President Collings had a few meetings planned with the District Presidency while we were there. There are a lot of changes that are happening. The first is that the Kigali First branch building is located very far from the people. Most have to travel by bus or moto to get to church. We spent time with President Opar looking at different buildings that are available to lease. I know the branch members are very excited to have the building closer, and really feel like it will grow even more because many will be able to walk to church. We are just trying to find the right building.
It's wonderful to see the District Presidency doing so well. They have meetings with the Branch Presidents every week, and are doing training, setting goals, and accomplishing so much. We can really see why there is such growth in Rwanda. The people are humble and obedient, and the leaders are doing their best to serve their branch and district members.
Two of my favorite men.
We were able to spend time with the missionaries. As I said before, we did some juggling during the transfer. We brought 2 missionaries back to Uganda, and sent 2 missionaries to Rwanda. So they had a mini transfer. By the time we arrived, the new missionaries had only been there for about a week, and were starting to settle in to their new areas. We had some fun on preparation day playing volleyball with them. Elder and Sister Wright provided some nice refreshments, and were a great cheering section for us.
Then we had zone conference. This is a powerful zone. The missionaries are working hard, and it shows. They are really seeing success. One of the difficulties is that there are not a lot of people who speak English, which is the official language of the church in Rwanda. The country has started teaching English in the schools, but it is a slow process to teach a nation a new language. Fortunately for our missionaries, Heavenly Father knows who can speak English, and he seems to put them in the path of the missionaries. They have seen this happen over and over, and when their faith is shaken and they think they can't teach anyone because of the language barrier, they humble themselves, pray a little harder, and see those who are prepared come to church.
This is a very dry time of year for Rwanda. They haven't seen rain in a long time. It's quite warm, and the grass is brown. The missionaries are fine, but they have a day here and there without water or power in their apartment. Luckily, they take it well. It's part of the mission experience, and Elder and Sister Wright are there to take care of things when necessary.
There was a presidential election just a couple of days after we left, but it was very peaceful and quiet, and did not affect the missionaries in any way. We are blessed to have Rwanda be part of the Uganda Kampala Mission.
Back in Uganda we had to combine the South and Masaka Zones for a zone conference. The zones are both pretty small, so it worked out good. The training by the zone leaders was wonderful. They are really teaching to the needs of their zones. We have a couple of new missionaries being trained, and it was fun to see their progress as well. They are starting to be more confident. After training by the zone leaders, Sister Otoo, and President Collings, we had the missionaries role play. It was a great day. There are a lot of wonderful things happening in Masaka, and Kampala South Areas.
Kampala North Zone came to the mission home the following day. There was some juggling in that zone in the middle of the transfer, and we had new zone leaders do the training. They did a wonderful job. Elder Obeng has really stepped into his role as a zone leader, and led the zone masterfully. He was helped by Elder Farnsworth, and they did excellent. There are new missionaries being trained in the North Zone too. It's been really fun to see their excitement for the gospel. They are seeing success, and really enjoying the work. I appreciate those who are training them. They are helping the missionaries to start out on the right foot. We had a role play at the end of this meeting as well. The missionaries are so positive, and do their best to follow instructions and are always trying to improve in their teaching. It was a great day.
We had a special experience while we were in Uganda. There is an amazing woman in one of the wards who is constantly sharing the Gospel with everyone she knows. She invited us to her home for a visit, and invited several friends who were investigating the church. We had a great meeting in her home and we were able to teach about families. This family was planning to be baptized, and were just working through a few issues they were having. The mother and kids were baptized the next Sunday.
And on this last Sunday the father of the family was baptized, and joined the rest of his family in membership in the church. They were all excited, and he thanked President Collings for the things he had shared when we met with them. He said it really helped him to prepare for baptism. Truly a blessing to see another family baptized!
Our next stop was Ethiopia. We had a District Conference that we needed to attend. This was a little bit longer of a stay because we had some renewals to take care of with immigration. I said earlier that this is a dry time for Rwanda. Well, its exactly the opposite for Ethiopia. It is the rainy season. It was pretty cold while we were there, and rained every day. In fact, on Sunday it poured, and then the rain turned to hail. It was quite a storm! Luckily it was after the district conference, and people had mostly gone home before the downpour started. I think this was the coldest I have been since we started our mission. I even brought a jacket, and was so glad I did.
The night we arrived, we went to dinner with members of the District Presidency, the Harlines, who are the senior couple serving there, and our AP's, who were with us to do some training of the zone leaders. Injera with all the fixin's was so yummy!
District Conference was great! We had Elder Daniel Hall of the Seventy preside at the meeting. There was a Priesthood Leadership meeting on Saturday, followed by an adult session. Then on Sunday we had a general session for all members. There was a great spirit in the meetings. The missionaries had passed out invitations in a finding activity a couple of days before the conference. There were not a lot of investigators who attended the meetings, but the missionaries are receiving several phone calls daily because of the invitations that they passed out. During the Sunday meeting, a new member of the District Presidency was called, brother Tenkir, and a new executive secretary, brother Biru.
