Dear family and friends,
The title today is a little deceiving. It does not refer to us but to our Africa West Area President, Elder Curtis. He and his wife have served here for five years and will be heading home at the end of the month. We enjoyed one last zone conference with them this week where they reminisced on their time here. Talking on the growth of the church Elder Curtis shared amazing stories from the eight countries (out of fourteen) where the church is established. Senegal was recently added to the list as it now has one organized branch of the church and one senior missionary couple. Membership in 2010 was 145,299. Today the number is 251,989. West Africa has 5% of the total church membership, but 1/3 of the growth of the church in the last five years! Of course growth brings challenges but those are being addressed daily by each of us in our respective callings. It's a privilege to serve here and be on the Lord's team.
Sister Curtis shared how Africa has helped her "see with new eyes" Her favorite experiences include seeing the women in their traditional African dresses (it really is a beautiful sight!), serving in the Temple, and attending Primary. She has been involved in countless service projects and even had the opportunity to go on a Rhino safari! We will miss the Curtis' and their wise, loving leadership
For our part, we have had the blessing of meeting some wonderful members this week who are progressing forward in self reliance. "Joseph Duku returned from his mission in 2009, He spent the next 4 years earning a diploma in Business Management. He then made his leap into the business world by borrowing money to purchase 3 computers to be used in an internet cafe. Speaking of this start up loan, Brother Duku told us that, “Any man who borrows money should be arrested. The interest rates are crazy!” Brother Duku went to work to pay that loan off as fast as he could and using the teachings of the SR course he has learned to save money for all future growth. Brother Duku’s profits from his internet services were meager and falling as many of his customers switched to smart phones for their internet access. So he began to ponder and pray about the future business path he should take. One day someone came to him and asked if he could help him register for the West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). He quickly realized he could become an agent to offer this service. This required an electronic finger print identification device which also allowed him to register people in many other programs. To increase the use of his services he has kept the phone numbers of his clients and sends text messages to remind them of important registration deadlines. He has also created banners to advertise his business and has them strategically positioned in the area. This banner designing quickly became a new offering for his business. Brother Duku’s latest additions are the teaching of computer skills and taking and preparing passport photos. When asked about his challenges he mentioned two things: First, he said he is weak in customer services. That problem was recently solved with the addition of a new employee, his wife of 6 months. He feels that together they make the perfect team as she is “wonderful with people!” However his biggest challenge is staying on top of a very rapidly changing business field. Brother Duku feels that being good today is not enough, he must constantly be looking to the future for the next big thing. He is confident he can do this because he is good at generating ideas and has strong problem solving skills."
On my birthday (thank you everyone for your kind wishes) we visited Christiana. We met her several weeks ago and were touched by her fortitude despite experiencing many hardships and trials. At that time she expressed a desire to learn to read so on Saturday we approached her about whether she would like lessons and she eagerly accepted. Just to show the goodness of this women, there were five little neighborhood kids hanging out with us as we talked, and a couple of them stated fighting over who would sit in which chair, so she dished up a bowl of rice for each one, and we continued our conversation in peace. We arranged that from now on, every Monday we will meet with her, and using the Gospel Literacy program will teach her to read. I am so excited for the opportunity to use the skills I learned as a para in kindergarten! Reading is so foundational to all we do in life. I don't think we realize what a blessing it is until we see the world through the eyes of a non-reader. And then, what a joy it is, to see their world become colored with words. You young moms know what I am talking about, right? Some of my favorite mothering memories are of teaching our girls to recognize their letters and write their name. It is wonderful to empower others!
On Sunday Elder Lambert and I attended church at Darkuman ward where we hope to have some self reliance groups going in a few weeks. It's fun to meet new people who tell us "Oh, I am the Mensen's daughter" or "Yes, I am Elder Brown's mother" and then make the family connections of people we already know from other wards. It's feeling more like "home" every week!
The gospel of Jesus Christ not only makes us happy, but instills in us the desire to share that happiness with others. I am grateful for the Savior, for His life, and His example in doing the will of His Father.
Try every day to give love away,
Elder and Sister Curtis
For my cloud-loving daughters