As we compose this weekly message, it is appropriate to point out that tomorrow is Canadian Thanksgiving. Yes, they also have a harvest festival / thanksgiving holiday north of the 49th parallel, but the harvest (and winter) come early. The Pilgrims weren’t actually US citizens - rather another group of undocumented immigrants.
We are especially grateful today that hurricane Matthew stayed just far enough away from Jacksonville to keep loss of life at a minimum and the damage much less than it could have been. Loss of (tree) limbs is another story, but those can be cleaned up and regrown. #103 Marina San Pablo was unaffected. The homes of some friends were spared but others had water damage. Our ward chapel was boarded up for the storm and everyone is out today for cleanup and service. (Kind of gives a new meaning to “church services”.) We send our love to those who were not so fortunate to avoid damage and wish we were there helping. Prayers don’t seem adequate but are all we can do from Africa.
Last weekend was General Conference and we were able to watch it all live except for the Priesthood and Women’s sessions—a great spiritual feast to be digested over the next six months! Elder Nash, who gave the closing prayer Saturday morning lives 1/4 block away and is a marvelous man. We were grateful that the Africa West Area was represented by him and talked about by Elder Curtis in priesthood meeting.
Today we had dinner and a visit with the Findlays, from Kelowna. We learned last spring when we first met , that Elder Findlay is a nephew of Sue’s dear step mother Zona They serve as Welfare Services missionaries and have been doing missions for about 22 years. We would like to be like them when we grow up! They coordinate the wheelchair programs in W. Africa and are here to train local providers who will distribute the chairs. They also brought us a care package of fresh cranberries, chopped pecans, crunchy peanut butter, pepperoni and salami for our home-made pizza, and some corn & flour tortillas. Mexican food is just not available here other than home-made.
We met another missionary couple at the temple when they came with their local church group. They are serving in a Member/Leader Support assignment in Ghana about 15 hours away by road, in the north. Pretty isolated! It is about 10 degrees hotter there and drier than in Accra.Their experience is very different from ours - they shared photos of helping their branch sisters during a soap-making project [the soap will be sold] and making foofoo for the temple trip. Foofoo is a staple here made mostly of cassava and plantain flour. She reminded me a great deal of Fern [such a compliment for anyone] in her speech and cadence and looked like a mature Rhonda. It was really fun to spend the evening with them and exchange emails.
Perhaps you had the lesson on commitment from the Howard W Hunter manual today. I need to share two comments that were made during RS. A member of our ward commented that she and her family sacrifice to come to church every Sunday. They use the money that they would use to buy food to provide their transportation to the meetings. A visitor from Sierra Leone mentioned that during the civil war they were very careful to sneak into the church to partake of the sacrament—they were afraid what the rebels would do to them if they were caught.
Our visitors at the temple this past week were from Liberia and a northern district in Sierra Leone. One woman spoke only her tribal language — the other was to be her translator. I was blessed to participate in some of their ordinances and have my own testimony of speaking in tongues and what that might refer to. Another woman from the same district had planned for months to come last week and be sealed to her husband and her daughter. He died of a heart attack 4 weeks ago so the ordinances were done with a proxy. Some of the people in this district were told by their Branch President to buy only the necessary clothes for the temple because they would probably never have the opportunity to attend again. One of the husbands asked me if it were appropriate to wash them because they were sacred. I assured him that washing them was essential.