This week was Mission Leadership Council. We had all of the Zone Leaders, Sister Trainer Leaders, and Assistants come to the mission home from all over Uganda. We had the Leadership in Rwanda and Ethiopia join us via web-ex. It was an amazing meeting. One point that really stood out to me in the meeting was when the Zone Leaders came to the realization that the missionaries look to them. One missionary said that he is half way through his mission now. He looks at those who trained him, and who taught him what it is to be a good missionary. He said that he will always appreciate them for helping him become the missionary he is. Then he said he didn't realize that there are missionaries who will be looking to them in the same way. He wants to be that example to those who follow him on mission. There were several others who indicated that they felt the same way. They have had experience, and should share that with those missionaries who are newer on mission. It was very exciting to see them catch that vision.
After the meeting, we went together, along with our senior couples to dinner. It was a very nice evening.
After the dinner, the missionaries and President Collings spoke with a couple of people who were interested in who we are, and what we do. This lady was from South Africa. She said that she would like to help the missionaries in any way she could, and offered to buy a plane ticket for any one of our missionaries. There were two other people that President Collings spoke with about the church. One said he would like to go to our church on the next Sunday that he isn't working. The church is very close to where he works. It was a nice evening.
We flew to Rwanda later in the week, and had a very nice time there. We have asked the zone leaders to be responsible for some of the training in Zone Conference now. Previously, it was the Assistants who did all of the training. Rwanda was the first zone that we were able to see the zone leaders teach, and they did not disappoint. I love being able to see the high quality of teaching they do. I was so impressed with their level of preparation, and their confidence. I talked about having a positive attitude. President Collings taught them how important it is to use the Spirit to help them set goals, and took it one step further, that they need the Savior to help them as they set goals for the day, week, and even month. The Zone leaders taught on setting goals and planning as well. They also had an activity with the zone out of Preach My Gospel, which I think the zone enjoyed. At the end of the meeting, we took time for the missionaries to have a discussion and questions and answers. All in all, a very good meeting. The senior couple who are in Rwanda took care of lunch after the meeting, which was wonderful. We appreciate them so much!!
We also had the privilege of meeting with many of the members of the church in Rwanda. We met one man who has been a member of the church for 20 years. He went with Elder Holland when he dedicated the country of Rwanda for missionary work, and said it was an amazing experience. His wife is a return missionary, and together, they are raising their family as strong members of the church in Rwanda. We have just sent sister missionaries to Rwanda, and they have been so well received. All of the branches are so excited to have sister missionaries. This family has a teenage daughter named Mercy, who went tracting with the sister missionaries, and she says she wants to go on a mission someday. There is a language barrier here. The official language in Rwanda is English, but just a few years ago it was French, however, most of the people speak Kenyarwandan (spelling?) The amazing attribute of the African missionaries, is that most of them speak several languages, and can pick up new languages very easily. I have heard that some speak as many as 9 or 10 languages. So these sister missionaries are able to speak to the ladies in their native language, but are also teaching them to speak English, so they can read all of the church materials. It's a huge blessing. The elders have been doing the same thing, but I think the women relate better to the sister missionaries.
We also met with one of the branch relief society presidents. She was so sweet. She and her children are members of the church. Her husband is not, but he is always reminding her to go to church, and not be late. He came to all of their baptisms. She is a very kind and positive woman. It was a blessing to meet with her. When she found out we were coming her husband bought new curtains for the home. It was very sweet.
After our zone conference, President Collings was scheduled to have interviews with many of the church members. Some for temple recommends, some for priesthood advancement, and others for callings. He was busy for most of the evening. While we were waiting at the church for him to do the interviews, the missionaries had arranged for a fireside. They had asked Elder and Sister Ford, and myself to speak to the people that came to this fireside. When we arrived at the church, the power was out, and stayed out for a very long time. We moved chairs into the parking lot, and relied on the lights from a nearby building to be able to see. Instead of a fireside, we decided it was a "dark side", but a good one. While we were speaking, I saw a huge dark shadow run under the chairs. I thought it was going to run under mine, so I grabbed my purse off the ground and put it on my lap.. It was very dark, but a couple of seconds later there was loud rustling in the vines that went up the side of the wall behind the church. So.... I saw my first rat! I didn't scream during the fireside, but I did almost jump up and run. Haha. We were also eaten alive by mosquitos! It was an experience we will not forget. The spirit of the meeting was very strong. We spoke, along with Elder Gillett, and then several of the members of the church in Rwanda bore their testimonies. There are very good people in this area of the world.
I have had two people approach me this week stating that Americans think that Africa is a bad place, and they don't understand that there are cities and roadways and developments just like the rest of the world. They have asked that I set the record straight. So, I'm setting the record straight, Uganda and Rwanda are safe places to visit. They have cities with restaurants and hotels, and other entertainment just like other places in the world. The people are very friendly, and welcoming. If I had known what I know now about Africa, I would have traveled here sooner. So don't be afraid to come to visit. 😀
On Sunday, we were back in Uganda. President Collings confirmed Kassan, and then that afternoon we had Alex and Kassan's sisters and another friend over at the house for dinner and a lesson. They all agreed to be baptized on October 16th. We are so excited for them to learn more about the gospel. We have found people who are very prepared to receive the gospel, it's been such a blessing. The relief society president in the Ward, along with another sister had a birthday. They brought a huge cake and drinks, and ended Relief Society a few minutes early on Sunday so we could all sing happy birthday and eat cake before going home. It was quite the birthday celebration.
We also had the privilege of meeting with the Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees here in Uganda. He is a true friend to the church, and we had a wonderful time visiting with him. The country of Uganda is surrounded by countries where there is so much unrest. He was very proud to tell us that all refugees are welcome in Uganda. There are refugees from South Sudan, DRC, Eritrea, and Burundi, among others. They have taken in over 700,000 refugees. It was a very neat experience, and we are blessed to know him.
One more bit of news to add, and I think BEST of all... We have a new GRANDSON!! He was born September 22nd in the middle of a terrible storm in Utah. As he was born the power was flickering off and on. He made quite an entrance. 8 pounds, 10 ounces, 22 inches long. Beautiful and perfect!! His name is Harvey Ryan Harris. We are thrilled!