Prepare to read…

From: Ethan Cade Brimhall [mailto:ethan.brimhall@myldsmail.net]
Sent: Monday, June 5, 2017 6:20 AM

Bro Moses is basically serving a brother mission right now since he has a planner and works with us all day every day.

Monday

I was too tired from the events of the week to go play soccer with some other elders, so I stayed behind to study April’s Liahona. That turned out to be a huge blessing. I had already read the first couple pages, and the Relief Society message inspired me a couple weeks ago to add the oath and covenant of the priesthood to our district’s recitation. The first talk I read today was called “The Savior’s Atonement: Foundation of True Christianity” by Elder Robert D. Hales, an Apostle, helped me think about it in ways I had not previously considered and blessed me with more gratitude for that infinite sacrifice. The very next talk was related, titled “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ and Truths About the Body.” Reading them together made me realize, again, that a correct understanding of God’s plan for us, His children, is essential to our feeling peace and joy in this mortal life. An application for the Atonement was found following. “A Bridge to Hope and Healing” discussed the effects of and remedies for sexual abuse, but the principles inside apply to pretty much every traumatic or scarring incident (like any substantial sin). Later, I read “The War Goes On” about the war in heaven. If you want to know how to beat Satan, read that talk. A few particulars I would like to share are about your relationship to Satan. Only God can perceive your thoughts. Satan cannot. Therefore, watch your words. Don’t give Satan ammunition to fire at your weaknesses. Following the Savior’s encounter with him as he was fasting, you also have the right to tell that old serpent to leave you alone. Quoting scripture will make him run like oil from water. Prayer is also a great defense. Embedded was a quote from William Cowper: “Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.” Don’t forget your right to commune with Diety in your hour of need. I could talk for days about what I learned in this prophetic magazine, but you should probably just read it for yourself.

We went to the Nyandeyama chapel to email. I also finally remembered to send pictures. I think we will go there from now on, mainly because it has A/C.

Coming back to the apartment, we tried to open the gate, but my key wouldn’t go in the lock. We tried Elder Kabosha’s key and it wouldn’t work either. We panicked because we had an appointment to get to, food to pack away, and dry clothes to get inside (not to mention ourselves) before the rain came. After some depression and self pity, I returned to the door with what I call “righteous indignation” meaning I prayed and hit the door a lot until the key wiggled into the lock and we were able to enter. The Lord can do more than just open hearts. He can open locks.

Elder Nuttall came over so I could give him a haircut. I think that’s number three. It turned out pretty good, so he says. Maybe he was just saying that so I wouldn’t feel bad. Regardless, it was good practice. I thought at first it wouldn’t take too long because he didn’t have much hair but that was just life lying to me. He had a ton of hair, it was just super curly and flat. I had fun though!

Elder Kabosha and I got into somewhat of an argument in the morning and I was too prideful to apologize. I went a step further and brushed off his own apology. He was quiet the rest of the day as we emailed and bought food and other things. Not until night did I sufficiently humble myself to apologize. I felt the Spirit missing a lot of the day because I refused to heed promptings to apologize for being an idiot. Now I have to repent for that too. Goodness gracious, every day is a struggle. I fail miserably a LOT. I am blessed to have an infinitely loving and merciful Father who always forgives me. He knows what I am capable of now and eventually in the eternities. He knows how to bridge that gap and enable me to reach my potential. I just have to listen to Him!

Tuesday

A lot of our appointments bounced and it rained all day so our motivation was not super high. We did get three lessons in though! To start out, we tried to see one new investigator, Isata, who came to district conference on Sunday. Unfortunately, she was not around, and reaching her by phone was impossible since she lost it AT the conference 😦. We instead booked an appointment with a nearby investigator, Edna.

Since our apartment was close by, we went back to plan and have companionship study. Doing calls, we found out that Zainab is back! She was busy today, but we got an appointment for tomorrow 😃. In companionship study, we focused on how we can ask better questions. We want to keep our investigators engaged in discussions, and one great way to do that is with questions. If you ask the right questions, you won’t have to do very much talking. I like that. But on a serious note, most of the wonderful people we teach are struggling with self-application. Asking good questions helps people think about what you’re saying and eventually, hopefully, put it into practice. Together, Elder Kabosha and I recounted times where we asked bad questions and what exactly we did wrong. We resolved to pray for guidance more often and, in accordance with a prompting I got some days ago, to ask questions about questions to help an investigator learn from him/herself.

