Thursday, March 29, 2018

Some Fun Stories

Every six weeks we have Mission Leadership Council. We have zone leaders come in from all over the mission, including Rwanda and Ethiopia. We normally have training by myself and President Collings, and then the Assistants each have a training that they do. When we have zone conferences, the zone leaders are supposed to use the training that they received from the Assistants, and train their own zones. This has been working really well, but we were feeling like there was a better way to have Mission Leadership Council. The word that stands out to us is Council. We decided that we would counsel together instead of just telling them what they needed to train on. This was the first time we really tried to have a council instead of just a pre-zone conference meeting, and it turned out really good! President Collings and I did leadership training, which is different than what we will be training on in zone conferences. Then we asked some questions of the leaders, and spent over an hour just talking about what we need as a mission, and how we can lift and help the missionaries. The Assistants also did leadership training, and focused on quite a bit of role playing. It felt more "hands on" and not just being talked to, which was really nice. We asked several of the zone leaders and sister training leaders who have been in for a while, which way they liked better. Everyone we talked to said that this new way of holding Mission Leadership Council was their favorite.

When we have missionaries come in from the other countries, they usually stay at the mission home. We really enjoy our time spent with them. It turned out that we were going to be traveling to Rwanda, so we took all 6 missionaries who had to travel back to Ethiopia or Rwanda, to the airport with us in a van. On the way to the airport we stopped in Entebbe so President Collings could interview the Kajjansi and Entebbe missionaries. While he was interviewing, one of the missionaries drove the van, to take the Ethiopia missionaries to the airport. I was standing outside the van, talking to President Collings, when this missionary got in and was just preparing to leave. He took off the emergency brake and the van rolled forward... just a few inches... right on my foot! I started to panic, and tried to pull it out, but I was pretty stuck. As I yelled a bit, this poor missionary had no idea what to do... we finally thought clearly enough to tell him to pull forward. It was amazing to see! I had the tire tracks pushed into a few of my toes, and the top of one of them was skinned a bit, but that's it. No bruise, no breaks, just a really good story to tell (and probably a young missionary who is scarred for life, haha.). I actually had an experience a couple of days before that that I will share. I think I'm just being given trials to keep me humble...or something.

We were in the office, and I decided to walk up the hill to Capital Market get some groceries. It was just a few small things that I needed, and I figured I could use a good walk. I bought the things I needed, and was walking back down the hill to the office with my purse, and my grocery bag. I was walking past a taxi, which is a 15 passenger van. There is a conductor who stands outside of the sliding door to convince people to get into the taxi, and there is a driver and however many people are riding in the taxi (up to 24 or more sometimes). Anyway, as I passed this taxi full of people, I was just exchanging a pleasant conversation with the conductor when I tripped and fell. It was NOT graceful! I fell down on my hands and knees. My purse and grocery sack went flying. My hair flipped down in my face... I even lost my shoe! The conductor came running over, trying to lift me up. You know how when you fall hard, you kind of need to just stay down for a little bit? So I'm on the  ground, trying to recover, with a man trying to pull me up, saying, "sorry! sorry! sorry!". Once I finally got to my feet, he ran over and picked up my shoe and helped me put it on. I thanked him, he was really so sweet, then gathered up my things, and every ounce of dignity I could muster... and walked back to the office. Both knees and my hand bleeding from the fall, and my hair and dress all disheveled. If you know Kampala, you will understand that this didn't just take place in front of  a 15 passenger taxi and conductor, it took place in front of no less than 50 people walking by, probably at least 20 cars passing by, AND a taxi full of people. Looking back on it now, it was pretty funny. I just had to have a few days to nurse my bruised ego. Haha. A trip and fall hurt much worse than being run over by a van! Go figure!

We went to Kigali for District Conference. There have been some difficulties in Kigali, which I talked about in my last posting. What is amazing is the faith of the members in this area of our mission.

The District Conference was presided over by Elder Mdletshe, an area authority out of Johannesburg. We have a new missionary serving in our mission, actually serving in Rwanda who is also Elder Mdletshe, his son. When we received him in this mission, and sent him to Rwanda to serve, we had no idea that his father would come and preside over the district conference just a month later. We feel like the Lord knows each of us, and gives us these tender mercies to show his love for us. The two Elder Mdletshe's were able to spend a little bit of time together over the district conference weekend, which was very sweet. They invited other missionaries in the district to have dinner with them. I think they really enjoyed it!

