Ok, so I introduced Sierra Leone last week. But I only barely touched on what we did there. And oh how I want to remember that adventure! So here’s my short list of the best things to do in Sierra Leone:

  • Follow around some incredible mission presidents who have made that place their home.
  • Visit with your in-laws who you adore.
  • Follow some awesome missionaries around, who smile and wave at everyone and take you to meet the best people.
  • Go to church and realize that back at home your church congregation could take some lessons from these folks in singing:)
  • Take in all that beauty and culture. From the friendly people to the vibrant dress, we fell in love with that place.

Some more Sierra Leone Observations:

I explained a little about my biggest observations in that last post, but I left these ones out. And they deserve to be mentioned:

Carrying things on your head creates great posture, and is so efficient

There is some serious talent with carrying anything you can think of on your head. From a few t-shirts at the market to giant bags of rice, a cabinet (yep I saw this), to huge plastic basins overflowing with everything from toilet brushes to fish to fabrics to mounds of fruit.

It’s incredible. This is just a little snippet at the market where you’ll notice so many examples of the head-carrying.

Missionary work is hard, even when it makes life easier

Three-quarters of the missionaries serving in Sierra Leone are from Africa and have lived such a different life. It’s kind of crazy for them to sign on as missionaries and get the missionary stipend each month. You see, missions work because every missionary pays the same amount each month all over the world. Then each missionary gets allotted money from that larger pool according to needs in the country where they’re serving. They use this to pay for food and basic needs. In countries where the missionaries cannot afford to pay the monthly payment, ward members of other congregations pitch in. These missionaries get a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and someone to look out for them for two years.

Most of all, a sense of purpose and direction. That is just so important!

But when they’re done, it’s hard to go back to their homes where most don’t have a job or access to education. Thankfully there is the Pathway program, but sadly that often doesn’t lead to a job in Africa. It’s a tricky business that I wish there were answers for.

Air conditioning is blessed

I am so grateful for it. It is HOT in Sierra Leone. We were pools of sweat at the end of each day.

Ok, here’s what we did


This is the evening we arrived and had our happy reunion with James and Christy. Well, we landed when it was bright and sunny, but by the time we got to the ferry to take us to the middle of Freetown it was sunset, and by the time we arrived to hug James and Christy it was dark. That’s a long journey!


This day was my birthday. It turns out it was the only time we could make this trip work and I have to admit, it was one of the best and most memorable birthdays ever. Mostly because it was filled with adventures. My favorite. We were anxious to get into the missionary work, but this was more of a “culture introduction day.”


We hit the ground running and took an early hike to ward off the jet lag. We wound through masses of cars, motorcycles, “kk’s” (three-wheeled taxis), and walkers to get there.

So much congestion and noise and motion. Go to my Instagram stories that I saved to see more of this in action. James and Christy are fearless driving through that place.

We hiked up a waterfall area, passing never-ending mounds of trash, people washing their clothes, a little plant nursery, a well (used for watering gardens and the nursery plants), everyone carrying huge water-buckets on their heads as we headed up the mountain.

We forged our own way through countless rock-separated gardens and overgrowth until we got to a little lookout point.

We sat on the rocks and talk, talk, talked, peppering James and Christy with so many questions. (And sweated. A lot.)

Bureh Beach

We went to Bureh Beach, so much to see along the way.

That beach was so beautiful.

We sat on wide-wood-slat chairs with stray dogs nestling in under the table (one who kept bringing more and more of her newborn babies over) and talked through the world.


We went out to dinner under the big, setting sun, taking it all in.

I shared some pictures of our dinner back when I talked about the January birthdays around here.


Joined one of the senior couples serving with James and Christy to take a hike/walk up the mountain by the university. Freetown is built nestled in some pretty steep hills, loved getting a view from the top. Then on to the missionary work!

District Meeting

The mission home is on a big piece of property right smack-dab in the middle of everything. It has big fences and razor wire, and holds the stake center, the mission office, a mission bunk room and the mission home.

