Monday, January 28, 2013

Last Week of January 2013

By Debi
This is a grove of rubber trees
Life is good here in Africa.  We keep thinking that we have probably taken most of the pictures we need and then we go and do something new and take more pictures and have new experiences.

Someone has to empty these cups every day
I just want to mention a few things in Liberia that we haven’t talked about.  We saw the rubber tree plantations.  I didn’t really realize how rubber came from trees.  Goodyear Tire Company has thousands of acres of rubber trees in Liberia.  They hire the people to empty the cups that catch the rubber every three hours.  The rubber is collected and used to make tires.  This is a big industry here and it does provide a lot of jobs for the people but the pay is very low.

They do not make the tires here, however.  They only get the raw material.  This is one of the problems in Africa, the manufacturing needs to come to the raw material for this country to expand.

Also, one day as we were driving through town we saw a couple of young men roller blading.  I thought it was so funny because I never would have guessed that someone here in Africa would have rollerblades.  Then the next thing we knew they were hanging on the back of our truck and getting a ride through town.  They were very happy that we took their pictures.

We are living in a different apartment complex because they are doing some repairs on the building that we have been living in.  We took a few pictures of the view out of our windows. This mother is bathing her son. We see the people here washing their children out in the front of their homes with a bucket of water. 

Also, every morning this man comes out around 7:00 and sits on a rock.  He sits there for a couple of hours.  We call this his morning constitution. 

He is not doing what you might think he is doing.  He just sits there and talks to himself.  Every morning, the same.

Across the street from our apartment is a cute little preschool for very little children. They wear uniforms and look so cute every day.  I love watching them run around playing and laughing.  I will admit that it makes me homesick for my grandchildren but I keep watching.


Saturday all of the senior couples went for an excursion.  We drove out to where the Volta River runs into the ocean.  This is quite the resort area and we wanted to see what it was all about. There are some islands in the mouth of the river with some private Villa’s.

On the way we made a stop at a radio station. I took a picture of the DJ.  He looks just like one in the United States.  He was happy to have his picture taken.  Also there by the radio station was one of the biggest thatched roofs I have seen here in Africa.  It is a pavilion for public use.  Also, as we traveled to the river we saw a village that was all thatched roofs. This is a very authentic African village.  We noticed that the farther away from Accra the more we saw the old African way of life.


While we were waiting for our boats we saw a lot of little children by the water.  This cute little girl was walking around with the pot on her head.  The little girls practice what they see their mothers do.  Also, I thought it was so cute to see this little girl with a pot like a hat.


Another tradition here is when a baby girl is born they put a string of beads around her waist and she wears them the rest of her life.  Of course beads have to be added as they grow.

This little girl has on her beads and that is all!

We hired two boats and loaded up.  The views were beautiful but it was very hot.  The air is stifling.  We are very close to the equator and so even a breeze feels hot.  We had a great day and saw some very interesting things. 
The name of the boat company was "Not now".  We were not sure what that meant.  Are were going on time?  Not now.  Will the boats sink?  Not now.  Are there crocks in this water? Not Now.  Can we go back to the shore? Not now.

There are a few resorts out by the shore of the ocean and the river.  Much different than what we would be used to but a very popular place here in Ghana.  Also we saw a tower that people can climb on to see out to sea. 

We did see one very nice villa that was probably privately owned.  They had their own dock and very nice grounds.  They also had their own sea doo.

We also had a great time watching some fishermen pulling in their nets.  They work so hard and their livelihood depends on what they bring in. 

It was a very fun day and we enjoyed the company of the other missionary couples.  We all work hard during the week and sometimes a little diversion helps us renew our spirits and our friendships.

All in all we keep seeing new things and we continue to be amazed with the wonderful people and their surroundings.

That is the ocean out there.



By Greg:

I don’t want to give another history lesson, but there is a lot of history here.  All along the coast there are the remains of old forts that the Europeans built as trading posts and most were also slave trading forts.

