Sunday, November 19, 2017

Transfer Week and Johannesburg

Well, it was transfers again. We had a large group come in again. We had 12 new missionaries scheduled to come. 11 came, and one stayed in the MTC to learn English for a few more weeks. There were also a few who were leaving from Uganda to serve in other missions. Their visas did not go through on time, so they became missionaries of the Uganda Kampala Mission. So we actually received 15 new missionaries this transfer. We are always so happy to receive them! They come to the mission field so excited to serve the Lord. It’s up to us to keep their flame of faith burning, and help them to start off on the right foot. 

Twelve of our 15 new missionaries

 We picked up some at the airport on Tuesday evening, and brought them back to the mission home for training.

Then we had another group come to the airport on Wednesday morning. By the time we got them all to the mission home and fed, it was time for orientation.

We went over some of the particulars about the mission, including medical, financial, visa/ work permits, and talked with them about the mission culture. They were all able to email their families and be interviewed by President Collings.

After orientation, we took them to their new areas where they were able to meet their new companions. We keep saying, we are given the BEST missionaries! This mission is blessed to have each one of them.

Once we took the new missionaries to their new areas, the missionaries who were returning home made their way to the mission home.

They spent the night at the mission home, and then we had the farewell dinner and testimony meeting the next day. Four very strong missionaries returned home... and I cried. I love these young men!! They are such great leaders in our mission! They have amazing potential, and I can’t wait to see where life takes them. We have been so blessed to know them, and to have them serve with us in the Uganda Kampala Mission.

Elder Moyes, Phiri, US, Watts, and Quinton

 On Friday, we took our friend  Esther out to dinner for her birthday. She and Jackie have helped Conner to know more about Uganda, and have been such sweet friends to us. We wanted Conner to taste some of the exotic foods that are available here in Uganda.

 He ordered a dish that had four different types of meat on it, Spring buck, Ostrich, Hartebeest, and  Wildebeest.

I think it was a fun day for all of us. Esther really enjoyed her cheesecake for her birthday as well.

That evening as we were talking with Esther and Jackie, they talked about how they were going downtown the next day. They had some things to purchase in the shops there. I have been wanting to go on a taxi for a long time, and so I asked if I could tag along with them. They said that would be okay, and we set up a time to meet together. It was so fun! I had also mentioned that I have never had Nsennene yet since we have been to Uganda. It’s a type of grasshopper that is seasoned and fried. Everyone here loves it, but it’s only available in November. When we met at the taxi stop, they had bought me some!! I was so excited to try it!! I’ve been told they taste a little bit nutty, and they are a little bit crunchy. All I can say is they remind me of eating potato chips! Anyone who knows me knows I love potato chips more than any candy or chocolate!! I won’t say they are my favorite snack, but they were not bad at all!

I didn’t take a lot of pictures while we were out together. They were afraid that my phone might be taken while I had it out. But, WOW! What a great experience!! I rode in the taxi’s that we have our missionaries ride in all the time. I went to the marketplace downtown. You can’t believe how many shops there are! I’ve been one time before with Sussie to buy some medication for the missionaries, but it was a really quick stop,   and we went by car. This was such a blast. There were people everywhere selling everything you can imagine. Jackie and Esther  would hold my hand as we crossed the crazy busy streets, and one walked behind me while the other one walked in front so that nobody would give me any problems. I don’t think there would have been a problem, but they really were sweet to take care of me.  

At the taxi stop 

Back seat of the taxi 

A view from inside. We had about 16 people inside with us. 

Stuck in a jam

It was a great day spent with great friends! I’m thinking I would like to do it again sometime. We will see.

This past week we went to the Mission President’s Seminar in Johannesburg. Can I just say, this is my favorite time of the whole year? We have really gotten to know the other mission presidents and their wives, along with the Area Presidency and MTC Presidents and their wives,  and I love being able to see each of them, and spend time with them. But it’s also such a spiritual uplift to be taught and interact together. It really recharges us when we go.

We went a day early to Johannesburg so that we could get our teeth cleaned at the dentist. It also gave us a chance to see some of our return missionaries, and have a small reunion with them! We had worked it out with Roderick Duma, one of our missionaries, to schedule us to go on a session in the Johannesburg temple. Then we said we would like to be able to just have dinner with everyone so we could talk and enjoy each other’s company. He did such an amazing job!!

