Dad’s Memorial in California

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My brother, Paul Laemmlen at our Dad’s graveside service at Reedley Cemetery before the memorial held in Selma.
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All of Art Laemmlen’s grandchildren. Left to right: Adam Lewis, Brandt Laemmlen, Janelle Laemmlen, Bryce Laemmlen, Riana Coombs, Katlyn Antior, Aaron Lewis, Daniel Laemmlen, Kortney Dennis, Claire Lewis
My Dad’s 3 bothers: Henry, Wilfred and Franklin Laemmlen
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Kristine Laemmlen with Dad’s farm clothes.
Grandkids and a great-grandchild out in the orange grove at the Reedley farm.

Dinner with David Keddington

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This evening we made a new friend, David Keddington from Dakar, Senegal.  He and his family live there.  He works for the state department doing lab/research work.  He attends the branch there where our friends, Elder and Sister Thompson are serving.  They told him to look us up when he had a week of work to do in Bamako.  We had a great visit and a great meal together.  The world is a small place in the church.  It’s easy to make friends when we start with so much in common.

A Head Pan of Popos and Waste Water

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Along every road or street is a ditch, usually made of cement, but not always.  This is where the waste water flows from the homes and shops and businesses.  These ditches are usually 2 to 3 feet across and 3 to 4 feet deep.

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These ditches are often covered by removable cement slabs or anything available.  Since rented space is so dear, the vendors set up shops along just about every street, wherever they can find space.  Often the goods are left out at night, but covered.  People here are honest and don’t take what doesn’t belong to them.

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District Meeting, Teaching and Visiting

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Every Tuesday morning at 9:00 missionaries throughout the mission gather with their fellow servants and have a District Meeting, under the direction of the District Leader.  Mission areas are divided into districts and zones.  District and Zone leaders make up the leadership of the mission.  Elder Oulai is our Bamako District Leader.  These meetings include song and prayer, a report of the previous week, looking at key indicators:  baptisms and confirmations, people on date for baptism, investigators (amis or friends) at church, new friends, progressing friends, teaching members and copies of the Book of Mormon given.

We talk about the good people we’re working with and what we can do to help each other.  Then one of the Elders teaches the rest of us about a gospel principle from the scriptures or from Preach My Gospel.

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The Elders fed us a delicious lunch:

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Their apartment:

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This afternoon we went to teach with Elder Oulai and Elder Sulu.  We visited Valerie and her son and then Ibrahima’s family.

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Ibrahima, Miriam and Fatumata:

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Here are a few of the typical sights we see every day in these neighborhoods:

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Notice the young boy filling bottles with gasoline.  This is a service station for motorcycles where you can buy gas by the liter.

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Our taxi ride home at the end of the day included a bit of Holiday cheer!

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A Day with Sad News

2019-11-17This day started like many others–we worked at the apartment, sorting and organizing and we had a fine lunch with food we left behind in Mali a year ago.  Stale crackers, good PB and some jam.

John went to work cleaning one of our Costco chairs that was sent over in the container.  The termites got to it and did some damage.  The whole chair seems to have inhaled the termite dirt, turning it a shade dingier than the companion chair.

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We are sorting through the things that came over in the container in August 2018, trying to organize what needs to go where.

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We’ve set up a bedroom for now in the smallest, coolest room we have.  We’ll move to the larger bedroom once the A/C in there works.

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Our living room right now:

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And our beautiful neighborhood view:

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After a long day of work, we decided to go downstairs to the restaurant for dinner to celebrate getting so much done.  That’s where we were able to get onto WiFi for a few minutes and that’s where I learned that my Dear Dad died today.  I cried as I ate and was able to communicate a bit with my family.  He died early this morning, letting go of his tired broken body.

Dad is flying into the heavens tonight.  But I’m pretty sure he stopped by to wave at me when he flew over Bamako.  I went out onto our deck when I got home to see if I could see any stars twinkling at me.  There were none.  There’s too much smoke and haze in the air.  Then all of a sudden all the power in our sector went out!  It was pitch black for about 20 seconds, as if he was giving me a nod, not from an obscured twinkling star, but with a sign I’d be sure to see, a quiet darkness.  I smiled and wished him well.  I love my Dad so much.  A great soul has passed today.


