Friday, July 28, 2017

Half a transfer

Mission Leadership Council is always a great start to the transfer. This one did not disappoint! We brought in our zone leaders from all over the mission, including Ethiopia and Rwanda. I had to tell them, it felt like a wonderful family reunion. All of my "children " were home! I am growing so attached to these missionaries.

We had wonderful training from Elder and Sister Wittwer, who always are so fun with the missionaries. We also were trained by President Collings, the Assistants, and the Sister Training Leaders. We did role plays, and had great interaction. Of course we took them to a yummy buffet after the meeting. I think the mission is in good hands with this group of leaders.

We are excited to announce an historic milestone in this mission. President Collings called a new counselor in the mission presidency, President Richard Okello. He is the first Ugandan to serve in the mission presidency in Uganda. We are thrilled to have him. He has such a great knowledge of the work, and will be such an asset to the missionaries. We are truly blessed to be able to work with President Okello.
I love this picture of him holding my grandson!

Already this transfer we have seen many wonderful tender mercies taking place. As our newest missionaries are being trained, they are seeing that the Lord is intimately involved in the work. They are doing everything they can, and then they see that he steps in and helps them accomplish the work that needs to be done. It's truly a blessing.

As a mission, we have decided to read the Book of Mormon in 3 months again. We saw so many blessings last year as we did this, and really felt like it would bring unity to the mission, and help us all draw closer to Heavenly Father.

One story that really stood out to me this last week was the story where Nephi was asked to build a ship. This would have been so intimidating to know where to begin. You think of all the questions he would have had, HOW? Why? I have never built a ship before... etc. Instead he just asks where he can find ore to make the tools to build the ship. He never questions if he can accomplish it, but instead goes to work in faith, trusting that the Lord will help him accomplish the task. Then you see that Laman and Lemuel laugh at Nephi, thinking he is crazy. They murmur and complain, and say it's too hard. They have given up before they have even started. I have been thinking about that in everyday  life. The story of Nephi is a great story, and of course, we know  he had the faith to do it, but what if we are asked to do things that we think are impossible? What if we have obstacles put in our path that we don't expect, and maybe are frustrated with? Do we pray and  ask for direction? Or do we get frustrated with people, or situations and complain that we have been treated unfairly?  I think we need to remember we are writing our own story, just like Nephi did. We have a choice of what we do or say or think in every situation we encounter. Sometimes it's hard to separate the temporal challenges from the spiritual ones, but that's why we are here.

President Collings and I have learned over the years that if we follow the promptings of the Spirit, and act in faith, in every aspect of our lives, we really do see his hand in all we do. We have had to fall back on this precept quite a bit since we have been here in Uganda. We see a direction that this mission needs to go, and we wonder, how is the Lord going to help us with this? We are stretched a bit as we try to work through it, but as we are obedient and work in faithfulness, He does help us to accomplish it. My mantra for  my mission is the scripture in Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." I challenge you to look at your individual situations, and acknowledge the Lord's hand in everything. Then decide if it changes the way you react to the situation. It certainly brings peace during trials.

This week we have been doing interviews with all the missionaries. We had several zones come to the mission office. It works out well because they are also able to pick up supplies, mail, and anything else they may need. They are able to have  a one on one interview with President Collings, and I  get time to talk with them and get to know them better. Later in the week we  went to Jinja and met with the two zones there. It has been a very nice couple of weeks. We still need to go to Ethiopia and Rwanda, but that's coming up soon.

Interviews are always followed by zone conferences. We are about half way through them, and as always, they have been amazing. I love hearing these zone leaders and sister training leaders teach. I love watching them gain confidence, and trust in the Lord. They say mission years is like dog years. They may only be here for 18 months or two years, but the growth they see is more like 14 years. Haha. It's truly a wonderful blessing to take a front seat and watch them progress in life.

Central Zone

Jinja Zone

Iganga Zone

These last few weeks have just flown by. It's been a whirlwind of activity. I need to repent, take a few more pictures, and be more diligent in my writing. Life is good here in the Uganda Kampala Mission. We are amazed with the wonderful blessings we are seeing in the lives of our missionaries and the people of these three great Nations. This is the best place in the world for us to be right now.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fun visitors

We enjoyed zone conferences with our final three zones,  Jinja, Iganga, and Kampala North Zone. We spent two nights in Jinja for the first two zone conferences. It was so great. All of the zones came so prepared to be fed by the spirit. The one that stood out most to me was the Iganga zone. When we arrived (20 minutes early) the whole zone was already seated in the chapel studying their scriptures. The program was written on the board, and they even brought a table cloth, flowers, and a picture of the Savior. Coming so prepared really enabled us to have a powerful spiritual experience. It was amazing.