About a month ago, the government in Rwanda shut down over 700 churches. They have a new criteria that they follow in order for a church building to be legal. The first week of the shut downs, one branch was closed. The members of that branch could attend one of the other two that had not been closed. By week two, there were two of our churches that were closed, and all three branches met in our last building together. By week three, our final church had been closed, but we had real estate people working very hard. They had been able to find a building that all three branches could meet in. They will have this temporary building for several months as the church tries to find new buildings that comply with the new regulations on buildings.

Our new temporary church building

This building is for the members to use only on Sunday. Any activities during the week need to be held somewhere else. This has made baptisms a challenge as well, but our missionaries are being creative. They have been able to rent out a swimming pool at a hotel, and have had 11 baptisms there already.

Baptism at a hotel swimming pool. I know one of the missionaries has a picture of the pool, but I can't find it. 

I heard a funny story I'll share. This is the same missionary who ran over my foot. He is having a few trials as well. He was performing a baptism in the swimming pool, and he said the pool was pretty deep. He stood right next to the drop off where the deep end starts. He said he baptized a woman, and as she was starting to leave the pool, his foot slipped off and he sunk into the deep end. This missionary can't swim well. The woman started to panic, and instead of going towards the edge of the pool, she lunged towards the missionary as well. She couldn't swim either. A third man, who was going to be baptizing some of the other people, decided to jump in the pool to save the two who were flailing around in the deep end, but he couldn't swim either. The missionary was able to reach the side of the pool, and reached out to grab the woman's hand, who grabbed the other man's hand. They were all able to make it to the side of the pool, and nobody drowned. The missionary was concerned that this woman would think it was a bad sign that she almost drowned after her baptism, but she actually took it very well, and was even laughing after it was over. What I think the funniest part of this story is, the missionary's companion is a competitive swimmer in college. He should have been there doing the baptisms, or at least standing at the side of the pool, but he was in the truck trying to drive people from the baptism to the church, back and forth. This woman will never forget the day she was baptized.

On Saturday we had the adult session of conference in the rented building pictured above. It was a rainy day, and we had about 50 people attend the session. We had been concerned that because of all the confusion with buildings, and the added expense the members have had trying to get to church for the previous three weeks, that we wouldn't have a very good turn out. We heard a story of a couple with their young child. They waited at the bus stop for 1 1/2 hours to try and get to church. Finally, the wife went home with the child, and the husband paid for a motorcycle ride to the church instead.

On Sunday the Priesthood Session and General Session were held at the Lemigo Hotel. We were pleasantly surprised with how many people attended. The Priesthood Session had 164 men, while the General Session had 297! The previous district conferences had 450 a year ago, and 495 six months ago, so the numbers have gone down, but we were thinking we would only have about 200. This was very good attendance considering the obstacles that the members have been facing.

The choir did an amazing job.

Great attendance at the General Session.

The pulpit was so tall, I was standing on my toes to see over it. Sister Ruth Opar translated for me.

President Collings telling the men to treat their wives with kindness and love, and to hold their hands! He said, "Happy wife, Happy life!" President Jean Pierre translated for him.

Elder Mdletshe with President Bizimana translating

President Collings, Elder Mdletshe, and The District Presidency

President Collings, Elder Mdletshe, and President Opar

On Monday we spent preparation day with the missionaries. We let them decide what they wanted to do, and they chose to take us on a hike. There are so many wonderful hills in Kigali, and the missionaries chose one that had a spectacular view of the city. Elder and Sister Wittwer came to Kigali and spent preparation day with us as well. It was really nice. I ended up hiking with the sisters, while President Collings hiked with the elders. The sisters ended up getting lost, and we didn't get to the top of the hill. In fact, our  trail started going back down the hill. By the time we figured out we were on the wrong path, it was getting late, so we just hiked back. The sisters were singing all along on the trail. It was so fun!

on the trail

Fun times with the sisters

By the time I got down the hill to take this picture, some of the elders had already left. 

