Monday, May 21, 2018

Amazing Masaka

Our latest trip to Masaka is too amazing not to share. Almost two years ago, when our mission first started, the Masaka branch was the branch we attended on our first Sunday in Uganda. I remember there was a baby blessing, and a couple of confirmations. I was asked to bear my testimony, and just felt very comforted that the church in Masaka, Uganda felt the same as the church in Grantsville. We had all the regular meetings, and the lessons coincided with those we were being taught back home. We were very impressed. After church there were several baptisms, and I was asked to give a talk on baptism for that meeting.

A few weeks later, we returned to Masaka. We had been training the branch councils in all of the mission branches, and it was time to do our training in this branch. When we walked in the room for the training, it was full. There were men and women representing every auxiliary in the church, and again, we were very impressed with this little branch. They were all willing to share thoughts and ideas, and we felt like the training went very well. During that meeting, President Collings told the branch council that he could see a Stake in Masaka in the near future. The feeling was just so good each time we came.

In recent months, we have had tremendous growth in Masaka. There were enough people consistently coming to church that we decided to submit the paperwork for the branch to be split. Masaka is a very big city, and it’s quite a distance for some people to travel to get to church. The request for a branch split was approved, and the Kijjabwemi Branch was created. They had to meet in the same building for a few months as a new one was being renovated. Just about 3 weeks ago, the new building was finished. The missionaries held an open house, and invited anyone in who wanted to see it, and learn more about the church. Each week there are many people coming to both the Masaka and Kijjabwemi branch. Before the branch was split, the most people that attended was 180, and usually it was around 150 people.

On Sunday we held Branch Conference in both branches. President Okello presided at the Masaka Branch Conference, and President Collings presided at the Kijjabwemi Branch. There were 100 people in Masaka, and 140 people in Kijjabwemi Branch. Amazing that in just 3 weeks time we have 60 more people attending church in Masaka. What’s even better is that they are teaching pure doctrine. There are many return missionaries who help teach the lessons, and translate into the local language for those who don’t fully understand English. The Kijjabwemi relief society president told me that her main focus with ministering, is inviting back those who have become less active. Many people joined the church, but then realized it was too far away for them to travel each week. She is excited to find them and tell them that there is a building that is very near them now. She is seeing many people come back to church.

Kijjabwemi Branch

Masaka Branch 

Saturday before the Branch Conference we held an Auxiliary training, and Priesthood session. We started out together while President Collings talked. With the recent changes in ministering, he has been focusing on that in all the branches we visit, just helping them understand that we need to do as the Savior would do. That doesn’t mean visit so you can check a name off a list, but really get to know people, and seek help from the Lord as you find ways to serve and strengthen them. After he spoke,  we separated into the different groups. Sister Wittwer and I trained the women in Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary. We were pleasantly surprised that every Auxiliary in both branches had several people there. We were able to answer questions that they might have, and just help them understand that they can do this! There is a reason they were called to this position in the branch, and the Lord will help them to know his will for them and those they have stewardship over. It was a wonderful meeting.

Relief Society was so full! There were 6 investigators in just this room. 

While we were in Masaka, we also spent some quality time with our missionaries. We had interviews, and a zone conference with them. I usually try to bring a lunch to serve to them during zone conference, but we had just had our huge combined zone conference, and we were in Ethiopia right before that, so I hadn’t even thought of what I would make for them. We decided to go to Cafe Frikadellen. It’s a wonderful little cafe with MONSTER burgers. The problem with taking 20 people out to lunch is how long it takes to actually get the food. We decided to do President Collings and my training, and then go to the cafe. We ordered our meals, and then had the zone leaders do their training while we waited for the food to come. That worked really well. We were about the only people there, and it was a nice setting. They both did such a great job! And two hours later, we were able to eat our wonderful food. There are very strong missionaries in the Masaka Zone. They are all seeing success, and the church is continuing to grow in this corner of the Lord’s vineyard.

The long wait for food...

Masaka Zone 

There is one other area in Masaka, called Nyendo. It is on the North side of town. Right now there are many members of the church, but only a few come because of the distance. We believe if we start another small group or cluster in that area, it will grow as quickly as Kijjabwemi did. The people in Masaka are humble, and willing to learn and live the gospel. We are so grateful to witness the wonderful things happening in this Amazing place! 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Mostly Moved In!

I wanted to post again when I was moved in so I could share pictures of the new house. The move was a step by step process, that took a little longer than I thought it would. But it was TOTALLY worth the wait. During the process of the move, we had a Mission Leadership Council, Mission Presidents Seminar in Cape Town, missionary firesides, zone conferences, a trip to Ethiopia, and even some interviews. I think I will show the pictures of the finished Mission Home, and then tell about all of the other exciting things that we have been able to experience over the past few weeks.

