When we got to the Nile River, there were monkeys and baboons everywhere. Steve pulled the car over and actually got out by the Nile to take some pictures. As we drove further, he stopped a few times to get pictures and videos of the monkeys and baboons. At one point, he had stopped the car and had the window down on the driver's side to take pictures. All of a sudden a big baboon jumped up on my side and was hanging on the mirror. I screamed, and had a million thoughts running through my head. Was the window up? Was he going to reach in and scratch my eyes out? You know, basic questions. My window was up, and the mirror kind of folded in and he lost his balance and fell off. I think I screamed a couple of times. Scared my hubby to death. I have fingerprints from the baboon on my mirror. It scared me to death.
When we arrived at the Hotel it was just early enough to get some lunch before our meeting. I love the menus here. They have everything from hamburgers to goat meat. They offer matoke, rice, or chips (fries) with just about everything. It was funny today, for the first time we saw Goat Spit, Beef Spit, and Pork Spit on the menu with a salad and chips of course. I got a club sandwich, which reminded me of what we used to make with the sandwich makers back when we were first married. It was 4 pieces of bread with a different kind of meat between each one. I know one was beef, and I believe turkey, but I'm not sure the third type of meat. Then there was a cooked egg, and tomato all squished together like a panini, but sealed on the edges. It tasted pretty good! There is avocado, watermelon, and pineapple with everything. I had no idea I would get so much of those three fruits. Or is avocado a veggie? Good thing I really like all 3 of them.
The meeting with the Lira and Adyel branch councils was really incredible. I'm not sure how or if they have been holding Branch Council meetings, but this was just a basic lesson on how to Shepherd the Lord's way. The Spirit was so strong in the meeting. At one point President Collings told them that Elder Holland had said the Saints in Uganda have the blood of Israel in them. They all started clapping, they were so happy. It was very touching. They are really trying to lead the branches the way the Savior would, and I believe they were very happy to have a little guidance in how to go about doing it.
President Collings asked one of the branch presidents if he would provide a small refreshment after the meeting. He brought a variety of soda pop, and a bag of donuts. Donuts in Uganda are a mix between a cake donut and a bagel. There is no glaze or frosting on them. They look just like a huge donut, but they are thick like a bagel. I also tried a new soda called Stoney Tangawizi. It is a ginger soda, but the ginger is very strong. I've seen it a few times, and decided when I saw it among the choices, that I'd try it. I LIKE IT!
We have been asked to help all of the branches to go online and map the locations of every members home. I spoke with the branch presidents and they said that they were unsure how to take care of this. I had my computer there in the building, so I said we could sit down and I'd show them how to do it. I asked them to log on to LDS.org. Nobody could remember their user name or password. I finally was able to get the Branch Clerk online, and pulled up the Branch map, which is just a satellite view from Google Earth. I asked him to just show me where his house is on the map. We looked for a very long time, and he wasn't able to figure out where his house was. There were enough men at the meeting, that I thought we could get all of their homes listed. Unfortunately, we weren't even able to find one. I asked him to go home and study the map, and maybe find homes of members who are closer to the church, which was marked. And then work your way further out. We were hoping to have the entire mission mapped by the middle of September. I guess we could use a few prayers. This poor branch clerk seemed a little overwhelmed.
It was fun to bump into our missionaries in the Lira, Adyel area. As we were getting ready to leave, they were setting up a movie night for the young single adults. It sounds like they were going to watch Jungle Book. Fun times. We have great elders here.
We had to run an errand before it got dark, and can I just say, the driving at dusk is INCREDIBLE! In a crazy way!! I really want to take a video of it, but it's too intense. I have to help watch so we don't run over anyone. Unlike anything I have ever experienced. There are people everywhere, bicycles carrying huge loads, bota-botas usually carrying several people and huge loads, cars, huge trucks. The streets are narrow, sometimes pavement, sometimes dirt, but mostly both. Huge pot holes on both sides of the road, so you're dodging a pothole, and trying not to hit traffic the other direction. There are people sitting on both sides of the roads with things that they are selling laid out on blankets or in piles. And they are sitting so close to each other, it's no wonder the people are walking down the streets. You hit an intersection, and there is no light, sign, or right of way. You just slowly go, and stop if you are getting close to hitting something. On our little excursion, we had a conversation with a young man. He told us that he had never met a white person before. It was pretty funny. We were so grateful to finally be back at our hotel for the night! We pulled the mosquito net over the bed and were happy to collapse into bed.
