Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas and Many Visitors

Christmas was quite a bit different this year. We didn't focus on gifts, but focused on serving other people. This Christmas was a very special one that I will always remember.

My favorite Christmas gift was being able to talk to my own missionary. Sometimes we have communication issues with Conner, so I told him my FaceTime and Skype information, and then said that if it needed to just be a phone call, WE would need to call him. I wasn't sure how hard it would be for him to call us, but we have a relatively easy time talking with people in the United States. Well, the letter I got back said, "I'll call you at 6:30am Hawaii time on Christmas Eve Day." You know how mom's think of everything that could possibly go wrong? My mind started racing, he doesn't have our number! How is he going to figure out how to reach us? Didn't he read that last letter?  Instead of getting completely stressed out that I wouldn't be able to talk to our son, I patiently waited for some news or direction. It ended up coming on Christmas Eve morning for us. His mission president called us and gave us our missionary's phone number. It was really nice talking with him for a while about our son, and how he is doing on his mission. That was my first gift! We waited until that night, and called him. It was 6:30am his time. We are 13 hours ahead of him... literally on the other side of the world! We thought he would just be waking up, but apparently, he gets up at 5:00 every morning and plays basketball at the church for his exercise. It was so wonderful to speak with him!!! AAHHH he sounds so good! He is back on Oahu, and really loves it. That phone call was my second gift!

Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, we were able to FaceTime all of our kids and our parents. The grandchildren were so excited, and Avery told us what she had asked Santa for. She said she had been very good, and I guess he agreed, because she got just what she asked for. Addie jabbered at us the whole time, and was so smiley and happy. I can't believe how quickly she's growing up. And then Harvey was all smiles as well. We haven't been able to reach our son Steve and his wife Sarah for several weeks. Apparently, they have new phones, and can no longer FaceTime with us. It was so great to finally be able to see how they are doing. I'm so grateful for how well each of our kids are doing! That was my third gift.

We called Steve's family during the Christmas Eve party and they passed the phone around the room and spoke with us one by one. Then we spoke with my parents. There was a mixture of excitement and a little bit of homesickness, but we are being so blessed for serving a mission. Gift number four.

On Christmas morning, as I was praying, I asked that I might have a spiritual experience at church. It was about 85 degrees outside, and didn't feel much like the Christmas I'm used to. We only had sacrament meeting, and when we arrived at church, we were asked to speak. I'm not one that likes to speak on the spot, but I am becoming better at it. So we sat on the stand. After the opening prayer, the Bishop got up and announced that there would be 7 confirmations. The Bishop, his counselor, and two of our missionaries stood up to confirm these 7 individuals. The Bishop confirmed the first person, which I have seen many times, but then for the second one, they rotated and had one of our missionaries do the confirmation. This Elder had been on his mission for about two weeks, and as he started to speak, I felt a rush of the Spirit. Watching one of our missionaries use the Priesthood to bless another person just made such an impression on me. This is why they are here! And they seem so young, but they are doing what the Lord wants them to be doing, and he is qualifying them for the work. After he finished they rotated again, and his companion confirmed the next person. Again, my heart swelled with joy, and love. I received an answer to my prayer. I had such a wonderful spiritual experience, and felt what a mother feels when she sees her children making good decisions, and growing in the Gospel. What a blessing. President Collings and I followed several other speakers, and really enjoyed the meeting. We went home and prepared for the evening. We invited two of the senior couples and one zone over to the mission home for Christmas dinner, and to call and Skype with their families. There were 17 elders and sisters, and it was so fun! We started taking pictures, but the missionaries were using our iPad and phones, so I didn't get them all. We really enjoyed hearing the excitement all over the mission home. It was a very special day.

On Monday, we experienced our first Boxing Day! I had no idea that they celebrate that here, but basically the entire country shuts down and it seemed like it was just an extension of Christmas Day. The roads were pretty much empty, and nobody went to work... except us and the Senior couple, haha. I'm told that Boxing Day is when they open their presents, I also heard it's a recovery day from Christmas, and they just relax. Sounds like a new tradition I'd love to try.

