Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter Sabbath

Sunday was Easter Sabbath and our last full day in Mbale.  We had a very full day starting first thing with some preparations for dinner for that night.  Rick made a wonderful chocolate cake from scratch!  While he did that I got some preparations done for a chicken dinner.  I’ll write about our Easter feast at the end of this post.

We got to church with just a few minutes to spare.  Geoffery (one of our security guards and recent converts) was with us when were leaving the compound and when Rick said, “Oh no!!  I forgot that we were going to pick up Richard today!”  With that announcement, we hurried over to pick him up.  Richard is such a good missionary.  He talked to his boss, Mary during the week about the Restoration of the Gospel and invited her to come to church.  She came along with her daughter Bilhah.  Olivia has also been faithfully coming each week, as well.  Luckily, Richard does not live to far from us and even though it was a tight squeeze in the back seat of our truck it was a pleasant drive with friends! 

On our way to pick Richard up, Geoffery opened up and expressed great gratitude for us.  He talked of how he felt his life had been full of challenges.  He felt that his coworkers (Fazida and Godfrey) were at odds with him because of his interest in the church but how that has changed with us befriending them.  We have come to know and love them.  Fazida is Muslim and I’m not sure about Godfrey’s religion but I do know that their hearts were softened towards the Gospel because of our (mostly Elder Phelps) reaching out to them.  This has helped Geoffrey to not feel so alienated and ostresized by them.  He told us of how he felt that he has been rescued through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It has changed him.  What a joyous experience to see someone’s life change through choosing to follow Christ’s teachings!

As we walked into church I immediately started greeting those who were waiting for the service to begin.  I just shook hands with only a few because it was time to begin.  My heart was filled with joy as I looked over at the piano and saw Solomon softly playing hymns.  There is so much to tell of this story that it will have a post of it’s own at a later date……

We had a wonderful service.  Just before the Sacrament prayer I looked over at Francis who was sitting at the Sacrament table.  I caught his eye and gave him a big smile.  He smiled right back at me and my eyes filled with tears thinking about how much I love this young man and how today was most likely the last day that I would ever see him.  My heart was filled with such tenderness for him.  He truly has become like a son to me.  Elder Phelps and I have spent a lot of time with him the last six months and we could have never accomplished what we had without him.  He is simply amazing.  Some people were born to do great and marvelous things and Waila Francis is one of those people!  He already has accomplished so much in his short life.  He has a great future ahead of him.  He is so excited to get out on his mission.  I am excited for him!

Baraka gave a beautiful talk on partaking of the sacrament.  I was asked to bear a short testimony.  As I stood I took just a short amount of time to look around the room into everyone’s faces.  I wanted to remember EVERY face that I looked at.  I told them that they were beautiful!  I told them that it has been a joy to spend time and build individual relationships with them.  I told them that they will always hold a place in my heart because I love them.  I then had the privilege of bearing my last testimony to my wonderful Mbale friends.  A testimony of the Restored Gospel, of the Prophet Joseph Smith, of the Book of Mormon, of the Prophet and Apostles and of Jesus Christ.  I was so grateful for the opportunity.

The choir sang Christ the Lord is Risen Today and it brought tears to my eyes.  Our little ragtag Mbale choir is fun!  They sung a capella and off key but it was sung with much happiness and that made me happy.  Our little choir in Mbale is great!

Elder Phelps then gave his talk.  He spoke of the resurrection of the Savior.  He referenced President Russell M. Nelson as he spoke of drawing power from Christ to help us in our everyday lives.  He bore powerful testimony of Jesus Christ’s mission.  He complimented and then gave much encouragement to our Branch members.  He encouraged them to sustain their leaders and to lift and help each other.  It was a very powerful talk and I was so pleased with my companionJ  He has a wonderful way with people.  The Branch members love him so much!  He concentrates on the one…..each one of them……and that’s why they love him.

After Sacrament Meeting Doctor John called me out to present me with a gift.  A new Ugandan dress!  That was such a sweet gesture from him.

also had the privilege of attending Primary.  I was able to have a fun singing time with the children.  They were cute and participated well.  They only know a handful of songs.  They have not had much of a singing time in the past and to me Singing Time is one of THE most important parts of Primary.  There are so many Gospel truths taught during singing time and it should be included in EVERY Primary session.  This is something that the Primary Presidency will be working on in the future. 

One of the challenges in Mbale Primary is the communication problem.  Some of the children do not speak much English while others are just fine.  In counseling with the Primary Presidency I suggested that they have one of the counselors who speak Luganda do some translating during sharing time to include everyone.  It worked out quite well.  By American standards this primary would almost be considered dysfunctional but I know that through small and simple things are great things brought to pass.  Mbale Branch Primary will slowly grow and improve!

We got the chance to take a few pictures after the services today.  Once we got started all who were around wanted to have their picture taken.  Mercy got her hair plaited:)

Allan and Isaac


Ben Tushabe

                                Esther Rose



Mercy and Mirembe

Manjerie and h a few of her kids
After our church meetings we had three baptisms.  Jackson (a member of our branch) and who is a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood, was able to baptize his step mother, his wife and his son.  It was wonderful to witness him using the Priesthood to bless the lives of his family members.  He was nervous but did a great job!  What a blessing to have god’s power on the earth to bless the lives of His children!

