Speaking of restaurants, on Friday before we went to the airport, we decided to take the AP's out to a Mexican restaurant. Steve parked the car, and then when he got out, he realized that he should pull the car forward to fit in the stall a bit better. He climbed back in the car and turned the key, and it wouldn't turn over. This car is about a week old. It's brand new. The car wouldn't lock or unlock with the remote. It was like it was completely shut down. We thought there was something wrong with the security system on it. After trying over and over to figure out what was going on with the car, we just decided to leave it in the parking lot and worry about it after lunch. An hour later after an amazing Mexican lunch, we were back at the car which was still in lock down. We were starting to get concerned because we needed to get back home, pick up our luggage, and get to the airport. The mall security came over and asked what was going on, and could they help us out. As we spoke with them about the vehicle, the head of mall security came over and pointed to our name badges and said he knew where our church was located, and always wondered what we believe. President Collings was able to talk with him about the church. During their conversation he told Steve that he has traced his lineage back to Israel. He has a wife and children and he said he is very interested in learning more about the Gospel. He gave his contact information to the missionaries. After this exchange of information, he said we should pop the hood so he could look at the car. We popped the hood, and he was surprised with how clean the engine is. He said, "Wow, this car really is new." Then he looked at the battery. The battery cable had slipped off... That was it. We were all so surprised. But then realized, if the battery cable had not slipped off, we would not have met this new investigator. We can't forget who is in charge of this work.
On our drive to the airport, I was able to get pictures of downtown Kampala, and some of the shopping on the road to Entebbe. The different levels of society are very apparent in the city. The malls remind me a lot of home, and they have 24 hour security, then there are the smaller markets that the average person shops at, and then there are the street markets, where people lay their goods out on the ground and it seems like hundreds of people are all selling the same things. All of these areas are so close to each other. The wealth and poverty are a stark contrast.
That evening we flew to Ethiopia. On the plane, we sat by a young man from Uganda. He was very interested in us too. He has lived the last two years in China, and works there. He came back to Uganda to update his Visa, and was on his way back to China. He would ask us questions about the church. We would answer them and then you could see he was just trying to process it in his mind. A few minutes later he would ask another question. This went on for at least half of the flight. I gave him a pass along card that has the website of the church on it. We also wrote Steve's email address on the back of the card, and told him to contact us if he had any other questions. It made the flight go by quickly.
I was warned that Ethiopia is COLD! Cold is a relative thing, right? I'm used to Utah cold, with snow and ice, but I thought Africa is not cold. I haven't worn a sweater since I got here. When we arrived in Ethiopia, it was 15 C. I had to look up the Fahrenheit temperature: 59 F. After several weeks in 80 degree temperatures, 59 did feel pretty cold! The church here is made of cement, and it seems to hold in the cool air, so throughout the entire day at Zone Conference, it was chilly. But it's beautiful!
Addis Ababa seems to be a little more of a modern city than Kampala or Kigali. There are roads that seem to move really well. There is a train system throughout the city. The people here have a very uniquely different look than the other countries we have been to. Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa. Except for a 5 year occupation by Mussolini's Italy, it has never been colonized. So while other countries speak the language of the country that colonized them, English, French, etc. Ethiopia speaks Amharic. Beautiful people, in a beautiful country, and they speak a beautiful language. I really love it here!
While in our hotel room, there was a wedding party that drove by. A limousine, and several other cars, all with flowers on the front. They stopped in the middle of the road in front of the hotel, and all got out of the cars and started dancing. Then they got back in and drove a little further down the road. At the hotel there were 3 wedding party's. Each of them paraded out to the parking lot where cars were decorated with flowers. Quite a tradition.
The church is in a complex. There is a security gate, (which all of the buildings in our mission have) a church building, a mission office for Ethiopia, and even a basketball court. The grounds are BEAUTIFUL! It's rainy, and cool, which makes it so green!
Construction Everywhere (this is across the street from the church.)
We were having a discussion on acting in faith. During the discussion, one of the elders brought up the story of the Brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon, and how he found clear stones, and prayed that God would touch the stones and give them light so they would not have to cross the ocean in the dark. The next elder said something I never thought of before. He said, just like the Brother of Jared, we can pray to Heavenly Father, and ask him to touch the people we are teaching and give them light, or truth. It's a simple concept, but I had never thought of it in that way before.
The Spirit was very strong at this Zone Conference. And as it was ending, President Collings bore his final testimony and was just about to sit down when an elder raised his hand and asked if he could say something. He spoke and then 3 or 4 more elders spoke. Many of us were in tears as the meeting was ending. It was as if they didn't want the meeting to end. They wanted more. It was so touching.
