Monday, February 27, 2012

City Living, Cooking Companion & The Power of Prayer

Hello family,

Well, my world has changed quite a bit in the past week! Yes, I am indeed serving in the city now. It's very different from my last area. It's cool though. My area is called Hill Station (I think I said that last week) and I think it's where all the rich people live. Well, half of it. One half has all these ENORMOUS houses, and the other half is a bunch of small metal houses all crammed together on the mountainside. The U.S. Embassay is in my area and there's a member family that works there. So we have a white family in our branch. It was pretty weird seeing this little happy American Mormon family walking into Church on Sunday. Also, in our area is St. Mary's, the most legit supermarket in the whole mission. Seriously. I felt sooooo uncomfortable the first time I went in there. Like I hate feeling like I'm some rich guy who can shop in supermarkets when so many other people have to buy their stuff off market stands on the side of the road. Maybe one day I'll get used to it. It was weird because there were so many white people there. Man I see white people all the time now. Before I was like the only white guy in the whole village. Now those people are everywhere. It's strange. To describe kind of what it looks like, the area we are in is at the top of the mountains on the coast overlooking the city of Freetown. Sometime this week I'll try and take a picture so you can see. You can see big ships coming into the coast and you can see like the whole city in the place. It's pretty cool. Freetown is crazy CROWDED though. Man, so many people are in this small place. It's pretty different from my last area. So that's that. The people in the area are amazing though. We have met so many new people and we have been able to teach a lot of people in just the short time I've been here. The cool thing is that the look of the area is very different, but the gospel and the work are the same. And in case you're wondering, yes, I did notice how crazy fast the time has gone by. Which scares me because I feel like I just got here!

So my new companion is stinking awesome. He cooks!!!!! And he loves the gospel like nothing. He's been out for 3 months now but I swear he's passed a year. He's a really cool guy and I'm really looking forward to getting to serve with him. He's great! I've been eating a lot more and stuff so now I'm going to be super fat. Can't wait for that.

Mom, please. Please, please, please do that weird raw chicken dancing thing for the talent show. It blew my mind even when I would just look at that strange picture. Man. So.... weird. Oh and yes, I will get mail like as soon as it gets to the mission. So that'll be different.

Everything has been going really well in the mission. The guys living in the apartment are really cool and we've been able to meet lots of new people in this past week. Even today we were teaching this one guy who I guess must be a pastor or something in his church. He kept trying to argue with us about all kinds of stuff and try to scripture bash with us, but we were able to answer his questions and concerns. The best way to describe this man was that he had an open mind but a hardened heart. It's like he wants to listen to everything we're saying, but he doesn't want to pray and try things for himself. We never try to convince anyone of anything. We could open scriptures all day and contend with people about how this church is the true church, but the thing is that that won't make the difference. I can't remember where but somewhere in Luke (I think) someone is talking about seeing miracles and signs as their witness of Jesus being the Son of God, but Jesus basically tells him that a sign or miracle will never convince a person of the truth. It's only someone who prays and finds the answer for themselves. I mean in the Book of Mormon, think about Laman and Lemuel. They saw angels but still they apostasized and left their generations to kill and fight. But never once did they pray and ask for the truthfulness of anything. They prayed for forgiveness, but never to know the truth. Anyway, there's definitely power in prayer. There's a lot of things I'm learning here, and as I feel like I always say, there's nooooooooo way I'd rather be anywhere else right now. The one thing I do seem to be failing to learn though is to cook. Man that's depressing. I'll get around to it... haha.

Anyway, I'm glad everyone is doing well. That picture of Sav totally loaded. Feel free to attach pictures anytime! Just try to make them smaller if you can. Big ones can take a long time to load. I love you and miss you all. Talk to you next week!

Elder Stewart

 Hill Station will have it's very own chapel in about 10 months! So this is what the chapel looks like so far. Haha.

 My new companion Elder Asiedu! He's really tall.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A New Area & A Visit from An Apostle

Hello family!

Everything is going well in Africa! So this was a very very exciting week! I feel so special that you used those pictures in Camp Esther. Sounds like the camp went really well. I hope Mardi Gras isn't/wasn't too crazy this year. Also, I already emailed Dad, but once again, GOOD WORK. And finally! Haha, that PhD was ready to be completed.

