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Monday, August 31, 2009

FALL SOCCER

Emily was sooo excited for soccer...until the first practice that is. "Did you have fun?"
"NO, all you do is KICK!"
After comments like these I was very pleased to see her work so hard at her game. Thanks to her cool pink soccer shoes(Thanks Jessica) and big brothers tips on how to kick the ball she was a real trooper!

After staying in for 15 minutes she was pooped! I have seriously never seen her so tired. She went in again for about 6 minutes and she was done. It was so fun to see her running after the ball and kicking it whenever she had the chance!

The coach is so patient and understanding. He is so willing to work with the girls and help them learn and have fun at the same time. I am excited to watch Emily's stamina increase as well as her confidence in knowing she can do hard things.

When we got home she flopped down on the floor and stayed there for the next 45 minutes not moving an inch! It was hilarious:)
Thomas is on a competition team this year which has already been really fun! the boys are working so hard! They even run 2 miles on the days they don't have practice.

We are lucky to have a professional photographer taking amazing pictures (AKA Angee) This will be the reason Thomas will have much better action shots! (I keep telling the kids that I would LOVE to have a camera that would take pictures like this...it could be for my birthday and Christmas...for the next 3 years!)

He has a great team with some great coaches who love what they are doing; it's a wonderful opportunity to challenge and push him!

Thomas is such a go getter! It's a blast to watch him in action. He never stops going and he never gives up. He loves a challenge and loves to improve. I've always been impressed with his determination to always do his best!
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Airport Drive party

Our street enjoyed an end of summer fun night with a blow up water slide that EVERYONE loved!
After great conversation, yummy food, watching the kids (and some great dads) have all the fun; the moms decided to join in. Who needs a swimsuit?
We are officially, the BEST MOMS EVER! That's what we tell our kids anyway :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Weekend On Top of the World!

We woke up and started to drive up the canyon around 5:00. Kenzie, Ellie, and I had to peel our eyes open but we were energized with our 5 chocolate chips! We started the hike out with a potty break, but got on the trail around 6:00. We all kept our eyes out for the rabid deer. They are very ferocious you know. We were prepared though- we had our gas stored up. You see, it is very deadly. We never came upon a rabid deer, but we did come upon a rabid moose disguised as a rabid deer. If you ever go to Mt. Timpanogos, BeWArE!

Another note of caution: Don't use the actual toilet on the 'toilet trail'. Just use the toilet tree that is provided for you:)
The mountains are so beautiful! Especially when the light hits them just right.
I have never been on such a pretty hike before. As a family we can only go as far as the little dinky shrubs go. I've never seen so many wildflowers in my life! They brought so much color into the scenery.
It was a momentous day when we made it to the saddle! You could see the whole valley beneath you. You could sense the top was near, and it was exciting!
We climbed the Devil's Staircase, crossed the tumbling rocks, and ended up on the top! It felt like we were literally on top of the world!
We spent some time on the top and then started the trek back down. We decided that walking was overrated, so we ran most of it. We weren't tired at all:) ha-ha!

We had a blast on this hike! It sure pooped us out though. We all got a good sleep -Guaranteed!
~Jac

Monday, August 24, 2009

Matt's trip to Africa

video

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Park City 1/2 marathon

Grandma and Grandpa Whiting came with the girls on a little Park City getaway. Thomas had to stay with his friend Mason, which was such a HUGE sacrifice :) so he could play in his soccer game; and Matt missed out since he was still in Africa :(

We were grateful to have Grandma and Grandpa there to watch Emily and cheer for us when Jacqueline and I came in from our race.
It was a beautiful day, perfect weather and beautiful scenery. I didn't realize how much the higher altitude would affect me. The first 7 miles were a gradual uphill climb. I struggled to catch my breath the entire time! Jacqueline felt great though :) After watching her go up ahead, realize I wasn't by her side, then slow down for me to catch up to her for the 20th time, I told her I loved having her by my side but since she was feeling so good and I could barely talk; I wouldn't mind at all if she felt like going ahead. She finally agreed at mile 7 and within 2 minutes she was out sight! She came in 8 minutes before me, passing 43 people along the way! She was on fire!!

When she crossed the finish line with 1:45 The announcer read, Jacqueline Heaps Lehi...then in shock read, 13 years old! She took 1st place in her age division and came in 60th overall!
When I finally crossed the finish line at 1:53 I was totally exhausted which seems so comical since my goal was to run a 7:45 pace. Instead it was an 8:45 pace! I felt better when I kept hearing other people talking about the altitude making it so much harder to run in.

The highlight of the day was being able to run with Jacqueline! She is a very determined and strong young woman! I love watching her take off with her long legs going so fast :)

After the race we went back to the hotel for a swim. This made coming up worth it for Emily! Even Grandma joined in the fun and almost drowned a few times when Emily would guide her to the deep end! It felt so great to soak in the hot tub and play in the cool swimming pool.

Before heading out we ate lunch at Cafe' Rio and just HAD to check out the Outlet stores. How can anyone go to Park City and not go to the "Outlet" stores? Grandma excitedly told us she wanted to go inside every store and this is exactly what she did!

We missed having Matt and Thomas with us but we definitely had a great time with grandpa and Grandma. They know how to make everyone feel like they are #1 in their book :) Thanks for being such wonderful Grandparents!


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Coming home!

I am traveling home and am very excited to be with my family again. This trip has taught me so much about so many different things. I think it would be impossible to write them all down. I wish everyone could make such a trip. I'm convinced that the world would be a better place if we all understood each other more and believed in each other more.

