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!

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!

Elder Stewart

 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!

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!

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.