A couple of funny stories: We have a wonderful security guard named Martin (Marteen is how he  says it).  We have a great relationship with him. He always says he will remember President. They are always laughing and joking around. The other day we were talking, and I said, "I don't even have any pictures of you! Do you mind if I get a picture with you and President Collings?" Well, he was happy to pose for a picture, and even smiled for me. When I showed him the picture, I said that he looked very smart! (Handsome, distinguished, put together).  He looked and started laughing at it. He said, "I look like charcoal next to President!" We all laughed, but I said, "No, you look just right!" He was happy. People are very blunt here... which actually leads me to my second story.

We were pulled over by a traffic officer. That seems to happen very often here. We always are very respectful, and even try to make them laugh. We have never been given a ticket, just a hello, and they send us on our way. Well, this officer asked to see Steve's license. He said, "I'll give it to you, but you have to promise not to laugh, the picture looks pretty funny." The officer didn't even smile. He took the license, looked at it, and said, "You were fat!" Then he handed it back and told us to go on our way. We both laughed. He has lost over 20 pounds while we have been here, but I never thought he looked FAT. Haha.

The next situation happened just this week. I don't really have a problem understanding the people here anymore. I guess I have my African ears now, yay! But the other day there was a member of the stake at the mission office to meet with President Collings. When he was finished, he came over to me and we were talking. He is a very nice young man that we have gotten to know in our ward. At one point he asked me about my "Rhino".  I was a little bit confused, we have a carving of an elephant in the mission office, so I pointed to it. Then he said,  "UrAna" with a Long A sound. I'm thinking solar system now... What? He said, "you know for small?" I was completely lost. I told him to come with me, because I was determined to understand what he was saying. We walked over to a sitting area where there were two of our elders sitting, waiting to talk to President Collings. I asked them to translate for me. I seriously have never had a problem understanding this brother. Well, again he said "Rhino", and the elders said, "Rhino?" And he shook his head. This made me feel a little better. Then he said "UrAna", and they looked confused too. Then he said "for small" and immediately they knew exactly what he wanted. URINAL!  Oh my... I was so embarrassed! This poor young man just needed to use the bathroom, and I'm walking him around the office making him announce it to everyone! The elders took him and showed him where the bathroom was, and I crawled under my desk in the fetal position for an hour or two... I THOUGHT I had my African ears...

On Christmas Day, we received a phone call from one of our missionaries who had been released two weeks before. He said that he and his mother were coming back to tour his mission, and we invited them to come stay with us. What an amazing experience that turned out to be. This young man lives in Kenya. He and his mom got on a bus and rode for eight hours to Uganda. His mom was so excited to meet people that her son taught, and see the areas where he served. She was the most ambitions, positive, faithful woman! I was truly inspired by her!

They came early Monday morning. Ezekiel is his name. He and President Collings decided to run to the church and then do sports with the other elders. Steve was excited to run with a Kenyan, and Ezekiel was excited to run with his former mission president. While they were gone, I was going to drive down with his mom, and bring a basketball for them. But in the mean time, we had some time to kill. I sat down in the living room, and thought I'd have a nice conversation with her, but she had other ideas. She said, "I like  to stay busy, I don't like to sit." She said in their culture the men sit and talk, and the women work together. She asked what she could do in my house, and then pointed out how dirty my floors were. The night before was Christmas, and we had 24 people over, eating, and calling home. By the time everyone left, it was pretty late. I had swept areas that looked bad, but the floor was still bad. I have two brooms, so I said I would be happy to have her help sweeping the floors. That went by pretty quickly, but right away she asked for a bucket of water and a rag. She actually wanted a towel. I brought it out, and a mop for me, and she went to work mopping my floors. I started to protest a bit when she actually pulled out the chairs and crawled under my tables to mop, but she kept quoting the scripture, "When you are in the service of your fellow beings, you are only in the service of your God. Thank you for letting me serve God today." How can I argue with that?  I felt very humbled that she was so anxious to serve. When the floor was mopped, I told her it was time to go see the missionaries. We drove down to the church, and she was able to meet the elders that her son knew. I believe there were a couple that had been his companions.

