It's so interesting how things work out when you are serving the Lord. This transfer has been very unique. For zone conferences, President Collings has been talking about the conference talk given in October 2014 by Elder Lynn G Robbins: Which Way Do You Face? (you can follow the link to watch the conference talk). He has talked a lot about how the missionaries need to trust God, and not fear man more than God. During his teaching, he directs the missionaries in a discussion, focused on D&C 3. This was a revelation given to Joseph Smith relating to the loss of 116 pages of manuscript translated from the first part of the Book of Mormon. Helping the missionaries understand that God is in charge. My favorite verse is verse 8 which says, "Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble."
What is so unique and interesting to me about this transfer is that I find myself focused on this chapter of scripture over and over as different obstacles seem to arise.
As we were having zone conferences in Ethiopia last week, there were rumblings of some civil unrest going on. None of our missionaries were ever in danger, but it did pose some inconvenience for the missionaries. They all had to stay in the apartments in Addis Ababa, and were even in lock down one day because we heard there were some street protests going on. Here is a LINK to the situation in Ethiopia. Our biggest concern is that there has been some changes in the documentation that missionaries need in order to get a work permit. Because of the changes, there were 3 missionaries who we just sent to Ethiopia that had to return to Uganda. They just won't qualify for a work permit, and thus will not be able to do missionary work in Ethiopia. We are hoping that hearts will be softened, and we can find a way to send more missionaries. Right now, there is a lot of prayers, and hope that the members will remain strong until we can get a larger force of missionaries in Ethiopia. The missionaries who are serving there now are amazing, and are so positive. It continues to come to my mind, and I'm so grateful to know that He is in charge: The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.
The zone conferences have all been so amazing. I really feel like the missionaries are taking it to heart. As they discuss "which way they face", and talk about different situations where they were afraid to do the right thing, or say the right thing, something amazing has happened. Several missionaries have come to President Collings and have made a renewed commitment to be more obedient, to use their time more wisely, and be more diligent as a missionary, and to even repent and make things right between them and God. Many missionaries are raising their hand in the discussion and testifying how their life has changed because they decided to focus on being exactly obedient to the mission rules, and trusted in God. They have seen the blessings come into their missionary work, their personal lives, and even their loved ones back home. The spirit has been so strong in each zone conference, and I am humbled to be a part of it.
When things are going so good, Satan is always there in the background trying to distract us from working hard and doing our best. Not only was there a difficult situation in Ethiopia, but also there were some unique challenges in Rwanda.
We went there this last weekend for zone conferences and interviews, and just as we were traveling there, we received a message that someone from the government had shut down one of our churches. By the time we arrived in Rwanda, two of our 3 churches had been shut down. This was on Friday, and our District Presidency and Senior Couple Missionaries were working tirelessly to figure out how we could hold church service on Sunday. Here is a LINK to an article that talks about how churches in Kigali were shut down. One of the churches we rent is owned by a lawyer. She was able to prove that our building met all the criteria that a church needed, and so we were able to open that church for Sunday service. But the Kigali Third branch did not meet the criteria, and we were not able to have services there. The members of the Kigali Third branch went to church in either Kigali First or Second Branches on Sunday. We had church in the Second Branch, and it was bursting at the seams because of the members who came from the closed branch, but also because there were so many people who were not members of the church, whose churches had been closed, and they were searching for a place to worship. I've never seen so many people in that branch. It was really an amazing and wonderful Sunday, and everyone who came was able to feel the spirit and enjoy the worship services. We were blessed to have 3 baptisms after church, one from the second branch and two from the third branch.
On Monday, the Kigali First branch was closed down as well. So now there is only one church building in Rwanda that the members are able to worship in. I have a feeling I know what everyone in Kigali will be fasting for this coming fast Sunday. President Collings and I believe that this is a blessing in disguise. There are close to 700 churches that have been closed. We will find appropriate buildings that will meet the government criteria, and invite those who are searching for a place to worship God. I believe there will be many who will come to know the truthfulness of the Gospel in Rwanda. "...he (will be) with you in every time of trouble."
Although we are facing unique challenges in Ethiopia and Rwanda, I feel completely at peace. We are doing God's work, and his work will not be frustrated by man. We need to continue to work, and he will prepare a way for us to accomplish all he asks us to do.
Along with all the fun zone conferences and experiences in Ethiopia and Rwanda, I also had a visit from my SISTERS! They came to stay with my mom and dad, who are the senior couple serving in Rwanda. When we came into town to have zone conference and interviews with the missionaries, I was able to spend a couple of days visiting and having fun with my mom and sisters. It was so nice!
On Saturday, we went to a small village and basically got to live the life of a Rwandan woman for a day. We hiked to the village, and met the women we would spend the day with. They helped us to dress in their traditional clothes. Apparently, I'm not easy to dress. They re-tied the cloth on my head probably 3 times, and kind of laughed each time they finished, I guess it looked pretty funny to them. Haha.
We went outside and peeled sweet potatoes for a lunch that would be prepared later. They also showed us where they were cooking the beans and greens. My sister, Tera, is a very good photographer. I got some of these pictures from her! Here is a LINK to more of her amazing photos!
On the last Saturday of the month, all of the communities in Rwanda get together for Umaganda. The members of the community work together to build unity, friendship, and to make their communities nicer. We were invited to join these women for Umaganda, and of course, said yes! We walked about 10 minutes down a trail to where they were clearing grass from the trail, and widening it to make a road. It was hard work, but with so many people working together, it went really fast.
Walking to the job site with our tools. This is what the trail looked like before the work.
This is what the trail (road) looked like when we were done.
Then we all went inside to enjoy lunch together. We had the sweet potatoes that we had peeled earlier that morning, along with beans and greens, and fresh avocados. Everything tasted wonderful. We continued our conversation about the differences in our culture. They asked what foods we like to eat, and what the vegetation and climate is like where we live. I have a sister in Georgia, one in Illinois, one in Utah, I live in Kampala, and my mom is in Kigali. We couldn't live in more different places. It was fun to explain to them how we were all able to meet in Rwanda from our homes all over the world.
They took us outside and showed us how they get fibers from the sisal plant and make crafts with it. They let us help, to scrape the meat off the fibers, but it was not as easy as it looked.
We spent the rest of the afternoon making either earrings or bracelets out of the sisal. I had a wonderful helper, which made the work go so much easier. She is a young girl who is deaf, and unable to speak. We saw a sign language book that she is learning from. She was very sweet, and loved helping me to tie the knots for my bracelet.
I think the finished project was nice! But mostly, the friendship we built was the best part of the whole day.
Here is the company who put this experience together for us. It was amazing! Azizi means "precious".
I enjoyed SO MUCH spending time with my sisters, and felt rejuvenated and ready to go back to work! My husband has been amazing. While I was out enjoying time with my sisters, he was taking care of all the issues going on with the church buildings, interviewing all the missionaries, and dealing with the returning missionaries from Ethiopia. His work never seems to end, but he loves it. He is right where the Lord wants him to be right now. He handles everything so well, and is just calm and confident as others seem to be stressed. I'm so blessed to have his strength, and steadying influence here in the countries where we serve. Life is good, and serving the Lord is a blessing. I can't imagine being anywhere else right now!