My COVID Test was POSITIVE!

I have one thing to say.  I am GRATEFUL.

Last week after the expedition left us (Sunday evening) we learned that Judy was sick when she got home on Tuesday with a bad cold:  runny nose, fever, cold symptoms.  Thursday she tested positive for COVID.

For about a week, I’d also been having  symptoms of a head cold, with a mild headache and some sinus pressure and a stuffy nose.  I was taking cold meds.  By the time I learned about Judy’s positive test, my sense of taste was gone.  That’s when I started thinking twice about it.  Could it be possible that I also had COVID??

On Friday 29 January, after a week of cold symptoms, John administered a rapid-response COVID test.  We had some of these tests give to us by the expert malaria doctor at the University of Bamako.

That wand was rammed into my nostril, all the way to my brains and twirled for 15 seconds.  Then John put it in the vile with a solution and shook it vigorously for a few minutes.  Then 3 drops of that solution were put on the tester below.  The first line is the control line.  The second line is the test line.  If both lines show up, the test is Positive.

Today is day #10 since my first symptoms appeared.  I haven’t left the apartment since taking the COVID test last week.  They say after 10 days, you are no longer contagious.  I hope that’s true so we can get back to work.  John hasn’t had any symptoms–he’s feeling fine.

I’ve spent the last week feeling tired, but not uncomfortable.  My taster is still out of order, but I can smell.  The cold symptoms never got bad.  I had 2 days with a bit of a wheezy cough, but it went away.  All in all, this has not been bad at all, and I consider that a huge blessing of protection and love.  I know that many do not fare as well with this virus.   I know Heavenly Father watches over his missionaries and I am Grateful.  So Very Grateful.

Here are the stats for COVID here this week:
Ivory Coast cases: 27,096 Deaths: 146
Mali cases: 8,006 Deaths: 327

Posted in Ann Lewis | 2 Comments

“To leave the world a bit better. . . .”

This week we visited an IDP Camp (Internally Displaced Persons, or refugees) just not far from Ouelessebougou main town.  After our visit, John recorded our experience as follows:

Djiba, Ann, Roger and I piled into Madi’s sedan and drove to the first settlement site, not too far off the main road to Bougouni. We drove past the chicken farm owned by the Imam who generously helped these people with food and water when they first arrived. He willingly gave as much as he could but could only do so much. The refugee community was not far beyond his chicken farm.

We learned of this settlement thanks to Djiba’s keen observation as he drove along the main road one day and noticed a small settlement where there hadn’t been one before. So on the way back, he drove in and talked to this Imam chicken farmer who was his friend and he learned of their situation. Djiba told Anounou and they all came out to check things out. OA ended up donating about 30 bags of millet, enough for each family to eat for 3-4 weeks.

We were greeted by a small group of men, women, and children who were expecting us. They escorted us over to an area where the group was gathered to talk with us. Djiba introduced us, explained why we were wearing masks, and then we asked questions to better understand their situation.

• This settlement on the north side of the village of Sousounkoro was the first place occupied by refugees from the Mopti region of north-central Mali, a town called Bandiagara. They are Dogon people. The first had come down about three years ago and chose this location because there was another Dogon person who lived in the village and told them they would be welcome.

• The village chief was willing to let them stay temporarily. As in other refugee settlements we’ve encountered, the village elders observe the newcomers to see if they will be a positive addition to the community. This “testing” lasts up to five years. If they behave themselves, they may be allowed to buy the land where they have settled.

• This community now consists of 12 families, about 90 people. The vast majority have come in the last year, generally fleeing for their lives. We were told of one woman who was forced to watch the throats be slashed of her husband and two sons. She came down here but has since wandered off. They fear she has lost her mind. They fully expect that more of their people will come. They hope to stay here forever and are working hard to prove themselves. Most of the men leave early in the morning for Ouelessebougou to try and find any manual labor jobs they can to earn a little money.

• They shared with us their challenges, none of which were surprising. No clean water close at hand, no farmland to grow food, no school or clinic or mosque, no job opportunities for the men or women. We thanked them for sharing and explained that we were doing a quick visit today because we had to leave for Bamako, but another team would come tomorrow and take a more detailed look at things.

