seeing some progress

From: Ethan Cade Brimhall [mailto:ethan.brimhall@myldsmail.net]
Sent: Monday, April 24, 2017 9:21 AM

Hello everyone!

I hope you all had a fantastic week. I know I did. Wanna know why? Cause I’m a missionary and missionaries always have fantastic weeks even if in the moment they kinda suck.

I was probably the best missionary I have ever been on mission this week in pretty much every way I can think of. Obedience was good. Spirituality was high. Motivation was strong. Awesome week.

It was my companion’s birthday on Saturday. It’s a Ghanaian tradition to soak you when its your birthday, so Elder Frempong dumped water on him Saturday night at the apartment. Most of it got on me actually.

A couple of my missionary friends leave on Friday. Elder Grant and Elder Jones will be returning to the land of the free and the home of the brave. Both will enjoy BYU together, but not as much as they will in one year. With ME.

We met a great guy on Friday, Henry Kamara. He was so willing to learn. Unfortunately for us, he had to go back to Freetown. We discussed the Book of Mormon and he really wanted to learn more. I could tell that he was prepared. I only wish we had more time with him. Oh well, we will refer him to the other missionaries where he is going! The work of the Lord cannot be stopped.

We had missionary coordination meeting on Friday with the branch leaders! This is the first time I have had that all mission. Isn’t that kinda sad? It was a great meeting. We mostly discussed how we can do these meetings since it was a first for all of us. I think we can work a lot better with the branch with our Branch Mission Leader back from Liberia and connecting us more strongly to the branch presidency and auxiliary and priesthood presidencies.

Elder Kabosha and I tried out district choir this week. We both tried bass. It’s fun listening to everyone participate in a “loudest voice” competition when we’re trying to practice. I’m never doing that again. Or maybe I will. I don’t know, we’ll see. It depends on if my aversion to headaches surpasses my desire to support the Relief Society or not.

The zone went to an activity today at Kailondo beach. We had a ton of fun together. I brought my football, soccer ball, and frisbee along and everyone made use of them. We roasted hot dogs and put them on bread with mayo and ketchup (we’re poor, okay?) and ate banana bread that the Corbaley’s (senior couple missionaries) made for us all. There were some pretty cool rapids where the river met the lake. We progressively got more and more wet as the minutes passed and the water became more tempting under the heat of the sun. Eventually, everyone got into a huge water fight and people were soaked. As I am writing this email, I am still wet. To get back, the 13 elders (one is in Freetown temporarily for medical reasons) rode in the back of the Corbaley’s truck and the four sisters were inside. I almost died a couple times, but it was fun!

The shining moment of this week was the exchange I went on with Elder Tarpeh. He’s an experienced missionary, out since August of last year. He’s also super old at 27. I went in with an attitude that I will learn more from him than he will of me, and I think that really helped the exchange. We learned a lot from each other. His teaching style is focused on compassion and building relationships, which is something I am struggling with. My teaching style is more information-oriented, so I tried to mesh his style with mine and it worked pretty well during the day.

We contacted two Muslim women that day and their differences in personality and attitude was as startling as it was revealing:

Sister Bintu was writing a letter to a hospital for employment since she has been out of work since August. She is struggling to support three children alone. She has a strong belief in God and really wanted to learn more about “Latta Days” and what we do. She named all the branches in Kenema and where they were. She was totally prepared and humble enough to listen to our message with the intent to gain a greater understanding of the church she sees everywhere and what it teaches. She happily accepted a return appointment. Funny moment: she said that she was thankful for religion because it reminds her to take water to the bathroom. Clarifying details: she’s a Muslim, and people don’t have enough money to buy toilet paper here.

Sister Mamie was burning some leaves she had just raked up from the ground outside the house she shares with her younger sister who is nursing a baby daughter, mother, and I assume their respective men. We introduced ourselves as Elder soandso and she just decided to call me “Poomwee” which means white man in Mendi. I hear that word everywhere I go, particularly from children who think that if I wave to them, they’ll get something amazing from me (like money – some kids have been straight with me and said “give me money”). Anyway, we talked about our purpose and asked her some introductory questions. We talked about the Godhead first and she raised about a thousand concerns and never wanted to listen to what we had to say. Absolute refusal to learn. She just wanted to argue. To be honest, it was hard for me to keep my head and not Bible bash (Qur’an bash?) with her. However, Elder Tarpeh and I succeeded in bearing our testimonies and inviting her to honestly pray about what we had shared.

Both of them had similar knowledge about their religions, both were well-educated and spoke English well, both were in their early thirties. The only differences I could see was humility, and it made a world of a difference. There’s no reason to fight with any religion or ideology. Go into a discussion (I don’t like the word “debate” because it implies that someone has to win) with the intent to learn from the other person. You don’t have to agree with everything they say. In fact, you can wholeheartedly disagree with everything they are saying! But if you listen and try to understand it from their perspective, if you study it out and learn for yourself what they believe, both of you will have won. As missionaries, our purpose is to invite you to come unto Christ and help you to do that through teaching you the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel. Nothing else. We are not there to prove anything to you or to brainwash you into becoming a “Mormon.” We are just there to invite and help. Sometimes I forget that and I try to prove the Church true. I can’t do it. Only God can when he answers your honest prayer to know the truth. Lives are changed for the better because of it. I know all that I share is true because of those honest prayers I have offered and the truthful answers I have received directly from my Father in Heaven.

Love,

Elder Brimhall

p.s. on the exchange, on the way back to the apartment, my okada driver was wearing somewhat transparent white floral-patterned leggings. Those are for women, dude.

Excerpts from other letters…

I may or may not become an office elder WITH Elder Carlson this next transfer. I got a call from him and he asked me questions like “can you drive stick” and “are you good with computers”; all very suspicious questions coming from an office elder himself. You’ll know on Monday. This is the last week of the transfer. Anyway, he was in Grafton, somewhat close to Waterloo at the same time I was there. We celebrated our birthdays together (his is the eleventh).