Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Joy in the Journey

For our final full transfer, President Collings called 4 Assistants to the President. There were some things that he wanted to accomplish that would make the transition to a new Mission President smoother, and he felt the best way to accomplish these things was to have a little more help. These missionaries have already done amazing work! They were also really sweet. They knew it was President Collings birthday, and decided to surprise him with homemade brownies! Wow! (Actually, I think Betty Crocker in a package from one of the moms helped.) They were amazing!

Elder Hall, Kramer, Ankrah, and Masters

Some more fun news. We have had a family in Rwanda who has been trying to go to the temple for the past three years. Things just kept coming up as they were preparing. While they were preparing as a family, the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo Temple was dedicated and the ordinances were translated into their local language of Kenyarwandan. They were the first Rwandan's to be able to go through the temple and receive the ordinances in Kenyarwandan. This is a picture of the entire family, including parents, children, spouses of children, and even two grandchildren. What a great blessing! We are so happy for them!

There is a woman in the Kololo Ward in Kampala who is just about the most dedicated missionary I have ever seen, Sister Mafabi. She is constantly telling her friends, neighbors, and acquaintances about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She invites them to her home to be taught by the missionaries, and leads by example. Last week she and her husband invited President Collings and myself to their home for an amazing dinner.

We also met several of her good friends who are learning about the church, or who have joined the church because of her friendship. One of these women is the mother to one of our full time missionaries, Elder Aojan. It was such a great evening. We were able to enjoy friendships, and share the message of Jesus Christ with many that joined us. When Sister Mafabi invited us to come a few weeks ago, we decided to give her a special gift. We took a white t-shirt that had the Ugandan flag and Uganda Kampala Mission silk screened on it, then we had all of the missionaries who knew her, write their name, or write a small note to her. We presented the t-shirt to her at the dinner. I think she really loved it. We love these people. 

We have started our final round of zone conferences. Our first one was combined with Jinja and East Zones. President Collings asked that the Zone Leaders plan the conference, and train on whatever they feel the zone could use. These two zones decided to have a combined training meeting and played Mission Jeopardy. There were no teams, and no points, instead they asked questions out Preach My Gospel and the Scriptures, and we had an open discussion about each of the questions, or participated in role plays. They took time to share testimonies, and then they presented a musical number. It was so beautiful. It was they hymn, God Be With You Till We Meet Again. One verse was done with just the piano and violin, one was sung in French by our missionaries from Congo, and two of the verses were sung with all the missionaries in harmony. I couldn't stop the tears from flowing. I didn't really think about the fact that this would be the last time I see most of these missionaries. It really hit me hard. This is going to be a difficult transfer.

While we were in Jinja, we met with the Stake President, Moses Mbiro and his wife, and Paul Gavamukulia and his wife. It was really nice spending time with them. We have developed some wonderful friendships with so many of the people in this stake.

On Sunday President Collings was busy interviewing missionaries. I made Sunday dinner for them, and was so grateful that they helped me clean up! Each time I am with Elder Asante, he insists on taking selfies with us. We invited many of the other missionaries to join us as well. It was a very nice evening. 

Recently we have been receiving new missionaries that come mid-transfer. It's really great to have them come! These three missionaries came from the Ghana MTC. They have been learning English, and needed to stay at the MTC 3 weeks longer than our other missionaries. They boarded a flight from Ghana at about 9:00 pm, and flew through the night, with a stop in Kenya on the way. They arrived early the next morning. One of these missionaries is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and two are from Tonga. We have been receiving large numbers from both of these areas of the world. They are very strong, hard working missionaries. We are blessed to have them.

Last but not least, today was moving day, kind of... Our personal items that are here in the mission home are shipped back to the United States. We send them a little bit early so that hopefully they will be waiting for us when we get home. At this point, all of our personal belonging in Uganda will fit into two suitcases. Having the movers here made this feel very real.

It was a pretty good week!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

This and That, and Cape Town

We have realized that the visits we are making to some of the outer branches will be our last visit, which has been very tender to us. Lots of emotions are running through our hearts and minds. We traveled to Lira and were able to attend church at Adyel and Lira Branches. Adyel for Sacrament meeting was so nice. They asked President Collings and myself to speak, and showed us such an outpouring of love, then we quickly drove to Lira Branch for Sunday School. When we went in, the spirit in the class was so strong. We really enjoyed the lesson. The Branch President asked if President Collings and I would just talk to the class for the last 10 minutes, which was so nice. 

 We have really seen the church growing in these outer branches. It's been such a blessing in the last three years to witness it. We will surely miss the people of Lira Town.

Transfers are on us again, and we are losing a really amazing group of missionaries. As I see them departing, it's amazing to think that they have been with us for 18 months and two years. I remember when this group came. It doesn't seem like that long ago. It's been a pleasure to serve with them. We have had many special memories with each one of them. There were some great leaders in this group, and of course great teachers. It's always difficult to say goodbye.

As always, goodbyes are followed by hello's.  We lost 13 missionaries, and gained 14 new ones.  This group of missionaries comes from all over the world. We used to receive missionaries from countries in Africa and from North America, but now we are receiving them from South America, the Pacific Islands, as well as Africa and North America. It's been really fun to see the diversity that comes to the Uganda Kampala Mission. We receive many who have had to learn the English language in the MTC. They arrive and are very tentative in their speaking, but within just a few weeks, you would never guess that they have just learned the language. It's been amazing to see. The Lord has prepared very strong young men and women to serve here, and we are blessed to receive them.

