Thursday, July 21, 2016

Rwanda

The first mission president in the Uganda Kampala mission was President Duke. Two years into his mission, he was driving home from the airport and got in a car accident with his wife. He passed away in that accident. Friday marked the ten year anniversary of his death. The office staff all knew him, and it was very special, on that day they all took a half day off work and honored him. They all had matching shirts made with his picture on the front, and on the back it quoted Matthew 16:25 "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." They went to the place where he had the accident and placed flowers, sang songs, and said a prayer. I was so touched by this outpouring of love. When I saw the shirts, I couldn't help but cry. I know they still keep in touch with Sister Duke, and I'm sure this meant a lot to her as well.



Flowers were placed on top of the mound of dirt. 

We left Friday evening for a zone conference in Rwanda. The airport in Uganda was a very different experience. It seemed to take forever to go through security. When we received our boarding passes, there was no gate assigned. We just sat in a waiting area and then there was an announcement overhead that said our flight was getting ready to board in gate one. We walked over to gate one where we had to go through a metal detector again, and send our bags through that hadn't been checked. Once we went through security at our gate they scanned our ticket and we went in and sat down at the gate. Pretty soon a lady announced final boarding for our flight and we all followed her down the stairs and outside. We walked past several planes and followed her to the one we would be flying in. We climbed up about 5 or 6 steps into the plane. It was one with propellers. It seated quite a few people, and was actually nice, just different than I'm used to. When we landed, we climbed down the stairs again and climbed onto a bus that took us to the gate where we got off and walked into the airport.

Once we arrived in Rwanda we received a message from the senior couple serving there, the Gilletts. They had planned to pick us up at the airport and take us to our hotel. The Zone Leaders were at the airport already to pick up the AP's, but the Gilletts were stuck in a traffic jam and instead called a shuttle from our hotel to pick us up. This weekend Rwanda is holding a summit, and all of the president's of all of the African nations are here in Kigali. The airport was SO busy, and apparently different roads would be completely shut down as different dignitaries were coming for the summit. The road that the Gilletts were on had been completely shut down, and there was no way they could get through to pick us up. There was even a problem getting a hotel room for us for the two nights we were staying. We stayed in two different hotels (which was totally fine).

We had an amazing zone conference! It's so wonderful when the Elders are prepared and the Spirit is able to flow freely. Everyone benefits from meetings like that.


Afterwards we had invited all of the Branch Presidents and their counsellors to a meeting. There is a special training coming up for the 3 Rwandan branches, and President Collings wanted to encourage them to help members come prepared, and also to invite their families, friends, and neighbors. They were very excited as the meeting ended, and I believe it will be a good experience.



The Gillett's helped us with everything while in Rwanda. They drove us to the different places, and were so kind. We developed an instant friendship with them. They truly are strengthening the branches in amazing ways in Rwanda. Saturday evening they took us to a Japanese restaurant. It was beautiful! Most of the restaurants we have been to in Africa are set outdoors with just a canopy over the top, or windows that are open to the outside. We haven't had any problems with flies or mosquitos like we have back home. I thought it was so funny, on the windows of this restaurant there were snowflake stickers! I'm guessing these people have never seen snow, but it still looked so nice.


On Sunday we went to one of the Branches and we had been asked to speak in church. This was a unique experience for us. We had been told that on this mission we may need interpreters sometimes when we speak. This was one of those times. Many of the members speak Kenyawandan, so everything was done in that language and English. When I stood to speak, a young man stood beside me with a hand microphone. I would say a sentence or two, and then wait while he translated it. I had felt the Spirit as I was preparing my talk, and felt that what I spoke on was needed, but I felt kind of disconnected. I hope it was something that benefitted people.  President Collings spoke as well. He actually was powerful. I really love hearing him testify of truth. After Sacrament meeting, he had two interviews with members of the Branch. I know this was an amazing experience for him. We have met the most amazing people here, and their life stories are incredible. While he interviewed, I decided to go to the Gospel Principles class. The teacher turned to me and said, "You understand we will not be speaking in English." I said I understood, and just sat in the class. It was different, but I could really see how much this teacher cared for each person in his class. He would ask a question and as they would answer, you could tell he was intently listening.


