All is Not Calm

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After our staff meeting this evening, we decided we’d better stop by the supermarche near the mission home and pick up a few supplies.  With the schools shutting down and the country starting to take notice, we might soon be in a lock down mode here too.

I wasn’t prepared for what we found at this huge modern wonderful supermarket.  This is probably the finest market in Abidjan, where many of the expats, foreigners and well-to-do people shop.  You can find just about everything here.  Well, maybe before this evening.

Every shopping cart (chariot) and basket was being used.  The store was crammed full of people loading whatever they could fit into their carts.  It was mayhem.  The store employees looked haggard and tired.  I’m sure they’ve never had a day quite like this before.

This is the rice and pasta aisle:

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Packaged dry goods:

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Cleaning products and sanitizers:

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John was happy to find there was still some chocolate!

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Canned goods:

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Canned meats:

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We Have Toilet Paper!!!  Come on over if you need some!!

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Checkout lines were long.  We didn’t get much.  We hope to be back in Mali soon.  I think we have enough to get us through 3-4 weeks now.

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Our small stash, including some comfort foods.

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Until today, all was calm here.  Life was going on as normal.  Only 4 cases have been reported in the Ivory Coast and none yet in Mali.  But every day is a new day and things in the world are changing very quickly.  All in all, we’re feeling pretty calm and we’re really grateful to be here.

Mission Coordination Meeting

Today at the Mission Office we were greeted by this handwashing station.  Every person entering the office or mission home area is required to use it.

Last night as we went to bed, we received this message about the state of affairs here in the Ivory Coast.  It’s the first big news we’ve had here (not that we hear much news).  Life has been going on pretty normally here while things sound pretty crazy at home.  It’s about to get crazy here too.

Statement by President Alassane Ouattara:

“This Monday, March 16, I chaired a meeting of the National Security Council during which additional measures were taken to combat the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID -19) in our country:

– Suspension for a period of 15 days, renewable, starting at midnight on March 16, 2020, from the entry into Côte d’Ivoire of non-Ivorian travelers from countries with more than 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19 );

– Strengthening health control at air, sea and land borders;

– Quarantine of suspected cases and contacts of patients in centers requisitioned by the State;

– Closure of all preschool, elementary, secondary and higher education establishments for a period of 30 days from March 16, 2020 at midnight;

– Respect of a distance of at least one (01) meter between people in supermarkets, scrub, restaurants, businesses, the airport area and public places;

– Respect for personal, behavioral, water and food hygiene measures;

– Prohibition of manual greetings, hugs and hugs and the consumption of bushmeat;

– Closure of night clubs, cinemas and places of entertainment for a period of 15 days;

– Prohibition of population gatherings of more than 50 people for a period of 15 days;

– Suspension of all national and international sporting and cultural events for a period of 15 days;

– Total free diagnosis and management of all suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19.

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Waiting for our meeting to begin.  Pres Binene has been on the phone and responding to emails and messages all day.

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Our meeting eventually started and we talked for 2.5 hours about some really important things like how to keep our missionaries safe and productive while this pandemic and the panic around us moves closer.

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As a result of this meeting, President Binene sent this out to all the parents this evening:

Dear parents,

How grateful we are to serve with your sons and daughters in the Lord’s cause. We love these young women and young men as our own. Please know that with the coronavirus, or COVID-19, affecting people here and around the world, our highest priority right now continues to be your missionary’s personal health and safety.

To help ensure the missionaries’ continued physical and spiritual well-being, we are following the inspired and well-informed direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, our Area Presidency, and the Missionary Department. We also are instructing the missionaries in following local and national government guidelines and precautions, reminding them to:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay in their apartment whenever they themselves are sick. Avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces with household cleaning spray or wipes.
• Wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (which should always be done if their hands are visibly dirty), and, if soap and water are not readily available, to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

We are asking your missionary to contact us immediately if they feel sick so that we can involve health care professionals and our area medical advisers. If your missionary has chronic or critical health issues that we need to be aware of, we also invite you to reply to this email to make sure that we address any concerns. We understand very well that the current situation may be stressful and cause concerns for some of our missionaries and their families, but we will watch over your missionary carefully and will communicate with them often.