I have been thinking of an analogy that helps refine what I've learned on this trip. If you were to take a picture of each person and in the camera lens you could see all their inabilities and abilities, what would you choose to focus on? You can't ignore the inabilities because they are part of the picture but if you make their abilities the focal point and their inabilities the background, as a person helping you can assist them in a more productive way. The focal point determines how you talk to them, treat them, and develop strategies to help them.

I believe this is how Christ sees us and works with us. Throughout this trip I prayed that I would see the poor and needy as the Lord sees them - through his eyes. As I laid in bed last night this one was planted in my mind. As I'm writing this I'm realizing it is an answer to my prayers. The Lord knows all our strengths and weaknesses but he works through our strengths, the gifts he has given to us.

As I left Liberia I had somewhat of a sad feeling, knowing that the likelihood of me returning to these two countries would be very small. I hope for these people that their governments will stabilize, the gospel embraced, and that they will prosper. In my jobs with the Church I have had the opportunity to work personally with those on exact opposite ends of the spectrum. I've seen people on both ends maintain their spirituality, but I've also seen that the majority on both ends are very fragile to various influences from Satan. Perhaps that is a big reason why we will have greater spirituality when we more fully live the Law of Consecration, in essence the Law keeps us from the extremes on either end.

Love ~Matt

Saturday, August 22, 2009

sights in Liberia

Today we visited pumps that were installed earlier this year around the Monrovia and Kakata areas in Liberia. The look of the country is very similar to Sierra Leone. The war in Liberia ended when Charles Taylor took over the government and then three years later the country wanted him out so they had to have a bloody civil war again to get him out. That fighting ended 5 years ago and you can see that the people are beginning to rebuild. Mr. Bundor, our contractor on this project has a 19 year old son who is in 7th grade. Elder Greding asked him why he was only in 7th grade and Bundor said they had no school during the war so all the kids are behind. It is little things like this that we don't know about and that contribute to the crumbling of a nation. They are literally starting over.

We drove by a soccer field and saw two teams playing each other. All of them had one leg and one cruch. They were in the military and lost their legs from acts of war. It was really cool seeing them on the soccer field. As we drove down the main road and through the market place I saw hundreds of wheelbarrows that were full of goods to sell. This country uses the wheelbarrow for everything. A person's entire shop can be contained in his wheelbarrow. Not a bad idea because of the ease of moving goods back and forth and being able to search for the better selling location.

In both countries I've been in this trip the Chinese government has been doing massive reconstruction projects. It is a gift from one government to another, but it also comes with an interest in the countries natural resources. After seeing how much money China is pouring into other countries I have lost a lot of interest in supporting humanitarian projects in China. You would think that if they have enough to give millions to other countries that they would also be supporting their own people with basic necessities.

We did 100 pumps in Liberia. One we visited had been taken over by the person who donated the land. He lied and told people that he bought it back from us so that allowed him to charge people money for the water. We gathered the community around and told them the truth. The man wasn't home at the time and he will be surprised when he returns and his neighbors know that he has cheated them out of their money. I hope it is civil but there is a strong chance it wont be. The other sites we visited were functioning great. The water committees were meeting monthly, paying a monthly fee, putting it in a bank account under the communities name and observing the hygiene training they had learned about.

One of the sites that was working well was an orphanage. Most of the kids lost their parents in the war and they were getting drinking water out of an open well that was contaminated and would dry up in the dry season. We walked through the orphanage and played with the kids. This was one of my favorite visits on our trip. They kept the orphanage clean despite it being very simple. I was impressed with their work and the kids seemed happy and content. It was a blessing to be involved with bringing these little angels clean water.

Love ~ Matt

Friday, August 21, 2009

The first day of school

The kids had mixed emotions going back. Sad for summer to end but excited to see good friends. Emily was so excited until the night before.

"What if Mrs. Harris is mean?"
"She isn't, you have already met her."
"Yea, but what if she was just nice then."

She kept telling me she wanted to stay home for school, Thomas told her "Emily, you NEED to go to school so you can learn."
"I don't either, I can learn at home Thomas!" She is a very smart little girl!

When Emily came home she was VERY HYPER!! I am hoping she was just letting everything out after sitting so quietly for her teacher :) I asked her if she could hear in class and she said, "sometimes" This of course, worries me but she did say that she would tell her teacher when she couldn't hear. Hopefully this will get better.
She still doesn't want to go to school but I got a few comments that let me know she did have a good time.
Thomas was bummed he wasn't in the same class as his best friends but he enjoyed Mrs. Mangum. When he came home and told us the things she was saying in his best Mrs. Mangum's voice, we all had a good laugh! She LOVES sweats and loves to hand out candy any chance she gets. I challenged him to keep all the candy in a jar this year and see how much he gets.

Jacqueline enjoyed her 1st day of 8th grade and said it was weird not being the youngest anymore. She and Kenzi made tye-dye shirts so they could be twinners for the first day. They looked awesome. One of their teachers even called them "Duudes" so I told them their shirts were very fitting for his class.
As you can see, the kids had no problems leaving dear old mom! It wasn't as hard for me as I thought. I cried on the phone with Matt for a few minutes the day before; so I was good and strong sending them off. It was strange having so much time to myself. I stayed close by of course but I was very relieved when no phone call came :) Let's keep our fingers crossed!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Arriving in Liberia

Today we left Sierra Leone and traveled to Liberia. In order to get to the airport we had to cross the bay again but we chose to take the large ferry instead. President Squires was also transferring 3 elders to Liberia so we took the trip on the ferry and the airplane together. Elder Greding and I felt much safer with the missionaries on the plane with us. It was a small 17 passenger plane that of course has seen better days.