Once we moved our things out of the mission home, President Collings and I stayed in a hotel for a few days. They moved all of our furniture, and then covered it and went to work! The air conditioning units were taken from each room in the old mission home and moved to the new mission home. To hang the new units requires making holes in the walls to the outside of the house. The walls of the house are all cement and brick that is about 6 inches thick. So there was drilling and hammering and chiseling, and every other noisy tool you can think of to make the holes in the walls in each of the rooms to hang the AC units. This obviously caused a lot of dust and dirt in the house. They also hung fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, and even the nice artwork on the walls. Then people came in and deep cleaned the entire house because we were supposed to have a house full of missionaries for MLC. We spent the weekend in the new mission home and then traveled to Cape Town for the mission presidents seminar. While we were gone, they worked on the house again. The furniture was sanded and re-stained and varnished, rugs and new furniture were purchased, the curtains were replaced, the entire house was painted inside, and the generator was moved from the old mission home to the new one. While we were in Ethiopia, the landscaping has been updated, and the wall around the compound is being stuccoed. This home is just perfect, and we are so happy with all the work that has been done.
Living room


Sitting area 

Bunk room (we are adding one more set of bunk beds)




Another sitting area

Second bunk room 

We call this our conference room where we will have zone conferences and mission leadership council meetings.

I put this in the last post, but here is the outside of the house.

The person behind all the work on this house is Jimmy Okot. He is the Facilities Manager for the church here in Uganda. He has been so amazing, and has really taken such good care of us! This will be one of his last projects. He leaves at the end of June to the Provo MTC for the training for new Mission Presidents. He is the new mission president for the Zimbabwe Bweyogerere Mission. He and Sister Okot will be amazing, but we will surely miss them here in Uganda.

Mission Leadership Council at the new mission home was so great! We had zone leaders and sister training leaders come in from all over Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia. Those coming in form the outer countries and zones stayed at the mission home. We had a full house, but it was a lot of fun too. As we were starting the meeting, the power went out in the mission home. As you look at the timeline above, we didn't get the generator at the mission home until the week after MLC. We assumed that it would just be out for an hour or two, but it lasted the whole day. What I loved about it was that there was so much outside light, and a large sliding door that we could open. There was a nice breeze blowing through the room for the whole meeting. We had an open discussion with the mission leadership, and tried to see what concerns they have in their areas with the missionaries. President Collings focused his remarks on the difference between ministering and administering. Both are important, but we need to really focus on ministering the way the Savior did because that is the way we will see success as missionaries. We also talked about the importance of administering, such as filling out baptismal records, sticking to the daily schedule, being on time for meetings. If we are administering properly, we will be more successful ministers. I talked about our culture as a mission, and had an open discussion with them on what we need to work on. They talked about 4 or 5 areas where we can improve, and they will focus on those improvements during their upcoming zone conferences. The Assistants to the President had training on using the Book of Mormon more effectively, and on being obedient to the White Handbook. They asked questions and got clarification on some of the rules that the missionaries may be confused about. All in all, it was a great day! We have amazing missionaries. I can't say that enough.

Set up for the meeting

Amazing how many cars we can fit in the compound

11 cars with room to spare!

Lunch  during MLC

Lately Christine has been making all the meals for MLC and Zone Conferences. I don't know what I would do without her! Jackie has been right there to help me whenever I need it!

Some of the missionaries who stayed at the mission home. I had them make their own dinner.
I'm getting a little bit lazy about cooking...

Someone got a package from home!

I forgot to say, the power came on at about 10:00 at night. We were so happy to be able to see for about 30 minutes before retiring to bed. I am not very good with lighted candles. There are wax drippings all over my house.  The next morning at about 10:00 am, the power went out again! Again it stayed out all day long. This time as it got dark, we noticed that all of the neighbors had power, but we did not. I remembered looking at the box where the main line comes into the house. It was pretty scary looking. I decided to go outside and see if there was a problem with the main line. Sure enough, this is what I found...
Can you see where the fuse is completely fried?

Sadly, we had to call an electrician to come and fix this late at night. We left the next day to go to the mission presidents seminar, and while we were gone, they brought in a generator, and fixed all the wiring. We shouldn't have any more problems. It was quite an adventure!

Cape Town was amazing! We didn't really do the tourist thing, we just went and enjoyed the spiritual feast that was placed before us! Elder Brent Nelson who is over the missionary department, joined us for the seminar. It was so amazing to get some insight from him about missionary work, and where he sees it going in the coming years. I left there just excited to be a missionary! So grateful we have one more year to serve the people in our mission, but it feels like there is not enough time to accomplish all we want to do. We also heard from the Southeast Africa Area Presidency and their wives. Elder Hamilton, the area president has been reassigned, and will be leaving Africa in July. We have had so many wonderful experiences with him and his wife. It is hard to see them go. We are just grateful for the time we were able to spend with them. Elder Palmer, who is the first counselor, has been called as the Southeast Africa Area President, and we are very excited to continue working with him and Elder Koch, who has been serving as the second counselor. The newest addition to the Area Presidency is Elder Sitati. We have not had a chance to work with him yet, and are so excited to get to know Elder and Sister Sitati in the coming year.

