Sunday, October 30, 2016

Transfers and Families

Transfer week is upon us! This is our third group of missionaries who have come to the mission while we have been here in Uganda. The first time there were 2 missionaries, the second time there were three, but this time we had a total of 12 missionaries come to us from the MTC. We are so excited to have them here.

When the missionaries come to the Uganda Kampala Mission, they come from 3 different Missionary Training Centers. Last transfer we had only 3 missionaries come, but they each came from a different MTC. If they come from Johannesburg, their flight comes to Entebbe Airport (the airport in Uganda) at about 2:30 on Tuesday afternoon. If they come from Provo, their flight comes in at 10:30 PM on Tuesday night. And if they come from Ghana MTC, it arrives at 8:15 AM on Wednesday morning. It takes some juggling to get them all picked up, trained, and sent to their new areas in an efficient way. Last year at about this time there was a group of over 20 missionaries who all came. I have no idea how President and Sister Chatfield did it! It must have been crazy for them... This transfer, with 12 missionaries coming in definitely gave me something to write about!! Haha.

There were 9 missionaries coming on Tuesday afternoon from Johannesburg. We decided that because there weren't any missionaries coming in from Provo, that we would go straight to the mission home and train these missionaries Tuesday evening. I think we were guided by the Lord in this decision.  When we got to the airport, we saw that the plane landed 20 minutes early! That made it nice because it takes a while for them all to get through immigration, and we didn't have to wait long for them at all. It was SO FUN seeing all these elders and sisters with their name tags, dressed up so nice. I was so happy to see them all! We snapped a few pictures and then loaded up into 3 vehicles!

We took them back to the mission home, had lunch, training, and introduced them to their trainers. It was a very exciting day. And I felt like it went very smoothly.

On Wednesday morning, we left at 6:30 AM to go to the airport and pick up our 3 missionaries from the Ghana MTC on the 8:15 AM flight. We also had one elder on the flight returning home from his mission to his home in Uganda, who would be released, so four missionaries were expected. When we arrived at the airport, it said that the flight had been delayed 40 minutes... so we hurried up and waited. Haha. When the flight arrived, our missionary who was returning from his mission came out first and said that he had left a piece of luggage in Ghana. We told him to go back inside and file a claim right away so they could send his bag to Uganda. Then another missionary came out and said that the sister missionary who left the MTC with them in Ghana got off the plane in Kenya for the layover, and they would not let her back on the flight. The elders tried all they could to help her figure out the situation, but eventually were told that if they did not board the flight now, the airplane would leave without them. So they decided to leave the sister missionary in Kenya and catch their flight. I was so concerned for this sister missionary! Meanwhile, missionary number 4 came out and said that the wheels on his luggage had been broken and he had stayed inside to file a claim. Missionary number 1 was still filing his own claim, and it had now been an hour since they had arrived.

While all of this excitement was going on in the airport, President Collings received a call from one of his zone leaders who said he had been pulled over while driving and the police officer said he would have to spend the night in jail... The missionary was driving on a road that is known for how dangerous it is, and the police had decided that every person they caught in a traffic violation on that road would have to spend the night in jail, to make a statement. They are tired of reckless driving and all of the accidents and deaths on that stretch of road. Our missionary said that he was one of 5 vehicles in a row that had been pulled over, and that he had not violated any laws. The police would not listen to them, and we understand their concern, and desire to wake up drivers, but absolutely did not want to have one of our missionaries spending the night in jail.

Meanwhile back at the airport, elder number 1 came out after we thought he was done filing his claim and asked for an address to the mission office, where they could send the luggage when it was found. He took the address back in to the claim desk, and we waited another hour. It turned out that he went back to the desk to give them the address, and stood there, and nobody would serve him... so he continued to stand there. Pretty soon, another passenger went to the claim desk, so somebody came up and started serving the new passenger, so he just waited... seriously we waited for this poor elder's claim for at LEAST two hours. I'm sure he was so tired after the long flight he had already been on. I felt so bad for him.

We were able to contact the  LDS Church Office in Nairobi, Kenya, and they  sent someone to the airport to find this sister missionary. They picked her up and took her back to the LDS church offices in Nairobi, and we worked with them to get her another plane ticket to Entebbe. We were so happy to hear that she was safe, and with people who would help take care of her.