In Accra, near the light house is the James Town Fort.  This was a prison until 2007, just 5 years ago.  Out of this prison the first president walked across the street and became president.  Our friend Nice One took us up the light house (we took some new couples there) and then to the fort/prison.  It was pretty grim.  They still had a slave auction area and a “door of no return” like the bigger one in Cape Coast.

We saw the men prison area and the women prison area.  The prisoners had to cook their own food and take care of themselves.  Nice One showed us the “private place” which was their toilet area.  This was a latter addition from the slave castle era.

Aids is such a serious issue here in Africa.  Although it is not as bad in Ghana as it is in other countries, still, there are warnings everywhere, espeically in the prisons.

While we were in Liberia we walked to the beach with Elder and Sister Miles.  It was a lovely beach and except for the village, could have been a beach in any resort area in the world.

We spent a couple of hours at the beach in Cape Coast as well.  This is the Resort area of Ghana.  We borrowed two folding chairs from President and Sister Shulz and ate our lunch on this beach.  I wish I had taken a picture.  There we were, on two folding chairs, like the ones in most Relief Society rooms, with padding—church chairs, dressed as missionaries on the beach, eating our lunch.  We were quite the site, I am sure.

We have seen a lot of different Church buildings.  Most of the smaller buildings are rentals, but the Church is building as fast as they can.  There is a new style, which they call the “Harmony” and it is comprised of several buildings.  The chapel is one larger building, but the offices and classrooms are each separate.  They say this style is cheaper to build and maintain.


We do spend time doing Church work, even though it may seem like we are tourists.  I can assure you we are not tourists!

We realize this has been a very hard winter in Utah, so we may have chosen the right time to be in Africa.  The work is moving along here.  We have Elder Cook and Elder Clayton coming in a couple of weeks and so much is being done to get ready for their visit. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Liberia # 2

By Greg:

This car should start the first time, every time!
Sunday morning we got in our Ford Everest (like an Explorer) and prepared to go to Church.  Well, it would not start.  We have a missionary couple, the Coopers, who are temple missionaries.  They do not have a car because they can just walk to the temple.  But to go shopping is hard for them.  Also, they are busy on Saturdays, and the temple is closed on Monday.  So, we let them use our car on Mondays as our "P" day is suppose to be Saturday.  They told us it would not start for them one day while we were in Liberia. I felt bad for them.

You might assume they carried jumper cables
When it would not start for us I knew it was a battery problem.  I looked at the battery and the water level was low in every cell.  I added water and then started asking for jumper cables.  This is a good lesson.  Ask for a solution, not the tools for the solution. My real goal was to start my car, not find jumper cables.

 Of course, no one has jumper cables here.  The guard at our apartment solution was to take the battery out of the big generator and put it in our car!  All he had was a pair of needle-nosed plyers. I would not let him do that.

Well I set off looking for jumper cables on a Sunday morning.  I thought that a taxi might have them as most of them are barely working vehicles anyway.  The second taxi said, “No jumper cables” but he knows a “guy”.  We got to his guy and he had no jumper cables, but he and his friend put a battery and some wires in the trunk of the taxi and we were off, back to my car.

The two men held the wires on my battery with their fingers, one on the positive and one on the negative and amazingly my car started.  They put the red wire on negative sides, but I decided not to teach them anything, they knew what they were doing.  I paid the taxi and the cable guys and we went to church.  No problems since.   Welcome to Africa!

I want to talk more about Liberia.

Before The War (as I was growing up “The War” was WWII but The War here was the Liberian Civil War—technically there were two of them).

In 1980, an African man named Samuel Doe staged a military coup against the elected president and took control of Liberia.  This coup ended years of peaceful elected leadership.  He later held an election to get himself elected.  That election was a fraud.  A rebellion began.  Over 200,000 people were killed in the “First Civil War” which lasted from 1989 to 1996.

One of Poe’s followers, Samuel Taylor, who was of American decent, led another rebellion.  Poe was not from former Americans and resented those who descended from former American slaves—who were the elite of Liberia (Taylor had earlier been kicked out of Poe’s government for embezzlement).  Taylor had been educated in the US and during his exile went to Libya and was trained by Kaddafi.

