Monday, September 30, 2013

There are still some things that I'm not use to here!

Finally some pictures! These pictures were given to Cody and his companion Elder Hales through Facebook from this African man Benjamin Rickydeboss Massaquoi (pictured below) who they have been teaching. Quality not the best but who cares ... we finally get to see Elder Beckett and Elder Hales in action! 

(Editors note* - Part of this weeks letter from Cody is in response to our family letter to him about  wanting to reach out and help with some of the needy people he is surrounded by and learned about from his heart wrenching letter  last week - especially Abdul's situation)

Everyone here lives in poverty except for a few you will see every once in awhile have nice clothes or even a nice-ish house or car. I think about the worth of things and their value, and how long I could live off of them here. It's not easy to be here really. Even just 10 minutes ago I had someone ask me for money. All the kids here ask for money because they think that I have money because I am white but the adults who ask really need the money. Its hard to say no but we have to. I wish that I could give money to people, especially people like Abdul but we can't give money to them especially we as missionaries. We don't want people to join the church because of money we want them to have faith. I am here to teach them to have faith and that the lord will provide for them.

This week we taught a man who has recently become paralyzed. He is staying in a rehab center and doesn't have that much. We taught him a powerful lesson and after, I realized that he was sitting in a wheelchair that was donated from our church humanitarian program...the same ones that we raised money for back home. It was so sweet to see it and know that I helped this man through the church. I told him that I helped raise money for the wheelchair and he was so grateful to have it. This is a way to bless the lives of people here. Even the water wells are good to have here. Through the church is the best way to donate.

You really have to be carefull of how you donate to third world countries. Most of the clothes that people wear here are donated from America and all the shops that are selling clothes are the same clothes that are donated from the US. You can see alot of US aid foods here, but most of them are just being collected and sold. Elder Hales and I wonder how these things are distributed here in Africa and who gets what and how much? How do they know who needs it? It's really funny to see all of these shirts here that have American cartoons on them and no one here really knows what they are or what shows they are from. You see a lot of highschool t-shirts here too. I can't wait to see a Trabuco Hills shirt that was donated to Africa!

So in short don't send money to me to give to people or even to the mission. Donate through the church, it is the best and safest way to get stuff over here.

I have a funny story about this past Sunday. We have a member in the branch who is blind and every Sunday Elder Hales and I will go and pick him up for church at the blind school where he lives. All of the people that attend the blind school are required to go to the Sunday service if they do not have anywhere to go to church or they have no one to pick them up. So we showed up late to pick up this man, his name is Jacob Jalo and their service had already started. The church services here are loud! There is a pastor at the front yelling some kind of doctrine from the bible .... he's yelling, "In the name of Jesus"! So this is taking place in a classroom we can hear across the yard and we go over to the building to find Jacob.... remember that everyone there is blind except for the headmasters children, even the pastor is blind. We look in and there is the pastor striding back and forth in the front of the room yelling " Praise the Lord" and all the blind people are either sitting or standing (it really doesn't matter what you do, everyone is blind) and we find Jacob. Meanwhile the congregation of blind people yell "amen". So Elder Hales and I decide to go "stealth ninja" on all of the blind people. We made a plan to go in and get Jacob. Jacob was at the back, so we had to go pat the pastor and the others to get to him. We started in and the headmasters children ran to Jacob and told him that we were there. So Jacob just walked out having no problem to navigate his way out of the room and we left to go to church. So yesterday we broke a blind man out of his school and no one there knew, but the story gets even better. After church we were walking Jacob home and as we reached a main road he stopped and said he wanted to go to the internet cafe to email someone (remember this man is blind and wants to go email). We told him that he needed to go back, but he insisted, so we called his head master and asked if we could send Jacob on a bike to go to the internet cafe. The head masters only concern was to know if the internet cafe was open. According to Jacob the internet cafe was open. So we hung up the phone, I called for a bike and Elder Hales asked,  "Jacob do you even have any money?" Jacobs response was ... "no, I'll just figure something out, if you know what I mean!" (Jacob thinks he can just pull the 'I'm blind card' and get out of anything). So we send him off  and I turn to Elder Hales and say, "did we just send a blind man off on a motorcycle with no money to pay the driver?" and Elder Hales adds, "to an internet cafe that is not open on Sunday." Haha ... so we have no idea how he got home or anything but I'm sure he's fine ... he's funny and good with words.

