Monday, August 14, 2017

Transfer of Transfers

Another trip to Rwanda, and more wonderful experiences. We did a little bit of juggling in the middle of the transfer, and  ended up having a new zone leader put in Rwanda. We are excited to work with Elder Gilbert and Elder Mukaro. Both are excellent missionaries, and both will be great zone leaders. We met with them over dinner when we first arrived, and just talked about their responsibilities and the upcoming zone conference. They were great, and the food wasn't too bad either. Haha.

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.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Half a transfer

Mission Leadership Council is always a great start to the transfer. This one did not disappoint! We brought in our zone leaders from all over the mission, including Ethiopia and Rwanda. I had to tell them, it felt like a wonderful family reunion. All of my "children " were home! I am growing so attached to these missionaries.

We had wonderful training from Elder and Sister Wittwer, who always are so fun with the missionaries. We also were trained by President Collings, the Assistants, and the Sister Training Leaders. We did role plays, and had great interaction. Of course we took them to a yummy buffet after the meeting. I think the mission is in good hands with this group of leaders.

We are excited to announce an historic milestone in this mission. President Collings called a new counselor in the mission presidency, President Richard Okello. He is the first Ugandan to serve in the mission presidency in Uganda. We are thrilled to have him. He has such a great knowledge of the work, and will be such an asset to the missionaries. We are truly blessed to be able to work with President Okello.
I love this picture of him holding my grandson!

Already this transfer we have seen many wonderful tender mercies taking place. As our newest missionaries are being trained, they are seeing that the Lord is intimately involved in the work. They are doing everything they can, and then they see that he steps in and helps them accomplish the work that needs to be done. It's truly a blessing.

As a mission, we have decided to read the Book of Mormon in 3 months again. We saw so many blessings last year as we did this, and really felt like it would bring unity to the mission, and help us all draw closer to Heavenly Father.

One story that really stood out to me this last week was the story where Nephi was asked to build a ship. This would have been so intimidating to know where to begin. You think of all the questions he would have had, HOW? Why? I have never built a ship before... etc. Instead he just asks where he can find ore to make the tools to build the ship. He never questions if he can accomplish it, but instead goes to work in faith, trusting that the Lord will help him accomplish the task. Then you see that Laman and Lemuel laugh at Nephi, thinking he is crazy. They murmur and complain, and say it's too hard. They have given up before they have even started. I have been thinking about that in everyday  life. The story of Nephi is a great story, and of course, we know  he had the faith to do it, but what if we are asked to do things that we think are impossible? What if we have obstacles put in our path that we don't expect, and maybe are frustrated with? Do we pray and  ask for direction? Or do we get frustrated with people, or situations and complain that we have been treated unfairly?  I think we need to remember we are writing our own story, just like Nephi did. We have a choice of what we do or say or think in every situation we encounter. Sometimes it's hard to separate the temporal challenges from the spiritual ones, but that's why we are here.

President Collings and I have learned over the years that if we follow the promptings of the Spirit, and act in faith, in every aspect of our lives, we really do see his hand in all we do. We have had to fall back on this precept quite a bit since we have been here in Uganda. We see a direction that this mission needs to go, and we wonder, how is the Lord going to help us with this? We are stretched a bit as we try to work through it, but as we are obedient and work in faithfulness, He does help us to accomplish it. My mantra for  my mission is the scripture in Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." I challenge you to look at your individual situations, and acknowledge the Lord's hand in everything. Then decide if it changes the way you react to the situation. It certainly brings peace during trials.

This week we have been doing interviews with all the missionaries. We had several zones come to the mission office. It works out well because they are also able to pick up supplies, mail, and anything else they may need. They are able to have  a one on one interview with President Collings, and I  get time to talk with them and get to know them better. Later in the week we  went to Jinja and met with the two zones there. It has been a very nice couple of weeks. We still need to go to Ethiopia and Rwanda, but that's coming up soon.

Interviews are always followed by zone conferences. We are about half way through them, and as always, they have been amazing. I love hearing these zone leaders and sister training leaders teach. I love watching them gain confidence, and trust in the Lord. They say mission years is like dog years. They may only be here for 18 months or two years, but the growth they see is more like 14 years. Haha. It's truly a wonderful blessing to take a front seat and watch them progress in life.