The interviews were completed by the time the class ended, and we quickly drove to the second Branch. He needed to set apart a new Counselor in the Branch Presidency, and Elders Quorum President. This branch was really great. I was able to have a conversation with some of the ladies. There is a couple living here from the US. He is from Utah and she is from Missouri. They are a young couple and are such a strength to the branch.



The new Elders Quorum president invited us over to his house for a visit. His wife was there. She did not understand any English. She had the biggest brightest smile I have ever seen. She actually has breast cancer, and they are planning to fly her to France for treatment. You would never guess she was sick. She just beams with joy. He studied to be a pastor, and through his studies said he could see there was something missing in his church. He searched for most of his life for the correct church. He says when he was approached by Elders, he just ignored them. He said he never talks to young kids, he doesn't have the patience for them. But he says they were persistent. After they taught him, he sent them away, and then  he had a thought. "You have looked your whole life for this, you should listen to them." Sure enough, he says this Gospel of Jesus Christ has all the things that were missing in the other churches he has studied.
He is a farmer here in Rwanda. As we left his house he brought out the BIGGEST pineapple I've seen, and gave it to President Collings. Then he pulled out another one and gave it to me. Then pulled out two more for Elder and Sister Gillett. They were AMAZING!

Rwanda is such a unique place. It's called the land of a thousand hills. There are no flat roads, you are either going up or down. The homes are built on the side of hills, and they look like they are stacked on top of each other. Everywhere you look there are homes, it's hard to see pathways between the homes. The driveways are so steep! But Rwanda is CLEAN. The people have one day a month that they are required to go outside and clean. I think they really take pride in their little nation. There are still humble homes, but a lot more nice homes. People drive on the right side of the road, instead of the left like most of Africa. There are traffic lights, and people obey them. I was very impressed with everything about this country.




 It's amazing how steep the hills are, and yet there are houses on every one. Incredible.  

This is looking out behind one of the churches here. you can see the roof of the house right behind it. Every house here has a view.

Flying home Sunday was a little bit complicated again. Because of the Summit, we went to the airport extra early. It was so fun, while we were sitting in the airport with the AP's, a woman approached us and said she couldn't help notice we were from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She said she is a member too, from Nigeria. She said her husband is in the Stake Presidency, and she is in the primary. She asked if she could take a picture with us. It was such a fun experience talking with her. She gave me a big hug before boarding her flight.


When it was time for us to board, we just sat in the airport. I think we boarded 1/2 hour late. Then we sat in the plane for another 40 minutes. The captain spoke overhead and said there were 2 VIP jets that had to leave before we would be cleared to go. It was a unique situation, but we didn't mind too much. Once in the air, the flight is only 40 minutes. By the time we landed and drove home, it was 12:30 am. A very long long day.

On Monday the Taylor's came and spent their last night here on the mission in our home. We went out to dinner with all the senior couples, and then went back home for dessert and testimonies. It was such a sweet experience. We have only known them for 2 weeks, but have really built a kinship with them. It's amazing how close you grow to people who you serve with, especially here in Africa. You start to realize that material things just don't matter. We also had a couple of Elders stay with us, who came into town from an outlying zone. It was a full house, which was really nice.


Tuesday our shipment from the United States arrived! I was so excited! I had family pictures to put up in my house! The walls are all cement in this home. There are a few nails, screws, or hooks embedded in the cement, but no way of putting in new nails or moving the ones that are already there. I was able to make do quite well, and I'm so happy to have some of my own things decorating the house.

I was also given some fun mementos from my dear friends at St Marks Hospital. I decorated my desk with them, and have had everyone from the office comment on them. It really means a lot to me.


Tomorrow we will be flying to Ethiopia to meet our missionaries there. I'm told it's a lot different than Uganda or Rwanda. I can't wait!

This has been such an adventure. I love the missionaries, and the other people I work with. The driving is coming along quite nicely. President Collings is understanding the new rules for driving here in Uganda, and I feel very safe driving with him now. Like everything else, it's different, but once you understand it, life is much easier.  I found out that the monkey sound I hear every day is a bird. I only had a couple of Africans laugh at me when I asked them... I should know that my husband is usually right.

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