Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Lately President Collings and I have been making our way around the mission, doing firesides and Branch Conferences. We had such a great weekend as we drove to Iganga Ward in the Jinja Stake for a fireside on Friday night. We have driven through Iganga, and seen where the church is, but have not been able to attend church there. Iganga is about 30 minutes outside of Jinja, so it is about 2 1/2 hours drive to get there. We have Zone Leaders and another missionary companionship who are in the Iganga Ward. They are doing such a great job.

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 

Over the past few weeks, President Collings has received correspondence from missionaries in Utah, as well as people from Uganda. There is a young man who has been learning about the church online from sister missionaries in Salt Lake City. He has been taught for almost two years. The sister missionaries contacted President Collings and said, this young man is ready for baptism. When we tried to find out where he lives, so we could have him start attending church, we were told that he lives about 1 1/2 to 2 hours away from church. This young man said that he is willing to make the sacrifice to come to church at least once a month, if he can be baptized. We met him at the church in time for the fireside on Saturday afternoon... He had traveled 9 hours by bus to get to the church, not 1 1/2. He had been sick for two weeks with malaria, and still wasn’t back to full strength, but had committed to come to church that weekend. And he said he will continue to do that every month so he can be baptized. NINE HOURS! This young man is so prepared for the Gospel! I’ll tell more about him later.
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.

Monday, October 9, 2017

MLC in the Rainforest

I wanted to share a fun Mission Leadership Council we did last week. Usually for our Mission Leadership Council, we, along with the Assistants to the President, present the training we want the leaders to study about, and focus on for the upcoming zone conferences. We as a whole mission are then focused on the same aspects of studying, and training, and we believe it really unifies the mission. This transfer is a bit different, because we have a mission tour coming up. The zone conferences will be presented by myself, President Collings, and a member of the Area Presidency and his wife. So we did Mission Leadership Council a little bit different.

We are really trying to build a mission culture. A couple of months ago, one of our Sister Training Leaders did a wonderful presentation on the mission culture, and what we feel each missionary should focus on. We felt like it needed to be brought to the forefront once again because of all the new missionaries who have joined us in the Uganda Kampala Mission. This was a perfect opportunity to talk about each aspect of the mission culture, have a spiritual activity with the leadership, and hopefully build confidence and unity with the new leaders.

We gathered together at the mission home for an opening song and prayer, and then loaded up into two vans. We would be driving to the Mariba Forest, which is between Jinja and Kampala, so the Jinja and Iganga Zone Leaders just met us at the forest.

Van One in front of the mission home

Inside of Van Two

Inside of Van 2

It was such a beautiful setting, and the opportunity to build unity and feel the spirit was amazing.  We parked at a place called the Rain Forest Lodge. Then we walked along a dirt road into the rain forest.

We have a saying, “Deny yourself and weave your strength into the RC Basket”. Along the walk, zone leaders or sister training leaders would teach what RC BASKET stands for.

Elder Davidson and Elder Carter

Ethiopia Zone Leaders were first with R- Repentance

  • Repentance is a way to happiness. Be proactive, have the desire to be accountable, and do not wait to be told what you need to do and change.
  • We cannot teach repentance when we are not repenting ourselves
Elder Kampelya and Elder Barrington

Then Jinja Zone Leaders C- Constant Finding

  • We need to identify the what, the why, and the how behind constant finding.
  • The Why: D&C 75:2-3 We have volunteered our names to labor in the Lord's vineyard for two years. The Savior provided the perfect example for us to follow. We need to emulate his example.
The group during one of the training stops on our walk.

Elder Obeng and Elder Njezula

North Zone Leaders B- Baptise Converts

  • Conversion is a different view of ones self and God by following the principles of the Gospel.
  • Preach My Gospel pg 6 quote box. People have to understand the Gospel in order to act. When they understand then the Spirit can teach them.
Elder Moncur and Elder Phiri

South Zone Leaders A- Accept Correction

  • Correction is a sign of care and love towards others, especially those that we have been called to serve. Correction does not mean hatred, but it is a way to progress.
  • When we seek to improve by accepting correction, it brings us to greatness: For example, Paul and  Alma in the scriptures.
Sister Kunene and Sister Ngulu

Uganda Sister Training Leaders S- Set Prayerful Goals

  • Goals reflect the desires of our heart. Goals reflect our love for Heavenly Father and it enables us to align our will to His will. We need to counsel with the Lord always.
  • Preach My Gospel pg 146 quote box. If we do not set prayerful goals, we will not reach our full potential. Goals allow us to align our will to Heavenly Father's Plan of Happiness.
Hiking between the training stops.

