Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Finishing up Zone Conferences

This round of zone conferences was pretty quick. We were spending the time helping the missionaries to prepare for a visit from an Apostle. We also brought our AP's with us to do leadership training before the actual zone conference. It really helped to lift and strengthen the Zone Leaders, District Leaders, Sister Training Leaders, and Trainers.

In Kampala, we combined the North and South Zones, and brought in Masaka Zone as well. President Collings talked with them about spiritually preparing to meet Elder Stevenson. He invited them to ponder and pray about appropriate questions they could ask him if he opened it up for questions. One of the missionaries said he was really having a problem. He said he would think of a question, and pray about it and the answer to the question would come. He couldn't save it to ask Elder Stevenson. So then he would ponder and pray about another question, and again, his question would be answered. We decided that's not a bad problem to have.

Kampala North, Kampala South, and Masaka Zones

The assistants to the president don't usually travel with us. This training of leaders was a rare exception to what we normally do. Elder Rawlings was previously a missionary in Rwanda, so it was exciting for him to go back and see some of the people he had taught and grown to love. However, Elder Gwatidzo has never served outside of Uganda. It was a real treat to show him Rwanda and Ethiopia. He came to realize that it really feels like we have three separate missions. The countries are all so different from each other. 
Rwanda Zone at the K2 Chapel

Ethiopia Zone

A couple of funny stories to tell you about our experience with zone conference in Ethiopia. We actually flew to Addis Ababa on my birthday. I don't make a big deal about my birthday anymore, sometimes I'd prefer to just forget about it. When we arrived at the airport the missionaries that were there to pick us up were very sweet and wished me a happy birthday. There were two vehicles to pick us up. So as we were getting into the cars, I just said goodbye to the other missionaries and that I would see them the next day for zone conference.

When we got to the hotel, the other vehicle was there too. When we went inside, I was so surprised to see all of the missionaries there with a Birthday CAKE! We all went into a small conference room to eat the cake and they sang the Happy Birthday song to me in Amharic. So FUN! I was completely surprised. It was a very memorable birthday. 
Happy 49th to ME

The next day we had zone conference. We usually have a meal after zone conference. When we had a senior couple here, they would usually prepare a meal for us. Sometimes we have one of the members make a meal, which is wonderful. But this time we decided to go to a hotel that is right by the chapel, and order some food. The food was actually pretty good, however, President Collings and about 2 or 3 of the other missionaries decided to order Chicken Cordon Bleu. It was stuffed with cheese and broccoli, etc. He had eaten more than half of it when he actually really looked at the chicken, and it was raw. Like VERY raw. We were so worried that he would get salmonella or some other type of food poisoning, that I sent a message to the Area Doctor for advice. Apparently, the daily drug we take for Malaria Prophylaxis saved the day. He said it should have helped protect him from it. We were grateful we have been diligent in taking our doxy!

Friday, January 18, 2019


I don't even know how to begin this post. I'm so excited to announce the birth of another grandson! He was born January 14th, and we are so thrilled. I'm wishing so badly I could just go snuggle this little guy for a few hours. I guess FaceTime and pictures will have to do for now. 

This is the most difficult part of serving a mission, but I just keep seeing my family blessed in so many ways. I guess the blessings out-weigh the sacrifice we are making. I'm just so happy for Sarah and Steve. They will be such great parents. And when we come home, this little guy will be 6 months old! What a fun age to play with a baby! So grateful for him!!!

We are starting another round of Zone Conferences. We traveled to Gulu for the Uganda North Zone Conference with our Gulu and Lira Elders. We decided to spend preparation day with them playing volleyball, and letting them see some of the wild game in Murchison Falls National Park.

The whole zone in front of the NILE

Lira District all wore red socks.

Gulu District put up a good fight during volleyball

We got them box lunches from the Lodge. I think they enjoyed it. 

Chatting with President Collings

On Tuesday we held Zone Conference at the Bardege Chapel in Gulu Town. They are building a new chapel on the lot, so it was difficult finding a place to take the picture. The whole parking lot looks like a construction zone. We found a nice spot under a mango tree. This is a great group of young men. We are blessed to be serving with them. 

Uganda North Zone

Uganda East and Jinja Zones

For this round of zone conferences, we are taking the Assistants to the President with us, to help with a leadership training meeting before the actual zone conference starts. It has been really nice to have them come along, and to have them see all the missionaries in their different areas. 

The training for the East and Jinja Zones was really amazing. We have been blessed with a lot of strong young missionaries. They are really doing well. Many of them are just learning English, but they are picking up on it so fast, it's amazing. 