After church we dropped off Richard and his friends.  We are always greeted by LOTS of little kids in his neighborhood.  The other day we drove up and I kid you not a little toddler saw us coming and he started running towards our truck and even though our windows were rolled up I could see his mouth saying the words…..Mzungu, Mzungu!!  Even the VERY little ones know who the white people areJ

Upon arriving at home we fixed up some chicken and gravy and vegetables and cake.  Rick’s cake turned out so pretty and delicious.  I love having a husband who’s not afraid to put on an apron and do some cooking with me!

We then drove out to the village and enjoyed the evening with Alfonzo, Mary and their children (Francis’ family).  Mary had made two different kinds of rice (Francis’ brothers and sisters LOVE rice), posho, Irish potatoes and millet bread.  We had PLENTY of food and enjoyed it very much!  After dinner we had a testimony meeting.  Francis was able to translate everything that was said.  It was beautiful! 

This family comes from very humble circumstances.  I wish I could show through this blog just how destitute they are according to American standards.  They live in a small building with dirt floors and aluminum siding for a roof.  There is no electricity and no plumbing.  Francis and his seventeen year old brother sleep in mud huts with thatched roofs.  Francis’  hut is falling apart and leaks terribly when it rains.  Mary cooks outside over a fire everyday.  They eat staple foods (like posho) and whatever they can get to grow in their garden.   They depend on the sun and rain for their food.   The latrine is a small round thatched shack with a small hole in the dirt ground.    I’m not sure where they shower but I’m sure it is just like the latrine.  They have to carry water from their water source about 600 yards away.  The children’s clothes are too small, dirty, and tattered.   The small children have no shoes.  Jimeema, the youngest of fourteen months, is very often naked.   She has never worn a diaper and is very often found suckling on her mother’s breast. 

The wonderful part of this though, repeats itself in so many other Ugandan members lives.  They love God and teach their children truth.  They preach the Gospel and share God’s word with many of their neighbors.  They attend to the sick.  The adults foot (walk) to church each week long distances and worship with the Saints of God. (The children are too young to have to carry that far so the small ones do not go.)  They have family nights.  They love each other tremendously and they are HAPPY!  Through their challenges they have learned to trust in God and lean on Him for strength.  It is beautiful to witness.

After testimonies were shared we enjoyed some singing from Mary and her girls.  Francis then shared a personal experience that helped shape his life.  I will not post it here but it was very special.

Before we knew it we were saying goodbye to our dear friends.  I cried as I saw Francis’ face in the light of our vehicle as we were driving out.  I cried as I left him there in those humble circumstances knowing the many challenges he faces each day.  I cried as we drove along the dirt roads of Pallisa District thinking of how he has become like a son to us.  I will miss him and don’t know if we will ever be able to see him again in this life but I will never forget him.  He is one of the greatest people I know.

Easter is a wonderful time to reflect on the Savior and His marvelous gift to us. The Atonement was and is made possible through the love of Jesus Christ.  I am blessed beyond measure to have the knowledge of Heavenly Father’s plan, His plan of happiness.  The foundation of my life is built upon this knowledge and on my Savior, Jesus Christ.  Without  it I would be lost.  I am so thankful to have served in this mission.  I am thankful to have served in Mbale.  It has been very difficult at times but the joy that comes from teaching others where to find true happiness is a joy that is beyond compare.

I have so enjoyed this day with the bittersweet feelings that come from leaving loved ones behind.  I’m sure this is how one must feel as they leave this earth….. hard to leave but knowing you must go.  Elder Phelps and I have truly been blessed to be among such wonderful Saints of God.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

What a Week!!

This week has been very full.  It is our last week in Mbale and we have had EVERY night filled with dinner appointments.  Some at members’ homes but mostly at OUR home.  I have cooked this past week more than I have in a long time.  We have served anywhere between nine to twelve people most nights since we have gotten back.  Tonight I made dinner for our YSA group and they brought friends!!  We served over THIRTY!  I’m exhausted! ..... but I say go big or go home….or more appropriately go big BECAUSE we are going home!

Tuesday after we visited with Betty and Teddy we drove out to spend some time with Dan and the children at the orphanage in Budaka District.  The kids were really cute and did some singing and dancing for us.  We spent a bit of time (actually a lot of time) just letting the time pass because a meal was being prepared for us.  We spent time showing Mormon Messages to the kids and teaching them Primary songs.  After a while we had a simple meal of rice and eggplant. 

After the orphanage we drove to see Sam’s father (Sam is a YM in our branch) who has been sick for about five weeks.  He can barely eat anything.  He has been to the doctor and they have diagnosed him but will not give him the diagnosis until he pays them money.  He is guessing it is ulcers and is trying to treat it with different kinds of medicine.  He is just taking them not knowing what is actually wrong with him.  Elder Phelps and Francis gave him a blessing.  He looked pitiful.  I hope he gets feeling better soon.