On Sunday we had to travel to Gulu for church, which was 1 1/2 hours away. There were some people out in the town, but it was much quieter than the night before. While driving, it was amazing how many people lined the road just walking. Mostly in their Sunday clothes. Many carrying plastic chairs or stools. You could see where the churches were, because people were all walking into them, or standing outside of them because they were filled to capacity. It looked like church for them started at 7:00am. We left at 6:30, and there were so many people walking.
By the time we got to Gulu, we were quite a bit early for our church. We had just over an hour wait. I was surprised to hear prelude music playing. The organ was set to self-play the hymns . There was a young man putting hymn books on every chair, and people were starting to file in. The missionaries were there early, and the one elder sat down to the keyboard and started to play the prelude music. I was impressed! He did a great job. One man told us that he is always to church on time. He has been a member for 9 years. He rides his bike 30 KM to church every week. He leaves very early because he wants to ride slowly so he doesn't get sweaty for church. It was fun talking with him.
We were the speakers in the branch. I talked about reading daily to our family from the Book of Mormon. President Collings spoke about using the Priesthood, serving each other, and following the promptings of the Holy Ghost. After sacrament meeting we drove over to the Bardege branch, which started at the same time, so we were able to sit in on Sunday School and a combined Priesthood/Relief Society meeting. We were very impressed with both of these branches. There are so many good people in both branches, and we really felt uplifted during the meetings.
There was a cute little baby who was 7 months old. She was holding on to the chairs to help her walk around. After a while she got fussy, as babies do at church. Her grandma took her out. When she came back in a few minutes later, she had been bundled on her grandma's back and was sound asleep. These babies are so comfortable when they are strapped on their mom's back, it's so cute. They just snuggle right in and go to sleep. It's surprising how often (several times a day) you see ladies with a baby on their back.
After church we had another combined Branch Council training. We were so happy to see that the ladies from both branches came, and participated in that meeting. President had asked for all members of the branch council to be there. The meeting on Saturday had been all men...except for me. And as the training continued, he stressed how important it is to get input from the Relief Society, Primary, and Young Women's president's when you hold a branch council. Seeing the way the ladies came on Sunday, made the training that much easier. Again the Spirit was very strong. They were anxious to find out what they need to do, and then do it.
The extension cord used with our projector
After the training, I again, tried to show members of the Branch Council how to map the houses for their branches. I came to realize that the only members who have an LDS.org account are the return missionaries. I spoke with a couple of them, and showed them how it is done. I could tell they were excited to get it done. It's just very difficult for them to find their houses. But they did have an easier time than the Branch clerk in Lira.
We met up with President and Sister Goodwin. He is the 1st counselor in the Mission Presidency. He had been conducting audits of the different branches. It was getting late so we caravaned together to our hotel for the night. Sister Goodwin had booked each couple a room at a safari resort called Chobe. It is in the Murchison National Park. The Hotel is located 20 minutes off the highway on a dirt road. Just as we got to the resort, the clouds opened, and there was a huge downpour. There was so much lightning and rain. It was crazy. We went inside and had an amazing dinner, and then went to bed. The next morning we were awakened by the sound of grunting. The hotel sits right on the banks of the Nile, and it's home to many Hippos! Apparently they come out of the water at night and roam freely all around this resort. There was a group of them in the water right outside of our room. We got up and walked around the buildings for a while and saw water buffalo, wart hogs, baboons, monkeys, and other fun animals. After breakfast we drove into the national park and saw all of these animals along with giraffes! I've never seen so many all at once. There was a mom and her baby walking together. It was so cute!
Some of the bungalows to stay in
A family of wart hogs
Not sure what they call deer here.
We were only able to spend a few hours before we needed to head home, but WOW, what a fun experience!
Tuesday we picked up our new missionaries from the airport. We took them over to the mission office for some dinner and interviews, and then they came to the mission home with us for the night. Before they even settled in, they were invited to teach one of our security guards. President Collings had given him a pamphlet on the plan of salvation. When they started to teach him, he just started asking all the right questions. He had read about Alma in the pamphlet and asked who that was. Then he said he always wondered why Jesus Christ only visited the people in Jerusalem. He was excited to hear that he visited "other sheep". The spirit was very strong, and it was a good experience for the security guard and the missionaries. The next day we had a large breakfast with the new missionaries, AP's, and the Senior Missionaries. There was a missionary who was returning home to Ethiopia from his mission. He had a layover in Entebbe so he could get off the airplane long enough to be released from his mission, and then was back on the plane to Ethiopia again. President Goodwin went to the airport to release him early that morning, because President Collings could not be in two places at once. Along with training the new missionaries, he had to set apart a missionary who is on his way to Botswana, and train the new trainers. We had lunch with the new missionaries, their trainers, the AP's, and the senior couples, and then after a few photos, sent them off to their new areas. I'm really impressed with these new missionaries. They will do great things.
