Sunday, August 27, 2017

Branch and Stake Conference (and YUMMY chicken)

We went with President Okello, 2nd counselor in the Mission Presidency, to Gulu for branch conferences on Sunday. We have two branches in that area, Gulu and Bardege. They decided to combine the two for the conference. We were able to hear from both branch presidents. They each spoke on topics specific to their branch. You can tell they really care for those they serve. Then President Collings spoke. He always has a way of lifting people, and helping them understand their potential. It was a wonderful conference. We then had a combined Sunday School meeting taught by President Collings and President Okello. We had very good attendance by both branches. The people in the Gulu area are strong.

We no longer have missionaries in the area, but have started having our AP's or Zone Leaders go to Gulu and Lira once a transfer. They help the branch missionaries with finding people who are interested,  and then allow the branch missionaries to teach them over the next few weeks. By the time the missionaries come back in about 6 weeks, there are people prepared for an interview and to be baptized. This has been a boost for the branches. The missionaries are helping to teach the branch missionaries and members how to do missionary work. There are many returned missionaries in the branches who can help as well. We are excited for the work to continue to progress in Gulu. The people are amazing.

Gulu Chapel, construction is finished on the outside and it looks so nice!

For those of you who know the Gulu building, notice the paved road out front!! So wonderful!

On Monday, we had combined sports with all the missionaries around Kampala. We had soccer, basketball, and I brought a few games. We played UNO for a while, but then the sister missionaries decided to go kick around a soccer ball. They thought they would get in on a game with the elders, but ended up having their own game. It was really fun to see all of the new missionaries who are in the Kampala area. We were able to speak with them, and for the most part, they seem to be doing really well here for week #1.

Elder Grant had to leave the game and help an investigator understand how she was completely healed after a priesthood blessing he gave her. She is just outside of the picture. She may not be able to join the church for some time, but she was deeply touched by the entire experience. 

This week we have interviews with the missionaries. This is a chance for President Collings to spend time with each missionary one on one. I know he looks forward to this every transfer. So far we have traveled to Masaka for interviews with Masaka Zone, and then went to the mission office for interviews with Kampala North and Central zones, then we traveled to Entebbe and Kajjansi for Kampala South zone. It's been such a nice week spending time with the missionaries.

We had another fun experience. One of our missionaries who served in the Uganda Kampala Mission, Elder Nambale, actually stays in Mbale. When his mission was over, President Collings was the one to release him, and is still his priesthood leader. We love having him so close. He celebrated his 24th birthday this week, and President Collings invited him to the mission home to spend the night. We made him a birthday cake, and really enjoyed seeing him again. We love all of our return missionaries, and are so grateful when we get to see them! So fun!

24 candles make it look like the whole cake is on fire!

This weekend we had stake conference with the Kampala South Stake. This is the first stake conference since they became a stake. It was so neat to see the entire chapel and gym full of people. The stake members traveled to the Kololo Chapel, which is a little out of their stake. There are renovations being done on their stake center so that it will be able to hold more people for conferences like this. We showed up about an hour early, and we were so happy to see so many people already there and seated. This was far for some of them to travel, but most were there early or on time.

The stake president, President Kamya is an amazing man. He really speaks to the needs of the members in his stake, and is such a personable man. They are blessed to have such a caring and loving leader. President Collings and I were able to meet with President Kamya and his wife earlier in the week. We really enjoyed spending the evening with them. They are such a great example to me of disciples of Christ, in everything they do. We loved talking with them and getting to know them better.  I love the friendships we have made while serving here.

There was a choir that sang during the conference. There were only about 20 people in it, but they sounded absolutely beautiful. I was so touched by the spirit they brought through their music. We were able to hear testimonies from several of the young adults, and talks from a couple of the sisters in the stake. They asked me to share my testimony, and then President Collings spoke followed by a counselor in the Stake Presidency. President Kamya was the concluding speaker.

My favorite part about attending these meetings is seeing the missionaries scattered throughout the  audience. They all look so nice dressed in their white shirts, suits, and Sunday best dresses. They look so excited as their "investigators" come, or as they see people who were recently baptized that made the long journey to conference. I just feel  a complete sense of joy when I see each of these missionaries. I'm blessed to be enjoying this journey with them.

