Monday, August 25, 2014

Pics from Salone

I just wanted to post some pictures that Elder Ray has sent to us in the last few weeks.  They are all from Sierra Leone.  His heart is still in Africa but he is working hard nevertheless.
A toothless alligator in Bo

A baby eating their pamphlets

Elder Ray working in the boat yard


Congo Cross District


Motorcycle ride

He doesn't play the piano so I'm not sure what he's doing

This is how the rains fall in Africa

Overlooking his kingdom??

Checking out the bay

View from their apartment in Freetown

Stranger in a Strange Land - August 25, 2014

Title comes from Exodus 2 when Moses has escaped from Egypt to Jethro’s ranch house/tent and is thinking things over( which must have been some time cause he gets married and has a kid in that time.) Well as I studied in there I just imagined “Prince of Egypt” in my mind, though this is also an Iron Maiden song. Anyways it’s kinda how I have felt these past two weeks.
    Bad first, coming from a life where I lived very conservatively (not talking about politics) but very conscious about what I was doing with my resources; food, water, money, etc. Coming back to a country of capitalism and materialism is rather difficult and I find myself biting my tongue as I want to say something against the over the top life styles I see. It may be Cali, but even other missionaries, not all, some...have been a bother too. The way they talk about Africa or their problems (1st world problems I say cause it’s really not a problem to me.) But judge not least ye be judged right?
   In our super busy days we drive around in our car mostly visiting less actives and a few recent converts. Lots of less actives who don't like us or the Church, some who don't like the Church but like us, and then a few that want us to water their plants and feed their cats while they are gone. Can I really compare this to Africa? haha Now I really enjoy meeting new people here, California has some pretty interesting characters running around, I thought I'd seen the best in Africa, no SoCal has its own. I hear everything from JFK conspiracy theories to learning how to play the guitar in these visits. Some of these members have a desire to return or become more zealous in their living and we do our best with them, others not so much.
   Now we do have some great recent converts to meet with and a handful of honest investigators. Unlike Africa though I don't meet with them every other day, I have to schedule appointments and meet them then. We have helped do service to members throughout the week, like a garden we went to weed for one women (turned out to be half her lawn to be weeded.) No problem the 4 other elders in my apartment keep busy with service and helping the members. We went to a funeral on Saturday at our chapel, a member I had met once sudden passed the week before. Most of his family are not members or less actives came and were really pleased with the churches help. One of the deceased brothers asked Bishop about some tribute music he wanted to play. So in the gym when we ate lunch suddenly “Stairway to Heaven” started playing though the chapels sound system, guess he liked Led Zep, some thought it was inappropriate at the chapel....I didn't complain though.
    It takes a little getting used to being in America again, but one day at time I'm getting back into it. I love the chance I have to be in my 5th mission with a 5th mission president, 3rd continent, 3rd country, 2nd state and first time on the Pacific coast.

   Until next week,
    Elder Ray

Elder Ray with the Bishop's kids and a BIG lemon!!

Look who he found!!! Elder Mackey is from Elder Ray's hometown!!!

Elder Ray is bound and determined to have a garden - he had to leave his behind in Sierra Leone.  He informed me that this is an ornamental thai pepper plant and it is already flowering!! It's the little things that make him happy!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Leaving on a Jet Plane.....August 12, 2014

 (Written by Elder Ray's mom)

Hmmmm I'm not really sure where to start because so much had happened since Aug. 1.
We were told to just keep everything quiet but now that all missionaries are out of Sierra Leone and Liberia and in their new missions it is safe to talk about how it all happened and how in the world the Church relocated 274 missionaries!!
As you have read in Elder Ray's letters Ebola has been happening for a few months and thanks to our leaders who recognized the seriousness of the virus.  The mission had placed restrictions and rules on the missionaries for the last 3-4 months (no shaking hands, no blessing of sick, no entering homes w/sick people, only eating food they had prepared,having a month of food,etc).  I believe the Church was ahead of everyone including medical personnel. 
On Thursday, July 31 all missionaries got a call telling them they needed to remain in their apartments - they could not leave their apartments at all.  Then on Sunday, Aug 3 all missionaries from the entire mission gathered at the mission home in Freetown.  While they gathered they were all given their new mission assignments and were told they could take 1 carry-on and only 1 large suitcase.  The missionaries were then sent in groups.  Elder Ray was in the 1st group of about 60 missionaries.  In order to get to the airport a ferry must be ridden to Lungi.  It is about a 30 minute boat ride and of course there was a nice storm on the sea:
Relaxing on the ferry ride

