Saturday, April 27, 2019

Mission Leadership Council and Zone Conferences

Mission Leadership Council was held on April 5th. At Mission Leadership Council we give training based on what we want the zone leaders to train on throughout the rest of the transfer. We had zone leaders come from all over the mission. Those who came from the outer branches and other countries, stayed at the mission home over night. It's always nice to have them stay and interact with them. It helps us to get to know them better and get a feel for the issues they may be facing in their specific areas.

As part of my training, I asked the missionaries what they remembered from Elder Stevenson's visit. They really had an amazing opportunity to spend a few hours with him, where he taught according to their needs. Here are some of the things they remembered from his visit:
  • Promise Blessings when we extend invitations. It will give people motivation to change. Learn in the scriptures the blessings that come from obeying specific commandments, then don't be afraid to promise those blessings to those you teach.

  • When we Baptize someone they join the house of Israel and have the blood of Israel. We should work with them to share the Gospel with their family members and friends.
  • We need to study and use Preach My Gospel daily. Elder Stevenson set the example by being a Preach My Gospel Apostle. We need to be Preach My Gospel missionaries. Elder Stevenson challenged us to all study Chapter 9 & 11.

  • We need to be a witness of Jesus Christ at all times and in all places. Even in our weekly communication home we should be sharing special experiences with our family.

President Collings training focused on listening to the Spirit. He also gave his top ten desires for the missionaries: 

2 Nephi 28:30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. 

  • Strive to always act upon spiritual promptings, immediately when you receive them. If you hearken to counsels you receive from the Lord, He will bless you with more of it. When you do not hearken to counsels, eventually you become spiritually numb. 

  • This general conference, listen and act upon what you will be taught by the prophet and apostles and what you will learn from the spirit. 

  • We need to show greater respect to the people we teach. 

  • As we help the people we teach keep commitments, we prepare them to keep covenants with the Lord. 

My top ten desires for missionaries:

1. Always remember why you are here on a mission.
2. Make and keep covenants
3. Find your Cornelius (Acts 10)
4. Focus on receiving all the necessary ordinances for your salvation and exaltation.
5. Keep in mind the two great commandments;
6. Love God with all your heart, might, mind and strength. Love your neighbor especially your companion when he or she is struggling.
7. Be an example to others
8. Each day, strive for the companionship of the Holy Ghost
9. Work hard
10. Always remember the importance of spiritual preparation

We also wanted to share what our Assistants to the President taught during the Mission Leadership Council. 

Elder Ankrah: Our Missionary Purpose

The joy we feel  in missionary work largely comes from seeing those you serve repent, receive  priesthood ordinances and enjoy the blessings of  the gospel.  (Alma 29:8-9)
As our understanding of the Savior's atonement increases, our desire to share the gospel will increase.
That understanding will come as we focus on our missionary purpose and apply the atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives through repentance and righteous living.
How we can help those we teach come unto Christ?
1. We should not be casual about  helping people make and keep commitments.
2. Rarely should we teach a lesson without extending commitments.
3. Do your best to help people gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon.
4. Work with members to help new members of the church adjust to their new life and continue their spiritual growth.
You can know you have been a successful missionary, when you are obedient, live righteously, and do your best in helping others live the gospel.

Elder Hall: Representing Jesus Christ.

What do we Represent as missionaries?
· Our Country
· Our Family
· The Prophet
· The Savior         

Live worthy of what your represent at all times and in all places. Even at your apartment at night.

So how do we best represent? Well just like most representations, we need to exhibit the characteristics of the Original. 

· Obedience: Luke 22:42. Not my will but thine be done. This handbook contains the father's will for us and how we should act. Do we follow the father's will even when ours is other wise? Is the father's will done in how we act. Truly the best way that we can represent Jesus Christ is being obedient to his commandments.
· Diligence: Peter 3 18-19.  Jesus Christ was diligent, even in death. As a mission 55% of us are over 1 year. We need to remain diligent. Even as Jesus Christ did, through death. We need to continue to Represent him as we continue on mission.
· Charity: Luke 7:13 This is probably the most Important attribute we can exhibit as representatives of The savior. We Should treat everyone as they are important. We need to show true love and concern for those around us. We should not spread or participate in rumors. We need to love members, missionaries, and the people we serve. We need to exhibit that love. We truly represent one who showed that to everyone. We should do the same.

