Alma chapter 29 verse 8

Doing The Lord's Errand In Sierra Leone

A missionary blog of Elder & Sister Neves and their experiences in Sierra Leone Freetown West Africa and adjacent cities and towns in 2010 and 2011.

For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gassumu's palace

About the end of October we were in the Kissy chapel and were introduced to Gassumu Koroma who is about 19 years old and a fine individual in his own right.

He invited us to come to his home and teach him suggesting first that we might be more comfortable just teaching him in the chapel. I responded, "naah, we'd feel better just coming to see you and teaching you there." "How bad can it be?, I asked myself.

We drove to Newcastle street which would have been something to behold in the good old colonial days with its bridges and estates set back in off the street and actual asphalt down on the road. Now only the remnants can be seen of it's salad days, only just enough to be enticing and to make one wonder what it must have looked like.

We parked on the dirt road that the boys swore would get dusty before too many months. The rains were coming to an end and had washed the road down to what I thought looked like bare rock. "There's no way this can get dusty," I scoffed. "There's no dirt for the dust to come from."

We unloaded and walked down along side the wild and crazy Muslim school just getting out of session, through broken glass and brick and over open little drainage ditches and assorted debris. Gassumu led us into a fine cement three or maybe four story building that would be condemned from the sidewalk and blown up that afternoon anywhere else.

We ducked our heads and went inside saying "Gud mornin" to the inhabitants of each doorway where they were cooking or washing themselves or their possibles. The open sewer coming from the building isn't visible in this photo since we are much into the interior here but the fine stairway looms large directly in front of the camera, each step slanting downward and usually slippery.

Water is simply tossed over the edge so everything is perpetually damp inside. We found it important to walk under the roof and not out in the open for obvious reasons.

When we first went up I asked myself, "how's this going to look in the report?" The last time we went up I asked myself, "now how's it going to look?"

This picture simply shows the moss growing from the side of the building and the absolute horror of a building that it is. I don't think a movie set could be made to duplicate the textures and details of which you are able to see a few.

You can look up and see three or four floors above where I took the picture. I had to be very cautious because people are easily offended if they see a white man and his white wife in their nice white clothes taking pictures of the place where they climb out of bed in the morning.

This is a picture of Umu and now I've forgotten her last name who lives just down the hallway from where we set up with Gassumu to teach him. She is a feisty Muslim lady with a bad limp who we got to know pretty well over the months while we were teaching and afterwards.

The first time we came to teach her little daughter found a stick and circled around Sister Neves and kept trying to poke her with it until Umu finally ran her off.

I was looking for an excuse to take pictures of people and doing so hoped to get background photos but when I asked Umu if she and I could have a picture together she said, "sure, if you want to marry me and take me back to America." In the beginning she liked to mildly give Sister Neves and I a bad time speaking to us in Mende which we absolutely don't understand as if Krio didn't present enough of a challenge to us.

I like Umu because she is so full of feisty and makes no bones about taking care of herself. I'm not sure how she does it. She can't work, her husband is dead, and she has no relatives living in Freetown. She developed a bone disease of some sort that deteriorated her hip and makes her barely able to walk.

She has some slight hope that a Mercy Ship or Doctors Without Borders ship might be able to do something for her but without someone to hurry her into the water when it stirs nothing is going to happen in time to save her. I don't like her chances because the government has no interest of ability to help her and sooner or later she'll simply die because she'll wear out.

She's holding my little song book even though she can't read and preparing to sing I Am A Child Of God with us. She lives about four doors down just behind where she's sitting. Her daughter sits on her lap and the crowd we always draw sit behind her on the stairs going up.

Just a lovely view of the third floor and the one above. We've never gone beyond our corner on the second floor because we've never had a reason to go anywhere else. I suppose I could say, "Gassumu, would you be able to just show us around so we can take some photos to send back home to amuse our family?


We set up our teaching post right in the corner with a fine view of everything and everybody. The little feller with the bucket full of water runs up and down the stairs without so much as looking where he is headed.

