Peter Evans is the director of communications for LDS Welfare Services. He was able to visit Sierra Leone to document the incredible training and service that was being provided to the country by Church volunteers. Sister Abie Turay, one of the incredible nurses in Sierra Leone, was also mentioned in President Eyring’s most recent General Conference talk.
I have been able to visit many parts of the world to film what the Church is doing to bless the lives of the poor and needy. Often the people I interact with have lived through horrific times—drought, civil unrest, war, ethnic cleansing, and poverty.
Following the civil war in Sierra Leone, I took a film crew to document the neonatal resuscitation training the Church was providing to midwives. While we were in Bo, Sierra Leone, we had the tremendous fortune of spending time with Abie Turay and her husband, Muhammad. Abie is a village nurse who walks hundreds of miles each month providing prenatal care to expectant mothers and delivering babies.
We talked about the war, and Abie described running from their home as the rebels came—often in the dark of night. She said that all she could do was grab the children and run for the safety of the jungle. She spoke with love for the Lord and for a mission president who would make his way into their war-torn country with American dollars in his pocket—fast offerings paid by members of the Church—that would allow them to buy food that was not available at any price most Sierra Leoneans could afford.
As we visited in her clinic, she ran to her nearby home and retrieved her treasured remembrances from the war: a blanket—now worn and riddled with holes—that had kept her children warm while they hid from the rebels in the jungle and a shirt that had been donated to the Deseret Industries and sent to Africa in bales of clothing for the suffering Saints.
She said, through her tears, “You have no idea what a miracle it was to have a little soap, some toothpaste, and a comb. These things are so important when you have nothing.”
No member of the Church in Bo died of starvation—a fate that was all too common. Though not plentiful, there was always a little food, enough clothing, and blankets to provide for their needs.
As we filmed Abie in the women’s clinic where she worked, I was drawn to her scriptures that were on the table. They were obviously a treasure, well-marked with notes in the columns. The pages were dog-eared; the cover was detached from the binding.
I held them in my hand and gently turned the pages. As I did so, I came across the yellow copy of her tithing donation slip. In a country where cash was scarce and American dollars were worth their weight in gold, Abie Turay had paid her tithing with one American dollar. She had a daughter serving a mission, and another dollar was paid to the missionary fund. And then knowing there others who were truly poor, Abie Turay had given one US dollar as a fast offering.
By any worldly standard, Abie and her husband were very poor themselves, yet they knew others needed the help they could render. I closed her scriptures knowing I had been on sacred ground in that little clinic with faithful Saints.