As we entered the "airport" (strip of asphalt with a building) in Liberia we were greated very warmly and our immigration process went very smoothly. As I was being interviewed by the immigration officer I noticed his King James Bible, with the Church's name on it. Sure enough he was a member of the church along with a few other immigration employees. Now I know why they were so helpful to us and seemed to prioritize the missionaries before anyone else. I quickly noticed the UN troops around the airport with the machine guns. There seems to be a little more tension in the air here, most likely because their ex-president is currently on trial in the Hague, Netherlands for war crimes.

This morning as we were trying to get the younger missionaries loaded in the van I walked upstairs and knew the a new missionary had arrived yesterday, Elder Smoot from Farmington. The second I walked in and looked at the three missionaries I could immediately tell who the green-bean was. His eyes were open big and he was just standing there in a daze as he was slowly going through the motion of tying his tie. Like any of us would be, he was in "shock". It's hard not to smile and chuckle as I think back about my own experiences in Japan and all the other experiences young 19 and 21 year old missionaries are having all around the world. President Squires mentioned that on the average 500 missionaries are either going home or arriving each week of the year. What a miracle they are in the Lord's Church.

Tonight we had dinner with two senior missionary couples, Elder and Sister Wire from Kanab, and Elder and Sister Mauldin from Darrington, Washington. The story of the church in Liberia is very similar to the history and current status of the Church in Sierra Leone. There's about 4,000 members and growing quickly even with them creating parameters to keep the growth organized and sustainable.

With each of the days that pass it means that I'm closer and closer to seeing my family again. I miss them so much and fully recognize that they, along with my testimony are my greatest treasures on earth and in eternity. The two most influential people in my life have been my mother and my wife. Jill has shaped me to be more than I could have ever been on my own. Our children have each been blessed with wonderful gifts and talents that they will be able to use to bless others. Today was their first day of school and I hope they all enjoyed it!

I love you guys.

Dad

Last day of Summer

We decided to spend the last day of summer with the Drapers. It has taken us all summer to go hiking together,but we made it! We hiked to Battle Creek Falls which is perfect for little ones...and not so little ones who don't enjoy hiking as much as their parents do :) Other then being a little chilly, it was beautiful.
Thomas got stung 3 times by a wasp but Angee knew just what to do; MUD! He survived and the rest of us made it without any injuries.

This summer has been so much fun. I seriously hate for it to end. At least we can say we enjoyed every minute. Well, except for the 11 days of Swine flu of course! I am sure the kids won't mind having a few less chores either :) See, you can always find something good with change right?!

Back to school late night

Saturday was the kids annual "Back to School" late night with some of their friends. It was hard to narrow it down but when all three kids are inviting it can get big fast!
I love these parties because I just get to sit back and watch! It's so fun to see the kids having fun together and being entertained with things like, doing Jac's hair, playing night games and dressing up!
I really think these kids should take up modeling, don't you?

Progress in Africa

Today we visited more well sites that had been completed in April. The rain was extra heavy and there had been flash floods all over the city. We went over some bridges where the water was rushing down the mountain side and was inches and feet away from the top of the bridges. I offered a little prayer with each bridge as we sped up to get off them as quickly as possible. We didn't return the same way because Brother Turay was assuming they had been washed out by the end of the day.

We entered another slum by the seaside and in the middle of the heavy rain walked through little alleys made of wood sticks and tin walls. All the Africans were dry under their self constructed roofs and we were the only ones dumb enough to be walking through it.

Many of the homes are 1 room so as we passed we could see families sitting around their fires and talking. Some were out still taking care of little chores around the home. Many of the men in this area are fisherman and leave at night to return in the morning. I saw some boats out on the water and the men tugging on the huge fishing net all in unison, one tug after another.

Tonight we had dinner with the mission president and his wife. President Squires has perhaps the toughest mission call in the church. Even though the church started 20 years ago in Sierra Leone, the war cut out the usual development that occurs during that time, so it is actually like the church has been here for 5 years or so. He said the missionaries don't do any "tracting" but struggle to just keep up with giving lessons to all the member referrals. They can baptize many people but they are trying to qualify them better so they stay active. The church is growing rapidly here.

I also learned that Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria's tithing and fast offerings are growing and they are getting closer to sustaining themselves as a church. I don't know the exact details of this but suffice it to say they are headed in the right direction. It is great to see the church growing and the members flourishing. We talked about our hope that someday in the future the same could be said for Sierra Leone.

Love you ~ Matt

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Visiting Water Projects

Today we visited our well sites from a project that just completed in the Waterloo area which is a town outside the capital.

We traveled down dirt roads filled with holes and rocks, crossed over rivers and passed by a chimpanzee rehabilitation area where not too long ago some tourists were killed by a group of angry chimpanzees.

Our well sites were functioning but you could quickly see upon an inspection which communities really valued the pumps and will likely keep them working for years to come. It all stems back to attitude and how they think of themselves. As in any society you have some that expect help without putting forth the effort to help themselves. All of our projects have a few of these and that's part of working in the developing world, but most have the right outlook and desire to help themselves on top of what we are able to provide.

It seems that the responses from the various areas are unanimous; the pump has eliminated sickness like cholera and diarrhea, and the extra savings in time the kids now enjoy because they're not fetching water is being spent on their studies.

One of the areas we visited was in a slum. We walked through a filthy, muddy path and over a dirty river to enter a sea of people in some of the most destitute states of poverty I've seen. Flies were all over the food in the market place lined with the throw away pieces of wood and tin that the poor market places got rid of. There seemed to be a more somber feeling in the area but the kids were still smiling, laughing, and playing with sticks and rocks. They looked sick and many had bloated stomachs from malnutrition. While the others were talking I slipped to the side and made funny faces and the kids giggled. It is amazing what light kids can bring into any situation.