Elder number one finally came out and we were ready to drive to the mission home. We expected to be there at about 11:00AM for training, but after all the excitement of the morning,  ended up arriving at 1:00PM. Thankfully the senior sisters had made a lunch, and we were able to release our elder who returned home, eat lunch,  and quickly train the new elders  by 3:00PM which was when their trainers were scheduled to meet them.

Back to the situation at the police office... One of our employees from the office went down to the police office, and spoke with them about the situation.  They  told us that at they would make a decision at  6:00PM.

We were able to get our sister missionary a ticket from Nairobi, and she would be arriving at the airport at 9:00PM. We felt like we really needed to be there to pick her up after the long, stressful day that she must have had, so we drove to the airport again. On our way, we received another phone call that another one of our zone leaders in a completely different part of Uganda, had been pulled over and that the police officer wanted to send him to jail for the night. Thankfully, the missionary was humble and the officer gave them a ticket, and a warning that next time they would go to jail, and he let them go, a tender mercy. The other officer, at 6:00PM impounded the vehicle for the night, but allowed the missionary to go with a guarantee that he would be back the next morning to pay a fine and get his vehicle back, another tender mercy.

We arrived at the airport and the flight was delayed 40 minutes. So we waited, then it was delayed another half hour. She finally made it by about 10:30 PM. We were all so happy to see each other! We brought her back to Kampala, and she met her companion and went to bed after a VERY long day. We are not sure what exactly happened, or why she was not allowed on the flight to Entebbe, but we were just relieved to have her here.

When I went to bed Wednesday night... actually it would have been Thursday morning by the time I actually went to bed, I was so relieved to have all my missionaries where they were supposed to be. Not stranded at an airport, not sleeping in a jail cell... just here on their mission. It was a tender mercy from the Lord. I've started to really see the tender mercies poured out on our mission lately. As is says in  Helaman 5:12, the devil is pouring out his mighty winds, yea his shafts in the whirlwind, trying to distract us from what is most important, but we believe it's because there are so many people prepared for this gospel, and there are so many miracles being poured out upon this mission, we are bound to have a few "mighty storm"  days .

One fun Miracle that just happened this week: A man came to church and approached one of our missionaries. He asked him if he could learn more about the church. As the missionary tried to find out more about this man, he told this story. He attends church at a large congregation in Kampala. He said that the pastor was speaking to them one day and held up a copy of the Book of Mormon. He said, "This book is true! I invite you to find the source of this book!" This man looked up the Book of Mormon online, and was able to find the address to our church. He followed the advice of his pastor and is now taking the discussions. President Collings is looking for this pastor, it sounds like he may be ready to learn more about the Gospel too.

Thursday of transfer week is always difficult for me. That is the day we have our farewell dinner and departing testimony meeting with our missionaries who are returning home. All of our missionaries going home are from Africa this transfer, including one of the Assistants to the President. They are such strong missionaries, and will be such great leaders of the church in their countries. What a blessing to have served with them while on their missions! As we spoke with them, I read from the Hymn Book, the hymn, "Press Forward Saints" It just said everything I wanted to say to them. It speaks of what is most important as they return home. Then I talked about the three things I felt were most important as they start their lives. Those  things were Jesus Christ, temples, and family. I encouraged them to be sealed in the temple, and raise up their family in the gospel of Jesus Christ. President Collings spoke about how, although most of them do not live near the temple, they can have a temple experience in their homes, by making it a "house of Prayer", and always having the Holy Ghost with them. He talked about how they should always think about the promises and covenants they have made in the temple, and take care of the simple things like family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening. He talked about how those things have lifted our family through the years. It was truly a blessing to be able to speak with them. I seem to cry a lot as I send my missionaries home. I'm not good at saying goodbye, especially to our African elders and sisters. It may be quite some time before I see them again. The goodbyes feel a lot more final than with our American missionaries. I truly love them!

Friday was an exciting day. A few weeks ago, there was a group of Ugandans who went to the United States, and were invited to visit several cities throughout the United States. They were hosted by the LDS church at their stop in Salt Lake City, and ended up having a wonderful experience learning about the humanitarian efforts, and other programs the church offers. When they came back to Uganda, we wanted to help them see that this church that they were introduced to in Salt Lake City is also thriving in their own community. We had such an amazing visit with them. There was one woman who was an attorney, and a bishop of a church, and a pastor of another church. We invited them to the Stake Center where we introduced ourselves to each other. There was myself and President Collings, along with the Stake President of the Kampala Stake, and others who helped us put this together. We visited for a while and got to know each other, then we took them on a tour of the Stake Center. We told them about each of the different programs offered in the church as we took them to each of the rooms. Institute Class, Relief Society, Primary, the youth programs, and of course our Sacrament Meeting. Then we went to lunch together. It was very nice because the lady had a lot of questions for President Okot, and the Bishop and Pastor had a lot of questions for President Collings. By the end of the lunch, we had built some wonderful friendships, and the Pastor asked President Collings if he would come and speak to his congregation about what our church believes. He said he would be very happy to do that.