This is a short post, but life continues to move forward. We are just enjoying the ride.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Busia District is Created

Our story of Busia is one that we will always remember. At the beginning of our mission we toured all of the mission branches. Busia was quite far, and it took us longer to get there than any of the other branches. We made it there in August 2016. At the time it was struggling with only about 25-30 people attending sacrament meeting. We met with the Branch Presidency and Auxiliary leaders, and tried to motivate them and see where the struggles were. There were 4 missionaries serving in Busia at the time, and from what we could tell they were having success in baptizing, but retention was a problem. At the meeting we talked about how members needed to be loving and friendly as people would come to church. They needed to welcome them and help them feel the love that the Savior would have for them. The Branch leadership made a decision to reach out to people who had stopped coming to church, and invite them back. They even apologized to those who might have been offended. The very next Sunday, attendance at sacrament meeting jumped from 35 to 75. There was a renewed excitement for missionary work, and we have seen continual progression from that time forward. 
Branch Council Meeting: August 2016

Busia sits right on the border of Kenya. In fact, there are branches of the church in both Busia Uganda and Busia Kenya, it is only about a 10 minute drive between the two branches. President Collings talked with the mission president in Kenya, President Msane, and they discussed the benefits of moving the boundaries of the mission to include both branches in the same mission. They put in a proposal to the Area Presidency, and it was decided that in October 2017, Busia Kenya would be incorporated into the Uganda Kampala Mission.

Then in March of 2018, we went on a Saturday for Priesthood and Auxiliary Training for both branches. There was an excitement in the air as President Collings also had come to divide the Busia Uganda Branch, making 3 Branches in the Busia area. 

Women's Auxiliary Training: March 2018

Priesthood Training: March 2018

Now fast forward to January 12, 2019. President Collings received authorization to create the Busia Uganda-Kenya District. We have been working to get a building for Busia 3rd Branch, which would also house the District Offices. The Facility Managers have found a plot, and will probably be building a chapel. In the mean time, we will be holding church in a tent on the property. The property is very close to the border of Kenya, and centrally located between all three branches. 

District Conference was the first meeting held at the property where the church will be built. It was so fun to see so many people come to the meeting!

There are now 8 missionaries serving in Busia.

This choir along with a primary children's choir both did an amazing job.

During the conference, the new District Presidency was unanimously sustained, and there was a great
feeling of excitement. Testimonies were given by President Wafula, his wife, President Ojiambo, President Imende, as well as a few members who were called out of the audience, including Elder Dlamini from Swaziland, who will be going home in just a few short weeks. 

President Collings spoke to the people in attendance about their example. He said that others will see their example and will be drawn to this church because of the light they radiate. He encouraged them to be a shining example of what the Savior would do. To sustain and support others, including fellow members, leaders, and those who are not of our faith. 

President Ondoga spoke about what it means to be converted. It means to change our nature, a spiritual rebirth, or a change of heart. He said everyone must be converted to live with God again. It doesn't happen over night, but is a process which requires us to do a righteous effort, including faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ, regularly partaking of the sacrament, repentance, receiving the ordinances through proper priesthood authority, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. He showed examples of people in the Book of Mormon who were converted. 

President Collings and I stood together at the end and talked about them about doing the small and simple things. Reading the Book of Mormon, family and personal prayer, faithfully attending sacrament meeting. Then we bore testimony of Jesus Christ and promised blessings if the people would remain faithful. The overall feeling of the meeting was really good. 

Busia Uganda-Kenya District Creation: 317 people attended

District Presidency with the Mission Presidency

New District Presidency
President: David M Wafula, center
First Counselor: Emmanuel K Ojiambo, left
Second Counselor: Boaz A Imende, right

We also have new branch presidencies in two of the branches, however, I failed to get pictures.

Busia 1
Branch President: Francis M Kazomwa
First Counselor: Patrick Munuhe
Second Counselor: John Ondunga

Busia 2 (Pending)

Busia 3
Branch President: Stephen K Sande
First Counselor: Stephen Sanya

Creating two Districts in two weeks has been such an amazing experience. There is still a lot of work to do, but it's so exciting to see the growth in this mission. 

A couple of weeks ago, President Collings was contacted by the Southeast Africa Area President, and the Africa West Area President. They were concerned about a young couple and asked President Collings to see what he could do to help them.

They are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and are both return missionaries. After their mission, they got married and were trying to start their life together. Fighting broke out in the area where they were living and they were forced to flee for their own safety. They are now living in a refugee camp in Western Uganda. It is very far from any of our branches, and the young man, Innocent, suffers from Epilepsy. They are struggling to find him proper medical care in either of the countries they have lived in. Life in the refugee camp is not easy. 

