The Thomases of Sierra Leone

Thomases and Joshua at Dinner
President and Sister Thomas enjoying a dinner
with Joshua Akomdo of the Membership and Statistical
Records Department from the Area Office in Accra.
Elder Markham is taking the picture.

For the last seventeen months of their 23 month call to serve in the Ghana Accra Mission, Elder Kent and Sister Carolyn Thomas from Salt Lake City have served in Sierra Leone. During that time they were the only senior missionary couple living in the country. There is one local Church employee, Brother William Quee, the CES Country Director. Before leaving Ghana for Sierra Leone, Elder Thomas was called as a counselor in the Mission Presidency giving him more direct authority over the approximately 20 full time missionaries and the three District Presidents serving there. About half way through their time in Sierra Leone, the two Church Districts in the capital city, Freetown District and Wellington District, were consolidated and President Thomas received the additional calling of District President for the Freetown District. (Elder Markham calls him President President Thomas.) They were given the charge to focus on preparing the leaders to become a Stake. During their service in Sierra Leone, the Thomases were teachers and role models for many members and investigators and frequently inherited the responsibility of being the face of the Church in Sierra Leone.

This page captures some perspective of their work as seen by Area missionaries who were hosted by the Thomases during assignment visits to Sierra Leone.
To review the Markhams two visits to Sierra Leone, click the buttons below. These pages show more of the people and the country where President and Sister Thomas have labored so diligently.

Life in Sierra Leone has some challanges.

The recent history of Sierra Leone includes many years of terrible civil war. The result is proverty and social devastation. In Freetown, once beautiful homes are surrounded by make-shift accomdations. During the war, the rebels forced displacement of roughly half of the country's population. Many fled to Freetown, creating simple shelters to live in. Many shelters have ‘zink’ roofs, and countless others have only plastic held down by rocks for protection from the rain. These living conditions are typical in Sierra Leone. Refugee Homes

Homes Homes

A crowd of curious children gathers around any white person. They are hungry for learning, hungry for attention, and often just hungry.
Kids Kids

At least once a month, and often with extra passengers, the Thomases drove to Bo in the four-wheel drive pickup truck they have as their missionary vehicle. It is very appropriate for their assignment. The truck was usually full of miscellaneous supplies for the young Elders serving in Bo and Kenema. The road is not good. What should take about three hours generally takes 5-6 hours and can take 10+ hours. During the rainy season, the heavy rain washes out any dirt that has been used to fill the thousands of potholes along the way. With water filling the potholes, the deep holes and the shallow holes all looked the same. The ride becomes a bone jarring experience. But the missionaries were always happy to see the Thomases and the members welcomed them warmly.
Elder Wall Elder Thomas with his truck
Elder Wall coveting
President Thomas' Missionary vehicle
President Thomas unloading supplies
for the Elders from his truck

People in Wellington Road to Bo
Driving is a full time job.
City streets are very congested.
In larger villages there are very
active street markets.

Road to Bo Road to Bo
But the scenery is often beautiful... ...and rural villages are interesting.

Poda Poda Poda Poda

Poda Poda Mini buses called Poda Podas are the primary means of public transportation. They are usually overloaded and overcrowded, but they still travel up to 70 mph on curving mountain roads that require sudden stops and quick turns to avoid potholes. The riders on top are paying customers!

UN Water Truck UN Helicopter
There is UN presence everywhere
in Sierra Leone.
Their peacekeeping efforts
are appreciated and necessary.

It is always nice to return home after a long trip.
President and Sister Thomas
President and Sister Thomas in front of their home
with Elder and Sister Whisenant, Area PA Directors

Their home in Freetown was nice. But the road in was very washed out. The power grid only worked 2-3 hours a day, but mostly in the evening which was good. There was a generator, but it was expensive to operate. Having the good Mormon frugality gene, the Thomases slept without A/C or fans most nights and used an ice chest rather than a refrigerator. They also carried buckets of water up stairs (3 flights) when the pump was not working.