Tuesday was Zone Conference and our final day in Rwanda. Because there are no churches we can use during the week, we had to hold our zone conference at the home of our senior couple, Elder and Sister Wright. I actually really enjoyed it. Their home was completely full of missionaries, but the meeting was very nice. The food was very nice, and I think everyone liked it. We sure do have wonderful missionaries! I say that a lot, because it's true. Haha.

Back to interviews in Uganda, we have had some fun experiences as well. We received some mail in the office, which is always fun, but on Wednesday, it was extra special. It was CHRISTMAS!! I received a Christmas card from a dear friend of mine!!

We have a missionary who has been waiting for his Christmas package, it came!!! The postage date was November 7th, and he got it just in time for Easter! We also have had a couple of neat packages sent to the office. One missionary, when asked by his family what he wanted for Christmas, he said he just wanted to be able to serve the people in this mission. His family got together with members of their stake and did a white shirt and tie drive for our mission. When they sent the box of shirts and ties, I contacted this missionary and offered to let him pass them out. He said he actually didn't even want the missionaries to know it was from him or his family, he was just glad that they were able to give these to the missionaries and members in this mission. I am so impressed with this young man. He just recently went home, and will be sorely missed here.

We also had a member of our stake send us a box of ties. These ties were donated by the family of a man who recently passed away. He sounds like he was an amazing person, who was known for all of his different ties. They mailed us over 200 ties with a note that tells our missionaries all about this man and his life. It has been fun to take these ties and shirts to the missionaries. They are always so excited to pick out their favorites, but I also encourage them to take a few for ward members who could use one. A couple of missionaries said that there is a young man who just got the priesthood, and he doesn't have a tie to wear. They were so excited to take him a few, along with a new white shirt. He will be so happy to wear them! Another man who was previously a branch president in the Kampala area, was excited to see a tie that says "World's greatest dad". He works in Kampala while his family stays about 3 hours away. He was excited to take that tie and wear it for Easter with his family. He said, "American's are so nice!" It really brings so much joy to share these wonderful gifts with people.

One other story to share. Yesterday, President Collings was looking at the key indicators for the Lugazi area in our mission. The missionaries had 14 investigators at church last Sunday. He called the 4 missionaries who are serving in Lugazi and said how impressed he was with the work they are doing. Then he said, "What are you drinking? I need some of that Lugazi water so I can have as much success as you are having." (something like that...). Well, he had interviews with the Lugazi District, and they decided to present President Collings with the "Lugazi Secret Stuff".

It was so fun, they put a list of ingredients on the back of it:

  • Faith
  • Diligence
  • Obedience
  • Constant Finding
  • Humility
  • Hard Work
  • Charity
  • Hope
  • Prayer

We really do have such great missionaries!!

Lugazi District with their Secret Stuff. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Transfer of Miracles

Where to start? I only have to write about a weekend, but WOW!!! What a weekend! Haha!

We have named this transfer (the next 6 weeks) our transfer of miracles. The missionaries are all focused on being exactly obedient, setting their goals high, and having faith that the Lord will help them, not only have a record number of baptisms, but see other miracles in their lives and the lives of their investigators. We have invited all the members in our mission to participate with us in this transfer of miracles, and we are excited to see how the Lord will bless this entire mission!

We have been given permission to create a group just outside of Mbale. It will be called the Kabwangasi Group. There are several groups of members who have been walking 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours to get to church in Mbale. They have been doing this for over a year. Some of them only come once a month, others come weekly, but there are a lot of faithful members who make this sacrifice continually to come to church. Once we received approval to start this group, there was some discussion on where would be the best place for them all to meet. The logical place, which was central to many of their homes on the map was a small village called Kamonkoli. But we heard from several of the members that there was some disagreement that this should be the place to meet. It's more of an industrial area. President Collings decided to go to Mbale, and take a drive all around the area that would encompass the group, and just see which area "felt" right. We asked Francis, who is a branch missionary in the Mbale Branch to come with us, and he would show us where the members live. As we were driving around with him, President Collings received confirmation that the meeting place for the new group should be in a place called Mile 5. There was such a good feeling there, and there are many families who are members of the church in that area. Those who live further out will have to walk about 20 minutes to get to church, which is so much better than 1 1/2 hours! We are so excited to be able to get a place ready for them to meet! Hopefully by the first of April, the Kabwangasi Group will officially be created!