Sister Shongwe and Sister Shabalala

Rwanda Sister Training Leaders K- Keep Positive Attitude

  • We must smile always while we have all of our teeth intact. We are that we might have joy, especially with missionary work. Share the joy you have with others.
  • Keeping a positive attitude on a daily basis helps others come to the knowledge of the truth. People can know that the Gospel brings joy.
Elder Mukaro and Elder Gilbert

Rwanda Zone Leaders E- Exact Obedience

  • Obedience is the first law of heaven. Obedience brings blessings but strict obedience brings miracles.
  • When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God endows us with power.

Elder Quinton and Elder Kagson

Masaka Zone Leaders T- Teach Simply

  • We have to teach in a manner that the spirit can testify according to the understanding of our investigators.
  • 2 Nephi 28:30 When we study we gain more knowledge. We do not teach it all at once. 
Then we had teaching by the Assistants to the President.

Elder Yemoh

Mission Hand Book pg 3: We have been recommended as one worthy. The gospel is preached by the weak and simple. The Lord qualifies when he calls. He does not call the perfect, but those that are humble, teachable, and willing to learn

D&C 46: 10-12: We need to seek after spiritual gifts. We need to always remember and retain in our minds what these gifts are given for; that all may be profited. If we believe and we ask for the right reason, it will be given to us.

Elder Fiagbedzi

As missionaries we need to remember the covenants that we made with God in the holy temple and remember that we will be held accountable one day for how we honored and kept those covenants. 

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Everything we do as missionaries should be centered on love for the Savior and our fellow men. Love should be the motive behind everything we do as missionaries.


President Collings

Standing in Holy  Places
  • Mountains are significant: Mount of transfiguration where priesthood keys were given. Moses on Mount Sinai communed with the Lord and received commandments.
  • It requires a great sacrifice in order to make it to the top of mountains which is a similitude of how one has to be worthy in order to enter into Holy Temples.
  • Numbers 13:27-30 each one of us can be like Caleb with our own personal challenges. Caleb's leadership did not waver under adversity. Just like Caleb, we should not fear men

It was a unique and different Mission Leadership Council. It was an absolutely beautiful day! There were butterflies everywhere, every color and variety you could imagine. There were so many different flowers, everywhere! The foliage was lush and thick! I think we had a couple of monkeys watching us from the trees. It was a perfect day, with sunshine, but just a few wispy clouds to keep the heat away.  At the very end of our hike to the top of the mountain, the heavens opened and we were caught in a downpour... This is a rain forest, RIGHT??

The missionaries took it all in stride, they walked along the muddy road, completely drenched, singing, “There is Sunshine in my Soul”.  I loved it!

We walked back to the Rain Forest Lodge, where they had a buffet lunch prepared for us. We really enjoyed the time we spent together as a Leadership Council. The mission is in good hands. The leaders want to do what’s right and to help the missionaries they have stewardship over to catch that same vision.

A few other pictures I wanted to share. We had some interviews at the office this week. I took a few pictures of one of the groups. This is usually an all day thing, and I forget to take pictures, but when I can, I like to share.

Also, we received this package for one of our missionaries. There are no words.... I am happy to report that the most important things in the package made it! I just wish this package could talk. It has quite a story to tell.

On this same day, we had a mission call come to the office. This young man has waited a long time for his call. He was planning to take it back to his branch in Mbale, but decided to open it in the office instead. We are so excited for him, he has been called to serve in Cape Town South Africa.

Aaron Opolot with his mission call

He will be a great missionary. This has been a great week. We are so happy to be serving here in the Uganda Kampala Mission. Lots of wonderful experiences. Life is good.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Thoughts from a Mission Mom

The never ending cycle of missionaries coming and going. This is the hardest part of being a mission mom. I get to know the missionaries, watch them grow in confidence and wisdom, grow to love them, and then they go home...

