The first day of travel didn't start well, we woke up at 6:00 to get ready, and we had no water. Not hot or cold. We are getting skills at showering with bottled water!!
We left Kampala, and Steve got behind the wheel. It was good for him to be able to get a few hours of driving in. The drive throughout Uganda is absolutely beautiful!! I didn't realize that people still live in mud huts, but they were everywhere!! The cutest little huts, with curtains across the front door, and laundry hanging on the line. It's so green here!! And the huts are made with red mud, quite the contrast! The little villages seemed a lot cleaner than in Kampala. All along the road people are walking. There may be several miles between the villages, but the roads will be lined with people walking each direction. The ladies carrying bundles on their heads and babies on their backs, the men pushing bicycles loaded with bags of produce or jugs of water, and even children holding hands and walking along.
While driving to Gulu there was an area where the road was lined with monkeys and baboons. The AP's were in front of us and they stopped the car to take pictures. They later told us that they had never seen so many on the road in all the times they had traveled through that area. One of the Elders reached out the window to give a baboon a pass along card about the church. The baboon jumped really high in the air!! Almost as high as the car. I was really laughing, I think it scared the Elders a bit.
Further up the road we got our first glimpse of the Nile! Wow! It's beautiful!! We crossed it a few miles later. It's just amazing.
Once we arrived in Gulu, we checked into our hotel... Mosquito net and all... And then had lunch with the Elders. We ordered hamburgers. They were HUGE! We waited probably 45 minutes for our meal, but it was well worth the wait. The missionaries showed us where the Church building was and then they left to spend the evening with the missionaries in the Gulu area.
There are two mission Branches in Gulu. Each branch had a list of things they needed President Collings to do. He Reorganized a Branch Presidency and called a new Elders Quorum President, did temple recommend interviews and priesthood advancement interviews. He met with about fifteen branch members from both branches combined. One of the Branch Presidents had set up meetings with two families, and asked that we go with him to strengthen these families. What an amazing experience. We met with two mothers who have been baptized and are working on going to the temple. Both had struggles they are going through, and both were touched by the Spirit as we bore testimony to them of the blessings of the temple. They both lived in homes that were surrounded by the cute huts!! Their homes were humble, but comfortable. We remove our shoes as we enter each home we go to, no matter how humble. Each time as we left, we asked if they would like to leave with prayer. Each time they asked "my sister" to pray... Which means they wanted me to pray. I was touched. It was a neat experience. The ladies here in Uganda are referred to sister or mama.
Our week basically consisted of traveling to a town, meeting with branch presidents. Strengthening them and taking care of any priesthood business in the area. Rolling into bed around 10-11:00. Waking up the next morning, having Zone Conference from 9-1:00, eating lunch with the Elders and Sisters in the Zone, and then travelling to the next town and meeting the branch presidents there. This was our entire week, Monday through Friday when we finally drove home. We woke up Saturday morning for another Zone Conference at the mission home. The days have been COMPLETELY full, and exhausting. But we have been really surprised. President Collings referenced a promise in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. In D&C 84:33 it states, "For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies." We have never felt that promise more than we have here in the Uganda Kampala mission. We truly are blessed!
For our first Zone conference in the mission We introduced ourselves to the Elders and Sisters, and then they were taught by President Collings and the AP's. They taught the missionaries how to recognize and follow the Holy Ghost while planning, finding, and teaching. The missionaries had been given some scripture references to study before coming to the Zone Conference. President Collings showed them the model of "Prepare to Learn, Interact to Edify, and Invite to Act". He talked to them about the example the Savior set. Throughout his life he "did the will of the Father." President Collings challenged the missionaries in each zone to find out what the will of the Father is for them individually, and then do whatever it is that they are inspired to do.
The missionaries are great! After each of the zone conference we had lunch together and then a few snaps. (Ugandan for taking pictures... I'm trying!) It was fun finding out about each of the missionaries, and making connections. The world is a very small place in the Gospel!
I've learned to ask the missionaries to tell me about their family instead of asking specifics about their mom and dad. Many of the African Elders are orphans or are the only member of the church in their family. At lunch after a zone conference we had 6 African elders sitting around us at the table. One spoke with us, asking how he can not be so depressed when his companion is receiving letters from his family, and this elder doesn't have anyone who will ever write to him. Several of the missionaries in the group nodded their heads as if they were wanting to ask the same question. President Collings was impressed to tell him that when his companions are reading letters from home, he should turn to the scriptures, and read them as letters from his Father in Heaven. His whole face lit up. It was hard to hold back tears. We truly felt the love Heavenly Father has for each of His children while we were talking with these young African Elders. Their lives are so difficult, and yet they are so happy.
I am so impressed with all the missionaries we have met!! They are very obedient, and many are becoming great leaders. We still have several weeks before we meet all of the Zones, but I will post the pictures of the Zones we met this week.
Our Amazing Support in Jinja
Elder and Sister Taylor
This really has been an amazing week. I just have one more tidbit to add. Take it for what it's worth... THIS happened on this trip, and I am NOT a fan! Haha!! Definitely not in Kansas anymore.