If it becomes necessary for our missionaries to only work from their apartments, we will provide additional funds for them to purchase food and supplies. We will help the missionaries prepare and make sure their needs are met.

These are challenging times and circumstances, but to us this also is an opportunity to continue sharing the gospel. If our missionaries are required to work primarily from their apartments, they will continue to focus on their missionary purpose by teaching using technology, studying the scriptures and Preach My Gospel, language learning, family history, online community service and other activities as needed. This is also a significant opportunity for missionaries to work closely with local Church leaders to reach out to new and returning members, families where some individuals are not yet members, and members with special ministering needs. Our missionaries will continue to go outside for exercise and fresh air while observing wise guidelines for personal contact. All of these activities will help them continue the Lord’s work, grow spiritually, and bless those in the communities they serve.

Going forward, we will continue to send updates to you as mission circumstances evolve. If your missionary is working from their apartment, they may communicate with you twice a week to share their status and experiences.

Please be assured that we are completely dedicated to keeping your missionary healthy and safe. And we are most grateful for our loving Heavenly Father’s supporting hand in caring for them. May he continue to abundantly bless you and your family, each and every missionary, and the people we have been called to serve.

With our greatest love and appreciation,

President and Sister BINENE

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Abidjan Temple Progress and District Meeting in Cocody

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We had permission today to hold our Tuesday District Meeting, as usual. but when we got to the church the gates were locked.

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Things are getting crazier here by the day.  I felt some calm when I saw these beautiful flowers and remembered who is in control.

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While we waited, John and I took a walk around the north side of the stake center to check on the progress of the temple.

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Every day it grows some more.   The front is on this north side.

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Today my weather app said it was 92 degrees here and it “feels like” 104.  Sometimes the heat goes right through you.

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District meeting started eventually and was great.  We’re talking a lot about the COVID-19 and how to address missionary work while the world around us changes.

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This Cocody area has such a great group of Sisters.  It’s one of the safest and nicest parts of Abidjan, so lots of Sisters get to serve here.  They are beautiful and good.

Home Church Week #1, Abidjan

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Early this morning we had a call from President Binene with some instructions.  He asked if we would host a church meeting in our apartment for the Sister missionaries living in our area.  There are 2 apartments with 4 Sisters in each.  We prepared for them to come at 9:30 for a sacrament meeting here.

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Throughout the mission, members and friends of the church will be gathering in homes in small groups of 10 or fewer.  The Elders will gather with District or Zone Leaders where they are able, or with local Bishops or Stake Presidents in their homes.  They may also meet with Elders Quorum Presidents or Relief Society Presidents where there is a Priesthood holder in the home.  Members will do the same.  It will take a little coordination, but we’ll figure that out as we go along.  It’s important that our investigators have church services to attend before they can be baptized.

This morning we had an opening hymn, “How Firm a Foundation” and prayer.

1. How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
Who unto the Savior, who unto the Savior,
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?
2. In ev’ry condition—in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea—
As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.
3. Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
I thought of the many places in this world I’ve found comfort in this hymn, in EVERY condition.  This is His work and He is with us.  Always.

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We showed the Sisters the newest video of the First Vision and we talked about the Restoration –Heavenly Father’s great gift to us today.  Each of the Sisters shared her feelings and testimony about that incredible event.  We showed them a video from our Mission President’s Seminar in 2015 where 2 MTC teachers taught the Restoration lesson to Elder and Sister Cook simply and beautifully.  We felt the spirit of their words.  We felt the Spirit here.

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I’m grateful for prophets who received revelation from God long ago and for a prophet today who has prepared us to receive revelation today.   These Sisters and the all the missionaries here are witnesses to the world of these truths.

