Thursday, June 30, 2016

Travel to Uganda

We left Provo to go to the airport on Monday at 11:00. We were told there would be someone to pick us up at the hotel. There was another couple who we made friends with that was also told they would be picked up at the hotel. We wondered if we would travel together. Well, a minivan came and picked them up, and told us our ride would be there shortly. We laughed when it came. It was a large travel bus. When we got on board, it was almost full of other mission presidents and their wives, but it was a group we had never met. We realized why shortly thereafter. The bus driver got up and explained everything that would be going on to them in Spanish. Then he put down the microphone and said. "We're on our way to the airport." It was so funny. We were the only couple on the bus who did not speak Spanish! They were all traveling to South and Central American Missions.

Driving through Provo, and then Salt Lake City, and on to the airport, I had another day of memories. I kept thinking I wanted to take it all in, because I would not be back for 3 years. I got a little teary eyed... Okay, I CRIED. I'm sure Steve's getting tired of these bursts of emotion from me. But we left feeling so spiritually fed!

I'm not very good at putting my thoughts into words, but I read a posting from Elder Renlund on Facebook talking about the mission president's seminar, and I loved what he said, " My wife, Ruth, and I recently attended the Seminar for New Mission Presidents and their wives. One hundred seventy-one new mission presidents will begin service approximately July 1, 2016.

Ruth and I reflected on the amazing spirit that was present throughout. We concluded that it was because of several factors, such as: First, the 171 mission presidents and their wives have promised in sacred places to do what they are asked to do for the Church. Second, they have been asked to do something extraordinary at this time. Third, they are doing it. Fourth, those teaching, presenting, and having anything to do with the seminar logistically have pled for heaven's help to give their best for these 342 Saints. Fifth, the Lord wants to accomplish something extraordinary through the mission presidents and their wives.

The combination of these five elements unlocked the floodgates of heaven, allowing the Holy Ghost to be present in rich abundance both collectively and individually and the outpouring of blessings for each to claim."

When we arrived at the airport, we noticed that everyone around us was wearing a blue card that was attached to a lanyard around their neck. As we spoke with some of them, we realized that we would be spending the first leg of our journey traveling to Amsterdam with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir! They were on their way for a summer concert excursion throughout Europe. We had great conversations with different members of the choir and their entourage. What fun to be on a plane with this amazing group of people.

While traveling to Amsterdam, we flew right through night. In fact, it never actually got dark. We had a beautiful sunset, but then the sun seemed to come right up again. When we landed in Amsterdam, it was 8:30am local time, and about 11:30pm Utah time. So people were coming to work at the airport, and we were feeling like it was time to call it a night. While on our flight from Amsterdam to Kigali, although it was the middle of the day, we crashed. We actually only slept for an hour or two. When we added it up, from the time we woke up Monday morning until we went to bed in Uganda on Tuesday night, we had been up for over 30 hours with one or two hours of rest.

We arrived in Entebbe Uganda at about 11:00 at night. We knew President and Sister Chatfield would be there to pick us up, but it was such a relief to actually see them and the Goodwins, a senior couple, waiting for us! They hugged us, and welcomed us to the mission. Sister Chatfield had a necklace of wooden beads from Ethiopia that she gave me. I was so touched.

Apparently, it had taken them about 4 hours to travel the 50 miles to the airport because there was a bad accident in Kampala. They told us several times how bad the traffic is in Uganda. But I guess when you travel after midnight, the roads are pretty clear. We made it back to our home in about an hour. I was surprised on our drive home that there were still a lot of people on the streets selling food from their carts. And people walking everywhere.  We stopped at a light, and had children run up to the side of the van begging. It was scary that they were right in traffic, and as soon as the light changed, sometimes they were standing between vehicles. The vehicle they were standing by might see them, but 3 or 4 back might not.

The smells were amazing. It smelled like we were camping, and that someone in the campground was making barbecued beef or pork.  I've noticed that several times since we arrived. I'm sure it's just because of the street vendors, but everything smells like food. Not bad!!

Our home is beautiful. It is a gated home, and we have our own guards, who are there 24 hours a day. We also have a beautiful yard, with a full time landscaper. He is very kind. He is a member of our church and recently was released from the bishopric. We have a young lady who cleans our house a few times a week. She's saving money for her own mission. She's very sweet.