Everything we do has consequences. Let's assume that 100 people see us a day, over the course of a week 700 People have seen us, that is 700 people now have an idea of the church based solely on our actions. We need to always represent our Savior, and our families.

Throughout the month, the zone conferences were all based on these teachings
Kampala North, Kampala South, and Masaka Zones

Uganda East and Jinja Zones

Rwanda Zone

Uganda North Zone

Ethiopia Zone

 I just LOVE these pictures. This is our entire mission! We are so blessed! We love going to zone conferences and seeing the light in the missionaries eyes. They are truly doing their best to serve the Lord. 

Our mission scripture is Omni 1:26 And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved.

When we travel for zone conferences, We see their enthusiasm for the work and their desire to "offer their whole souls". It brings us so much joy! 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Losing Jake

There have been trials we have gone through while serving our mission. I mostly don't share them, but focus on the positive instead. This most recent trial is one of the reasons I haven't updated my blog for a while. I'm not sure how to put into words how we feel about the loss of our sweet nephew, Jake. 

Jake was a sweet, kind, soft-spoken young man. He has struggled for a long time with OCD, Anxiety, and Depression. On April 13th, we received news from home that he ended his life. These are times that it is so difficult to be so far away. 

Throughout the next few days and weeks, the family has really pulled together. We have seen such sweet messages of love and support for Jake's parents, Marc and Victoria, as well as his sisters, Kenadee, Brinlee, and Bailee.  Jake's family has tried to use this tragedy to help others who are going through the same disease. They set up a Go Fund Me scholarship. It is designed to help others who suffer from OCD, Anxiety, and Depression to be able to get help even if they are unable to afford it. I have added a link to the site Here. We are so grateful that they have exceeded their goal, but they continue to keep this available. The more money raised, the more people they can help.

Some fun memories of time spent with Jake: 

 The family held a celebration of life for him. Our sister in law, Molly, and daughter, Kaylea were so sweet to send us pictures and video clips throughout the entire service. It made it feel a little bit more like we were there. Jake was an artist and musician. The songs he wrote were really inspiring. He had such a gift.

Jake's favorite color was orange. This is a picture of all of the Collings brothers, excluding Steve. He wore an orange tie to support his family since we couldn't find orange socks in Uganda.

At the end of the celebration, they all released balloons, including these that spell Jake. Our three year old granddaughter couldn't be there, she lives in Colorado, but she released a balloon into the air too, and said she was sending it to Jake.

There have been several things written and shared that have really helped me understand the reality of what Jake was going through. This picture was posted by our brother, Kenney:

Sobering to think about. This disease is a brutal reality for so many people.

During this time, we have been so grateful for the love of family and friends. Over time the pain of losing him will soften, and hopefully be replaced with joy in his memory. It's just very difficult to imagine him not being there when we return home.

Friday, April 19, 2019

District and Branch Presidency Training

On April 17th we had three young men from the same mission branch who left to serve their missions. All three were called on the same day to serve in Ghana. Ghana Kumasi mission and Ghana Accra mission. They were set apart by President Jimmy Ondoga, second counselor in the Mission Presidency, then traveled to the Ghana Missionary Training Center that evening. We are so happy for them. They are strong young men and will represent their branch in Busia very well. 

One thing President Collings has tried to do while serving in the Uganda Kampala Mission is to help uplift the leadership who are staying far away from us in Kampala. He started having a monthly conference call where he would teach right out of the Handbook of Instructions and help them to understand their roles as Branch Presidents. Back in October of 2016, we invited Branch Presidents to the mission home for two days of training. We have had kept up this special leadership training every year. On April 18th we had our final training at the mission home. Looking at pictures from the first training, you can really get an idea of the growth we have had in the outer branches during our three years here. 

In October 2016 we had all seven Branch Presidents from the Mission Branches in Uganda come,  and two of the three Rwanda Branches were represented. There were 9 Branch Presidents, 2 members of the mission presidency, and 5 wives. About half of the Branch Presidents at the time were single. At that time we had a senior couple serving in the District in Ethiopia, and felt like they already had the help they needed. 