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The Abidjan Group Temple Trip Buses Return

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This afternoon as our multi-zone conference was ending, the 2 buses with our members returning from the Accra Temple arrived.  They’ve been on the road since 1:00 a.m. last night–a 14 hour trip.  They looked exhausted and hungry as they waited for friends or family to come pick them up.

These are valiant good church members who have sacrificed to attend the temple.  Oh, how I respect and honor them!

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Looking back now, this temple trip was pretty miraculous.  I feel like we threaded the needle perfectly, and I feel sad for the next groups who aren’t so lucky.

This announcement was made today from Salt Lake:

Temporary Adjustments to Temple Worship

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Rapidly changing health conditions around the world have been a source of growing concern. Many governments have placed restrictions that have required the temporary closure of a number of temples. As we have prayerfully sought to balance these limitations with the need to carry on temple work, we have decided to make the following temporary adjustments, which are effective March 16, 2020 for all temples around the world.

• Where government or other restrictions on public and/or religious gatherings would, in effect, preclude temple activity, proxy and living ordinances will temporarily be suspended.
• Where government or other restrictions do not preclude all temple activity, the following temple ordinances for living persons will be accommodated as capacity permits by appointment only: husband-and-wife and child-to-parents sealing ordinances and living initiatory and endowment ordinances. On a temporary basis, proxy temple ordinances will not be performed.
• All patron housing will be closed.

Church members will be provided with instructions when they schedule their appointments for living ordinances. Individuals with currently scheduled appointments will be contacted by temple staff.

Steps will be taken in all temples to minimize the risk of spreading disease, including reducing temple staff, limiting guests at living ordinances, and following guidelines for interacting with patrons.

Additional information will be provided to temple presidencies, and further adjustments will be made as necessary.

We look forward with great anticipation to the time when temples can again operate at full capacity and extend the blessings of temple work to members and their ancestors.

Sincerely,

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Multi-Zone Conference in Abobo

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Today was the 3rd of three multi-zone conferences held this week.  We missed attending the first one while we were in Accra.  I hope we’ll be able to see those missionaries soon, but something big happened last night as we were going to bed.  We received an email from Salt Lake that will change our missionary lives pretty drastically:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As promised in our letter of March 11, 2020, we continue to monitor the changing conditions related to COVID-19 throughout the world. We have considered the counsel of local Church leaders, government officials and medical professionals, and have sought the Lord’s guidance in these matters. We now provide the following updated directions.

Beginning immediately, all public gatherings of Church members are being temporarily suspended worldwide until further notice. This includes:

• Stake conferences, leadership conferences and other large gatherings.
• All public worship services, including sacrament meetings.
• Branch, ward and stake activities.

Where possible, leaders should conduct any essential leadership meetings via technology. Specific questions may be referred to local priesthood leaders. Further direction related to other matters will be provided.

Bishops should counsel with their stake president to determine how to make the sacrament available to members at least once a month.

We encourage members in their ministering efforts to care for one other. We should follow the Savior’s example to bless and lift others.

We bear our witness of the Lord’s love during this time of uncertainty. He will bless you to find joy as you do your best to live the gospel of Jesus Christ in every circumstance.

Sincerely,

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

We woke early this morning waiting for a call from President Binene letting us know whether or not this conference would take place today.  He told us he had permission from the Area Presidency to continue as planned, but after today, our ability to meet will be changed.

We were grateful and we headed to the mission office to drive with the Binenes to Abobo.  When we arrived, the missionaries were waiting and a special choir greeted us.

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We had an wonderful conference today, much like yesterday’s.  We enjoyed hearing testimonies from those who will be departing and discourses from missionaries selected from the group (they all come prepared to share).  It’s fun to watch the language skills increasing.  I wish my French progressed as quickly as these missionary’s.

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Here are some of the photos taken today.  All the rest are in an album on the Facebook page.

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