Monday, December 26, 2011

A Phone Call, Missionary Mode & Pure Sacrifices

Hellooooooo

Well, it was definitely nice getting to talk to everyone last night! One hour was definitely too short. Its all good though. The work goes on. I decided this morning that I've officially gone into that missionary mode. Like where all I think about is missionary work and if anything else comes up that distracts from it I get annoyed. Haha. I really am loving everything though. I think a big thing about everything is because I came on mission not wanting to come back the same person. More than anything I wanted to learn lots of things about growing up. I feel like that's happening. So naturally I'm very excited about everything. Man. All of those guys in our ward that got their mission calls- Congrats! You'll all do great and learn so much. And Alexander- Welcome to Africa! Man I'm so excited for you.

So I have some bad news. I got the wrong cord for my camera so I'm not able to send any pictures today. Sorry! I'll do better next week. Oh, yes! If you can send that flashdrive back that would be great. Im glad you enjoyed all the videos and pictures! I'm going to try and take better pictures. I feel like I'm not doing a very good job with that.  Payton Nelson, continue to look out for my worrying mother. I appreciate that. But yeah, I'm glad everything is going well back home.

Alright so quick story that I didn't tell last night. Remember that lady who lives in the one room shack? This past Sunday her little boy walked into Church and tried to hand me some money. I was like "woah what is this?" He said it was his mom's tithing money. This is the second week in a row she has payed her tithing. She has nothing but still always pays her tithing. Man, that alone made my heart do about 19 flips. People can be so crazy sometimes, but when they make those pure sacrifices to serve the Lord, it makes them seem a little more humble. Or maybe just more crazy because it's so strange to see people keeping the commandments in the world today. Either way it's sweet.

So anyway, I wish you all a great week and all that stuff. I hope everyone else is doing well back home as well! I miss and love you all!

Love,
Elder Stewart

This is a picture from the Mission President's Blog of all the missionaries in the Freetown East & West Zones. Our missionary is holding the H :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

An apology, a strong impression & "football"

Hello again my sweet sweet family.

I'm sorry but before I say anything I have to give a HUGE apology to my dear friend Clayton Bridge. I want you to know I did not forget your birthday. I wrote it in my planner and I even talked about it in my journal. But I only have a picture of my planner which I've sent home so you know that I'm serious. I hope you had a really good birthday and I'm apologize that I won't be able to meet up with you this new years. Something has come up. Book a time for me in a couple years though. I plan on being there to have a crazy Noonafest. Yes sir. I'll try and write you a letter, things have been a bit crazy lately though.

So yes, it is so strange that I will get to talk to all of you in a week. I'm thinking I will call around 8:00 PM my time. Maybe a little earlier. I'm not 100% sure. But if all else fails, plan for that time. I'll be sure to speak some Krio for you guys. Haha. That language is so funny. But before I do that I definitely want to hear your version of it.

So this week was a good one. It's very different being on the flip side of missionary work. Now I'm in charge of sooooo much more. Before I pretty much would just follow my companion around and sit down and help teach the lessons. There are so many more things to think about now though. I enjoy the challenge. Trust me, there have been challenges with different things that have come up, but I'm learning from all of them for sure. At the end of the day I'm always so insanely tired though. I'm enjoying though. I've realized there are a lot of things that happen around here that I totally don't even think twice about anymore- things that would sound so crazy back to you people in America. Like the other day this crazy guy that was super high on jamba (weed) stopped us and was demanding us to teach him. That happens every now and again so I'm kind of just used to it now. Oh, and just in case you're wondering, yes, I totally laugh at the fact that the smoothie place is called "Jamba Juice." I understand why so many people like going there now.

There are these two guys we are teaching and they want all of their families to be baptized so we have like a baptism of like 8 people planned for one day. The man has a smoking problem though. It was a small spiritual experience how it came up though. We were planning on teaching the man something completely different, but as we were nearing his house I just had a really strong impression that we should teach him the Word of Wisdom. I even wanted to just teach what we had planned, but it was definitely clear to me that we should teach the Word of Wisdom. We did and the smoking problem came out. It's good that we taught it now because it gives him plenty of time before his baptism to try and quit. It's not easy though. We helped him make plans and we're hoping that he will take them serious. He seems really sincere about baptism so we will continue to work with him and see what will happen.

One other thing, today we played football! Man it was so fun. The 4 missionaries from Wellington District came to Grafton and we played a bunch of recent converts and investigators from the Grafton Branch. As missionaries we aren't supposed to let things get competitive so we don't keep score. But I feel like if I just had to throw out a score I would say we won 4-2. But we didn't keep score. It was really fun though. The field we played on was a dirt, not grass. As you can see in the picture. That's dirt, not a spray tan. Anyway, I can't wait to talk to you guys next week! I love you all and I will TALK to you soon!

Love,
Elder Stewart

Monday, December 12, 2011

Getting Flashed, New Companion & My Best Two Years

Helloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
fambo,

I sent Dad an email in Krio. I felt so bilingual when I sent it. I also felt like I just had really bad grammar because that is a huge part of speaking it. Anyway, sorry for that abrupt ending. Haha, I went back and read it and kind of laughed too. That was pretty much the end of the story though. I dunno. It was interesting. Oh before I forget, what you read is true. ELDER HOLLAND IS COMING!!!!!!!!!! Yeah, I was pretty excited when I found out about it. I've been meaning to tell you guys for a couple weeks but I kept forgetting when I came to email. Man. That guy is so great. And the good news is that I probably will still be in Sierra Leone when that time comes. Cause if I was in Liberia, it would mean no Elder Holland for me. He is supposed to be coming in February, so as long as I don't get transferred at the end of this transfer I'll be okay. Because seriously, if I couldn't go I would probably go stand on the back of a big 18 wheeler not holding onto anything. Or well I guess that's not that dangerous because I see people doing that here all the time. Anyway, yeah I'm excited.

So to respond to your email from last week, we are indeed planning on having better food. We have a couple days of fun with the mission so I'm hoping we will get food there, but we are definitely going to try and have better food in our district. For the Christmas call, we just call home from the cell phones we carry around with us. So there's two ways we can do this thing. I feel like the most hassle free way is like this though- I flash home and then you guys call me back. Oh, and when I say flash I mean call the house and then hang up when it starts to ring so you guys will have a missed call. Here you don't have to pay for the phone call if someone calls you, only if you call them. So us missionaries get flashed all the time. I'm witty. Anyway, I'm thinking I'll do that. I'll also have that card thing we bought, just in case. I have to take a moment to say to everyone who has done so, THANK YOU FOR THE PACKAGES! Man, you guys are amazing. I have gotten so many packages. All the other missionaries are extremely jealous. I hope you guys aren't going broke sending me all these packages though. I got one from Grandpa and Stephanie, as well as another one from the Pattersons (you guys are able to send me packages without even being here, it blew my mind! Haha, just kidding). I've also been stinking enjoying the 25 days to Christmas. I've been keeping a list of my guesses each day as the time goes. Some of those scriptures y'all chose are so witty. I'm enjoying. Haha. So cushe for that.

Savannah, I'm expecting a picture without your braces. No excuses. Also, keep up the sweet soccer playing. I'm so happy I'll be back in time to see you play before you graduate! Keep up the good work. I'm proud of you!

Man, I wish we could watch the Christmas Devotional. I've definitely developed a very different feel and love for modern day leaders. Man, I cannot express how much of a blessing it is and how true the church is. It's times like these where I feel like Alma in Alma Chapter 29 sometimes. Pretty sweet scripture when it comes to the gospel.