Ezekiel had planned the entire trip. They would visit with people around the Kampala area the first day, then take a taxi to  Kajjansi the second day, and on the third day, they would take a taxi to Jinja, stopping at areas where he had served on the way. From Jinja, they would get on a bus back to Kenya. His mom was so excited. She  is about 60 years old. She said that she had always wanted to serve a mission, and this week with her son was her mission. Each area that they went to, she brought a Liahona magazine and shared a message with the people and some candy.  Some of the people were active members of the church. Some were less active, and some were just investigating. She bore testimony to them, and said she really felt like she was able to be a missionary. You could see the love and pride she has for her son who served an honorable mission, and you could see what a support she has been to her son. She truly has a strong testimony of the Gospel. At one point she said that she would walk from Kenya to Johannesburg just to go to the temple again. She loves it so much. She and her son are both endowed members. She also talked about her calling in the church. She has been the secretary in the Relief Society for six years, and a teacher. She said she shares the Gospel with everyone around her, and has seen so many people baptized because of her sharing the Gospel with them. She says if she was in another religion, they would build a church for her and make her the pastor over it because of all the people she has converted, but she knows that this church doesn't work that way, and a man is called of God to lead each congregation. She is just happy to have the true church in her life.

One blessing that has come to this family, Ezekiel's mom  says it is a blessing from her son serving a mission. When he was very young, his father left the family, and his mother raised six children on her own. She and her two youngest sons joined the church together. Her other kids were already married and had moved away by this time. While her son was serving a mission, she and her husband were reunited, and married. Her husband was baptized a member of the church. When Ezekiel heard this, he said he didn't believe it. Then the family sent pictures and he said he had to believe it. Before his mission was over, we asked him what he wanted to do after his mission. He said, "I just want to be with my FAMILY" .

For each meal we had together while they were here, his mom asked if I would show her how I set the table. I showed her the first time, and then let her set it each time afterwards. She took pictures, and was so excited. She also insisted on letting her wash the dishes for me when we were done. We worked together, but again, I was so impressed, and humbled by her service and frankly her ambition.  We enjoyed having them here so much! I will be forever changed just knowing this sweet Kenyan family. Ezekiel says he hopes to get married in the next two years so we will be able to meet his wife before our mission is over. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

We have always said how friendly people are here in Uganda. If you smile at them, their whole face lights up. If you stop your car and allow them to pass, they smile and wave. We have really enjoyed it. Well these past few weeks, we have had people from other countries verify that this is the case. Ezekiel's mom mentioned how people just smile and wave. How happy people of Uganda are.  She said in Kenya, they will point at you sternly, and shake their finger at you. We had our senior couple from Ethiopia come for a short stay, and they also mentioned how different it is here in Uganda. People are just happier. I believe it.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas and a Safari

As we are finishing up the year here in the Uganda Kampala mission, it's been so exciting. We have enjoyed Christmas devotionals with all of the missionaries in Uganda this week. We divided it up into Kampala and Jinja areas, with five zones coming to Kampala, and three zones coming to Jinja. We had the missionaries perform skits for us. It's so funny to see how they portray President Collings and myself when they do skits. We really enjoyed it. Of course the person who portrayed me was an Elder... not sure how I feel about that, Haha. Several of the groups sang songs, which were really fun.  We posted the videos on Facebook.

Elder Foster, Elder Beck, Elder Goodrich, Elder Shepherd, Elder Mafirashango, Elder Phiri, Elder Mugwagwa, Elder Dibatayi, Elder (I can't tell), Elder Obeng, Elder Haines, Elder Harding, Elder Packer

Elder Yemoh, Elder Khoriyo, Elder Christensen, Elder Hart, Elder Hawk, Elder LeCheminant, and Elder Quateng