Fast forward to 2019, we now have Districts in Rwanda, Ethiopia, and two in Uganda. We brought in all the district presidents, the branch presidents from the Uganda Districts, and Branch Presidents from all of the Mission Branches. All of these leaders are married, and all of them from Uganda brought their wives, and babies that needed to stay with them. We had 4 District Presidents, 14 Branch Presidents, and 3 members of the mission presidency, 16 wives, and 9 babies! 

The training was focused on the revelations we have recently received:

  • Ministering and conducting ministering interviews
  • Come Follow Me curriculum
  • Using our Relief Society and Elders Quorum counselors to help with missionary, temple, and family history work
  • Filling out the online missionary recommendations properly. 

We were able to spend quality time in each of the training sessions. There was time for them to ask questions and to do hands-on computer training in each of the areas of focus. The women talked about how much the training helped them as well. Some of them have leadership roles in their branches, and said that they will be able to do better in their callings because of the training. They also said that this shows how important family relationships are in the church. They could see that we value their relationship as husband and wife, and welcomed the children into the meetings as well. 

I was a little bit worried about how we would fit everybody into the mission home for the training, but we had plenty of room. It was also nice because when the babies got tired, it was easy to take them into another room to play or settle down and fall asleep. 

It was so fun to look down the rows of people and see these sweet babies sleeping. At one point, President Collings was talking and told the mothers not to worry if their babies cried. He said it just sounds like angels singing when a baby cries. 

We  had church music playing as they walked into the room to begin the meetings. One branch president later said that as he walked in, he felt like he was walking into the temple. There was such a good, spiritual feeling there. I felt the same way as I walked in. I just felt like I was surrounded by good, stalwart, valiant people. It was a humbling experience. 

On the first night we had a dinner together. Before the dinner started, we stood and introduced ourselves to each other. The couples were really able to get to know each other and to help lift and motivate each other. 

This little man is named Collings. He became good friends with us during the meetings. He was given a name and blessing at the beginning of our mission. In fact, as his father stated his name in the blessing, President Collings and I were both surprised. He's a fun, energetic little man. He is holding hands with Margaret Thatcher. I just love the beautiful Kitenge (African Print) dresses she wore each day. Here are a few more pictures I took of the dinner we had the first night, before the food was served. 

These are precious times that we will miss so much! We believe the leaders went back to their various areas feeling motivated to get on board with the things they were taught. One branch president said, "We have no more excuses. We have been asked by our church leaders to do this, now we must do it."  The missionaries in some of the branches have said that they have seen a difference in the leadership, and have really started to implement the various things they were trained on. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Ethiopia, Blessings, and April Fools

It's hard for me to believe how fast time flies by. We have that six week transfer cycle that seriously feels more like two weeks! I blink my eyes and another group of missionaries goes home, replaced by a new group of young missionaries. This time we had three missionaries go home, and ten new missionaries come.

Elder Stanley is a unique missionary. He has served under 5 different mission presidents. He is one who struggled with visa issues. We were lucky to have him for his final six months. He is a very valiant dedicated young man. We told him he was too good to stay in just one mission, and was truly a blessing to all he served with.

Elder Kampelya seems like he just arrived in the Uganda Kampala Mission. He served in both Uganda and Rwanda, and was a zone leader early on in his mission. He has been a great example to other missionaries. It's hard to let him go home. 

Elder Williams is one of our missionaries serving from the great state of Hawaii. We have really grown to love him and will miss him very much. He is always so thoughtful and a pleasure to be around. 

We were very surprised with the new missionaries who came. We have been blessed with four Elders from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Recently, we have received many missionaries from the DRC. They learn English in the MTC. We have seen them just blossom as they become more comfortable with the language. They are strong, solid members of the church. Many have been raised in the Gospel from the time they were born. It's such a blessing to have them.

Along with the four Elders, we received SIX sisters! That's unreal for us! Four of them are from South Africa, one from Australia, and one from Kenya. As we had our first testimony meeting with them, we really felt of their strength. We are so blessed to have such amazing missionaries who have been sent to the Uganda Kampala Mission. The Lord must really love us to send us such strong Elders and Sisters.

