My 66th Birthday.
Before I even got out of bed I received a text from my native twin -
John Blackie. He is one of our contractors and his birthday is also today. He sent me a
video that was so funny of 8 men & women dressed in white singing happy birthday.
What a great way to start my day. I received lots of birthday wishes. Thanks to
everyone who remembered me.
This morning we had a 10:00 turn-over ceremony (closing ceremony on a completed
project where we turn the project over to the community so they can take care of it).
We had installed two 10,000 liter Milla Tanks on basements and platforms in two
different areas. The program is put together by the community leaders. It was very
well done. It was suppose to start at 10:00 but people didn't start arriving until 10:30
(Africans have their own time and come whenever. It is frustrating to me that they
don't start their programs until they think they have enough people.) So we didn't start
until 10:45. By 11:45 most everyone was there and the formal part of the program was
just winding down. The man conducting the meeting was definitely not new at it. He
was very good. He told the people "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a
church that gives back. We have many churches here in Sierra Leone and they all take,
take, take. This is the only Church that gives back". They had a number of speakers and
on the printed program they had Don down as the Keynote speaker. Don was not
asked to do that but he has the ability to stand in front of a group of people and speak
from his heart. He did very well. When we first sat down with the program, I pointed
out to him he was the keynote speaker. He smiled. When it came time for him to
speak, they introduce him like this, "now we will hear from our keynote speaker,
Brother and Sister Carley with the woman first." I popped right up like I knew I was
suppose to speak and gave a very simple talk about being a humanitarian missionary
and how much Papa God loves his children in Sierra Leone. One thing I have learned
being here in Sierra Leone is the people here are so new to the gospel/or are not
members that the simplest you can make it, the deeper it touches their hearts. At the
end of the ceremony they presented us with presents; Don received a plaque that says
"greetings from Sierra Leone" that has African pictures on it and I received a pretty,
very strong basket. After this, we walked up to the 2nd site for a ribbon cutting
ceremony. I cut the ribbon and opened all 4 of the taps so water came out of each one.
With the opening of each tap their went up a roar of gratitude. Then the community
leaders each came up and drank water out of their hands and turned off the taps. A
young reporter came to me and asked if he could have an interview. I told him "yes,
after we finish at the next site".
From here, we walked back down to the first site and
did the same ceremony of cutting the ribbon and opening the taps. This time they
handed me a glass. When I opened the last tap, I put my glass under the flow of water
and got a glass full of brown water. YIKES! I gulped, but took a drink to the roar of
gratitude. I think they did not test the taps before we had the ceremony and the water
that came out was flushing the manufactured tap. Then the community leaders came
up with glasses and filled their glass, drank and turned off the taps. After the water
ran for about a minute, the water became clear. They then had Don remove a dark
piece of plastic covering a sign that said, "In partnership with the New England Ville
Association funded by LDS Charities, Strengthening Families" with the. LDS Charities
logo. Again, a roar of gratitude. After this, I motioned to the young report, who had
been lurking in my shadow, that I was now available. We walked across the street to
the shade of a building and he did a very nice interview. He was from a radio station.
Don was scooped up by a TV station and was interviewed and his interview was on the
local news tonight. Don's interview took a lot longer than mine so I found a chair in the
shade and a woman in a very beautiful African dress sat next to me. She put her hand
on my arm and said, "I am coming to your church".
On the way back to the office, we stopped at the New Brookfield Hotel to confirm the
room for our boss, John Buah, for tonight. The reservation was made 6 weeks ago. Yes,
it was ready for him. Great!
Brother Buah is from Ghana and flew in on the 5:05 flight. In order to get to the airport
from Freetown, you have to either drive 3 hours around the bay or take a speedboat
across the bay. It is much faster to take a speedboat. John came by speedboat. We
were on our way to seabird to pick him up when we got a panicked phone call from
Sister Clawson. The hotel called her and told her that the room reserved for John was
now not available because the person who stayed in it last night decided to stay one
more night and they were 100% full. Sister Clawson said she would put John in the
General Authorities apartment for tonight and he could move to the hotel tomorrow.
"OK, but we were planning on having dinner with John at the hotel so we are still going
to do that." We received another phone call from Sister Clawson a few minutes later
and she had called Haja at the hotel, who manages the LDS account (we use that hotel a
lot because it is westernized and is close to the Mission Home.). Haja was very
apologetic and told Sister Clawson for us to tell the waiter we are from Latter-Day
Saints and our meals would be free.
We picked John up without any problems only to
find out he came in on the 3:00 flight and had been waiting for 3 hours. Not Good! We
explained to him the room mix up and he would stay the night in the General
Authorities apartment and he threw his had back, laughed and said "I am no where
near that level". He is a very humble man. He has been a bishop, stake president,
mission president he is now a patriarch in his stake in Accra and his employment for the
Church is Area Director of West Africa. Spending one night in the General Authorities
apartment seems apropos to me.
By now, it is 7:00 so we go to the hotel and yes our meal was free. As we were leaving,
we passed the check-in desk. There was a young woman sitting there that recognized
Brother Buah. He recognized her as someone he knew but couldn't place her. She
called him "President Buah". He apologized and told her she looked familiar but he
could not place her. She said, "you were my mission president in Nigeria". "Yes, Yes, I
remember now." He explained we were only there for dinner since his room was not
available. She scrunched up her face and said "did they check the other side?" The 3 of
looked at each other and none of us knew what she was talking about. She poked
around in her computer and said, "your room is available and waiting for you". So, he
stayed. A happy ending!