• They were happy to have us walk through the settlement to inspect their living situation. They are clearly very industrious and had built good mud-brick houses, latrines, and ovens. Things were well kept. Just off the edge of the open area where we were seated was their mosque—a plot of dirt that was outlined with 12-inch diameter rocks.

We looked at the crude well they had dug by hand that wasn’t very deep and therefore not very productive. Gratefully, a local group had come out, covered the well for safey, and poured a cement perimeter. We watched the young boys make mud bricks. We saw the bandaged mid-section of a young teenager who had had some sort of GI surgery at the Ouelessebougou hospital but couldn’t afford to stay there. Up north, he had had to hide in the bush for weeks to avoid capture like his brother and had suffered great physical trauma. His follow-up appt is tomorrow but they don’t have the money to pay for it.

• There was no pleading or begging or other histrionics. It was a serious-minded group of people trying to map out a new life for themselves in a strange new area. They wanted us to understand their situation and hoped we could find ways to help. But they seemed to understand that it would be a process that took time. They had been treated kindly by the village chief and villagers and OA had offered generous help with millet when they needed it most. They were willing to be patient. And grateful.

It took us about 10 minutes to drive to the second settlement site, on the south side of Sounsounkoro. We went back onto the main road, then turned west toward Tinkele, Neneko and Selingue. After a bit, we turned south onto a short dirt road and found our second group of Dogon friends. The situation here is much the same as the first site, except they are a smaller group: 10 families with a total of 50 people. And they were granted some farmland use about four miles away. They haven’t farmed it yet. Plus, they are very close to Sousounkoro so they have easy access to schools, the mosque, and a midwife. These refugees have all come within the last year, along with the others in the first settlement. The chief divided them up because the north site was full. They also dug a well by hand, but there was no cement perimeter or safety cover. It was also shallow and polluted. No one is very old in either of these two groups.

Before racing back to the compound, we stopped by to see the village chief. He was kind and open with us expressing his feeling that what happened to these Dogon people could happen to any of us. It wasn’t their fault and they are human beings the same as we are. He is happy to have places for them to stay but emphasized that they must prove themselves as assets to the community before they have a permanent place. He would love to share food and water with them but the villagers barely have enough for their own need. So he’s grateful if Ouelessebougou Alliance would help in those ways. He gave us his hearty approval to build wells so they could have drinking water. We thanked him for his generous offering of land to the people and expressed that we are partners in our desire to help our fellowman. He was generous in his praise of the Ouelessebougou Alliance.

The visit was sobering and important. We spent nearly three hours and came away with a great desire to do more to help. We hope to make a proposal to LDS Charities for wells and food donations. The Alliance can be the local partner organization.

Here are some of the photos I took today of these good people and the circumstances they find themselves in.

These boys have the job of bringing water to the settlement from a good distance away.

These hard-working young boys were making mud bricks to build more homes.

These are the faces that keep me awake at night.  I hope we will be able to help here.  These people are lovely and kind and trying to survive on very little.  I wish all my friends who have plenty could come visit for a day and feel inclined to share a bit more with others.

This is the kind village chief who has provided the land for the refugees to live on. He said to us, “this could have happened to any of us. Of course we must help them.”  I love people like this who give freely, without expectation of any reward or payback.  He is a hero.

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Posted in Humanitarian Work, Thoughts and Insights | Leave a comment

Character is Already Determined

President Ronald Reagan sums up the idea of the fundamental nature of character and what it takes to make good decisions as a leader. In a May 1993 speech to the cadets at The Citadel in South Carolina, Reagan said:

The character that takes command in moments of crucial choices has already been determined. It has been determined by a thousand other choices made earlier in seemingly unimportant moments. It has been determined by all the little choices of years past…by all those times when the voice of conscience was at war with the voice of temptation…whispering the lie that it really doesn’t matter. It has been determined by all the day-to-day decisions made when life seemed easy and crises seemed far away…the decisions that, piece by piece, bit by bit, developed habits of discipline or of laziness, habits of self-sacrifice or of self-indulgence, habits of duty and honor and integrity-or dishonor and shame.

