From: Ethan Cade Brimhall <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Monday, March 19, 2018 10:30 AM
First of all, I want to give a shout out to my brother Caleb who turned 15 years old today. He is one smart and talented kid! I know I will be much shorter than he is when I get home. When I left, we were about the same height. I hear he is like four inches taller now. Say what?!
Being consecrated till the end is really hard. Like, my body is really tired of missionary work and sometimes it takes over with naps following lunch and companionship study and then we miss like 2 appointments or I totally zone out during a lesson. Just a touch of reality for you guys. I AINT DEAD YET THOUGH. My companion and I are working to help me overcome my physical weakness.
We extended a few more baptismal commitments, so our count is up to 12. We have 3, maybe 5 on track to baptize this Saturday: Alex, Solomon, and Francis. The other two, Samuel and Christopher, maybe not because they missed their interview on Friday for totally understandable reasons. We’ll see if we can get them interviewed on Tuesday after our combined Bo zone conference which, by the way, I am very excited for. It’ll be my first in a while that I have not had some other agenda to accomplish like supply delivery, Liahona distribution, or otherwise. I can focus solely on drinking in some revelation.
I went on exchange with Elder Okwir, my original Training Companion, and he fed me some beans that made me very sick, so we didn’t actually do a lot of proselyting that day. We had 3 lessons in the evening, but in the last one the gates of hell just about opened and we barely made it back to the apartment in time. We met some great people while we were out though! It was my first time proselyting with a bicycle and I don’t think I’ll do it ever again. Once I started sweating, I never stopped. Lessons are not long enough for my body to go back to normal temperature in this climate so it was just one continual round of wet. I was also sweating quite a bit trying to keep in the stomach demons attempting to escape from me, so maybe it isn’t that bad.
Elder Palacay and I team-taught a Book of Mormon class aimed to help members become more familiar with the stories in it. Illiteracy is a huge problem here, and even if they can read, there is almost zero understanding of what they read, particularly the language of the scriptures. It went great!
On Saturday, we had an activity where all of the ward missionaries, ourselves, and some investigators cleaned the chapel. They all loved it! We bought some snacks for them afterwards from one of the people walking around with buckets on their heads full of food. I instigated a water fight while everyone was eating and I ended up soaked from head to toe from sachet water (filtered water in a bag). It was a great way to fellowship our investigators and help them learn that church membership means service.
On Sunday, I gave a talk and played the keyboard again. I used to get upset with my Mom when she told me I could use my skills to teach others in the future back when I was taking piano lessons. I always thought to myself “what are the odds that I will go somewhere that someone doesn’t know better than I do?” because in all honesty, I’m not that great. Lo and behold, I was sent to Sierra Leone where thus far I have only met 3 or 4 people who can play hymns in church. Moms are prophets, guys. Or maybe they’re just wise beyond a child’s capacity to fathom. Either way, we should listen more often to our mothers.
My talk was just an expounding of Mosiah 26 in relation to forgiveness. Here are some notes I took:
v 16-18 We are blessed for our baptism.
v 19 Alma asked about the people who broke their covenants (we all do) but specifically about those who refuse to repent (see v 11).
v 20-22 Those who do God’s will are baptized and given more responsibilities and forgiven of their sin.
v 23-27 Christ is the one who suffered for our sins and will judge us. We do not judge.
v 28-30 Church leaders (i.e. the Bishop) are appointed judges in Israel and represent Christ in that capacity. They make sure we are truly repentant in order for God’s forgiveness to come upon us.
v 31 YOU ARE NOT A JUDGE. Forgive everyone or you will not be forgiven.
Is God pleased with the way you treat those who offend you? Would you like to be treated the same way by others or by God himself? Can you reasonably expect God to forgive you based on how you forgive others?
The reason I did my talk on that topic is that members in Sierra Leone have a real tough time forgiving others, and it is the cause of much apostasy from the Church. If you want to know how the Church is here, look at the early days of the Church – an Apostle has actually said that, so those aren’t my words. I think a lot of people listened to my message based on the facial expressions of those in the audience.
This week I will start a music literacy class to teach Alex, Solomon, Francis, and a few members how to read music and play the keyboard. No one here knows how, and I figure it would be a sin for me not to share my knowledge with others when I very well can. I’ll let you all know how it goes next week!
Excerpts from other letters…
Elder Olouch was just transferred. Elder Hakalo just came new from Tonga. He and Alofaki are companions and speak a lot of Tongan together. I have learned a few words.
What happened the week before elections that I didn’t get to write home about: I learned that we should keep Satan at the door – once you let him in, your power to resist/repel Satan drops dramatically. Also, the gap or the gulf that is spoken of in the Spirit World was the inability to perform ordinances for the dead. The Atonement was needed first. We taught a ton of lessons again.
I am rarely asked questions about the gospel. Most of them are personal questions. The questions I am asked about the gospel are usually meant to draw an answer that justifies ill feelings. Sometimes, however, we do get a golden investigator like Christopher who asks all the right questions.
Most concerns are with tithing, fasting, the law of chastity, and the sabbath day. Those are really hard commandments for them to keep. Usually they easily accept the facts of revelation and prophets, but understanding that there is only one true and living church with the proper priesthood authority is difficult. Faith here is very loose. Any church and any doctrine goes as long as they “teach” from the Bible, so getting people to learn discipline and self-control is the difficult part. It is very easy to help them understand that church attendance is important. Everyone goes to a church or mosque.
When someone gets a lightbulb moment is the sweet part. It means that they have the desire and will to do almost anything to learn. It is really comforting because I no longer have to strain and strain and pray and pray to get my investigator to accept conversion. I know that they want it for themselves. They will find true happiness if they continue and it is such a sweet feeling.
I just played volleyball and football this morning and had a ton of fun, but it reminded me how out of shape I am. Members are feeding me so much, and it is a major insult here if you refuse food, even if you know the person well, so I never refuse food. It’s making me gain some weight. Elder Wheelock and I are going to start a workout routine focused on reducing belly fat haha.
I have received permission from President Clawson to use my “Mother’s Day call” in April when Alex opens his mission call! I lined things up so that any time I can use a laptop with a webcam and a modem to video call you . I would like to do it in non-peak morning hours here. That would mean like 10-11 pm your time and 5-6 am my time the next day.