Thursday, January 18, 2018

Sweet Week

Sweet week is what I think of looking back over the last little while. I have had so many sweet experiences, including sweet tender feelings from the Spirit, and literally sugar sweet all over my kitchen! And maybe a little bit of yuck to keep me humble... haha.

When we were traveling home from Ethiopia, I received a message from Jackie who cleans my house. We had been gone for 4 days, and she came in the house and said she thought an animal had died in the house because it smelled so bad. I knew that the day after I returned home from Ethiopia, I would have Zone Conferences for the next 4 days in the mission home. I felt like I was so prepared. I had gone shopping and had purchased all the food I would need for the zone conferences. Enough food to feed about 60 missionaries. I guess sometime while we were in Ethiopia, the plug on the freezer had stopped working, and I had a freezer full of spoiled meat. Wow!!! I don't think I could have imagined how bad it would smell. Jackie took all the meat out and disposed of it before we got there, and even wiped out the entire fridge and freezer, but it still smelled HORRIBLE!

We arrived at the mission home at about 10:00 at night, and the North Zone was coming for Zone Conference the next morning. We just ended up ordering pizza to be delivered, because I didn't have time to figure out lunch and go shopping for it. I downloaded the JUMIA food app, and have been so surprised with how well it works here! The only downside is that everything is cash here, so I can't just punch in a credit card number, but WOW, I can't complain at all! Considering what a disaster it was to lose all the food, we actually had a VERY good week!! And it gave me a good memory!

We had zone conferences for North, Gulu, and Central Zones. We were supposed to have South Zone as well, but one of the zone leaders ended up getting pretty sick, so we postponed it until the next week. It's always so fun to have the missionaries come to the mission home! The traffic here can be so unpredictable. We have told the missionaries that we would rather have them come too early, than to have them come late. Many times they come at 8:00am, and the meeting starts at 11:00. This seems almost extreme, but sometimes if you leave even an hour later, you sit in traffic for 2 hours. We never complain if they arrive early. In fact, with several of the zones, President Collings is able to do some extra teaching of the leadership, because the whole zone is there early enough. I think it's a good habit to get into, to arrive early to meetings. The missionaries know if they arrive early they can come inside and do their personal and even companionship studies.

As I said before, we have been focusing on teaching the missionaries how to help their investigators make and keep commitments. We have decided that we need to do a lot more role plays. So the goal is practice, practice, practice. We have also focused on teaching repentance by first building a foundation on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and helping our investigators to have "faith unto repentance". The zone leaders taught on Working in unity as a companionship, baptizing converts, and developing leadership in all of our missionaries. We are focusing heavily on Preach My Gospel, and really trying to train our younger missionaries that it will answer almost all questions they have about missionary work. It's an amazing tool. The zone conferences have been great. We have many young, new zone leaders, but they are really stepping up and leading so well.

Kampala North Zone

Kampala Central Zone

Gulu Zone

This past preparation day, we got together will all of the missionaries in the Kampala area. The Elders got together for sports, mainly basketball and soccer. President Collings gets out there and plays with them whenever he can. They only do this once a month, and frequently it falls on a Monday where we are out of town, but if we are able to, he is always right there playing sports with the missionaries. The sisters usually will play board games. This week as I got together with them, I asked if they wanted to do something different. I had made a batch of sugar cookie dough, and thought it would be fun to let them roll it, cook it, and decorate it. They were all very excited to give it a try. I had one group of sisters make another batch of dough and put it in the refrigerator, so I could make more later. One group of sisters rolled out and cut the cookies into different shapes. And the last group made frosting, and then divided it up and colored it different colors. They all ended at about the same time, so the whole group went into the dining room around the large table and started to decorate the sugar cookies. Throughout the entire time, they were wiping flour, or powdered sugar, or frosting on each other. It looked like a bunch of Africans with war paint on their face! Pretty funny. They all had a good time. Later that day, I made the rest of the cookies... for later.

I think almost every cookie had every color of frosting, and every type of candy and sprinkles... I guess go big or go home!

Showing off their sweet aprons and war paint!