Esther was first for the day. Neither of us have boots or an umbrella yet and it was pouring, so we scavenged the apartment for a half-broken umbrella and some moldy rain boots from a place we call the coffin room for Elder Kabosha. I just went along with my rain jacket and normal shoes. It was dumping rain and our pants were soaked by the time we got to her house. While waiting, we saw some ducks having a party in the rain. Eventually, the storm calmed down enough to let us have a discussion without screaming at each other. We sang a hymn from dist. conference that she liked (#44) and had a great lesson on the first three of the ten commandments. She’s getting baptized next week, by the way! We are so excited for her 😄.

James was next. We haven’t been able to catch him at home for some time, but today we saw him. He has not shown the big signs of conversion thus far, mainly intellectualization (something I know can be dangerously pacifying on the arduous path to perfection). We have been working to get the concept of “pure religion” internalized, and today he related to us that he has been praying about everything and has received his answer. His only barrier is getting his wife and children to accept it. Finally! It happened!

Elder Kabosha’s second lesson in the field was with an unbaptized young girl whose mother was very active until she died. We had lost track of her until now. Almost 4 months later, she is going to a pentecostal church for prayers and parties with her sisters who are baptized in the church. The eldest actually attends one of the two churches right next to our apartment. What a work we have to do! Our lesson today was about why we go to church and what makes “latta days” different from other churches. Did I mention we had to do it all in Krio?

Last was a meeting with the district choir leaders. We helped put together a plan for a program at the end of June. I have been given the responsibility of actually creating a narrative and organizing songs into a story. In other words, I am now the composer for the choir. Who would’ve thought?

Wednesday

Exchange day! I exchanged with Elder Seri, an Ivorian, in my own area. He is only two transfers behind me, so he’s pretty experienced. We started early and ended late, which was a great make-up for yesterday.

We finished the Restoration with Elizabeth early in the morning. I wish she would ask more questions and show some more emotion because sometimes I feel like I’m talking to a wall. People like her make me improve my planning and teaching skills because I don’t know what the problem is. If you understand what I am trying to give you, you should be filled with excitement and “hunger and thirst” for each lesson! I’m not trying to make fun of her or anything, but I am pointing out that in some way I am failing to convey the message in a “glad tidings” sort of way.

We got Isata today! Man, she is prepared. She didn’t look so happy when we first saw her, but as we started talking, she showed her bright and beautiful smile! She has been coming to church for almost a year at Kpayama (30 min walk) and Kenema Central (20 min walk) branches. She’s serious. She already knows that the Book of Mormon is true! Her best friend is a member, which is how she came in contact with the Church. This is how someone should act when you’re discovering eternal truth!

Edna was not available, so we went to contact Grace who came to conference on Sunday. On our way there, the owner of the only driving school I have seen in Sierra Leone waved us over. We did introductions and found out his name was Arnold, and his business partner was Moses. Arnold finished his business deal and then proceeded to ask if we were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Of course, we responded “no, we are missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Then he said he had tried to come to our church one Saturday but it was closed. Moses said that was Seventh Day Adventists. Then Arnold told us he had been talking with our “senior pastor” (actually district president) about doing solar panels for the branch buildings but can never get a hold of him. He’s and interesting guy. We’ll see how our appointment goes next Tuesday.

Heading now to Grace, it was hard to find her house. She said it was 38 Makieu St., but it looked like the street ended at 30. We wandered around until we found some path that took us by a secret society house and kinda got lost but eventually discovered #38. She knows absolutely nothing about the Church and didn’t really understand the conference, which was about being temple ready. Yes! No false ideas to correct! She had been invited by a member living in Dauda Town who she met through Facebook. Krio will be a struggle with her, but I am happy to meet someone with a totally blank slate.