The senior couple serving here in Ethiopia are Elder and Sister Harline. We also had the public affairs couple who represent our mission there; Elder and Sister Ford. They stay in Kenya, but come to our mission frequently. Sister Harline took care of lunch for Zone Conference which was REALLY good. We were able to spend quality time with both couples, and again, just have felt such a connection to them.
Steve and I were both asked to speak in church on Sunday. Again, we needed interpreters. Most everyone speaks Amharic. This time I just bore my testimony, and President Collings did the bulk of the speaking. The second counselor in the Branch Presidency is from South Sudan. His wife recently had a baby, so she was at home, but their 5 other children came to church. They latched right on to President Collings and me. In fact, when we first arrived, the youngest little boy ran to President Collings with his arms outstretched, and just hugged him around the legs. Then he grabbed his briefcase and started to pull it around the church house.
They didn't understand any English but it didn't seem to matter. The girls sat beside me and stroked my hair, and copied my name from my missionary name badge. All five kids spent all of Sacrament meeting with me and the other senior couples. The oldest son is named Judea, and I believe the youngest son is named Tay (But I like to call him TAZ, because he runs around like the cartoon character) It was so fun.
I went to Relief Society and there were about 6 ladies. The all spoke Ahmaric, so one of the young sisters translated for me. There is another sister in the branch who is from Russia. She doesn't speak any English or Amharic, only Russian. It was not easy for her, but she had the lesson pulled up on her iPad in Russian, and just followed along.
After church, we spoke with her and her husband. He is a neurosurgeon. He was a District President, and then was made Stake President in Russia. They have a daughter serving as a missionary right now. He says because of economic sanctions, they have cut the pay for healthcare workers and teachers. When he left Russia, he was making the same amount of pay as a bus driver. They came to Ethiopia because he was able to be paid better. He has a one year contract, and will decide from there what to do. He speaks English well, and was able to translate for his wife. We had a very touching conversation with them. We feel like they are already dear friends.
After church we went with the Harlines to visit some members of the branch who were unable to make it to church. When we arrived, the sister did not speak any English, and her son was not there yet to translate for us. She had her daughter and grandson there. She was able to motion to us that she was suffering from a bad headache. We asked if she would like a priesthood blessing, to which she acknowledged that she did. President Collings and Elder Harline gave her a blessing. They told her the headache would go away and that she would know it was through the Holy Ghost and the power of the Priesthood that she would be healed. Then we enjoyed time in her home. Her daughter brought out pictures of a kindergarten graduation celebration for her son. She was so excited to show us. Then the Harlines pulled out their iPad and showed a video they had taken at that celebration. It was videos of all of them dancing. Her grandson came in and started to dance for us. It was so fun. Finally, her 17 year old son came and was able to translate a bit for us. We asked how she was doing and she said her headache was gone. President Collings asked how she felt during the blessing, and she said she felt the Holy Ghost. She said she wanted to tell us about how she was converted to the church, but she thought her son would not be able to translate. She made us promise that the next time we are in Ethiopia, we will come to her home. This is the first home I have been to made of corrugated metal with just a dirt floor. Very humble, but she has such a strong faith in Jesus Christ. She has a son serving a mission in Africa, and her 17 year old is preparing for a mission as well. I love meeting these Latter Day Saints in Africa!
It has taken us just over 3 weeks to meet all 137 missionaries in 3 countries. I must say, we have the BEST missionaries!
We returned home, and on Wednesday had Mission Leadership Council. All of the Zone Leaders, Sister Training Leaders, and AP's come for that. We had it at the mission home, and all attended except for the zone leaders in Ethiopia and Rwanda. They joined us by way of the internet. During MLC, each Zone reports their Zone's baptismal goal, and where they are at in reaching the goals that are set. There was a kind of negative feeling in the room after the zones reported. All of the numbers for each Zone was listed on a white board. President told all of the missionaries to look at the report and tell him what was wrong with it. Everything looked in order, and they weren't sure what he was getting at. Then President Collings said, "I don't see any baptismal goals for the AP's and Mission President and Wife. We need to show a little more faith." And he proceeded to set a goal for us to reach before the end of the year. I think the missionaries were all shocked. He has taken that goal seriously, and has given out so many pass along cards, brochures, and copies of the Book of Mormon in the last week. Afterward, those in Uganda went out for lunch, at a Japanese restaurant. The group was HUGE! But there was plenty of food. The owner of the restaurant presented Steve and me with a gift. They have been hosting the missionaries for many years, and they said they were happy to meet us.
Mission Leadership Council