Some things that are different in our home, compared to Utah. All of the Windows and doors are barred. There are locks on every single door in the house, including the pantry. And every lock has about 4 keys. There are locks on the door, and locks on the bars over the doors. With all the doors and bars we have in this house, I think there are about 50 keys!

The water heater for the shower is mounted to the wall in each bathroom, and you have to flip a switch on the wall ten minutes before you take a shower to heat up the water.

There are slats above all the windows that look like mini blinds, but they are more solid. The Windows close, but those spaces at the top of the Windows stay open. It surprised us so much our first morning here, because we could hear the birds so loudly, and somebody would have a radio going. I kept looking at the Windows thinking, wow, these window panes must be so thin! Apparently, this causes issues when the wind blows the dust around. There's nothing to keep it out of the house. I'm glad it doesn't get cold here!! No closing those Windows.

Our home is actually very nice. There is everything we could need here. We were so tired our first night, and were so comfortable. President and Sister Chatfield walked us around, and pointed things out to us. They showed us how to run different appliances, and taught us the things they thought we would need to know.

The next morning, they picked us up and took us to the Mission Office. We met with all the AP's, Zone and District Leaders, and the Sister Training leaders. We shook each of their hands and got to know them a little bit better. President Collings talked to them a little bit about his vision for the mission. He talked with them about trusting the Holy Ghost to help you with teaching, finding, and everything that you do. This is Heavenly Father's work, and he wants us to succeed. We just need to learn to listen to and understand the Holy Ghost. He taught from the scriptures, and bore testimony of this Gospel. The missionaries were amazing! We are so excited to get to know them better, and help them on this journey.

The Chatfields met with us separately, and went over some of the specifics of this mission, and then it was time for them to leave. It was so touching to see the love that everyone in the office have for these great people. They will surely be missed here.

We went to a late lunch with the senior missionaries. They took us to a really nice little restaurant. The food was SO good!! I had no idea we would be able to find restaurants and food like this in Africa!  And the fruits and vegetables tasted AMAZING! We drove there with the office couple, and then met two other senior couples there. It was so fun getting to know them better. I'm sorry to say one of the couples is leaving in two weeks, and the other couple works on Humanitarian efforts to get water to the African People, so they will not be spending a lot of time with us. But we get along really well with the Goodwins who are in the office with us.

Driving to and from the office, and to and from lunch was INTENSE!! I have never seen anything like it!!  I saw on the internet, a man compare driving in Kampala to a video game, where you are driving and things keep darting out in front of you. It really is like that! We have not tried to drive yet, and I'm sure Steve will be driving long before I will. There are little motorcycles that everyone uses like a taxi, they are called bota-botas, and they're everywhere. They don't follow the rules, they are just trying to get from point A to point B quickly. They dart in and out of some very tight spaces. The roads are very narrow, and you don't even feel like you can pass a car going the other direction, but then as you're passing them, a bota-bota darts right between you both. I don't know how they slip through the gap. The things you see being carried on the back of these motorcycles is crazy! On my first day, there was a man riding behind the driver, carrying an office chair. One of our security guards rides a bota-bota. I told him how much driving here scares me, and he just laughed. He said riding it is FREEDOM. You can go wherever you want and can get there quickly, there are no rules. He loves it! Our missionaries are not allowed to ride them, I was told that in the last year over a thousand people were killed riding on the back of a bota bota. This was just in Kampala. I would say that walking is safer, but it doesn't seem like it is.  People just start walking out right in front of you, and expect you to stop.

(These are just pictures I found online, it's been too intense to take a picture, but these pictures look exactly like what I have seen here.)

One thing that has impressed me is that the people here are very well dressed, and the ladies are all modest. The ladies all wear nice skirts and dresses, and the men mostly wear button up shirts and slacks. This really surprised me.  There is security everywhere, but they are so nice to us. They are even at the parking lot of the grocery store. They help us find parking spaces, and then watch our car while we are gone. Several security guards welcomed us to Uganda at the grocery store parking lot, and shook our hands. They always say, "You are most welcome here in Uganda."

We were told before this mission started that we would always be busy, and would not be able to accomplish everything, but will accomplish what is most needed. I think we are feeling that way. Just trying to wrap our minds around what Heavenly Father wants us to do, and understanding this culture, which is so very different from home. I know we will be blessed as we put our trust in Heavenly Father, and go to work.

