Thursday, August 7, 2014

Evacuation from Sierra Leone and reassigned to Ghana, Accra mission: "I want to go back to Seirra Leone, but I will serve here the best that I can"

Hello family, friends and everyone else who wants to know about Ebola stuff.

So, I will try to tell you everything that has happened regarding Ebola and our steps of action and movements. I have been too busy and exhausted to be able to write this stuff in my journal, so I guess this is my journal for the week.The first news of Ebola came when I was with Elder Bogh about 4 1/2 months ago, whatever month that was. It was first reported in Guinea. Even though it was very far away the mission made big changes to how we work. A few changes included: no shaking hands, no eating street food (anything that was not packaged), no touching animals, couldn't go into a house where a sick person was, no attending funerals, no giving blessing to anyone but sick missionaries, we had to clean our counters and bathrooms with bleach water everyday. We also had to buy food storage. Our food storage consisted of baked beans, mixed vegetables, a bag of rice, tomato tins, oil, salt, and a few other spices. There was food to make stew for a bout a 3 weeks. Water was no problem because we had a well. Most of the members laughed at us or wouldn't take us serious when we would only bind them (fist bump). Investigators and members would be offended when we would turn down meals they had prepared for us.
Little did Cody know that his recent zone conference would be his last in Sierra Leone. You can find him pictured right in the middle.

In the back ground you can see the missionaries bind (fist pump) rather than shake hands because of ebola.

Cody enjoying his last zone conference in Sierra Leone.

So that lasted about 6 weeks or so, then the mission realized that Ebola was far away and few of the restrctions were taken away: we could shake peoples hands, we could eat from the street again and from members, but all the other rules stayed the same.

Over the weeks, rumors would come up, some that I believe and some that are false. The ones that I believed is that there were cases of Ebola that were not being reported, they were handled under the table, and hospitals would keep it all a secret. Cases all over the country being hid because of fear of the country reacting in chaos. Those cases progressed with time thats why now a big out break, because everyone was denying that it was actually in the country and nothing was being reported, and no action to stop it either. Most people believed that the government was lying about Ebola so that they could make money. Most Sierra Leonians don't like the government because it is so currupt. So no one trusted what the government was saying. There are some really whaky rumors that I wont share, but just know that most did not believe it was there and thats why it got so bad.

So all of that went on while I was with Elder Latu.

While I was with Elder Zenovieff, at the beginning of the transfer, there was reported cases of Ebola in a place called Kailoun district in Sierra Leone, its right next to Guinea. So that is where it had entered into the country. Kenema is the next big city  from Kailou and that is the farthest away that we have missionaries, was in Kenema. Around week four of last 6 week transfer, we got news that all the missionaries in Kenema were being taken out, and moved to all different parts of the mission. After talking with some missionaries who were in Kenema, they also know that Ebola had reached Kenema before the government had reported, once again it was kept a secret. The main reason that we were taken out of Kenema, was not because Kenema was swarming with Ebola, the mission was afraid of what the people would do. A senior couple stayed in Kenema for about another week and a half but the people in Kenema started to clash with the government a little because they were not doing anything to stop Ebola. Tear gas was flying a little.

So we continue with our work, kind of numbed to the thought of Ebola. Last week Monday, the night of the Muslim holiday, I got a call from the zone leaders that we were not to shake anyones hands and we were not to eat any food from the street. We didn't think much of it really, it had happened before. The next day was our zone conference, with Elder Viinson from the Seventy. Its was interesting to bind a seventy... haha! So, that day we were able to teach one lesson because of travel and Elder Vinson wanted to interview Elder Zenovieff. We got to see Osman Sankoh, luckily light (electricity) was there and we watched  a movie about the Saints after the Restoration of the church, and I gave him a hymn book and a triple combo (book of mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price.) It was a sweet lesson because his family was there watching too. When light is on, everyone is inside watching films.

The next day was p-day (wednesday) because of the hiliday on Monday. So we had our p-day like normal. Thurday we do our weekly planning, that will usually take from 10:30am until 1:00pm to complete and after we had lunch until 2:0pm. After lunch we scrambled to get to lessons, because of how few lessons we had that week. As we reached our first appointment I got a call from the zone leaders to get back to our apartments immediately, and to tell all the other people in the district. We walked casually like nothing was wrong and called all the people in the apartment and everyone was back to the apartment in a half hour(walking takes some time.) So I pulled out my Uno cards to get everyones minds off of Ebola and being in the apartment. Uno worked pretty good. About an hour later Elder Bough (one of my zoneleaders) called me, and asked if we still had food storage to last us 4 or five days. He said that we could go out one last time to buy anything we need. So Elder Zenovieff and I went and bought things like milk powder, corn flakes, onions, eggs and toilet paper, and other stuff we thought that we would like while we stayed in the apartment for 4 days.

We returned to the apartment and settled in, got everything organized and ready for the next few days. We had heard that the government said for everyone to stay in their homes, so the mission told us to do it also. By this time its now dark, and we just go on with our evening as usual.. the only problem we had was that our generator was broken and light doesn't come very often. So we couldn't charge our phones, and that would mean that we would lose contact with the mission. So we called to have it fixed and luckily we did get it fixed the next day.