President Collings with Francis and his father, at their home.

With all of the good things happening in Mbale area, President Collings has brought 4 missionaries into Mbale again. They haven't had full time missionaries for about a year. This was their first week back and in just one day, they found two families who are interested in the Gospel, and even want to be baptized. Within those two families there are 20 over the age of 8 who can be baptized. It's just a testimony to us that this is the Lord's will. He is hastening his work in Mbale.

Our Mbale missionaries with President Collings and Francis.

On a side note, Francis was just called on a mission to Johannesburg South Africa. He has been such a great missionary since he was baptized. He has brought at least 100 people into the church (probably closer to 200). He has a goal to baptize 10 people before he goes on his mission in June. The problem is that he has already baptized 7. He decided he needs to increase his goal to 20 people that he finds, teaches, and baptizes before he leaves on his mission. After he increased his goal, he and the missionaries found the two families of 20 people. He is one amazing young man.

Since it's the transfer of miracles, I wanted to share a miracle that was shared with me. This was written by Aaron Opolot, or Elder Opolot. He is serving in the Johannesburg South Africa Mission, and his home is in Mbale. He talked about the way they find people to teach, which is mostly knocking on doors. Last Thursday, he and his companion were preparing to go out, and his companion asked him if he would say a prayer for them. In that prayer, Elder Opolot asked Heavenly Father to "...protect us from the dangers of this day." He says that this is the power of the prayer that he still considers a miracle. They entered a house with a large compound surrounded by a strong wall fence and a metallic gate. It was just locked without a bolt so they simply pushed it and it opened right up. They walked to the back door by the kitchen, because that is what most people use in Johannesburg. They knocked several times, but nobody answered. As they were returning to the gate, out of nowhere, they saw a dog (Pit Bull) running right at them. He could see that this dog was going to "beat" one of them. He said a prayer in his heart again pleading with Heavenly Father to protect them. Then he said the miracle happened. "Something whispered to me to love the dog, and I was able to stand strong, smiled at the dog until it reached us, I got strong to touch the angry dog. Though it was not easy to touch it. Surprisingly the dog accepted and settled down." He played with the dog for about 6 minutes because there was no way it would allow them to leave. Each time they attempted to leave the compound, the dog would get aggressive. He asked his companion to go knock on the door again, harder this time. After about 7 more minutes, the owner showed up. She was surprised that they were in the compound, and wondered how they got in and were playing with the dog. After they introduced themselves, she told the dog to leave. She wasn't interested in hearing the message, but they were so grateful that they were protected.  He shared this scripture. 2 Nephi 32:9 "But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul."

After our wonderful experience in Mbale, we traveled to Busia,which is 1 1/2 hours drive from Mbale. Busia is a small town on the border of Kenya. There are two branches of the church here.  Busia First Branch is in Kenya, and was created in August of 2009. Busia Second Branch is in Uganda, and was created in June of 2012. The two branches are only about 10 minutes apart, but they were in different missions. In October 2017, our mission boundaries were realigned to take in this branch on the Kenyan side of the border. On Saturday, we traveled to Busia to have a combined Priesthood/ Auxiliary Training meeting. The leaders from both branches met together, probably for the first time, and were taught by the mission presidency  and our senior couple. The meeting was incredible!

The Priesthood Leadership was taught by President Collings, President Okello (counselor in the mission presidency), and Elder Wittwer (senior missionary). They were trained on how to use their priesthood. They were taught how to consecrate oil, and give a priesthood blessing. They were taught the significance of the priesthood of our church, and shown how it can be traced directly to the Savior. They were also taught about priesthood keys. Many of them said they wished that the meeting didn't have to end, because they enjoyed it so much.

Priesthood Leadership of Busia 1st & 2nd Branches

Training of the Auxiliary Leaders for Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary was done by me and Sister Wittwer. We focused on leading the way the Savior would lead. We taught principles of faith, love, obedience, and unity. Then we taught leadership skills like delegating, planning, and, setting goals. We talked about the new curriculum, and just asked how it was working for them in their branches, and offered help as needed. After Sister Wittwer talked with them about faith, she passed out bracelets to each of them that said "Ask in Faith", which they LOVED. We told them to get to know each other, and share ideas of things that are working in their branches. I think it meant a lot to them to know that they can help each other in both branches.

