Saturday, June 10, 2017

Gathering with the Saints

We were able to go to Ethiopia over the weekend. It's always so nice to visit the saints in Ethiopia. We met with the missionaries for zone conference and interviews on Saturday, and enjoyed a wonderful pasta dinner made by Sister Harline. On Sunday, we went to church at the Meganagna branch.The branch president there is moving away, and it was fast Sunday, so after church the branch had a Break the Fast Lunch. It was wonderful! Everyone brought food, and there was so much! We had a feast! And enjoyed everything! At first I was worried because people were filling up their plates so full, but it didn't matter, there was plenty for everyone.

It was so fun to sit out on the lawn with everyone and just socialize. There are such great people in this branch. President Collings always has interviews and meetings when we are here on Sunday. I was able to sit with some of the ladies in the branch and just have a great conversation with them.

That evening we visited Sister Esther and her family. She has 4 children. They were baptized right before we came on our mission, so it's been a year for their family. They are still very active in the Gospel. As we met with them, their son, who is 14 years old kept asking President Collings questions. You could tell by the questions he asked, that he really studies the scriptures, and church manuals. He is very bright, well, all of her kids are very bright. They all joined in on the discussions. They really know the Gospel. It was such a fun evening. Ester made a wonderful meal for us. We will never get tired of injera and wot. The food was amazing.

On Monday, President Collings and President Harline played basketball with the missionaries, which was so fun to watch, and then we flew back to Uganda. Looking forward to our next visit, where we will enjoy District Conference again.

We spent this week doing interviews in Jinja. All I can say is the missionaries are doing so well. They are so positive, and are seeing such wonderful things this transfer. We have called this transfer, the transfer of miracles. The missionaries are putting forth their very best effort, being exactly obedient, and having faith that Heavenly Father will make up the difference. Throughout the mission, they are seeing miracles.  A few of the missionaries have shared some stories with me that I asked them if I could share on this blog. Here are a couple of fun stories:

Missionaries in Ethiopia had a man approach them. He used to be a theologian, and worked teaching at different churches all over Ethiopia. He quit his job and became disinterested with all the churches because he could see they were doing wrong things. He explained that he heard about the church from a friend. He decided to go online and research the church. He went to,, and other websites that were negative towards the church. He said that everything he read made him want to find out the truth from the missionaries. He had read all of the lessons that the missionaries teach, and they said, HE pretty much taught THEM about the restoration of the church. This man really wanted a copy of the Book of Mormon, but the missionaries said they would give it to him on Sunday if he came to church. When he left the lesson, he couldn't stop thinking about the Book of Mormon, so he found a copy for himself and started to read it. When the missionaries invited him to be baptized, he said, "Absolutely, I was already planning on it."  The missionaries gave him a date for baptism, and he said, "100% absolutely!"

Missionaries in Rwanda received a random phone call late at night. A man said he wanted to meet with the missionaries really bad, right now. They said they could meet the next day at 3:00. The next morning at 7:00, he called again and asked if they were still planning to meet with him. Of course they were still planning to, but then he asked if he could bring a friend with him. When they met he said that someone had given him a card. He looked online and really liked the things he saw. As the missionaries taught the lesson, the first man asked a lot of good questions, and was very involved in the lesson. His friend was very quiet the whole time. They felt like the lesson went really well, and at the end, the quiet one asked if he could talk with them. He said, "What you have taught is true!" Of course the missionaries were very happy to hear this. Then they were shocked as he continued. He said that he was a pastor from a church that he had organized himself. He was concerned that all this time he had been teaching his congregation incorrect doctrine, and asked what he could do to make it right. The man decided that he would go to his congregation, and invite all of them to church. There are about 40 people in his congregation. 

Missionaries in Uganda had a woman who had been previously taught the gospel, but stopped coming to church, and was never baptized. The missionaries contacted her again, and throughout two transfers (12 weeks) they were struggling to see her progress.  During one lesson, the missionary was prompted to ask her if she had a personal testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. She simply replied that she has not gained a personal testimony yet. Following this, she would always ask for scriptural evidence as to any lesson they would teach her. The missionaries prayed for guidance as to how they could help her to gain a personal testimony by using the Book of Mormon. They decided to buy her a large size triple combination because her vision is impaired, and they began to read the Book of Mormon with her twice a week. They focused on the Doctrine of Christ, and helping her understand the importance of repentance and baptism for the remission of sins. They knew this would require constant effort, love, and support. Within just a few weeks, they began to see her faith and testimony grow each day. They extended an invitation to be baptized and this time she accepted, and was baptized. 