Elders Mashego, Bale, Dlamini, Young, Osei-Tutu, Kagson, and Johnson
Sisters Otoo, Abeo, and Mudau

Sister Nganga, Elder Magumura, Elder Mufurati, and a future missionary 

Sisters Mahlangu, and Kunene, and Sister Jeanette

Elders Beck, Chandler, Ncube, Sister Ngulu, and Elder Khoriyo

Sisters Ngulu, Muyengwa, and Hedzro with a member. 

Elders Ncube, Mufurati, Osei-Tutu, and Quateng

Missionaries were told to squeeze together for this picture, but Elder Kagson was right between the sisters. He's trying to be obedient to mission rules. 

Elder Rawlings and Elder Colvin with some investigators. 

One last important thought I wanted to share. I have the BEST husband!! Today he decided to make Sunday dinner. I've spent most of our married life making some pretty sorry, or at least boring meals. Look at what this man made today! Bacon wrapped chicken breasts!! Seriously! They were so good! Why am I even cooking at all? He's a master chef! It was AMAZING!!
Have a great week!

Monday, August 21, 2017

A very full week

This has been a very full week. A house full of missionaries, a heart full of love and excitement. Stomachs full of food. It has been one of my favorite transfers up to this point. We decided to make the bedrooms in the mission home more like bunk rooms. We fit four bunk beds into one room, two into another and have a bed and three cots in another. We also have five mattresses that we can put down if we really have a large group. I love it!

This week we welcomed 17 new missionaries to the Uganda Kampala Mission. In the past, we have had them come to the mission home for dinner, then they go out proselyting for a while, and then go back to an apartment. We would keep about four missionaries at the mission home. Now we bring them in and keep them all for the night. It's been so fun! Spending time with them, and getting to know them better. We are so excited for the new missionaries that have come. They will be a great strength to the mission, many great leaders in this group.

President Collings goes running every morning. He always invites the elders to go with him, and usually will have a few want to go. This time there were 4 who ran with him, which he really enjoyed. Elder Palmer, Elder Colvin, Elder Kramer, and Elder Young.

We had orientation, which went really well. We started off with a good breakfast. Then we heard testimonies from all the new elders, then a few words were spoken by President Collings, the assistants, and myself. They interviewed with President Collings, wrote a quick letter home, and then took care of medical, money, passports, and other things to help them get started right. We had a nice breakfast, and then took them to the church to travel to their new areas.

The evening after orientation, we had the missionaries who will be returning home come to the mission home. We have 11 going home, and 4 traveling to another country. Having the departing missionaries stay in the mission home was a wonderful experience for us. They came in and put their bags in the mission home. Then they were able to go take care of some final things, like visiting members and recent converts. Purchasing some small souvenirs to take home, etc. By dinner time, they were all in the mission home. We ate dinner together. President Collings was able to conduct their final interviews while they were there in the home with us, which was really nice. I have heard that in the past, when the missionaries would stay in an apartment away from the mission home, the times they were all together were more like a party. Here it was just nice. They were still able to spend time with each other, and talk about their different mission experiences, and even laugh and have fun, but were acting responsibly. At one point the missionaries decided to sing church hymns. We all harmonized together, and it was beautiful. When President Collings came out after one of the interviews, he said it sounded like angels. And he just wanted to sit and listen. We felt like we were able to really spend quality time with them as well. I really enjoyed it.

Thursday was the farewell dinner. We woke up and had breakfast for all the departing missionaries as well as four who were scheduled to be transferred to Rwanda and Ethiopia later that day. President Collings went out at 6:30 for his morning run. He really enjoys running, and the bonus of having missionaries stay with us is, sometimes he can convince some of them to run with him. I think this run was special because he was able to run with three of his departing missionaries. Elder Farnsworth, Elder Malgas, and Elder Gangire. Apparently there was some racing involved, up a large hill, they had been talking about it for a few weeks, and I don’t think anyone was disappointed with the outcome of the race.