We are definitely not in Kansas anymore!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Missionary Training Center

Our family has a tradition of meeting at the Brick Oven in Provo as a final goodbye when we send a missionary off. This time it was our turn to say goodbye. Steve's brother and his wife were so kind to take us and all of our things to Provo. We met Steve's parents, and another brother there, along with a new friend from Uganda and her husband. They are living in Provo now. 

After a yummy meal with family and friends, it was time to go to the Missionary Training Center for the Mission Presidents Seminar.  Kenney and Sandi took us to the front entrance, and we were off!!

Our first day we were given our missionary badge, and taken to our room. 

We met later for dinner with the mission presidents and leadership who will be serving in our area. Most of them are from Africa, and we immediately felt of their goodness and love of the Gospel. I feel like we have new life-long African friends! We have been meeting for the last several months with a group, and it was so fun to see them here as well. We have friends going to Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Nicaragua, Mongolia, California, Idaho, and Taiwan. We may not see or hear from any of them for the next 3 years, but believe those will be life-long friendships as well. 

President and Sister Clark

President and Sister McSwain

President and Sister Tay

President and Sister Odume

President and Sister Nmeribe

Most of our training was done with the mission presidents who will be going to Africa. Between sessions on our last day of training, we were able to get together with the entire Southeast Africa Area, along with a lot of the leadership that will be supporting us for a picture. It was really fun to get to see this entire group together. What a blessing to the people of Africa! The mission presidents and their wives that we met are truly AMAZING!

Elder Palmer is a member of the Africa Southeast Area Presidency. It was so fun to get to know him and his sweet wife. 

As part of our training, we were assigned a district that we had to teach over two days. Our district was Elders and Sisters who will be speaking Russian, and serving in Russia and Ukraine. I think they were happy when we came to teach them because they could take a break from speaking Russian. They were incredible. The time we spent with them was so special. They were anxious to learn, and quick to be involved in what we were doing. We felt the Spirit so strongly every time we were together with them.  We developed such a love for them in the little time we were together, and decided to claim them as our own missionaries!  I took this picture of us together, and asked that they each write a phone number where I could send it to their family, which made a few of the sisters cry.  They all hugged us when we left. They will be training for a few more weeks before they get to fly to their missions. 

We have an Elder Collings in the MTC too! Steve's cousin's son is here. They have lived close by us for years, and our son is good friends with him.  We looked for him for three days. Finally on Sunday, we went to the information desk and asked if it would be appropriate to see him while we were here. They jumped up and said absolutely!! A quick phone call to his zone leader, and Elder Collings was there. He had such a light about him. He smiled the whole time, and talked about how his training is going. He will be leaving the day after us, and is so excited to serve a mission. We are so impressed with what a great young man he is. What a fun experience to be able to see him while he is in the MTC!


I appreciate that we are still in Utah. Provo is not too far away when you forget things that you really will need in the next 3 years. Steve's brother John made a trip to swap some things out for us. It was so nice to see them one more time, and a relief that we are a little more organized with our packing! 

How can I even put into words what we have experienced here at the MTC. It brings tears to my eyes as I think about it! We have sat at the feet and listened to the words of President Uchtdorf, President Eyring, and ALL of the twelve apostles. We have met with Elder Soarez and members of the Africa Southeast Area Presidency and their wives, and the In Field Representative. We have had personal conversations with Elders Bednar and Renlund, and shook hands with President Russell M Nelson and Elder Oaks. Had a meal with Bishop Causse' and Elder Bednar.  Not to mention the other General Authorities, and General auxiliary leaders who are everywhere. We had a sacrament meeting with Elder Bednar, and were each able to bear our testimony. The spirit has been so strong here! We feel so blessed to be a part of this amazing work! It is so evident that our Heavenly Father loves all of his children, all over the world! He wants us to share this message of love with everyone! We are so blessed!!