We all met at the Johannesburg temple.
This was our first time to go back to the temple with Conner. We only went once with him before he left on his mission. It was a great experience. I think he has had more experience in the temple in the last 1 1/2 years than we have. Apparently, if you are on the island where a temple is, you get to go once every 3 months. Boy do I miss going often!

 As we walked through the gates of the temple, all of these wonderful missionaries were there! It brought me to tears! As each of them left Uganda, I really felt like I may not ever see them again. To have them make the sacrifice to come and see us, was amazing!! Several came from different parts of South Africa. One came  from Swaziland, and two from Zimbabwe.  It reminded me of the story in Alma 17, where the sons of Mosiah met Alma as they were traveling, and “what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord.”  These young men and young women were able to spend time with us in the temple. They are diligent in keeping their covenants, and are really lifting the members of their wards and branches as they are serving. All I could think of was how much joy I felt in being with them. It was a wonderful experience.

 After the temple session, we had a meal prepared for us in the cafeteria. But what surprised me the most was that they had arranged a program! They each took time to stand and say when they served, and what they learned from their mission that is blessing their lives today. They had myself and President Collings each take time to talk to them. We all joked that it felt a little bit like a zone conference again, but nobody complained. It felt good to have a spiritual meeting with them, just like old times!
 We have decided that next November we want to meet together one more time. Hopefully a few will be married by then, haha. And we will have a few more missionaries home that can join us. I highly recommend mission reunions!! They are the best!!

By Wednesday, we had the Mission President’s Seminar. As I said before, this was a time to recharge our spiritual batteries.

Our son Conner served his mission in Hawaii, and while there he spent time in one of the Tongan Wards. We have a mission president and wife from Tonga serving in the Zambia, Malawi Mission. It was so fun for them to meet Conner. They know several of the same families, and it was so fun hearing them talk about and reminisce different friendships. Apparently, they say Conner speaks very good Tongan. I think he does, it sounds good to me, but it’s better to hear it from a native Tongan. Haha.
Conner with President and Sister Kupu 

 This was our seat for three days as we listened to instruction, and interacted with the other leaders in the Southeast Africa Area. I enjoyed it all so much, I didn’t want it to end.  We both had just a flood of ideas come to us that we want to implement in our mission. It’s amazing how revelation works, things that we have been thinking about, and wondering how to do this or that, and then as we interact together and share ideas, our minds are enlightened with what the Lord wants us to do in our own mission.
Me with my companion. 😉 

One of the meetings was held with just the sisters. We had the wives of the Area Presidency, the MTC presidents, and all the mission presidents, along with staff and sister missionaries serving in Johannesburg. It was such a wonderful experience.  We talked about having Joy in the Journey. And, although sometimes the days seem pretty crazy, and extremely busy, I really believe that all of us really feel joy in what we are doing. We took turns sharing with each other the training that we have been doing that has helped our missionaries.
I love these women! 

We took a picture of the men and women together as a group. Needless to say, this is an experience I will treasure forever.

While we were in meetings, Conner was exploring!  Roderick took him around and showed him some of the “must see” places in Johannesburg. He went to he home of Nelson Mandela, and a museum. He also went to an amusement park one day. We all enjoyed time at the mall, and just seeing the sights of Johannesburg. I would highly recommend visiting! It was so fun!

At the Mandela House

At the amusement part 

Dinner together with Conner and Roderick 

Visiting with Elder Duma!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Homecoming and Mission Tour

Well I don't even know where to begin! I have had so many wonderful blessings these past few weeks! Obviously, the first and most wonderful is having our son Conner return from serving his mission in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission. After two long years of being away from this young man, he is back! Kind of... he's with us, but in Uganda! He came walking through the doors at the airport and just had such a light about him. He served faithfully, and it was evident in the light in his eyes and the confidence in his step.  We are so proud of the man he has become. It's been interesting to see him continue to be a missionary here. Seems like every time I turn around, he's talking to someone about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and inviting them to come to church and learn more.

My mom and dad are serving a mission in Rwanda, and they were able to take the quick flight to Uganda so they could be there at the airport with us to welcome him.

On a side note... President Collings, for the first time since his mission started, got sick. While we were waiting for Conner at the airport, we thought he would take quite a while to pick up his baggage, so President Collings decided to run to the bathroom. Conner decided to come out before he retrieved his bags, so he came out really quickly. Dad was in the bathroom, so mom got to see him and hug him, and Grandma and grandpa got to see him and hug him. Then Conner  surprised his dad by waiting for him in the bathroom. It was pretty funny. We had a difficult time convincing the security at the airport to let him go back in and retrieve his luggage, but after a bit of pleading, he was able to return to baggage claim.

