Another Day in Paradise

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Here’s a look at our day in the Mission Office.  We hear there may be a flight for the Americans going out on Sunday.  We’re trying to feel optimistic.  We are wondering if our other African Elders and Sisters will be able to travel to their home countries.  Borders are closed now and there are no flights.  We preparing for Plan B:  keeping them here in the Abidjan East Mission.

We spent the day working on logistics and arrangements for the missionaries staying.  We need to get money for food supplies to them.  Many of the apartments are low on food and it’s getting harder to get out to purchase supplies for the coming weeks.

Yesterday a 9:00 p.m. curfew was set, with shops closing at 6:00.  Today they announced that workers need to be sent home at 2:00 and you cannot drive more than 5 km from your home if you live in Abidjan.  When we finally headed home this evening at about 7:30, the roads were almost empty (amazing!) and the street vendors were gone (unbelievable).

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When we pulled into our parking garage, the 4 Elders living in our building came out to welcome us.  They’ve been in the apartment all day long, waiting for news.  We invited them over to cheer them on.

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Elder Post, Elder Otieno, Elder Larsen and Elder Brown:

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We told them all the news of the world and of Abidjan that we knew.  They enjoyed our area rug most of all.

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Then we enjoyed watching one of the new Book of Mormon videos together.  It was the best evening ever.  We invited them back tomorrow night for more prime time viewing and popcorn.  Tomorrow they plan to wash their clothes.  They only have the clothes they are wearing and one change of missionary clothes.  They’re in good spirits, but a little bored.  We are all hoping the flight Sunday will really happen.  We’re already hearing rumors from the other mission that it may not.  What a roller coaster ride this has been!

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The Mission Home Kitchen is Quiet

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This morning I am thinking about some of the things we’ve lost this last week as the mission has been turned upside down–things like arrival and departure dinners.  There are many traditions that have been disrupted.  Generally Pres Binene also has special interviews with the departing missionaries and also with those who are arriving.  There has been little time for that this week.  I’m sad the missionaries haven’t received the fun fanfare welcoming them or seeing them off.  It’s another of the sacrifices they’ve been forced to make by this COVID-19 experience we are having.

This week the kitchen has been empty and quiet.

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Still Waiting

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The suitcases and missionaries keep coming.  I think that after today, everyone’s are here and accounted for.  Every 2 bags represent the life-belongings of a missionary.  That’s all they have right now, aside from their carry-on bags with overnight things.  And these missionaries are living without their things.  We know the feeling.  Our stuff is in Bamako.  We are also living out of 2 suitcases that were filled with our books and study materials and some things for our apartment here.  Our other 2 suitcases were filled with Nativities.  We have enough clothes to rotate and look different every day.  It’s a good simple life here in Abidjan!

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Still no word.  Still waiting patiently.

Still in our mission, waiting to leave (if they are allowed to):
43 Congo
5 Brazzaville Congo
5 Tahiti (not going, no flights)
3 Haiti (not going, no flights)
6 Togo/Benin
1 Kenya
1 Ethiopia
1 Madagascar
1 Burundi
1 Central Africa
= 74 still here

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Elder Van Duzer showed us how to enter new membership records today.  We’re so grateful he’s here to show us how to manage the office procedures.

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We splurged on a pizza for lunch.

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Doing more money transfers:

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Tonight we took a missionary to an apartment way out in his area.  He’d come in to weigh and leave his bags.  There is a new mandate here that shops close at 6:00 p.m.  We are seeing that happen, although there are still plenty of people out in the streets.

We hear the flight from Ghana made it out safely today with more than 200 American church members.  The exodus continues.

This hymn has been going through my mind today:

Lead Kindly Light
Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on;
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene: one step enough for me.

Visiting the Soeurs in Vallon, Cocody

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While everyone is preparing to exit the mission, we are also receiving new Ivorian missionaries from the other two missions who are being reassigned here.  When I was young, there was a game we played where, when a timer went off, it popped and all the pieces jumped up, then fell into disarray.  I don’t remember the name of it.  You had to fit the pieces back into their places.  It feels a little bit like that here right now.

Missionaries from Cote d’Ivoire who have been serving in other African nations have all been sent back to Cote d’Ivoire, and the 3 missions here are receiving them.  They are usually not sent to the mission where their family lives.  We are expecting 69 Ivorian missionaries here.  About 30 have arrived so far.

When these new missionaries arrive, Pres Binene meets with them and assigns them to a companion here.  (Many of these companions are still in limbo, maybe leaving, maybe staying, depending on flights out).  Everything is in a state of fluctuation.