So, now the moment you've all been waiting for... my new companion has come! And his name is Elder Osei-Kissi! He is from England. He has an African name because his Dad is from Ghana, and his mom is from England. He lived in England all his life so yes, it means he has a sweet British accent. I had an idea of a very short video clip I want to send home for Christmas, so we'll see if it's small enough to email. I think Harry Potter fans would enjoy. Hopefully I can get him to do it. He's a super cool guy and is really excited about missionary work. Being a trainer is already a big turn around from being trained because I find myself extremely thirsty all the time. The reason being is because I talk SO MUCH. I feel like I'm really annoying but he says it's okay because he doesn't understand anything their saying. We'll slowly work out and work more in unity as we go, but for now, man it's hard work. I'm definitely a lot more tired at the end of the day. Haha. I also started cooking for myself. I cooked some super delicious rice and beans (not really) but it was pretty sweet. I like it though because when I come home I'll be able to cook some stuff and I won't have to eat all the microwave meals all the time. Even though they're super easy and delicious... we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

I love my mission though because it's such a good preparation to deal with things that come up in life. Sometimes I stop and think about the fact that I'm a 19 year old kid walking around Africa, speaking a crazy language, asking crazy people to give me rides on their motorcycles, going into fly and mud covered marketplaces to buy random things, hauling buckets from a well, handwashing my clothes- and then I realize that it doesn't matter who I am but where I let the Lord take me. I see miracles happening every day and I am loving every experience that comes by. I can see why they call this the best two years and I hope that anyone who reads this and is able to serve a mission will do it. I know this is the right thing and I know that everything will work out the way it's supposed to as long as we keep the commandments. It's that simple. Keep the commandments and prosper. I am doing great and everyone around me is doing great as well. I love you all, and I will talk to you in a few weeks!

Love,
Elder Stewart
 My new companion Elder Osei-Kissi from England!
 Elder Pabie cutting a kids hair using a razorblade and a comb. It was stinking hilarious.
 A baptism from a couple weeks ago. We combined with the Rokel Elders
 The people we baptized that same weekend
Someone's house that was near the waterside
 
 A super sweet picture I edited small while I was waiting for the internet to load
Don't worry I wasn't far from the edge. That place was super cool though
Family picture. Me with my dad and son (Yeah, things get kind of weird in missionary work sometimes)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Transfer News, Chubby Baby Blessing & Half of a Spiritual Story

Well. The internet decided to suck again. I was sitting for two hours before we got one to work. I don't have time to read any other emails people have sent me or to specifically reply to this email or to send any pictures. While I was waiting I was able to type a letter about transfer news and I started telling a story but couldn't finish. So... enjoy?

Well, transfer news came yesterday. I’m not sure why, but I think President likes to make the transfer news for our district exciting. I like it though. So here’s what happened. Elder Tawiah and Elder Walker are still together, as are Elder Taylor and Elder Essego. But, Elder Taylor is now our District Leader, which means that Elder Pabie is leaving. Elder Pabie is the new Zone Leader for Freetown East Zone (the zone I’m in now) which of course also means that I’m getting a new companion. And who is my new companion you ask? Well, if I knew his name I would tell you. How can they not have told me someone’s name that is moving to me from another district in the mission you ask? Well, it’s because my new companion isn’t in any of the districts; he’s coming fresh from the MTC. Yup. I’m training. Do you want to know when my last day of training was? Yesterday. For those of you who don’t know, on a mission a new missionary is trained by their first companion for 3 months, and most missionaries don’t train right after their training ends. I don’t really understand why I’ve been called to train a new missionary; there are so many older missionaries who know how to do everything way better than me. It’s definitely going to be a challenge. I was really blessed to have such a good trainer in Elder Pabie though; I have definitely learned a lot since I’ve first come. But still. It’s like, what do I have to teach this new missionary? I’m going to make a lot of mistakes but I feel that I’ll grow the most during this whole thing. We’ll see how everything goes. I’m excited for the challenge but I definitely realize that I’ll never be able to do it without the Lord’s help. Man. I’ll be able to tell y’all more about who he is next week.

Apart from the transfer news, everything has been going as normal. We had a baptism this past weekend. We had planned for four people but one of the candidate’s mother died and she was never able to get an interview in time. The three we had though were all there on time and showed up to be confirmed in Church the next day. We had combined our baptism with Elder Tawiah and Elder Walker, so we had 8 people baptized the same day. That also means that we had 8 confirmations in church the next day. Then after the baptisms they asked me and Elder Pabie to bless two babies. Remember that really chubby little baby I sent a picture of a few weeks ago? I think he might have been wearing a yellow shirt. Anyway, that’s the baby I blessed. That little fat kid is so cool. Haha.  Needless to say, we definitely exercised our priesthood yesterday.

Cool spiritual story- So yesterday Elder Pabie had to do a bunch of baptismal interviews so we only had time for one lesson at the end of the day. There was this one person we really wanted to go see but they lived super far away. We walked all the way to their house and when we got there the person had decided to leave and go do something else instead. So we walked alllllll the way back and stopped by one of our recent convert’s house to have a lesson with them. After that we had to go back to the apartment to send in our numbers for the week. I was fasting yesterday so I was insanely thirsty and was really tired from the far distance we had walked. The day before Elder Pabie had left his shoes with this guy to fix them, and so Elder Pabie said, “Hey let’s go pick up my shoes real quick before we go back.” I was super tired but I figured it would be quick so it was no problem; we just had to walk to the other side of the street. When we got to the guy he said that he thought the shoes were at his house (we know him well, his wife is a member and his son is that fat baby I blessed). I felt like I should have been annoyed because they live down the side of a cliff and we were going to have to greet all the people that lived down there, but I felt really calm about it and we went down to his house. We went down and talked to people and the guy went in and checked for the shoes. As we were waiting this muslim lady we know came out and greeted us. She looked very unhappy so we asked her what was wrong. She said she felt really sick and asked us for a blessing. We gave her one and left. I asked Elder Pabie how she knew about blessings and he said that one time him and his previous companion were called by the members around her and they gave her one. She said she wouldn't join the church because her family would kill her.

love,
Elder Stewart

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving in Africa

Hello famboooo,

Your question about Thanksgiving... yeah we had a sweet feast to celebrate it. A picture is attached. So how money works for the mission is that every month on the 28th we go to the bank to pick up money for the 4 weeks. Meaning that around the end of those weeks we are very low on our money. Hence, our delicious thanksgiving dinner was a bowl of rice, baked beans, and chunks of Zowa (Spam) in it. Oh, in case you look at the picture and are wondering if the spam box is written in Arabic, yes, yes it is. Pretty much all the the food products here are labeled in Arabic on one side and English on the other. I'm assuming it's because of all the muslims here. It's kind of funny though. So that was a poor man feast. On the actually day of Thanksgiving it decided to rain (weird because we are in dry season, so I didn't have my umbrella) and so we walked back to the apartment through mud and rain. We get soaked a lot here. The rain isn't really an excuse to not go out. It's just nicer when I remember my umbrella. Anyway, our district decided that we didn't want to have Christmas be like Thanksgiving, so we're going to try and save money and buy a goat to slaughter and eat for Christmas dinner. We'll see how that one goes.



You're right, no one in Africa knows Thanksgiving.... in the way we know it. They have Thanksgiving here but basically what that version of Thanksgiving translates to is the pastors of the churches steal a bunch of money and food from people. In all the little churches around here the pastors teach the people that around this time all the people in the church are supposed to bring money, food, all kinds of things and give it to the pastor to pay him for doing God's work. Mannnnnnn so corrupt. I feel bad for those pastors when they die and meet God. Using the Bible to steal people's money. Yikes. There are places in the Bible where people try and offer the apostles money and they always tell the people no. There's nowhere in the Bible where people are paid to preach the gospel, the whole big thing is how Jesus was a servant to the people, not the people to him. So funny how that worked out in our day.

Yes, my shoe size is the same so if you wanted to send shoes to me I would be a happy boy. Oh and the Christmas package, I got it. Oh, and I got Grandma Semmerling's package. Thank you so much! I think there's only like 5 oreos left. Haha. But man, let me tell you how jealous everyone was of my sweet family when I opened that Christmas package and showed them. Elder Taylor was looking at it and was like "What? And they put scripture references as clues?? Your family is creative AND spiritual?!" Yeah, you guys are the stinking best family ever. As you can see by my extreme enthusiasm in the picture. Also, I don't know why I'm doing so many thumbs up. I guess I was just really excited about sweet packages and crappy Thanksgiving "feasts." Ah, either way the gospel is so true.