We found out that someone said the water was salty so without testing it themselves everyone else took it as gospel and they've only been using the pump for laundry and not drinking. We knew it wasn't right because we had the water tested not to long ago and it was approved for drinking. Brother Turay pumped it and took a drink and said this doesn't taste salty. By this time people had seen the "white man" so they all gathered around the well. Another man stepped forward and took a drink and said he didn't taste any salt, then a woman came forward and tasted it. She turned to the large group and said "No salt!"

Everyone talked amongst themselves and the word started to spread. It was an interesting lesson for me to see first hand how groups of people in destitute poverty operate. A rumor from one person spreads like wild fire and is unwisely believed without any further evidence. I've been told about this phenomenon but never have seen it face to face. No fact finding, no study, just automatic assumption. I can see why unrighteous dictators prey on the poor and all too often find success.

On our way out of the slum we were stopped by a group that claimed they were collecting a local tax which the government is really doing at checkpoints along the road. The African brothers I was with knew they were just thugs trying to weasel money out of people. They smelt like alcohol and drugs and were literally left over rebels from the civil war. The exchange of words got heated because Turay wouldn't pay the tax to these guys. The water committee chairman happened to be walking by and started in the argument and pleaded with them to let us go because we are the ones who brought them water. They still wouldn't budge. They could see that they had a white man and thus could most likely intimidate and get some money.

Brother Turay is not someone to mess with and I felt like he would have given his life for me if needed. He has a short temper and carries a lot of authority because of his success in the country. He is 39 years old and is short and thick. At any rate he was about to bite the heads off of these guys and then all of the sudden the wire fence dropped and a little hole opened on the left side. Toray motioned for me to move quickly and I did. Once I was on the other side I knew they would lose their leverage. Even though I was safe now and their leverage was lost Turay still had to give them a piece of his mind through a lot of animation and yelling. It was very tense and I looked around for any guns or knives that might pop out but thankfully they were too poor to have any weapons (I think). I went over to some young men that were watching with wide eyes and I talked about how the world needs nice people and not trouble makers. I'm not sure if they understood but I hope they could see that they didn't want to grow up to be like that.

It was interesting because I never felt threatened or nervous. I KNEW from the peace I felt inside that everything would work out. All I can say is that it is nice to be out here on the Lord's errand and thus be entitled to his protection.

I have no doubt in my mind that this is the Lord's work and no puny arm is going to stop it from rolling forward and filling the earth.


Love ~ Matt

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Clinic Day

I was very nervous to go in today. About 2 weeks ago some test results came back showing that Emily's immune system isn't as strong as we were hoping. Her CD4 count is only 94. Anything under 200 is considered extremely low, too low for her immune system to be working properly. This is one of the main reasons for having the 2nd transplant. She was always hovering around 200 before. We are hoping when we test again in 6 months she will have higher numbers.

With this news, they discouraged us from sending Emily to school. "Maybe in the spring." They said.
I told them it was a pretty dirty trick to tell Emily she could go and now make me be the one to tell her she can't!

After discussing it with Matt, we have decided to go ahead and let her go. I told them this today promising to pull her out if she starts getting sick. (OF COURSE!!) They hesitated but luckily I had one of the more liberal doctors see us today so he agreed. "Well, the proof is in the pudding I guess; meaning she LOOKS GREAT and she hasn't been getting sick so, why not." They kept reminding me to bring her up if she gets a fever. I told them she may just surprise us all and stay perfectly healthy!

So, we are going to go forward. I am getting more nervous as the day comes closer. I am hoping it's just the normal jitters :)

Emily is doing so well with her weight! 3 weeks ago she was 17.1 and today she was 18.7 That is about 3lbs!!! It still could be the medicine but for now we are taking what we can get. It's amazing how much energy she has...Yes, I know she has always had energy but somehow she has even more!

Emily's WBC is 4000 up from 3000 last time. Her ANC is 1500 which is down a little from 1700. Basically the same.

Once again, time will tell. It's amazing how often I have to learn this :)

We are so blessed in America!

Today we left Kenema and returned to Freetown. It was about a 4 hour drive, but in the states in probably would have only taken 1 hour. The main freeway would have stretches of asphalt and then all the sudden turn into dirt. The dirt roads had large holes and ruts. We had miles and miles of dirt 4x4 road conditions. It is hard to believe that this is one of their main freeways in the country.

We told our driver that in America you can drive for hours and hours on smooth roads and that you never have sections of main road that aren't paved. He kind of laughed not really sure if we were being sarcastic. He then said, "Are you serious?" You could see the amazement in his face as he quickly thought about such a fantastic road system.

The hotel we are staying in has hot water so I was in heaven today and it was hard to get out. Later, one of the receptionist asked me how I liked the hotel and I told her I loved the hot water and continued to tell her that this was the first hotel that offered this, but then I realized, "You are talking to an African, she lives without hot water everyday", so I cooled off on talking about how much I missed it. She was wearing a professional business suit and had her hair done nice. If someone didn't know better they would think that for sure she had these basic necessities.

Sure enough, after talking with her I found out she doesn't have hot water, she bathes in a community wash center, and they fetch water from a well. This is the life of a successful double income earning family that are part of the 30 percent of the country that is employed.

I've been thinking about all the conveniences we have been blessed with and the time it frees up for us to do other things. I can imagine the Lord would be disappointed with me if I had the unique blessing of living in a society where we have "filler" time because of the country's success and I used that time for selfish purposes. Sure we say we are busy but most of it is with stuff we are choosing to do, it doesn't deal with basics of life such as food and water that need to be re obtained each day.

We complain about how busy we are with our kids activities and how one of us needs to be at the ball park and the other at the soccer field. I can't imagine how many Africans would love to have this problem. I just hope at the end of the day I can look back on this "gift of time" and know that I used it in a way that will please the Lord.

