When we were traveling home from Ethiopia, I received a message from Jackie who cleans my house. We had been gone for 4 days, and she came in the house and said she thought an animal had died in the house because it smelled so bad. I knew that the day after I returned home from Ethiopia, I would have Zone Conferences for the next 4 days in the mission home. I felt like I was so prepared. I had gone shopping and had purchased all the food I would need for the zone conferences. Enough food to feed about 60 missionaries. I guess sometime while we were in Ethiopia, the plug on the freezer had stopped working, and I had a freezer full of spoiled meat. Wow!!! I don't think I could have imagined how bad it would smell. Jackie took all the meat out and disposed of it before we got there, and even wiped out the entire fridge and freezer, but it still smelled HORRIBLE!
We arrived at the mission home at about 10:00 at night, and the North Zone was coming for Zone Conference the next morning. We just ended up ordering pizza to be delivered, because I didn't have time to figure out lunch and go shopping for it. I downloaded the JUMIA food app, and have been so surprised with how well it works here! The only downside is that everything is cash here, so I can't just punch in a credit card number, but WOW, I can't complain at all! Considering what a disaster it was to lose all the food, we actually had a VERY good week!! And it gave me a good memory!
We had zone conferences for North, Gulu, and Central Zones. We were supposed to have South Zone as well, but one of the zone leaders ended up getting pretty sick, so we postponed it until the next week. It's always so fun to have the missionaries come to the mission home! The traffic here can be so unpredictable. We have told the missionaries that we would rather have them come too early, than to have them come late. Many times they come at 8:00am, and the meeting starts at 11:00. This seems almost extreme, but sometimes if you leave even an hour later, you sit in traffic for 2 hours. We never complain if they arrive early. In fact, with several of the zones, President Collings is able to do some extra teaching of the leadership, because the whole zone is there early enough. I think it's a good habit to get into, to arrive early to meetings. The missionaries know if they arrive early they can come inside and do their personal and even companionship studies.
As I said before, we have been focusing on teaching the missionaries how to help their investigators make and keep commitments. We have decided that we need to do a lot more role plays. So the goal is practice, practice, practice. We have also focused on teaching repentance by first building a foundation on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and helping our investigators to have "faith unto repentance". The zone leaders taught on Working in unity as a companionship, baptizing converts, and developing leadership in all of our missionaries. We are focusing heavily on Preach My Gospel, and really trying to train our younger missionaries that it will answer almost all questions they have about missionary work. It's an amazing tool. The zone conferences have been great. We have many young, new zone leaders, but they are really stepping up and leading so well.
Kampala North Zone
Kampala Central Zone
I think almost every cookie had every color of frosting, and every type of candy and sprinkles... I guess go big or go home!
Showing off their sweet aprons and war paint!
We saw that President Russell M Nelson was holding a special meeting on Tuesday, and knew that he would be announcing the new counselors in the first presidency, and that he would be announced as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. As President Collings and I talked about the significance of this announcement, we thought about all of our missionaries. They testify every day that there is a living prophet on the earth today, and that he holds all the Priesthood keys necessary for this work. MANY of our missionaries have only ever known one prophet, President Thomas S Monson. Many of them don't understand the process of how we get a new prophet. We decided that we wanted to do whatever we could to help our missionaries experience this announcement. We called the zone leaders in the areas that are outside of Kampala, and asked that they find out if the stake or wards would be showing this announcement, and then encouraged all of our missionaries to go watch it. We contacted those in Rwanda and Ethiopia with the same instructions. Then we invited all of the missionaries in the Kampala Stakes to come to the mission home to watch it. It started at 7:00pm in Uganda. Usually our sister missionaries are back in their apartments by 7:00, but this was a special occasion.
We haven't had that many missionaries in the mission home since we came to Uganda. We set up every chair in the house along with the couches, and then laid large blankets on the floor in front for them to sit on. We had a full house, but it was perfect. Some of the missionaries arrived early, and we had the funeral of President Monson playing on the projector so they could see it. It kept a sweet spirit in the home as missionaries were arriving.
About 15 minutes before the program started, we had an opening song, "We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet" and prayer. Then President Collings and I spoke to them for a little while. We talked about the significance of this day, and the joy we felt that we would be able to watch it live. We talked about what a wonderful blessing it is to have a Prophet of God on the earth, and that he held the same keys as Joseph Smith, when he restored this church. Then we asked that they say a little prayer that as the prophet and his counselors are announced, that they will each receive a confirmation for themselves, that this is God's will. If they don't receive it while watching the announcement, that they will receive it in the coming days.
We watched the announcement, and the spirit filled the room. I felt so blessed to be witnessing this with all of these missionaries, many of them experiencing it for the first time. Once the announcement was made, and we heard each of the First Presidency speak, we turned off the projector. President Collings said we had a little more time before we needed to end the meeting, and invited anyone who wanted to, to stand and bear their testimony. One by one, missionaries bore testimony that they knew Russell M Nelson was the prophet. The Spirit in the room was incredible. Some of the missionaries said that they didn't know how it would work, or who the prophet would be, but that they felt so good about it. Some who have been members longer said that this strengthened their testimony even more. We were so glad that we were able to experience this with our missionaries. Afterward, I was able to serve the rest of the sugar cookies that we had made the day before, and everyone enjoyed the sweet spirit, and sweet food as they made their way home.
This was before the meeting started, we had quite a few more missionaries come
after the picture was taken.
Our sick zone leader was feeling a bit better by Tuesday, so we combined the South and Masaka Zones. It worked out well because both zones are small. We were able to have very good interaction from the missionaries, and everyone who trained did a very good job.
South and Masaka Zones
Life continues to keep us busy. We traveled to Jinja for our final two zone conferences. About 3 weeks ago, I was approached by one of our missionaries, Elder Oppong from Ghana. He said that he knows when we travel to Jinja, it's hard on me to feed the missionaries in both zones. We don't have a senior MLS couple serving in Uganda, and having a buffet ordered for the zones tends to be very expensive. Sometimes I bring pre-cooked sloppy joes, but it seems like the power never works in the chapel, and the crock pots stay cold. I usually order sandwiches and drinks from a local deli, then I have to leave during the zone conference to pick up the food, and miss the training that is done by the zone leaders. Elder Oppong asked if he could cook for the next zone conference. I wasn't sure what to say to that, but he said that before his mission he was a cook for workers in a mine. He would feed 50 men two meals a day. I asked him when he would have time to cook the meal, because I don't want him to miss zone conference either. He said that he would prepare it the night before after he came in from proselyting, and then he would get up early in the morning and have it ready before we came to zone conference. I could tell that this was something important to him, and was really looking forward to this burden being lightened for myself. I spoke with President Collings, and he agreed that this would be okay. Wow! So glad we did! Elder Oppong made rice, beef in sauce, pork in sauce, fried chicken, just sauce, and even cut up watermelon and pineapple. It was enough that all the missionaries filled their plates, and there was some left over. And it cost about half the price of what I usually do. The missionaries LOVED it! And I think Elder Oppong felt pretty good about it. I told him that I felt bad for Iganga Zone the next day... they would probably get the usual deli sandwiches or pizza.
Elder Oppong in front of the amazing meal he made for us.
As I said, this week has been very sweet. We are continuing to see our missionaries grow and progress in their missionary service. They are learning to trust in the promptings of the Spirit, and their confidence is growing as they practice what they are teaching. We are so blessed to be a part of their missionary experiences. We love each of these Elders and Sisters.