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Emily W. Jensen: Harrowing story affirms hope

Mariama Kallon, who grew up in Sierra Leone, speaks at Time Out for Women in Ogden.
Mariama Kallon, who grew up in Sierra Leone, speaks at Time Out for Women in Ogden.
Emily Jensen, Emily Jensen

OGDEN, Utah — "Scary."

Mariama Kallon laughed at her response about speaking for the first time at Time Out for Women on Saturday, Feb. 6. But having grown up in war-torn Sierra Leone, Kallon knows scary.

"If it wasn't for hope, I wouldn't have been able to be here with you. Hope is the reason I am here."

With a slide show behind her, Kallon described living in Sierra Leone: "We moved from one place to another, trying to find a place of safety." One morning they found out the rebels were coming to the town they lived in. As they raced to leave, Kallon and her sister had to leave her parents.

"There was nothing we could do to save them," she remembered sadly.

Kallon also later found out her brother was captured and, in refusing to cooperate with the rebels, had his arms chopped off and later died. Captured themselves, she watched as her eldest sister's legs were chopped off. She likened the experience to Doctrine and Covenants 121:1, "O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?"

As she was about to be attacked, she prayed for the first time to "a God I knew who must be there." Suddenly, the soldiers arrived and the rebels ran off. The soldiers took her sister, who later died of tetanus.

Not knowing where to go, Kallon went to Freetown, where she was introduced to an LDS family who invited her to church because they said, "This was the place that gives us the hope to live." She decided to join.

Still living in fear of the rebels, one day Kallon prayed to ask, "What do you want me to do with my life?"

She read in Doctrine and Covenants 84:87-88: "Behold, I send you out to reprove the world of all their unrighteous deeds, and to teach them of a judgment which is to come. And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."

But with hope, she decided to fill out her mission application. "I was scared, because if I was called to anywhere in Africa, it would be hard to find angels there." But she was called to serve in the United States at Temple Square, where she found friendships and an opportunity to stay in Utah after her mission.

Kallon concluded by describing how a hygiene kit helped her during the frightening times in Sierra Leone. With a single hygiene kit she had grabbed from her home as she ran, she was able to share the shampoo, toothpaste and comb with many women. Later, as a missionary touring the Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City, she was surprised and grateful to find out that the hygiene kit that had helped her so much in Africa had come from the church.

"I enjoyed the blessing of a hygiene kit. Because of hope, this hygiene kit is my most precious gift."

Kallon will be speaking at almost every Time Out for Women 2010 event. For more information on the Time Out for Women 2010 Infinite Hope Tour events and locations, see deseretbook.com/time-out.