The following is extracted from an e-mail from Jolene Dew to family and friends that made its way to us. Jolene serves with her husband, Bill, in Amman, Jordan where he is the Branch President.

 

Amer Elyas is Bill's counselor in the Branch Presidency. In October, he was called to a mission in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission. We have spent much time with him over the past three months preparing him for his mission. Amer does not speak much English. We have been working hard with him to improve his English. In South Africa, there will be no one who speaks Arabic and he will feel quite alone without anyone he can talk to. Can you just imagine how that would be? No one, not his companion, not his Mission President, not the other missionaries, not anyone on the streets, no one!

 

I remember just after the call came for his mission back in October. He went through some hard times as he tried to wrap his mind around going to South Africa, learning a new language, being the only person there who speaks Arabic and how alone he would feel. He was receiving flack from his parents and brothers and uncles are not members of the Church. His brothers and uncles have been quite vocal about how he should not go on this mission, but should stay home and work to help support the family. With all of their comments and his own fears, he was becoming discouraged.

 

One night in the car on the way to his house he told us many of his fears. All of this, in our Arabic/English broken style which is a combination of trial and error and repeating and guessing. He was worried about the language and how hard it would be to be the only one who spoke Arabic. He wondered how he could serve with his limited English skills. We also learned he was afraid of lions! He had been on the internet and found out that there are lions in South Africa. He had also learned that South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world. He was very concerned about this mission he had been called to go on.

 

About this same time, I was having a hard time as I tried to learn the Arabic language. I had asked Bill to fast with me the next day and then give me a blessing. We felt impressed to ask Amer if he wanted to join us and also get a blessing from Bill. He jumped at the chance and said he would fast also. So the next day we fasted and after church Bill gave us both blessings. It was a very spiritual experience for all of us.

 

That was in November, and since then we have watched the confidence in Amer grow and grow. He isn't worried about lions any more. He isn't worried about the crime in Johannesburg, and his English has been steadily improving day by day. He can understand a lot of what is said in English now and he can speak in short broken sentences. It has been a miracle to behold. I am so grateful for the blessing of the priesthood in our lives and for the Lord and his tender mercies.

 

Amer ran into some trouble getting his papers ready for his visa. When his call came he had to have lots of shots, a chest x-ray and a lot of doctor's signatures. When the papers were ready they were submitted them to the South African Consulate for his visa. They were told that he needed a letter from the General Intelligence stating that Amer did not have a criminal background. This was in the first of December. He went to General Intelligence and was asked to get pictures of himself, which he did. Two weeks went by and he was told to come back in another week. Then it was Christmas and then it was the Muslim holiday of Ead for ten days or so the offices were closed. Now it was into January and he was to leave soon. We were all praying that he could get his papers from the General Intelligence. Finally they gave him an appointment to come in on a certain Sunday. He came and waited an hour and a half only to be sent home again and told to come back the next day. The following day after another hour wait, he was finally taken to see the head of the office, who questioned him for three hours about his involvement in the Church. After the very long interview, the man told Amer to come back in an hour and he would receive his papers. We were all down in Amman that day and Amer called Pres. Bradford, (the District President) to tell him the good news. Amer told him that he would get on a bus that very moment and would be to Amman in three hours with the papers.

 

With the papers in hand, they went off to the South African Embassy again. But this time they were told that the medical tests he had done in November were out of date and he would have to do them all again! Oh my!

 

Amer marched back to the doctors and redid the tests and got new signatures from the doctors and returned back to Amman the next day. Well, that was Wednesday, and he was scheduled to leave the following Thursday. The next day came and still no visa, Saturday came and still no visa. We were all praying, as the day for his departure was growing closer. Finally, late Sunday afternoon, the visa was ready. Amer had his visa just hours before the scheduled meeting to set him apart as a missionary. Isn't it wonderful to see the hand of the Lord in things?

 

On Sunday when we picked Amer up from his home to take him to Amman to be set apart as a missionary by Pres. Bradford, Amer was coughing and sniffling. I asked him how he felt and he said he had a cold, but he followed with "Mish mishkula" (no problem). It was a beautiful meeting as Amer was set apart. President Bradford explained that this was a history making event in Jordan, because Amer was the first missionary from Jordan to be set apart in his native language of Arabic. Most of the missionaries from Jordan up to this point have been set apart in their field of labor.

 

We have spent the last few days getting Amer ready to leave for his mission. This is always a big job with lots of shopping. It was an interesting experience to shop for a missionary here in Jordan. I am used to shopping in Utah where the stores all understand about missionaries and have all the things we need. That is not the case here. We went to several men's clothing stores. The selection is not huge, especially if you want a plain dark suit. The Jordanians like things a bit flashy! Most of the ties we saw were bright yellow or purple or pink or green.

 

We ended up with two lovely suits. Amer kept looking at Bill's suit and wanted to match what he was wearing. Amer adores Bill and he wants to look just like him. In the end he had a dark navy pinstripe like Bill's and a grey suit like Bill's. He kept saying to me, "Sister Jolene, you like?"

 

We found a great shoe store and got him some heavy duty shoes for lots of walking. Most of the Jordanian men like shoes with long pointed toes. It is very interesting, but the shoes we got are very normal looking and sturdy.