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An Accounting of my 2020 Year

This has been one interesting year!  There has been nothing like it on record, in the history of the world.  In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic and other disasters that have swept our globe and our hearts with emotions ranging from inconvenience to fear, we have found ways to carry on and to do the things we love.  I have loved working on my family history and writing projects this year, while serving as a full-time missionary with John.  It’s amazing to see how little bits and pieces add up.  It’s turned out to be quite a productive year, in so many ways!

Here is a short accounting of some of the things I’ve completed this year, spent entirely in Africa, while serving in Bamako and Abidjan.

Blog posts written:
Mission Blog:  526 posts written, visited 31,575 times (643 posts total)
Ann’s Words Blog:  20 posts written, visited 31,700 times (908 posts total)
Ann’s Stories Blog:  26 posts, written,  visited 7,630 times (762 posts total)

Facebook pages maintained or regularly contributed to:
My personal Ann Laemmlen Lewis feed
Laemmlens Gather Here
Decendants of Charlotte and Jacob Bushman
Martin and Elizabeth Degen Bushman
Theodore Turley Family Organization

Journal entries:
1,770 pages

Memoirs and personal history stories written:
94 pages

Legacy data base:
63,788 individuals, 21,343 families

FamilySearch:
15,025 sources, memories and people added

It’s my feeling that every word recorded, every person found and documented and every photo preserved adds a bit to the good in this world.  That’s my goal, to find, to record and  make safe, and to preserve for future generations the good that I see and am experiencing, no matter where I am.  It’s been a good year, in spite of what’s happening out there.  I am happy and looking forward to 2021.

Posted in Ann Lewis, Family History | 1 Comment

Writing My Fingers to the Bone in Bamako

I started reading Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg last February right before the trip that took us from Bamako to Accra, then Abidjan.  I was only one chapter in, when I decided to leave it on my book pile in Bamako, thinking I’d return to it in 3 weeks after our return.  That 3-week trip turned into a 9 month trip because of the COVID restrictions on travel that were imposed in this part of the world.

We finally returned to Bamako on 3 December and after the first very busy week introducing our Mission President to our world here, I picked the book back up and started again.  I enjoy reading books like this about writing memoir and personal history.  I brought several with me, thinking this would be a good project to do in my down time here in Africa.  This particular book grabbed me as soon as I started reading and I determined to complete each writing assignment Natalie Goldberg gave, on almost every page.

During the next week, I spent every spare moment I had writing, writing my fingers to the bone.  I felt like a window of time and opportunity opened to me here.  As John did the heavy work cleaning and organizing our Bamako apartment after being away so long, I sat at my computer and let my fingers fly, answering prompt after prompt.  I wrote about things I’ve never written about, many were hard delicate topics, many left me mourning and sad.  Natalie Goldberg asks that you dig deeply into your memories and face some of the wolves in the room.

There were also plenty of happy memories of my childhood and growing up years on the farm.  Many of her topics are just random to see where they lead you, like “write for 3 minutes about cabbage.”  The topics were not chronological or organized by subject, rather her chapters taught writing techniques and then prompts were given to practice those techniques.  I enjoyed what and how she taught, but more importantly, her words motivated me to write.

After 8 days, I finished the book.  My hands ached with fatigue.  But my heart was lightened, knowing that more parts of who I am are now preserved.  I typed 88 pages of memories and stories on all sorts of topics.  Then I listed several more pages of things I will write about next.

If you are inclined to write a personal history, or capture some of your stories, I strongly recommend Natalie Goldberg’s book.   It’s not intended to be devoured and digested in a week, rather maybe a year or two.  I just got carried away and had some hours to write and so I dove in and did it.

Another favorite I’d highly recommend is To Our Children’s Children by Bob Greene and D. G. Tulford.  I’ve purchased more than 100 copies of this book (used on Amazon) for my family history students and friends who are serious about writing and preserving memories.   It is also excellent.  The entire book is filled with interesting and unusual (not the ordinary) prompts that are thoughtful and fun to write about.   I promise this little book is worth it’s weight in gold.

