Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving

I wish I had taken the time to write about this earlier, but this Thanksgiving was by far the most humbling Thanksgiving I have ever had.

Jed and I went up to SLC to have Thanksgiving dinner with my mom's side of the family. My grandpa has apartments on his property that he rents out and he brought one of his tenants with him to dinner. Her name is Mariama Kallon and she's from Sierra Leone, West Africa. I didn't get to talk to her much at the dinner table because she was at the other end, but after dinner, we all gathered in the living room and she told us her story. It was inspiring. It was unreal. It was miraculous.

Sierra Leone was in the midst of war for a long time. In the seventh year of war, the rebels attacked Mariama's village. The rebels approached her house from the back and her family (mother, father, brother, sister, and her) ran towards the front door. Her parents never made it out of the house. Mariama and her siblings heard their parents being shot to death behind them, but they had to continue running. Eventually the rebels caught up to them and captured her brother to enlist him in their forces. (She later found out that they had chopped off his arms because he refused to join them, and he died as a result of the blood loss he incurred.)

Not too long after her brother was taken, she and her sister were captured, along with several other women. After they were raped, the women were lined up to have their legs cut off, five at a time. Mariama's sister was one of the first ones to lose her legs, as Mariama helplessly watched. She prayed to God that something would happen to stop the rebels. There were only two women in front of her when the rebels got word that the UN was coming. They gathered up their weapons and ran away, leaving Mariama with one of her legs (she didn't tell us about losing her leg, but I read it in an article I found online). She had been saved by the grace of God, and the power of prayer. Mariama's sister died from blood loss, just as their brother had.

Mariama found refuge with some friends and they invited her to church with them. There were no missionaries in Sierra Leone at the time (if I remember right, it was because they were taken out because of the war), so she learned of the Gospel from her branch president. She walked three miles each way to his house, barefooted, three times a week and was soon baptized. She received a hygiene kit from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and when her house was burned down by the rebels, she used the kit to keep herself and others clean while in hiding.

Eventually she went back to her village and decided that she wanted to serve a mission for the Church. Most Africans do not leave their country, let alone their continent. She got called to the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission. She was the first African to serve on Temple Square. Mariama now resides in Salt Lake and speaks all over the country, telling her story and spreading joy to everyone she meets. She is such a sweet woman and definitely an inspiration.

We took pictures with her, but not with my camera, so I'll have to see if I can get a copy. I am so glad that I was able to share Thanksgiving with this wonderful woman. It was an amazing day and one that I will not ever forget.

8 comments:

cornnut32 said...

that is amazing. what a great reminder to be grateful for what we are blessed with.

Vallen Family said...

wow, there are so many times when I feel like I have hard times and I want to give up. What an amazing story. I'm glad she is able to share her life with others so we can see that we have so much and that we are all so blessed.

Life in Boston... said...

What an amazing story. I admire her courage. Thanks for sharing it. It makes me realize that I need to be thankful for everything I have in my life.

Laurel said...

I so wish I could have been there. I really would love to meet her. What heart-wrenching experiences, but then to have such a wonderful, awe-inspiring life because of it. She's truly an inspiration. Thanks for sharing her story.

portiagroves said...

Thanks for sharing that story, she must of been a remarkable woman.

Clark and Liesel said...

Wow, thanks for sharing. Makes me think how much I have and how much I take for granted. We really are so blessed.

Barlow Family said...

That will be a Thanksgiving to never forget. I am amazed at the things we can learn from people when we just stop to listen. What an amazing woman. Thank you for sharing her story, we truly do feel more thankful for all the blessings we so easily recieve.

Busath Family said...

I have several students (K-5) now that are refugees and their families are amazing. That is really neat you were able to hear her tell her story. We had one of my refugee students over for Thanksgiving too. My little 5th grader was shot at in school and survived but he watched 20 of his classmates gunned down. His family went to a UN refugee camp after that and his dad was shot there but survived. We're so blessed! Kara