Elder Long, Elder Oliverson, Elder Ray, and Elder Dowdle

We made lunch for them. In Kampala, it consisted of Chicken Breasts, loaded baked potatoes, chipatis, coleslaw, green salad and Greek salad. With ice cream for dessert. None of our missionaries went hungry! In Jinja, we had chicken salad sandwiches, with pasta salad, cole slaw, papaya, and pineapple. With fresh baked cookies for dessert. Again, everyone enjoyed the meal, and ate until they were full. I have to say thank you to the Sisters who are always so willing to help out with food. They have so many other things that they are doing to keep them busy, but if they weren't around to help, I would have to come up with food for over 120 missionaries on my own. Sister Phelps, Sister Bratsman, Sister Tower, Suzan, Sarah, and Jackie. Sister Phelps and I fed 50 elders in Jinja, and she had to drive 3 hours to get there with the food. The other ladies fed 70 elders in Kampala. I appreciate them so much!

Jackie, Suzan, Sarah, Sister Bratsman, and Sister Tower

Elder and Sister Phelps

During lunch we were able to watch a DVD of the missionaries in 2016. It was made by Suzan, and had pictures put to music. It was so fun for them to watch while they were eating. The pictures were a combination of funny and spiritual, and there was even a video clip. The missionaries were laughing, and really enjoying it.
Elder Schweitzer, Elder Malaza, and President Collings

Elder Collison, Elder Brogan, and Elder Dean

Elder Hawk, Elder Roylance, Elder Christensen, Elder Khoriyo, Elder Haines

Elder Haines, Elder Harding, and Elder Shepherd

Elder Owens,  Elder Mokena, and Elder Yemoh

Elder Goodrich, Elder Chandler, Elder Mukaro, Elder Neff, Elder Hart, and Elder Malaza

Elder Andriasithernia, Elder Gangire, Elder Khoriyo, Elder Davidson, Elder Beja, Elder Essoun, Elder Foster, Sister Solomampionona, and  Elder Dean

Sister Dimbi, Sister Ramson, Sister Mteshi, Elder Tembo, Elder Aaron, Elder Mugwagwa, Elder Phiri, Elder Mafirashango, and Elder Dibatayi

Elder Seibert, and Elder Oliverson

Elder Long, and  Elder Tesch

Elder Barrett, and Elder Anderson

Elder Smith, Elder Agyemang, Elder Nkosi, Elder Ndamane, Elder Darko, Sister Rakotandaraminana, Sister Kunene, and Elder Osei-Tutu

Elder Ward, Elder Mumba, and Elder Cieslak

Elder Moncur, Elder Bemis, Elder Barrington, and Elder Koopmans

After watching the DVD, we had a testimony meeting. I absolutely love listening to our missionaries bear testimony.  It was wonderful. We gave them their gifts, and President Collings gave some parting remarks. I think everyone really had a good experience.

On Tuesday, we brought in the new missionaries to the Mission Home. They have been out just about three weeks now, and we had them come back in for a follow up training day. Their trainers come to this meeting as well, and we just try to help them all understand what is expected while they are here on their missions. We tell the new missionaries things so their trainers will hear it, and tell the trainers what we expect so that their companions will hear it. We had some pretty amazing things happen after our training this time.

One missionary called President Collings and said something clicked during that meeting, he finally gets it! He said that he was being held back by his own doubts, and had decided that from that day he would have a little more faith, and trust that the Lord would help him to reach his goals. His whole attitude changed. That night, after the meeting, this elder called President Collings, he was excited to tell him that he had this experience, and that he finally understood what President has tried to teach the elders for the past few months. Then he said that as he and his companion were traveling home, they had people approaching them right and left, and in just one and a half hours, they had 14 new investigators! The very next day they taught seven lessons to those investigators.

That same day, another missionary called President Collings after the meeting. He and his companion found a man that said he had been looking for a church that would give his family peace in their lives.  They started to talk to him and he asked if he could bring his whole family to be taught. They felt like this church had the answers they were seeking. Then the father said that every Sunday he has a bible study group that meets in his home. He committed to have him and his entire family come to church on Sunday, and said he would invite the 16 people from his bible study group to come as well. These elders had both decided to have a little more faith to find, and were shocked with how they were blessed.

