President and Sister Ostler
Hi Sister Beckett,
Your son is a great missionary. Sister Ostler and I saw him last Sunday - and he looked well. He has a huge smile and 100% enthusiasm and energy. Its also nice to be called cool (something my children would never say) (We let him know that Elder Beckett said he was cool!)
The poverty, disability, suffering, etc. of the people is heart wrenching. Any direction you go, there are hundreds, thousands of people with similar stories. Perhaps this has always been the condition of man (the poor you will always have with you), but the vastness of poverty here is overwhelming - and very personal, like Abdul, like the nameless child, like the investigator whose wife died in childbirth the other day, like the district president's wife who just had her leg amputated (and it goes on).
My faith is that God will make it right and that through a mortal experience (even though it is meager and difficult for most people) that we gain something that we couldn't have without it - the potential for exaltation and the universal gift of resurrection - and the promise of being made whole.
Now as to being able to assist. There isn't a way for a missionary's family to donate money to Abdul or any specific person that the missionaries are involved with. We can't create a connection between missionary work and monetary charity. This has occurred in the past and has created long term problems for the recipients and the church. Our missionary's efforts are exclusively focused on spreading the gospel message - 'silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give you' (Acts 3:6).
It is heart wrenching to know a circumstance and be unable to help directly. And there are thousands and thousands of similar circumstances in Bo and other cities, towns and villages within Sierra Leone.
We do have fast offerings, which are used by branch presidents to help the needy (usually in a very spartan and life sustaining way). Our LDS Charities (Humanitarian services) provide direct aid within Sierra Leone. They are not allowed to proselyte but conduct projects that fund clean water (increasing life expectancy), child birth, mobility for the disabled, immunizations, etc. We have a wonderful, full time couple in Sierra Leone that administers these programs. Our Perpetual Education Fund, creates educational and vocational opportunities for adults to be able to skills to provide self sufficiency - a real problem in Bo.
Knowing that you can't reach Abdul directly, perhaps, your feelings are moved to donate to one of these funds, knowing that you are reaching someone like Abdul whose burdens are not known to us individually but are as great.
I suspect this is an unsatisfying answer. We should not be satisfied while such suffering exists. Your son is one of the ways this all gets better, by preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and by building a community of saints, even among the poorest people of the world, having faith that it is all made right through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and praying that even in our own fortunate circumstances we work to lift those around.
You have a tender heart which shows through your note and through your son. I thank you for your expression of help.