Sunday, November 27, 2016

Johannesburg with an Apostle

This week has been quite incredible. Every six months all of the mission presidents in the Southeast Africa Area come together for a seminar. There are 15 missions in the Southeast Africa area, and 8 of the mission presidents are as new as we are. It was so fun getting to see the people we spent time with in the MTC, and then to get to know the other missionaries in the area was just so incredible.

We flew in and immediately met President and Sister Msani, from Kenya. We took the same van to the hotel, and were able to swap stories. Their grandson is serving in our mission, so there is added excitement there as we were able to tell them what a good missionary he is. Apparently, the driving in Kenya is worse than Uganda? I'm not sure if I believe them, I may have to take a trip there to see. Haha.

What made this Seminar extra special was that Elder D. Todd Christofferson and his wife were there along with Elder Ulisses Soares and his wife, he is the General Authority who set me apart for this mission! We were able to be taught by them several times over the 3 days that we were in Johannesburg. What an amazing experience.

We had a very nice dinner the first evening, at the Area Presidency Residence. It was a beautiful evening, and we were outdoors. They served such wonderful food! It gave us a taste of American and African cuisine. We were able to take a group photo that evening of all the Mission Presidents, Area Presidency, and Elder Christofferson, Elder Soares, and their wives.

We also got to go to the Johannesburg Temple for a session. It has been 5 long months since we attended the temple. The feelings there were absolutely amazing. Both President Collings and I found ourselves in tears. You really learn to appreciate the temple when you are not able to attend. What a blessing that we can go at least once a year. There are many who can't.

One of my favorite things that happened at this seminar was that all of the mission presidents were able to share ideas and best practices with each other. We are all going through similar situations, and are developing such a bond with each other. All of these ideas were so helpful. I'm sure we will implement some of them, and will continue to lift this mission to it's highest potential.

The highlight of the seminar was Elder Christofferson's final remarks to us. He left a blessing on us, and it was powerful. He also taught us what it means to be a Special Witness of Jesus Christ. We felt truly edified by his remarks, and want to go back and study the things he told us.

We were able to spend some time shopping in the mall by the hotel. It feels so much like the United States. We were able to find some necessities that we can't seem to find in Uganda. The driving is wonderful as well! It's so nice to see stop lights (they call them robots...) and traffic that goes freeway speed on the freeway.

We were sad to see the seminar come to an end. We have really grown close to these mission presidents and their wives. But we felt revitalized and renewed, and excited to get back to doing the Lord's work.

We flew back on Saturday, and arrived at the mission home at about 9:30 PM on Saturday night. The next morning we left at 6:00 am for Stake Conference. This was the largest gathering of Saints I have seen since I came out on my mission. President Collings and I were asked to speak, so we were sitting on the stand, and one by one, bus loads of people were dropped off at the church. The stake president said that they had set up 900 chairs, and he was hoping to fill them all. From where I was sitting, they all looked full! It was amazing. We have over 30 missionaries serving in the Jinja Stake, and they are staying pretty busy. It was so fun to see them scattered throughout the congregation. At the end of the meeting, several of them introduced us to recent converts, or people investigating the church. All very happy to be a part of such a wonderful event.

We truly are seeing miracles in the Uganda Kampala Mission. We love it here!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


When missionaries arrive here in the Uganda Kampala Mission, they are pretty overwhelmed, and sleepy, and are in a bit of culture shock. Bombarding them with a day of training, along with all of the do's and don'ts of the mission was a little bit too much for them to remember. So this time we had a group of new missionaries come, we did a brief training, and then had them come back to the mission home 3 weeks later for a follow-up training. By this time, they are starting to adjust to their regular schedule, and actually know what questions they may have. When we tell them why we have certain rules, it sinks in because they have seen the conditions of where they are living, and the ward or branch members they are serving. Our first follow-up training for new missionaries was on Tuesday. We spent the whole day going over their morning routine, planning, and goal setting. We did role plays, and gave them time to ask questions. We also did some team building exercises with their trainers to help them build unity in their companionship. It's a work in progress, but we really felt like it went well, and we would like to continue to have this kind of training for all of our new missionaries. It was a very good experience for us.

Thursday we went to Jinja for interviews, which was a treat. While President Collings gave the interviews, the zone leaders did training. At one point, for an object lesson, they had a three legged race. The missionary who was doing the training said the first team to run to him would win. At the signal they ran, and the winning team couldn't decide which side of this missionary to run to, they split and plowed right through this poor missionary. I'm pretty sure there is another object lesson there, but I didn't say anything. Haha. That day I found 3 people who were interested in the Gospel. These people approached me and asked about why I'm here in Jinja, and asked about the church. Each of them want to be taught the gospel, and gave me their contact information.