Such wonderful and motivating stories from our mission! 

While we were in Jinja, President Collings convinced me to go on a walk with him. He goes running every morning outside, and has really enjoyed going out and exercising, whether it's in Kampala, Jinja, Ethiopia, or Rwanda. I have not been as consistent. But we went for a walk. From the hotel to a recreation park called The Source of the Nile, is about 2 1/2 kilometers. We have been here for about a year and have never been to this place. The walk was beautiful! It's so green here, and the trees are so large and shady. 

We walked past a golf course... with cattle roaming through it, haha. We walked along Cliff Road, which goes along side the Nile River. That alone was amazing.

Once we got to the recreation park, we paid an entrance fee and walked around inside. The  Source of the Nile is where the Nile River leaves Lake Victoria, but there is also a natural spring right in the middle of the river that you can see if you take a boat ride, which we didn't do. We just stayed on the shoreline, and enjoyed seeing the Nile.

 There are also many shops where you can buy local crafts, and there is a restaurant. I think everyone was disappointed that we just came to look at the water, but we assured them that we would come back sometime with family and actually take a boat to the Source of the Nile. Boda boda drivers kept stopping to give us a ride, they were disappointed when we said we were exercising. Haha.

We then walked back to the hotel. I had to snap a picture of these birds.  I think the missionaries call them Goondie Birds. Some call them pterodactyls. I was googling to see what they were really called, and couldn't find them online until I googled "trash birds Uganda". These things are HUGE! They are everywhere! But mostly around trash dumps. As we were walking home, we passed a dumpster, and I decided to take a picture. They have got to be 4 feet tall, it's amazing to see them fly. I couldn't believe it the first time I saw some. I realized I have never taken a picture of them. So, here you go! Ugandan Goondie Bird (Marabou Stork).

That evening, we had dinner with the Jinja and Iganga zone leaders, and just discussed what is happening in their zones. President Collings has been trying to go out and work more with the missionaries, so after dinner, he went with the Jinja zone leaders to a teaching appointment. They did a really great job of teaching, and he had a really good night.

On Thursday after interviews, we had the sister missionaries in Uganda come to the mission home for a sister's conference. It was such a fun evening. We started out with dinner, and then had training from the Sister Training Leaders, Assistants to the President, President Collings, and Sister Suzan and Sister Sarah, who are both return missionaries and work in the mission office. The training was really good.

The Spirit was very strong, and we were all uplifted. They were taught about their divine nature. They are daughters of Heavenly Father, and have made covenants with him, which gives them power in their calling. They need to have the confidence in that power and authority, understanding that they are completely capable of receiving help from heaven. Receiving this power comes through obedience to the commandments, and when serving a mission, the white handbook is part of those commandments. They were taught that they can do hard things, and after the trial of their faith, they will see the blessings.

I was in charge of an activity. I thought it would be a good idea to have the sisters work together in unity. We tried to untangle a human knot. It was not easy, but a lot of fun.

On Friday morning, which was a holiday here in Uganda, the Kampala South Stake had a missionary fireside. It started at 10:00am, and was very well attended. The chapel was completely full. We heard from President Kamya, who is the stake president, President Collings, and testimonies from several recent converts and members who have been helping refer their friends and family to the missionaries.

The missionaries sang a musical number

Those in attendance were taught about the gospel, and encouraged to share with their friends, family members, work associates, and others. A couple of days before the fireside, the zones serving in the Kampala South Stake had a finding activity, where they invited over 100 people to come learn more about the gospel. On the day of the fireside, about 30 investigators came to the meeting.

After the opening remarks and testimonies, we separated into groups. Two groups of members, and two groups of guests. The guests were taught about the restoration of the church, and the plan of salvation in a separate room.

The members were taught how to share the Gospel on social media, and were able to practice how they can share the message of the restored gospel with their friends.

Afterward, we all came back together to hear from President Kamya again. They ended the meeting, and served refreshments to everyone. Yummy chapatis, samosas, bananas, and drinks. We were able to socialize for quite a while after the meeting. It was so fun to get to know members of the South Stake better. There are such strong members of the church here! They are doing a great job.