We went to see Zainab after her trip to visit her mother, and I go in expecting that she is just as ready for baptism as she was a month ago (which was just to be interviewed and dunked), but I was quite wrong. She’s observing Ramadan (the fast month) and is concerned about becoming a Christian and said she hasn’t received an answer that the Book of Mormon is true. Oh boy. We said that believing all we have taught, particularly about Jesus Christ being the Son of God, and keeping the commandments make her a Christian already! Baptism seals the deal. She often said that reading the Book of Mormon made her happy, so we used her own words and applied it to D&C 6:21-23 where Oliver Cowdery had the same kind of problem where he didn’t recognize God’s answer. I asked her, “What more do you want? What else do you expect? Is peace not enough?” She knew all was true, but someone has been bothering her. Not her parents, they’re fine with everything, but possibly her brother or some friends.

We took a lunch and study break at the apartment. We ate gravy (no, not mashed potatoes and gravy kind of gravy — African gravy) and rice. I accidentally fell asleep for an hour 😰.

Our afternoon plans all failed, and by all, I mean all. Just backups. One investigator, Jamie, was home but told her neice to tell us she wasn’t there. That kind of thing happens way too often. We taught Esther the rest of the 10 commandments. I bought some weird fruit where you suck on the seeds. Then we went to see Sis Favour’s children, Dusu and Fatmata. They’re cute girls that are really fun to mess around with, but they have a 30-second attention span. It was really hard to keep them focused. Sis Favour gave us coconuts inside the huge husk you have to cut open. I never knew it took so much work to get them out of there! I took a video of a guy cutting it open for us. I enjoyed some strawberry soda in my coconut. I also found a dog that sleeps like me. I asked Fatmata if her dog was dead and she proceeded to kick it three times to prove it was alive, thinking it would get up. Didn’t move a muscle.

Thursday

I have missed district meeting. I mean, zone training is great and all, but there’s nothing like hashing things out as a district. Our discussion revolved around two very related Christlike attributes: patience and diligence. We focused on how patience is active, not passive, when you rightly apply the principle of diligence. I love how the elders in my district share personal experiences that help all of us grow together.

We had a pretty average 5 lessons today. With Mamie, we talked a lot about the origin of the Book of Mormon. I absolutely love one thing she did. When Elder Kabosha asked her what she will do if she comes to know the Book of Mormon is true, she violently flung her hand in the direction of the chapel as if to say “I will run to baptism.” It’s true, knowing that divine book is all it purports to be should speedily direct you into the waters of baptism. Otherwise, I would say you are a victim of cognitive dissonance.

We visited the Kanneh family again (those less-active sisters we met with on Tuesday). We did a funny thing. They were all asleep, so we directed a small boy to go inside and get them. He came out and said they were not around. I was pretty sick of playing games with investigators and today I just got fed up with it. I told the boy to go back in and say we were there for them and that we’re not stupid. They came out bleary-eyed and dazed from sleeping all day. Elder Kabosha took it a step further and said “We are not sorry for disturbing you. We do not apologize. It is up to you if you vex (get angry), but we love you and we want you to come back.” That set the tone for the discussion as we talked about idol worship (which they were emphatically against) and expanded that idea to include putting anything before God, like washing clothes or cooking instead of coming to church and thereby partly honoring the law of Sabbath day (which they were a little more quiet about).

We are super struggling with Daniel He was so close to baptism and then he just fell off a cliff back to where he was when we first met him. Luckily, though, we found another great young man at the same residence by the name of Sondema. He has the same humble and inquisitive demeanor as Daniel once did. Hopefully, Sondema will be able to rekindle Daniel’s mangled desire.

We are also super struggling with Edna, who is cohabitating with a member. In fact, that young man referred her to us. In their combined presence, we discussed judgment day starting with a verse in Alma 5: “And now I ask of you, [Edna], how will…you feel, if ye shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness? Behold, what will these things testify against you?” Of course, we didn’t just tell her to fear eternal hell fire, but we invited her to change her course and let mercy have claim upon her. The great thing about this Gospel is that anyone can be forgiven for just about anything if you are truly repentant, meaning you desire and embark to change your ways at any cost.