We had a meeting that evening with the directors of welfare and self reliance for the church out of South Africa and Kenya, they had been teaching in the Jinja Stake, and we enjoyed so much talking with them and understanding more about the needs of the people here in our mission. They are really helping people here to understand that they can lift themselves out of poverty through hard work, planning, and putting the Lord first. During our meeting, our waitress, Jackie, asked us if we could please have missionaries contact her. She has seen us in Jinja several times at this restaurant, and we have had a few conversations with her. Each time she has expressed interest in the church. We are sending her some sister missionaries this week! It's amazing how prepared the country of Uganda is for the gospel.

We went to Iganga on Friday. It was very interesting inside of the Bugembe chapel where we were doing the interviews. There were several men doing some maintenance on the building. The chapel is concrete with tile floors inside and at the outside entryway. The cement is painted white. There was a man with a bucket of soapy water, and he was hand washing the outside walls of the chapel, and then took a hose and rinsed it off. It really makes a difference. There is red dirt here in Uganda, and everything turns the deep orange/red color. Washing down the white walls really made the building pop! While they were outside working, as we walked into the building there was a huge puddle of water right in the front foyer/ hallway. I'm not sure how it got there, but we kept having to walk around it to go in and out of the building, and even going down the hall. Nobody seemed too worried about it, so I figured they would come in and mop it later in the day. While we were meeting in the chapel, there were stacks of chairs about 6 or 8 high all around the room. One of the workers brought a young boy, probably six or seven years old into the chapel and set a bucket of soapy water next to him and gave him a rag. It was his job to wipe down the legs of all the chairs in all the stacks around the room. He was so sweet, at one point I handed out biscuits (cookies) to my elders. He walked over to me and just smiled really big. Of course I gave him some too. A few minutes later he came over and pointed to my bucket of biscuits, and of course I gave him more. After we were done with the training and interviews, we moved into a classroom and I had pizzas for the missionaries. We were sitting in this classroom eating while the man outside was washing the walls of the church. When he took the hose and sprayed down the outside wall, all of the sudden, we had water start gushing out of the ceiling tiles, and down the walls of the room we were in. We had to quickly move the pizza out of the way because it was under a waterfall. We yelled for him to stop spraying, and he came inside and saw all of the water which was now on the floor. I'm starting to think that the puddle in the foyer got there the same way... There are a few Americans in this zone. We just laughed and said, I can't imagine this ever happening in Utah! As we were preparing to leave, we were standing outside the church, but in a covered entryway. There were still workers all around the church doing maintenance. All of a sudden there was a BANG, and a man who had been working on  the roof of the building came crashing down to the ground, ladder and all. He had put the ladder, which was hand made of logs, on a ramp that was made of (slick) tile. When he got to the top of the ladder, the bottom of it slipped on the tile and he and the ladder all came crashing down to the ground. He immediately stood up  and waved to everyone, and said he was okay. I'm pretty sure it scared him to death, I know it scared me!!

Saturday President Collings had a coordinating council with the stake presidents in Ugand and Elder Makasi from South Africa. Then we had elders from the Gulu zone come to the mission home for interviews. I know it was a long drive for them to get to the mission home, but I think they appreciated the home cooked meal we made for them and the ice cream for dessert. It was a five hour drive to the mission home, and a five hour drive back to their area, and two hours in the mission home eating, interviewing, and training. A long day, but it enabled President Collings to make it to all of the meetings that were necessary.

On Sunday we had a guest come and join us at church. His name is Junior, and he is from one of the other churches that we have befriended. President Collings has been invited to come speak to their congregation, so he decided to come to our church and see how we worship. It was a nice time. He stayed for all three hours of church, and was really touched by the spirit that was there. One of our investigators was supposed to get baptized that day, but his sister died, and he was with his family. So sad. There was also an LDS woman visiting from Napal. The ward members were so happy to have her visit, they all wanted pictures taken with her at the end of the meeting.

That night we had the Assistants to the president come to the home for a meeting with President Collings. We decided to make them a big breakfast for Sunday dinner, with eggs, bacon, and pancakes. A little bit different, but theydidn't complain. In fact one said he couldn't remember the last time he had a nice breakfast.