The transfer week starts out on a high note, with our new missionaries coming in. It’s so incredible. You see the excitement and light in their eyes. You feel their energy. They are anxious to go to work, and experience all that the mission entails. I absolutely love it! I get a little bit intimidated when all the new faces come. I try so hard to remember each of the names, and get to know a little bit about them. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed... How will I remember all of them?? How will I get to know them?? But as time goes on, I start to feel a real connection. I start to see them go to work, and sacrifice for other people. I start to see their testimonies grow, and their faith increase. And I get to know each of them. As they go through trials, they will call and tell us about it, and we help them work through it. (Mostly President Collings helps them, unless it’s an illness, then it’s me.)  As they see miracles or tender mercies, they are anxious to let us know. And pretty soon, they have really become OUR missionaries.

Just look at this amazing group! We received 19 new missionaries last week. NINETEEN! You wouldn’t think that there could be that many young men who are all AMAZING, but they are! They have come to the mission prepared, and ready to teach.

Loading up the vans.

Thanks to Godfrey for risking life and limb to help us get luggage strapped on. 

 Let’s just say, it’s no small feat trying to get them all to the mission home from the airport. We are only 20 miles away from the airport, but it usually takes about 2 hours travel time with the traffic. We had two vans, and two trucks to take all of the missionaries and all of the luggage. It is so fun to see the new missionaries’ reaction to the traffic in Kampala. It’s unlike anything you have ever seen in the United States.

Once we got back to the mission home we fed them, and then we asked some of the missionaries who had been out for a while, to give them some advice.
 They each took a few minutes to send an email home, just letting family members know they arrived safely.

They spent the night at the mission home, and then had orientation the next morning. By about 1:00pm they were all ready to go meet their new companions.

As the week goes on, it’s time to bid farewell to our veterans. These missionaries have spent the last two years in the refiner’s fire of mission work. They have worked hard, sacrificed their time, talent’s and comforts. They have suffered rejection and persecution, and have reacted to their trials in a Christ like manner. They have studied the scriptures, and the words of modern day prophets. They have learned to listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and follow them. They have been tempered, and polished, and perfected in missionary work. I always say, now that they are the perfect missionaries, it’s time for them to go home. And my heart breaks.

This week we sent 17 of them home. SEVENTEEN!!!  Again I wonder how there could possibly be that many men who are AMAZING! But they are!  How can I let them leave??

It’s amazing to see how much growth can occur in two short years. We are blessed to see it every day. I love it when a missionary “gets it”. They have an “aha” moment, and everything clicks into place. They understand their purpose, and they start to live it. You see the light in their eyes, and the spring in their step, and even though they experience trials, they are optimistic because they know there is a blessing right around the corner. This is a payday for a mission president and mission mom. It’s not about how many baptisms we get as a mission, it’s about the growth of our missionaries. It’s seeing them embrace the eternal truths they teach every day. It’s seeing them in 10 years, still embracing those gospel truths. How can we help but love our missionaries? We are so blessed! 

Mission Life in the UKM!

We have had such an amazing couple of weeks! We finished up the zone conferences with
Rwanda Zone, 
Jinja Zone, 

Iganga Zone, 
and South Zone. 
We absolutely love the time we are able to spend with our missionaries!

On Saturday we brought President Okello with us to Lira. We had a combined branch fireside on Saturday afternoon with Lira and Adyel Branches. It was such a fun experience spending time with members of both branches. We also brought Jackie and Esther with us. Jackie's mom lives near Lira, so we invited her to come along so she could spend a little time with her.

On Sunday we had branch conferences in both branches. President Okello presided at Adyel Branch, and President Collings presided at Lira Branch. There was very good attendance at both meetings.

President Collings focused his remarks on Jesus Christ. John 17:3 "And this is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." He spoke about the difference between knowing about God and Jesus Christ, and actually KNOWING them. He talked about what we need to do to come to know them. It was a very special meeting.

After the meeting, we went to the various classes. President Collings was asked to teach Gospel Doctrine, and Priesthood afterwards. He really had a special experience teaching. There were some who came up to him and said that they had been taught things that they had never understood before. It was a highlight for them, and for President Collings.

I went into the primary room and spent the rest of the meeting with the children. This is where I spent the last 25 years (give or take), so it's where I feel most comfortable. I loved that they were using the same outline as the Primaries use in the United States, and I'm sure, worldwide. I was able to participate in sharing time, which I really enjoyed.