Central Zone

Jinja Zone

Iganga Zone

These last few weeks have just flown by. It's been a whirlwind of activity. I need to repent, take a few more pictures, and be more diligent in my writing. Life is good here in the Uganda Kampala Mission. We are amazed with the wonderful blessings we are seeing in the lives of our missionaries and the people of these three great Nations. This is the best place in the world for us to be right now.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fun visitors

We enjoyed zone conferences with our final three zones,  Jinja, Iganga, and Kampala North Zone. We spent two nights in Jinja for the first two zone conferences. It was so great. All of the zones came so prepared to be fed by the spirit. The one that stood out most to me was the Iganga zone. When we arrived (20 minutes early) the whole zone was already seated in the chapel studying their scriptures. The program was written on the board, and they even brought a table cloth, flowers, and a picture of the Savior. Coming so prepared really enabled us to have a powerful spiritual experience. It was amazing.

Sadly, I didn't think of taking group pictures of the three zones. I feel bad, but sometimes it slips my mind until they are all gone. Needless to say, zone conferences have been amazing.  This transfer we tried to motivate the missionaries to catch up on our goal for the year. We should have had 550 baptisms by July 1 to be half way to our goal. It was so fun. The missionaries kept having such amazing experiences. They could see the hand of the Lord in the work as they tried to reach their goals. By the end of this transfer we had a total of 546 baptisms. We are all thrilled.  They have all worked so hard, and are really on track with our goal for the year. What's even better is to see that many people changing their lives and coming unto Christ. What a blessing.

This weekend was Stake Conference for the Kampala North Stake. It was so fun to see all of our missionaries in the North stake attend. We were so happy to see them all bringing their investigators. President Collings was asked to speak in all 3 sessions. I always love hearing him speak, he loves the people here so much. I was asked to speak in the adult and general sessions, one of the perks of serving with my husband, haha. It was so nice to hear the counsel of President Okot, the Stake President. He is a very wise man, and really knows how to motivate his stake. His focus in the general session was on the conference talk by President Monson on the Book of Mormon. Helping the  members to understand the importance of reading the Book of Mormon in their families. He asked one woman to speak on member missionary work, another man to speak on prayer, and I was asked to speak on diligent scripture study. President Collings focused on receiving personal revelation. It was a wonderful meeting.

Before the general session on Sunday morning, they invited everyone who had been baptized in the last 6 months to come to a special meeting. We were happy to see a pretty large group. We were able to ask them questions, and verify that they truly had been taught the doctrine of Christ, that the ward had welcomed them, and then answer any questions that they may have. It was a great meeting.

Kampala North Stake Presidency

President Collings and the AP's

We had another WONDERFUL experience. Probably the highlight of our mission to date. Our daughter came to visit us with her husband and their baby! Our grandson who we have not met in person before. I was so excited when I heard they were coming! We tried to plan things for them to see and do, but right from the start, my plan was to hold our grandson, and hold him, and hold him... and hold him.  It was so fun to meet him. He has such a fun personality. Our daughter and son in law were so sweet to come. It was exactly on our one year anniversary of starting our mission, and a fun way to celebrate it.

On their first day, we took them to the office to meet the Wittwers, our office couple. They also met our office staff. My sister in law sent a suitcase full of humanitarian supplies and $200 to give to Suzan to help with the jiggers projects that she does. She was so happy to receive everything. A true blessing for the children they serve! Thanks for your generosity Molly!!

When our grandson saw the office staff, it was so cute. They each held him, and he just stared at them and studied their faces. He would reach out and touch their faces and was so curious. He didn't cry at all, just made faces. Suzan said this was the first time she ever held a muzungu baby. Our daughter said it was the first time this baby had been held by an African. It was pretty funny.

That evening we took them to Ndere cultural center, where they watched the dancing from all the different tribes. It was a really fun evening, and our grandson loved it! He was laughing, and doing his own dances while he watched them dance. There was a point where they invited members of the audience to come take a picture with the dancers. My daughter took him up, and this picture was the result. It's priceless! We were fed local food, which I think we all loved.

The next day we traveled to Queen Elizabeth National Park. My parents drove from Rwanda and met us there. We stayed in bandas, which are a combination of a cabin and a tent. It was right on the water front, and you could see and hear the hippos. There were giant forest swine wandering around the bandas. They are like huge wild boars with long black hair. We were told they are endangered, but stay at Queen Elizabeth. Very cool to see.

We went on a game drive, and we were able to see cape buffalo, kob, water buck, wart hogs, and a pride of lions.

Harvey watching the Lions

We could see 4 or 5 lions really well, but there were more hiding in a bush.
There was a small house with a mother and small children right across the dirt road from the pride of lions. We spoke with the woman for a little while and asked her if she was afraid to have lions so close. She just said they never turn their back on them, or run away from them. They look them right in the eyes.

Later that same day, we took a boat ride, and we were able to see a lot of the animals at the water, along with a crocodile, and an elephant.

It was such a fun, and relaxing day. At night we had dinner served around a campfire. All the tables were brought around and had little lanterns hanging beside them. It was a fun atmosphere. The  food was delicious!

