I found out that my branch started the baptizing frenzy that got 1800 converts during the Ebola period. It was missionaries from my current branch who posted on Facebook pictures of a baptism and got other branches and districts into keeping the work moving forward. They worked 7 days a week. Steven and Sweet are the only ones left. The rest are serving full-time in other countries. Bo Branch represents!

Okay so ingrown toenail is back. Fortunately, I have access to the best medical care in the nation. Unfortunately, one-third of this country’s doctors died during the Ebola crisis, so I don’t have much to work with. My wonderful mission mom has promised that I will be taken care of. I went to the government hospital here in Bo. They’re still in Ebola mode with temperature checks and special forms catering to its symptoms. We were prioritized, so I got to see the doctor almost immediately despite a massive line (I felt kinda bad for everyone else). We decided to reduce inflammation and infection through drugs before surgery so that it has the greatest possible chance of working. I am taking like 5 tabs morning and evening. Talk about a drug cocktail. Oh, and the bank didn’t work again.

We worked with a new person today! Steven is the young men’s president who we pretty much just met on Sunday when he gave us a referral. He planned on only working with us until 4, but he stayed all the way to the end. From place to place, he talked about his love of hip hop, his plans for the future, his girlfriend that just moved to Freetown, and a bunch of other stuff. I really enjoyed his company. He’s such a fun guy. He helped us get around to new investigators. A couple of appointments fell through, but we applied the principle “teach when you find, find when you teach” and had a couple of good lessons with new people.
We contacted one referral from the branch chorister. Mohamed Taylor is a super critical thinker. I think he was a little skeptical of the whole First Vision thing, but any Christian who really thinks about it when they first hear about it would be. But that’s good! If he keeps the right mindset with his questions, he’ll gain a testimony for sure. We dropped a Book of Mormon like a mic after teaching him. Envision me saying “read it” and then dropping the book into his hands. We felt so good after reading parts of JS-H and bearing our testimonies. More than usual, I could tell the Spirit was working on him.
Foday, a referral from Bro Musa, was not home, but Sis Musa gave us potato leaf as compensation. I didn’t complain. Neither did my companion who loves that stuff more than life itself!
We had to get back to the apartment so the Sherwoods could treat our well that we get our water from. We discovered a huge rat-like thing trapped down there. We made plans to get it out, but nothing worked. If it dies down there, our water will go bad, so we will try again tomorrow.

Oh boy this morning was interesting. We decided we wouldn’t rest until we got that rat out of the well. We tied some rope to the end of the bucket and tried for hours to get it out. Finally, the rat got some sense and climbed in. We pulled it out and quickly covered it under the bucked on the ground. We lifted it slightly and crushed its head. We’re not letting prime meat like that just run away! We cooked it and ate it later as part of our dinner. Not too bad. A little softer than other meats, but it was similar to chicken (as is so often said about strange meats).
We got to see Foday today, and the discussion was well worth the wait. He read just the title page of the Book of Mormon and he already had confirmation of its truth. He described the experience as follows (keep in mind he was a Muslim and doesn’t know much about the Bible and the Tower of Babel): “I read this part about a tower and God confusing the languages and I just got this really good feeling. I want you guys to tell me everything about this bible.” I asked him to repeat that because I couldn’t believe what I just heard. He is two paragraphs into the Book of Mormon and already knows it is true! He hasn’t even touched 1 Nephi! What an absolute miracle!
Missionaries would be way less successful if the Book of Mormon were not true. We leave 90% of the work up to the investigator in prayer to God. If this Church and all of its teachings weren’t true, why would God tell hundreds of thousands of people every year that they should follow this path? What we do is wholly futile without preparation by and the testimony of the Spirit of God. The work proves itself. Every day I spend here solidifies my conviction not because I am being brainwashed by some cult, but because I am asking questions directly to God and receiving answers directly from Him every day. You can logically, historically, or doctrinally tear down the Church if you wish, but there is no way you can falsify the personally-held, faith-produced, spirit-borne testimonies of millions of people on all six inhabited continents of the world. The earnest seeker of truth will do just as the new disciples did on the day of Pentecost:
37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
So, what will you do?