Kampala South Stake Presidency, with President Collings

In line for refreshments

Mingling with the Saints

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

This Ever Changing Mission

It's really hard to believe another 6 weeks has come and gone. We are welcoming ten new missionaries! The new missionaries come one day before transfers. So we go to the airport with the Assistants to the President, to meet them. Elder A received transfer news that he would be released as a zone leader in Entebbe Zone, and that he would be a trainer. Entebbe is right where the airport is located, so the day before his assignment changed, he asked President Collings if he could come to the airport to welcome his new companion. President didn't see a problem with it. It was really fun to have the Entebbe Zone leaders with us as we welcomed our new missionaries. It was also very fun to have Elder A and his new companion meet each other the day before transfers. It's not something that we usually do, but it felt right, and the missionaries enjoyed it. 

I keep saying this, but the new group of missionaries are powerful young men! They are very prepared to serve in Uganda! For some reason the Lord sends the very best missionaries to the Uganda Kampala mission, and we are so grateful!

It hit us really hard this time. This is the group of missionaries that we will go home with! Wow, time really flies!

Late Tuesday night, we had three sister missionaries who were from Uganda, return home from their mission. They served in Zimbabwe. They spent the night in Kampala with our sister missionaries, and then came to the mission home on Wednesday morning so that President Collings could release them. Two of the young women were actual sisters from one of our branches. They served together in the same mission, at the same time. When it was time for them to be released, their whole family came to the mission home to see them. It was such a fun reunion to witness.

President Collings invited their father, who is not a member, to come into his office and witness as they were being released. It was a wonderful experience. There were tears all around as this family was reunited!

After training our new missionaries, we drove them all over to the chapel, where transfers were taking place. Transfers start very early in the morning in all parts of our mission. The Zone leaders take missionaries to different chapels, where they meet up with other zone leaders and swap missionaries. Or they meet at a specific time and are picked up by  a mission van. The vans take the routes that have the most missionaries traveling back and forth.

Sometimes transfers get a little bit hectic. This time it went very smoothly in Uganda, but there was a small hiccup in Rwanda. Apparently, the airline decided to change the flight, and by the time the missionaries got there to check in, they had already missed the flight. Luckily, we were able to book them on a flight later that day, so they were still able to be transferred. It's always an adventure here!

Along with receiving new missionaries and transferring remaining missionaries, we also had to say goodbye to three amazing missionaries. Three young men from three different backgrounds, who have had three completely different mission experiences all within the same mission.

Elder M  is from Malawi, and ended up spending about 19 of his 24 months  in Ethiopia. He plans to go home and start his own cleaning business. Elder B  is from Idaho, and spent time in Rwanda and Uganda in the Stakes. He plans to go to school and study medicine. Elder T  is from South Africa. He spent his entire mission in Uganda, and was able to spend most of his time in the outer branches. He plans to be  wealthy in three years, and serve many couple missions with his wife.

These missionaries have spent almost half of their mission with us. We have grown so close to them, and will really miss them. I'm excited to see where life takes them.

The first week of the transfer brings Mission Leadership Council. It's a great time for us to let the leadership know what we plan to focus on throughout this transfer. We teach the zone leaders, and then they take the messages to their district leaders and zone.  The leadership is changing. We have 4 new zone leaders. We are so excited to work with them in the coming weeks and months.

There's always a great spirit in the Mission Leadership Council meetings. During this meeting, we  focused a lot on Preach My Gospel, teaching simply, and helping the mission adopt a mission culture. Should be a great month of zone conferences.

As usual, we took the missionaries out to dinner after MLC. A buffet dinner at Protea is always a favorite! It's amazing how high they pile their plates! I would be embarrassed, and might even ask them to take less food, but the management always comes up to me and thanks us for bringing them. In fact, they wondered why we stayed away so long. (Last time we had Chinese food instead)

I don't know what we would do without the Wittwers. They are such a support to us and to the missionaries. They are always so positive, and ambitious. We are so blessed to have them here!

Our zone leaders in Rwanda participated in MLC by way of WebEx. Afterwards, the Wrights took them to dinner as well. I think they all enjoyed it.  Sadly, the network in Ethiopia has had issues for a few weeks, and for the first time since we arrived here, Ethiopia was not able to participate in MLC. We will take them a video of the meeting, so they can enjoy it as well.