After our final night, it was time to leave. We traveled with my parents for a while, and when we stopped, we realized that we hadn't taken a 4 generations photo together yet. Terrible timing to take it after two days in the bush... but we took it. Then they headed back to Rwanda.

President Collings went with our daughter and son in law to do some chimpanzee tracking. I got to stay back with my grandson and hold him, and play with him. It was so fun. There was a woman with her children who live where we were parked waiting for them to return. One of her children, a little girl named Promise, is two years old. She came up to me, and pointed to the baby and said, "Baby Jesus?" Her mom and I laughed, she thought it was so funny. Promise and Elijah, a 17 month old boy, played with our grandson for a long time. He really had fun with them, and I think they enjoyed playing with him.

President and the kids hiked for an hour or so, kind of running after the chimpanzees. It sounds like it was a pretty intense hike. Once the chimps stopped, they were able to watch them for about an hour, and take pictures and videos.  They really had an incredible time.

We went to Masaka that night, and President Collings went on visits with the branch president of Masaka. He was able to conduct a few interviews, and strengthen some of the members there.

We spent Sunday at the Masaka Branch, and enjoyed fast and testimony meeting with them. Our kids really enjoyed the meeting, and I think the branch members all enjoyed them. Many of them wanted to hold our grandson throughout the meeting. It was fun to see them all getting to know each other.

Before sacrament meeting started

During Sacrament meeting a family blessed their baby. During the blessing the priesthood holder states what the name of the baby will be, and it sounded like they called him Collings. Sure enough, when the prayer was over, they looked over at us and smiled. President Collings has a cute little baby boy in Masaka named Collings after him. So sweet.

President Collings and Baby Collings

162 people attended Masaka Branch on the day we were there.

We made our way back to Kampala, and of course, had to make a quick stop at the Equator. Just long enough to snap a few pictures of the family.

When we arrived back in  Kampala, Jackie, our sweet housekeeper and her friend Esther had made us Sunday dinner. It was all local food, matooke, greens, rice, beans, chicken, pumpkin. The food was amazing, and we had such a nice evening with them. They even made matching dresses that they wore. It was so sweet. I think their favorite guest was our grandson. They took turns holding him and taking pictures with him. It was so fun.

On Monday we had to say goodbye. It was tough, but we are so grateful for the time we were able to spend with them. I'm sure it will be two years before we see them again, but what an amazing week it's been.

After saying goodbye, we went right into transfers. We had a group of 7 new missionaries come on Tuesday. Wow! What a great group! We are being so blessed in the Uganda Kampala Mission. We brought them back from the airport and they went out tracting with some of the mission leadership. Then half of them came back to the mission home for the  night, while the others went with the mission leadership.

President Collings goes running every morning, and invited any of the missionaries who wanted to, to come with him on Wednesday morning. All of them ran with him, and said they really got a good work out.

They got cleaned up and we had a breakfast for all the new missionaries, and then an orientation. We got to listen to each of them bear their testimonies, and then President Collings interviewed each of them. After orientation, they were off to meet their new companions, and let the missionary work begin. I love the excitement the new missionaries bring with them. It's so fun to see their love for the Gospel, and their willingness to go to work.

Thursday was the farewell dinner and testimony meeting for the departing missionaries. We decided that we would cook an authentic Ugandan meal for them one last time before they leave. I'm still learning how to do this, so I had the experts, Sussie and Jackie come do the work. I worked with them, and was very willing to learn the techniques of Ugandan cooking. It was really fun, and so yummy!
Preparing the charcoal stoves for cooking (Matooke in the background)

pounding the spices

Preparing the greens. Fried chicken in the back.

Boiling the  Matooke (this is the short cut, we were short on time)

Master Chef! Sussie! 

Mashing the Matooke

Cooking the Mukene, missionaries eat this all the time. This was my first time trying it! Google it! It was really good! (Thanks to the wonderful cooking skills of Sussie.)

Wrapping the Matooke in banana leaves to cook once again.

This was a fun day of cooking, which helped take my mind off of the departing missionaries...

Farewell dinner and testimony meeting is always so difficult for me. This group was no different. We had 14 wonderful missionaries return to their homes. It was so neat to see them all come in suits. They really look like representatives of Jesus Christ when they dress so nice.  Many of these missionaries have been in leadership positions over the last year, and we have come to love each of them so much. Saying goodbye is too hard! I do see so much potential in these missionaries. They will be great husbands, fathers,  and even leaders in this church! We are so blessed to know them, and to watch their growth while they are serving here.

Just praying they will keep in touch with us. Till we meet again... Safe Journey elders!