Anyways I want to tell you some things that I am glad that I brought that you can tell people in that missionary moms email group for others who are coming here:

1. I am so glad that I brought a rain coat, the ones that you buy here are not that good. The water bounces right off of mine.
2. A head lamp. Most of the time we don't have power, and with dry season coming up we will have no power. Headlamps are perfect for working around in the apartment at night and even in the morning.
3. Duct tape. It fixes everything!

There are still some things that I am not used to here. These include: cold showers! Pouring cold cups of water on your head in the morning is never fun. And I can't get used to throwing trash on the ground. There is no trash system, so it doesn't matter if I throw the trash on the ground by our compound or if it's in the bush but when I do it I feel like a bad person.

The other day a naked boy about Zac's age (15) came up and gave me the biggest hug, then gave one to Elder Hales then asked for money haha (I think he has a few bolts loose)... He does it every time we see him. Its so funny when he comes running at full speed to give you a hug. 

I'll send you pictures next week.
Elder beckett

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Its Not Easy to Live in Salone

So This week has been crazy and the most rewarding. The people here always like to mention that Sierra Leone is very different than the United States. They point out that there is lots of poverty and that the country is very poor. Elder Hales responds with ..."its not easy to live in Salone" and it truly is not easy to live here. The weeks before this, it had not really hit me that the people here are very poor and they struggle every day of their lives. 

Elder Hales and I have discovered a hidden part of our area you cannot see on the map. This place is called Brima Town and it has big rolling hill and is very similar to what the villages look like here. It is so quiet and peaceful in Brima Town...I can't wait to send pictures of this place. We decided to spend one day just exploring and contacting people. We were just going where the spirit guided us. We had climbed to the top of one hill and found a lady selling some miscellaneous things with her children at her side. I got some chocolate and we asked her if her husband was home. She said he was home and that he had a broken ankle. She directed us to a small collection of homes behind her. We really did not know where we were going, but we ended up at this mans house. His name is Abdul Conte, he is a Muslim and has 4 children. We found that Abdul has had a broken ankle for one year now. His ankle looks like that basketball player (Kevin Ware) who snapped his shin and it was sticking out of his leg . Abdul could walk on this ankle with a limp. He showed us the x-rays and it looks like the bones would be mended together now. Anyways this man has been trying to save up money so he can go to a bone specialist and get it fixed. We have been teaching him and we invited him to church multiple times. He seemed to be hesitant to the idea because he would have to take a motorcycle to get to church, and he has very little money. One ride on a motorcycle costs about 25 cents, and he was saying how he would come if he got the money by then. I felt so bad for this man, he didn't have any money, his wife is on the side of the road trying to make some money and he has a broken ankle. His wife used to attend our church, but when she was married she had to become Muslim, as the culture requires the wife to take the religion of the husband. We taught the wife separately  because she had to stay by the road and sell stuff. She wanted badly to go back to church, but didn't want to say anything to Abdul. So we prayed that they would come to church. 

The last Sunday we only had one investigator come to church, and all the people we taught seemed to not really grab what we were teaching. So for this week Elder Hales and I have been working extra hard and have really been following the spirit. We have been praying a lot and really have been making progress with some families. With some hard work and prayer we were able to see 14 investigators come to church. Could  you imagine having 14 investigators in our ward back home? With all of the members in my district working hard we were able to see the attendance of our branch here in Bo jump from 100 to 145 in one week. Of those 14 investigators Abdul and his family came to church! Sister Conte had so much fun seeing people that she knew and was so happy to just be at church... she was smiling the whole time. 