Every year the senior couples get together for a Couple's conference. This year we went to Murchisan National Park, and we were able to enjoy some time getting to know each other better, and enjoying our Heavenly Father's creations. We went on a boat up the Victoria Nile to the base of Murchisan Falls, then hiked up to the top of the falls. It was AMAZING!

While on the boat ride, we saw so many animals! We saw crocodiles, hippos, many types of antelope, and beautiful birds, but my favorite were the elephants. We decided to count all of the elephants we saw, and ended up seeing 39!! So fun.

 That alone was enough for me, but then we rode in a big safari jeep. One evening we were out after dark, and saw a hyena, and a jackal. We saw many giraffes and elephants as well. At one point we came across an elephant nursery. There were at least six mothers with their babies all together. We were looking for lions, and at one point we heard one roar. We drove towards the sound, but never saw it. That same evening, one of the other couples did see a lion and her cub. If you're ever in Uganda, I would highly recommend going on a Safari in Murchisan National Park. It was so worth it! We were able to be there on our 28th wedding anniversary, which made it really special. I never imagined that I would be spending an anniversary on safari, with my husband serving as a mission president. You never know where life will take you. We are truly blessed.

A couple of more fun stories. These are just so I can remember them. While Suzan, Sarah, and Jackie were making chipatis at the mission home, Suzan asked me for a "mingling stick". I wasn't sure what she was asking me for, but then she pointed to the pot of meat, and I realized she needed a big spoon to mix it with. I do have a very LARGE mingling stick at the mission home! I told her I would be writing this down, I love that!

While Steve and I were sitting at the lodge one evening, a waiter asked us if we wanted anything to drink. We asked for a cold Coke  Zero with ice. He came back a few minutes later and apologized that the Coke Zero was not cold. We asked if he had ice and he said yes. So we asked him to bring out the warm Coke Zero with the ice. He was very confused, "You want WARM Coke Zero with ICE?" We said yes, we will just put the Coke Zero in the ice. His eyes brightened and he said, "OH! So it BALANCES!" Yes. Warm Coke Zero with ice balances it.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Hello, Goodbye, and Merry Christmas

We received a good size group of missionaries from all three MTC's this week. The nice thing is they all came on the same day. Tuesday was very busy, but they all made it here! I can't say the same about their luggage.... darn. At 8:30 am we were supposed to have a sister come from Ghana MTC. She had a layover in Nairobi, but her flight was late and she missed her connection. We received information that she would be arriving around 1:00 in the afternoon instead. It worked out well for us, because the sister missionaries in Entebbe, which is right by the airport, were needing training. We were able to go to their apartment with the Assistants to the President, and help train these sister missionaries. We made it back to the airport, and again waited for this sister missionary. The flight was delayed 40 minutes... then she didn't come out at after the flight did arrive, and we waited over an hour. We had our second set of missionaries coming at 2:30, now it was time for them to start coming, and suddenly she showed up. Apparently she had lost her luggage and was filling out paperwork, which is all done back where we can't see them. They said her luggage would make it to the airport around 7:00 pm. We knew we would be back to pick up another missionaries at 11:30pm, so we told her we could pick it up for her. Within in a few minutes of her arrival, we had four more missionaries arrive from the Johannesburg MTC. They made it with no problems, and after a few pictures, they were off to Kampala. We arrived back at the airport at 11:30, but the flight had been delayed until after midnight. We had one more missionary arriving from the Provo MTC. He made it just fine, but his luggage was lost too. We were able pick up the luggage for the first missionary, but filling out the paperwork for this last missionary took over an hour. We finally arrived at the mission home at around 2:00 am, and got to sleep thirty minutes later.