Man, you guys were on a beach. Whattttt. Supposedly there will come a time where on a P-day we will go to a beach here. No idea when that one will happen. I'll be sure to take pictures though, no worries.  Haha. They sent out a text to all of us the other day talking about calling home for Christmas. It's weird to think you guys have voices. I ate ice cream for the first time (since coming here...) today. And OH MY GOSH. It was amazing. It was like real ice cream. Man, thinking about it makes me feel like I'll go crazy. I can't even describe how good it tasted. I might have a new addiction when I go home. Transfer news is next Sunday, which is always super exciting. It's impossible to tell what will happen but I'm sure it will be interesting to see nonetheless. I'm going to send you guys a Christmas Present. Well, it's not really a present for you guys because it's all pictures of me... but anyway, I'm going to put all the pictures I have so far and put them on a flashdrive. And then this week we have to go to Belliar Park for an interview with President, so I'll give it to Sister Patterson to give to Grandma to send to y'all. And then you can see all the pictures and videos that I've taken since I've been here. Yay. Oh and I have to give a quick shout out to Lexi Hayob because she sent me a sweet letter and talked about shout outs. Yeah, my shout out is really that lame Lexi. Sorryo.

Okay, so spiritual story time. So this one lady we have been teaching and is set to baptize on December 3rd had her interview this past Saturday. This lady is very very uneducated and cannot speak any English whatsoever. She can barely barely understand my Krio (most people can understand me completely now, it's pretty exciting) and sometimes doesn't understand Elder Pabie when he speaks Krio. Her original language is Mende, another dialect that doesn't sound anything like English, I've learned a couple little phrases of it but I don't understand anything. She lives in a one room house that is probably about the size of the shed we have. It's also made out of the same material but not quite as nice. She has two sons, a twelve year old and a 3 year old, and her husband was killed a few years ago in a mining accident. She doesn't know how old she is or when she was married. The point is, her life is not easy. We would teach her very slowly and very small, just enough so she could understand. I think she understood everything we told her, but it's tough to tell sometimes. The thing with this lady though is that she knows that getting baptized is the right thing to do. She has the desire to follow Christ and she knows that she can do that by the steps she's taking. She is so humble and is so willing to do what it takes to make it back to the kingdom of God. We were sitting with her waiting for the Zone Leaders to arrive to interview her and she was sitting very quietly talking to herself. I could hear her going over the interview questions like it was going to be a test. I could tell she was very nervous and told her that it wasn't a test and that everything would be okay. She seemed to calm down small and waited. What I was thinking about though is how there are people in this world that are super educated, have tons of money, nice cars, have so much going for them, but they completely overlook the eternal perspective. This lady who has nothing will feel more comfort because of the decisions she made on earth than any of those rich, educated people. Seeing this lady being nervous and waiting for her interview just made my heart do flip flops and punch my brain and tell me that this is what it means to truly be humble. Humility can be a tough thing sometimes but we all need to try our best to put ourselves aside and focus on the most important things in life (Like our families!).

Anyway, now that we're all crying, I'm going to go fight giant hordes of people all trying to get inside a hot and sweaty van and take the 30 minute drive back to our apartment in the outer villages of the mighty metropolis known as Freetown. Hopefully the tire doesn't blow up like the first poda poda (van) we got in this morning. Happy late Thanksgiving! I love you and miss you all!

Love,
Elder Stewart

P.S. Jordyn Ingram- Happy late late Birthday! Yes, I remembered it all by myself.

Monday, November 21, 2011

African food and Learning the gospel

Hello fambo,

Sounds like everything is going along nice and well over there. Savannah, I'm very proud of your soccer playing abilities. I'm excited to be able to be home to see you for your senior year... captain. It's also good to hear that my room has become a storage room. I hope you don't get too many rats in there. But I guess rats don't get inside our house quite as easily as they do into our apartment here. Hey it's all exciting.

In our branch here we actually started something new because we have so many recent converts and investigators that come to church. I'll talk about that one in a sec. But no, there's nothing like gumbo that we eat here. Or well, kind of. Let me explain how a lot of the food is made here.

Everywhere we go people make rice and put some kind of "plasace" on it. Which is just like the... topping? I guess. I'll describe it. It looks like that food I took a picture of in the MTC that was that green stuff on rice. But they have like different stuff they put on it. How they prepare it though is that they take a bunch of this certain kind of leaves and cut them into small pieces. Then they fry it in a pot in oil and put that on the rice. I'm pretty sure that's how it's done. I've gotten used to it now and it actually tastes good sometimes. I definitely miss hamburgers and chick fil a though. Man. That place doesn't even sound real anymore. My favorite plasace though is definitely pumpkin. Man pumpkin tastes so good! The pumpkins here are also green. The oranges are green too. So are the bananas. Like when they're green you're supposed to eat them. They never turn yellow. They're also all really small. The cucumbers here are really short and fat. I eat a lot of fried chicken and rice. I eat SO MUCH RICE. Rice is in everything. It's a good thing I like it then. Haha. I eat rice every day. That's what most people eat. It's good. The thing that's kind of like gumbo is this soup people make that is just like flavored broth with fish and onions and peppers in it. It's pretty good too.

Anyway, the work here is going forth as normal. The transfer ends on December 4th so we'll be getting transfer news that day. No idea what will happen but transfer news is always exciting! So that class we have in church- we call it investigator class. We put people who were baptized in the last 6 months and people who are not members in the same class during the Sunday School time slot and we learn basic basic things about the gospel. I think the people really like it and our investigators always comment on how much they love being able to actually learn and ask questions for themselves. Most of the churches here are just a pastor will preach for an hour, everyone says amen, and then they all go home. They aren't able to learn anything! A lot of the churches around here tell people that the only way they'll get blessings are if they pay money. Man it makes me so mad to hear about these pastors stealing people's money like that. We're doing what we can here. But man let me tell you, the most upsetting thing is when we walk under the hot sun for miles every day hearing all these people tell us they'll come to church, and then that Sunday they can't even give up time to go to the church and make good on their promise. Ah it can be so frustrating sometimes. Especially when they lie to us when we ask why they didn't go. We're doing our best though. Anyway, the work is sweet here and I'm enjoying every day! I'm out of time so I need to go. I love you and miss you all!

Love,
Elder Stewart

 DRUGS!
 A huge millipede. This made me think of you Big Black. You know why.
This shirt just made me laugh a lot. I guess it was imagining the actual World Cup it's talking about. Is that bad?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Put your trust in the Lord

Hello fambo,

Well, it has been another week in Afraca. Savannah- man so sweet! By the time you're
a senior you'll probably be like the team captain. No joke. It's cool. You'll learn a lot. Just be patient. Trust me. Haha. That's so sweet though. Keep the good soccer name in the family, yeah? Good.

So this past week was pretty exciting. One of the big highlights had to have been this last Friday. The reason being because we went on exchanges! Exchanges are always exciting because we get to go out with other missionaries in our district. This last exchange was pretty different though. The reason being because this exchange was the first time I would have to lead someone in my area (Basically meaning I have to do everything without any help from my good ole trainer), and not only that, the person I was going with was Elder Walker- who is fresh from the MTC as of two weeks. He is still at that point where the Krio all  sounds like a bunch of jibberish. So it was pretty exciting because it meant I would get a small taste of being the "dad." I kind of saw it as a day to truly test how far I've come. Usually I can just let Elder Pabie answer the hard questions or interpret what people say if I missed it, but this time everything fell on me. Needless to say I was pretty excited about the challenge. So the day ended up being full of bounces. Seriously, like all of the appointments fell through. We only saw like 2 people we had planned for. So I had to find ways to manage the time. I dunno if the Lord wanted to really test me or something, but one of the ways that time management happened was by meeting all these crazy people that walked up to us. It was times like these where I really saw how much I learned from Elder Pabie. So there were three different people.

The first guy was this crazy drunk guy. He was telling us he had seen visions and had read, as he put it, "The Book of the Mormons." At first I thought he was just crazy but then he was like "mannnnn that book scares me!! Those Nephites and Lamanites fight too muchhhh! The sons of Ishmael are so crazyyyy!!" So I guess he really did read it. Ha. But then he was trying to tell us how he wanted to come to Jesus. Sidenote- you all should know that when crazy people start talking to the missionaries and start shouting at us, a small crowd of passerbys will ALWAYS stop and watch. Elder Pabie told me that when this happens we must always defend the truth. So that's what I did. This guy was saying all this crazy stuff and at some point I was crying him unto repentance and telling him he needed to follow God's commandments and I even gave him a Word of Wisdom pamphlet and told him ways to get past drinking. Did it make any difference to him after we left? Probably not. But it was intense nonetheless.