Steve always asks the missionaries, "Did you wake up today and say, this is the best day of my mission?" They laugh, and sometimes say yes. But the truth is, every day IS the best day for President Collings. He really loves the missionaries, and the people of the Uganda Kampala Mission. He really does say, "This is the BEST day of my mission." EVERY DAY!

We traveled to Lira this weekend to make some changes in the branch presidencies of both the Lira and Adyel branches. It was going to be a tight schedule, and we had to adjust meeting times for one of the branches, but we were able to work it out to change out both branch presidencies. The night before, we enjoyed dinner with the new members of both branch presidencies and their wives. It was such a fun experience!

 As we were walking into the restaurant, President Collings and I were leading the way, and we were walking in, holding hands. We turned around, and all of the couples had followed suit, and were all holding hands behind us. They were kind of giggling. It is very unusual for couples here to show affection in public that way. President Collings complimented them, and said he really feels like they will be a great example to the members of the church in Lira.  It was such a fun and amazing moment!

Once we were seated, everyone  introduced themselves and told about how they met their spouse, and told about their families. It was a great evening!

On Sunday morning, we went to the Lira branch first. There were several interviews that needed to be done before church. Then we started the Lira meeting. The branch presidency was released, and a new branch presidency was put in.

President:  Tonny Atyang
1st Counselor: Ocen Francis
2nd Counselor: Odongo Innocent

The Lira branch has been very strong, and the new leadership was well received. We are confident that they will continue to grow and progress as a branch.

After Lira branch presidency was called and set apart. We went to the Adyel  branch. We had asked them to start their meeting with priesthood/relief society, then have Sunday school, and we would have sacrament meeting last because both congregations start at the same time. By the time we arrived, Sunday school was ending, and we started sacrament meeting. The branch presidency was released, and a new one was put in.

President: Oyet Patrick
1st counselor: Maros Caesar Atine
2nd counselor: Ocircan Derrick

Again, the branch presidency was well received. In fact, President Collings had to remind them that we don't usually clap or cheer when someone receives a new calling in the church. Haha.

One fun story, a couple of months ago, President Collings was interviewing Brother Derrick for priesthood advancement. He told him that he didn't know how, but that the Lord was going to use him in the church. When he was called as the second counselor, he was reminded of that conversation he had with him.

We are very happy with the two new branch presidencies and really believe this area of the church is building a very strong foundation.

We have named this transfer the David Whitmer transfer. There is a story in church history where David Whitmer was asked to pick up the prophet, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdry and bring them back to his home so they could continue translating the Book of Mormon. He wanted desperately to take care of this assignment, but he also needed to plow and prepare his fields, and didn't see how he would be able to do both. He decided to just go to work, with faith that he could accomplish all he needed to. As he went out to plow, he saw the most of the work had mysteriously been done for him, and he was able to quickly finish it. The next day he was supposed to spread fertilizer on the soil. As he went to take care of that, he saw that it was done, and he was able to leave and pick up the Prophet. We have asked our missionaries to go to work! Do all they can do this transfer. Set their goals higher, and have faith that the Lord will help them to accomplish all they need to, just like he did for David Whitmer. Each week, President Collings is having a conference call with the Zone Leaders, and they are telling stories of the missionaries in their zones, and the miracles they are seeing during the David Whitmer transfer. I will share a couple that we have heard already.

One of the zone leaders reported that they went to the home of a member and shared the message of the Restoration with them. The Spirit was very strong, and after they shared the message, they asked if the family knew of anyone that they would like the missionaries to share this message with. The family gave them 9 referrals!

(I copied this from one of our sister missionaries) A recent convert,  Sister  Harriet who has a strong testimony and is going around defending the church and helping an investigator of ours who has heard some rather horrible and false information about the church. Her faith is so strong that even when on Sunday the bishop gave a challenge that everyone invites one person to church the next week, she has committed herself to find more than just one person to invite and she has faith that the Lord will help her find those people! Such strong faith is a precious gem.

We have been in the  middle of the rainy season here in Uganda. As we were driving home from Lira the rain started to come down. It was pouring so hard we had to pull the car over. It was actually hailing! I had to take a picture!

Rain and Hail in Uganda

I couldn't help myself. It really is raining in the second picture too. Have a wonderful week!