We arrived at the office early on this Sabbath morning. Today we had 38 Nigerians with flight plans. By 9:00 a.m. they were all loaded into vehicles and shuttled over to the airport. But here’s what it looked like here before that exodus:
We used the scale at the West Mission to weigh everyone’s bags.
Ahhh, what to take?? What to leave??
We had 5 Americans with tickets to fly out this morning in Ethiopian Air. Elder Van Duzer and Elder Gibbons are still have no travel plans.
Our 5 Americans are leaving. They were turned away. There’s a problem with their itinerary and they were not allowed to board the flight. Here we go again.
In the meantime, our Nigerians waited to check in. They were tired and hungry and sad to be leaving. We’ve been told that they’ll be picked up at the airport by Stake Presidents or helpers who will take them to Stake centers, then they’ll be transported to their new areas. We got a list this morning of all of their new assignments in Nigeria. There are several missions there now. They all have a place to go.
I lived in Nigeria long before any of these missionaries were born. When I lived there, we had only a handful of small branches. Now there are stakes and missions and temples and all these beautiful missionaries! It’s a miracle to me!
The West Mission Nigerians also left this morning.
Back at the office, we cleaned up the aftermath of the whirlwind that blew through here this morning. It felt like when the handcart companies were told to lighten their loads, so they left the non-essentials behind, along the trail. The clothing was bagged and we’ve taken it home to clean, wash and sort for future needs. The books were organized and stacked. So much stuff.
Then the Elders went back to work looking for more flights. They are also corresponding with parents and stake presidents at home who are anxious about their missionaries coming home. The truth is, we don’t have much information to share. We are all waiting on instructions from someone else.
New missionaries are starting to arrive from the other 2 Ivory Coast missions. They are the ones who will be assigned to serve here. Others are coming to pick them up and take them to their new apartments. There is no time for fanfare here. No grand farewells for the departing. No hugging or emotion. No final dinners or breakfasts. Nothing extra to say Thank YOU, we’ve loved being here with you. Pres Binene was so exhausted he went out to sleep in his car in the airport parking lot while this morning’s group waited to check in. I had to go out and search the cars to find him when it was finally their turn, so they could see him standing there as they left. We are almost beyond emotion. If stopped to feel, we might not be able to move.
Tonight the heavens opened and the rains fell. The heavens are sad so many missionaries are leaving Africa.