The second person was some guy asking us for money and saying that we're supposed to give him money because of the Bible or something. The small crowd began to gather. This guy started drawing junk on a piece of paper and telling us we owed him money. I told him we didn't give people money, but we gave people something that was worth more than money and tried inviting him to Church. He said Jesus would never do that to people so I told him that if he could find a place in the Bible where Jesus went around handing out money I would give him some. It was great.

So this last guy was a pastor. He kept saying stuff about how he had been ordained of God by his vision through Jesus Christ and that's why he had the right to open his own church. I was able to open up the Bible and show him why he can't just do that, how you are supposed to properly baptize and how you are properly ordained of God. He went back and ate food with his friends.

My point of saying all of this isn't to say "look how good I am now" or anything like that. While it was exciting to meet all these crazy people and to show them the truthfulness of the way, the thing that I was able to learn is that when we go forth among these people, we don't go forth alone. I know for a fact I couldn't have done any of that alone and that the Holy Ghost was leading me and guiding me through all those various situations. The day was successful and we were able to do the work of the Lord. My training ends after the first week in December, and after that I'm going to have to know how to completely function as a missionary if I were going forth alone. I still have sooooooooo much learning and growing to do but I know that I never REALLY have to go through any of it alone. The Lord is there to help me and strengthen me, and I know that as long as I put my trust in him, I will be able to do anything he asks me to do. The same goes for everyone who reads this. Put your trust in the Lord and it will all work together for your good. Na true bing! (Krio)

Anyway, everything is going really good and I am loving every day. The baptisms were a success and everyone showed up on Sunday! Also baptizing in that river was like the coolest thing ever. Man, it was so cool. Anyway, my time is up so I'll explain the pictures then go. I love and miss you all!

Love,
Elder Stewart

I've officially become addicted to buying jerseys and I bought a Cameroon one (Cody Guilbeau you know why. Oh by the way, heard about the teeth. Cushe on that one) And that tie I have on is from Nigeria and freaking nice and amazing and cheap.
People we baptized.

River where we baptized.

 The meal I made because I had real milk. It was pretty satisfying. And mushy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cooking Crisis, River Baptisms & General Conference (finally!!)

A sweet river where the Grafton Elders do their baptisms

Ello fambo,

Ow una do? Everything is good over here in Africa (I miss you Paris kids). Yes, the weeks are starting to pass by very quickly for me too. And Momma, don't you worry. I'm faithful to my malaria pill addiction and I'm always sure to drink filtered water. Before I say anything though I have to give a huge giant THANK YOU to the Pattersons. Mannnnn what? There was so much good stuff in that package! I also feel like I should thank Grandma and you parents for being such good friends with them, because I definitely didn't do anything. Except be a really adorable baby. But man. I am especially grateful for those homemade chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Man. People don't understand. It's like eating.. umm... I guess it's like eating whatever each individuals favorite food is. It was stinking delicious. I don't think anyone will ever understand why I was also super excited just to see the plastic bags that they used to keep the contents of the box safe. You see, we're living way out on the edge of Freetown in villages so it's tough to get good quality plastic bags to put garbage in. So those were just as exciting as the food itself. Anyway, thank you very very much. But as far as cooking goes, this is pretty much our current cooking situation (we're in a crisis). We only have electricity from 8-1030 (The colon button doesn't work on this keyboard). Because of some errors we don't have enough money to buy more fuel for the generator so we don't have our fridge hooked up because it sucks so much fuel. We also can barely use our stove because we are running really low on propane and no one has been able to drive out to us to bring us our extra tank. We do have a stove though. I have no idea how it works. I've been trying to get Elder Pabie to teach me how to cook stuff but I'm yet to really learn how to do stuff. I figure I've got about 3 weeks to fix my ways! I have been figuring out some other stuff I can get from the market and make some stuff. Nothing super crazy though.

Yes! I remember Mr. Terry. Everyone wanted to have him as a teacher because they had parties every Friday. Everyone except all the kids in Mrs. Desormeaux's class. Her class was way better! Yeah, I still have pride in my 3rd grade class. Is that bad? Ah well.

So lets see. What is the story for the week? Well, nothing too crazy has been happening. We've been preparing these young kids for baptism this upcoming Saturday. It's really weird actually, all of a sudden all these adults wanted us to teach their young children and nieces and nephews, so this next baptism is all these young people. It's cool though. The sweet thing about it though is that we are baptizing them in a RIVER! I'm so excited! haha. There's a picture of it attached. This place we found is absolutely beautiful. Man so sweet. So the next email will have pictures from the baptism.

The other sweet thing that happened this week was that we got General Conference! Man I totally took it for granted back home. I don't think I've ever gotten as much out of it as I did this time. It's kind of funny how they do it here. The church building also runs on a generator so we hooked up a TV and a DVD player and put it on top of a file cabinet. Then everyone came into the chapel and we just sat in the pews and watched the Sunday morning session, and then the first half of the afternoon session. So church was still three hours. I wanted to see all of them though. It's okay though. I still got a TON out of it. The gospel is so true. I filled my planner with notes from it all and have read over them a few times since. Needless to say, I will never take General Conference for granted again! I still think I'm okay being at home and watching it on TV in my pajamas though. Does that mean I'm a bad missionary? Ah well.

The final story for this email- I was just thinking this morning how we haven't had any run ins with juju people in a while. Well, on our way over here our poda poda (big vans with rows of benches inside that we use to get around to far off towns) was stopped so this giant crowd of about 50 juju people could beat their drums and dance around a debul that looked like a tan turtle in the middle of the major road. It was pretty annoying. It was really hot inside that van. They cram people in there like sardines. I wanted to go. Okay it was pretty entertaining.

So that's about all I have to say for this time. I love you all and it's good to hear everyone is doing well. I'll talk to you next week!

Love,
Elder Hunty Stuwy



Elder Pabie and I looking super good. Except my face is red (I use sunscreen! Usually...) and we look like our faces are stretched out.
This was a sweet sunrise one morning from our apartment. Sorry if you don't like all the nature pictures. I like nature.
The stinking nice river that we'll be doing our baptisms in next weekend. Man I'm so excited. Haha.
Mom, I found the original blue dog. Okay really I have no idea why this dog was blue. But I felt I should take a picture.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Know for yourself

Ey fambo,

Man what? That roadshow sounds so sweet. Maybe if you put it on YouTube President Roggia will approve it for being awesome. It's worth a shot. I especially wish I could see the bishop dressed up as Gene Simmons. Bishop if you're reading this, I want you to know I'm proud of you. It sounds like the roadshow was up to Momma Jill standards though (I hope Ben doesn't get confused...).

The office elders emailed us and told us that if you send packages not to declare more than $10 of the contents inside.. or something like that. They said it was because the mission was having to pay big fines and stuff on the packages that were more than that. So yeah. Thanks for all the packages everyone has sent already though! I always greatly greatly appreciate the stuff inside. Man so sweet. I got a few letters from the family the other day- Uncle Jeff, Grandpa Stewart, and Grandma Stewart. I loved everything you all had to say! Whenever I get a chance I'll try and write back! Thanks for all the support though it really helps. In case anyone is wondering, no we haven't seen General Conference yet. Maybe one day I'll get to see it. Ha. Savannah if you don't score a hattrick in every game (except against Lafayette High) I"ll be very upset. So train hard. It's good hear everything is going well at home!