There are three mission presidents and their wives who go home in July. They have become our friends, and we are going to miss seeing them. President and Sister Baehrel, President and Sister Mkhablea, and President and Sister Foote. As new ones are called, it's always nice to get to know them, but as always with missionary work, we have to say goodbye. What a blessing to know such wonderful men and women!

Here's a fun side note. During our travels to South Africa, we stopped in Zambia. That means I have been in six African countries. There are only 48 countries in Africa I haven't seen, hahaha. We have been to Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi, Zambia, and South Africa. So far, they are all my favorite!

Our next stop on our mission journey was Ethiopia. It was a very short visit, but we really felt like we accomplished a lot. When we arrived, there were quite a few temple recommend interviews for President Collings. The branches in Ethiopia are planning a trip to the temple in June or July, which is such a wonderful blessing. There are 20 people who are preparing to go, including several families who will be sealed together.

We also have Sister Helena, who was set apart by President Collings, and sent to the MTC. She will be serving her mission in Manchester England. She is a very strong member of the church here, and will bless the lives of many people as she shares the Gospel.

We also had zone conference with our missionaries in Ethiopia. We have had some struggles getting work permits for our missionaries to go to Ethiopia. There were some who we sent a couple of transfers ago, and after their temporary visas  expired, we had to bring them back to Uganda. There are some who are working there now whose work permits are close to expiring, and if we can't figure out this latest issue, they will have to return to Uganda as well. Right now there are only 6 missionaries serving there. They are amazing, and have such a positive attitude. We would like to see double or triple that number, and are working very hard to authenticate the appropriate documents so we can send in a new force of missionaries. In the mean time, we have a stalwart group of missionaries moving the work forward. They are still seeing success, and we feel very blessed that the Lord is helping them progress.

We appreciate the VanDerzees, they are the new MLS/ Office couple in Ethiopia, and they have been wonderful. They help watch over the missionaries, deal with the monotonous work of paying the bills, and help with meals for zone conferences, along with strengthening the members in the branches, and working with the missionaries. This zone conference, Sister VanDerzee made tacos, with all the fixins. She also made fried ice cream (which we haven't had in a year) and strawberry shortcake. YUM!

This is just a memory I am writing for myself. Driving home from the airport, which is only about 40 Kilometers, takes us forever! We arrive in Entebbe from Ethiopia, usually around 6:00pm. I guess that's rush hour, but honestly, every hour is bad traffic in Uganda. When we arrive at 6:00, we get home at around 8:00 or 8:30pm. This trip was our first time driving from the airport directly to the new mission home. The new mission home is actually further away from the airport, and we have been concerned about the time it will take to get home. Well, this day driving home was FANTASTIC!! They just built a new toll road to the airport. It's not officially open yet, and they aren't taking tolls yet, but they are allowing traffic to start using the road. There's also a road called the Northern Bypass. That's been around for some time, but it doesn't work to try and use it when we are coming from the airport. Well, the toll road connects to the Northern Bypass, and as we were traveling from the airport to our new mission home, we decided to take the new toll road, and the Northern Bypass. It took us 35 minutes to get to the new mission home! We were completely and happily surprised! It felt like driving in the United States. We were actually driving about 100 KM/ hour. Anyway, I know it doesn't mean much to most people reading this, but it was a day I don't want to forget.

There has been a man who has been talking online with President Collings. His name is Richard Stahle. He has been sharing the Gospel online, and has had a lot of the people he has shared the Gospel with, get baptized. Well, this week he traveled to Uganda to meet some of the people he has taught, and to baptize many of them. He had done a great job of involving our missionaries, and the online missionaries at Temple Square. While he was here in Kampala, he wanted to meet with President Collings. We thought it would be nice to have a dinner with him, and just understand more how he is doing this wonderful missionary work. When we met, he brought several of the people who have been or will be baptized while he is here visiting. This is just a great example of how anyone can share the gospel. It's easy to talk about those things you know are true, and testify to others. How wonderful that he was able to save his money and come to perform some baptisms for those he has been sharing with.

Emmanuel, who is a return missionary, helping Brother Stahle around Uganda. 

We had a combined zone conference this week with the North, South, and Gulu Zones. We start out with training from myself and President Collings, and then we have a lunch with the entire group. After lunch, we divide into the zones, and each zone is taught by their zone leaders. We have one of the AP's and myself in each training, and President Collings will rotate through each one to get as much insight into each zone as he can. We have really enjoyed doing it this way. I sat in the training with the Gulu Zone. At the end, I asked them if they liked having it combined, or if they preferred to have their own separate conference. They said that they love the interaction with the other zones, and when they are in the combined meeting, they hear ideas from other zones that can really help them.

On a positive note, I remembered pictures! Last transfer, I kept forgetting to take pictures at the zone conferences. This is a great group of young men and young women!