Ridin' out the storm

After reaching the airport the flight was not ready for the missionaries so they waited at the airport hotel for 2 days while the Church found a flight they could charter to get the missionaries out.  They were finally able to board the chartered flight (a company that specializes in getting people out of "hot spots") and there they flew to Lisbon, Portugal.  Elder Ray and his group stayed overnight in Portugal and then flew to Paris, France where he then flew non-stop to Salt Lake City!!!! Yes, he was in SLC and we didn't even know except for the random pictures that kept appearing in our email (E.Ray has a wi-fi camera and so when he has wi-fi he can send pictures so every so often a pic would pop into our email) - from SLC he flew to Irvine, California!!! He arrived on Wednesday evening and the mission president was gracious enough to let him use his cell phone and all the elders that arrived called from the airport :)  After 5 days of traveling and thousands of miles Elder Ray, along with 2 other missionaries, had arrived to finish his mission in the California, Irvine Mission.  Somewhere along the way his luggage was missing and he literally only had the clothes on his back but he was SAFE!!!
We were able to speak to him on Thursday night after he had a day to recover.  He was in good spirits. the mission president had taken him to get a few slacks, shirts, socks, garments, etc until his luggage could be found.  The only thing that had upset him was in the chaos of everyone at the Sierra Leone mission home his scriptures had been taken/lost - he didn't care about his luggage so much as his scriptures - they had made it with him throughout all his travels and mission changes -through all the ups and downs of a mission.
He is now with another missionary who had been evacuated from Ukraine in May and a brand new missionary just out of the MTC - so he is training again!!!  They are in Newport Beach and to say it is quite a change from West Africa is an understatement!!!  He is sad to leave the African people and has come to love them so much but is excited for the new challenges that this new mission brings.
This is really just a small part of the adventure of Elder Ray and I am sure there is much that has not been told.  We ask that you continue to pray for the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia, that a cure can be found and that Ebola will be eliminated.  The West African people are humble and love the Lord - the members of the Church depend on the missionaries and this removal of the missionaries will be very hard but they will persevere and become stronger.

Elder Ray loving American cars!  Also the church helped him get a new suit and shoes and a member of the stake graciously donated a new scripture quad for him!!  I love how generous members can be for the missionaries and others!!

Companion planning at their apartment.  Elder Ray says he is cold even though everyone else is saying it is really HOT!  I think Utah is going to be downright arctic when he gets home!

While they waited for their clothes to finish washing and drying Sis. Orgil made the new missionaries a delicious American dinner of roast beef and all the trimmings.  Elder Ray is wearing Pres. Orgil's track suit since he had nothing else to wear while his clothes washed :)

After a shower and clean clothes!

This is the missionaries just after they had arrived from the airport to the mission home.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mission Transfer - Aug 5, 2014

This is the official release regarding the evacuation of all the missionaries in Sierra Leone and Liberia:
  Missionaries Serving in Two
African Nations are Reassigned

Salt Lake City — August 1, 2014Due to the outbreak of illness related to the Ebola virus, as a precautionary measure, all missionaries serving in the African nations of Sierra Leone and Liberia are in the process of being transferred out of these countries and reassigned to other missions. Ensuring the health and safety of our missionaries is our top priority. In recent weeks measures have been taken to reduce risk to missionaries, including asking them to remain in their apartments. To date, there are no reports of illness among the missionaries. Families are being notified as the missionaries arrive in their new assignments. This is a very challenging situation for the missionaries, members and citizens of these countries, and like other organizations, we are taking every practical step to reduce risk.

***Some interesting information is that there are 274 total missionaries in Sierra Leone and Liberia.  Of those, 157 are from other African Nations, and 117 are from outside Africa, mostly the United States and Canada.  There are 13,078 members of the church and 30 congregations in Sierra Leone with the first approved church meeting in 1988.  Liberia has 8,081 members and 22 congregations with the first formal branches starting in the early 1980's. 

The news of the evacuation was released on Friday Aug 1 so needless to say it was a bit of a stressful weekend.  On Monday morning I opened my email to find some pictures (no message just pics!) from Taylor's camera.  About a year ago we sent him a camera with wi fi capabilities that could upload pictures if he was ever near wi fi - he didn't like to plug his sd card into the computers at the internet cafes because of viruses.  Apparently he was near wi fi on Monday  :)
We still do not have any official confirmation of where he is but because of some of the pictures we can kind of piece together where he might be.
In order to fly out of Sierra Leone you must take a ferry to the airport and some of the pictures are of missionaries in life vests on a ferry so I am guessing that they were on their way to the airport-this is encouraging. 
Thank you everyone for you love, support, and prayers on behalf of Taylor, the missionaries, Church leaders and most of all the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia.  We will continue to keep you updated when we do!  The mission president said it might be several days before we hear from our missionary and with 274 missionaries to transfer I imagine it is quite a daunting task!

Elder A and Elder Ray

Saying Adieu to Elder L