That experience alone would make the day perfect, but we were also invited to speak at a convention about the importance of marriage and families. We had been approached earlier about this opportunity and were happy to oblige. We decided that if we were going to speak about families, it would be nice to have some of our missionaries sing, "Families can be Together Forever".  They did a great job!! We were told there would be about a thousand people there. I think it ended up being closer to four or five hundred, but I think we were able to touch people through song.  Then President Collings and I spoke together. We read portions of "The Family Proclamation", and talked about how following the teachings of our modern day prophets and apostles had blessed us as a family.  We were able to tell them to watch for our elders and sisters and that they would be happy to teach them more about our church if they wanted. It was an experience we won't forget!

Saturday morning we flew to Ethiopia. We had a special meeting with the Branch and District Presidencies in Addis, and were so happy to meet with them. We have given a challenge to our mission branches, and I would love to challenge anyone reading this blog to do the same thing. If you start reading the Book of Mormon on November 1st, and read 10 pages a day, you will finish the entire Book of Mormon by Christmas. What a wonderful gift to give yourself! I also looked up the promises that have been given to us by our prophets if we read the Book of Mormon. I tried to condense them down to only 18.

1.  There will come into your hearts an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord.
2.  There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments.
3.  There will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.
4. You will have greater discernment, insight, conviction, and spirit than those who do not.
5. It will bring you 'nearer to God'.
6.  A power will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book.
7.  Greater power to resist temptation.
8.  Power to avoid deception.
9.  Power to stay on the strait and narrow path.
10.  You will find life in greater and greater abundance.
11. The spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein.
12.  The spirit of reverence will increase.
13.  Mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow.
14.  The spirit of contention will depart.
15.  Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom.
16.  Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents.
17.  Righteousness will increase.
18.  Faith, hope, and charity--the pure love of Christ--will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness.

We are going to do this, and have encouraged all of our missionaries, and Branches to do the same thing. It will obviously be a wonderful blessing! I would love to hear who will be joining us!

One special experience we had in Ethiopia today. When we went there for District Conference several weeks ago, President Collings met with a man and woman who had been separated. He talked to them about forgiveness and the love that the Savior has for everyone. Today as we attended a branch, this man and woman showed up for the meeting. They were so happy to see President Collings. They told him that they were together as husband and wife again, and were attending church regularly now. It was such a blessing to see love and forgiveness work in their lives. We can't believe the miracles we see every week. We are truly blessed!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Mission and Branch Leadership Meetings

This week we had a special Mission Leadership Council meeting. We had all of the leadership come to the mission home. Most months we see the leadership of Ethiopia and Rwanda via webcam, but this time they all came into town. I made a couple of batches of cinnamon rolls, and one of our other elders made 4 loaves of banana bread. Everyone was very happy to have snacks to eat.

It was fun to see the missionaries reunions with companionships from the other countries. Lots of hugs and hand shakes, and joy.

This month we are focusing on working with members in the missionary effort. We talked about building their trust by serving them and their friends. We talked about how to work with the ward, branch, and stake leadership, and that we are to be a help to them in their ward or branch efforts. We talked about using the Book of Mormon more effectively, and also having "power statements" so that people know exactly what we represent. We did role plays on how to effectively work with members. There was a very good spirit in the meeting. Our leadership in this mission is outstanding. Such fine young men and women!

It was really cute, we asked our security guard, Monica, to come take our pictures and she misunderstood. She sat in the picture with us. I didn't want to disappoint her, so I took one of her and then she took one with me in it.

President Collings really wanted to help the Mission Branch Presidents to understand their roles so that they can be more effective leaders. And really just wanted to be a support to them. We invited all of them to Kampala for a two day training. They came from all of the mission branches in Uganda and two of the mission branches in Rwanda. We will be having the same type of meeting at the end of the month for the Branch Presidents in Ethiopia.

