Friday, January 27, 2017

New Missionaries and a New Stake

During our mission there are continuous cycles... every six weeks we send missionaries home, and every six weeks we gain new missionaries. We have around 130-140 missionaries at any given time in the Uganda Kampala Mission, and we are blessed to have the best missionaries in the world.

Recently, we received word from the Missionary department, that there will be a change in the missionaries schedules. Along with those changes, they announced a change in our schedule as mission president and wife. We are excited for the new changes, but have come to realize that we will be a little busier than we have been up to this point.

The previous cycle of our work was that we would have transfers, and then we would have missionary interviews, where President Collings interviews each missionary one by one. Then we would have transfers again, and then we would make our rounds doing zone conferences with every zone in the mission. The change will be that we have transfers, then missionary interviews, then zone conferences, then transfers again. Instead of interviews and zone conferences every 12 weeks, we will be having them both every six weeks. This will be a blessing because President Collings will get to speak with each missionary one on one every six weeks. We will also be able to train our zones every six weeks on the things that they should be working on. I hope the missionaries don't get sick of us!

So this transfer we had 8 new missionaries come. Five came from the Johannesburg MTC, including one American, and three came from the Ghana MTC. We had 5 elders and 3 sisters join our ranks. This group of missionaries are very excited to be here. There is a lot of energy within the group. They are anxious to work hard, and give their very best.

We have training of the new missionaries on Wednesday, and then we say goodbye to our departing missionaries on Thursday. During both meetings we listen to the testimonies of our missionaries. They are all wonderful, but you can definitely see a difference in the missionaries going home. They have been through the refiner's fire. They have a testimony because they have lived it for 18 months or two years. It's such a blessing to see how Heavenly Father shapes and molds people who serve him 24/7.

We said goodbye to nine missionaries. These young men and women have been such great leaders here in the Uganda Kampala Mission. It's hard to see them leave. I know there are great things in their future, and they have the potential to continue to lead this church in the various areas of the world where they live. We had one from South Africa, two from Malawi, two from Zimbabwe, one from Madagascar, and three from the United States.

With our new schedule, we have started having mission leadership council meeting (MLC) on the same week as transfers. We have it on Friday after transfers so that any newly called leaders will understand the direction we want to take the mission for the next six weeks. The things that are taught in MLC will be the same things that are touched upon during zone conferences, zone development meetings, and district development meetings. Then we start with transfers and MLC again. Having MLC on Friday afternoon was much different than we have had it before, but it was a very good meeting. We brought in our zone leaders and sister training leaders from Rwanda and Ethiopia to be a part of the meeting as well. After the meeting with the group, we had a separate meeting with our Sister Training Leaders. Most of them are new leaders, and were worried about how to lead the other sisters. The spirit was very strong in this meeting, and I believe the sisters were motivated, and will do a wonderful job.

I ended up getting sick this week. On Wednesday after eating some fruit, my throat started to itch. I actually thought I was having an allergic reaction. The itching turned to pain, and I had a pretty sore throat. I took some benadryl because I was worried about an allergic reaction. By Thursday it was doing a bit better, but I forgot and had another bite of the fruit, and immediately my throat burned again. But then it turned into a pretty terrible cold. By Friday my nose was like a leaky faucet. It didn't matter what I took, I literally had to keep a tissue right with me the entire day. By Friday, everything hurt. My whole body just ached. It was still just a bad cold, but then everything hurt (even my teeth! haha). Saturday was spent in bed, which was really disappointing.

Saturday and Sunday were very special days for the Kampala Stake. Elder Makasi one of our area authorities, and Elder Palmer of the Africa Southeast Area presidency came into town to divide the stake. Here is a link to follow that talks about the new stake. But on Saturday they had a priesthood leadership session, and then an adult session. We had been asked to speak in the adult session, but I really didn't think I could make it. I might be able to hide in the back corner of the conference and listen, but speaking wasn't going to work. President Collings ended up covering for me, and spoke alone at the adult session. By Sunday I made my way to the conference, and was met by Elder Palmer who said he still wanted us to speak together. We had an experience with finding our own converts, and he wanted us to share it.

First, they divided the stake, and renamed the old one. The new stake is the Kampala South Stake, and the old one changed from the Kampala Stake, to the Kampala North Stake. They had all of the members of the new Kampala South Stake stand, and as they named the new stake presidency, only the members of the new stake were asked to sustain him, which they did unanimously. The new stake presidency joined us on the stand, and they and their wives were asked to speak. It was very fun to see the excitement of the congregation as they heard from the new stake presidency.

After a rest hymn, it was our turn to speak. This is the message that Elder Palmer asked us to share: When we first came on our mission, we had decided that we wanted to find our own investigators to teach and baptize. We came up with the number of 12 baptisms in the 6 months before the year ended. We wanted to be an example to our missionaries and others, that they can do missionary work. The first two we taught and baptized, but quickly realized that we are extremely busy and will not be able to go out and find. Our prayers changed, and we asked that Heavenly Father would allow those who are ready to come to us. Again, we saw success with a couple more baptisms. Some we shared the message of the restoration or the plan of salvation with, and then put them in contact with our missionaries. By November, we had reached 6 baptisms, halfway to our goal. The whole mission was in the same situation, we were almost all short of the  mission goal that had been set, and it seemed like our missionaries had given up on the goal and were just going through the motions until the start of 2017. We decided we needed to put our faith in Heavenly Father, and asked our missionaries to hold a fast, that they would see the hand of the Lord in this work, and that they would have an added measure of gratitude for what he has blessed our mission with up to this point. The results were incredible. We received a call that a family of seven who had attended one of the baptisms that President Collings had performed, they had felt a witness from the Holy Ghost that they should be baptized, and requested that President Collings perform their baptisms as well. He asked that the missionaries be able to join with him in baptizing this large family, but we felt that the Lord had intervened in our behalf, and had made up the difference. We were able to count 13 baptisms by December. But what was really exciting was that our missionaries were filled with hope that they too could accomplish the goal that had been set. We had a total of 200 baptisms in two months in our mission! We did not reach the goal, but all of us could see that if we put our trust in Heavenly Father, and have a little more faith, and work a little bit harder, this is His work, and he will help us to accomplish it. We always say that it isn't about the numbers, it's about the people, but we were able to see 200 people enter the waters of baptism! It was truly a blessing to our mission.

Stake Conference was wonderful! We had around 1300 saints in attendance, and there was such a feeling of love and fellowship. We see so much potential for growth in this country! The people are ready! They are good people who have a strong faith! They love the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

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