Here is one more book I just finished that I’d recommend by Dawn and Morris Thurston– Breathe Life Into Your Life Story.  This husband and wife team teach sound principles of writing memories and recording stories.  They are helpful teachers who give a good overview of the entire process of writing and publishing your life story.  Their book also has helpful prompts and exercises to help you practice your writing craft.

If you are wondering if you have stories in you worth telling, the answer is YES.  There will be individuals, many in your own family and among your own descendants, who will want to know who you are and how you lived.  They will want to know what moved you and what things you stood for, especially in a world that is filled with so much change and turmoil.  If you do not tell your stories, your life will fade into oblivion after you go.

Historian, Ron Barney said, “If you do not write your story, your name will be obliterated from the human record and you will not speak from the grave. You will not have any influence on those who come after you. Those who write about the things they have done and learned in life have a huge impact on posterity. Write your story. You have overcome things your children need to know about.”

Please pick up a pen and let the new year be a time to start recording.  Don’t wait until you’re old and forgetful.  Don’t wait until the window of opportunity comes.  If you start, the window will open.  You have a life to save!

Telling Stories, Saving Lives!

Posted in Family History | 3 Comments

Words Tell: Descriptions of the 2020 Election Fallout

I’ve spent a few hours yesterday and today reading through news reports following the 2020 Presidential Election.  We are now day 10 and 11 post election.  Joe Biden is the President Elect.  Donald Trump has lost.  I find it fascinating to see what words writers and reporters are using to describe what’s happening in our world today.  These words are just clips, as I found them, in no particular order taken from two days’ worth of various news reports.  I have not cited the sources.  Little words tell big stories.  Most describe Donald Trump and who he is.  Some refer to how he’s handled the COVID crisis.  All are reflective of what people think of the situation we find ourselves in right now.  Draw what conclusions you will.  (I did not intentionally skip over positive comments–there simply were none to be found.)  Here’s what I found:

One reason why Trump’s advisors are so worried he might not be able to win is because he lost.

Despite clinging to the job desperately, he’s not actually doing any of it.

Still asking supporters for donations.  Never misses a hustle.

scamming people out of their money by saying that is country wrongly kicked him out of power

continuing to fire off baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud

keeps fighting as a performance

the elephant in the room–his election loss

claims weren’t credible

disdain for the workings of government

Mr. President, pack your bags, and be gone.

grabbing headlines

justify measures

nefarious activity

cries voter fraud

lawsuits inadmissible or unreliable

incorrect and not credible

cheap talk on Twitter

claimed alleged fraud

obviously hearsay

refused to concede

sewing doubt

fanning the spectre of voter fraud

laying the foundation for questioning the legitimacy

blasting out inflammatory accusations of fraud

questions of US elections will linger

refused to acknowledge while launching legal challenges based on unsubstantiated claims of fraud

so many lawsuits have been filed in so many state and federal courts that no one has an exact number

they are throwing the kitchen sink against the wall to see what sticks

humoring him

continued to spread lies

beset with infighting

flimsy evidence

a slew of baseless lawsuits

corrosive to democracy

deplorable approach to life and politics

divisive language

stop the circus and get to work (House Speaker)

The election’s over. Stop delaying reality

long shot litigation

refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power

absolutely disgraceful, un-American

coddling and kowtowing despite his defeat

let the grim era of demonization in American begin to end here and now

relationships have been jeopardized

conservatives have been crowing

TX Lt. Gov. has offered $1mil for anyone who produces evidence of voter fraud

the long knives are out, and he’s a big score settler

making them serve a hitherto hidden agenda

“Pentagon Purge” to help him carry out irresponsible withdrawals

widespread concerns in national security community

something repugnant is brewing

fringe ideologues

to support his personal agenda

How is this going to end?

amplifying misleading messages

activity sits on hold

refusal to accept results

transition offices sit vacant

planning conversations are silent

awkwardly twiddling threats

playing into fantasies

so as not to leave a paper trail (no one’s talking about it)

officials growing anxious

I am worried they are going to open the hood, and it’s going to be a lot worse than they expected.

contacts have gone silent

anyone looking for another job would be fired

the silence is still deafening

a flurry of lawsuits

spreading false claims

refused to accept the outcome

transition still hypothetical

undermining urgent need

downplaying the significance

strategy lies in tatters

it’s not enough

remain stuck

claims fall apart in court

sinister, fraudulent motives

the crisis is accelerating

purely outlandish stuff

legal team grinds to a halt

panicked predictions

chaos and meddling

mysterical claims of fraud

rang mostly hollow

Trump with his grotesque character on full display:  the greed, the bullying, the mysogyny and flagrant sexual infidelity, the malignant narcissism.