After  church Elder Hales had to do some baptismal interviews so we missed some of our appointments. So we went to a members house and taught a lesson on enduring to the end. After we 
were walking away we ran into two ladies who stopped to talk to us. I thought is was going to be a pretty standard small discussion about the church and an invitation to come, but one of the ladies wanted us to bless her baby. This baby was paralyzed, it had no control of its body and if you were to not hold its head up it would just flop back like a noodle. We explained about the priesthood power and faith and I anointed the child and Elder Hales blessed the child. Afterwards it turned into a 30 minute lesson where we taught about the Plan of Salvation. It made me so happy that it made me cry to know that this child was loved by God and was able to receive a body and come to this earth so he could live with our Heavenly Father again one day. This child's dad had abandoned the family when the child was born and the grandmother had brought the family to Bo from the village so they could care for this child.  They don't have money to see a doctor but they have faith in God. Right after that  a blind man and his child came up to us and said they here hungry.  I looked to Elder Hales to tell them that he had nothing to give them and I shook my head, I didn't want to tell these starving people that we had nothing but the word of God to share but Elder Hales wanted me to tell them. So I told them that we had the word of God to share and with faith in him all things are possible. The old man muttered the words "the word of God" and walked away with his child. I looked to Elder Hales then back at the man and his child and they had disappeared... it made me so set back to see these people living day to day and suffering but these people have so much faith in God they know that they are watched over. We are so blessed in our lives back home, dont forget to thank God for your life and for the simple piece of bread that you have.

Love from,
Elder Cody Beckett

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It's So Easy That It's Hard!

 I got your packages, well two of them at least! I love the stuff inside! I can buy most of that stuff here but the things that they don't have are chocolate. Some good things to send in packages are like brownie mix, cake mix or cookie mix. We have a small oven to cook in. Maybe some cereal and you can send letters. Those would be sweet!  If you do send the debit card, tape two pictures of our family together and put it in the middle. Put the picture in a package then send it.  I need lots of US stamps so maybe  200 would be good for now. The wipes that you sent were a score, they are perfect!  I don't want to send pictures because we send our emails in a sketchy internet cafe, and all of your pictures can be lost if a virus gets onto your card. So I will have a member put my pictures onto one of the flash drives that I brought and I will put it in an envelope and send it with a missionary who is going home and he will mail it to you. So you wont get any pictures from me for a while. I have sent about 4 letters home so you will get those soon!

The branch that I'm serving in has 400 people in it, but only 100 come to church. I bet you have never seen a ward so unorganized in your entire life. I bet you have never seen a 15 year old Young Men's president, or a primary room filled with kids screaming, "I am a child of God" as they throw chairs across the room and hit each other while there is a 10 year old boy at the front yelling at everyone to sit down and be quite! There are no real teachers for the Young Men and Young Women so the youth take turns teaching out of the manual. We are really trying to strengthen the branch so that the people we bring to the church will stay and be nourished by the word of God. We are having to teach the branch presidency how to hold meetings and what each meeting is about. Their handbooks look like they have never been touched  but this is okay, they are learning small small (*editor's note: I can tell Cody is beginning to catch onto the Krio language as we would say "little by little" rather than small small). The members that do come to church are so strong in their faith. The building here is really nice, it almost looks like a chapel at home.

The missionary work here is easy, too easy. Its so easy that its hard. That sounds weird so I will explain. Everyone in Salone will talk to you, especially if you are white and Elder Hales and I are both white so we are extra lucky. For example, Elder Hales and I went street contacting, our feet got tired so we sat under someone's shack (everyones yard or porch is for everyone to share, you can just chill on anyone's porch) near a busy street where people would get dropped off or picked up from the taxis (motorcycles), we would call people over and they would sit down with us and we would have a lesson. The people will come to us. The people are always willing to talk to you especially if it is about God. Everything here is 'by Gods grace' or is because of God or because of the Satan. Everyone here is religious but there are only two religions in the eyes of a Salonian: Muslim or Chritianity.  If we stop to say hello to a family they will just bring chairs outside for us to sit down and teach them without us even asking them if we could teach. So all of this is great but the hard part about being white is that people will just nod their heads and say yes to anything that you say so alot of people will accept our whole message and at the end say that it is true, but they have their own church that they have position in, or have a calling.  A lot of times the people cannot understand my hard English accent so Elder Hales will have to translate what I way into Krio. Elder Hales is really good at Krio, he has been teaching me small Krio. He actually finds it hard to speak English without throwing in some Krio, he says that I have an amazing vocabulary, and that he has lost his. In Krio or in English you use words that you would speak to a small child with. Elder Hales is really good at teaching principals very simple so they can understand. It is hard for people to have faith here, we invite them to pray about our message to know that it is true but they just say they believe because we were sent by God, and most likely because we are white. I could just straight up ask someone to get baptized and they would say yes, not knowing what church it is. We invite everyone to church, but most don't come but we always have faith that they will.

