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!


  1. I love hearing about your work! And it was wonderful to hear and see that the branch presidents from Rwanda were present for the branch presidents' training! We love the good leaders of the branches in Rwanda!

  2. I still can't believe everything you are able to accomplish! It is amazing and inspiring!!!

  3. Hello, I promise I am not a crazy person. I have been in contact with someone from Uganda who claims to be in the Masaka Branch. Do you have an email address or contact information for George Akera? I would like to verify some information about this new friend of mine, honestly because I am nervous he is scamming me. But if he isn't, President Akera would know and I might be able to help this man and his family. You can email me at carlyrichardson22 at