I took care of the farewell dinner along with Jackie and her friend Esther. We had roast beef, potatoes, chicken, rice, beans, salad and an amazing dessert made by Sister Wittwer. There was plenty of food to go around, and plenty of fun stories to enjoy. We then had a special testimony meeting. One by one the missionaries stood and bore testimony of the things they know to be true. I am always amazed at the contrast between the testimonies of the new missionaries on Wednesday, compared to the departing missionaries on Thursday. The new are amazing, you can see their excitement and faith, but the departing testimonies are deeper, richer, and come from those who have experienced truly the refiner’s fire. These missionaries were powerful. What a blessing to witness them.

Immediately after the meeting, the six American missionaries were off to the airport. Their flight leaves at 10:30 pm, and the traffic to the airport is always thick. So they leave about 4 hours early. It was a very difficult goodbye. We have mixed emotions, joy in the growth they have had and the love we have for them, and sorrow that their time has come to an end. We have grown to love these missionaries like our own sons and daughters. We wonder if we will ever see some of them again.

After the Americans left, we had the African missionaries whose flights were not until the next morning. We had 5 returning missionaries spend the night along with 4 missionaries who came in from Rwanda and Ethiopia for MLC the next day. This was a different experience as well. In the past, we say goodbye after the farewell dinner and they take a van back to the apartment. We say goodbye but they don’t leave for a few more hours. This time, we were again able to spend the rest of the evening with them, and then get up early in the morning with them and help them pack everything in the van to go to the airport. We were able to really say goodbye, and felt such a deep connection with each one of them. I say it every six weeks. This is the most difficult part of my mission… getting to know these young men and women, watching them grow and progress, and becoming so close to them, and then saying goodbye. I cry like a baby every transfer.
Friday morning we got up and again had breakfast with the four remaining missionaries. These are zone leaders from Rwanda and Ethiopia. We had Mission Leadership Council, where all of the Zone Leaders, Sister Training Leaders, and Assistants to the President come together for training. We talk about our vision and goals for the coming transfer. It is a very special time. These four zone leaders who stayed at the mission home were so fun to have there. Elder Gilbert ran with President Collings that morning. It sounds like he worked President Collings pretty hard. But he loved every minute of it. They came back and all got cleaned up and did their personal studies, and then had breakfast. There were several hours before MLC started, so they went out finding for the Kololo Zone. I love that our missionaries are always working, and don’t want to waste any time. They are really focused on their purpose as missionaries, and are an example to the missionaries around them.

When it was time for Mission Leadership Council, it was wonderful. I love when we can have it with all of the leadership. In the past we have had those in Rwanda and Ethiopia join us by way of WebEx. We have an amazing experience in Uganda, but they have a hard time seeing, hearing, and sometimes even getting online in these other countries. It’s so important that they receive the training and edification that the other leaders receive. I think we will try to always bring them in if possible. Elder and Sister Wittwer focused on the mission emergency plan, and helped them understand how we plan to implement it. Sister Wittwer has worked very hard on 72 hour food kits for each missionary.  We have a mission scripture: Omni 1:26. Elder Davidson read the scripture to the group and talked to us about what that scripture means to him. We have been challenged as a mission to memorize it. I’m excited to do this. It’s one that we focus on all the time. The shortened version for our mission motto is “Come unto Christ, and offer your whole souls”.

During the past several months I have focused on teaching the missionaries about Jesus Christ. Christ like attributes, becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ, what it means to be a witness of Jesus Christ, etc. This time I focused on partaking the sacrament, which is symbolic of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. President Collings focused on aspects of leadership. We really are striving to help them to become great leaders, not only in this mission, but for the rest of their lives, whether it’s in their homes, work, or church leadership. I think things really started to make sense to the missionaries. One of the AP’s focused on finding the elect. In D&C 29:7 it talks about the elect. We look at people like Parley P Pratt, who was lent a copy of the Book of Mormon, and couldn’t put it down until he had read the whole thing. Eating and sleeping were a burden to him. And once he read it, he joined the church, and was a faithful leader in the church. Our missionaries are showing their faith in fasting and prayer to find the elect in this mission. The other AP focused on teaching with unity in the companionship. Our missionaries need to be unified in their teaching in order to have people progress. This missionary is one that leads by example, and was really able to help the missionaries understand the need to work together in love and unity for the benefit of those whom they are teaching.

