Tuesday, May 30, 2017

This Ever Changing Mission

It's really hard to believe another 6 weeks has come and gone. We are welcoming ten new missionaries! The new missionaries come one day before transfers. So we go to the airport with the Assistants to the President, to meet them. Elder A received transfer news that he would be released as a zone leader in Entebbe Zone, and that he would be a trainer. Entebbe is right where the airport is located, so the day before his assignment changed, he asked President Collings if he could come to the airport to welcome his new companion. President didn't see a problem with it. It was really fun to have the Entebbe Zone leaders with us as we welcomed our new missionaries. It was also very fun to have Elder A and his new companion meet each other the day before transfers. It's not something that we usually do, but it felt right, and the missionaries enjoyed it. 

I keep saying this, but the new group of missionaries are powerful young men! They are very prepared to serve in Uganda! For some reason the Lord sends the very best missionaries to the Uganda Kampala mission, and we are so grateful!

It hit us really hard this time. This is the group of missionaries that we will go home with! Wow, time really flies!

Late Tuesday night, we had three sister missionaries who were from Uganda, return home from their mission. They served in Zimbabwe. They spent the night in Kampala with our sister missionaries, and then came to the mission home on Wednesday morning so that President Collings could release them. Two of the young women were actual sisters from one of our branches. They served together in the same mission, at the same time. When it was time for them to be released, their whole family came to the mission home to see them. It was such a fun reunion to witness.

President Collings invited their father, who is not a member, to come into his office and witness as they were being released. It was a wonderful experience. There were tears all around as this family was reunited!

After training our new missionaries, we drove them all over to the chapel, where transfers were taking place. Transfers start very early in the morning in all parts of our mission. The Zone leaders take missionaries to different chapels, where they meet up with other zone leaders and swap missionaries. Or they meet at a specific time and are picked up by  a mission van. The vans take the routes that have the most missionaries traveling back and forth.

Sometimes transfers get a little bit hectic. This time it went very smoothly in Uganda, but there was a small hiccup in Rwanda. Apparently, the airline decided to change the flight, and by the time the missionaries got there to check in, they had already missed the flight. Luckily, we were able to book them on a flight later that day, so they were still able to be transferred. It's always an adventure here!

Along with receiving new missionaries and transferring remaining missionaries, we also had to say goodbye to three amazing missionaries. Three young men from three different backgrounds, who have had three completely different mission experiences all within the same mission.

Elder M  is from Malawi, and ended up spending about 19 of his 24 months  in Ethiopia. He plans to go home and start his own cleaning business. Elder B  is from Idaho, and spent time in Rwanda and Uganda in the Stakes. He plans to go to school and study medicine. Elder T  is from South Africa. He spent his entire mission in Uganda, and was able to spend most of his time in the outer branches. He plans to be  wealthy in three years, and serve many couple missions with his wife.

These missionaries have spent almost half of their mission with us. We have grown so close to them, and will really miss them. I'm excited to see where life takes them.

The first week of the transfer brings Mission Leadership Council. It's a great time for us to let the leadership know what we plan to focus on throughout this transfer. We teach the zone leaders, and then they take the messages to their district leaders and zone.  The leadership is changing. We have 4 new zone leaders. We are so excited to work with them in the coming weeks and months.

There's always a great spirit in the Mission Leadership Council meetings. During this meeting, we  focused a lot on Preach My Gospel, teaching simply, and helping the mission adopt a mission culture. Should be a great month of zone conferences.

As usual, we took the missionaries out to dinner after MLC. A buffet dinner at Protea is always a favorite! It's amazing how high they pile their plates! I would be embarrassed, and might even ask them to take less food, but the management always comes up to me and thanks us for bringing them. In fact, they wondered why we stayed away so long. (Last time we had Chinese food instead)

I don't know what we would do without the Wittwers. They are such a support to us and to the missionaries. They are always so positive, and ambitious. We are so blessed to have them here!

Our zone leaders in Rwanda participated in MLC by way of WebEx. Afterwards, the Wrights took them to dinner as well. I think they all enjoyed it.  Sadly, the network in Ethiopia has had issues for a few weeks, and for the first time since we arrived here, Ethiopia was not able to participate in MLC. We will take them a video of the meeting, so they can enjoy it as well.