Wednesday was training day. All the new missionaries were brought to the mission home at 9:00 am. They had interviews with President Collings, wrote letters home, filled out paperwork, took care of passports, yellow fever cards, and all of the other odds and ends that we need to do. Then we had breakfast. We had breakfast casserole, and french toast casserole, fresh fruits, and juice. They were all able to just relax and talk with each other. After breakfast, the trainers were brought in, and the missionaries were introduced to their trainers, and told which area they would be serving in. It's always so fun to see the excitement in these new missionaries. One by one, they bore their testimony, and then we trained the trainers. President Collings had some remarks for them, setting the expectations high. The spirit was felt very strong, and we are really excited to see how these new missionaries progress. We keep being so amazed at the caliper of missionaries we receive here in the UKM. They are so prepared, and are such great young men and women. After a full day of training, they were off to their new areas with their new companions. Oh, the last Elder had one bag that was sent to an airline office in Kampala, and the other bag that was kept at the airport. So he had a little bit of driving with his zone leaders to finally get his bags... but he got them, and made it to his new area as well.

Thursday is our farewell dinner for our missionaries who are being released. President always dresses in his best suit when we have missionaries going home. He says it's a sign of respect for the people that they have become, and for the sacrifices they have made to come on their mission. We had nine missionaries returning home, and one by one as they arrived at the mission home, they were dressed in their suits as well. I have been here six months, and have never seen any of them wear a suit. We were so touched! It brought tears to my eyes as they came in. We always have a testimony meeting, and the power with which they bear testimony is so strong. Elder Hamilton said that 2 years in missionary life is like dog years. You have about 14 years worth of growth in 2 years of missionary service. These men and women are AMAZING! After a dinner, a few thoughts shared, and testimonies borne, they were all off to their homes. Several left in tears, which was really touching. I'm always in tears on these days.  What a blessing each of them are to us!

As the last vehicle drove away, President Collings and I sat on the couch in tears. My emotions have really been close to the surface with missionaries going home, and being away from family during this Christmas season. I was more feeling sorry for myself, saying goodbye to 9 more missionaries, and missing my family. President, I think was more touched by their goodness (He's always thinking on a higher level than I am.). But as we were both sitting there on the couch, I got a FaceTime call from our daughter, Kaylea. When we answered it, there was our precious little Harvey, just grinning at us! He's only three months old, but as we would make noises to him, he would laugh at us. It brightened our whole day! He lightened our spirits, and helped me get through a rough night.

Several weeks ago, we met with several pastors from other churches. They toured several cities in the United States, including Salt Lake City. When they came back to Uganda, we took them out to lunch, and took them on a tour of one of our churches. We were able to become good friends with them. Well, one of the Bishops invited President Collings to come to his church and preach to his congregation. On Friday we made our way to their church, the Divine Liberty Church, and brought the Assistants to the President, and Richard and Sarah, who both work in the mission office. Richard is also a Branch President in the Stake, and Sarah is the Stake Primary president. It was a celebration of Thanksgiving that lasted several hours. When we arrived, there were people up front singing, dancing, and praying.

After the first hour of singing, the Bishop showed up. He was invited to the front, where he sang, and spoke. Even as he spoke, there was a man playing music in the background.  He invited people to come up and "minister". And one by one, people would come up and sing, or a group would dance while someone was singing. With all of this music going on, the people in the congregation were dancing as well, and several of them had whistles and horns that they would blow. It was a pretty loud church service. Then it came time for President Collings to speak. The Bishop introduced him, and really got the congregation into a frenzy. By the time he was done introducing him, everyone was cheering and clapping.

He came up to the front and explained that his talk was going to be a little bit different. That when he speaks, he does not sing or dance because the Holy Ghost speaks with a still small voice, and he likes to speak through the Holy Ghost. (All the while, the keyboard is playing a background music, haha). But then he invited those of us who were with him to come up and sing for them. We sang, I am a Child of God, and the keyboard player, played along as best as he could. He spoke about the love Heavenly Father has for all of his children, and then presented a Book of Mormon to the Bishop. He asked Elder Malaza, one of his assistants, to tell the congregation about the Book of Mormon.

He told them about the Book of Mormon, and then bore testimony of it's truthfulness. He read passages about Jesus Christ, and testified that he visited people on the other side of the world after he was resurrected. Then President Collings read a few other scriptures to them, and talked about how we all need to strive to be like Jesus Christ by serving others, and lifting their burdens. He also bore testimony of the Book of Mormon.