The number of people who attended was about 150. Comparable to the conference 6 months ago. We really felt like the messages that were shared really related to the District members. It was a wonderful conference.
Zone Conference in Ethiopia was amazing. There are many great things happening with our missionaries there. They are stepping into leadership roles, and learning humility, obedience, and diligence. They have set goals for the zone and for themselves, and we believe we will see many amazing things in this area of the mission.
We have had some excitement with translation in both Rwanda and Ethiopia. The church has put together a few manuals and pamphlets in Kenyarwandan, which is the language spoken in Rwanda. They have asked the people to look over the translation and see how they feel about it. See if it makes sense, and if there is anything that may need to be changed. It has been so fun to see the excitement of the members as they are able to see these materials translated into a language that they all can understand. They spent several days reading and marking the papers.
In the meantime, there was a group of LDS Ethiopians in Provo who were asked to help participate in the translation of the Doctrine and Covenants into Amharic. Many of these young men and women are return missionaries who have gone to school in the United States. The members in Ethiopia were thrilled to see these pictures of their brothers and sisters hard at work in this great cause. It will truly bless so many lives!
The past six weeks, I have said more goodbyes than I care to admit. It's the hardest thing I do here in Uganda. I feel like as soon as I get to know the missionaries really well, they leave. This transfer we had to say goodbye to three elders a little earlier than we wanted to. All three are amazing missionaries, and will truly be blessed for their service here, but there were things that came up that were out of their control. We will miss them, and wish them all the best in the future. I hope they know how much we love and appreciate them.
We also had a few situations that we have not had to deal with in the entire first year that we have been on our mission. Three of our missionaries lost a parent in the same week. Two missionaries lost their mother, and one lost his father. Each situation was different, but we really saw the hand of the Lord in each situation. The missionaries were comforted, and felt the strength of Jesus Christ's Atonement as they dealt with it individually. We have been amazed with the strength they have shown, and how they have reached out to serve other people while they are going through this difficult time. I keep saying that they are handling it much better than I am. Truly, we are so blessed with the knowledge of the plan of salvation. It's something that the missionaries teach every day. It is blessing the lives of our missionaries and others daily.
President Collings has tried to teach the leaders of this mission that they have every right to receive revelation for the missionaries that they are responsible for. As they are obedient, and diligent, they will receive promptings from the Holy Ghost that will help them know how to lead the missionaries they serve. We have had instances throughout our time on our mission where we have seen different leaders step into their roles and see the Lord's hand in the work. During the last couple of weeks, we had a situation that was pretty amazing. We had a zone conference, and a zone leader approached President Collings. He and his companion had an impression that three of their missionaries were breaking mission rules. As they approached President Collings, he helped them work through the concerns they had. He was able to speak with the missionaries and sure enough, they confessed that they had been doing some things that were against the mission rules. We were so impressed that these zone leaders were willing to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and were able to take care of a situation as soon as they felt prompted to. What it ended up doing, was correct behavior quickly so that the zone was able to see many blessings in the following weeks. This zone leader taught the zone powerfully during zone conference, and it was such a blessing to watch him follow the spirit in leading these missionaries, and following the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
This was a weekend of weddings. A member of the District Presidency in Rwanda was married on Saturday. Elder and Sister Wright attended that celebration.
Then there were two weddings in Uganda at the Kololo Chapel. It's kind of a funny story. President Collings and I went to the church to attend the wedding of a young couple in the Kampala South Stake. When we arrived at 10:30 for the wedding, we saw two of our missionaries from Masaka at the church. Masaka is an outer branch that is 2 hours outside of Kampala. President Collings asked them why they were at the church and they said, "For the wedding. Remember you told us we could go?" I'm sure both of us looked pretty shocked. How did they think it was okay to come 2 hours to a wedding that was not even for somebody in their branch? The more questions we asked, the more we realized that they were at the Kololo Chapel for a very good reason. They had a man and woman who were planning to be baptized the next day. They needed to get married before they could get baptized. In Uganda, many of the churches are not recognized as places where we can hold legal weddings, so this couple had to come to Kampala to get married, so they could be baptized. It just happened to be on the same day as this other wedding. They had a simple ceremony with the bishop of the ward and the two missionaries, and then took a taxi back to Masaka. They were so excited! We are very happy for them.
The wedding we were planning to attend didn't start for quite a long time, and we had to get to another meeting by 12:30, so sadly, we missed the wedding we were planning to attend. I am told it was amazing. They are a cute couple, and I'm sure will be very happy. We are happy for them. Just wish it had worked out differently so we could have seen the wedding.