Unfortunately, Steve was pretty sick for quite a few days, and we saw miracles as he was able to take care of his responsibilities while dealing with this illness.

Conner came home on Friday night. We kind of hit the ground running when he arrived. We took him back to the mission home along with my parents. The very next morning, President Collings had to perform a wedding. It was a wonderful experience! It was a wonderful couple from Gulu. They traveled 5 hours to get to the chapel in Kampala where the wedding would take place. They had several family members and friends who made the long journey as well. It was a beautiful day, a wonderful ceremony, and a special experience for us.

Right after the wedding, we loaded up the car and traveled to Gulu. President Collings had to change out a branch presidency in the Gulu branch there. We took Conner and my parents along with us. We stopped for the night at Chobe, which is a lodge that's located right on the Nile. It's close enough to Gulu so we would be able to get to church in the morning.

It was amazing how many animals we saw as we were driving to the lodge. We saw kobs, giraffes, an elephant, cape buffalo, amazing birds, monitor lizards, hippos, and warthogs. We saw a lot of baboons, and even had one jump on the hood of our car. Conner rolled down the window to toss out an apple. We were hoping it would jump off the car and go after the apple. Instead, it reached it's hand in, and grabbed Conner's hand as it was trying to grab the apple. Pretty funny. It was incredible.

When we got to church on Sunday morning, we had a boy come up to us in the parking lot, and show some interest in coming to church. He and Conner hit it off right away. He ended up staying through sacrament meeting. He didn't speak very good English, but acted like he really enjoyed it. As the opening song began, Conner showed him how to turn to the right page in the hymn book, and how to read the words in the verses. It was very sweet.

The branch presidency was released, and an amazing new branch presidency was called and set apart. The meeting went relatively well, and we all felt blessed to be there. The branch presidency will do a great job, and we are so happy for the branch.

Driving back from Gulu, we decided it would be a good idea to let Conner get used to driving, since Steve was still sick. There is not a lot of traffic, and he could get used to driving on the left side of the road, etc. Well, an hour or so into his drive, he was pulled over by a traffic officer... who decided he would like to throw Conner in jail. We spent a lot of time talking it over with the officer, and after promising to teach him to drive more carefully, and a little bit of begging and pleading... he decided to let him go without going to jail. I quickly traded places with Conner in the car, and I drove the rest of the way to Kampala. (I figured he wouldn't be wanting to drive here in Uganda for the next two months that he's here.)

Conner's first Rolex, along with other local food. 

By the time we got back from our trip to Gulu, it was time to take my parents back to the airport, and get them on their way back to Rwanda. It was so nice to have them around for a few days to welcome Conner home from his mission. They were so sweet to come, and we love being with them.

A little KFC before the flight home. 

Two days later, we had Elder S Mark Palmer and his sweet wife Jacqui arrive for a mission tour. What an amazing experience to spend 10 days traveling around our mission with them.

The first two days were spent having zone conferences. We had the North and Masaka  Zones combined the first day. We met at the Kololo chapel in Kampala. They started out with a leadership meeting for all the trainers, district leaders, sister training leaders, zone leaders,  and assistants to the president. Then we met with all the members of the zones for a zone conference. Elder Palmer really has a way of making it very personal for each zone. He followed the spirit and focused on the needs of each missionary and zone, which means every meeting was different. President Collings and I were each asked to give a training, followed by Sister Palmer, and then Elder Palmer took the rest of the time. He spent a lot of time answering questions or concerns that the missionaries had, and then would have them role play. The Role Plays would help them understand how to use the things he was teaching them in their own missionary work. They would open their planners, focus on an individual, and then seek revelation on what that person might need as they were doing the role play. The missionaries really were edified.

North and Masaka Zones

The Central and South Zone Conference was on the next day. It was carried out in the same manner as the previous day, but obviously was very different because the missionaries had different questions and concerns. I was surprised how much he focused on role plays, and President Collings and I decided we need to use them a little bit more in our training.  Each day we had zone conference in the morning, then had a break for lunch and a picture, and then went back to training for a few more hours. The missionaries really were able to spend quality time with Elder Palmer.