“the most flawed man I’ve have ever met in my life” (Trump’s own Chief of Staff)

inability to even pretend empathy

bullying the press

casual subversion of justice system

moral cowardice toward dictators

4 chaotic years

semiliterate tweets

half-completed thoughts

wishful thinking

scientific illiteracy

inconsistent, dishonest, reckless policymaking

world-historical calamity that alters the course of civilization

habitual dismissal of logic and standards of proof

constructed his own narrative

eager participant whenever he sees some advantage for himself

flair for spectacle

racial grievances

tenuous relationship with and sometimes outright disdain for truth

casts doubt on legitimacy

extremely dangerous, extremely poisonous to our democracy

stay out of the fray (Republican aids)

increasingly unmoored

election stolen from him

potential to become violent

obtuse and perverse

refusal to acknowledge empirical facts that conflict with how he sees the world

callously insisting

reality-warping

belief based on nothing

fed his cynical promotion of blitherism–belief based on nothing

pressured newsmen to change forecasts to agree with his misstatements

cynical indifference

ludicrous assertions and irrelevant

damage done to American democracy

stirred up political currents

impulse toward authoritarianism

cheapened with tacky stunts

took advantage of and inflamed them into an absurd culture war

voter intimidation

humiliated rivals

reversed conventional wisdom

ignored party leaders

devisive personality

now-exposed insanity

defeat may trigger civil war

grievances and paranoias refusing to congratulate

allegations and irregularities

declined to concede

frivolous challenges

injunction rejected

unsubstantiated claims

calls Biden’s victory “an immaculate deception”

denying reality

lawsuits fizzle

peddles baseless claims of fraud

this will not help his legacy

contesting results

refuse to recognize

created a false image

publicly disengaged

fraud allegations based on extra-ordinary failure to understand how elections function

claims of cheating

lack of understanding

anti democratic

isolated speculation

debunked conspiracy theories

promoting a bizarre lie

election rigged

meritless statements

all claims refuted

implications plainly false

votes concocted out of thin air

claims dismissed

baseless claims refuted

allegations of coaching voters

Trump fumbled COVID, sabotaged his own election

baseless voter fraud claims

rejected, DRT has had a haphazard inattentive handling of the crisis (COVID)

grievously wrong

tirades on Twitter

unsubstantiated claims

obstruction of justice

bickering wings of the party

high political tension

long-shot lawsuits

fuel conspiracy theories

dawdling and denial of access

clogging things up

hotly speculated

arbitrary and illegal actions

no evidence the votes were compromised

gaining little traction

public relations nightmare

judges:  no evidence of fraud

stealing the election

keeping up a charade

spiraling out of control

rigged election

casting doubt

usually first the evidence, then the lawsuit

shifting narrative

chaotic caucuses

undermining officials

disillusion of reason

riding the crazy train

unhinged conspiracies

on an island of misfit toys

rabbit holes of unreality

conspiracy-theory cult

bizarre myths

insanity

radicalization

baseless conspiracy theories

an embarrassment

disinformation

norm-shattering behavior

a fractured nation

competitive scrum

baseless claims

undermining of democracy

seeded a lie before the event

corrosive to democracy

flimsy evidence

a slew of baseless lawsuits

sewing doubt

misleading messages

stop the steal rallies

undermining confidence

nefarious activity

grabbing headlines

inflammatory accusations

unsupported evidence

messy and nasty

preservation of power above all else

obstructions

DRT’s disastrous response (to COVID)

tried to spin coronavirus out of existence

Trump presidency marked by errors in judgement

strange overtures to foreign dictators

appointments that deviated wildly

tried to minimize the impact of COVID

no shows of empathy or compassion

political aids have unflagging loyalty to DRT

steered into treacherous waters

failed attempts to convince

He tweeted, shouted, heckled, interrupted, mocked, lamented and filibustered his way through crisis after crisis.