Our next scheduled appointment was with Isata, but she wasn’t home. Luckily, we caught Mohamed M. unexpectedly at home just next door. He is one of the shop guys who called us over a couple Mondays ago. At least three miracles were involved in that. 1) He was wearing all white and, therefore, stuck out to us, 2) He was not engaged, which usually he is very busy, and 3) Isata’s appointment fell through (pretty ironic miracle, huh?). He invited us into his room, which never, ever happens. We are rarely even invited into someone’s home. Generally, we just talk at the porch on a bench. He also offered to say the opening prayer which again rarely happens. As we proceeded to wow him with the nature of God, he furiously scribbled down scripture references we read with and gave to him. He went so far as to ask where we live so he could come to us and not force upon us the labor of traveling to his apartment. Of course, we cannot divulge that information, let alone bring someone into our apartment, but the thought was as generous as can be.

Friday

I’ll be brief with this one and focus on a few big blessings. We’ve been teaching James for a few months now. As my comp and I talked about him, it was difficult to determine whether we should shift time to other people or keep pressing hard on him. With his newly received testimony of the truth of the whole matter, namely the Book of Mormon, we had a great discussion about baptism. I am so glad he really thinks about these things and asks important questions.

We did weekly planning (which I still epically struggle with) and had companionship inventory immediately following by my request. Our companionship has been strained for the past couple weeks due to some stupid things guys don’t realize hurt people over time. Too much sarcasm and “harmless” insults and fake fights eventually provoke the same feelings that arise from the real deal. We talked it out and resolved to treat each other more kindly, be sarcastic less, and compliment the other more often. Quite immediately, I saw an increase in our unity with an attendant increased measure of the Spirit.

Again, the bulk of our scheduled teaching appointments failed, but that didn’t stop us from meeting an AMAZING woman who occasionally teaches Sunday school at a Methodist church. She, like Grace, her neighbor, knew nothing about the Church or what we believe, but greatly admired us for doing God’s work. She wanted to know what is different in our beliefs from the beliefs of other churches. We proceeded to touch on modern revelation and prophets, the Book of Mormon, the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and several other topics. Needless to say, she was intrigued and asked us to get her a copy of the Book of Mormon and the Bible. We immediately supplied a copy of that great blue book and said we could help her with a very inexpensive Bible  (8000 Le, little more than $1) next time we saw her. She happily accepted a return appointment.

Missionary coordination didn’t happen because it rained. To explain, literally everyone sprints inside and all work suddenly ceases when that happens. People here are deathly afraid of lightning because, well, death. We attempted to have a lesson with Esther and Nancy, but the thunder scared them too much. At least they gave us pap*!

At 7:00 pm, all the Muslims eats furiously to break their fast. It’s Ramadan, the fast month, where people eat nothing for breakfast and lunch, but at dinner they pig out. Just outside like every mosque is a big line of people selling drinks and snacks after prayers. There is one right behind our apartment, so on our way back, I bought bissap (I think I have explained that one in a previous email). Blessings of Ramadan!

*Pap is a kind of porridge made with water, rice, sugar, coconut, and lime. It’s good with milk powder and pieces of bread.

Saturday

We attended a combined baptism for the Simbeck elders and Nyandeyama sisters. For me, baptisms are always intense because I am so afraid that something will go wrong and an otherwise new member will decide to get up walk out of the meeting. I know that might sound pretty irrational to people where the Church is old and well-established, but here it’s hard to trust branches that struggle so much with even just getting sacrament meeting to run without a major hiccup. I was happy to see that this mortifying scenario was not at all the case. Things have improved since I have been here, at least at Nyandeyama!

Funny stuff that happened at the baptism:

Sister Abeka-Quansah, this tiny ball of insane energy from Ghana, conducted the intermediary hymns and said two things that were somewhat embarrassing: “If you can’t sing well, sing quietly” and, while interrupting a hymn in progress, “DON’T PULL THE SONG” because people didn’t know the rhythm of her fringe hymns.

The second speaker said this: “In the English language, in the grammar of English, we have something called the comparative superlative.” Quite often, people use big words way out of context or completely wrong just to show they are educated. It’s hilarious.