Friday afternoon they all arrived at the mission home. There were 9 branch presidents and 3 of them brought their wives. We listened to President Collings talk about the roles of branch presidents, and give them some insight and ideas on what they can do for their branches. We had Suzan talk with them about Public Relations, and how that can help the church to be known, and trusted in their communities. And then we heard from President Bratsman and Moses, who talked about finances. We then took the group to Ndere, which is a fun cultural experience.

They serve African food, and they dance and play music for you. The atmosphere was amazing!! I loved it when they would do a song and dance from the area where one of our branch presidents was from. They would sing along with, or shout out to them in their native language. They even had some time dedicated to the music and dancing of Rwanda, which made those branch presidents happy. My favorite was the drummers from Burundi. They came out carrying the drums on their heads while playing them, and it was amazing! During this portion of the show, they invited Sister Bratsman up to the front and surprised her with a birthday cake. Everyone sang to her with the drummers in the back. It was so fun. The entire group really enjoyed the evening.

After the show, the branch presidents retired for the evening. Three of them stayed at the mission home for the night, and the others were in a hotel. The office staff made them each a gift basket, which I believe they all really enjoyed.

The next morning, everyone returned to the mission home again for another day of training. They were trained on how to solve problems in their own branches using their branch councils. They learned about a branch mission plan, sacrament meetings, temple assistance funds, perpetual education fund, etc. My favorite part was seeing the branch presidents come together in love and unity. As one would talk about his experience with the perpetual education fund, President Collings asked him if he would be willing to mentor other branch presidents who may need help in this area, he said he would. This happened in several different areas where the branch presidents had different questions. They also would lift and strengthen each other. One branch president would talk about  a problem that he would be having in his branch, and others would bear testimony that he would be able to find resolution to his problem because they had been through the same situation in their branch. This happened several times. It was truly wonderful to have them all come together and help and lift each other in their callings. The branch presidents were asked what they wanted to take back to their branches from this training. Some of their remarks were that they wanted to develop greater unity and love in their branch, they  figured out that they have the power within themselves to receive revelation and resolve their own problems, they want to increase spirituality of their branch, and have greater faith in this work. We were very impressed with them, they are  working hard in their individual branches and making a big difference. Three of the branches have had the missionaries taken out, but they are still doing missionary work, and in fact, of those three branches, there are about 6 baptisms lined up. This is all due to the work of the members in the branches. The Spirit was very strong as they shared testimonies. President Collings would like to have training like this every year.

While the men were having this meeting, Sister Bratsman and I took the 3 ladies that were there and went to the movie. I drove to the mall, and all five of us got on the elevator to get to the movie theater. It was a glass elevator, and by the reaction of the three African ladies, I don't think any of them have been on an elevator before. If they have it was not glass. There were several different reactions, from joy to terror, to one sister who said her head was spinning. It was pretty funny. We went down the same elevators when the movie was over, and one of the ladies didn't want to get on it again, but the other one just pulled her in and said, "It's fun!" It was pretty funny.

The movie we took them to was the Disney movie, The Queen of Katwe. It is a true story that takes place here in Uganda, and was mostly filmed here in Uganda. I have to say, this movie is worth watching. It reflects the things I see here every day! The  way the people talk,  (they are a little bit harder to understand, but it's pretty accurate) the clothes they wear, the homes they live in, even the way the kids snap their fingers, our missionaries do that all the time here. I can't figure out how to do it! Haha. The ladies I was with liked it very much. I don't think they have ever been to a movie before. One of them received a phone call during the movie. She went ahead and took the call, and talked and talked. It just made me smile. We had a wonderful time together. They all hugged us when it was over, and thanked us for taking them.

After the meeting with the Branch Presidents, we left with President George Akera and drove to Masaka. We had an appointment to meet with the DPC (District Police Commissioner), and the Local District Chairman, from what I understand, this is like the Mayor of the district. Our intention was to just let them know who we are, and build friendships with them so that in the future, if there are any questions or concerns about our church in the Masaka area, these community leaders will be able to say that they know us, and defend us at times when there may be things said about our church that are untrue. We plan to do this in all the areas where we have mission branches. It was very refreshing to hear that these people already knew President Akera, the branch president of Masaka,  and had been visited several times by our missionaries. In fact, the church in Masaka did a "Mormon's Helping Hands" project in the police barracks, which had a great impact on the DPC and others.