Friday was really interesting, it was the first full day in the apartment. We continued with the schedule, we studied in the mornings and dressed up. After studies, we didnt really know what to do. Some worked out, some slept. The apartment was so clean, because everyone became bored and started cleaning. We cooked, we ate... we played uno for hours, but staying inside was really hard. The hardest part is that we were not allowed to communicate to anyone except for mission leaders. Couldn't accept calls from investigators, couldn't talk to members or other missionaries. The day was long, but we managed.

Saturday was about the same, we started playing football in the house, I had eaten,I wrote a letter to Jeff and then laid down to take a nap. I kept the phone next to me just in case the zone leaders called to update us. Before I could fall asleep, I got a call, but it wasn't from the zone leaders, it was from President Ostler. He said to gather all the missionaries together in the apartment and put him on speaker phone. He told us that we would all be reassigned and talked to us about how it would happen and then told us individually where we were going. I was told Ghana, Accra. All the African elders returned to their countries to finish their missions there. Almost all the Americans  were shifted to different missions in Ghana. We were told that we would be leaving the next day (Sunday). So we started packing. We were allowed 2 bags. One could be 40 pounds and the other 20. So we had to leave behind a lot of stuff. I left a lot of shirts and books that I could get again. Saturday night I was to find transportation for 3 apartments, so I managed to get three podas. Sunday morning came and we left to the mission home. No one knew, we jsut disappeared all 170 missionaries came to the mission home to prepare for our flight to Ghana. 

                     Pres Ostler posted on Facebook a few pics of the guys leaving and packing …his comment : "Getting ready to leave means sorting through what you can get on the plane. Lots of packing  and repacking and lots of things having to be left behind.

"We were allowed 2 bags. One could be 40 pounds and the other 20. So we had to leave behind a lot of stuff. I left a lot of shirts and books that I could get again."

Missionaries leaving lots of things behind. I love how there is a teddy bear.... lets just hope that was coming from one of the sister missionaries!! *wink

Pres. Ostler's Facebook post: "Moving out - Here is one wave of our reassigned missionaries leaving for a charter to Portugal. We hired a fleet of Poodas, stuffed missionaries and luggage in and hurried to take pictures and wish them good bye. Way to fast and early to say goodbye. Wonderful missionaries"

This is the first hotel we stayed at in Lungi

Ends up Ghana didn't want to accept a flight from Sierra Leone because of Ebola. So we were delayed. In the evening we were able to get a flight for all the people without an African passport to Portugal (Portugal was willing to take the missionaries in exchange for them to use there emgerency respond team to practice on the missionaries coming into their country). We ended up staying in a hotel that night because the flight hadn't come yet. 6 missionaries to a room, one bed, and 5 slices of bread and peanut butter to last two days. Luckily there was food at the restaraunt that I bought. Monday was declared by the government as a stay at home day, so we couldn't fly out. So we went from being stuck in our apartments to being stuck in a hotel.

5 of the 6 elders enjoying a very nice and comfy hotel bed (I'm kind of thinking 5 elders sleeping in one bed together might be breaking some rules - but I can't blame them for taking the opportunity to savor a moment on a really nice mattress that they haven't enjoyed in many months). I guess they thought it was funny that the hotel would provide champagne in their room with 6 mormon missionaries so they had to include it in their photo.

Tuesday morning we finally got out of the hotel and had a chartered flight come and pick us up, with a ton of doctors to test us for different symptoms of Ebola. If we were sick we wouldnt fly.

This is not Cody but Cody taking a picture of one of the other elders as they are leaving Sierra Leone and boarding a bus for the chartered flight to Portugal.

We went to Portugal and was escorted by the police to a hall where the top person in charge of health talked to us and welcomed us. The mission in Portugal helped us get a hotel and travel. Man Portugal is sooooo nice, but it was a culture shock.  First world countries are terrible. The way people dress is crazy. Everyone is looking for things that don't make them happy. I am glad that I am back in Africa. Portugal was weird. Only 2 missionaries stayed in each room and the mission got us something  like a Subway sandwich each. It was hard to adjust ... when we got to the hotel the mission president told us that many of us got another re-assignment. Everyone, except my MTC group went to the U.S. So about 10 of us stayed in Ghana.

There are 3 elders from my mission who are coming to the Irvine mission. Elder Losee, Elder Ray, and Elder Maxfield. So look for them...

We have been able to meet two of the 3 elders that were evacuated from Sierra Leone and are now serving here in the California Irvine mission. Elder Losee above and Elder Maxfield below. It was really fun to meet them and hear more about Sierra Leone and the evacuation story. They both have wonderful Krio accents...hope Cody doesn't loose his before he comes home. Hoping to meet Elder Ray soon. 

The next day after 3 hours of sleep we went to London and connected to Ghana. Met my new mission president  and relaxing and getting my clothes clean and buying some things and preparing to go to the field. Ghana is soooooo nice. Everything works, the roads, the light is here (electricity), its quiet, people speak English... no more Krio is weird. I just have an instinct to speak Krio to black people. Even in London hahah... so it will take some adjusting too.

I want to go back to Seirra Leone, but I will serve here the best that I can. At Christmas we can talk more about this or email me questions. I am okay I guess, just tired.

Love Elder Beckett...


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  2. Is Cody in the same mission as Tyler Schoessow now?