Love you~Matt

Church in Africa

We attended the Kenema branch today and their rented chapel building was filled to the brim. There was about 110 people there and a family had just been baptized the day before.

Tears came to my eyes when we sang the opening hymn #7 which talks of gathering to Zion. It was touching to be reminded that the Lord is gathering Zion all over the earth and to look around me and see the reality of that. This branch is the most eastern branch of the church in the country of Sierra Leone.

As you would guess with new members in a branch things were a little unorthodox but for the most part they were on target. I decided to attend primary so I could be with the real pure in heart and it was a blast. I sat down and put my arms out on the top of the bench and couldn't take them down after that. One of the boys sitting by my right hand grabbed my fingers and placed my hand on his shoulder, then rubbed his hand lightly on my arm hair. The kids behind them also rubbed my arm hair for about the entire length of the second hour. The little girls on my left also lightly rubbed my arm as they quietly listened to the teacher. The kids are soooooo cute. The spirit burned within as we sang "I am a child of God" and learned about choosing the right.

Physical affection is very common and accepted in most of Africa. It is very common to see two teenage boys or girls holding hands as they walk down the street. It is just something you do to someone you trust and admire. While in Kenema I have gotten to know Alex, the Elders Quorum President. He is a great man and will likely be one of the site monitors for the project.

Today at church he came to get me from primary so we could meet with the Branch President and he held my hand the entire way to the Branch President's office. Yes, something very awkward for me...

This afternoon Elder Greding and I sat out on the balcony in the back of the Capitol Hotel and talked as we viewed the green hills in the distance. It was great to get to know him better and what has made him who he is today.

It really is a great honor to interact with senior missionaries. I learn so much from their life experiences and their testimonies that have layers upon layers that make them who they are.

Tomorrow we leave Kenema (rural city) and head back to Freetown (country capital).

Love you ~Matt

Monday, August 17, 2009

ST. GEORGE

Our neighbors invited us to spend a few days in St. George. It was the first trip our family has been able to go on in a year! We went up a day early and gained another daughter. Her name is Ellie and she is so wonderful (I only had to put her in time out a few times!) I will let the pictures do the talking in this blog :) Thank you Jac for the beautiful collages!


These are NOT my kids! This is what happens when your waiting for the Stuthers and the Jones to come :)


Swimming was great! You can tell who's been in the sun:) The boys, I mean men, had fun in the hot tub seeing who could stay under the longest! Kim won by staying in over 2 1/2 minutes! Boys will be boys! :)

Saturday in Africa

Today we met city council members and visited some of the sites they were suggesting. The first site was almost comical. As we drove in we saw a hand pump that UNICEF had installed in 1999 as well as another hand pump about 200 yards away from the other one, then about 20 feet away from the pump they had a tap from a water spring captured gravity system. Elder Greding and I looked at each other and said "no way" at the same time. Elder Greding chewed them out for bringing us there and threatened to pull the entire project if we saw another location like this. We went and sat in the truck and watched all the other council members chew out the councilman who chose this spot. We knew they were very upset and Elder Greding is great at playing the hard liner.

After looking at the list we saw that this one had been added on at the last minute and was hand written in. We knew that someone was dong a favor for someone else. All the rest of the sites turned out to be just what we were looking for but you have to know all the little games they play in their culture so you can work around them. "You scratch my back and I will scratch yours" is the African way, which is great when used properly and damaging when misused.

The second part of this project where we are now (Kenema) deals More with a city rather than a village that only consists of farmers like we saw on Wednesday in Bo. It is interesting to see the difference in attitude and gratitude between city and country people. It is a difference you will find in anywhere in the world. In the city you have to search harder for those that are in real need for clean water, but they are still here and we feel good that we found those areas today. Most organizations don't go to this trouble but the Church wants to ensure that these sacred funds are used wisely.

We had the afternoon off so the project manager, Brother Turay took me to a pick up game of soccer that was in the poorer section of town we were in earlier that day. The boys were amazing players. They had one of the older boys be the referee and when he called things nobody argued. the field was all dirt with little pebbles scattered on top. The goals were two sticks of bamboo. The amazing thing to me was what was on their feet. Some were playing barefoot, others laying with plastic sandals that buckled on the side and others in socks that had holes all over in them. Because of this you would think they would be holding back a little, but they didn't and they were playing at such a high level of energy and skill, it made the lack of their footwear absolutely amazing.

One of the players that hustled the most was playing with a plastic sandal on his left foot and a sock with holes in the toe and heel on his right foot. Occasionally you would see him limp a little on his sock foot. The other players at his skill level all had plastic sandals so I felt for him as I knew he was at a competing disadvantage because of his one missing sandal.

During a break in the game we called him over and he was completely surprised. I told him I was impressed with his soccer (football) skills and that I wanted to give him enough money to buy some new sandals for soccer. His grin was from ear to ear and he told me his name was Thomas. I knew right there that I liked this kid and I told him about my son and how he also played soccer. By this time both teams came over and they were all happy for him when he told them what had happened. How much did it take to make a kids day in Africa? $1.50...!

We also saw a cultural dance that featured a man on stilts that was super flexible and strong. He did a jump into full splits from 4 feet tall stilts. Pretty amazing.

While we were visiting sites today we came across old homes that had been burned down in the war. All that remained was the cement blocks that made up the walls of the house. It was sad to know that many of those homes that were burned down were also the grave sites for the families that lived there. There are unbelievable stories about families being locked inside, and their homes being set on fire. I've met more and more people that are missing arms and legs and they are still young. The sad thing is to realize that they must have been around 5 to 10 years old when it happened. The other amazing thing is you cannot see sadness or anger in their eyes. They have adapted and are trying to make the best of the situation rather than holding onto it.

