All 100 missionaries converged on the Freetown Stake Center at 8:00 this morning. However, the day started at 5:00 for Sisters Clawson, Corbaley, Miner and Sherwood. They made 25 batches of rice, made a creamed white gravy that the 300 eggs went into with the Carmelites onions and the Pepe, one of them went to the market and bought 120 small loaves of fresh bread. They then had to haul all of it to the Stake Center and be ready to serve at 8:00. They also carried all of the clean drinking water for the entire day, plus all the paper products, plates, cups, silverware, butter, jam, Nutella, P.B., etc.
Don and I were not there for the breakfast because we were called last night by
President Clawson telling us Bishop Davies, who is over the humanitarian efforts
throughout the world, would like to visit the PVA and see the projects we have done
there. So at 9:30 we were at the PVA waiting for them to arrive. (The PVA is about 1
mile from where we live and they were all coming about 45 minutes away from
Freetown). We were walking around the PVA chatting with people when two large
white Vans pulled into the PVA stuffed with men. One of the doors popped open and
men started piling out. One man was obviously a security guard. His head was on a
swivel and he looked at everything and everybody. As the men got out they began
shaking hands with everybody. A tall man came up to me to shake my hand and I am
looking at him thinking "I know you, but not really." I had no idea who he was. He did
not introduce himself and neither did I. I shook several other men's hands and Elder
Davies introduced himself to me as we shook hands. AHH! This is the man we are
expecting. They all turned to Don and asked him to show us what we have done and
how we have helped this community. Don indicated that we needed to walk up the hill
a ways and we all headed up the hill. I was in the lead because I was at the back of the
group until we turned to walk up the hill. The first tall man that shook my hand and I
walked up the hill and I asked him if he had been to Africa before. No this was his first
time. We made small talk until Don told us to stop and he pointed out several roofing
jobs and explained how it all came about and what we as a church did and what the
community did. They were impressed because we required the community to chip in
on the cost of the project and together we got the job done and done right. From there
we headed down to the blacksmith shop. While walking down the hill I was walking
with Elder Madu, whom I had the distinct pleasure, and I mean that literally, about 2
months ago of feeding him in our home. I pointed to the tall man I had walked with
and asked Elder Madu who he was. Elder Madu smiled and quietly said, "Elder
Stevenson from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles". Kick me to the curb! We then
went to the blacksmith shop and Elder Stevenson was intrigued by the polio victims
sitting on the floor creating tools and cooking stoves over coal fires and anvils. Don
explained that the church put in security bars in the windows and put in metal doors so
that raw materials and finished products were not stolen at night. The owner, sitting
on the floor, explained that since we installed those his business has really grown. He
has hired 3 more men and they are producing a lot more stoves. This is exactly what
the Church wants to have happen. The General Authorities then went and visited some
sites that can possibly become chapel sites or a district center/stake center. At this
point Don and I went to the Stake Center in Freetown (Congo cross). We got there in
time to see the end of the missionary meeting and to help with lunch.
While the men were doing the above, Sister Clawson held a meeting with all of the 100
missionaries and 3 of the 4 Senior Couples. They talked at length about the car accident
the 4 missionaries and Bishop Marcus were in and the many miracles that happened.
They talked about rules and obedience and who to call when. They received their
newsletters, they honored the 16 missionaries who had birthdays by singing happy
birthday, giving them a cupcake, and then choosing a treat from the Birthday Basket,
and finally, they received the journals we made.
We then ate a catered lunch. We had swarmas. That would be an African version of a
Runza. It is a tortilla filled with a variety of things but today's was cabbage and beans. I
ate all but the last three bites and ran into a hunk of meat. I was so surprised. I dug it
out and said, "Hey Don, Look, I got a piece of meat." He took it, looked at it and said
"that's beef!" and popped it into his mouth and walked away. He was about 3 steps
away and turned with his face scrunched up and yelled "that's liver" and he spit it out.
After everyone ate and cleaned up, Sister Clawson had the missionaries bring in
benches and stools and she arranged us so we could have a picture taken with the
general authorities. She said they will only give us 5 minutes for the picture and if we
can't do it in that time frame we would not do it at all. So, while we were waiting for
them to finish the lunch Sister Clawson provided for them somewhere else, we
positioned ourselves on all those benches with enough chairs in front for the General
Authorities and their wives. President Clawson texted Sister Clawson when they arrived
in the parking lot to let her know they were there. All the missionaries were quietly
singing "I am a Child of God" as the G/A 's walked in. It was quite moving. We sang 2
verses and they stood in front of us and watched. At the end, Elder Stevenson thanked
us and moved to a chair and held his hand out to his wife to sit next to him. Once they
were seated, the rest of them joined them. Only a couple of pictures were taken and
Sister Clawson promised she would give everyone a copy. After this, the G/A's and their
wives formed a receiving line at the door and greeted and shook everyone's hand.
Every missionary got to shake the hand of an Apostle of Jesus Christ. They were full of
joy. After each missionary went through the receiving line, they went into the chapel
for a 3 hour meeting with the G/A's. It was apropos for the young missionaries. It
gave them an uplift and a desire to move forward in faith. At the end of the meeting
Elder Stevenson pronounced a blessing on us. The things Don and I remember are (and
these are not in any particular order. They are snippets we remember):
Because of our service, when we leave our mission we will be rewarded with blessings from Heavenly Father and these blessings will continue throughout our lives. 1.
2. Our wards/branches at home will be blessed for our service.
This meeting was to be over at 4:00 but it didn't get over until 4:30. The Clawsons were
involved in taking the G/A back to their hotel and had left for a short while. Sister
Clawson had arranged with a caterer to provide 110 "take Away" boxes (to go) so the
missionaries going to Bo, Kenema and Makeni on the bus would have something to eat.
The caterer was suppose to have the dinners there at 4:00. Typical of Africans, she was
not even there at 5:00. The bus driver said that if they did not pull out and get on the
road by 5:00 the company would not allow them to go at all and the church's money
would be refunded. So the only thing to do was to give the missionaries what we had.
We gave every missionary two muffins and a can of juice and sent them home on a 4
1/2 hour ride - hungry. Don and I left at the same time. When Sister Clawson got back
to the Stake Center she was very disappointed all those missionaries went home with
only two muffins and a can of juice. She gave the security guards each a take away box
and anyone else that was still around that were not missionaries.
The church had rented vehicles and hotel rooms to put up all the priesthood leaders
from the outlying areas who had meetings the next day (Saturday). They arrived about
7:00 p.m. and called Sister Clawson telling her they were in their hotel rooms but they
were hungry and wanted to know if she had any food. Sister Clawson only had 13 of
the take away boxes left so she sent someone to the mission home to gather bread,
PBJ, Nutella, anything that could go into a sandwich, and raid the freezer for muffins,
cookies, anything that would be finger food for about 30 men.