Next stop UGANDA!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A meeting with Elder Holland

What a wonderful day!! Friday, June 15th, We were invited to bring our family to the office of Elder Jeffrey R Holland. He was joined by Elder Ulisses Soarez of the seventy to set us apart for our mission. All of our kids are living out of state now, so it was so fun to have all of our kids and their spouses travel to Utah. We were only missing Conner, who is serving a mission in Hawaii. We were able to invite Steve's parents, my brother, and Steve's brother. It was such a neat experience. He welcomed us into his office, where we introduced our family. He spoke with us as if we were old friends, and really put everyone at ease. He offered to answer any questions that we or any of the family members had. He told us that he has been to our mission a few times, and that he is so impressed with the faithfulness of the African people. Elder Soarez also acknowledged his love for the area we will be serving in, and said he would love to trade places with us.

A few things that he said really stood out to me. He said as hard as it is for us to leave our family at this time, it will be ten times harder to leave our mission in three years because of our love for the people.  He also told our family members to start saving their pennies, because they all needed to visit us in Uganda. It was pretty funny after the meeting, the kids said things like, "If an apostle tells you to make a trip to Africa, it's like a commandment, we have to go!"  They each said they would like to, but after the meeting with Elder Holland, they are setting goals to save the money, and making plans to come. (We are thrilled.).  He also told us that because we are caring for Heavenly Father's children, HE will care for our children. That was so amazing to hear. What more could I ask for, than to have Heavenly Father watching over my children while I am away for three years. Steve was set apart as a Mission President by Elder Holland. Then I was set apart as a missionary by Elder Soarez. I don't think there was a dry eye in the room when we were finished. Each family member was touched by the Spirit. Afterward, he stood and shook hands or hugged each person in the room. It was just wonderful.

We went to lunch afterwards and spent the afternoon talking about what had just happened. We will be leaving all of these family members, but I felt a great peace and comfort that all will be well while we are gone.

It was so fun having the kids in town one last time before we leave. We spent Friday evening together, just talking and playing games. Saturday  we all went to Lagoon together and spent the day riding some pretty wild rides. I enjoyed my time with my two grand-daughters on the kiddie rides. I was convinced that the new ride, The Cannibal, would be a good idea. It was pretty crazy!! I mostly enjoyed just spending the day with my family.

Sunday, Steve and I spoke in church. We were so touched to see so many people there. There were ward and stake members, extended family, families of missionaries already serving in Uganda, old friends, and new friends. We enjoyed talking with people after the meeting, and again were so touched with the outpouring of love. Over and over again we were saying goodbye to wonderful people. It has been so hard to leave our hometown of Grantsville. Now saying goodbye to extended family and friends, again was very tender. By the end of the day, I was saying goodbye to my brother and sister and their families. I will not see them again before I leave. Steve was also surrounded by family, and felt of their love.

That night we sat down with our kids and their spouses, and shared a testimony with them. It was a rich experience to talk with them about finding and following the will of Heavenly Father. Steve shared scriptures with them, and gave them some challenges of things to study and learn for themselves. This morning they all left together. We couldn't hug them tight enough. Many tears were shed, and then they were gone. I felt like this was the hardest goodbye, but the promises from Elder Holland kept coming to my mind. Heavenly Father will care for my children as I care for HIS. It has given me comfort today.

We will be entering the MTC on Wednesday, June 22nd. I will try to share our experiences through this blog. The address is  We will post links to Facebook, but will not be doing much more on social media. I guess the next post will probably be from the MTC!

Monday, June 13, 2016

The month of May

Steve and I moved to Ogden, and are house sitting for his parents while they are serving a mission at the Heber Girls Camp. They drop in weekly, but for the most part, we are taking care of things here for them. We both quit our jobs at the end of April. It was bitter-sweet for me. I have really grown to love the people I work with at St Mark's Hospital. They were so sweet to me on my last day. The case management team had a lunch brought in, and gave me a journal that each of them had written in for me. The nurses on the Orthopedic floor surprised me with flowers, a card, and some personal gifts from a few of the nurses. I was so overwhelmed with the outpouring of love I felt from them. I hope in 3 years I will get to return to that amazing hospital.

While here in Ogden, we have tried to spend time exercising. We are living in the foothills, and so there are some pretty steep hills that we have been able to walk/run on. It's been nice because we feel like we are really getting in shape. One day while walking, we were on about the highest street on the bench. Suddenly it started to rain. The rain didn't bother us, but then it POURED, and started HAILING! We ran down the hill, and found shelter under a large pine tree. It took the brunt of the hail stones for us. We were still at least a mile away from home. By the time we got home, our shoes were sloshing, they were so wet, and we were drenched from head to toe.