Adapting is a great gift that the African people have been blessed with. ~Matt

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Happy BMT B-Day Emily

Today is Emily's BMT B-Day! It is so amazing to think that one whole year has passed! I have been reading blog entries from last year; and I am SO GLAD we are on this end of it! She has come so far, and been through so much. It has been amazing to see what a fighter she is! She is such a strong, determined and positive little girl. I know this is what has carried her through the last 7 1/2 years.

She looks and feels so good which is a true miracle! In fact, she has even been EATING! (without meds to make her hungry!) Ya Hoo! Talk about miracles :) We have also taken her off her ADHD medicine and so far, it is working! She is SO happy. I feel like we are seeing the TRUE EMILY!

Why is it finally working? The only thing we can attribute it to is that she is off IVIG which she has taken her entire life. All medicines have side effects. I really think this may be what was making her so out of control. If going off meds is the trick then we are SO GRATEFUL she can be off them. We are praying it will stay that way!

My heart is so full with gratitude for all of YOU! We seriously could not have made it through this year without your prayers, love and support shown in so many ways! THANK YOU!!!
The kids got to sleep at Grandma and Grandpa's house last night. With Matt in Africa, home was a very lonely place! Somehow I was able to manage :)

Grandpa called to tell me that Emily and Thomas were such sweet children; they let him win at Farkel. Jacqueline, on the other hand was NOT so sweet! Poor Grandpa :( After playing games Jac, Thomas and Grandpa put this puzzle together while Emily created many wonderful things with play-doh.

What a great way to celebrate Emily's "B-day" don't you think?
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Friday, August 14, 2009

Helping villagers help themselves

Today we moved to another city called Kenema which is about an hour away by car from where we were. The project encompasses these two areas and will include 100 wells and some latrines. The war was in Kenema for 15 years where in the capital of Freetown it was only the final 2 years of the war. It is great to be here where very few others have come. UNICEF has been here but from what we can tell no other churches or non profits have done a project in the area. They are far enough away from the capital that they get forgotten.

The hotel we are staying at in Kenema is much better than in Bo because they will heat some bath water for us and bring it to our rooms so we can poor it over ourselves. Also, this hotel provides a towel and a place to hang your clothes. The Hilton better watch out because they have some serious competition over here.

I just finished washing my clothes in the sink with a bar of soap and am hoping they'll dry in this super humid weather. I love the new quick dry clothing. If only they could make some inexpensive white dress shirts out of it...

we met with the Kenema city council and mayor today and received their approval to work in their community and their support to prepare the communities for our project. That means that each councilman will commit his area to provide sand and gravel and volunteer labor. When we brought free labor up some of them started complaining and asked if we couldn't pay their people a little for their work, after all they need desperate help and we could provide them temporary jobs. One of the councilmen said, "Could you provide them with some type of incentive?" We looked at each other and said "Yes, how about clean water? Isn't that incentive enough?" Their was silence in the room.

Elder Greding stood and told a story about a boy who was given a bike as a gift. It rained and he didn't bring the bike inside. Then he contrasted that boy with another that had to work hard and earn money to buy his bike, it rained and what do you think the boy did? He put his bike inside because he had earned the bike and felt ownership. It was a simple story but it communicated a big principle. We explained that we are paying for the well and the way the people can "buy" it is through their volunteer labor. The mayor was fully on board and put her fist to the table and said, "We will do this. Our people will work for this and therefore they will feel ownership!"

This paved the way for us to make site visits tomorrow and then we will interview potential contractors and site monitors...

We do have a branch of the Church here. I'm excited to attend church on Sunday

~Matt

Meeting with Mayor of Bo / Village Tour




Today we talked with the city council and mayor in Bo and discussed our project in the fall and the type of commitment we would need from them to make it work. Each village would need to provide sand, gravel, and unskilled labor and we would provide the rest. We received a positive and enthusiastic commitment from them. I then talked about our monthly fast and how we take money from our meals, and donate it to the church to help the poor and needy and that this was mainly for members of our church. I told them in addition to our 10% tithing, our members also give a humanitarian donation for people of all faiths, Muslims, Christians, or no faith at all. I told them the reason why I told them this was that the funds are sacred in nature and we want to make sure it is spent wisely. The spirit was there and you could see they were touched. The chairman kept talking about how impressed he was with our church and he wishes all churches would follow our model. He said with wide open eyes, "Your members starve themselves to help the poor...That is so wonderful, we will do whatever we need to do to help you."

We then left the "city" with district officials and visited some village sites. We drove and drove and drove on dirt roads, and drenching rain. We drove through miles of jungle that was extremely beautiful and rarely touched by anyone. We came to our first village of 450 people. We had a little meeting under a thatched roof pavilion. The city official introduced us and asked for their commitment to work and participate in the project by supplying free labor and all the other things we talked about. He then started telling this village of mostly Muslim people about our Law of the Fast and how our money is given from ordinary people. I found it surreal to hear the Law of the Fast being taught from one Muslim to other Muslims and Christians in the middle of the jungle in Sierra Leone, Africa. None of it was prompted from me, it was what was on his mind. At the end of the day when we dropped him off he said, "I am not a member of your church YET," and then I think he realized what he was saying and he trailed into another sentence.

We visited another village of 500 people and they took us down to their water source. It is a small pond that was dirty and filled with algae. They know it is making them sick so they are very motivated to do whatever they need to for a well site in their community.