Attending Church in Farako

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The Chicken Farm Entrance

This morning we drove to Farako to attend church.  This is the place where the first members in Mali started the first group.  Farako is where the chicken farm is.  This is where it all began.

Farako is about an hour out of Bamako, going east. We drove on paved road much of the way, then we turned off, going south into the outskirts of town. Everything is dirty from red dust. There are people everywhere. There are no lanes in the roads and no traffic rules. Lots of motorcycles. As we drove south, we went through some new developing areas where cinder block homes are going up. Lots of small homes in rows. I wonder if it’s government housing of some sort. They are getting that road ready to pave. It’s like a whole new neighborhood–just red dirt and cement homes in rows.

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Then we turned off that dirt road to go to the chicken farm, another 30 minutes or so of pretty much bad roads. You have to go slow. Bumps and dips and dust. And long-horned Brahma bull skin-and-bones cows being herded on the same dirt road. It feels good to be back in the village life world. Mud brick homes, outdoor cooking. Shea trees and mangoes. Women washing. Men sitting, children playing. Dusty and dirty. It’s a wonder people live here. It’s such a hard life. We drove on until we came to the chicken farm and stopped there to greet Dramane Bagayoko, the group leader. He and a few others were there to lead us to the new meeting place.

Until last week, church meetings were held at an open bowery-type building here at the chicken farm.  Last week they moved to a new rented building about a 20-30 minute walk farther along the dirt road.

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Sis & Elder John Lewis, Sekou & Dina, Sis & Pres Binene
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Elder John Lewis & Frederic Mbaya

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The new place is a small compound we are renting. It’s a construction zone right now. Cinder block construction. Small buildings around a center courtyard. The chapel was open on 2 sides, which was nice for the breeze. It’s small. Maybe 20 feet by 15 feet. We had 3 rows of 6 chairs, some chairs in the front for Pres & Sis Binene, we sat on the side. There was a small sacrament table with a chair behind it for Elder Oulai.

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There is a side room with no windows, or maybe they were just closed. There are heavy metal window covers. As we got going, a few more people came and sat in the side room. By the end, we had 30 people there, mostly men, maybe 2 women and a few children. Barai and his son came. Dra translated from French to Bambara for the people there. Many of them don’t speak French.

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Dramane and Sekou preparing the sacrament program

Someone brought a bottle of water and a baguette for the sacrament. Elder Oulei blessed it. It all felt humble and perfect. A dragonfly came and went while we received the emblems of the sacrament. It was quiet and peaceful. I thought there is no place in this world I would rather be than here.

After the sacrament, John and I both spoke. Mostly in French. Dra translated to Bambura.  Then Sis Binene and Pres spoke. She taught them about prayer from Alma 33, 34 where is says to pray in your homes and with your families and in your fields and in your wildernesses. Pres Binene talked about the creation and all the steps, and then he taught about resting on the Sabbath and he talked about keeping the Sabbath holy.

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After the sacrament meeting ended, we had a Sunday School lesson taught from Gospel Principles manual by Elder Oulei. The 3 other missionaries went to the other groups–2 stayed in Bamako, and one went to Gomi.  The lesson lasted a full hour, finishing up at about noon. It felt good. These are the pioneers, the first of the first generation.

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The other buildings in the compound:2019-11-17 Church Farako (24)

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Sekou Dembele, First Counselor in the Bamako Branch Presidency and Dramane Bagayoko, Group Leader in Farako 

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President and Sister Binene

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We had a visitor today from Ouelessebougou with his friend. His name was Nama Kamissoko. He went to BYU-I and married a girl named Courtney. They live in Provo now. He wants to get an MBA at BYU. He served a mission in Phoenix.

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Being here is a good thing.  I feel the joy and peace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in places like this where it’s easy to feel what really matters.

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