 

This was a tender time for the family. Amer's mother planned a lovely dinner of mansif with lamb on Friday. His whole family including uncles and aunts came. Amer was very happy. Sewar was quite delighted that the mansif would be with lamb and not chicken. This is a rare thing for them to afford lamb.

 

Amer gave a talk in church on Friday. It was a lovely talk starting out with Jesus Christ as the light of the world and it is only through Him that we can return to our Father in Heaven. He went on to say that those who are members of the Church in Jordan now are a very important generation. They must set examples through their diligence at keeping the commandments so they can build the kingdom here in Jordan now. This generation must be strong and true so that the next generation will be strong. If they do live true to their covenants, maybe their grandchildren will remember their names like the church remembers the names of the pioneers for they are the pioneers of the Church in Jordan. Amer is a true pioneer and a very good young man with great faith. He has a great work to do as he helps to prepare the way for the Church to grow here in the Middle East.

 

Amer lived with us the few days after he was set apart before leaving for South Africa. While Amer lived with us, we turned our home into a mini MTC. We had scripture study and companion scripture study and English/Arabic study. I have had him iron shirts, and sew on buttons. Bill has taught him about hygiene and even how to floss his teeth.

 

Amer's mother had asked us if they could come to the Airport to see him off, and we answered "of course!" The morning of his departure, I asked Amer how he felt and he said he was a little nervous about the flight and all. We got out the copies of his ticket. And he wrote Arabic all over his copy so he would understand what it said about the times of his travel. He will fly from Amman to Dubai and then on an 8 hour flight to South Africa. He wrote all of this information down in Arabic on his ticket. He asked me how they would know who he was when he got to South Africa. I explained that someone would meet him at the airport and not to worry, just to get his luggage and then go to customs. He wanted to know how he would know where his luggage was. I had him write on his paper "Where is my luggage?" He wrote it in Arabic transliteration like it was vital information that he did not want to say wrong. Then he wrote the question in Arabic so he would know what it meant. We pasted the name and address and phone number of Pres. Hill, the President of the MTC, and also the same for Pres. Bowden, his Mission President. I told him if he had any problems, he could call either of these men and they would help him.

 

I told him that after he went through customs he was to wait in the airport just outside of customs for someone to meet him. Amer was very concerned about being found once he got to South Africa. He asked me if they would have a sign for him, but he said he would not understand the writing on the sign even if they did. I smiled at his anxiousness and said, "Amer, do not worry, they will recognize you because you look like a missionary. I pointed to the suit he was wearing and the tie and the white shirt and said, "Amer, you look like a missionary, they will recognize you. And Amer, you will recognize them because they will look like you. They will have white shirts and dark pants and a tie and a name tag! And Amer, the Lord will bless you and you will not be lost." This seemed to settle his fears.

 

Just before we left our house, Bill and I and Amer knelt in prayer and Bill asked for the blessings of the Lord to attend Amer all the way to South Africa. We thanked the Lord for the privilege of helping prepare Amer for his mission and asked the Lord to bless this good young man as he began his service as a full time missionary.

 

Finally we were ready and we headed out with just a couple of stops for last minute things and a visit to the hospital to say good-bye to his great aunt. Then we arrived at his home about an hour and a half before we had to leave for the airport. His family was there and many of his relatives were there to say good-bye. It was a very tender moment. Amer's father had a stroke a year ago and is not able to speak or move his arm or leg. It was especially hard for him and for his mother who cried a lot. This scene is repeated all over the world as good families bid farewell to their missionaries.

 

When the time arrived, they were able to help Amer's father into a car with his mother and little sister and Amer joining them. Bill and I drove the car with all of his luggage and Amer's two brothers. That was an interesting 2 hour drive to the airport because his brothers don't speak English and our Arabic was very difficult for them to understand, but somehow we were able to communicate a little. This scene is repeated daily here as we try to speak to these good Jordanian people with our very limited language skills.

 

At the airport, Amer bid farewell to his parents at the car and then we took him into the terminal. We got someone to help him as he has never been more than 5 hours by car from his home, and that only once. These good people just don't go very many places and this grand adventure Amer was on was more than a little overwhelming. They have a service where you pay a little extra and you get someone to help you through the red tape. We considered it well worth the price. Amer did run into some problems with the weight on his bags because the internet had been wrong and so they had to work that out, but in the end the Lord blessed him to board the plane on time. We sat out in the car until Amer called and said that he was boarding and then we left to go back to Irbid with his brothers and little sister.

 

As the Branch President, Bill had e-mailed the President of the South African MTC telling him of Amer's departure and asking that he inform us of Amer's safe arrival. On Friday afternoon we received an e-mail from Pres. Hill with two pictures of Amer, one with Pres. and Sis. Hill, who look just as warm and loving as they should, and another picture with his companion, Ryan Stinger, from Orem, Utah. Amer looked a little like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. I'm sure everything is quite overwhelming for him right now and our prayers continue for him. We took the pictures right over to his parents who wept with joy. His mother kissed the pictures and his sister ran them around to show all of their relatives.

 

Bill and I feel that it has been a rare privilege to have been a part of Amer's preparation for his mission. We love this good young man dearly. If this were all we came to Jordan to do, it would be enough. But of course, there is another year ahead of us. There is so much to be done. I wonder if a year is enough time to accomplish all that we feel we must. We are truly grateful to the Lord for the privilege of serving Him in Jordan. We pray every day that we will accomplish what He would have us do. The Lord is good to us.