Tonight we took one of our newly arrived Sisters to an apartment in Cocody near where we live.  Here’s a look at these Sisters in their apartment:

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Above:  laundry drying outside.  Below:  comfortable chairs for the night guard in the parking lot!

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Departure Preparations Continue

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The mission garage continues to fill with luggage.  Today more missionaries were brought in from outlying areas.  They come with their belongings and then weigh their suitcases to be sure they’re under the weight limit.

We continue to wait for instruction from church travel.  Today we received none.  Missionaries are waiting in their apartments.  Some from the Yamoussoukro Mission are in a hotel.  We are all waiting.

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Coronavirus Cases: 417,676
Deaths: 18,605
Recovered: 108,312
Countries: 196
Ivory Coast: 73
Mali: 0

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Beautiful Soeur Beyene from Ethiopia:

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Our luggage scale has been fixed.  That’s a good thing.

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We ran a few errands today–to transfer money, to pick up prescriptions for missionaries  at a pharmacy, and we walked through a grocery store near the office.  John and I have not yet stocked up to prepare for a lock down when that day comes.  It rained last night.

Life goes on as normal here, pretty much.  We are seeing many now wearing face masks and some are wearing plastic gloves.  We hear the government is starting a curfew at 9:00 p.m. starting tonight.  This is a busy outdoor culture.  Shops stay open late when it’s cooler outside.  People are in the streets.  Public transport vans are still crammed full of people.  So far there is no lock down.

We hear a special flight will be departing from Accra tomorrow with missionaries, area couples and embassy workers.

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I read a talk this morning by Elder Maxwell (Content with the Things Allotted unto Us, April 2000) and he said something that really struck me:

“Alma acknowledges that God has placed individuals in every nation who can preach and teach His word (see Alma 29:8). Thus, if we press too much, too often, and too hard for enlarged personal roles, we could actually shrink the field of action needed by others.”

We need to remember to pray for the dozens of missionaries who are still here and will stay here to carry on this work. They are remarkable and they need our prayers.

Special Deliveries

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This evening we made several special deliveries.  There has been such upheaval in the mission, some missionaries are now in apartments that don’t have much food.  When the missionaries got word last week that they needed to fill their cupboards and prepare for possible lock downs, many spent all the food allowance they had to do just that.

Then when the missionaries got word to pack and move out, some of that food was given out to members in need so it wouldn’t be wasted.  Now we have some missionaries returning to some of those apartments and there is not enough food to get them through the end of the month.

The decision has been made to give the missionaries their April living allowance a week early so they can use it now if they need to.  Missionaries typically receive 50,000 cfa the first of the month and again the at the middle of the month (the Soeurs receive 50,000 for the last half of the month and the Elders receive 45,000).

These Elders live in Bingerville, about an hour out of Abidjan.  Traffic was bad.

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Then we went to Cocody, to drop some Docycycline off with the 25 Elders from the Yamoussoukro Mission who are staying at a hotel here in Abidjan while they wait for a flight out.  In all the rush to pack and get to Abidjan, several left without their malaria medicine, which needs to be taken for 28 days after they return home.

These Elders are going a little stir crazy, in lockdown in the hotel.  The hotel manager wants them to stay in their rooms.  They were happy to see us and we were happy to see them.

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Our last stop was at the apartment of the 4 Elders now staying in our building where the Sisters used to live (2 days ago).  These 3–Elder Post, Elder Larsen and Elder Brown are 3 of the 7 Americans left in our mission waiting to return home.  The other 3– Elder Bennett, Elder Sorensen and Elder Gibbons are staying with Elder Van Duzer and Elder Wanani.

We brought them a bag of food–enough to get them through the next 2-3 days:  rice, chicken, spaghetti and tomato sauce, vegetables, baguettes and eggs.  And some cookies for good measure!  They were happy for the food and were in great spirits.  We are all wondering how much longer the waiting will be.

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Elder Brown is training Elder Otieno who has recently arrived from Kenya.  I’m so glad he gets to stay!  He glows with happiness and goodness.  We’ll need him here.

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The Supermarche, Restocked

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This afternoon after our lunch at Cap Sud shopping mall, we went to see what the supermarche looked like.  Our last trip there was a week ago, and it was mayhem.  Crowds had flocked to the store–it was the day of the first announcement of closures here of schools.  People were panicking and the shelves were stripped bare.

I was happy to see that things looked back to normal today.  Most of the shelves were full again.  There were no crowds.  People were respectful of space and distance.  The floor in many of the aisles was marked with tape to space out shoppers.  It was a lovely experience to be there.

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If we are allowed to stay here, we’ll be back so we can stock our shelves with some supplies in case we’re ever put on lock down.  There are only a handful of COVID-19 cases in the Ivory Coast, but things can change quickly and we’ll need to be prepared.

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