The best part about the meeting was the input the missionary leadership made. As we come to meetings prepared to be taught, having studied the scriptures and Preach My Gospel before the meeting, the Holy Ghost teaches us exactly what we need to learn to be a better missionary personally. The Spirit was very strong in this meeting and we were all edified. It helped myself and President Collings realize that we really are blessed with wonderful, obedient, diligent missionaries.

We ended the meeting and took the missionaries out to dinner. It was so nice. Afterward, we realized that many of them had traveled a couple of hours to be here, and it would be too late for them to go home. Luckily, we have room in the mission home! One more night of guests to stay with us was the BEST! When they all finally went back to their areas, President Collings and I just looked at each other and said, “This was our favorite transfer week yet!” We absolutely loved spending time with each group of missionaries that came in. We felt like we really spent quality time with them and really got to know them even better. The total count for the week of missionaries who stayed with us was 52. We had 15 Tuesday, 15 Wednesday, 9 Thursday, and 13 Friday. I’m so excited to continue this tradition of spending time in the mission home with our missionaries. Life is so good!

I have a couple of pictures I'd like to share. I spent time working in home health, and also as a Case Manager on the orthopedic floor where I dealt with many skilled nursing facilities, and home health companies. I drove past this facility that has x-rays and other imaging services, and right next to it was a Hospital and Home Care Service for the elderly. I couldn't help but snap a picture. Great memories of Uganda.

I am also a huge Harry Potter fan. I drove past Dobbi dry cleaners, and just felt good inside. I can imagine all of the house elves he is helping with this business of his. Also, there on the bench are the tiniest pineapples I have ever seen. They are ripe, but are only the size of a fist. I love it! Enjoy the Eclipse! We will just have to enjoy it on social media. How can I be out of town for such a huge event? Haha.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Transfer of Transfers

Another trip to Rwanda, and more wonderful experiences. We did a little bit of juggling in the middle of the transfer, and  ended up having a new zone leader put in Rwanda. We are excited to work with Elder Gilbert and Elder Mukaro. Both are excellent missionaries, and both will be great zone leaders. We met with them over dinner when we first arrived, and just talked about their responsibilities and the upcoming zone conference. They were great, and the food wasn't too bad either. Haha.

President Collings had a few meetings planned with the District Presidency while we were there. There are a lot of changes that are happening. The first is that the Kigali First branch building is located very far from the people. Most have to travel by bus or moto to get to church. We spent time with President Opar looking at different buildings that are available to lease. I know the branch members are very excited to have the building closer, and really feel like it will grow even more because many will be able to walk to church. We are just trying to find the right building.

It's wonderful to see the District Presidency doing so well. They have meetings with the Branch Presidents every week, and are doing training, setting goals, and accomplishing so much. We can really see why there is such growth in Rwanda. The people are humble and obedient, and the leaders are doing their best to serve their branch and district members.

Two of my favorite men. 

We were able to spend time with the missionaries. As I said before, we did some juggling during the transfer. We brought 2 missionaries back to Uganda, and sent 2 missionaries to Rwanda. So they had a mini transfer. By the time we arrived, the new missionaries had only been there for about a week, and were starting to settle in to their new areas. We had some fun on preparation day playing volleyball with them. Elder and Sister Wright provided some nice refreshments, and were a great cheering section for us.

Then we had zone conference. This is a powerful zone. The missionaries are working hard, and it shows. They are really seeing success. One of the difficulties is that there are not a lot of people who speak English, which is the official language of the church in Rwanda. The country has started teaching English in the schools, but it is a slow process to teach a nation a new language. Fortunately for our missionaries, Heavenly Father knows who can speak English,  and he seems to put them in the path of the missionaries. They have seen this happen over and over, and when their faith is shaken and they think they can't teach anyone because of the language barrier, they humble themselves, pray a little harder, and see those who are prepared come to church.