I forgot to write for Thursday through Saturday, but I’ll give you some highlights. My companion suffered from some pretty bad headaches Friday and Saturday. Consequently, so did his mood and our key indicators. He asked me the age-old questions “why do bad things happen to good people? and why do good things happen to bad people?” He’s a missionary, so he wasn’t going to take my prepared single-word answer of “agency.” It made me really think about why this actually occurs and I came to an important conclusion. It’s related to Lex Luthor’s incorrect conclusion in Batman vs Superman. He said that if God was all-good then he cannot be all-powerful; if He was all-powerful then he cannot be all-good.                               God can do anything he wants, and that includes making laws in his own wisdom that benefit mankind, although we do not immediately recognize it. We are given gospel laws to obey, the perfect and natural path to lasting joy. Sometimes we may think they are limiting in one way or another and break them to see what is outside the path we are on. This may lead to happiness in one way, but it is either temporary or counterfeit, or both. It’s easy to accuse God of not caring if you don’t have an eternal perspective. God is both all-good (in an eternal way) and all-powerful. Lex, one of the smartest humans in the DC universe, did not understand this simple concept because he did not have an eternal perspective. A life without this is dim, unfulfilling, and hopeless (that’s probably why he went insane and risked all of humanity to kill Superman). Also, I would highly recommend that movie if you haven’t watched it. It’s great.
Abdul and Augusta got baptized on Saturday. We had invited a few investigators to attend, and Hannah did! We got off to a super late start due to lack of clothing and the Batiama elders. Baptisms were a little unorthodox (in a fun way). The font was not filled, so we did it in a river! Call me weird, but I’ve been waiting for this opportunity since I opened my call. 10 1/2 months later and I finally did it! This made me so happy. I didn’t even care walking through bush barefoot because I had just soaked a soul in nature’s font. After the service ended, we walked back with our branch missionaries (including Steven who in just a few days has become my best friend in Bo, companion excluded) and very recent converts. I love Abdul and Augusta so much. I thought I had already learned to love these people, but Saturday told me I have only just begun.
Late that night, President Hindowa came to park his car in our compound. I talked with him for a while about branch business, particularly about our boundaries. We’ve had some confusion with other elders over our proselyting area boundaries because our maps have so little detail. He brought up that his father had died on Friday. In just 6 short months, I have heard of at least 20 deaths that effect people I know well. If that doesn’t tell you how destitute Sierra Leone is, I don’t know what will.

President Hindowa was understandably absent. My companion and I stood in the circle as both of our recent converts received the Holy Ghost. And we stayed up at the front for two baby blessings! First time I’ve done that. Surprisingly, there was zero noise from the infants. Both of them had 5 part names. Here’s one of them: Divine Grace Nephi Franklin Solomon. This is (Mormon) Africa.

A young black-haired girl in a purple dress closes her eyes while three men place their hands on her head, confirming her a member of the Church.Eleven priesthood holders stand in a circle with a baby girl in their arms, giving her a blessing.
Testimony meeting was a little off because it felt more like stand-up comedy than testimony bearing. I continued my mission streak and shared mine. Thankfully, the no-nonsense President Musa lovingly chastised everyone at the end of the hour. I love him.
Immediately after third hour, a lot of people in the branch attended a gathering to mourn father Hindowa. He was a well-respected member of the community as far as I could tell from the huge amount of people there (not just our branch). It was peaceful despite the crowd.
Steven went with us to visit hard-to-reach investigators and people who didn’t come to church. Notably, we met Kettor for the first time. He knew some French from his time in Guinea, so Adokou had a fun time with him. He can’t read, but he had so many questions for us. He’s a smart, devoted guy. He is basically a member because he has attended church for so long and his brother is serving a mission. I’m not really sure what has stopped him from being baptized because it sure ain’t worthiness or desire. We set a date for December 3rd. He wanted to work with us for the day (seriously, what investigator does that? He’s so ready!), but we didn’t want to take him all the way across town with no money to get him back. Kettor also spent time in Liberia, so he picked up their pidgin English. I asked him to speak some, thinking that it would be easier to understand than Krio since it’s American-based. It wasn’t. He said it is simpler than Krio, so that told me that I have actually made progress in learning the language! It’s still a massive struggle for me to speak in Krio though…
Gerald Foday had “dropped off our radar” and we wanted to know why. We paid him a visit. He told us that so many things had gone wrong. He had meant to attend the baptism on Saturday, but his mother fell seriously ill on Friday and he had to take care of her. He also meant to come to church, but his bike got a flat that he had to take care of. He probably could have made arrangements for those two issues and still attended both commitments, but I’m not gonna condemn him over it. However, if he doesn’t come this next week, that’s the end of it. Chastisement galore, ha-ha.
My companion was silent since we left the gathering for father Hindowa. That is so not like him. I know he didn’t want to be out because he was hungry and tired and hot, but we rested the last two days. Not today. He didn’t fight me on it because he knew I was right and he respects me. If one of those two factors were missing, there’s no way I could get him to do anything. He is the most stubborn person I know. God has blessed me in life with an attitude of aversion to conflict, so I’ve learned how to be persuasive. Sometimes it seems like I have been bred specifically for certain people or circumstances here in Sierra Leone. I probably have in actuality.
Bro Sweet has been suffering from Malaria pretty bad, so he asked us to give him a blessing. We did that and fed him French fries we had cooked. It made him feel better. That would work on me too. Turns out people aren’t so different after all.
Oh, and we harvested bananas from the banana tree in our backyard. Bet you can’t do that, huh American missionaries?

I loved this week. So many ups and downs made me appreciate life and people a whole lot more. I went through a change in college; and my friends said it was a Grinch-level expansion of my heart. Well guys, if you can believe it, it happened again. I tell God tenki for de blessing na life.

Elder Brimhall