Our meeting went very well. The DPC had other commitments, but still made the effort to come and speak to us. We gave him a pen, and a mug that has the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on it. He was very happy, and said he would love to visit with us again at another time. Our second meeting was with the Local District Chairman. He came with his wife and son, and we had a wonderful conversation with him. We had dinner together. His wife didn't understand English, but she was so fun to communicate with. She has such a pretty smile, and we really enjoyed swapping stories.

Prior to our meeting, President Akera told us that African time is "elastic". It was an accurate description. We had planned to meet these leaders at 6:00 PM. We received a phone call that they were running late, but they would be here in about 30 minutes. That 30 minutes was actually 3 hours. They arrived at 9:00. Then after a bit of a conversation we went to have dinner. The dinner took at least an hour to be served. Whenever we take people out to dinner, they order the whole tilapia. I'm going to have to try it sometime. It is on my bucket list while I'm here in Uganda. I'm not a fish lover, so I'll wait a while, but I will definitely have some by the time we leave. By the time we were done eating and talking, it was almost midnight. We really enjoyed the time we spent with them. It was a wonderful evening, and will be such a blessing for the church members in Masaka.

Some updates with our investigators! Last week, President Collings and Elder Phelps spoke with Mohammad in Mukono. While singing to his employees in their restaurant, one employee asked to know more about the church. He came on Sunday. That afternoon, while eating lunch after zone conference, President Collings spoke with two of the waiters at our restaurant. They both came to church and have started discussions with the missionaries. One wants to be baptized.

The  young man, Fred, who was in prison in Dubai, and learned about the Gospel, was baptized today by President Collings.

President Collings went and taught Fred's grandmother, sister, and brother, and they all want to take the missionary discussions. Fred also has a friend who has been taking the discussions, he will be baptized on November 13th.

This week as a mission we had over 30 baptisms! The field is truly white, and ready to harvest in Uganda!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Two new senior couples

This week has been such a blessing. Late Tuesday night we went to the airport and picked up our newest senior couple, Elder and Sister Phelps.  We are so thrilled to have them. Elder Phelps served with President Collings in the Grantsville Stake Presidency for 8 years. They requested to come serve in the Uganda Kampala Mission, but weren't sure if the Brethren would send them to us or not. We were all so excited when their mission call came and it was to the UKM!

Their flight arrived at almost 11:00 PM. We had Elder and Sister Bratsman come with us to the airport, which is not easy when you work in the mission office. We were so grateful to them for their thoughtfulness. When they arrived, we gave hugs all around, so excited to have them here in Uganda. The drive home was about an hour, but seemed to go by much faster than that because we talked the whole time, getting caught up on news from home, and showing them new things on the drive back to the Mission Home. Once we arrived at the mission home, we continued to talk for a long time. It was so nice.  They will serve here for 6 months.

On Wednesday, we had another senior couple come. They came on the same late night flight. Two nights in a row was too hard for me, so President Collings went to the airport with Elder Phelps. The new senior couple is Elder and Sister Tower. He is a retired judge, and was called on a service mission to come to help the Justice Department in Uganda. The will also be here for 6 months, and will be such an asset to this great country. We had both senior couples stay at the mission home, and it was so fun to have a full house.

We left Thursday morning for our last two zone conferences. We took Elder and Sister Phelps with us, because we were going to go to church in Mbale, which is where they will be staying for the next 6 months. Our first zone conference was at Mukono. We haven't been to the Mukono chapel yet, and weren't sure if traffic would be a problem, so we left a bit early. We arrived at the Mukono chapel an hour before zone conference, so President Collings took Elder Phelps and they decided to do some street contacting. President said he felt like a young missionary again! I think if he had it his way, we would just go tracting every day. He loves talking to people about the Gospel.  They spoke with a man named Mohammad who owned a restaurant, and ended up having a wonderful conversation with him. Then they came back to the chapel for zone conference. While we were in the meeting, Mohammad came over to the church with a case of water to give to all of the missionaries. We were all so touched!! After zone conference we decided to walk down to his restaurant with all of the missionaries and sing "I Am a Child of God" as a thank you for the water.

He wasn't there, but we sang to his employees. They recorded it, and said they would show him. Then one of his employees asked if he could find out more about our church. He asked for a copy of the beautiful hymn we sang. Our missionaries will hook him up.

Zone conference with the Mukono zone was really good!! The zone leaders did a great job with their teaching, and there are such good missionaries there. It's really fun to get to know the missionaries better as we come spend the day with them.