Auxiliary Leaders from both Busia Branches
We took a picture of all the ladies...

...and then decided to join them, and get a little bit silly. 

It has been the rainy season in Uganda, and when it rains, everything stops! We were very worried that it would be raining on Sunday morning. We knew this was an important day, and had been praying all week that the weather would cooperate with us so that everyone who needed to be at the meeting could be there. The weather could not have been more perfect! It was a beautiful, overcast day, which means it was cool but not raining.

Sunday morning we met at the Busia 2nd Branch, and President Collings and President Okello announced the division of the branch. They created Busia 3rd Branch, and sustained a new branch presidency. It was so exciting to see the Lord pouring out blessings on this little area of the world. President Okello announced the new branch presidencies, and the new boundaries. Then we heard from a wonderful Branch Choir.

After the choir sang, President Collings spoke to the branches. He talked about how the members need to show love to those around them. People will see that they are different, and will want to know more about them. As they are examples of Jesus Christ every day, in all they do, the church will continue to grow in Busia. When people come to church, he said the members need to treat them with love and kindness, and not judge them. He focused on unity in the branches, and sustaining the leaders whom the Lord called.

After President Collings, the new branch presidency were asked to bear their testimonies. There was a wonderful spirit in the meeting.

Busia 2 Branch Presidency
President Emmanuel Ojiambo (center)
1st  Counselor: Fredrick Okello (left)
2nd Counselor: Ouma Franco (right)

Busia 3 Branch Presidency
President: Wafula David Maloba
1st Counselor: Mugisha George Onyango
2nd Counselor: Khargnde Stephen Sanye

After the meeting, we gathered both branches together for a picture. It was an amazing group!! A weekend of miracles!

One more picture I want to share. I was walking out of my house today, and saw a "wing" moving. It looked so peculiar that I had to stop and see how it was moving. Then I was so surprised, I had to take a picture.

Can you even see the ant at the tip of the wing? It was literally picking  it up and carrying it! I can't even fathom the weight difference between the two of them! There has got to be an object lesson in here somewhere. I'm a little too tired to think of it. All I know is that THINGS ARE STRONG here in Uganda! Haha! I'm hoping an ant doesn't pick me up and carry me away. Haha. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Welcome our new Missionary Couple

President Collings and I have worked really hard to do our own missionary work. Especially this month, during our transfer of miracles. We have continually opened our mouths and shared this message with everyone we can. I had very good conversations with 4 different people who I invited to church. President Collings contacted three individuals, and invited them to a missionary fireside in Jinja. Two ladies came to the fireside, and we arranged things with the missionaries to start teaching them. Three of the investigators we contacted have baptismal dates. Our goal for this month was four. It's exciting that we are right on track.

We had to leave the fireside early because we had to rush to Entebbe to pick up our new Missionary Couple!! Elder and Sister VanDerzee arrived on Saturday night, and will be our new MLS/ Office couple serving in Ethiopia. We had them come to Uganda and spend a couple of days with us and Elder and Sister Wittwer, just to get to know how things work here, and know who they will be working with over the phone and online. We are so thrilled to have them! We enjoyed the few days we spent with them, and are excited to continue to get to know them and work with them.

On Sunday, we went with the VanDerzees to the Lugazi Branch, which is about 1 1/2 hours drive from the mission home. It was so fun to spend time in this area! It was missionary Sunday, so they had Elder Payne speak, followed by President Collings. Then President Collings taught Sunday School, and was even asked to participate with Elder Thornley as he taught Priesthood.

The Relief Society sisters put Sister VanDerzee right to work. She led the music and did a wonderful job. We were taught by Elder Hyer. I talked with him after the meeting and said, "I bet you never thought you would be assigned as a Relief Society teacher!" We laughed, but he did an excellent job.

It was fun for the VanDerzees to see Elder Millecam. Apparently they are related, somehow... They were hoping they would be able to see him, but thought it wouldn't be possible because they would mostly be in Ethiopia. This was the only Ugandan branch that the VanDerzees would see before they leave for their assignment to Ethiopia. We were all surprised to make the connection, and to see the Lord's hand in the little details of our lives.