We saw that President Russell M Nelson was holding a special meeting on Tuesday, and knew that he would be announcing the new counselors in the first presidency, and that he would be announced as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. As President Collings and I talked about the significance of this announcement, we thought about all of our missionaries. They testify every day that there is a living prophet on the earth today, and that he holds all the Priesthood keys necessary for this work. MANY of our missionaries have only ever known one prophet, President Thomas S Monson. Many of them don't understand the process of how we get a new prophet. We decided that we wanted to do whatever we could to help our missionaries experience this announcement. We called the zone leaders in the areas that are outside of Kampala, and asked that they find out if the stake or wards would be showing this announcement, and  then encouraged all of our missionaries to go watch it. We contacted those in Rwanda and Ethiopia with the same instructions. Then we invited all of the missionaries in the Kampala Stakes to come to the mission home to watch it. It started at 7:00pm in Uganda. Usually our sister missionaries are back in their apartments by 7:00, but this was a special occasion.

We haven't had that many missionaries in the mission home since we came to Uganda. We set up every chair in the house along with the couches, and then laid large blankets on the floor in front for them to sit on. We had a full house, but it was perfect. Some of the missionaries arrived early, and we had the funeral of President Monson playing on the projector so they could see it. It kept a sweet spirit in the home as missionaries were arriving.

About 15 minutes before the program started, we had an opening song, "We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet" and prayer. Then President Collings and I spoke to them for a little while. We talked about the significance of this day, and the joy we felt that we would be able to watch it live. We talked about what a wonderful blessing it is to have a Prophet of God on the earth, and that he held the same keys as Joseph Smith, when he restored this church. Then we asked that they say a little prayer that as the prophet and his counselors are announced, that they will each receive a confirmation for themselves, that this is God's will. If they don't receive it while watching the announcement, that they will receive it in the coming days.

We watched the announcement, and the spirit filled the room. I felt so blessed to be witnessing this with all of these missionaries, many of them experiencing it for the first time. Once the announcement was made, and we heard each of the First Presidency speak, we turned off the projector. President Collings said we had a little more time before we needed to end the meeting, and invited anyone who wanted to, to stand and bear their testimony. One by one, missionaries bore testimony that they knew Russell M Nelson was the prophet. The Spirit in the room was incredible. Some of the missionaries said that they didn't know how it would work, or who the prophet would be, but that they felt so good about it. Some who have been members longer said that this strengthened their testimony even more. We were so glad that we were able to experience this with our missionaries. Afterward, I was able to serve the rest of the sugar cookies that we had made the day before, and everyone enjoyed the sweet spirit, and sweet food as they made their way home.

This was before the meeting started, we had quite a few more missionaries come 
after the picture was taken. 

Our sick zone leader was feeling a bit better by Tuesday, so we combined the South and Masaka Zones. It worked out well because both zones are small. We were able to have very good interaction from the missionaries, and everyone who trained did a very good job. 

South and Masaka Zones

Life continues to keep us busy. We traveled to Jinja for our final two zone conferences. About 3 weeks ago, I was approached by one of our missionaries, Elder Oppong from Ghana. He said that he knows when we travel to Jinja, it's hard on me to feed the missionaries in both zones. We don't have a senior MLS couple serving in Uganda, and having a buffet ordered for the zones tends to be very expensive. Sometimes I bring pre-cooked sloppy joes, but it seems like the power never works in the chapel, and the crock pots stay cold.  I usually order sandwiches and drinks from a local deli, then I have to leave during the zone conference to pick up the food, and miss the training that is done by the zone leaders. Elder Oppong asked if he could cook for the next zone conference. I wasn't sure what to say to that, but he said that before his mission he was a cook for workers in a mine. He would feed 50 men two meals a day. I asked him when he would have time to cook the meal, because I don't want him to miss zone conference either. He said that he would prepare it the night before after he came in from proselyting, and then he would get up early in the morning and have it ready before we came to zone conference. I could tell that this was something important to him, and was really looking forward to this burden being lightened for myself. I spoke with President Collings, and he agreed that this would be okay. Wow! So glad we did! Elder Oppong made rice, beef in sauce, pork in sauce, fried chicken, just sauce, and even cut up watermelon and pineapple. It was enough that all the missionaries filled their plates, and there was some left over. And it cost about half the price of what I usually do. The missionaries LOVED it! And I think Elder Oppong felt pretty good about it. I told him that I felt bad for Iganga Zone the next day... they would probably get the usual deli sandwiches or pizza. 

