Elder Cook, Elder Sibeko, US, Elder Dhlamini, and Elder Raobiarivelo
after Iganga Ward fireside
When we arrived, we were happy to see so many people there to greet us. The spirit was amazing, and the people were so kind and welcoming to us. We really had a wonderful evening.
On Saturday we drove to Mbale. We had a fireside planned for Saturday afternoon, and then Branch Conference the next day. I have a few stories about what happened while we were in Mbale. As I contemplate what happened this weekend, I am in awe. So many of the people here have such great faith, and are making such sacrifices to be a part of this Gospel of Jesus Christ, it makes the efforts I have made to go to church seem so insignificant.
Mbale branch members
There was another young man, Ema, he joined the church in Walukuba, which is in the Jinja Stake. He contacted President Collings and said that he had been teaching his family about the church, and they are all interested in coming. On Sunday morning, his whole family came to church. It turns out that they have to come by taxi, and it is a 20 minute drive for them to get to church. I spent some time talking with his mother, she kept saying over and over how much she loves this church, and she wants to join. It will just be a great sacrifice to get there each week. But they were so excited to be there. Their son, who had taught them was just so happy. You could see in his face how thrilled he was to be able to share this message of the Gospel with his family.
Ema and his family
There was another man, Peter, who lives nearer to Mbale, he as well was searching for the true church. He reached out to President Collings online, and he told Peter where the church was located in Mbale. He came to church two weeks in a row, and he also is being taught by missionaries online. When we spoke with him on Saturday, he said that he is a teacher. He has found the truth in this church, and wants to be baptized. The school where he teaches told him that if he joins the church, they will fire him. Jobs here in Uganda are so hard to come by. He bore his testimony that he knows that this is where he needs to be, and asked us to pray for him. He is planning to continue learning more about the church, and wants to still be baptized.
On Saturday after the fireside, I sat next to a woman, Harriet, while we were having our refreshments (which, by the way were amazing! Rice, beans, and meat... eaten the local way with our fingers).
She told me that she had been coming to church for 2 1/2 years, and was praying for the day she can be baptized. I asked her why she hadn’t been baptized, and she said it had something to do with her husband. Shortly after our conversation, one of our Assistants to the President, approached President Collings and asked him if he could speak with this woman. As he talked with her, she explained more about her situation to President Collings. He realized that there had just been a misunderstanding, and that she shouldn’t have had to wait 2 1/2 years to be baptized. He gave her permission to be baptized. She was SO EXCITED! She asked President Collings when she could be baptized and he said she could whenever she wanted. She asked if she could do it the next day, and if he would baptize her. Of course he said yes.
Harriet on her baptism day
On Sunday as we were waiting for church to start, we saw a group of men and women walk in and sit down. The branch president told us that everyone in that group comes to church every week. They are so faithful. Then he proceeded to tell us that they walk 18 kilometers to church every week. That’s 11 miles! And they come every week!
Relief Society in Mbale Branch
The meetings were all wonderful. The branch conference went well. During Sunday School, they taught about temple work and family history. The teacher was very prepared, and although he said he hasn’t been to the temple yet, he really encouraged everyone to do all they can to prepare themselves, and to find the names of their deceased family members to take to the temple when they are able to go. He was a powerful teacher.
President Collings with some recent converts and the Assistants to the President
After church, it was time for the baptism. We all gathered in the Relief Society room, and apparently there was a problem with getting water into the baptismal font, which sits right outside the Relief Society room window. As you sit in the room, you can see the top of the font. The men decided to take buckets to the water tank which is located across the property, and one by one fill the buckets, walk back, and pour them into the font. This process took about an hour. As we sat in the Relief Society room waiting, the women began to sing the church Hymns. I saw the young man who had traveled 9 hours, still getting over malaria, bringing bucket after bucket of water and dumping it into the tank. He worked probably double what the other men worked, he was so positive and helpful the entire time. He later told President Collings that he wished he had started coming to church a year ago, then this would be his baptismal day. As I sat there listening to the hymns. I couldn’t sing because I had a lump in my throat, and my eyes filled with tears. I looked around me and saw these wonderful people sacrificing their time and efforts for something that they understand is of great importance. The people were singing, the men were hauling buckets, the thoughts of the people walking 11 miles, Ema’s family, who were so thrilled to be there, the young man traveling 9 hours, the woman who waited 2 1/2 years for this special day, the man who may lose his job for this choice, it all just hit me. I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. What an amazing experience to watch the faith of these people!! Truly we were blessed that day!!
President Collings and President Etiang preparing to baptize two amazing people
An hour away, there was a branch conference being held in the Busia, Uganda branch. President Okello presided over it. We didn’t hear a lot about it, but from what we heard, there were 160 people there! This is a branch that only had about 25 active members a year ago. President Okello also met with President Msane who is the Mission President in Kenya, and they had a special meeting for the members in the Busia, Kenya branch, which is located about 10 minutes away from the Uganda branch. They announced that the Busia Kenya Branch is now part of the Uganda Kampala Mission. In doing this, and the strength of the Uganda branch, it’s very possible that we will be able to form a District in the Busia area very soon, which will bless the lives of the members there. We are excited for the growth of the church in this area.
A couple of more pictures... I spent preparation day with all the sister missionaries in Uganda. We played UNO Spin, which was hilarious, and took quite a long time as one by one as the sisters won, they would move out and let the game continue. As they would finish the UNO game, they would start to put together a puzzle. We really were able to enjoy each other, and build unity between the sisters.