Well Doe was executed by one group of rebels and Taylor was eventually elected President.  Of course he also had opposition.  Another civil war broke out that lasted from 1999 to 2003.  In Taylor’s trial (last summer-2012) it was found that he had been supported by the CIA in his attack against Poe, who had communist/socialist leanings.  The CIA often supported evil dictators during this period, if they were against communism.

During most of both civil wars it was hard to tell who the “freedom fighters” were and who were the “rebels” and most of the time both were attacking the “people”.

The Civil Wars spilled over into Sierra Leone.  The movie “Blood Diamond” depicts the fighting in Sierra Leone and the attempts by both sides to get diamond to purchase guns and supplies. There is another “R” rated movie about all this called “Lords of War”.  I don’t recommend either of them but the second shows how the guns were stolen from the former Soviet Union and sold into Sierra Leone with diamonds.  I like Nichols Cage and Brad Pitt, but I don’t like the movies or this history.  This was a terrible human tragedy that still affects lots of people.

When we were in both Sierra Leone and Liberia we saw many, many men who were missing one arm.  This was as the result of the war.  A common punishment was to chop off an arm, at the wrist, elbow or shoulder, depending on the crime.

Both sides in both countries took the public treasures (the entire social security fund was lost) as well as the natural resources, but most tragic was they took the boys.  We met a Branch President who took his family into the bush and lived in hiding for 10 years so they would not “steal” his sons and make them fight.

This is the Branch President.

The rebels attacked the city of Monrovia.  They destroyed buildings and the infrastructure.  Before the War Liberia was one of the most modern of all African countries.  It was the only country that had not been a European colony.  It was founded by freed American Slaves.  The capital was named for James Monroe and most of the AMERCO-Liberians have American last names.  The leaders of the country before the War were mostly descendants from these former Americans.

The rebels tore down power lines and afterwards the wires were stolen and sold for scrap.  Today there is no power system. There are still power lines, but no grid, or system.   All of the power to buildings is provided by generators.  The phone system never recovered and like most of Africa, today everyone uses a cell phone.  Liberia is now one of the poorest countries in the world.

There are still some power lines, but they are not live and working.

They Church had a Stake in Liberia from 2000 to 2007, and was growing.  We had buildings and Bishops and a Patriarch, but the War even devastated the Church.  They disbanded the Stake and now there are two Districts that are hoping to one day be Stakes, again.  As I said, over 200,000 people died during the War.

The War was ended by efforts of women.  They “prayed the devil back to hell” and formed a group of 3,000 women that sought for peace.  They were Christians, Muslims, Jews and Natives.  But they were tired of war.  They demanded a meeting with President Taylor and pressured him to attend peace talks.  Peace came as the US and the UN entered Liberia and Taylor was eventually arrested and taken to The Hague and last summer he was convicted of crimes against humanity and is now serving a 50 year prison sentence in The Hague.

The UN is everywhere in Liberia.  They are keeping the peace.  With their help a free election was held and one of the Peace Women was elected President.  Her name is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.  Why don’t we have women decide if we are going to have a war in the future?  I think they might always choose peace.

Today the Church is growing, the fastest rate of growth in the entire Church.  There is almost a certainty that Liberia will become a mission by itself this summer.  The members who survived are strong and the people are craving God in their lives.

This is a new building that will some day serve as a Stake Center.

We have a friend who was a missionary during the war.  He was captured and was in fear of execution.  Some thought the Church was CIA and thus anyone associated with the American Church was bad.  One of the rebels was a member of the Church and was able to secure Brother Prince Nyounfor’s release.  He was exiled to Ghana where he finished his mission and worked for 5 years before returning to Liberia.  He was a Bishop during the Stake period and is now a counselor in the Mission Presidency.  He is a wonderful man.  Everyone in Liberia has real “War” stories.
The future is with the children.  They need education and protection.

Some question the future.  At one point in US history, Benjamin Franklin asked whether the sun was rising or setting.  For the sake of the children of Liberia, I hope it is rising!