Okay, so now I'll get to the exciting news. First of all, meeting Elder Holland was the sweetest thing ever. But before I get all spiritual and stuff, I have some other exciting news- I've been transferred! Yup, we got transfer news a week early and they already moved me to my new area. I'm sitting next to my new companion right now. I arrived to my new area about an hour ago. So today has been a pretty exciting day. So now I am serving in the Hill Station area in the Freetown West Zone. I'm actually living in the same compound as the mission office. So before I was super far on the edge of Freetown proselyting in the bush, and from what I've seen so far, I'm very much in the city. We'll see though. I haven't technically seen my area yet. But right now we're like in the downtown area and there are big buildings and cars and people everywhere. After being in Kossoh Town for so long I feel like a country boy who has come to the big city for the first time. I'm not going to lie, it was pretty overwhelming to see tall tall buildings. I'll see what the area really looks like tomorrow. My new companion's name is Elder Aseidu and he's from Ghana! He seems like a very good Elder and he seems very excited about missionary work. He's three months on mission so he just finished his training. I think the two of us are going to have a lot of good experiences together.

Anyway, so yes- last Friday we got to meet Elder Holland, Elder Snow, Elder Dickson, Elder Curtis (again) and all of their wives. The other three are all in the first quorum of the Seventy (Luke 10:1). We got to shake all of their hands and talk with them personally for a brief moment. I'm sure that Sister Roggia has a picture of all of us on the mission blog (save that picture for me!). After, we went and got to hear from all of them. Most of them gave small thoughts, which were all very very good and incredibly encouraging. Then Elder Holland spoke to us. He said one thing that I liked very much. He said that the process they go through to find the General Authorities of the church is very precise. They seek out members from every single branch and ward around the world, see if they are doing everything they can to come closer to Christ, see if they are truly wanting to do all things that are right, and after they've picked out that handful of people they call their husbands to do the work. Haha, it was pretty funny. He also said that he's so old he's got one foot in the grave and the other one on a banana peel. Most of what he talked about had everything to do with the joys that come from serving a mission. He was incredibly personal with us and shared a lot of his own experiences. He also didn't speak from the pulpit, he came down and walked around. That was kind of cool. I was sitting like right in the front so he was like right in my face the whole time. One thing he shared with us was that when he was in college he had just been called to be the basketball captain, and he was also running for the student body president. He said he thought that if he had won the election, he thinks he would have chosen not to serve a mission, and that absolutely TERRIFIED him. He said that serving a mission was without a doubt the greatest decision he had ever made. He expressed that without it he would have never been the person he was today. One thing I really loved that he said was that if we can't do something on the mission field, we will NEVER be able to do it in real life. If we can't wake up in time here, we can never wake up in time there. If we can't say our personal prayers here, we'll never say them there. They called the mission field the MTC for the rest of our lives. I can tell you that he's absolutely right. There are so many things that I'm learning here that I know I could never learn anywhere else. There are so many experiences that I would never have if I would have never decided to come. As he spoke to us he had tears in his eyes, and he expressed the great love that he had for all of us. He told us that we had been called to a truly real mission, and that everything that he had worked for in his life was dependent on what we decided to do with our time here on earth. He told us that we should never turn away from Christ, we should never forget the promises and covenants that we had made, and we should always be doing everything in our power to put God first; here in the mission field and in our lives after. There are so many things that he said that truly came through to me that I'll fail to mention. Everything he said was so true though. This place is definitely a very special place, and I feel very lucky and blessed to have been called to serve in this mission. I know that there is not a single other place on the planet that I would rather be right now, and that everything I'm learning here are things that are going to affect me for the rest of my life. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that without him we've got no chance! So I'm very thankful for that. It's all true.

The next Sunday we got to see him again as well as the rest of the country. Tons of people turned up and it was a very wonderful thing to see. I would say more but I am out of time! I will talk to you all next week though! I love and miss you all!

Elder Stewart

PS- Aunt Jen and Jessica Graff- Happy Birthday! (Aunt Jen I'm sorry I'm late! And yes I got the pictures that Addison and Carter drew! They were stinking awesome.)
 Most of the missionaries from my MTC! This is all of us at 6 months except for the other 8 that are currently in Liberia. It was super good to see them all again.
Just look at that shirt.
 Children here get really excited when they see a camera.

 A lady we baptized!
 Some children we were teaching, some of them were also baptized!
 Part of my favorite family ever.