Sadly, I didn't think of taking group pictures of the three zones. I feel bad, but sometimes it slips my mind until they are all gone. Needless to say, zone conferences have been amazing.  This transfer we tried to motivate the missionaries to catch up on our goal for the year. We should have had 550 baptisms by July 1 to be half way to our goal. It was so fun. The missionaries kept having such amazing experiences. They could see the hand of the Lord in the work as they tried to reach their goals. By the end of this transfer we had a total of 546 baptisms. We are all thrilled.  They have all worked so hard, and are really on track with our goal for the year. What's even better is to see that many people changing their lives and coming unto Christ. What a blessing.

This weekend was Stake Conference for the Kampala North Stake. It was so fun to see all of our missionaries in the North stake attend. We were so happy to see them all bringing their investigators. President Collings was asked to speak in all 3 sessions. I always love hearing him speak, he loves the people here so much. I was asked to speak in the adult and general sessions, one of the perks of serving with my husband, haha. It was so nice to hear the counsel of President Okot, the Stake President. He is a very wise man, and really knows how to motivate his stake. His focus in the general session was on the conference talk by President Monson on the Book of Mormon. Helping the  members to understand the importance of reading the Book of Mormon in their families. He asked one woman to speak on member missionary work, another man to speak on prayer, and I was asked to speak on diligent scripture study. President Collings focused on receiving personal revelation. It was a wonderful meeting.

Before the general session on Sunday morning, they invited everyone who had been baptized in the last 6 months to come to a special meeting. We were happy to see a pretty large group. We were able to ask them questions, and verify that they truly had been taught the doctrine of Christ, that the ward had welcomed them, and then answer any questions that they may have. It was a great meeting.

Kampala North Stake Presidency

President Collings and the AP's

We had another WONDERFUL experience. Probably the highlight of our mission to date. Our daughter came to visit us with her husband and their baby! Our grandson who we have not met in person before. I was so excited when I heard they were coming! We tried to plan things for them to see and do, but right from the start, my plan was to hold our grandson, and hold him, and hold him... and hold him.  It was so fun to meet him. He has such a fun personality. Our daughter and son in law were so sweet to come. It was exactly on our one year anniversary of starting our mission, and a fun way to celebrate it.

On their first day, we took them to the office to meet the Wittwers, our office couple. They also met our office staff. My sister in law sent a suitcase full of humanitarian supplies and $200 to give to Suzan to help with the jiggers projects that she does. She was so happy to receive everything. A true blessing for the children they serve! Thanks for your generosity Molly!!

When our grandson saw the office staff, it was so cute. They each held him, and he just stared at them and studied their faces. He would reach out and touch their faces and was so curious. He didn't cry at all, just made faces. Suzan said this was the first time she ever held a muzungu baby. Our daughter said it was the first time this baby had been held by an African. It was pretty funny.

That evening we took them to Ndere cultural center, where they watched the dancing from all the different tribes. It was a really fun evening, and our grandson loved it! He was laughing, and doing his own dances while he watched them dance. There was a point where they invited members of the audience to come take a picture with the dancers. My daughter took him up, and this picture was the result. It's priceless! We were fed local food, which I think we all loved.

The next day we traveled to Queen Elizabeth National Park. My parents drove from Rwanda and met us there. We stayed in bandas, which are a combination of a cabin and a tent. It was right on the water front, and you could see and hear the hippos. There were giant forest swine wandering around the bandas. They are like huge wild boars with long black hair. We were told they are endangered, but stay at Queen Elizabeth. Very cool to see.

We went on a game drive, and we were able to see cape buffalo, kob, water buck, wart hogs, and a pride of lions.

Harvey watching the Lions

We could see 4 or 5 lions really well, but there were more hiding in a bush.
There was a small house with a mother and small children right across the dirt road from the pride of lions. We spoke with the woman for a little while and asked her if she was afraid to have lions so close. She just said they never turn their back on them, or run away from them. They look them right in the eyes.

Later that same day, we took a boat ride, and we were able to see a lot of the animals at the water, along with a crocodile, and an elephant.

It was such a fun, and relaxing day. At night we had dinner served around a campfire. All the tables were brought around and had little lanterns hanging beside them. It was a fun atmosphere. The  food was delicious!