Well, that was only half our day. We then had our missionaries who are leaving to go home come over for a farewell dinner and testimony meeting. I made my first pot roast dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy. The senior sisters helped me (actually throughout the day) with salads, desserts, and vegetables. I couldn't have made it through the day without their help. After dinner, we had a testimony meeting. I have only been here for a month, but I feel like I'm sending my own sons away. I can't believe how attached I feel to them. They are great men, and I can see them being future leaders of the church. They bore strong testimonies of the Savior, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of missionary work, and personal growth. Many tears were shed... Okay, mostly by me. We are losing one of our AP's. We appreciated how they all helped us this first month to learn our way around. Just wanted to share this fun picture they left for President Collings.
Immediately after the testimony meeting, with everyone still in my house, we rushed off to the airport to catch a flight to Rwanda. Elder Bednar was scheduled to visit the 3 branches in Rwanda, along with Elder Hamilton, the President of the Southeast Africa Area, and his counselor Elder Palmer, along with their wives.
Traffic was horrible, and Godfrey, our driver thought we would miss the flight, even though we left 4 hours early. I knew this is where Heavenly Father wanted us to be, and we would make it just fine. We made it, but it was very close! We didn't get to our hotel in Rwanda until about 1:30am. After an extremely long day, we collapsed into bed again.
Bright and early the next morning we got up and helped finished the preparations for our visitors. The senior couple serving in Rwanda made a simple meal for them, and the branch members worked very hard to prepare the buildings where the meeting would be held. It was a perfect day. The weather was amazing. We were able to spend one on one time with them talking about the Saints in Rwanda. There were 3 meetings held. One for priesthood leadership, and at the same time one for women's auxiliary leadership. Then a general meeting for all of the Saints and anyone else who wanted to know more about the church.
President Collings said the Priesthood leadership meeting was really amazing. There were over 60 men who attended. They were taught by Elder Bednar, Elder Hamilton, and Elder Palmer. In the women's meeting, there were about 40 women. We were taught by Sister Bednar, Sister Hamilton, and Sister Palmer. Then the General Meeting had close to 200 people. In each meeting, we were taught, and then they opened up for questions. I felt the spirit over and over as I was able to listen to an Apostle and General Authorities bear testimony of Jesus Christ and his Atonement, the Book of Mormon, the Prophet, Joseph Smith, and our prophet today, President Thomas S Monson. I was thrilled to hear both Sister Bednar, and Elder Hamilton bear testimony that Elder Bednar was called of God as an apostle, and it strengthened my testimony again, that this is the true church, led by Jesus Christ. At one point Elder Bednar had all of the missionaries stand up. They all looked so great in their white shirts and ties. I'm proud to be their mission mom. I spoke with members after the meeting, who said they could not believe an apostle would come visit them. They truly want to do what's right, and want to be taught.
We went from the meeting directly to the airport to drop them off, and said our goodbyes. But what a day to remember.
On Friday President Collings had interviews with each of the missionaries in Rwanda. I got to spend time talking with them, and getting to know them better. They told me some fun mission stories, and stories of back home. I learned about their families, and hobbies, and things they like to eat. It was a fun morning for me. After the interviews, we went with the Gilletts to lunch, and then went to a park in Kigali. The park is where Elder Holland dedicated the land of Rwanda for missionary work. It's a beautiful park on a hillside that looks over all the city. I can imagine what an amazing day that was. We spent some time taking it all in, and then after a couple of pictures, ran to the airport.
We had to fly to Ethiopia for District Conference on Saturday and Sunday. The flight was hot and cramped. We didn't sit together. I was beside a man who kept asking for beer. He would wave his empty beer can, which would splash beer on me. He had two waters and 3 cans of beer on our flight. It was very uncomfortable, not because he was drinking, but he was just being obnoxious to the flight attendants. And I don't like having beer splashed all over me...
We arrived late, and (this seems to be a trend) passed out as we hit the pillow.
We haven't had internet access for several days, so I will post on our Ethiopia District Conference in the next week. It's been such a fun and busy week.