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.