We were so happy to see Mabel! She was a young woman that President Collings contacted when he was working with Elder Antolin and Elder Duma almost a year ago. They taught her and baptized her. It is always fun to go back later and see that the people you have shared the gospel with are still active, and happy. It was a very good day.

The VanDerzees spent time in the mission office on Monday, and too soon were off to the airport. We will be seeing them in about a month. I know they will love the people of Ethiopia, and will be such an amazing support to the missionaries and members there. We are so excited to have them serving with us in this amazing place.

On Tuesday and Wednesday it was time to welcome more new missionaries. Before I get into that, just wanted to share a few fun memories of this day. First, I have been here in Uganda for almost two years. Every taxi we see has something written on the back. It's always fun to read the different sayings. But on Wednesday, I found my very own taxi!! Yay!

It might be a little bit banged up, but it's looks like it's pretty tough. It was fun to see!

We also spent some time with the Assistants to the President. Elder Yemoh and Elder Barrington. Elder Yemoh has been an AP for many months. He is a strong, organized, amazing leader. This transfer, he will be going to serve in Rwanda. He will be such a great support to the missionaries there, but we will miss him so much. We took him and his companion to breakfast, which was so nice.
While we were there, there was a monkey who was also eating. The restaurant has a wall of windows that they open every morning, and close every night. The windows had already been opened, and the monkey was climbing up the sides of the window, and eating bugs and spiders along the corners where the walls meet the ceiling, outside.

He wasn't bothering anyone, and was pretty fun to watch. As soon as they brought our juice to the table, I glanced over and saw this...

He was staring right at my juice, and I seriously thought he was going to jump onto our table! He was right next to us. It was pretty funny. President Collings tossed a small piece of a banana muffin to him, and he ate it and went back to eating the bugs. I think he liked them better than the people food. It's such a blast being here in Uganda!!

Back to picking up the missionaries. We received three from Johannesburg MTC, and four from Ghana MTC. We have missionaries that came from United States, South Africa, New Zealand, Samoa, and Ghana. Again... AMAZING! These are strong, smart, great missionaries!

We had a day of orientation, and then most of them went to their new areas. There was one who stayed an extra night with us at the mission home because he will be serving in Rwanda. So he needed to wait for his flight the next day. Orientation went well, and they are off with their new companions serving the Lord!

After we receive the new, we have to send home the veterans. It was pretty incredible this time. Sister Shongwe is the first missionary that we received and also sent home. She has only had President Collings as her mission president. It's pretty weird to be at this point. The Elders who went home did have a couple of transfers with President Chatfield, but we have been out here long enough that these missionaries have mostly only known one mission president. I was talking at one of our zone conferences and was talking about something Elder Hamilton said in our first mission tour. I asked the missionaries to raise their hand if they were here when Elder Hamilton came. Only one missionary in the whole zone raised his hand. That was a real eye opener.

It was neat to look at the departing missionaries and have memories of each of them individually. They have all really grown in their knowledge of the gospel, in their confidence to teach it, and in their strength of testimony. They have a light about them, and a power when they speak. We just felt pure joy as we shared our final thoughts with these missionaries, and listened to their final testimonies. They will surely be missed here in the UKM, but I have a feeling we will see them again, and will have a wonderful reunion with each of them.

Agyemang, Carter, Shongwe, Shumway, Driggs

Elder Carter, President Collings, Elder Driggs, Elder Shumway

Elder Agyemang, Sister Shongwe

A small update from my last posting. I talked about struggles we were having in Rwanda and Ethiopia. Right now, there's not much to report. We are still waiting on some issues with work permits in Ethiopia, but are confident we will be able to work them out, and have a full force of missionaries.  The issue in Rwanda has been with the church buildings that were closed. All three of our buildings were closed. We were able to rent one large building temporarily while we work on a permanent fix. It's large enough that all of the members can fit, but the difficulty is transport to the building. Sometimes the wait for a bus is too long, and sometimes the price of transport is too high. People mostly walk here, and it is far for many of them to walk. People are still remaining faithful, and patiently waiting for a permanent solution. We feel completely at peace, and know the Lord is watching over this mission and will help it to become even better.