On May 16th, we had a moving company come and pack up what little we had to take to Uganda. It will be shipped, and delivered to our new home once we arrive. They said it will take 2 or 3 weeks once we get there to be delivered to our house. We were told our home will have all the necessities we will need, so we didn't need to send any furniture or household items. We mostly sent family and church pictures, clothes, and a few personal items that we thought would be nice while we are there. It was pretty funny, when the movers came they kind of chuckled and said they were expecting us to take a lot more than was actually going. They showed up with a huge moving van, and I think we filled maybe 10 or 12 boxes. What can I say... we packed light.

With our jobs being finished, and our belongings on their way to Uganda, we decided May would be a nice time to take a final trip. We booked a cruise to Alaska. We drove to Washington state where we stayed with my aunt, uncle, and my grandma. My grandma is 96 years old, she's still pretty spunky but doesn't remember a lot of things. I would remind her who we were, and tell her that we wanted to see her one more time before we leave the country for 3 years. She told us she was so glad we came, but she didn't expect to be here when we returned, so as we left she said a "final" goodbye. I'm not sure that she won't be here when we get back, but we sure enjoyed the time we spent with her. My aunt and uncle treated us so well too. They treated us to yummy smoked salmon, and invited my cousins over to see us. My uncle took us to see some fun sights, and have a true Washington experience.

We were supposed to leave on our cruise on Saturday, and on Friday night my aunt and uncle from Utah came for the night to see Grandma. We were talking with them for a bit, and said something about us going on a cruise. As we were talking about it, my aunt got real excited and asked which ship we were going on. When we told her, she said that my cousin would also be on that ship. Her husband's parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, and all of their kids would be there. It was so fun to see them on the ship, and although the we only spent a little time together with them, it was wonderful to catch up with each other. We really felt like it was a tender mercy.

We spent a week on the cruise, and saw Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan Alaska. We saw Glacier Bay, and rode the White Pass Railroad. We ate Ukrainian dumplings, crab, salmon, steak, and lots of wonderful things. Steve celebrated his birthday while we were on the ship. They decorated our door with balloons and a birthday sign, and he got an extra dessert with dinner. The cruise was chilly, and rained a lot, but we decided that was a good thing. I think we will be pretty warm for the next 3 years. All in all, it was a wonderful experience.

On our way home, we stopped for church in Eastern Washington. Steve's childhood friend is a Branch President of a Singles Ward there. We enjoyed the meeting so much, and although it was very different from many meetings we have been to, the Spirit was so strong with those young men and women. It was fun for Steve to catch up on memories with is old friend.

When we returned home, we received some scary news. Sarah, our daughter in law, is pregnant with her first baby. She was 25 weeks along, and said she was concerned because she hadn't felt the baby move for a day or so. My son took her to the ER, and they found out that they had lost the baby. They have been living in Colorado, and had to come back to Utah. She had to be induced, and deliver the baby. We were able to spend the day with Sarah and Steve, along with Sarah's parents. It was such a special time. They buried her a couple of days later. She was tiny, but so perfect. It was such a difficult time for our family, and them especially. We are blessed to know that our Heavenly Father has a plan for us, and that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can be blessed with peace at difficult times like this. We are so sorry for their loss, and pray for them to be comforted at this time.

Well, running up hills turned out to be a bad idea. Steve woke up one morning, and had so much pain in the back of his heel, he could barely put weight on it. He iced it, and elevated it, and took Ibuprofen, but still continued to put weight on it. Finally after about 4 days we got him some crutches and a boot (a great find at DI for only $5). We called a podiatrist, but had to wait a couple of days to see him. Keeping the boot on, and using the crutches when the boot was off turned out to be what he needed. By the time he went to the podiatrist, he wasn't feeling a lot of pain, and was able to walk. We were pretty concerned, because we are two weeks away from leaving for Africa, the timing was terrible! He said Steve needs to continue to wear the boot for a few more days, and don't sprint up hills. He gave him some anti-inflammatory cream, and is making him some orthopedic inserts. He says he should be fine to even run again in a few weeks. We are relieved.

Hard to believe we will be going to the MTC in less than two weeks, and will be in Uganda five days later. We have really enjoyed the preparation, and look forward to meeting the missionaries, and seeing what the Lord has in store for us.