President Collings spoke with them many times on the phone, and tried to see how he could best meet their needs. Then he traveled to the refugee camp to visit with them and bring them some supplies. 

Traveling through the camp

He struggled to find any good roads to take him there on his GPS, and what he thought would be just a couple of hours driving, turned into about 8 hours. He finally made it to the camp. The problem then was actually finding Innocent. When President Collings would speak with him on the phone, he used one of our missionaries to help translate, because Innocent mostly speaks French. While looking for him at the camp, he couldn't find anyone to translate, and struggled to communicate where exactly to find him. He finally was able to communicate with a boda-boda driver, and found out that he would not be able to drive his vehicle into the camp. He also found out that if he tried to walk to the area where they stayed, it would take a couple of hours. So, he ended up getting a ride on the back of the boda-boda (morotcycle). The ride was about 20 minutes to the home of Innocent and his wife. 

A very special afternoon spent together

The experience was so sweet. They were thrilled to meet him, and spend time with him. President Collings brought them some church supplies from Distribution Center, and helped them understand how they can worship, and even have sacrament meeting in their home. He brought them some temple garments, which they said they hadn't been able to get for about two years. He was able to truly minister to them. 
Innocent and his wife in front of their home.

We still don't have answers for them about his medical condition, but he felt like he was able to lift their burdens just by letting them know that people care about them, and are praying for them. We keep in touch with them still, and are able to send fun notes, and uplifting comments. We are praying they will be able to get somewhere where he can get the medical attention he needs, but they are so positive and faithful, it's truly inspiring.

We had Mission Leadership Council this week. Zone Leaders, Sister Training Leaders from all over the mission came to be trained at the mission home. The Mission Leadership is an ever changing entity. We have quite a few new leaders this transfer, and it has really been fun to see them step into their leadership roles. They all came early enough that President Collings did a special training before the actual meeting started. It really brought a great spirit to the group, and I believe made the Council meeting even better.

It's really amazing how this mission is constantly changing. Missionaries come and go, but there are always capable missionaries who are able to step up and take on those leadership roles. It's a great training ground for future leadership, whether in the church, employment, or any other life experience. I love watching the mission leaders as they train each other, and continue to grow in their knowledge of the gospel. Missionary work is the BEST!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Masaka District is Created

Our story of Masaka really starts when we first arrived in Uganda. Our very first Sunday, we wanted to go to Sacrament meeting in a Mission Branch. Our Senior Couple, Elder and Sister Goodwin drove us to Masaka, which was the closest mission branch. We really enjoyed our first sacrament meeting. I remember there was a baby blessing, confirmations, baptisms, and it just felt a lot like going to church at home.  Here is a LINK to our first Sunday in Uganda.
Our First Sunday in Uganda

That first couple of months on our mission, President Collings and I visited all of the mission branches, and held training meetings for the Branch Presidencies and Auxiliary Leaders. We visited the Masaka Branch for this training in September of 2016. Our journey to Masaka that day was riddled with problems, and it really felt like something was trying to stop us from getting there. If you follow this LINK, you can read about our experience trying to get to Masaka on that day. We obviously made it, and it turned out to be a very special meeting. President Collings had a strong impression that there would be a Stake in Masaka one day, but on that day during the meeting he said that he felt like there would be a District there before we completed our mission. Of course everyone was very excited about this. At the time there was only one branch, but about 75 people were attending church. Also, there were only 4 missionaries serving in Masaka.

Fast forward two and a half years, and there have been two more branches created, the Kijjabweme Branch, and Nyendo Branch, along with the Masaka Branch. There are 14 missionaries in the Masaka Zone, and they are baptizing about 100 people per year. It's really incredible to see the growth in this area of our mission. 

President Collings submitted the documentation requesting that a District be created, and it was quickly approved. On January 6, 2019 the Masaka Uganda District was created. The members were invited to the Conference Room of the Hotel Brovad.

Our senior missionaries, the Maughans, traveled from Kigali for the Conference. They have been so helpful in training the Auxiliary Presidencies and helping the District Presidency and Clerks in Rwanda, President Collings has asked that they divide their time between the two Districts for a while to help them get up and running. They are an amazing couple. We are so blessed to have them in our mission! And Elder Crankson, between them, was my photographer during the conference. 

Fun pictures of the members arriving at the Hotel. Of course, our missionaries like to make a memorable entrance! 
President Collings and I arrived at the Conference Room around 9:00, an hour before the meeting was scheduled to start, and there were already many people arriving. It was such a wonderful sight to see all the members in Masaka gather together in one meeting hall. We had 313 people in attendance at the Conference.
A choir had prepared for the meeting and sang prelude music, as well as two hymns during the meeting. They did an amazing job.
Leaders were unanimously sustained.