Well, this week was a good one of course. We have 6 people preparing for baptism on the 12th and so we're working on teaching them so that they will be ready in time. But of course if they're not we'll push it. Something very strange happened this past week. No, I didn't get hugged by another debul- I would consider that normal now. It was something much much stranger. I met an American. From Arizona. And he had nothing to do with our church or missionary work. I'm not gonna lie I felt really weird. Haha. He was there with a Christian group digging wells and have been there for like 7 months. We started talking to him about the Church and invited him to come on Sunday. He said "I'm gonna be honest, I'm not going to be going, we have our own Church here." Ah America. You're so funny. He said he had visited the Church before, had lots of LDS friends, and had even sat down with the missionaries before. He said he had a problem with the Book of Mormon because in the Book of Revelations in the New Testament there is the verse that says no one should add or subtract from this book. It's funny that people read that and think of the Book of Mormon as violating that verse. When John received that revelation he had been exiled to the island of Patmos. The word Bible means binding of books. In those early days of the first century all of the scriptures were written on scrolls and were spread around the countries. Then many centuries later King James got a bunch of men together who brought all the scrolls together and put together the Bible. So what that tells us is that John was referring to the revelation he received and not the entire Bible. Because the Bible didn't exist when he wrote down his revelation. It's pretty simple. The biggest thing with the Book of Mormon though is that it's not about trying to convince people with flashy messages or is telling us about Joseph Smith. Anyone who reads the front of the book can see that it testifies of Christ. If you read the Introduction to the Book of Mormon, especially the last two paragraphs, it tells you to pray and find out for yourself if it's message is true. It doesn't say "take the missionaries word for it," or "if your preacher tells you it's the book of the devil please don't believe him," it tells us that through honest prayer you will come to find out through the Holy Spirit that it is a true book. Because who will tell you the truth more than any man on earth? God. So anyone who reads this blog I would invite you to read the Introduction and find out for yourself what this book is all about (You can just Google search the Book of Mormon, easy). And then if you want to know more talk to my parents or find the missionaries. For myself I've come to know it speaks of truth, but like I said, don't take my word for it, pray and ask to know for yourself.

Anyway, we told just about all that same stuff to that guy and he still refused to find out more for himself. Everyone has their agency I guess. Everything is going well here and I am for sure continuing to learn more and more every single day. I'm kind of nervous for Elder Pabie to get transferred, but that's because he cooks delicious food for us every night. Other than that I'm good. So keep me updated on what's happening on the home front and I'll let you know how good ole Africa is doing. I love you and miss you all!

Love,
Elder Stuwy

P.S. Lexi Hayob- Happy one day late Birthday
P.S.S. The pictures wouldn't work, but they were just of a sweet river, so not too much!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Not the "New Guy" anymore :)

Sounds like everything is going well at home.  So you got to hear some Krio? Maybe? Yeah, the language is crazy. I can speak it in lessons and stuff well enough for people to understand now though. I put on an accent and speak kind of slowly, but they don't seem to notice and understand what I'm saying. So it's pretty sweet. But then I'll ask them if they have any questions and they'll say a bunch of stuff and I have no idea what to say back. It's nice to have a companion who understands though. Haha.

 Yup, we got matching jerseys for the love of our country. Like Father like son (He's my father out here)
 This is what our room looks like. The mosquito nets are a very fashionable touch. You know you want one. My bed is the close one.
 This is our parlor, the door in the back leads to the kitchen and the little hallway leads to the front door.
 These are the people we baptized. The white guy is me.
This is a fat adorable African baby
 Elder Wood found a Krio Bible. This is John 3. If you read it out loud you'll be surprised how much you actually understand. This language is so funny. Haha.

 This is Grafton District! Elder Pabie and I are obviously the two in the matching jerseys in the front, and then in the back from left to right is Elder Taylor (from Wyoming), Elder Wood (from Utah), Elder Essego (from Nigeria), and Elder Tawiah (from Qatar).
This is granny, She is crazy old. But really hilarious. She won't let anyone cook her food. If someone cooks her food she puts it in the pot and cooks it again. She is indeed extreme.

Yeah so as you'll be able to see in the pictures, we had baptisms this last weekend! It was pretty cool and everyone showed up on Sunday to be confirmed so we had no wahalla (problem). One of those people though was really cool for me though because one of the women who got baptized was the first person I ever taught on my mission. Like my first day in the field started with us going to see her. And that lesson was the first lesson she ever had with the missionaries. So it was cool to see how someone goes through the entire process of conversion. Pretty neat. This past week Elder Pabie brought us to an old investigators house that I had never met before and it turns out that he was some crazy guy with all these insane beliefs. He brought out a flip chart and was explaining all this crazy stuff to us. Then we tried telling him the truth and he was quoting all these random scriptures trying to tell us why he's right. But Elder Pabie is a master of the scriptures and we humbled him with correct principles straight out of the Bible. Sidenote- it's actually pretty amazing that you can find everything we believe in right inside the Bible exactly the way Jesus Christ set up his church. I don't understand how so many doctrines got twisted. Anyway- like that guy tried to tell us that Jesus was a Spirit when he resurrected and didn't have a body of flesh and bones. So we had him read the end of Luke 24. After he read it we put away our stuff and invited him to church. Haha. But you see, the crazy thing is that he actually came to church the next day! We were so surprised and excited. After church it seemed like his heart was still pretty hardened, but we'll see what happens.

So everything is getting pretty much in a routine here now. Everything isn't as much of a shock anymore. And because of that it's always sweet when exciting things happen, like transfer news! Yesterday was the end of this transfer and there were actually a lot of changes in our district. I am staying with Elder Pabie for this next transfer, but Elder Pabie is now our district leader. Which means that Elder Wood has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is to be the next Assistant! He was training Elder Essego (from my MTC) so now Elder Taylor will be his companion and will finish his training with this transfer. So that means that Elder Tawiah is getting a new companion which is none other than a stinking brand new missionary fresh from the MTC! I'm so excited!! Haha, I'm liking the whole me not being the newest missionary anymore. This new missionary is name Elder Walker and is from America. So he's going to have all the crazy changes that I had. I'm pretty excited about it. So I'll point out who all these people are in the picture above because I'm pretty sure you don't know who all these Elders are. Haha.

As far as a package goes, this is what I can think of- oreos (yup I miss them a lot), pop tarts (send like a million of them), flavored water mix (don't they have like a propel kind you can just pour in a bottle of water?), cheez-its, and anything that can easily make a meal with water or milk. Anything more than that is hard to make. A lot of supplies are hard to get. Like even the milk here is just this powder stuff you mix with water. It kind of smells like easy mac. It's interesting.

Anyway, everything is going so good here and I'm looking forward to my second transfer as a missionary! I love you all!

Love,
Elder Stuwy

PS- Elder Taylor has some Stewart relatives, does Grandpa Mel have any siblings living in Wyoming or Vegas? I can't remember where he said they live. I'll ask again. But if you find anything out let me know. Kthanks.
PSS- in case you're wondering if I like my hair, I don't. But it is definitely a lot cooler and people say it makes me look a lot more intimidating and older. Ahahaha. But I don't really care how I look because I never have to see me. But seriously I don't. The only mirror we have is this tiny little bit of a broken piece of mirror. Which means that I see my reflection hardly ever. Oh man life is so sweet here! Haha!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Short hair, More baptisms & Hugging it out with a Juju man

Sounds like everything is moving along just fine back at home. Everything here is going well too. Unfortunately, I didn't cut my hair until right before we came to this internet cafe so I don't have any pictures yet, but I will take one tonight. Pulling out a camera here would attract too much attention. Anyway, I don't have much time because we're running late today so sorry this email won't be super long. The reason we're running late is because this morning we had super P-day. Which basically means our zone got together for an activity this morning. And we watched Megamind and The Lion King. Man. I've never enjoyed two movies so much. And Megamind was way more funny than I remember it being. Elder Taylor told me it's because I've been deprived of any mainstream media. He's probably right.

So speaking of Elder Taylor, he almost got pooped on by a woman in this way: He was standing looking at some clothes laying out to dry on some bushes and was noticing that one of the clothes looked very strangely shaped. Turns out it was a lady squatting and pooping on the side. So he ran for his life. Or something like that.

The mouse story: We were sitting around the table in our parlor having a district meeting and discussing very important missionary stuff. Suddenly Elder Essego goes "mouse!!!" He saw it running along the wall on the far opposite wall and we immediately all jumped up and started grabbing random things for weapons. The mouse had run behind a dresser and we surrounded it with our random arsenal of brooms and buckets. One of the Elders pushed the dresser and the mouse came running out. It was running towards me so I prepared myself to capture it beneath the bucket I was holding. Then suddenly out of nowhere Elder Essego came running and kicked the mouse across the room and the mouse crumbled to the ground, stunned. Then he ran up and kicked it again... and again... until it died. It was intense. And we were saved. Hooray.

I didn't shave all my hair off. I used clippers and got a 3 all around. It's pretty nice, not gonna lie. Like it feels nice. But the longer hair definitely looks better. It's all good though.