Elder Oppong in front of the amazing meal he made for us. 

Jinja Zone

Our final zone conference was with the Iganga Zone. We had a really great day with them. We decided that we would have zone conference and then we would go with them to a local restaurant, because I wasn't able to get a hold of the deli where we usually get sandwiches made. The training went really well, and the missionaries are continuing to learn more and more as they are focusing on being the best they can be.

Iganga Zone

The restaurant we went to did not disappoint. This is a place that the missionaries go to all the time. I think they were happy that we paid for the meal, but it ended up costing about $1 per missionary. No wonder they like to come here...

As I said, this week has been very sweet. We are continuing to see our missionaries grow and progress in their missionary service. They are learning to trust in the promptings of the Spirit, and their confidence is growing as they practice what they are teaching. We are so blessed to be a part of their missionary experiences. We love each of these Elders and Sisters.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Melkam Gena!

Merry Ethiopian Christmas! Our schedule worked out this month that we would be in Ethiopia for interviews and zone conference during the weekend of Ethiopian Christmas. We were so happy to be here and to enjoy the spirit of the Christmas season once again. It did not disappoint.

This transfer our focus during zone conferences has been on helping people make and keep commitments, the Doctrines of Christ, working in unity as a companionship, and baptizing converts. I wanted to share some things that President Collings has been teaching the missionaries in addition to those things listed. He asked the missionaries if they have ever felt a prompting from the Holy Ghost about something that they need to change in their life. Several acknowledged that they have. Then there was a discussion that we receive thoughts, ideas, and promptings all the time of little things here and there that we can do differently. He explained that this is the Holy Ghost bringing thoughts to our mind, and encouraging us to change. The question he posed was WHY? Why does the Holy Ghost constantly show us things we should be changing? When we face the final judgement, President Collings said that none of us will be surprised with where we end up. We will know exactly where we belong. We will see exactly what we did or could have done in this life. The Holy Ghost is trying to tell us what to do to be more like God. As we do those things, he tells us more, and the cycle continues throughout our lives. This is the time for men to prepare to meet God. We are told he will give us line upon line, precept upon precept... If we are becoming closer to God, we will want to continue to repent and change our ways. He encouraged the missionaries that if they have a thought of something that they could change... DO IT! Each time they have a thought, do it! Learn to follow those thoughts. If it's good, it's of GOD.

On Sunday we went to church in the Meganagna Branch. Because it was Christmas, they just had sacrament meeting, which was testimony meeting, and went home. The meeting was wonderful. Many people spoke about President Monson, and bore testimony of different ways he has touched their lives. They spoke about the Savior, Jesus Christ, and the example of love he set for each of us. What better way to spend our second Christmas in a month's time than to be in church?

After church we were invited to go to dinner with Habtu and his family. He works for the church in temporal affairs, and has been a real blessing to us as we have been without a senior couple here in Ethiopia. It was so fun to see his wife and all his kids dressed in traditional Ethiopian clothes. Their home was decorated so nicely, and it really felt festive. The food for dinner was AMAZING. His wife is a very talented cook, and was so kind to us. As we returned to the hotel, there was Christmas music playing throughout the evening. The workers were all dressed in their traditional Ethiopian Clothes, and everything felt festive.

On Monday, we went with the missionaries on a hike above Addis Ababa. It was where they built the first Kings Palace, overlooking the city. The hike was really beautiful. We hiked through a forest of eucalyptus trees, and they smelled amazing. We had a group of young kids come and start walking with us. It was cute at first, and then they started asking for money or our watches, etc. After a while they got kind of aggressive (for kids). And after trying for a good ten minutes, they gave up on getting any money from us and decided they would throw rocks instead. They were not very good at throwing rocks, so nobody got hit. It was actually pretty funny. Some of the missionaries say that when they are proselyting in this area they get hit by rocks from time to time. They assured me that it wouldn't happen this time because we weren't dressed as missionaries. When the kids started to throw rocks, the missionaries were so surprised. I had to give them a hard time for giving me a false sense of security. Haha.