Top scientists, policy makers and experts driven out by Trump’s political appointees intent on ferreting out adherents of a fictitious “deep state.”

The kind of attention he has always sought required conflict as its oxygen.

statements not occasioned by reality

inflated incremental victories into victories

“invincible superman”

a show of energy and force

destructive

disregard for facts

boundless self-confidence

combative attitude

downplays virus

impatient

numbers inflated

accusations grossly untrue

mistakes of judgement

Fake News Media

destructive instincts

drowning out wiser counsel

fake assurances

entirely unprepared

no patience or attention to detail

personal and petty

settling scores

worst fears played out

it became a kind of withering exit music to DRT’s brief attempt to act like an ordinary president

hectoring Democrats while praising Republicans

badly mishandling virus

sullen, graceless exit

threatened the rule of law

threatened to arrest rivals

cheapened the presidency

crude tweets

clownish rallies

looted the Treasury

norms bent to accommodate his whims

seemingly unending Trump show

incorrect and not credible

bogus claims and invalid arguments

questionable affidavits

accusing people of fraud

legal strategy looks amateurish and disjointed

Judge called claims of widespread voter fraud “fiction”

inadmissible hearsay within hearsay

misled

keeping multiple balls in the air that we know are not going to land in a good place

groundless lawsuits

ignore the will of the voters

rules of evidence don’t apply

spurious claims

widely mocked press conference

stuck in his own election time warp

specious voter fraud claims

he has to worry about criminal investigations

spreading lies and insults

might satisfy his titanic ego

This is not a political party.  It’s a cult.

boasts he won

tantrums over losing

loves the bottom line

hates to be a loser

He will never admit that he lost.

He’s going to fight to the end.

Posted in Thoughts and Insights | 1 Comment

“Show how love and joy, beauty and goodness shine out amongst the rubble.” –Wendell Berry

I grew up next door to my Grandma Elsa Laemmlen.  When I was a girl, I wandered through the orchard to visit her, often daily.  I knew her and she knew me.  We didn’t need to say much, we just loved being together, doing things together.  Sometimes we stitched.  Sometimes we baked.  Sometimes we plucked caterpillars from the tomato vines.  Her button box was filled with treasures collected from decades of mending and repurposing clothing for her family.  I always wondered where my favorite magenta buttons came from.  I should have asked her.

There is not much that remains of my Grandma’s life now.  My children did not know her.  They will not understand these treasures, now so dear to me.  I wonder if you, seeing these remains, can feel her goodness.

She is not here to tell her story.  She seldom spoke of her own experiences no matter how many times I asked her to “Tell me a story.”  She was a strong woman who did hard things.  She new how to tend beehives, pluck feathers for down pillows, make sausages from a butchered hog, bake Kuchen and raisin pies.  She was a Mennonite quilter with nimble fingers that were never still.  She taught me to knit and crochet and sew doll clothes on her old black Singer sewing machine.  She taught me to tie grape vines and work in the fields.  She taught me how to pack Kelsey plums, green and pointed, into paper cups, counting each row carefully.  She made her own prunes in a lye bath.  She made jams and jellies from fruit she grew on the farm, including quince and damson plums.  I spent hours and hours picking up walnuts with her in the fall and shelling those walnuts with her during the cold winter hours.  We stemmed cookie sheets full of sun-dried raisins together, Thompson and Muscat, as we sat in the recliners with the space heater humming at our feet.  We took naps together in the front sun room on the “devan” covered with an old Indian blanket.  And often we just sat together (she always in the rocking chair by the window) and watched out the window.

These photos are a few of the pieces, the artifacts, the treasures that remain from my Grandma’s life.  I miss her.  The life she shared with me was filled with love and joy and beauty and goodness.  I hope you feel it too.