After the zone conference we walked to Mohammad's restaurant and sang, and then we all went to another restaurant for lunch. Apparently, Mohammad makes hamburgers with large buns, and very very tiny meat patties, haha. So the missionaries chose another place. I think we overwhelmed them with the number of missionaries that came because I think we waited for over an hour for our food, haha. But the food was very good!

While waiting we spent time getting to know the missionaries better, and President Collings spent time teaching the restaurant employees about the Gospel. We found out later that they ended up coming to church on Sunday, which was really neat. After a yummy meal, and great conversation with our missionaries, we left for Jinja.

We had an opportunity to meet with John from the radio station in Jinja. We met at a restaurant and he brought his wife and baby girl. He actually has 5 kids. We also met the Stake President with his wife and baby. We all had a nice conversation, but John was disappointed. He kept saying, "I thought you were coming to teach me more about the Gospel." He didn't have much time to spend with us because he had to get to the station for his show. President Collings said that if he really wanted us to teach him, we would be willing to pick him up after the radio show and bring him back to our hotel to teach him. He was very happy with this idea. We missed getting a picture with John and his wife and baby, but after he left, we got a picture with President Mbiro and his wife and baby.

Later that night we had an amazing experience teaching John about the Book of Mormon. We gave him a copy of it, and taught him about it. He has such a fun personality. It was really nice being able to talk with him, and share what we know about Jesus Christ and his gospel. We ended up getting him a fish for dinner, which he had wrapped to take home and share with his wife. He said he will come to Stake Conference in Jinja in November. That was the first Sunday he is available, but we are excited because we will be there!

On a side note, one of the waitresses at the restaurant asked us about our church, and said she would like missionaries to visit her. She was very friendly, and actually pulled out a little notebook and wrote her name and phone number on it and gave it to us. It's amazing how many people just ask you to tell them about the church, and commit to come to church. Uganda is amazing.

Friday was zone conference with the Jinja and Iganga zones. I think this was our biggest group! 32 elders and sisters. They came prepared, and were able to be taught. The zone leaders did a great job teaching, and organizing it. Each time we have a zone conference, we listen to the testimonies of missionaries who will go home on the next transfer. This time it was two sister missionaries. What a blessing to have them in our mission. They have grown so strong while serving here in the UKM!

We had a buffett meal served afterwards, and again really enjoyed spending time with the missionaries. After the meal, we decided it would be nice to sing "I am a Child of God" to the staff that served us. There were close to 10 people who all decided to take pictures and videos of us singing. It was really fun.

Next stop on our journey was Mbale. It was fun going here because we were able to take Elder and Sister Phelps so they could see where they will be staying, and meet people in the branch where they will be serving. We have been trying to meet with community leaders in some of these outlying areas. It was arranged that we would meet a couple of them in Mbale, but they weren't able to make it. It was disappointing, but we are so happy that Elder and Sister Phelps will be here, and will be able to follow up and meet with them at a later date.

Church was fun. There are strong people in the Mbale branch. Many return missionaries, and many young single adults who are working towards going on a mission. We were all asked to speak in church. Sister Phelps, Elder Phelps, me, and President Collings. It was so nice to share our testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and his atonement. I'm definitely getting opportunities to speak in church a LOT! What a blessing.

We saw that there is a volleyball net set up on the church grounds. President Collings asked if they have been playing volleyball. They said that they lost the ball about a year ago, and now they can't have Family Home Evening anymore because there are no balls to play with... volleyball, soccer, or basketball. Well, we brought a basketball from the USA, and it has been in the back of our vehicle so President Collings can play with the elders. He went to the back of the vehicle and pulled out the basketball. "Look  what the Lord has sent you!" They were so excited. I think a few of them wanted to start up a game right there in the church parking lot on a Sunday afternoon. Haha. I think Elder and Sister Phelps want to get a volleyball and soccer ball for them very soon so that Family Home Evening can start again.

I bumped into this return missionary who served in Durban South Africa. We knew a few missionaries who served there, so I asked if he knew either of them. He said he knew them both, and actually, one of them was his trainer when he first arrived on his mission. His trainer  was in our ward in Grantsville.. Such a small world in the Gospel.

After church we drove to the home where the senior couple  will be staying while in Mbale. The home is being painted and cleaned, but it looks like a very nice place. I know the branch is so excited to have them here! I think they will be a nice fit for this area.