We got to attend district meeting with one of the districts there. There were eight countries represented by those ten missionaries earnestly studying Mormon 6 and how to be better. I loved those earnest teenage teachers, and also some beautiful thoughts Christy interjected.

Singing loud to open and close.

The highlight of our time in Sierra Leone

The “real” hike of the day was heading out to teach some lessons, up the mountain with two missionaries leading the way. This is tough to explain and a highlight of our whole time there. I brought it up when I introduced Sierra Leone, but there is just so much more to say. Wide-eyed wonder as we looked at each other while hiking over boulders, across makeshift bridges crossing ravines of trash, across people’s porches: the “road” to get where we were going.

Loved waving at everyone “Good Morning!” and big smiles, Christy and James stopping to talk to everyone, the missionaries greeted so warmly by everyone and their dog. I love that those missionaries thought to invite a past missionary to teach one of the lessons with us. He, sitting up taller in his chair when asked to share a thought as we discussed repentance with a man named Aleiu. Unfortunately we can only see that past missionary’s knees in this pic, but he was so earnest and good.

We were kind of a crowd, but no one seemed to mind.

And also, I love that in Africa they call God “PapaGod.” I think that is beautiful.

Then there was Brother George who I talked about before with his quest for knowledge in the Book of Mormon (and his appropriate “college of knowledge” sign on his porch).

Heading home weaving our way through more clotheslines, a woman brewing a giant pot of “fowl foot” (chicken feet), kids coming home from school in their uniforms, more stray dogs and happy greeters.

Back home for Christy’s tacos and marveling at all we had experienced.


Morning full-mission conference on zoom

All the missionaries that are staying in the bunk room plus the AP apartment lined up in a row in front of the big television with three screens of missionaries listening intently throughout the whole mission. James and Christy both gave messages about how trials can strengthen us (following a kind of scary incident that happened right before we got there).

Loved being surrounded by these kids trying to serve and love and grow in such unique ways.

Chimpanzee Sanctuary

James and Christy have befriended a young couple who’s living there helping oversee the building of the Sierra Leone temple. The wife volunteers at a chimpanzee sanctuary so we went to have her show us around there.

Lots of work goes in to help keep chimpanzees protected. Those chimps sure put on a show for us.

We got to go up a tower to check out the view, and saw a pretty adorable baby owl.

“Big Market” and PZ Market

We braved the “big market” and Christy, Angela and I spent a whole lotta time trying to figure out fabric to make table runners. Ha!

Then we went on to sweat it out squeezing through the stalls and shoulder-to-shoulder people carrying mountains of goods on their heads at PZ market (Lapa Lane on Thomas road).

I loved this pic my brother-in-law took of this cute girl doing her homework in the middle of all that hubbub swirling around.

There was everything from every vibrant fabric you could imagine to all kinds of interesting foods.

Late night Indian food, sitting on a low bench with a low table talking through the world. When we were done we found that our car had been blocked in by at least six other cars that would all have to move for us to get out. Which, of course, created another adventure.

That picture of Dave holding stacks of money up there is pretty crazy. You see, the largest bills they have in Sierra Leone are only worth a small amount. So people have to carry around literal boxes of bills, even to the market. A pretty interesting side-note.


Sister Marry’s baptism

Love that we got to attend the baptism of Sister Marry, filled up with friends and hearty singing.

It was fun to be amidst the ward to welcome this new member to the “Latta-Day Saints” as they call themselves there.

Sister Marry's baptism

One of the missionaries got up early to make home-made donuts to celebrate.

“River Number Two”

After the baptism we headed to a different beach called River Number 2. I had been worried the whole time about taking James and Christy away from so much of the work they’ve got going on. It is non-stop. They are on the phone constantly with needs, and they are always aware and looking for ways to build and support. But by this time in our journey I realized they needed a little distraction. I think (hope) our visit served as just the right amount to let them breathe a little amidst all the busy-ness.