Steve always asks the missionaries, "Did you wake up today and say, this is the best day of my mission?" They laugh, and sometimes say yes. But the truth is, every day IS the best day for President Collings. He really loves the missionaries, and the people of the Uganda Kampala Mission. He really does say, "This is the BEST day of my mission." EVERY DAY!

We traveled to Lira this weekend to make some changes in the branch presidencies of both the Lira and Adyel branches. It was going to be a tight schedule, and we had to adjust meeting times for one of the branches, but we were able to work it out to change out both branch presidencies. The night before, we enjoyed dinner with the new members of both branch presidencies and their wives. It was such a fun experience!

 As we were walking into the restaurant, President Collings and I were leading the way, and we were walking in, holding hands. We turned around, and all of the couples had followed suit, and were all holding hands behind us. They were kind of giggling. It is very unusual for couples here to show affection in public that way. President Collings complimented them, and said he really feels like they will be a great example to the members of the church in Lira.  It was such a fun and amazing moment!

Once we were seated, everyone  introduced themselves and told about how they met their spouse, and told about their families. It was a great evening!

On Sunday morning, we went to the Lira branch first. There were several interviews that needed to be done before church. Then we started the Lira meeting. The branch presidency was released, and a new branch presidency was put in.

President:  Tonny Atyang
1st Counselor: Ocen Francis
2nd Counselor: Odongo Innocent

The Lira branch has been very strong, and the new leadership was well received. We are confident that they will continue to grow and progress as a branch.

After Lira branch presidency was called and set apart. We went to the Adyel  branch. We had asked them to start their meeting with priesthood/relief society, then have Sunday school, and we would have sacrament meeting last because both congregations start at the same time. By the time we arrived, Sunday school was ending, and we started sacrament meeting. The branch presidency was released, and a new one was put in.

President: Oyet Patrick
1st counselor: Maros Caesar Atine
2nd counselor: Ocircan Derrick

Again, the branch presidency was well received. In fact, President Collings had to remind them that we don't usually clap or cheer when someone receives a new calling in the church. Haha.

One fun story, a couple of months ago, President Collings was interviewing Brother Derrick for priesthood advancement. He told him that he didn't know how, but that the Lord was going to use him in the church. When he was called as the second counselor, he was reminded of that conversation he had with him.

We are very happy with the two new branch presidencies and really believe this area of the church is building a very strong foundation.

We have named this transfer the David Whitmer transfer. There is a story in church history where David Whitmer was asked to pick up the prophet, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdry and bring them back to his home so they could continue translating the Book of Mormon. He wanted desperately to take care of this assignment, but he also needed to plow and prepare his fields, and didn't see how he would be able to do both. He decided to just go to work, with faith that he could accomplish all he needed to. As he went out to plow, he saw the most of the work had mysteriously been done for him, and he was able to quickly finish it. The next day he was supposed to spread fertilizer on the soil. As he went to take care of that, he saw that it was done, and he was able to leave and pick up the Prophet. We have asked our missionaries to go to work! Do all they can do this transfer. Set their goals higher, and have faith that the Lord will help them to accomplish all they need to, just like he did for David Whitmer. Each week, President Collings is having a conference call with the Zone Leaders, and they are telling stories of the missionaries in their zones, and the miracles they are seeing during the David Whitmer transfer. I will share a couple that we have heard already.

One of the zone leaders reported that they went to the home of a member and shared the message of the Restoration with them. The Spirit was very strong, and after they shared the message, they asked if the family knew of anyone that they would like the missionaries to share this message with. The family gave them 9 referrals!

(I copied this from one of our sister missionaries) A recent convert,  Sister  Harriet who has a strong testimony and is going around defending the church and helping an investigator of ours who has heard some rather horrible and false information about the church. Her faith is so strong that even when on Sunday the bishop gave a challenge that everyone invites one person to church the next week, she has committed herself to find more than just one person to invite and she has faith that the Lord will help her find those people! Such strong faith is a precious gem.