How can we be so superior to “our barbarous ancestors”?
The truth will never be complete in any mind or time.
It will never be reduced to an explanation.
What you have is only a sack of fragments never to be filled:
old bones, fossils, facts, scraps of writing, sprawls of junk.
You know yourself only poorly and in part, the best and the worst maybe forgotten.
However you arrange the pieces, however authentic,
a story is what you’ll have, an artifact, for better or worse.
So go ahead. Gather your findings into a plausible arrangement.  Make a story.
Show how love and joy, beauty and goodness shine out amongst the rubble.
–Wendell Berry, Sabbath Poems 2006

Posted in Family History, Thoughts and Insights | 5 Comments

Gathering Stories of Faith and Inspiration

 

We have had an incredible couple of weeks in the Abidjan West Mission.  Every 6 weeks in every mission around the world, each missionary is interviewed by the Mission President.  Since we are filling in for the other Pres Lewis here right now, we are the lucking ones doing these interviews.  And because this is out of the ordinary and because we don’t know the missionaries in the West Mission very well yet, we decided to do the interviews together and get to know each of the missionaries better.

We have been spending 30-40 minutes with each missionary, listening to their stories–who they are, where they came from, why they are here, and how they met the Church and began to follow the path they are on.

Right now, after all of the COVID evacuations, there are only 85 missionaries in the West Mission.  By the time we finish in a couple more days, I will have collected 85 incredible stories of faith and inspiration.  These young men and women are absolutely amazing.  Their stories are a part of history, the history of the Church in Africa.  They are living and experiencing history in the making.  I am thrilled to be here watching from the sidelines.

Here are just a few of their beautiful faces.  Can you see the light?

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“Always Take At Least Two”

I don’t often keep the duplicate photos I take.  A wise photographer told me years ago, “Never take just one photo, always take at least two.  One will always be better than the other.”  It’s the best photography advice I’ve ever heard and I always take at least two and I delete all but one.  One is always better.  Except for today.  I took the photo above, and then snapped a few more of these sisters who get excited every time we stop to buy fruit from them.  Their mother is in the back on the right.  They set up their stand on a busy road and do a good business.

The girls are always a little shy when I ask to take their photo, but then they love to see the photos I take of them.  I think they are stunningly beautiful young women.   It would be a sin to delete a single one of these photos.

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A Temporary Change of Assignment

In Africa you learn to expect the unexpected.

Last March, remember how the travel lady here booked our tickets to Mali, but she did it in the names of Pres and Sis Lewis of the Abidjan West Mission (we’re the East Mission) instead of for us?  And we missed getting back to Mali by hours because the next day the lockdowns happened?  And then we ended up being here to help with all of the mass evacuation of all the missionaries in March and April and May?  Remember how good it was for us to be here to help the Binenes finish up their mission and then to welcome and help the Bendixsens settle in?  Remember all those reasons we needed to be here?

Another reason has been added to why we are not in Bamako right now.

We’ve been asked by the Area Presidency to be interim Mission Leaders for the Abidjan West Mission.  Pres Lewis has some health issues that need to be addressed at home in case surgery is needed.  They’ll be returning home for a time on Oct 13th to have things checked out.  Sis Lewis will also be able to have her knees scoped and their daughter has rescheduled her marriage so her parents can attend.

The hope is that they will be able to return after 6-8 weeks where John will be an interim President until Pres Lewis returns.  This assignment has come from the Area Presidency in Accra and has been approved by  Elder Suarez and Elder Vinson and by Elder Nash in the Missionary Department in Salt Lake City.

So while they are gone, our assignment will switch over to the West Mission.  Our offices are side by side and the mission homes are side by side too, about 5 min from here.  We’ll get to stay in our little apartment in the same area.  I think they picked us so our nametags would match!

This evening we joined Pres and Sis Lewis in their home as they informed the missionaries of this change in an online mission-wide devotional.  It’s a hard thing to step away from missionaries you love.   We will do our best to keep the work rolling forward while they are away.

To follow along on my Mission Blog where I am posting regularly, you can go here:

https://lewismissionhome.wpcomstaging.com/

 

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