President Collings, Okello, and Ondoga were all in attendance. They organized the Masaka Uganda District, and sustained a new District Presidency, along with key auxiliary leaders in the District, and a new Masaka Branch President. There was a very good spirit in the meeting, and the members were excited to witness a new District being created. 

Along with the changes, the speakers included: President Collings who focused on Jesus Christ. He encouraged the members to strive to be like the Savior. If you have the will of the Savior and Heavenly Father in your heart, you will not go astray. People will be drawn to this church because of the good example you set, and the light you radiate. It talks about this light in Doctrine and Covenants 50:24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
And in Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. 

President Okello focused on true conversion. He gave examples of people who were truly converted
and encouraged the members to gain this unshakable testimony, or conversion. My favorite story he told was the one about Shadrach' Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3. They are told if they do  not worship an image that was made, that they will be thrown in a fiery furnace. In verse 17 they say that they believe their God will deliver them from this fiery furnace, but in verse 18 they say, "But if not, be it known that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image". They are so converted that it doesn't matter to them if they live or die, they will continue to do what they know is right, and worship the true God.

I spoke about service to one another, and tied it into ministering. I encouraged them to look right inside their homes, or at their neighbors or people they work with, instead of looking to places far away where there are major disasters, and to follow the spirit.  It was a very uplifting day.

Picture of the Masaka Uganda District: 313 in attendance

District Presidency
President: Robert Ssekitto, center
First Councilor: Monday Kayinamula, left
Second Councilor: David Akatwijuka, right

New Masaka Branch Presidency
President: Santos Kabyemera, center
First Counselor:Charles Mabibi left
Second Counselor: Mark Muwanika, right

New Nyendo Branch Presidency
President: Vianney Ssenyonga, center
First Counselor:Yasin Kiyimba left
Second Counselor: Amiidu Kabonge, right

These are days never to be forgotten. We are so thankful that we have been able to be a part of this amazing experience. I really felt like I was witnessing a miracle as this new District was created. I know we will continue to see great growth in this area of the mission. There are amazing and wonderful people living here!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Great start to the New Year

We had an unexpected and wonderful surprise on New Year's Eve. On December 31, 2018 our daughter had a baby boy! He was about two weeks early,  but just wanted to see 2018 before it was completely over. We were so happy! This makes grandchild number four for us! 

It's difficult being away, but thanks to modern technology, we were able to talk with them and see some fun videos of the two boys. Such sweeties!!

We also had our departing missionaries at the mission home on the 31st. There were five who were returning home on January 1st. These missionaries were in a very unique situation. They served for two years, but actually saw four years on their missions. They were in the MTC on December 31, 2016. They were in Uganda through all of 2017 and 2018, and they were in the mission home on New Years Eve 2018. They left for home on January 1 2019. Because it was their last night on December 31st. I went outside with them on the balcony at midnight, and the whole mission home was surrounded by fireworks. We let them watch the fireworks before they went to bed. It was a nice way to end their 2 or 4 years of service. Haha. 

Dinner in Entebbe before going to the airport

This was the view as we were driving to the airport to send them home. It seemed very fitting as the sun was setting on their missions. These are strong young men who can really do many wonderful things in the future. I'm excited to see where their lives take them. 

We dropped off five elders, and picked up three elders and one sister who just arrived from the MTC. We are so excited to meet these young missionaries. Two of them are from the DRC, one from the United States, and one from Ghana. All are strong missionaries who are willing to give it their all. I'm very grateful that we are blessed with these amazing young people to carry on the work of the Lord in this part of the vineyard. 

During this time of missionaries coming and going, we had to say goodbye to a very special missionary. Jackie Akao has been our housekeeper at the mission home since we arrived. In fact, she worked for the previous mission president and wife as well. When we first arrived two and a half years ago, Jackie said she had been working and saving her money to go on a mission. We really thought she would go sometime in the first year that we were there. She celebrated her birthday in September 2017, and made a birthday wish as she blew out her candle. She said, "I wish that next year I will find myself on my mission!" Well in September 2018 she was still working hard in the mission home. She has had many trials she has had to overcome. Things finally fell into place for her, and January 3rd she reported to the MTC. She will be going on a mission to Zimbabwe. She is already a great missionary. She tells everyone about the gospel, and continues to reach out to people who have recently been baptized into the church. She is wise beyond her years, and will be such a blessing to the mission where she was called. But we will surely miss her. She has become one of the family to us. It was hard to say goodbye. In fact when she came by to say goodbye just before she went to the airport, she was sick with a fever. President Collings gave her a blessing, and I gave her some medication. It sounds like she is doing well now, thank goodness. We will miss her!