After this, we were all invited outside where lunch was being served. We had a truly Ugandan meal of Matoke, rice, pasta, chicken, beef, g-nut sauce, vegetables, and watermelon. It was SO good! We were able to really talk with the Bishop and find out more about his life and what led him to be a bishop of this congregation. He is married with four children, but has adopted 105 orphans that he cares for too. He is actually on his second generation of orphans. His older ones are now adults, and some are married with kids of their own. He cares for them like his own kids. It was really fun to get to know him better.

As we were getting ready to leave, we said goodbye to all of the kids. We shook hands, gave high fives, and knuckles. Then as I was shaking hands with one little girl, she rubbed my arm. I laughed and rubbed my arm too, and said, "See, it doesn't come off!" (My skin really is white) Suddenly about 15 kids were all rubbing my arm, I was worried it would come off, haha. It was really a sweet experience. While I was greeting the children, I looked over at the Assistants. They were talking with two of the young adults. They had a Book of Mormon open and were pointing out things to them in it. I was so proud of them for not forgetting their missionary purpose. As we left, they said that they were very interested in learning more about the church. If we only planted one or two seeds, this day was worth it.

We drove back to Kampala, and made it in time to catch a midnight flight to Rwanda. We are having Zone Conference/ Christmas parties this month. Rwanda is first on the list, this was the only time we would be able to make it to Rwanda before Christmas. We asked the Zone Leaders to plan the things they wanted to do for the party. It was so fun. We started with lunch, and watched a DVD of the UKM in 2016 while eating lunch. The missionaries all submitted six pictures each, and then Suzan in our office put them to music. We will be giving a copy of the DVD to each of the missionaries.  She did such a great job. The missionaries LOVED watching it.

Then we talked with them about having gratitude during this Christmas season. We talked about President Eyring's talk from 2007 on gratitude. He spoke about how each day he would write down how he had seen the hand of the Lord touch his life. As he pondered his day, the would remember different things that had happened, and as he wrote them down, his heart would be full of such gratitude. I encourage you to read this talk again. It really had an impact on us. We decided to make a "gratitude journal" for each of our missionaries, and encouraged them to take just a bit of time each evening, and write down how they saw the Lord touch their lives that day.  President spoke with them for a bit about how they can accomplish their goal for the year, and about how they can reach the standards of excellence. This is not something that will end in December, but he is trying to teach them how setting goals, and trusting Heavenly Father to help you accomplish those goals will help them for the rest of their lives.

Later we had some skits, well, technically it was only one skit on the word of wisdom, which was pretty funny. One of the other groups told about their most memorable Christmas. It was very touching. The final group had everyone stand together, with me ready to take their picture. They had everyone open a VERY sour warhead and while they put it in their mouths, I was supposed to take pictures of it. We got some pretty funny pictures.

The sisters had been practicing a few songs to sing to us. They did such a great job. And then we had a white elephant gift exchange. There were some pretty creative gifts, haha.

We ended the day by going outside, and standing in front of the church. There are so many people who walk by throughout the day. We sang Christmas carols to people who were walking by. You would be surprised how many crossed the road and came up to us and shook our hands. The missionaries would talk with them, and tell them a little bit about the church, and invite them to come. We sang for about 30 minutes, and probably had 10 or 12 people stop and talk to us about the church.

All in all, it was a very fun day. The members of this zone are such great missionaries. They are really unified, and are seeing such success.

On Sunday, President Collings had some interviews, so I found a room upstairs at the church, and was trying to get some work done before church. I had some children come upstairs and ask me all kinds of questions. Then they asked if we could take some pictures. How can I say no to that? They were very sweet. It was a fun memory.
The girl is Angel, but I couldn't understand her brothers' names.

I really felt the Christmas Spirit during our trip to Rwanda, and although I'm far from home, I think this Christmas will be extra special. People in Africa don't buy gifts, they spend time with family and friends, and have feasts. They are very focused on Jesus Christ. I feel like people here really get it. Christmas isn't about presents at all, it's about family, friends, Christ, and LOVE. It's going to be a great Christmas.