Friday was great. We felt like we were able to get a lot done. After a few hours in the office, we drove to Jinja. On the way, we stopped in Lugazi and President Collings went proselyting with two of the missionaries in that district.
He had an impression that this area was ripe the last time we came through Lugazi, and really enjoyed the time he spent there this time. The missionaries did a great job, and they all really enjoyed the day.
In Jinja, we spent the night, and planned to wake up the next morning and have the combined zone conference. At 5:00am, President Collings received a phone call that the branch president in Masaka had passed away. President George Akera has been a wonderful branch president, but has been in the hospital for the past two months. We were so sad to hear that he had passed away.
President Collings with President Akera
Arrangements were made quickly. The family decided that they would transport the body to Gulu on Sunday afternoon. We had to make a few adjustments in our schedule so that we could be there. Our time spent with the Jinja and Iganga zones had to be cut short. We spent a couple of hours with them for zone conference, and then left early, and let the zone leaders and sister training leader finish the training. The zones again were amazing. We had a lot of participation in the meeting, and felt like they were really prepared.
It was hard saying goodbye so soon, but we were needed in Masaka. We left Jinja, and drove the 5 hour drive to Masaka. President Collings met with some of the priesthood holders, and conducted some interviews. He thought he would just see who might be a good branch president, and thought he would come back in a few weeks to call a new branch presidency, but as he conducted the interviews, he received confirmation who the new branch president should be, and that he should be called the next day.
The meeting on Sunday was very nice. We held sacrament meeting, and we were able to sustain the new branch presidency. There were some very tender feelings all around. Lots of love and tears for a beloved Branch President. But we were also willing to move forward in faith, and with the confidence that this branch would stay strong, and continue to grow. This is the new branch presidency.
President Robert Ssekitto (sitting), First Counselor: Kirabo Henry, Second Counselor: Mabibi Charles
New Branch Presidency with President Collings
President Ssekitto and his family
Missionaries sang Be Still My Soul
President Akera's body was taken to Gulu for burial. There were around 500 people who attended his burial services. He truly was loved. President Collings says he is sure that President Akera is busily doing missionary work on the other side of the veil. He is a devoted servant of Jesus Christ.
Well, this was also Mother's Day. We drove to the mission home, and arrived there by about 4:00. We had invited one of the districts to come to the mission home and have dinner, then Skype, FaceTime, or talk on the phone with their mothers. I made a simple dinner of spaghetti, with peanut butter bars for dessert, and we had missionaries all around TRYING to Skype. Our internet connection at the mission home was TERRIBLE. I felt so bad. It's so frustrating when you want to talk face to face with someone, and the network is bad. I think most of the missionaries ended up giving up and making a phone call home instead. They were all very kind about it, although I know they were disappointed. (Sorry to you moms for the frustration...)
After they left, it was my turn to talk to my own missionary. Oh how I miss him!!! It was so good to hear his voice. We just got a phone call, but it was a great phone call! It's crazy to think that the next time I talk to him, it will be face to face!! Here in Uganda!!! It was fun to hear stories of his mission, and to hear him pray in Tongan. He really has grown and changed over the last 18 months! I think he loves Hawaii too much to miss us! Haha.
Elder Collings in Hawaii
I called my mom the day before Mother's Day, because I knew we would both be busy with helping missionaries call home on Mother's Day. I wasn't able to talk with my other kids because the internet was so bad, but I received messages from all of my kids, along with text messages from some of the Uganda Kampala Missionaries, which were really sweet. What surprised me most was to receive messages from returned missionaries! They were so sweet to reach out to me for Mother's Day. I really felt loved!!
Monday we had a group of about 19 people come in from Gulu. They all prepared themselves to receive the blessings of the temple, and were flying to Johannesburg that afternoon. President Collings was able to meet with them and verify that all of the correct documentation was done. He was so happy to be able to help them before they left. What a blessing this will be for these wonderful members of the church in Gulu, and what an adventure! I don't think any of them have traveled by airplane before.
We went from there to the American Embassy to renew our passports. They don't expire for at least 5 years, but we ran out of pages! We have traveled so much in the last year that there is no more room for the immigration officials to stamp them. It was a fun new experience to visit the American Embassy. A little bit of home away from home.