The pictures were poorly chosen and poorly positioned in this posting but I refuse to start all over again. I know they all look the same, I'm sorry.

Down the hallway to the right you will notice a girl leaning against the outside wall. That's where Umu lives. Her cooking is done outside about where the girl is standing and her washing and just about everything else. You sleep and store things in your house and cook and do everything else outside of the place where you sleep and store things.

Gassumu is on the left, the Samuel Kanu, Albert Sesay, Elder Neves, and finally Peter Vandi Bassie Junior who has left us to be a branch missionary for another few weeks.

Behind us you'll see a hole in the wall. That is one of the most interesting holes in a wall you'll ever meet. It is divided into two levels just beyond the hole and those going up one floor will crawl onto the upper cement pad and those doing down just a little will duck onto the lower pad. I think the two buildings were put together separately and the floors simply didn't match up when it was all done. So you just knock a hole in the wall and leave the hanging slab to change floors.

There is an interesting nook just behind Albert's head where personal bathing is done. Men and ladies of all sizes and shapes come toward that corner with a towel generally wrapped around themselves and are carrying a bucket of water. Minutes later they'll emerge all wet and shiny and will toss the water that remains down onto the floor level. I usually try to face the nook in order to make sure I can keep track of what is happening in all areas of the building in case we might have to protect ourselves.

Musa Kanu, Samuel's brother is visible on the left and Peter and Gassumu. A fine lady is just beginning her entrance into the hole floor changing unit that I just described.

The only saving part of the construction is its workmanship and the quality of the materials used when the building too place.

Peter Vandi Bassie Jr, Samuel Kanu, Gassumu Koroma, Albert Sesay, and Elder Neves. About now Sister Neves is saying, "And folks will say where were you Mom?"

We always have a kneeling prayer as we leave the meeting. Sister Neves had us just bow our heads for the picture. Those of you purists shouldn't be offended by the blasphemy of it all.

And there's our corner, freshly painted. Gassumu warned us that morning to watch for the wet paint. Someone had complained and a notice was tacked onto a wall on the inside of the building. There was a little paint dabbed here and there and then it all faded away and was forgotten.

We never did know who lived in the door just behind us or from where Gassumu got the chairs. They're not his for sure and not Umu's. We actually block two separate families as we sit in this spot always set up for us before we arrived.

We always kneel to pray wherever we are and among whomever we're among. The society here in Sierra Leone is the most tolerant of societies. We have never been interrupted nor heckled in all the time we've knelt in prayer sometimes right in the middle of a small crowd.

We also sing before our opening prayer and once again as we prepare to close. Those songs have likewise never been interrupted in any way. Sometimes the people will gather and sing along a little as they listen to us, especially the children.

An then it's on our way down those stairs that never look any easier. Mom is always on someone's arm and I'm always on top in case I fall. I'll have everyone else to fall onto if I slip.


Saffron Grass said...
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Saffron Grass said...

That was such a great post. I have been wondering for a while when we would get a look at the legendary place. It didn't disappoint and I had great expectations already. As I looked at the picture with you Dad, and all the Utes, I realized how much you love them and could envision the time seven months from now when you have to leave and I can just see you heartbroken. I choked up myself thinking about it. Or maybe since the Sierra Leoneians don't approve of emotion you have learned to suppress such things. But I kind of doubt it. That's like trying to hold back the sea.

Roberts blog said...

It's simply amazing that people live in such conditions. I guess the most amazing thing...(as I sit here at my computer with all the comforts of a modern home all around me)...the most amazing thing is that the people you've just written about seem to be happy and satisfied in their own right. They seem to know who they are their purposes in this small world more than most people I know, including myself. Wonderful, funny, touching write up Dad. Tell MOM it's her turn now.

Nici - Posed Perfection said...

Thanks so much for visiting Posed Perfection today and leaving me the sweet comments. I am honored to have the platform to be able to shine God's light into a dark world, if only from the keys of this computer. May the people of Sierre Leone come to know the one true God and His love for them through Jesus Christ as you minister to them. Praying for your son....Have a blessed week!