After church in Lira, we went over to Adyel Branch to pick up President Okello, Jackie, and Esther. It sounded like the meetings there were really nice as well. We were so happy to see Jackie's mom at the church. It was her first time attending, and it sounds like she really enjoyed it. I was so happy to meet her, and let her know how much we appreciate the work Jackie does at the mission home for us. It was a great day.

Another highlight of this week was a special training we had for the Branch Presidents in the mission branches in Uganda. We invited the Branch Presidents and their wives, if they were married, to come to the mission home for two days of training. We enjoyed so much having them stay with us!

They arrived in Kampala on Thursday around 1:00. We had lunch waiting for them at the mission home, and spent some time just visiting together. We have several new Branch Presidents, so it was nice for them to get to know each other a little bit better. We started the actual meeting at 2:00. After some small opening remarks, I took the ladies out and we had a nice activity. There were 5 of us total, and I took them to the mall near the mission home. We sat down and enjoyed some ice cream. We each bought two scoops, which I think was too much for Sister Dilish. The rest of us ate it all, but I think Sister Wittwer and I ate it the fastest. The African sisters struggled with how cold it is. Then we let them experience some things that maybe they hadn't experienced before. We took a ride on the escalator, and also on the elevator. It was fun to see their reactions. We really enjoyed our time at the mall.  Then we went back to the mission home and watched a few Mormon Messages on the television. Finally, we all came back together for the rest of the meetings.

The entire experience with these branch presidents was amazing! There is such a good feeling of love and unity with the whole group. I feel like they all felt encouraged, and excited to do more in their callings.  We were able to have a fireside, where President Collings spoke to them. He said that because of the good feelings in the room, and the spiritual preparation of the Branch Presidents, he was able to teach them more. We had this training a year ago, and it was good, but this was so much better. We hope that it will continue to get better and better each year.

After the meeting, we went as a group out to dinner. We were in a private dining room, and were fed more than any of us could eat. It was fun to sit on a large round table, all together. We went around the table and each told something interesting about ourselves that we thought nobody knew. It was so fun.

That evening we had 8 of  them stay at the mission home, and 4 others stayed at a nearby hotel. I love that we have enough beds to house so many in the mission home. It's so much easier than trying to work out other arrangements. And I feel like we really get to know each other better when we are able to just spend time together.

The next morning, I made a big breakfast for the group, and by 9:00, we started the meetings again. This time President Okello was in charge. President Collings and I had to get to the airport and catch a flight to Rwanda. But we really felt like they were trained well. We had men come and speak to them about audits, church history, and perpetual education in addition to the training that was done by President Collings, President Okello, and the Wittwers. We felt that as we left, they were in very good hands.

Meanwhile, we were off to Rwanda for the first District Conference they have had since becoming a district. It was a very quick trip to Rwanda. We had the adult session of District Conference on Saturday afternoon. The meeting was held at the Kigali 3rd branch, and it was pretty full. We were happy with the attendance, and the talks that were given.

That evening we met with one of the members of the church in Rwanda, and his friend, who is a member of Parliament in Rwanda. He had just returned from a two week trip to Utah, where he was given a tour of temple square, welfare square, and was shown many of the programs the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is involved in. He was happy to find out that the church he visited in Utah also exists in Kigali. We invited him to the General Session of District Conference, but he was busy with his family. It was a wonderful meeting.

Sunday morning I was able to sit down with my mom and watch Women's Conference on the internet. I don't remember the last time we watched it together! It was so fun to be together with her for this fun meeting. I love having her and my dad so close. Truly a blessing! The talks were amazing, and really make me want to be a better person!

On Sunday, we had the Priesthood leadership session at 8:00am at the Marriott Hotel Ballroom. There were over 90 priesthood holders in attendance. It was amazing!

Elder Corbridge did a wonderful job playing the piano for conference. 

We had the General Session at 10:00. All of the members of the church were invited to come, along with those who are investigating the church. The missionaries invited all who were interested to come enjoy conference with us. We were so pleased with the turn out. We had almost 400 people come to the general session. The spirit was strong, and there was just a great feeling there.

Fun pictures after the meeting.

Some of the sister missionaries serving in Rwanda.