All the people at the conference center to see Elder Holland
 The sweetest little baby ever and his mom.
 He has big eyes.
 Because both of our companions had their companions, Elder Taylor and I were companions for a night. So we slept outside on the cement. It was very comfortable. Nope.

 Missionaries! My old district and some of another district and some other people.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Excited Children, More Baptisms & "Football"

Hello people,

Well, everything is going well here, as always. I'm glad that no one is dead or injured. Except well, Savannah was sick. But I feel like she's sick at least every month. So I'm not too concerned. Sorry yeah?

Crazy to hear that Alexander is leaving now as well. I think I might have asked this already but what MTC is he going to? Is he going to the South Africa one? Continue to keep me updated on everything back on the home front.

This week was pretty interesting. Another big thing of the week was, baptism! Yeah, we had 5 more people baptized this past week and they are all pretty special people. Transfer news comes in a couple weeks so it'll be exciting to once again have some changes. I don't foresee myself going anywhere. Here are the pictures for the week:

Every Monday the two elders in Waterloo go there and have a Family Home Evening with a big group of people there. The church is not yet in this place so we're trying to get people excited about the gospel out there. As you can see, the children were very excited. Or maybe it was just because we had a camera. Either way it's all pretty exciting and it's pretty cool to be a missionary in a place where the church has never even been.

The baptism this past week! It was a nice service and everyone showed up to be confirmed the next day. The man we baptized was super cool because he overcame a major smoking addiction to see this day. There's so many miracles that happen in our life that people don't even notice.

 Right after finishing the baptism we noticed something laying on a nearby rock. Turns out it was a nice snake. Luckily it was dead already. I don't know how it died but it was pretty exciting to once again be reverted to my roots in good ole Louisiana.

 This morning we had a sweet football game again so here are some nice pictures. Woooooo.

Everything is going well and nothing too too crazy has happened. I hope you all have an awesome week!

Elder Stewart

PS- All you people who buy Toms and pay a ridiculous amount of money for them I want you to know I haven't seen a single pair on any tiny little African feet. So, take that how you want.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Answers to Random Questions & Lots of Sweet Pictures


Hello again. Sounds like everything is going well back home. I don't have tons of time but I do have tons of pictures! Today we're going to help Elder Walker and Elder Inyang do a big Family Home Evening in a place where the church is yet to be. It'll be sweet. So I'll respond to your questions and then talk about the pictures.

Nothing crazy in testimony meeting. We usually have a constant line of people going up. This past one was actually super spiritual and sweet. We got a less active guy to come back to church and he bore his testimony about how he knew the church was true. It was really humbling. Elder Holland is coming on February 17,18, and 19. I think we're going to two of those days. One is only for missionaries and the other is for the public. The third day is for branch presidents and stuff. I've used very small moleskin, for the most part I don't have any blisters or anything. I've gotten used to all the walking we do. Haha. I can't believe I ever complained about walking to church from our house. It's SO CLOSE. We're very blessed. Haha. There actually is something very similar to Mardi Gras here. Except it's like the rated R version. Just look up what "debuls" are. What they wear reminds me a lot of people at Mardi Gras. We'll leave it at that. Nothing close to King Cake. People here don't like sweets very much.

We had a great week this week and I took lots of sweet pictures.
 Baptism! We combined with the Grafton Elders and had a very nice baptism.

We bought more jerseys and look like super hardcore Barca players... I might have bought 7 jerseys since I've been here... I feel like Lexi Hayob
 AC Milan... I'm actually a little embarrassed to be sending these home now. I promise we do missionary work.

 Seriously... we really do missionary work... it's not all about football.

 Exchange with Elder Taylor! As you can tell by the obnoxiously bright tie. Some of their investigators pulled that out of the river we do baptisms in. Pretty sweet.

 Another nice little snake picture.

 Sweet view. The smoke is from people burning trash.

 This monkey is name Shekul and he likes to eat mints. I want a pet monkey so bad. Man. It was the best experience of my life.

 He also likes to toilet when he gets nervous, as you can see by the pee and poo included in this picture.

 This little girl carries our clothes to a member's house to get them washed. I handwash certain clothes but not all. That would take way too long. So the member sends this girl to pick them up. As you can see the bag is twice the size of her. Ahaha.

And finally they walk away. We always pray they don't get robbed. That would be pretty unfortunate. That's right outside our compound.

Anyway, I hope everything is going well at home! Everything is going great here and I'm of course loving everything that happens. I'll talk to you all again next week!

Elder Stewart