This is a very dry time of year for Rwanda.  They haven't seen rain in a long time. It's quite warm, and the grass is brown. The missionaries are fine, but they have a day here and there without water or power in their apartment. Luckily, they take it well. It's part of the mission experience, and Elder and Sister Wright are there to take care of things when necessary.

There was a presidential election just a couple of days after we left, but it was very peaceful and quiet, and did not affect the missionaries in any way. We are blessed to have Rwanda be part of the Uganda Kampala Mission.

Back in Uganda we had to combine the South and Masaka Zones for a zone conference. The zones are both pretty small, so it worked out good. The training by the zone leaders was wonderful. They are really teaching to the needs of their zones. We have a couple of new missionaries being trained, and it was fun to see their progress as well. They are starting to be more confident.  After training by the zone leaders, Sister Otoo, and President Collings, we had the missionaries role play. It was a great day. There are a lot of wonderful things happening in Masaka, and Kampala South Areas.

Kampala North Zone came to the mission home the following day. There was some juggling in that zone in the middle of the transfer, and we had new zone leaders do the training. They did a wonderful job. Elder Obeng has really stepped into his role as a zone leader, and led the zone masterfully. He was helped by Elder Farnsworth, and they did excellent. There are new missionaries being trained in the North Zone too. It's been really fun to see their excitement for the gospel. They are seeing success, and really enjoying the work. I appreciate those who are training them. They are helping the missionaries to start out on the right foot. We had a role play at the end of this meeting as well. The missionaries are so positive, and do their best to follow instructions and are always trying to improve in their teaching. It was a great day.

We had a special experience while we were in Uganda. There is an amazing woman in one of the wards who is constantly sharing the Gospel with everyone she knows. She invited us to her home for a visit, and invited several friends who were investigating the church. We had a great meeting in her home and we were able to teach about families. This family was planning to be baptized, and were just working through a few issues they were having. The mother and kids were baptized the next Sunday.

And on this last Sunday the father of the family was baptized, and joined the rest of his family in membership in the church. They were all excited, and he thanked President Collings for the things he had shared when we met with them. He said it really helped him to prepare for baptism. Truly a blessing to see another family baptized!

Our next stop was Ethiopia. We had a District Conference that we needed to attend. This was a little bit longer of a stay because we had some renewals to take care of with immigration.  I said earlier that this is a dry time for Rwanda. Well, its exactly the opposite for Ethiopia. It is the rainy season. It was pretty cold while we were there, and rained every day. In fact, on Sunday it poured, and then the rain turned to hail. It was quite a storm! Luckily it was after the district conference, and people had mostly gone home before the downpour started. I think this was the coldest I have been since we started our mission. I even brought a jacket, and was so glad I did.

The night we arrived, we went to dinner with members of the District Presidency, the Harlines, who are the senior couple serving there, and our AP's, who were with us to do some training of the zone leaders. Injera with all the fixin's was so yummy!

District Conference was great! We had Elder Daniel Hall of the Seventy preside at the meeting. There was a Priesthood Leadership meeting on Saturday, followed by an adult session. Then on Sunday we had a general session for all members. There was a great spirit in the meetings. The missionaries had passed out invitations in a finding activity a couple of days before the conference. There were not a lot of investigators who attended the meetings, but the missionaries are receiving several phone calls daily because of the invitations that they passed out. During the Sunday meeting, a new member of the District Presidency was called, brother Tenkir, and a new executive secretary, brother Biru.

The number of people who attended was about 150. Comparable to the conference 6 months ago. We really felt like the messages that were shared really related to the District members. It was a wonderful conference.

Zone Conference in Ethiopia was amazing. There are many great things happening with our missionaries there. They are stepping into leadership roles, and learning humility, obedience, and diligence. They have set goals for the zone and for themselves, and we believe we will see many amazing things in this area of the mission.