I have been reading ten pages a day of the Book of Mormon. I have absolutely loved it, and look forward each day to reading it. I have been trying to focus on the blessings I am receiving by reading it, and have really noticed a difference. Obviously being a missionary, we focus on living the gospel every day, but add daily study of the Book of Mormon, and it has been wonderful. My entire attitude about this mission has changed. It was never bad, but it has gotten so much better, and just changed my perspective about a lot of things. I credit the Book of Mormon studies for all of this. What a blessing to have it and to read from it every day.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The field is WHITE!

Another couple, the Howard's,  returned to the United States this week, and I'm so sorry to see them go. They have been the Humanitarian Couple here in the Uganda Kampala Mission. They have traveled the tiniest dirt roads to the most remote villages, and have brought water to the villages, and latrines and desks to the schools. On top of all the  humanitarian work they have done, they have also been there to help me every time I have a group of missionaries come to the mission home and need to be fed. They are Such an amazing couple! We have been so blessed to get to know them!

On the same day that the Howard's went to the airport, we had another missionary come to our mission. He should have come with our last group from the Johannesburg MTC last week, but while he was in the MTC, he contracted the mumps and was sent home to recover. He was SO disappointed. He says he had worked so hard to be able to go on his mission. And ended up having to wait 8 months. He was so excited to FINALLY go to the MTC, and then got sick and had to stay home for another week. I think he's anxious to get out there and be a missionary! We are excited to have him!

While we were on our way to the airport to pick up this elder, there was a torrential rainstorm. It was coming down in buckets!! This is an amazing place, I can't believe how much rain can fall when it is raining!! Wow! I took a picture of the road that we drove down that was really flooded. There really was only room for one lane of traffic. Funny thing was, we drove down this same road the next day, and there are deep ditches on each side of the road, at least 3 feet deep! I couldn't believe that the ditches on each side of the road were completely full, and you couldn't even see any evidence of them during the rainstorm. Crazy.

The next day we were on our way to Rwanda! It's interesting, with each country our mission is in, the feeling is completely different. It really is like we have 3 missions. I don't know how else to describe it. President Collings always has interviews lined up when he goes to Rwanda. They have 3 branches, but no District yet, so he is the priesthood leader. Basically, any temple recommends, priesthood advancements, or leadership callings, like branch presidency or elders quorum president, he takes care of. The church is growing very fast in Rwanda! We have added another set of sister missionaries, and another set of elders, so there are 14 missionaries in 3 branches. But they are staying very busy, in fact, last week there were 39 investigators in the 3 branches. The new sister missionaries have only been in Rwanda for one week, and they found a family of 16 who are interested in the gospel. It is two sisters who live by each other, and their spouses and kids. When the missionaries come to teach, both families gather together. There are 10 of them who are over the age of eight years old, and can be baptized.

While we were at one of the churches, President Collings stood at the gate just outside of the church and spoke to about 5 different people. One of them said he had been a member and then a few years ago he just stopped coming, he said he would like to come back. Another one said that he wanted to hear more. He spoke with one of the missionaries, and committed to come to church on Sunday. As he left, he thanked President Collings and said something felt different in this church. We went back to the hotel and had to stop at reception to figure out some things with our room. One of the ladies behind the counter is a member of our church, we met her the last time we were in Rwanda. She was there. As we were being helped by another lady, she started to ask about our church. President told her that the lady right next to her was a member of our church. She was so surprised. The more time we spent with her, the more excited she acted. She said that she would like to start coming to our church, and that she would ask her co-worker to bring her. She was very anxious to give her contact information to us to pass on to our missionaries. It seemed like we couldn't get out of the lobby of the hotel, we were stopped by one of the other workers, who also asked us about the church. He said he had seen it by his house. He said he would go and also wanted to give us his number.  I think in one day, in less than a half hour total, he had eight referrals to give to our missionaries.

We went to church in Rwanda on Sunday in one of the branches. There were so many investigators, we were surprised. The family of 16 came, and several other investigators . One man said that he had a dream that he should come to this church. Another said he was led by the spirit to this church. One woman who was baptized a month ago brought a friend with her to church. Each of these individuals got up and said that they believe this church is true, and hope to be a member. This is all in one branch in one day.  Another branch had 2 baptisms, and as we watched the baptisms, we were introduced to two other men who will be getting baptized in the next few weeks. Yet another looked it up online and decided he needed to go to church here. The country of Rwanda is really prepared to hear the gospel. It's amazing.

This week in the mission has been a week of missionary interviews. President Collings has tried to raise the level of accountability with the missionaries, but still show a high level of love. We have noticed that the missionaries who are being obedient are truly seeing miracles.