Central and South Zones

On one of the evenings while the Palmer's were here, we arranged for all three Stake Presidents and their wives to come enjoy a nice dinner with us. President Mbiro came all the way from Jinja with his wife.  President Okot of the North Stake brought his wife. And, President Kamya of the South Stake came. His wife was unable to attend. We were disappointed, but we understand, and were so happy for the ones who were able to come. I know it was a sacrifice for them. We had such an enjoyable time. We were able to get to know each of them better, and they were able to ask Elder Palmer any questions that they might have on their minds. It was a beautiful evening.

Dinner with the 3 Stake Presidents and their wives.

We spent our preparation day with Elder and Sister Palmer, visiting The Source of the Nile in Jinja. We go to Jinja about every three weeks, and have never taken the opportunity to go to the Source of the Nile. It was really a neat day. Elder and Sister Palmer were so fun to be with, and I think Conner really enjoyed it as well.

On the boat

On the dock with our driver

At the Source of the Nile

Where the Nile exits Lake Victoria, and the springs are flowing.

Tuesday we had zone conference with Jinja and Iganga Zones. The best part about these zone conferences is hearing the inspired questions that the missionaries ask. It really gives us all a chance to be taught and edified. We have such great missionaries serving in the Uganda Kampala Mission!

Jinja and Iganga Zones

Conner helping to sweep the floor after lunch. Doing it like the locals!

After zone conference in Jinja, we drove to Entebbe to spend the night, because we had a flight to Rwanda very early the next morning. One thing I am learning about General Authorities, their schedules are incredibly busy. It was amazing to see how full his schedule was, and how he kept each meeting personal and spiritual. We learned so much from him, and our love for him and his wife really grew over the course of the mission tour.

Our experience in Rwanda was incredible. It was very special having my parents, us, and Conner, all missionaries (well, one return missionary) together. Elder Palmer took time during each zone conference to talk about the significance of “returning home”, but to our Heavenly Parents.

While we were in Rwanda, he talked more about our missionaries being the beginning of multi-generational families in the Gospel. He had all the missionaries take a picture of us all up there, and talked about how they should live their life in a way that they can reach this goal, to see their children and grandchildren serve missions. I must say, I feel blessed to be part of a multi-generational missionary family. We had 3 generations of missionaries in Rwanda, and I know my family has at least 3 generations of missionaries before that, dating back to pioneer times. That is something that is pretty rare today, but a great blessing to be part of such a rich heritage.

Kigali Zone 

Family Reunion in Rwanda 

Elder and Sister Palmer with the sister missionaries 

We spent time that evening with the district presidency in Rwanda. They were able to spend time asking Elder Palmer questions, and just being taught by him. There is strong leadership in Rwanda, and this lifted them, and helped them even more.

The next morning Elder and Sister Palmer went to visit some of the Humanitarian sites in Rwanda, and then we left for Ethiopia.

Our time spent in Ethiopia was amazing. The missionaries were all there on time, and had prepared themselves spiritually by reading conference talks, studying the scriptures, and praying about what questions they might have. The spirit in the meetings was wonderful. We have strong missionaries in Ethiopia, and they are growing and stretching themselves, and learning every day.  They love the people, and are learning to live the mission motto which is in Omni 1:26. In short we say, “Come unto Christ and offer your whole soul.”

Ethiopia Zone 

 This was a difficult trip to Ethiopia because this would be the last time we see Elder and Sister Harline. They were completing their 18 month (19 month) mission, and were leaving two weeks later to go home. We would not be able to be there when they left. They have been such an incredible support to the mission in Ethiopia. They have been there for the missionaries in sickness and health. They have loved them and mentored them. They have been a support to the District and Branches. They have been able to do their own missionary work, and even see their own baptisms. We have been so pleased with the wonderful way they have served. It was so difficult to say goodbye. We have made life long friends.
Elder and Sister Harline with Conner 

 We went to dinner with Elder Palmer, some of the District Presidency,  and the Harlines. It was a wonderful evening together. Again, Elder Palmer was able to teach, answer questions, and just get to know the leadership  of Ethiopia a little bit better. The District Presidency is amazing, and they work so hard. We are so blessed to have them leading the members in Ethiopia.

Harlines, President and Sister Eyob, us,  Brother Habtu,  and Elder Palmer 

 We attended church together, and then we had to go back to Uganda. The mission tour for us was over. We really enjoyed our time spent with Elder and Sister Palmer. We were so grateful that our son was able to get to meet them as well. It was such a blessing to be able to have him here with us throughout this mission tour.

These are truly experiences and friendships that we will cherish forever.