It was so humbling and touching to see their goodness, feel of their faith, and see how they make it through life with so little. I saw one mom's water container that had cracked down the side, she found some twine and sewed the two plastic pieces back together. I admire their creativity and ability to make something out of nothing. Unfortunately it is also their weakness because it seems almost everything here is not repaired properly. Everything is "jimmy rigged" so their things break down often and they experience a lot of down time waiting for repairs. They use everything over and over again and rarely throw anything away. Sounds like the same attitude our pioneers had doesn't it. The big difference is that our pioneer ancestors continued their growth under righteous leadership, something that is a bit lacking in these parts.

We also visited one of the main refugee camps from the war that people were still living at. They decided to make it their home most likely because they lost everything in the war. Both sides of the conflict burned down homes after they raided villages literally destroying everything families had worked years to gain. So many families have had to start ALL over again. Can you imagine loosing everything and not receiving any help from insurance or FEMA, or the Church? On top of losing all temporal things many lost family members or became maimed themselves. At any rate, it is exciting to help bring clean water to such a needy people who are so excited to receive it.

In the first village I met an African albino. Yes I had to take a few looks to make sure I was actually seeing what I was seeing. He was at the back of the group and I could tell he lacked confidence and likely had been shunned. I later learned that in other villages they are sometimes killed. At the end of our outdoor meeting everyone wanted to shake my hand, simply for the experience of touching an American white person. I made my way to the back and put my arm around this young man and said, "You are my brother of the same color." Everyone laughed and he grinned from ear to ear. I took a picture with him and he felt very important being singled out by the "celebrity". I could tell it was an instant boost to his confidence and something he will probably remember forever. He followed me around after all the way to our truck door. My heart broke for him because you could see in his face that he did not want me to leave. I would imagine it was the only positive attention he has received in his life.

It gave me a deeper resolve to always reach out to EVERYONE with love and charity.

I love and miss you ~Matt

Traveling through Sierra Leone, Africa




Today we traveled 3 hours east of Freetown to a city called Bo. We passed many little villages, jungles, and pouring streams and rivers as this is their rainy season. I've never seen rain like this. It comes down in buckets and has lasted most of today. We passed many men and women who were naked of all ages. Since we were driving with a local I had to ask WHY?? It wasn't because of culture, rather it is because of their severe poverty. They literally only have 1 or 2 pairs of clothes. When they are working in the fields they don't want to get them dirty or worn out so they leave them in their hut for special occasions. This confirmed my suspicion because when they saw me they tried to cover themselves. National Geographic leads us to believe this is something they do out of culture or belief and that it doesn't register with their social morality, but I have found it to be different. It does register with their social morality and they would prefer to be clothed.

It made my heart ache as I realized this was embarrassing for them and they didn't like their reality. This is poverty beyond what we can understand as Americans. We have thrift store, non profits, and individuals that give clothing away. Our closets burst over with clothes, some we haven't worn in months or years. None of that exists here. Even the well off people wear shirts that have been donated to them.The war here just ended 5 years ago so many of the people we are working with have been directly affected by the death of a close relative, or having to flee their homes.

Tonight I saw a father walking with his son with his one arm around him and his other arm was missing, no doubt brutally cut off in the war. This was an intimidation tactic to get them to join their army.I also met with the mission president, President Squires who opened up this mission when it split from Ghana. He just might have one of the toughest ecclesiastical assignments in the church. He has to deal with things that most of us can't even dream about, believe me. He is here for another year and needs prayers to have his shoulders strengthened.

Thanks for letting me share ~Matt

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Arriving in Sierra Leone




I have to start this entry by saying "WOW!" Kenya, Ethiopia, and Ghana were all much better off than Sierra Leone. This is the poorest country I've seen.

I am in the Freetown, the capital today and even the capital has very little infrastructure. Things we take for granted like roads, laws and regulations, water and sewage, and electricity. The civil war that occurred here has torn the country to pieces, but I understand it is doing much better than it was, but they have a long way to go. Usually I would encourage people to stay in their country and help build it up, but for the first time today I thought I could not say that for a Sierra Leonine. Unemployment is about 70%.

Our trip here was very eventful. There is one airport for the entire country and it is very old. they let you out on the runway and you carry your bags to the building. Once inside there are many people waiting to help you so they can earn a tip. I don't know why , but the airport was built across a large ocean inlet from Freetown so you have to ride an old helicopter, old ferry that takes forever, or a water taxi that also has older boats. All three options are risky since all the equipment is not maintained properly. We took the least of the evils and rode in the water taxi. They jammed us all in which was about 14 people and luggage. They started to take us out and then the engine died. We had some government ministers on board and they were scared to begin with. This put them over and they demanded to return. One of them said, "I don't care about my money, you can have it, just get me off this boat!" The driver ignored them and so did the manager. The ministers became very angry, but Elder Greding and I knew the motor was flooded and just needed some time so we took it in stride. After a lot of yelling and threatening to close their business down, they turned around and docked again. We switched boats and with some trepidation headed out on the ocean again. Now with only 5 people all of us ironically working for various nonprofits. While in the middle of the ocean a large wave came up over the front of the boat, busted through the window almost killing the driver and then totally soaked Elder Greding and another passenger. The other 3 of us got all the after spray but no doubt the first two got the worst of it. The worst part is that our luggage also got soaked so we've been drying things out. Luckily they had a boat following us so we transferred boats and were off again. By this time my stomach was queasy from the ocean waves on a small boat and the adrenaline rush of the near death of our driver and soaking of everything else left me feeling homesick. I thought to myself, "What am I doing out here?"

The church uses site monitors to provide oversight to the contractors building the Water System. we hired 8 returned missionaries, many of which have also graduated with a degree. They were all jobless before the project. Now that they have some experience some of them have received some other jobs. They were paid $1.25 a day they were happy about it. It is hard not to give them so much more but in the long run it muddies the water. It creates jealousy amongst other members and creates false expectations with the site monitor, but is is sooo hard to hold back. We are going to do some other things that will help make them more employable and hopefully help some good men with families that are living the gospel in one of the toughest places on the earth.