We have had some excitement with translation in both Rwanda and  Ethiopia. The church has put together a few manuals and pamphlets in Kenyarwandan, which is the language spoken in Rwanda. They have asked the people to look over the translation and see how they feel about it. See if it makes sense, and if there is anything that may need to be changed. It has been so fun to see the excitement of the members as they are able to see these materials translated into a language that they all can understand. They spent several days reading and marking the papers.

In the meantime, there was a group of LDS Ethiopians in Provo who were asked to help participate in the translation of the Doctrine and Covenants into Amharic. Many of these young men and women are return missionaries who have gone to school in the United States. The members in Ethiopia were thrilled to see these pictures of their brothers and sisters hard at work in this great cause. It will truly bless so many lives!

The past six weeks, I have said more goodbyes than I care to admit. It's the hardest thing I do here in Uganda. I feel like as soon as I get to know the missionaries really well, they leave. This transfer we had to say goodbye to three elders a little earlier than we wanted to. All three are amazing missionaries, and will truly be blessed for their service here, but there were things that came up that were out of their control. We will miss them, and wish them all the best in the future. I hope they know how much we love and appreciate them.

We also had a few situations that we have not had to deal with in the entire first year that we have been on our mission. Three of our missionaries lost a parent in the same week. Two missionaries lost their mother, and one lost his father.  Each situation was different, but we really saw the hand of the Lord in each situation. The missionaries were comforted, and felt the  strength of Jesus Christ's Atonement as they dealt with it individually. We have been amazed with the strength they have shown, and how they have reached out to serve other people while they are going through this difficult time. I keep saying that they are handling it much better than I am. Truly, we are so blessed with the knowledge of the plan of salvation. It's something that the missionaries teach every day. It is blessing the lives of our missionaries and others daily. 

President Collings has tried to teach the leaders of this mission that they have every right to receive revelation for the missionaries that they are responsible for. As they are obedient, and diligent, they will receive promptings from the Holy Ghost that will help them know how to lead the missionaries they serve. We have had instances throughout our time on our mission where we have seen different leaders step into their roles and see the Lord's hand in the work. During the last couple of weeks, we had a situation that was pretty amazing. We had a zone conference, and a zone leader approached President Collings. He and his companion had an impression that three of their missionaries were breaking mission rules. As they approached President Collings, he helped them work through the concerns they had. He was able to speak with the missionaries and sure enough, they confessed that they had been doing some things that were against the mission rules. We were so impressed that these zone leaders were willing to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and were able to take care of a situation as soon as they felt prompted to. What it ended up doing, was correct behavior quickly so that the zone was able to see many blessings in the following weeks. This zone leader taught the zone powerfully during zone conference, and it was such a blessing to watch him follow the spirit in leading these missionaries, and following the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

This was a weekend of weddings. A member of the District Presidency in Rwanda was married on Saturday. Elder and Sister Wright attended that celebration.

Then there were two weddings in Uganda at the Kololo Chapel. It's kind of a funny story. President Collings and I went to the church to attend the wedding of a young couple in the Kampala South Stake. When we arrived at 10:30 for the wedding, we saw two of our missionaries from Masaka at the church. Masaka is an outer branch that is 2 hours outside of Kampala. President Collings asked them why they were at the church and they said, "For the wedding. Remember you told us we could go?" I'm sure both of us looked pretty shocked. How did they think it was okay to come 2 hours to a wedding that was not even for somebody in their branch? The more questions we asked, the more we realized that they were at the Kololo Chapel for a very good reason. They had a man and woman who were planning to be baptized the next day. They needed to get married before they could get baptized. In Uganda, many of the churches are not recognized as places where we can hold legal weddings, so this couple had to come to Kampala to get married, so they could be baptized. It just happened to be on the same day as this other wedding. They had a simple ceremony with the bishop of the ward and the two missionaries, and then took a taxi back to Masaka. They were so excited! We are very happy for them.

The wedding we were planning to attend didn't start for quite a long time, and we had to get to another meeting by 12:30, so sadly, we missed the wedding we were planning to attend. I am told it was amazing. They are a cute couple, and I'm sure will be very happy. We are happy for them. Just wish it had worked out differently so we could have seen the wedding.