It's been fun in the last couple of weeks to be able to meet parents of some of our missionaries. We attended a Mission Leadership Seminar in Cape Town, South Africa. One of our missionaries, Elder Sibinda, had just returned to his home in Cape Town the week before we went there (He's in the picture above.). It was fun to meet his parents and thank them for sending such a great young man to serve with us. They were so kind and we had a wonderful evening with them.

Elder Rawlings' parents came to Uganda to pick him up from his mission. Their flight was delayed so they ended up coming the day after our farewell dinner and testimony meeting. We decided to go to dinner with them anyway. I'm so glad they were able to come and see Uganda and Rwanda, where he served for two years.

We also met Elder McLain's parents. He returned home from his mission about six months ago and was able to come back with them and show them some of the wonderful places in Uganda.  We were so happy to be able to get to know them better and to see our missionary again!

As I said earlier, we went to a Mission Leadership Seminar in Cape Town. It was our final seminar, another "last" on our mission. I'm just really trying to take in all of these special moments, and write them down so I don't forget them. When we were called, there were eight missions in the Southeast Africa Area who received a new Mission President and Wife. We were all at the MTC together, and have really been on this journey together. Although we only see each other every six months, we have really grown a bond together.

 The front row is: President and Sister Kiyungu and us. The back row, left to right is: President and Sister Silva, President Thompson, President and Sister Kupu, President and Sister Chadambuka, President and Sister Shumard, and President and Sister Msane. We have really grown to love these people. I don't know how, but I really hope our paths will cross in the future.

We have also had many good memories with Elder and Sister Palmer. Elder Palmer is the Area President of the Southeast Africa Area. We first met them in the MTC. They were coming to Africa for their first time along with us. He was serving in the Area Presidency.  In addition to seeing them every six months at the Seminar, they have been to Uganda on a mission tour, and traveled with Elder and Sister Stevenson when they came to our mission as well. They met our son, Conner, and my parents when they were serving as our senior couple in Rwanda. It felt strange to say goodbye to them one final time.

 It has become comical that every time we get together for the Mission Leadership Seminar, on the first day President Collings and I are assigned to sit by President and Sister Kupu. We would literally walk into the room and look for the Kupu's name on the table, because we always know our name will be right next to theirs. It's been a pleasure for me to get to know Sister Kupu. She is an amazing woman. She is such a positive, ambitious woman. She is a great role model for me. When we lost our office couple, with no new couple to replace them, I remembered Sister Kupu telling me that she had worked as the office secretary in their mission for four months because they didn't have a senior couple. I felt like I could follow her example and try to do it on my own, and not complain, because I saw what she did. She would always go out and work with the sister missionaries in her mission, which helped me want to spend more time working with our sister missionaries.  When we received our first Tongan missionary, I was so excited to let her know, and was even more excited to find out that our missionary was her son's best friend. I'm so grateful for these small experiences with Sister Kupu! I love her so much, and I'm so grateful our paths have crossed.

One of our favorite things to do when we go to South Africa, is to eat at McDonalds! We didn't eat there very much at home, but it seriously feels like going home for just a moment when we can buy a Quarter Pounder with Fries and a drink (super sized).  It's the little things... 

 Personally, I just love being able to spend time with this guy right here. I married an amazing man! We have really grown closer to each other as we have served for three years together. It has stretched us, but with the stretching comes more blessings that we could have imagined.

This year for our activity, we were treated to a wonderful dinner, served in the Aquarium! This was our view during dinner! It was a huge two story tank full of all kinds of fish, including several sharks. We were able to spend a half hour walking through the exhibits in the aquarium, and then went into the room for dinner. During this time of year Cape Town is pretty cold, so it was nice being inside where it was warm, and enjoying a nice conversation with everyone.

As we were returning from our dinner at the aquarium, we ran into President and Sister Okot. President Okot served as the Stake President of the Kampala Uganda Stake and was called last year as the Mission President of the Bulawayo Zimbabwe Mission. Unfortunately they missed the first day of meetings because of some visa issues. We were so excited to see them! They have become dear friends as well, and saying goodbye this time was bittersweet. We don't know when we will see them again, but have such a great love for them. 

 On our second day of meetings, the women and men had a break-out session. We were taught by Sister Palmer, Sister Sitati, and Sister Koch, then those of us who are leaving were asked to share experiences with the other ladies. It's been so fun to get to know each of these women. It's not easy being a mission mom, but they do a masterful job, and really lift and help each other.

 I love this picture of the group. It shows all of the mission presidents and wives, the Area Presidency and their wives, and our support network in South Africa. We couldn't do it without them!

While we were returning from our meetings in Cape Town, we had a layover in Johannesburg, South Africa. We made our way to the gate and were pleasantly surprised to bump into a group of Ugandan Latter-day Saints, some from Mbale Branch. They had just spent several days in the Johannesburg Temple, receiving the ordinances for themselves and their families. It was so fun to talk with them as they shared with us the wonderful experiences they had in the temple. 

We returned from Cape Town on Thursday and on Friday we had our Mission Leadership Council. It feels like our life right now is just moving so quickly. We are blessed with such great leaders. There are many new Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders, but they are powerful!  I have a feeling many of these young missionaries will become great church leaders in their own countries in the coming years. I can't wait to see that. Our final Mission Leadership Council was very sweet.