So this week was of course filled with lots of various spiritual experiences. We had tons of investigators in church this past Sunday- 15 to be exact. We have 4 people getting baptized this weekend too. We usually do baptisms here in a river but because of the rainy season the water is too high. That's why we travel to a chapel in a town farther down the road. Anyway, my time is almost out so I'll just share my latest crazy juju person story. No big deal.

So this past Saturday I was on exchanges with Elder Essego in Grafton while our District Leader Elder Wood interviewed those people who are getting baptized this upcoming weekend. We had called this guy and were walking down this incredibly long dirt road way out to the middle of nowhere to meet him. As we were walking up the road a short distance we saw one of those juju guys who are known as "debuls" walking in our direction They all look different but it's basically people who dress up in these very strange costume things and have some crazy demonic spirt about them... or something. I'm not too sure what those people believe in. Anyway, so this debul had this weird looking mask that had like these tiki faces on four sides, and had this really long flowing black cloak/gown thing on, and was holding this rod that was made of two skinny sticks bound together with cord. with him there was a small child running next to him and a lady dressed in normal clothes but had a big drum around her neck. We have been told to avoid these people so Elder Essego and I walked to the other side of the road and tried to look ahead so we wouldn't draw attention to ourselves. Which is pretty hard to do seeing as how we're both wearing white shirts, ties and a black nametag. Oh and I'm the only white guy in like a 50 mile area. That makes me stick out a little. So anyway, we walked to the opposite side of the road and tried to avoid him. As we crossed to the far side the debul and lady were switching sides. So we switched sides again. And the debul switched sides. At this point we were about to meet so the two of us started to walk to the far side of the road again to avoid them. As we were set to pass by them I saw that the debul was heading straight toward me. Suddenly the debul was right next to me and started to hug me. It was like one of those really awkward hugs where the person doesn't hug you completely. It kind of caught me off guard because I was looking ahead and he came in my blind spot. But the second he started to hug me I was like "Oh um, we dun lef." But he kept hugging me so I turned and was like "EY! Lef me!" And he let go and kept walking. Man it was weird. Those people are so crazy. It caught me off guard. Haha. Elder Essego was like "When he goes home tonight he's probably going to tell all his friends he got to hug a white guy today." It was pretty funny.

Anyway, This internet cafe is being super sketchy and slow so it's not letting me attach any pictures. I was going to send you a couple pictures of the inside of our mansion and this sweet picture of me and my companion as the newest members of the Sierra Leone National team. Yup, we both bought national team jerseys. Man and they were so cheap! Only 40000 le, about $10 US. Jerseys for any other team is cheaper, about 30000 or 35000 le. So Cody Guilbeau will be excited to know that I will probably own a lot of jerseys when I come home. My next decision is which Arsenal jersey I should get. There's a white one with horizontal lines across it, or the standard bright red ones like the one dad has. So if anyone wants to help me with this incredibly difficult decision, please tell me what to do for next week. But seriously. Let me know. Anyway, my time is up so I will talk to you all again next week! As far as packages go- let me come up with a list of things before you send another one out. I feel bad because you guys are spending a lot of money on packages! Haha, I guess it's just me and my money saving ways. But okay, until next week- I love you and miss you all!


Love,
Elder Stuwy

Monday, October 10, 2011

Testimony Builder

Savannah, if you are ever annoyed by the uniforms you have to wear to school, don't feel bad because all the kids here wear uniforms too. Except all the girls wear those jumper things and these clog straps uncomfortable looking shoes. And the clothes are all the same color. But then again I guess most of them are just happy to be getting an education. A lot of people here don't know how to read very well or at all

Ah I'm always so happy to hear about the testimony meetings back home. I miss them. There was something pretty strange that happened here though. Remember that all of the adults here are converts and all come from various religious backgrounds. This one guy in our branch must have been like a pastor or something before because when he talks at the pulpit he always starts shouting and pointing. I have no idea what he's saying because his Krio is pretty thick, but I guess he's pretty passionate about the gospel. When he went up to bear his testimony he also started singing this little jingle and doing a little dance. He was like "I'm wrapped up. Tied up. Bound uppp in Jesus! I'm wrapped up. Tied up. Bound uppp in Jesus!" Some of the people in the congregation joined in a little bit so we had like a spontaneous minute of singing and dancing. So yeah it was just like a musical in real life. Needless to say I'm pretty excited for next month.

Mom, Elder Pabie would definitely make fun of me for wearing gloves. I think everyone would. I have to get African hands. It's the only way. I'm sorry. I will endure the suffering. Sister Roggia took a picture of my hands so you might see a picture of it on the mission blog. I have no idea though.

(There IS a picture on the mission blog- see link on the sidebar to the right if you want to see Hunter's scabby hands!)

I have this stinking amazing video of these kids singing a song and dancing but unfortunately the video file is too big so I can't send it home... I'm so sad. It's funny. And I speak a tiny bit of Krio in it. The Krio is coming along okay but I'm not worrying about it so much anymore. I think I explained that whole thing in the last email home. I can understand it pretty good now though.

So life here is becoming pretty routine. The days are going by pretty fast. I've already been in the mission field for over a month. New missionaries are going to be coming to this mission soon. So crazy. I've pretty much gotten over the whole shock of living here, now it's just an every day thing. Oh, I got that package with Pop-Tarts and the boku germx in it. Man everyone in the apartment was like "What???" So thank you for all of that stuff! I feel so spoiled. I got a couple letters from Jen too so Jen- I'll write you back as soon as I can! Everyone who is sending me things, as always, I'm so thankful for all of you and you are all amazing. The missionaries in the apartment are all jealous of how much stuff I get. I'm so blessed to have all of you. Also, the letters I get keep saying how great of a job is being done on the blog so keep it up!

Well, I guess it's time for the story of the week right? Right. So this past Friday I went on exchanges with Elder Essego, who was in the MTC with me. So yeah, so brand new missionaries were sent out into the world. And guess what, we were absolutely fine. We had a bunch of sweet lessons and learned tons from each other. It was so cool to see how far we've come in just 4 weeks. One of the last lessons of the day was very very cool and made me appreciate our Savior SO MUCH. So we headed over to this one guys house and when we walked up I noticed that the guy had a major limp and struggled walking. I'm not 100% sure, but I think that the area we were in was a disabled war veterans camp. A lot of the people around had physical disabilities. Anyway, so we sat down and started talking to this guy. Last time he had met with the missionaries they taught him just the very very beginning of the Plan of Salvation, so we were going to go over what they taught him and finish teaching the lesson. (Anyone who is reading this and doesn't know what the Plan of Salvation is, it is what tells us where we come from, why we're here and where we're going. You know, life's biggest questions. So if you want to know what that's all about, tell my Mom and she'll refer you to the missionaries. Or you can be stuck in darkness about it forever. Your call!) We were teaching him and I was telling him about resurrection. I told him how that when we are resurrected we will all have perfect bodies; not a single thing will be out of place, that any sickness or anything we may have now will be completely healed and gone. I asked him if he had any questions and he said no. We started talking about the next point when he stopped us and said, "wait, so when we're resurrected we will be perfect? Like we will be completely healed- from anything?" Elder Essego pointed to a scar he had on his forehead and said,"you see this scar on my head? At the resurrection it will be gone. Our bodies will be perfect. It's a free gift that Jesus Christ has given to all men, no matter what they do in this life." The man kind of sat there for a second looking down at the ground. Then he said quietly, almost to himself, "Wow... that's a really good gift."

Man! I've never understood how great of a gift that really was until that moment! Jesus Christ died for us so that we could have that. This man was so optimistic at what the future held. The Spirit was so strong and I could just feel how happy this man felt. I myself felt so happy for him. We're all so stinking blessed for that. Needless to say it was a pretty huge testimony builder. Earlier we had explained the things we have to do in this life to make it back to our Heavenly Father and at the end of the lesson we asked him if he had any questions. He said, "No, no questions. But man, it's not easy is it?" Haha we all laughed at that and said no, it's not, but it is so far from impossible. He seemed really happy when we left and I was bummed I wouldn't get to teach him again, but I'm sure he will continue to learn more. This gospel is so cool and makes so much stinking sense.