We drove home from Mbale, and made it back just after dark. It was a very long trip, but so nice.  Uganda is such a beautiful place!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Conference Weekend...sort of

Monday evening we had dinner with the senior couples at a very nice restaurant, and then went back to the mission home for a farewell testimony meeting. Our amazing office couple have reached the end of their mission. I'm finding it very hard to say goodbye to these amazing people. I've decided that I need to start saying, "See you later!" They have been amazing, and we will miss them so much!

On Tuesday we had a missionary return home to Uganda, and President Collings released him. It was too late for him to get home that night, so we had him stay in the mission home. We had planned to go study the next day with some of our own Elders, and found out that this young man was good friends with one of the Elders we were going to study with, so we invited him along. It was so fun to see this reunion of friends after two years. They will both be such a support to their branch when they go home. I love seeing the strength of these return missionaries. They are firmly rooted in the Gospel, and have become great leaders.

President Patrick of the Gulu Branch came over for the evening. We knew he had a girlfriend in Kampala that he is considering marrying. We offered to take them out to dinner if he would introduce us to her. To our surprise, after dinner, they came over to the mission home, where he proposed to her! Thankfully, she said yes. It was fun to be a part of this with them.

Thursday and Friday we had zone conferences. We combined a few zones, and our zones are larger now, so we decided to have it at the chapel instead of the mission home. Both meetings were amazing! The zone leaders are doing the training, and it's really neat to see them step up in their leadership roles. They did some activities that involved all members of the zones. President Collings focused on using all members of the Godhead in their planning and goal setting, and taught about how to utilize the Savior's Grace.

We are still working on our goal of  12 baptisms by the end of the year. Our prayers for people to approach us, have really been working. There is a couple who have been searching for the true church, they are very spiritual people. Their niece has started to introduce them to the Gospel, but thought that they would appreciate hearing about it from people who are more their age, so she approached us... Haha. They are both retired from their jobs, he is an attorney, and is working now as a consultant, both in their 60's. I guess we are closer to their age than the young missionaries. Anyway, we went and spent some time talking with them about the Gospel, and answering any questions they have. We invited them to come watch General Conference, and they were excited to come. We have had 2 baptisms, and with our missionaries, we are working on 7 investigators. It's so nice to see that, even though we are busy, Heavenly Father knows the desires of our hearts, and is helping us to reach the goal we set.

We left immediately after zone conference on Friday to go to the mission branches in Gulu and Lira. We thought it would be nice to watch a session of conference with each of the four branches. As we were driving the dirt road to Chobe lodge (which is right between the two cities) we came across our first elephant! It was so fun!

We made it to Gulu on Saturday morning and the Elders set up the projector for us to watch the Saturday morning session. Between sessions, President Collings had about 7-10 interviews, and gave 4 temple recommends.

The Gulu branch continued to watch the second session of conference, but we were disappointed that the other branch was not playing it. Sounds like maybe next week. On Sunday we went to the two branches in Lira, again expecting to watch conference. The first branch did not have it set up, and guess who ended up speaking in Sacrament meeting... Haha. It was a blessing, the branch doesn't have missionaries anymore. They have been moved to the centers of strength in Kampala and Jinja. The branch president asked President Collings to please bring back the missionaries. President Collings asked how many missionaries had been pulled out of their branch. The answer was four. Then he asked how many return missionaries live in the branch... nine. Then he asked how many active members of the church live in the branch... 64. He pointed out that nine return missionaries, and 64 branch members could do a lot more than just four missionaries. Then he spoke about how the church is founded on apostles and prophets, with Christ being the chief cornerstone. The church is not founded on the missionaries, and a branch is still able to support itself without relying on the missionaries. He was able to lift their spirits, and build some excitement for reaching out to their less active friends and neighbors, and even teaching new investigators. We left after Sacrament meeting to try and catch the final session of conference. To my disappointment, they were not watching it either. We had missed sacrament meeting there, but they combined priesthood and relief society, and President Collings spoke again, and tried to encourage the branch to reach out to those who are less active.

Sunday was Independence Day for Uganda, and the numbers at church were very few because of the holiday. Hopefully next week there will be many members there, AND they will be able to enjoy conference. For me, I'm grateful for technology, and only have one more session to watch.

For preparation day today, the Gulu Zone decided to come see the animals here at Chobe. We decided that a game of volleyball would be fun. It turned into about 5 or 6 games, and I think we all had a good time playing volleyball in the jungle, surrounded by wild animals, on the shores of the Nile. Life is good!