After our final night, it was time to leave. We traveled with my parents for a while, and when we stopped, we realized that we hadn't taken a 4 generations photo together yet. Terrible timing to take it after two days in the bush... but we took it. Then they headed back to Rwanda.

President Collings went with our daughter and son in law to do some chimpanzee tracking. I got to stay back with my grandson and hold him, and play with him. It was so fun. There was a woman with her children who live where we were parked waiting for them to return. One of her children, a little girl named Promise, is two years old. She came up to me, and pointed to the baby and said, "Baby Jesus?" Her mom and I laughed, she thought it was so funny. Promise and Elijah, a 17 month old boy, played with our grandson for a long time. He really had fun with them, and I think they enjoyed playing with him.

President and the kids hiked for an hour or so, kind of running after the chimpanzees. It sounds like it was a pretty intense hike. Once the chimps stopped, they were able to watch them for about an hour, and take pictures and videos.  They really had an incredible time.

We went to Masaka that night, and President Collings went on visits with the branch president of Masaka. He was able to conduct a few interviews, and strengthen some of the members there.

We spent Sunday at the Masaka Branch, and enjoyed fast and testimony meeting with them. Our kids really enjoyed the meeting, and I think the branch members all enjoyed them. Many of them wanted to hold our grandson throughout the meeting. It was fun to see them all getting to know each other.

Before sacrament meeting started

During Sacrament meeting a family blessed their baby. During the blessing the priesthood holder states what the name of the baby will be, and it sounded like they called him Collings. Sure enough, when the prayer was over, they looked over at us and smiled. President Collings has a cute little baby boy in Masaka named Collings after him. So sweet.

President Collings and Baby Collings

162 people attended Masaka Branch on the day we were there.

We made our way back to Kampala, and of course, had to make a quick stop at the Equator. Just long enough to snap a few pictures of the family.

When we arrived back in  Kampala, Jackie, our sweet housekeeper and her friend Esther had made us Sunday dinner. It was all local food, matooke, greens, rice, beans, chicken, pumpkin. The food was amazing, and we had such a nice evening with them. They even made matching dresses that they wore. It was so sweet. I think their favorite guest was our grandson. They took turns holding him and taking pictures with him. It was so fun.

On Monday we had to say goodbye. It was tough, but we are so grateful for the time we were able to spend with them. I'm sure it will be two years before we see them again, but what an amazing week it's been.

After saying goodbye, we went right into transfers. We had a group of 7 new missionaries come on Tuesday. Wow! What a great group! We are being so blessed in the Uganda Kampala Mission. We brought them back from the airport and they went out tracting with some of the mission leadership. Then half of them came back to the mission home for the  night, while the others went with the mission leadership.

President Collings goes running every morning, and invited any of the missionaries who wanted to, to come with him on Wednesday morning. All of them ran with him, and said they really got a good work out.

They got cleaned up and we had a breakfast for all the new missionaries, and then an orientation. We got to listen to each of them bear their testimonies, and then President Collings interviewed each of them. After orientation, they were off to meet their new companions, and let the missionary work begin. I love the excitement the new missionaries bring with them. It's so fun to see their love for the Gospel, and their willingness to go to work.

Thursday was the farewell dinner and testimony meeting for the departing missionaries. We decided that we would cook an authentic Ugandan meal for them one last time before they leave. I'm still learning how to do this, so I had the experts, Sussie and Jackie come do the work. I worked with them, and was very willing to learn the techniques of Ugandan cooking. It was really fun, and so yummy!
Preparing the charcoal stoves for cooking (Matooke in the background)

pounding the spices

Preparing the greens. Fried chicken in the back.

Boiling the  Matooke (this is the short cut, we were short on time)

Master Chef! Sussie! 

Mashing the Matooke

Cooking the Mukene, missionaries eat this all the time. This was my first time trying it! Google it! It was really good! (Thanks to the wonderful cooking skills of Sussie.)

Wrapping the Matooke in banana leaves to cook once again.

This was a fun day of cooking, which helped take my mind off of the departing missionaries...

Farewell dinner and testimony meeting is always so difficult for me. This group was no different. We had 14 wonderful missionaries return to their homes. It was so neat to see them all come in suits. They really look like representatives of Jesus Christ when they dress so nice.  Many of these missionaries have been in leadership positions over the last year, and we have come to love each of them so much. Saying goodbye is too hard! I do see so much potential in these missionaries. They will be great husbands, fathers,  and even leaders in this church! We are so blessed to know them, and to watch their growth while they are serving here.

Just praying they will keep in touch with us. Till we meet again... Safe Journey elders!