This beach was filled with white sand, some fascinating people, and surfing…much to Dave’s delight. Christy knows a guy who got us some surfboards to try out.

So fun to have those three siblings out there catching waves, and I got to join in too.

I loved having time with these women right here.

They have been some of my very biggest motherhood mentors throughout all my mothering. They have always been a few years ahead of me in the mothering realm. From toddlers to teenagers to young adults, they have led the way. I’m just so very grateful for them and their gracious examples through all these years.

These couples have been an integral part of life for our family, especially since Dave and James and Paul have been business partners for so many years. We love them all so much.

Amidst all the different things happening on the beach, there was a wedding. Pretty beautiful backdrop for that!


We had planned to take a mission-wide drive to go to a tiny branch and visit some other areas, but there is a fuel shortage and too many question marks with that. Too many things that could go wrong before our flight.

Church and farewell

So we went to the ward that meets right in the mission complex and got to see Sister Marry and Brother George and the investigator Alieu amidst all the other members just singing their hearts out in sacrament meeting.

So many fans whooshing above while trying to decipher what in the world the speakers were saying with their heavy African accents mixed with Creole, but the spirit was so strong in that chapel.

Then we got to go to Relief Society, which was quite the adventure as the men from Elder’s Quorum kept walking right through, the speaker from the next sacrament was going, and everyone was sweltering in that little room.

But that’s the stuff of memories that I love so much, all of us trying to figure out the gospel and to keep turning to God together.

I snuck out at one point just so I could peek in at primary and Young Women. Oh I love attending churches in different countries with all my heart.

From there we drove back to the ferry, teary goodbyes, James and Christy waving at us from the balcony as we loaded the boat and floated away, leaving them alone once again in the midst of this grand adventure.

It was an experience we’ll never forget. Those people, colors, feelings and beauty have wrapped their way into our hearts and I’m so grateful. Even after that 30-hour flight I sure wish we could go right back and experience it all over again.

Thank you, James and Christy, for taking such good care of us! You amaze me and I love you forever! God speed the work of the gospel over in Sierra Leone.

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  1. I saw the few pictures you posted in your Instagram stories a few weeks ago. It looks amazing! But I said to my husband I am not sure if I am up to having a missionary in Africa. My son submitted his mission papers and last week opened his call (my son and I thought for sure he was staying in the states) and he was called to the Zambia Lusaka Mission in Africa. I am still trying to wrap my head around it.

    1. Oh my goodness, that is quite a coincidence! Sending you so much love as you work to wrap your head around that call, and your son too! If it helps at all, (which it probably doesn’t from a stranger who doesn’t even know your son, ha!) I think you are both in for the adventure of a lifetime. I hope he falls in love with that place and loves his time there. But most of all learns to connect with God there in a special way.

  2. So delightful to see part of Sierra Leone through your eyes! I do wonder if that woman was making “fowl foot” stew instead of “foul foot”? 🙂

  3. It looks like you had a really meaningful time in Sierra Leone!

    I have to say, though, that it made me angry and sad to read about the African missionaries after they are done serving. The Mormon church has So Much Money! Seriously! They have billions of dollars squirreled away! It seems to me it would be a perfect use of this money to help out the African (in particular) missionaries after they finish serving. This could be in the form of a lifetime pension! Or maybe a way to attend BYU Idaho or BYU Hawaii. It just seems like so much could be done here so easily, and it is HORRIBLE that they aren’t helped.

    1. Oh Elizabeth, I’m sorry I’m just now getting back to you with this comment! I wanted to come back to say the church is doing everything in their power to help these missionaries, including this Pathway program that is really helping so many. This is just one of the many things in the world that is just hard to figure out an answer for. Rest assured that there are so many resources going to help families any way they can. It’s really a beautiful thing. I’m sure you and I join every church leader wishing they could solve everything with these special missionaries out there working so hard.

  4. My husband served there 12 years ago! Such a special mission. I love hearing him speak to his friends in Krio and share his mission stories with our kids. Amazing you got to go!

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