Anyway, after that spiritual landmine I will now tell you that Elder Taylor (from Wyoming) told us he almost got pooped on by a woman the other day. He made it out of the way in time though. We also killed another mouse. Since we're heading into dry season and it hasn't been raining as much we haven't had water in our rain barrels. So that means we have to go pump it from a nearby well. Yup. Elder Taylor described this place as us living in New Testament times. It's true in so many ways. K time to explain the pictures.

 This is from the front door of our apartment At 6:30. There are some pretty sweet sunrises here.
 This is a giant pig's face.

 This is a giant iguana this guy killed. And later ate. I have a funny video of Elder Pabie scaring children with it. But alas. Another time.


This is a picture in Allentown. Allentown is basically a mountain with houses all the way up one side of it. We climb all the way to the top seeing people along the way and over the back and walk down the other side and through this long road back to the apartment. My companion is cleaning his ears with a plant in that picture. Haha.


   This is how I know what games are on every day! There are little chalkboards like this sitting around random places that tell you who is playing and what is going on. They pretty much only follow the EPL. and then Barca and Real Madrid. And any National team games. Speaking of which I should be getting a Sierra Leone Jersey today. So excited.

Well, everything here is good and I'm enjoying. I hope everyone is doing well back home. I'll talk to you all again next week. I love everyone and miss you all!

Love,

Elder Stuwy

P.S. Kelly Landry- Happy (belated) Birthday!
P.S.S. I'm shaving all my hair off today. Be excited for next week.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Juju Men, Bloody knuckles & Answered Prayers

Well, everything is going great as always!  Man, LDS temples are so sweet! One of the missionaries in our apartment/mansion, Elder Taylor, is from Wyoming and was freaking out because the temple they announced is like right near his house. Turns out people from Wyoming are really proud of being from Wyoming. Who knew?  Hahaha. He's a cool guy though. He and I always get in these super deep doctrine talks and look up all kinds of stuff in the scriptures. The Old Testament is so crazy. But it's so cool. I got the package from Grandma Semmerling so Grandma, thank you very, very much! I'm enjoying everything. especially the germx. Haha! And speaking of packages, Elder and Sister Patterson, thank you for the Mac & Cheese. I already ate some... Elder Pabie thought it looked gross. Haha but I loved it so thank you so much!

As far as the Krio goes- I'm learning a little bit more every day. I do pretty well with understanding it, but speaking it will still take some time. I try to talk to little kids because they don't make you feel bad when you mess it up. And they're stinking adorable. Haha. But the reason they don't teach it in the MTC is pretty interesting. I was talking with President Roggia and talking about how the Krio was going and he answered that very question. He said that what they really wanted instead of us learning to speak Krio was for the people to learn English. The reason being because everything in the Church for them will be in English- the scriptures, talks, hymns, etc. and we were called to an english speaking mission. I'm still going to learn Krio though, it makes buying things in the market a lot easier. Haha. Just an interesting answer to the question though. It makes sense.

I have to admit that I'm pretty sad I don't get to see any conference this week. I always kind of took it for granted. I'm glad I was able to go to some sessions last year though. How General Conference works here (at least as much as I understand, the explanation I got was pretty unsure too), is that we get sent a DVD with like one (maybe both?) of the Sunday sessions, and then we watch it in the branch this coming Sunday. We will get the Liahona which will have talks in it though. So I'll enjoy that. I always loved conference weekend though! Haha.

K story time. So Elder Pabie and I were riding on some motorbikes when I suddenly heard the sound of drums up ahead. I looked forward and saw a group of about 20 people dancing around walking down the street. They were stopped on this really narrow bridge that we had to cross. As we got right up to them it turned out they were "juju" men. Yeah that really exists. There were some guys called "debuls" (devils) in the middle with blood on their faces dancing around wearing these crazy looking bright colored clothes. We needed to pass by them but they were all stopping us not letting us pass. Don't worry they weren't being like violent or anything. More like annoying and in our way. The guy driving Elder Pabie's bike was really annoyed and kept trying to go through the crowd and some guy started dancing in front of their bike. It was pretty funny. After a couple minutes they let us through. Later we passed by that area and they were still there. Except now there was about 75 people and there were tons of people lining the sides of the street screaming out chants and stuff while some other guys were dancing and beating drums in the middle. We drove straight through them. The motorbike drivers don't have time for that stuff. Haha. I guess the Lord doesn't really either because suddenly they were all hit by lightning. Okay not really but that would have been pretty crazy.

K second story. I hand washed my clothes today and my knuckles bled.

K third story. During this past week there was this recent convert we were briefly meeting with and she said that she was struggling with her faith. We talked a little more and she said it was because the father of her kids wouldn't ever call her or talk and she didn't understand why she was going through this stuff when she was going to Church and doing everything right. Sadly, there's a lot of single moms here. We read her Ether 12:27 and told her to pray about it and that as long as she was sincere she would truly receive an answer. A couple of days later I went on exchanges with our Disrict Leader (Elder Wood, he's from Utah. He's super cool) and Elder Pabie went to our area with Elder Wood's companion Elder Essego (He's from Nigeria and was in the MTC with me, also very cool. He likes to steal the airflow of my fan though. Haha). Elder Pabie told me later that when they talked to that sister again she said she had received an answer to her prayer. After we had left she said she prayed about it and asked for strength with everything. Later she was laying down and her phone rang. It was the man and he said he had 300,000 leones for her and the kids. Elder Pabie said she had tears in her eyes when she said all of it. I was so happy! Sad I wasn't there, but man, so sweet. Prayer really works people.

Speaking of prayers, we've already given like 3 or 4 blessings. I really can't describe the faith of people here. They're so good! A week ago we also had FHE with a part member family. We came up with the plan for it and Mom and Dad I think you would be proud to know that I picked Love At Home for the opening song. Then I told them why I loved that hymn and how it was always annoying when my parents would start singing it when I would fight with my sisters. I guess I was talking too fast though because no one laughed. A lot of people don't get sarcasm here though. So that happens a lot. They just take me seriously. Haha. It was a sweet FHE though. That family is so so cool.

Anyway, time is running out but before I go- Clayton and Nielsens, I got your letters but won't have a chance to write back until next week! And Clayton, I especially think you would love Sierra Leone. Man, something about this place just screams Clayton Bridge would love it here. True story. Alright well, I'll explain the pictures and then talk to everyone again next week!

 That's where we live. Yup. It's huge. Well the right half of it is us. The left half is where a branch meets every Sunday for the time being.
 That's a snail. The snails here are HUGE. The one in the picture is a smaller one. I saw one the other day that would be a tiny bit smaller than a computer mouse. Crazy.
 There's actually a really funny story behind how that mouse got killed but it will have to wait until next time. Needless to say it was really annoying at night but we got it.
 These are adorable African children we taught. Some of them are the children of the lady in the story above actually. Those kids are awesome.
That's a squirrel. It didn't bite me. We were buying some stuff from this lady we know and this kid walked up holding it. He said he bought it for 4000 leones, so like a little less than 1 dollar. It was really obedient actually. It just hung out in your palm. I wanted one. Maybe when I come back after my mission. Haha.

This mission is sweet and I'm loving it here! I'm still trying to learn how to do everything without the help of Elder Pabie but it's coming along. Everyone keep sending letters and packages if you feel so inclined. I love getting them! I'll do my best to write back but we're super busy all the time! Well, I love and miss everyone!

Love,

Elder Hunty

Monday, September 26, 2011

Baptisms, Personal Chef & Rubber Boots




So life here is interesting as always!  The branch I'm in right now- the Kossoh Town branch, just split with another town called Grafton and right now they're in the process of figuring out leadership for the whole branch. So the missionaries are helping a lot. The crazy thing about the Church here is that the only people who are members that aren't converts are kids under the age of 5. The very vast majority of adults haven't been members for more than a couple of years. The growth here is so fast though! It's sweet. I'll say more on that in a bit. But for example the branch president has only been a member for 2 years. Talk about responsibility! He is a really really cool guy though. And he speaks good English which is nice. With all the new converts to the ward there are a lot of questions about little things of doctrine. I think I remember Dad telling a story about something similar to this on his mission, but like this past Sunday in Sunday school there was a big discussion about whether or not women can touch the sacrament trays to pass it down the row. I think in the end we straightened it out and they understood that it was not a problem in any way. But I"m not 100% sure because the whole conversation was in Krio and I still just get bits and pieces of conversation. I think Elder Pabie, my companion set it straight.