Elder Hales and I enjoy teaching older people and people who are educated or know the bible well. These people actually want to know about our message and have questions for us. I never thought I would say I would actually want a challenging investigator.

There are some crazy things that go on during lessons. The first is children. The small children will reach to their mothers and the mothers will start breast feeding them. This is not an unusual occurence, and it is just normal to me now. Parents will beat their children. It is not appropriate for children to cry here! One time we were having the most spiritual lesson, we were teaching sister Jeneba about the restoration and she actually had questions and was interested. Her family was listening as we taught and the grandchild of sister Jeneba tripped and knocked over a bench. Sister Jeneba stopped listening and went to beat the child, only 3 or 4 years old, didn't even know what he did wrong but she slapped him twice and hit him with a branch for crying. It is so sad and we beg them not to. Also, roosters will come right into the middle of your lesson and will caw so loud! It's very distracting. Elder Hales and I have found some great families to teach. Our whole mission is focusing on families so that they can grow in faith together. We just taught Alpha Kata and his family. He is a muslim and everyone else is Christian. He knows it is true and wants his family to be baptized, but he says they cannot be baptized yet. We are enjoying the work and we are  loving the country.

 I love you and miss you so much but time is flying! I know the church is true. My testimony has grown so much since I have been here! I will see you soon, tell people to email me!

Brad and Zac showing their brotherly support with their African Peace shirts

Monday, September 9, 2013

Wholly Salone!


Wholly Salone! In Sierra Leone the people call the country Salone! It's much easier to say. Kushay (not sure if that is how you spell it, but that is how you say it, it is one way you can greet people. It just means how are you, hello, or goodbye.... (I dont really know what it means, you just say it.)

 This week has been full of so many new things for me! The flight to Salone from Ghana was not bad, it was about 3 hours, give or take. The food on the airplane was bomb. I think that is because it was good American food and not the MTC food. It was noodles with some sort of beef and sauce, ice cream, a roll, Sprite and apple juice! That was the first drink of juice that I have had in awhile. When the 18 of us landed in Lungi, a city near Freetown, the air was much more humid, and much warmer than Ghana. We met president and sister Ostler outside of the airport. President Ostler is way cool! He reminds me of president Brennan. We got on a bus that was packed full with people ... people were sitting on the floor and many on one a seat  but luckily Elder Buah, my MTC companion and I got a good seat that was not packed! We traveled for about 10 minutes on a dirt road that was flooded with water, in fact all of the roads are flooded with water! It looked like Holy Jim trail, but flooded out, with a tropical jungle around it. We ended up at the beach. Besides the beautiful sand and palm trees along the coast, the beaches are not much, the water is filthy like after a big storm in California and the water was so choppy! We walked out on an old worn down peir that had a dock on the end of it and got on a 30 foot boat. The boat would take us accross the bay to Freetown. The boat ride was about 30 mininutes and was so fun! We were going like 30 mph on super choppy water, we would jump the boat on the waves and drop. It gave me the butterflies! All of the elders enjoyed it. We didn't get to take the hovercraft, but I have talked to some elders who have taken it, I am jealous. Before we left on the boat there was a child that had fallen off of the dock and drowned, it was sad and there were people on the beach crying. Children are not supervised here, they just do what they want. When we left, the people could not find the child. This was like the first impression I had in Salone and it made me a little scared about the country. 

Freetown is so awesome! It is beautiful when you have a view from the sea but it is super crowded, and there is no space for anything. The roads are so crazy, there are people walking in the roads like the mexican boarder but the cars do not stop here! If you do not move you will get hit. The driving is a free for all here, with tons of motorcycles and the motorcycles are the taxis here! People will pile a family of 4 onto a 100cc motorcycle. I could not drive here! They use their horns as warnings that they are coming, so other cars or motorcycles will get out of the way! 

When we got to the mission home it was late and we set up for sleeping and ate food! We all slept in one big room with matresses on the ground. We had misquito nets that covered all of us. If you dont sleep with one then you will have lots of misquito bites when you wake up. Its not bad sleeping under one, it feels like camping in a tent, its kind of nice! 

We got our months money and the total came out to 489000 Leones which comes out to about 120 dollars. It is not hard to live on that for one month infact you can rent an apartment for 200 dollars a year here! This is one of the poorest countries in the world and it really shows.