Sierra Leone has many opportunities to serve.

Sister Thomas and a Member President Thomas on the Run
Sister Thomas calls all the sisters by name
and the mutual love is inspiring to see.
President Thomas is always
on the run.
Sister Thomas taught nursing at the U. of U. and President Thomas managed fleet sales for a large auto dealership before their mission. President Thomas is a good tri-athlete. As the face of the Church in Sierra Leone, he needs tri-athlete levels of strength and perseverance! They both have greatly blessed the lives of the Saints in Sierra Leone with the many skills developed throughout their active, faithful lives.

The Thomases work hard to teach the gospel to investigators. They went to a very crowded area in Freetown to teach this man and his wife. They were pleased to see him, a very recent convert, at his first District conference an hour before it started. His wife also joined the church, but they had a brand new baby, so she was at home on this day. This new member is a doctor who practices in Freetown, but once a month, at his own expense, he travels to difficult areas in Sierra Leone to help the poor. President Gay (on the left) was also happy to meet him. Thomas' with Convert

Elders at Work Kenema Street Scene
Much of their effort focuses on
supporting the young missionaries.
This can be interesting!
Finding and maintaining good apartments
is critical. This is the view from
the Kenema missionary apartment.

One-on-one With Elder Davis
The highest value time is
spent in one-on-one counsel.
Their love for these young men
is easy to see. Missionaries, such as
Elder Davis, greatly respect them.

President and Sister Thomas are often the eyes, ears and messengers for the Physical Facilities Department in Accra. With no employees on the ground in Sierra Leone, most departments depend on the Thomases for more than just hosting visits.

Bo Building Construction Freetown District Center
Sister Thomas and Joshua Akomdo at
the new Bo District Center
The Freetown District Building

With Freetown PA Trainees Financial Trainiing
Sister Thomas at Freetown PA Training
Hosting means providing transportation,
arranging the facilities, inviting the...
...attendees, and even particpating.
President Thomas at the back after
Bo District Financial Training

Grafan Branch Veranda
Hosting also provides time to talk with
other missionaries and employees.
With Whisenants at Grafan Branch
And there are good meals with more
friendly discussion.
With Markhams at a Restaurant

Service in the Church brings Tender Mercies of the Lord.

Dinner at Mamba Point
Dinner at Mamba Point with Nancy and Malcom (right)

The Thomases enjoy a friendship with two UN employees. They are members of the Church. Nancy is Canadian and works in the legal department that prosecutes war criminals. Malcom is from the U.K. and works in security, making sure the prosecutors are kept safe.

Sisters at Temple Preparation Class Neighborhood Children
Sisters at Temple Preparation Class
Taught by the Thomases in Kenema
Young Women from the Neighborhood

President and Sister Quee Members
President and Sister Quee
He is the CES Director and counselor
to President Thomas.
Happy Members at a District Conference

Elder Markham and President Turay Sister Turay
Elder Markham with President Turay
President Turay is a wonderful leader
of the Bo District.
Sister Turay

President Turay leading celebration parade Crowd at the celebration
President Turay of Bo District (left center)
leads the 175th anniversary parade.
Members are proud.
A large crowd enjoys the cultural activities.
The Church is growing.

An excellent Role Model to Make Golden Sunsets
Sunset in Sierra Leone

Be not weary in well-doing,
for ye are laying the foundation of a great work.

President and Sister Thomas
President and Sister Thomas

I will open the windows of heaven
and pour you out a blessing.

Windows of Heaven
Windows of Heaven over Sierra Leone

In October the Thomases will complete their mission and return to family and friends in Utah. Thanks to their faithful, diligent service, Sierra Leone has progressed in the gospel. And equally important, through to their willingness to serve, Kent and Carolyn Thomas have gained a broader vision and understanding of our Heavenly Father's Plan that will bless their lives and the lives of their family and loved ones forever.

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