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.
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:
- Constant Finding
- Hard Work
We really do have such great missionaries!!
Lugazi District with their Secret Stuff.