Tuesday, November 12, 2013

We have continued to travel since our last posting.  In late September we went to Benin City, Nigeria.  We had done training there during our first mission and knew the Area Seventy very well. Elder Akinbo had been a Stake President then.  We flew into Abuja which is the capital city, waited for 6 hours on very hard metal chairs (our flight to Benin City was delayed - a common occurance on Arik Airlines).  Flying a short hour to Benin City, the pilot said there were thunderstorms in the Benin City area and we might have to turn around and go back.  Luckily that did not happen and we were met by Elder Akinbo and a new Brother who had just been called as the website/newsroom writer.  We were so pleased to meet him. He has been a TV journalist and has since turned in a couple of very well written articles.  We had dinner with them at our "OK" hotel and had a chance to fill Elder Akinbo in on the structure of the Summit and what we would cover the next morning.  It rained really hard that night so in the morning when we drove to the meeting house, there was a lot of mud and deep water on some of the roads.  The meeting began at least an hour late waiting for some of the people to get there because of bad road conditions.  There are 6 stakes and 4 districts plus two mission branches. The mission branches are about 4 hours away and two of the districts are a couple of hours away.  But- every leader who was invited showed up.  All in all we had about 140 people there.  They were awesome.  They will actually have two Summits because of the distances and the high rate of activity of the YSAs.
Here is Arlon instructing.

The groups always seem to like the candalier game.
During the last part of the games, the priesthood leaders met with Elder Akinbo and the two Summit chairman (one of whom is a Mission President) got all of their committee heads assigned.  We were there for about 5 hours.  Elder and Sister Akinbo and their daughter had sent out for "take out"  for us. It was the normal chicken and rice so prevelant over here.  They are very sweet people.

Game time.  I believe they were playing "Who am I?" at this point - with bible and Book of Mormon names on their backs.

Twelve year old daughter of Elder Akinbo
Trip to Sierra Leone
A couple of weeks after Benin City, we went to Sierra Leone which is a couple of countries to the west of Ghana.  The 3000th stake of the church was formed there last December by Elder Holland.  They now have 1 stake and 3 districts......a huge percentage of the members are YSAs. In the Bo District, 40 %.  So, we had a lot of interest.  Sierra Leone is a beautiful country - at least the part we saw.  Nice tall hills coming right down into the 3rd largest port in the world.  Freetown, the capital city at the harbor and is a very large city.  We flew into the airport and had to take a 25 minute water taxi ride over to where we were met by President Swarray, the Stake President and Summit Chairman.

From our hotel room - a great view and of course when we were at the restaurant, we did not have our camera to capture the gorgeous sunset over the ocean.  You'll just have to imagine it!

Front of the hotel.  It was pretty old, but clean and the restaurant had good food.  We met Elder and Sister Kanzler at the meeting and they came over to join us for dinner.  They will be a big help there.

It was interesting to drive through the various streets of Freetown.  There is not a single stop light in the entire country.  The streets are full of potholes.  We have known that the civil war which lasted from 1991-2002 devastated the country and that most of the infrastructure was destroyed.  But we saw for ourselves the lasting effects.   We were told that at the Stake Conference where there was a huge attendance, only 10 members owned their own cars to get there.  That includes a few church employees who are able to buy old missionary cars.  Even President Swarray does not own a car. The streets were filled with the 3 wheeled yellow taxis. 70% of the people live in poverty despite the country being rich in diamonds, gold, bauxite, titanium, etc.  amazing!  We went to church on Sunday morning at a newly rented building.  It had been a home and had lots of rooms that worked.  Surprisingly, the owners had an outdoor spa with a cover.  It is a perfect baptismal font!

                          Primary room above.  Chapel below.
Almost everywhere we visit on Sundays, we are asked to bear our testimonies.  It is very humbling to be among such faithful people who have so little of what we would consider needs....yet they are happy and do not take anything for granted.  The Sr. Missionaries who we talked to here in Sierra Leone just love it.  Some are more comfortable with the living conditions than others, but they LOVE the people and the work.  We came back on Sunday on the same flight as the Mission President and wife - Ostlers.  They are a great couple and we had lots of waiting time to talk about the YSAs and their needs.  These couples only have a few hours a day when they turn on their generators and have electricity.  The church is building a new Mission home and three or four new buildings there right now.  Most branches meet in little rentals and they are growing so quickly that they cannot keep up.  Every building, we were told, is filled to capacity every week. 
Just as a note:  When we left in January 2011, there were about 475 units in West Africa.  Now there are almost 700.  Just in 2012, 79 units were created, which was 1/3 of all units in the church created that year.  Can you imagine trying to keep up with buying property and constructing chapels?  In the first place, buying property in these countries is very difficult.  Most countries do not have in place a record keeping system with titles, etc.  Our real estate attornies here sometimes work for more than a year just to get a piece of land purchased....Law suits, ownership disputes, tribal pressures, it is just a wonder that we are as far along as we are.....which is WAY behind what we need.
So far - as of the 1st of November, there have been 13,500 baptisms in West Africa which is more than the 13,100 total in 2012.

 Next blog will feature our trips to Aba, Nigeria where the 2nd West Africa Temple is.  Also our trip to Liberia....talk about contrasts!!!

1 comment:

Sherrie Hinton said...

Just enjoyed reading about your latest experiences in the mission field. You are doing a great work I can tell. Hope things are going well. I saw Amber today at church and it prompted me to look up your blog. I have just been called as Stake Historian and it's prompted some fun memories about the Gilbert Val Vista Stake when it was organized. Have a wonderful week.