The Church through its humanitarian arm, LDS Charities, sent food and other emergency supplies to more than 1,500 Latter-day Saint families and others in Sierra Leone during the recent state of emergency — the Ebola-virus outbreak, which has claimed the lives of 500 citizens, including two members of the Church.
LDS Charities provided rice, cooking oil, hygiene supplies and chlorine to families in Freetown, Kissy, Lungi, Kossoh Town, Makeni, Bo and Kenema. The supplies arrived during a government-mandated, Sept. 19-21 lock down, during which families were required to stay at home and asked to reflect and pray.
“I am a mother of two children and was engaged in [small] trading to maintain my children . . . before the crisis,” said a new member of the Church in Makeni. “The Ebola crisis has brought unemployment to most of us ... [and] all the money I had got finished ... I had nothing to upkeep my children. The support received from the Church today has brought joy and confidence in my family and we are grateful to God.”
As the suffering of the masses increases, the people of Sierra Leone face their greatest challenge – the shortage of food, especially in quarantined areas.
“I am glad for this supply because we were wondering about what to eat during the ‘stay-at-home,’ ” said Farissa Fomba. “But God has blessed us. We are so happy. We appreciate Him and will always continue to worship Him.”
“As a widow and head of family ... we were just thinking where to start during the three-day lock down,” said Mary Margay, a member of the Kissy 2nd Branch. “We feel overjoyed.”
The 60-90-day state of public emergency was declared in August to help the government tackle the outbreak. Despite efforts to contain the virus, it continued to spread, prompting the three-day “stay-at-home" — referred to as “ose to ose Ebola talk” — during which volunteers educated communities and conducted routine checks for possible symptoms.
Because members of the Church were confined to their homes during the three-day, government-mandated lock down, local Church leaders authorized the families to conduct home-based sacrament meetings for those living in the same compound (basically in the same house with adjoining rooms).
“It was a spiritual reflection meeting ... with 22 of us, including two members of other faiths,” said President Sahr E. Fomba, leader of the Kissy 2nd Branch. “What a spiritual moment this is!”
In Freetown, the Oneil and Smith families conducted a sacrament meeting in the home of Bishop Titus Oneil, leader of the Dwarzark Ward. During the meeting, his wife expressed her devotion to Jesus Christ and hope for an end to the suffering.
“I know that Heavenly Father loves us,” Fatmaqa Oneil said. “That is why He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to come and teach us the way we should live our lives in this world. I know that if we follow His pattern, Heavenly Father will guide us from this dreadful disease as He did for the Israelites in the land of Egypt.”
She continued, “And if we continue to be faithful in keeping the commandments, we will be blessed, our country will be blessed.”
President Fomba reminded family members they were meeting in the same residence where Latter-day Saint missionaries first introduced the Church’s teachings to the family.
“Some time back in 1993, missionaries knocked on the door of our hillside residence at Cassel Farm, Kissy Freetown ... in an effort to introduce us to the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he explained. “We lived in a difficult terrain and therefore required much courage and faith to climb up the hill where my family is homed.
“I remember the effort and sacrifice of those missionaries who made us feel the power of the gospel, which eventually led us eight, including Mum and Dad, to be members of the Church.” -- Africa West Public Affairs