 We went to sleep and woke up at 3:30 am to catch the bus that runs to Bo where my first area is. I am in the west side of Bo. It's split into east and west. The west side has three branches. The bus ride is about 4 hours but our bus driver decided to go fast so we got there in three! This bus driver had skill!  The rode to Bo is paved, and not as full of people, although you will pass a village every 10 minutes. The bus driver would pass normal traffic and not obey speed limits but that is okay because I have not even seen one police man here yet. There was some stinky fat lady sitting next to me on the bus, so it was hard to breath. I couldnt sleep because of the bumps in the road (they will put three small speed bumps in the road about every mile so you will slow down!) that was a long ride! We arrived an hour early at the bus stop in Bo, which really isn't a bus stop, it is a market. We must have been funny to watch, there was about 8 of us, and only 2 were black. So a bunch of white guys at a market in Salone have no idea where they are or where we are  going. A member of the church noticed us, how couldn't you, we were the only white guys in Bo. She helped us locate the elders who are already serving here and we went to the apartment and dropped off our stuff. 

My compaions name is Elder Hales. He is a really cool guys from south Utah. He has been out for 17 months now, he spent the last 3 months in a village in Kenema  (east of Bo). Elder Hales has been very helpful and nice. He helps me speak Krio(which is just a really broken down english). In the MTC I learned some Pigeon, which is a common language in Africa, it too is a broken down English, but different from Krio. Every African can speak it.  Elder Hales is easy to get along with and we teach well together. The apartment that we are staying in has 3 bedrooms and a small kitchen and a bathroom. The bedrooms have two beds and a desk, and a small dresser thing. The kitchen is the nicest in Salone. It has a mini oven and stove, hooked to propane, a sink with running water and a refrigerator. I wont see another one like it, we are so lucky to have running water. That will end in the dry season though but with running water comes a shower and toilet. The showers are so cold, the toilet is so deep that it always splashes back up, so I prefer to use the hole in the front yard. Our apartment is surrounded by a huge wall covered in barbed wire.They call them compounds. We have a nice one. 

I have to go soon so I will just tell you all the sweet parts of this mission. We get to ride on the motorcycle taxis. Both me and Elder Hales and the driver fit on a bike that should only hold two people. I sit on the back with my feet on the swing arm. Its so fun but we usually only take those to church or other meetings. I wear sandals which is so  awesome! But something that is not so great here is the nudity. It's no big deal here!

I must go. I love you and the church is true, I'll write more next week.  I forgot to bring it with me, but I made a list of things that are unique to the MTC in Ghana! I will send it the next time I come on the computer!

He made it! Letter from the Mission President.

Hi Sister Beckett, 

We enjoyed picking your son up at the airport in Freetown on Tuesday. He is now safely serving in New London 2, which is in Bo, Sierra Leone. This is about 3 hours east of Freetown. His companion is Elder Hales. We trained them on Thursday and they will be great together and your son is going to be a great missionary. 

Thanks for your help in preparing him. If there is anything that Sister Ostler and I can do, please let me know. 


President Ostler

President and Sister Ostler welcome Cody as he arrives.

Fresh From the Ghana MTC 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I am going to Sierra Leone today!

Just you wait till I tell you about what has been going on here! It is so great! My week has been busy! 10 hours in one classroom grows on you in about 3 days but it's very spiritual here! I can't see blogs in the MTC (Mission Training Center) but I will be able to in the field.

Oh... by the way, this is my last day in the MTC! I am going to Sierra Leone today!  I can finally get out of this sweat box and get to the sweaty streets!  The days are long, but the weeks have flown by. I am so ready to get out there and serve the people I am just a little nervous about who my companion will be.

 OH BOY....  give an African some candy and they will come back and ask for everything you possess! The Africans are so funny! 

 I got the news about Hannah's brother, it got to me a little... what happened? How did he die? What did Hannah say at the funeral? How is Sister Smith doing? 

Thats fantastic that Jake is working in the temple. I can't wait for him to be out with me serving the Lord! Anyway, I need to go... I leave in thirty minutes! I have so many things to say, I just don't have time, maybe later today when I arrive in SL or next Monday on P-day.

Elder Beckett
Jake and Cody - Missionary Cousins
Jake leaving December 18th for Calgary, Canada