The hike was nice, but I was the weak link. Most of the missionaries live here in Addis Ababa which has an elevation of 7,800 feet. President Collings and I live in Kampala which has an elevation of about 3,900 feet. President Collings runs every day for 3-5 miles a day. His lungs are fit. I should do better. Take me on a hike 4,000 feet above what I'm used to, with a group of 10 young missionaries and a husband who are in really good shape, and I'm in a little bit of trouble. I was huffing and puffing trying to catch my breath. I made it fine, but need to repent and work my heart a little bit harder.

At the top of the mountain, we were taken on a tour of a museum. It was really neat seeing the clothing, and antiquities from 200 years ago (no cameras allowed). Then we walked over to where the first King's Palace was built. It was so neat to see all of the different rooms, and what they were used for. It was a little more humble than I was expecting, but such a neat history to learn about. The view from the top of the mountain was spectacular.

We sure enjoyed our Christmas in Ethiopia. Melkam Gena! (Merry Christmas!)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Saying Goodbye

Well, this was a rough day. Our son Conner came home from his mission in October. We enjoyed so much spending time with him, and on December 29th, he returned to the United States. There parents are so proud of their son. He was a faithful missionary, and is now going back and starting school at Weber. He has been so fun to have around.The house already seems so quiet without him here. 

Our last picture at the airport.

It made me very happy to see all my kids together again. He had a great group of family members there to greet him at the airport. 

On December 31st, he spoke in church in the Grantsville 14th ward. He had a lot of family members and a few friends there. I’m sure he’s so happy to be home, and start his life. I’m just missing him and my kids a bit right now. Haha. 

We went to Rwanda the day after Conner left. It was a very busy trip. President Collings changed out the branch presidency  in the Kigali 2nd branch. The previous branch presidency had done a wonderful job, but had been in for several years, and it was time for them to be released.  The new branch presidency will be amazing. We are excited to see the continued growth in Rwanda. 

 After church, we were invited to have dinner with President Bizimana and his wife. He was put in as the Branch President of Kigali 1st branch a couple of weeks ago. It was so fun to see their new home. His wife is a wonderful cook, and it was a great visit.

 On Monday, New Year’s Day, for preparation day, we went with the whole zone to Akagera Game Park. We asked that each missionary pay what they could for their entrance fee, and we would make up the difference. The missionaries were not asked the amount that they contributed for themselves, but we did find out that some of the missionaries did not have enough to cover the cost of the entrance fee. Several of the other missionaries approached Elder and Sister Wright, and said that they wanted to contribute extra to help those who weren’t able to pay for themselves. It was done quietly, and I was so impressed with the service they provided for each other. We have such amazing missionaries.

 The missionaries took a lot of pictures of the wildlife. I was just happy to take pictures of the missionaries. Everyone had a great time. We saw zebras, giraffes, an elephant, many different types of antelope. It was really a good experience.

Missionaries taking   pictures by the lake shore of dozens of baboons, some water birds, and hippos.

We stopped for lunch at a place called hippo beach. It did not disappoint. We saw several hippos out of the water, grazing on the shore, along with crocodiles, and more birds. 

Hippo beach had covered picnic tables. It was a perfect place to stop for lunch. Sister Wright made a wonderful picnic for the whole group. She definitely feeds the missionaries well when we get together.  Above is all the Elders with President Collings. Below is all the sister missionaries with myself and Sister Wright. 

                                 We found a hippo taking a mud bath. Very close to the road.

And a lot of other animals. 
It was a great place to spend our New Years Day! 

On Tuesday we had zone conference. The missionaries came well prepared, and we were taught well by the zone leaders, and by  the spirit. I got a little bit preoccupied, and didn’t take any pictures of the missionaries at zone conference. But we had an amazing weekend in Rwanda.