Anyway, back to the subject of fast growth, we had a baptismal service this weekend! Let's see, I've been out in my actual mission for how long? A week and a half? This weekend we had 5 baptisms. Yup. I baptized all the people (as you can see in the picture) and it was really cool! And before anyone asks, no none of them had crazy names that were hard to pronounce. On Sunday we split up the confirmations between people and I got to confirm one of them. It was really cool! So needless to say the Church is growing very fast in this area! We already have about 4 more people planned for baptism in the next couple of weeks. It's so crazy.

Before I go on anymore in this email though I just need to take a moment and thank everyone who has been sending me mail! Last Tuesday I got home from proselyting to see about 8 or 9 letters sitting on top of that package from Grandma. I think 4 of the letters were the ones that got sent to the MTC, but even those old ones were awesome to get! So all my friends back home I want you to know I'm getting your letters and I love all of you so much for it! And with that said I'm sorry to report that it will take a while to respond... We only write letters on Monday and even then we're super busy. Handwashing your clothes takes a good chunk of time by itself... But please feel free to keep sending them! You guys are awesome!

And Grandma/Pattersons thank you so much for the package, I've already eaten about half of the stuff in there! I was SO EXCITED to see normal food. Well, food I've known for the majority of my life. So yeah, food here is pretty much rice with some kind of leaf on it. and not like picked off a tree and dropped on top. like smashed up into this kind of paste goo. It's not too bad actually. But I'm not gonna lie, eating rice every single day for every meal makes you get sick of rice very fast. I'm very blessed to have gotten the companion I got though. He loves to cook. So much that when I tried to cook spaghetti for him he told me he didn't feel comfortable having a grown man cook for him and cooked it for us himself. I have no problems with it. Haha. So yeah, he cooks pretty much every breakfast and night and shares his food with me. I'm so lucky. He's also really good at getting people we teach to cook for us so we usually get offered one or two meals throughout the day. It's pretty nice. Sometimes we have even have problems with too many people cooking for us in a day. We get so full. Haha.

So to answer your questions quickly- no we don't have any running water. Everything is rainwater that we get out of buckets we have set outside. We only have electricity for a few hours every night because we have a generator, but that turns off at lights out every night. We do have toliets. To flush them you take a bucket of water and just pour it in. Manual flush. Haha. We do have a refrigerator, it just only is turned on when the generator is on. So that's when things get charged- which reminds me that adapter Dad sent is perfect. We have a gas stove that we hook up to a propane tank. The heat isn't too awful right now, but yeah it's just because it's rainy season. It's probably somewhere in the 80s most of the time. No idea though. They say March is the hottest month.

Well, I'm just about out of time so I better wrap this up! An idea came to me- I don't know how often Google comes into our area but if you go on google maps and look up Kossoh Town, Jui Junction, Allentown, Kobba Farm, Cashe Farm, and Grafton, you can maybe do a street view and see what my area looks like! All of those towns are within Freetown so maybe you can see them? Anyway, I miss and love you all!

Love,

Elder Hunty

ps- you'll notice that Elder Pabie and I have rubber boots on. The roads in our area get so crazy muddy that it's the only way to keep our feet dry! Also for some reason I look really dorky in the picture on the mountain. Just ignore that and enjoy the sweet view.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Finally, some mail!, Rainwater baths, and Motorbikes

Yeah so, things have been CRAZY in the past week. I feel like I haven't written to anyone in so long because so much has happened. On Tuesday morning I had to wake up nice and early so we could get in the vans and head to the airport. We got there nice and early, got on our planes and headed out. Because there were so many missionaries going to our mission the people going to Liberia flew straight there instead of going to Freetown. So 13 of us got on a plane to Freetown and headed over. The flight was fine.  We landed in Freetown and the airport there was absolutely INSANE. People were everywhere. They told us at the MTC to be sure not to let anyone take your luggage, even if they said they were trying to help, stay in a group, and wear our backpacks on the front so people wouldn't try to steal stuff out of them. So naturally when I was fighting in the big crowd around baggage claim this man kept saying he would help me over and over again and I had to tell him no over and over again. It was obnoxious. Then we had to book it out of the sweatfest and met the President and the Assistants outside the airport. We took a quick picture and loaded up in the van.

We took the water taxi across the bay and drove up to the mission home. We had a nice dinner (the last one for the next two years) that Sister Roggia cooked, and then headed to the Assistants apartment to spend the night. Their apartment was so nice. They had running water and washing machines! Man I'm never taking that stuff for granted ever again. They had electricity but it got shut off around 10 because someone forgot to pay their bills. It was great. The next morning we had orientation all day. I have to say though it was very nice when I walked into the mission office and saw letters for me! By the way I never got any letters at the MTC so hopefully they'll forward everything to the mission. The letters I got were from Dear Elder and it looks like they were ones that were sent on the 26th or 27th. So if anyone has sent any after that I haven't gotten them yet. But for those people whose letters I got, keep your eyes out on the mail because I wrote back!

The way the mail works is pretty ridiculous. Basically anything sent to me will go to the mission office. The way I get that stuff is if I go by the mission office (which never happens since I'm not a district or zone leader and we're really far away from it) or if someone is going to our area they will bring it with them. So if I ever go to Liberia I'll never get any mail. Ha. If you send me any packages be sure to put lots of Jesus stickers on it. No joke. Anyway, that same day we had orientations we also met our new companions! My companion is Elder Pabie. He's from Liberia and he's great! He likes to joke around with the people we teach but he also knows when to be serious about things. He has about 4 months left on his mission so he's an old man.

I'm currently in the Kossoh Town Area in the Grafton District. After we spent the day in orientation we drove out to our various apartments with our new companions. The elders here call my apartment "the Grafton Mansion." And rightly so. The place is really big and has a big courtyard area. However that doesn't mean it has electricity or running water. Have you ever taken a bath using solely rain water? Because I have. We get all our water from the rain. We have buckets and big drums outside to catch everything. Anytime you need water for something, like to bathe, you go fill a bucket with rain water and bring it inside. When you bathe you take a cup of water and pour it over your head. It's freezing. Then you put soap and shampoo on and pour another freezing cup of water on your head. A hot shower sounds pretty incredible right about now.

Since there's no street lights here we usually come in around 6:30 or 7. Our area is really far away from the apartment so we have to take motorbikes to it. I'm not gonna lie, it's pretty sweet. The roads here are all covered in dirt and there's huge potholes everywhere so the motorbikes are good for weaving around everything. I'll try and sneak a video on the back of one someday. But yeah I'm going to say it, I miss the roads in Louisiana. The country itself is absolutely beautiful. Seriously, part of our area involved walking up this huge mountain and the view was stinking awesome. I of course took pictures. It's sad that the people here are so poor because the countryside is so gorgeous. Right on the coast with huge green mountains. So sweet.

The people here are so nice and friendly but so so poor. I've never seen so much poverty anywhere, even in movies and stuff. This one lady we were teaching lived in a one room house with about 5 kids. It's so crazy. One lady we taught had a room full of sand. I don't really know what that's about. You see kids in the street running around naked. It's pretty sad. The kids all really like me. When I walk by I always hear these little voices going "Oputoh! Ohputoh!" Which means "White man! White man!" I usually wave and smile at them. Some of them run up and feel my skin. They're so stinking cute. Seriously... Krio is like 95% a completely foreign language. I'm getting the hang of it though! I can understand it okay now. The people can't understand like anything I say though. I have to talk super slow. It makes teaching pretty sad. I extended an invitation to be baptized and the lady turned to my companion and said "what did he say?" She eventually said yes but I was like dang it! Haha. It'll be fine though. no worries. Stuff here is pretty cheap. 1,000 leones is roughly 25 cents we got about 8 good sized potatoes for 2000 le.

 Anyway I'm running out of time so I need to go. Mom don't worry, I'm eating just fine with my companion cooking for me (I'm learning) and he really does look out for me a lot. Grandma I'm taking my pill every day and sleeping under my mosquito net. So don't worry! I love you all and miss you lots! I'll talk to you soon!

Love,
Elder Hunty