Friday, June 5, 2009


This was an article written about my brother and his mission to Africa in the local paper where I grew up.

Clipper News Editor
CENTERVILLE —Elder Spencer Smoot saw little of the crime which LDS Apostle Russell M. Nelson experienced first hand in Mozambique last weekend.
Smoot, who returned from the Mozambique Maputo Mission on May 6, served in the northern portion of the southeast African nation, an area far removed from the crime which Nelson gained first-hand experience of on Saturday in the nation’s capital, Maputo, in the southern portion of the country.
That’s where Nelson, and his wife, Wendy were having dinner with Mission President Blair Packard and his wife Cindy. The evening was interrupted by armed assai lants who attacked and robbed them.
Cindy Packard’s arm was broken and others suffered cuts and bruises, but the Nelsons chose to finish their weekend assignments in Mozambique before returning home.
Smoot described the area he served in as rural, an area where paved roads were a rarity and people lived in villages in mud and grass huts. “Once in a while you’d see a cinder block building,” he said.
But on his occasional visits to Maputo, Smoot said he saw people carrying a lot of weapons, everything from night sticks to AK-47s.
The country suffered a long and violent civil war which ended in 1992, but rebels, called the RENOMO refused to disarm, and more than a million Mozambican refugees sought asylum in nearby nations, after floods and famine devastated much of the land.
Now home, Smoot said he’s adjusting well to paved roads, and carpeting in homes. “I’ve been making snow angels in our carpet,” because of its comparatively luxurious feel, he said, adding that when he returned home and heard people talking about the economic downturn, it seemed surreal, because even in these bad economic times, we have it so much better than the Mozambicans. “People don’t realize how good we have it,” he said.
When Smoot received his mission call, he didn’t even know where Mozambique was. As he researched the country, he got excited. When he arrived, the Mozambique Maputo Mission was only a few years old, and he was the first missionary from Centerville to serve there. Now, he said, there are two others he knew in high school.
He described the people in the northern villages as humble and “open to the word of God,” although he said they retain many false traditions. While meeting with a businessman, he told Smoot he had to meet with the local witch doctor, a practice which is not uncommon. Even after conversion to another faith, “They still believe and practice,” the faith of their ancestors, Smoot said.
While people still speak native languages among themselves, everybody speaks Portuguese, Mozambique’s official language, Smoot said. And that is the language he used to communicate with people.
As could be expected, the Mozambique people eat many different foods from those Smoot was used to. While they ate rice and beans, and chicken Smoot also ate meats such as crocodile, hippopotamus, and gazelle, which he described as succulent. In the city, they add milk and cereals and other grain products.
War, famine and drought have taken their toll. Smoot said the life expectancy is only about 34, so there are few older people, but “there are kids crawling all over.”
Smoot said that seeing so much poverty broke his heart, but charities have stepped in to help people in the village.
Packard has started a charity, “Care for Life,” which Smoot said builds schools and water wells in the impoverished villages.
His time spent in Mozambique has made the young man rethink his life’s career. Once a political science major, Smoot is now looking at becoming a pediatrician.

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