We have been in the  middle of the rainy season here in Uganda. As we were driving home from Lira the rain started to come down. It was pouring so hard we had to pull the car over. It was actually hailing! I had to take a picture!

Rain and Hail in Uganda

I couldn't help myself. It really is raining in the second picture too. Have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Jinja Stake Conference

What a wonderful weekend this has been. We were blessed to be able to spend time in Jinja for Stake Conference. It's hard to believe six months have already gone by. I remember the last stake conference we had there, and it doesn't seem like that long ago. What a great experience we had. There are definitely strong Latter Day Saints living in the Jinja Stake.

We arrived on Saturday. They had a priesthood meeting for the men, and at the same time, they had an auxiliary meeting for the women. President Collings spoke in the priesthood session, and I spoke in the auxiliary meeting. In our meeting we heard from the Stake Young Women's President, the Stake Primary President, the Stake Relief Society President (they called her the stake mom), me (they called me the mission mom), and a member of the Stake Presidency. It was really wonderful. We were told to speak on anything that we wanted to. It was interesting that most of us spoke about building Zion, and strengthening families. It's so neat how the Spirit works. We were all thinking along the same lines, which must be what the ladies needed to hear. I felt the Spirit so strongly in that meeting.

The next meeting was the Adult Session, which was held Saturday afternoon. I was just sitting on the stand, relaxing, enjoying the meeting. Then they stood up and said that myself and President Collings would be next to speak. I didn't realize I was supposed to speak, so I felt a little wave of panic, haha. But then felt fine. President Collings leaned over to me and said I could just bare my testimony. I ended up feeling fine, I'm getting used to speaking in front of branches and wards, and I guess I'll get used to speaking in front of stakes before this mission ends.  Anyway, the meeting was nice. There was a lot of communication on how husbands and wives can build stronger relationships with each other, and how they can be a better husband or wife. It was a great meeting.

Sunday morning was the General Session. Again, they set up about 900 chairs, and it really looked like they were full. I didn't get a count of how many people were actually there, but there were a lot.

The wards were bringing in people by the bus load. Again, myself and President Collings spoke, along with other stake members, and the Stake Presidency. Wow, what an amazing meeting! I love to see the strength of this relatively new stake. They have so many great members, and such strong leadership. We really felt edified as we attended all of the meetings.

I loved seeing how everyone dressed up so nicely. The women dressed in their traditional gomez 's, with such bright, beautiful colors. The men in their best suits. They dressed so nice for this special occasion. They were all so kind to us, and really helped us to feel right at home.  It's truly a blessing to be around the Latter Day Saints in the Jinja Stake.

We stayed one more night, and spent preparation day on Monday with our missionaries. We thought it would be fun to play sports. Usually that includes basketball, and soccer. When we went to the church, we saw that a man was trying to take down the tent from stake conference. Remember, this tent holds over 900 people, and one man had the work of taking the entire thing down. Our missionaries stepped in, and in less than an hour, they were able to help him take everything down, and fold it all up. Many hands make light work, and I think they all enjoyed doing a little service project. Finally, they were able to split up and play basketball and soccer. I got to hang out with the sister missionaries. I taught them a few games that I know, and they taught me some that they know. We really enjoyed ourselves!

This weekend was also a "Mormon Helping Hands" weekend for a couple of the wards in Uganda. Both Ntinda and Kajjansi wards spent time doing separate  service projects. Our missionaries serving in those wards were able to help out as well. It's so fun to see all the good that members of the church can do when they work together.
Ntinda Ward

Bishop Moses and Sussie

Kajjansi Ward

Monday was also President Collings' birthday. Wow, did he feel loved!! He had so many people contact him on the phone, or by way of email, or Facebook. He had missionaries sing to him in the morning at sports, and again in the evening, he had a group come by the house with a fun candy card that they had made, and they sang as well.

I think he felt very humbled by the outpouring of love he felt from our family, friends, and friends in the Gospel. It truly was an amazing day for him. I guess turning 50 isn't THAT bad. Haha. He says he feels 36. Hanging out with all these young missionaries helps him feel younger I guess.