Tonight, having dinner with the site monitors/church members helped me remember why I was out here. I was touched and warmed when I heard them talk about what a great blessing this has been to them and their families. Tomorrow I will visit with actual recipients of the water and I know I will be reminded again of why I am out here.

It is hard to explain Africa to someone who has not experienced it, but suffice it to say that there is an emotional tole on those that cross the line between two worlds, that of the rich and the poor. It is of course more of a blessing that I will forever be grateful for and will never forget the lessons and blessings that are truly countless. ~Matt

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Greetings from Africa



Today I arrived in Ghana and met with Bob Eppel, Daniel, Clarence, President and Sister Riding. Their office is at the same complex as the Accra temple. They were saying that last week 250 members from Ivory Coast came and did something like 850 endowments. When they give so much to attend the temple they also give all they have when they are here in doing as many ordinances as humanly possible.

The temple is small but a true oasis in the country where the Church is growing so fast. Branches are turning into wards and stakes are splitting. 5 years ago there was only 1 mission in the area where there are now 3 missions. The people are very happy and outgoing. It seemed like everyone on the street gave me a hand wave or smile in return and many shook my hand with an enthusiastic grip and often didn't let go until I pulled my hand back because I was a bit uncomfortable. Kenyans also love extra long handshakes that usually involve various twists with the hands and a snap of fingers at the end.

Elder Greding and I both like to experience real local life so with some of our free time we went across the street into an open air market for locals. We were the only white people in the entire market and many people giggled at us as we passed. People are still talking about President Obama's visit to Ghana and how he said we are all brothers and sisters. We had a few people come to us and say, "you are my brother, you are my father, just like Obama said" we would laugh, agree and then say we are albino Africans. This would always create a laugh in the crowd or group as I from my English ancestry and Elder Greding with his Scottish ancestry tried to persuade them we were African.

The market was very dirty and stinky and the cutest little kids were playing in bacteria filled dirt and flies were on all the food. Their shops consisted of dirt floors and tin scrapes pieced together like a puzzle to make walls and a roof.

It was true capitalism.

One man had an old sewing machine and would sew little tears in any type of fabric. Next to him was a young man with a TV and DVD showing movies (I don't think he received copyright permission:). He had 3 or 4 chairs inside and that was the local theatre. Another young man had an apron on with phone calling cost options. He was carrying around a full keyboard phone that had a cord attached to the headset just like you would see in an office. It was battery operated so people who wanted to make calls could. It was a bit funny to see an office phone being carried around an open air market, but he was a traveling phone booth. A creative business plan I must say.

I did see some people sweeping the dirt around their store. They were making the best of their situation and maintaining cleanliness however possible. Jill would have been an African like this.

Some of the images that stay with me the most is when I see young kids who are homeless or begging on the streets in their wheelchairs, clearly disabled. Ghana is no different and I've seen kids that are my kids age already begging, or sleeping on the sidewalk with no apparent signs of a family. I wish I could sit down with each of them, hear their story and help them salvage their life which in doubt still has much promise.

We can pray for these kids that they will find a home and family. I can't imagine being 10 years old and living on the street. I pray that they may share their burden with the Lord and somehow be delivered from their captivity or made stronger to handle their journey through it.

It is comforting to know that in the eternal perspective the Lord is fair. Everyone will be judged fairly. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful and liberating truths that has been revealed.

Love you,

Matt

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Whiting Reunion

As everyone came in for our reunion we were there to greet them, ready for games, laughter and lot's of craziness!
Friday we went through the Oquirrh Mountain Temple open house. It is so beautiful!
Next stop, This is the Place Park! We had a great time...
riding the train...
riding on the ponies, Sorry boys, even with your pants pulled up past your bellybuttons you don't LOOK 10 yrs. old you do act like it though ha ha :)...
School! Everyones very favorite of course :)...
candle making...
petting zoo...
more pony rides...
last but not least, singing in the concert hall.
We went home for our very first WHITING IDOL! It was a night we will NEVER forget! Sunny and Cher were a hit even though Matt who was acting as Simon told them they were better grandparents then singers! Monica (Kara) and I (Paula) TOTALLY disagreed!
The younger Sunny and Cher did an amazing job too!
Jac, Thomas, and Emily sang, Hakuna Matada from the Lion King. They were AMAZING! They must have gotten all their talent from Grandma and Grandpa!
We had singing, stories, a piano duet, guitar playing...
and we even learned a few lessons like, "You are what you eat" it took some of us a few hints to figure this one out :) We also learned how to be MUSCULAR! Wade even tried to flirt with Kara (to get a good vote of course) Can you believe it? She actually fell for it!
Saturday morning began with a hike to Bridal Veil Falls
Grandma Pink came down for the afternoon and enjoyed the ropes course with us!
We were so glad to have her with us! Matt was glad he could finally give Grandma her long awaited massage.
There was a huge Zip line. I was so impressed when Emily, Justin and Gracie were brave enough to go!
We look good in our gear don't you think?
The swing was a blast to WATCH! Look at everyone's faces and you'll know what I mean :)
We also had some team building games
I think Justin's face says it all!
We spent Saturday evening at Nunns Park eating another yummy meal that Megan prepared for us. She even made tinfoil smores for everyone! We loved goofing off and playing charades. Mitch is a natural!
We ended the reunion by celebrating Grandpa's 67th birthday. Do you like the shirt Jac picked out for him? We also enjoyed checking out the expiration dates and seeing how good Emily looks with long hair!
Like I said, it was a weekend of craziness but it is one we will never forget!
Thanks everyone for the wonderful memories!