The day after transfers, we had to go to Ethiopia. We wanted to spend time in the Bekulobet Branch. This will be our last time in Bekulobet, and we wanted to just enjoy Sacrament Meeting with them. It really was a nice experience. The speakers in Sacrament Meeting were very mature in their understanding of the Gospel, and we were really able to feel the Spirit during the meeting.

It has been a long time since I have taken a picture of the Bekulobet Branch, so after the meetings we asked them to all stand outside of the church for a picture. The Branch President and his counselor also took a picture with President Collings. There is so much energy in this presidency. We are excited to see the continued growth of this branch.

We were also blessed to witness a baptism after Church. It was such a great meeting. The missionaries are really seeing those who are prepared come to church. It's been amazing to witness.

After the meetings, we went for a final visit to Sister Yeweinshet's house. She is an amazing woman. She is the District Relief Society President. Her entire life is centered around helping others. She is blind, but is so independent. She never lets that stop her from going to church, conferences, or other church meetings. She is very dedicated to the Gospel. She also cares for other young women who are blind. She teaches them to read braille and teaches them skills to be self reliant. There have been a few of her students who have learned about the Gospel and have been baptized. She has a young daughter Helena, who is amazing. She has always been so thoughtful and helpful. She knows English very well and helps with interpretation when we come and speak in front of the members. We love her so much!

We will miss them both so much. They are a great strength to the members of the District and their Branch.

Meanwhile, back in the United States...

March 31st was a very special day for our family. Three of our four kids attended church together. We had two grandsons who were to be blessed. They decided it would be a good experience to have them blessed on the same day, in the same ward, so that family members could attend if they wanted to. It was so fun to see pictures of them together!!

Our daughter Kaylea and her husband Kirby had their baby on December 31st. His big brother was so excited to have a new playmate. We are excited to see this sweet family grow!

Our son Steve and his wife Sarah had their rainbow baby on January 14th. They will be such great parents, and we are so happy for them.

I love this picture of them both smiling on their blessing day!

Our son Conner and his wife Taylor are the happy and excited aunt and uncle! It was so fun to see all of the kids enjoying the day together.

They look good holding babies!

Our oldest daughter Jessica and her husband Chris, were not able to travel to the baby blessing because she was pregnant, and they didn't want to be too far from home... just in case. This ended up being a great decision on their part because at around 8:00 Sunday night, this little guy was born! Three extra special blessings in one day! We couldn't be happier!

Of course, his two older sisters are so excited to welcome him into their home. They will be a great help to their parents.

Needless to say, after seeing all of these fun pictures from my kids, I was a tad bit homesick. I can't wait to hold them all! With that in mind, I have another story...

Monday morning we were in Ethiopia in a hotel room, preparing for the day. President Collings was on the phone with what sounded like the Area President. I tried not to listen in, but we were sitting in the same room... the conversation turned to one that concerned me. My husband was talking about how we had been communicating with the new mission president and wife. (We have been trying to send them information about the mission that will help the transition go a little more smoothly.) Then he said he hadn't heard that there was a problem. He asked why the new mission president and wife would not be coming. Then said, wow, he was sorry that they had found a medical condition that would not allow them to serve. Then he asked, "How long do you think it will take to get a new mission president and wife assigned to this mission?" Then he said, "Of course, we will stay as long as necessary. Three to six months would be fine."

My mind was racing. I was preparing myself to be okay with staying a few months longer... "No big deal. What's three more months when we have been here three years?" I pushed back the thoughts of, "I just want to hold my new grandchildren!" I was preparing to be strong when he got off the phone and shared the news with me... "Don't freak out... you can do this!"

He hung up the phone, smiled really big, and then just said, "April Fools!" Oh my goodness! I just burst into tears! I was laughing and crying at the same time. I couldn't control my emotions. Of course I would stay if I was asked, but was relieved I didn't have about an emotional roller coaster in a matter of minutes.  I don't know if I like April 1st. I have really enjoyed our mission, but I am looking forward to seeing my family again.

Before leaving Ethiopia, we had a zone conference with the missionaries and then took them out to lunch. Elder Pratt and Elder Millecam are the zone leaders, and they really gave great trainings. I was so impressed with them!

The missionaries are doing well, they don't have a senior couple serving there, but they handle themselves very well and we are so proud of them!