The Corbaley’s sent a welder to fix our foolish lock that kept us out for some time on Monday. I’ve had anxiety every time we reach the gate not knowing if it will work. Thankfully, it has worked for us. They also brought a new mattress for Elder Tarpeh and several light bulbs to replace the Chinese-quality ones that keep shorting out.

We saw Edna again. She had really contemplated what we said and asked questions that told us she was serious about changing. We discussed the three kingdoms of glory, giving her more motivation to change. The member was there too.

Mohamed M. is also progressing. He was so engaged as we talked about the eternal nature of families. Funny thing is, he already believed that! He related to us that he often debates with his friends on the subject of religion, and that topic has come up more than a few times. Together, we read Doctrine & Covenants 130:2 which says, “…that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us [after], only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.” He was so excited to hear that.

Sunday

Hangha Road branch had another great fast and testimony meeting. No loud traffic. No hiccups in administering the sacrament. One child took her precious first steps. Hymns were relatively on pitch. Best of all, Esther got up and bore a beautiful testimony that about moved me to tears in which she said the words every missionary longs to hear: “I know this Church is true. I have seen changes in my life as the elders have taught me. I am so happy to be a part of you people. I am so happy I am being baptized.” After she said that, I couldn’t help but get up myself and bear my testimony of the Book of Mormon. That book is true! Some people have problems with some areas of Church history, but to me, the bulk of it is a witness that that incredible Book and this Church are true. I have been reading the history of the Smith family, and there is literally no way this Book would have come to us without Providence. Not possible. 0% chance. All the leagues of hell combined to fight against its translation and printing. Every means of destroying the Record were employed by Satan and his followers and foiled by God and His own. I beg of you, read the Book of Mormon. Pray about it.

This week we tied our previous record of 11 investigators in church! I sat in the Gospel Principles Sunday School class as a branch missionary masterfully explained the Fall. I was called out by the visiting district president to get my companion and come talk with him. He asked us about the branch and why it is not progressing well. We expressed our feelings and opinions and went back to business as usual. After service was over, the district president again called us in to a meeting with one of his counselors and the branch presidency. All the information we had shared for the past four months to President Clawson and the small amount we had given to President Kobinah just an hour prior was presented and discussed. I felt pretty small because I’m just a child in a discussion that involves the status of almost 200 people’s eternal souls with grown men talking about big issues. They asked my companion and I for advice on where and how to help. I think things might be changing!

After church, the Lord’s Squad (us plus Bro Moses) visited people who we expected to come to church but didn’t, like the Kanneh sisters and Alieu (my RC). We set appointments for the week and went to go give Sister Favour’s children their Plan of Salvation exam. I took Dusu and my companion took Fatmata. They passed just fine 😊.

We got up to go and my companion said “blackout.” You know when you get up too fast and your vision gets fuzzy and darkens and it goes away quickly? This time it didn’t go away. He collapsed and cut a pretty deep hole in his cheek on the corner of a small bench. Lots of blood. Luckily, I had a mini-hospital with me and we cleaned and dressed the wound and took him back to our apartment He couldn’t walk well, probably got minor whiplash from falling awkwardly, and his teeth hurt. I called the Corbaley’s, and they took us to the hospital. We had to wait three hours for the doctor to come in from Bo. Usually it’s just one hour, but the car he was in broke down for a while. Elder Kabosha laid down on an examination table as Dr. Mesuba gave him 1 stitch. My comp is like me and hates things going inside his body, so he was pretty uneasy the whole time. It didn’t help that the doctor continually lied to him by saying it wouldn’t hurt even as Elder Kabosha was feeling the pain induced by stitching up as gash on your face 😂. He is okay now. Next time he fasts, he will have to cut it short or adjust it by eating and drinking a little midway through.

I won’t be as detailed as I was this week in future emails (partially because you likely don’t want to fall asleep while reading them, partially because I fall asleep writing up a lengthy summary of each day’s events), but I wanted to communicate the abundance of grace I receive as a missionary attempting to teach perfect truth. I didn’t do much analysis of the week for a reason: I can see the tender mercies and hopefully, with some thought, you can as well. Always a missionary!

Love,

Elder Brimhall