That night we got home to prepare dinner for Richard and Sharifah and their two children plus Olivia (an investigator) with her two children.  I made crock pot chicken and rice, pineapple, cauliflower, and ice cream with cookies for dessert.  We had a nice visit with them and were able to show them the Mormon Message #Halleluiah.  We have been showing that video to most everyone we visit and then bearing testimony about the importance of Easter and the gift of the atonement and the resurrection.  I’m glad we have the opportunity to bear testimony of this gift to all.

Every picture that we have has Sharifah breastfeeding Ketra.  So this is what goes on the blog:)

Wednesday was our last day in Busia.  It was a little anticlimactic because we spent so much time doing nothing.  We left by nine that morning because we knew we had to be back to Jonathon and Rachel’s for dinner that evening.   We picked up Sharifah and the kids because she was going back to the village to stay for the month with Richard’s family.  Their kids are so sweet.  They are so quiet and good.  They did not make a peep the whole time we drove to Busia (an hour and a half).  They both fell asleep after a while but woke up when we stopped to feed the baboons some old bananas.  Tony laughed as he watched the baboons eat.

We drove her to Richard’s parents home close to the border of Kenya.  I am amazed at where our little truck gets us.  Not only does it go and go on the terrible roads but it gets us out to little homes in little villages that barely even have a road.  Many times we have had to ask, "Will our truck fit through there??  Is this even a road??  Do vehicles actually drive down this path??"  Our little truck is the gift that keeps on giving:)   Before we came on our mission we thought that we might have an old beater truck to get us around but this Toyota Hilux has been a very nice vehicle to have and we have been so happy to have it!  It treated us well:)

Richard’s mother and grandmother were very generous and had us sit for a few minutes to visit.  It was a little difficult because none of them spoke English…..even Sharifah speaks very little.  Richard’s brother came in and we could communicate with him.  Richard’s grandmother was cute.  She just kept on jabbering in her native tongue like we knew exactly what she was saying!

We eventually got over to President Ojiambo.  We stopped over at Wafula David’s for a few minutes and ended up staying there for TWO HOURS!!  I kept thinking that we could be off doing some good visiting and I’m not sure why we were there.

Most of our waiting was for a young man from Busia who was going to be interviewed for his mission with President Collings.  He needed Rick's phone to have the interview so we waited for the time to pass until the phone call could be made.  After that happened we had time to visit one less active sister and give some encouragement and then we were on our way back to Mbale.  This was not how I pictures our last day of service in Busia would be.  But it is all good.  

We made the drive back to Mbale just in time to sit on our couch for ten minutes and then head over to Jonathon and Rachel’s.  I really did not want to leave the house again after being gone all day but it ended up being a nice night.  Rachel would not receive any help in the kitchen so Rick and I  talked with Jonathan for AN HOUR AND A HALF before dinner was served.  It was super hot in the house and I felt so bad for Rachel.  She would come out of the kitchen every once in a while covered in sweat.  Poor thing.  I know she must have been dying in that hot kitchen!  Aaron from the branch joined us as well and we had some nice conversation while we were waiting.  We got home around 9:30 just glad to be able to get in our jammies and go to bed! ( I did not get any pictures of this night:(

Thursday was another big day.  We picked Francis up around ten and went out to Pallisa District.  We first visited with Bess (a widow in our branch) and her children and some extended family.  We were able to show her the Easter Video and again talk of the resurrection.  What a wonderful truth we have that death is not the end.  When we talked of how she will see her husband James again she got a big smile on her face and started nodding her head.  I’m grateful that she has a testimony of this truth!  She is such a faithful member of our branch.  She lives very far from the church but comes faithfully every week.  She is such a great example to me.

We visited another gentleman who Francis has been teaching.  He is the headmaster of Francis’ Primary school.  We were able to show him the video and have a good talk with him as well.  Francis will continue to teach him and his children.  He will be coming to church tomorrow. 

We then drove out to Manafwa District to deliver a piece of tarp that belongs to Sarah Butali.  Manafwa is up in the mountains and is very beautiful.  While it has been quite dry in Pallisa District and the crops are starting to dry up,  Manafwa is completely green and the gardens are growing well there!

That evening we had invited Afonda Steven along with our Branch Presidency over for dinner.  Afonda Steven is a higher up in the police department and has been very friendly to us.  He has helped us out in a couple of situations and we have been very grateful.  He was an HOUR AND A HALF late!  Oh my!!……I can never get used to African time!  He brought a coworker with him and we had a wonderful dinner of roast beef and mashed potatoes.  We had a marvelous talk with him about the Gospel.  He has such a good heart and is very personable.  He has many of the same beliefs and understandings of a Latter Day Saint.  At one point Rick looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Steven, you need to be a member of the church!”  I think it might take some doing with him but maybe someday……..

                                         Afonda Steven and us.

The group....
Asera, Nathan, Nelson, Steven, Elder Phelps, Allan, and President Etiang (Isaac)

We ended the evening with the video (my laptop is getting a good workout this week) and the bearing of our testimonies.

Friday we spent the morning getting ready for the coming weekend.  We needed to buy some more groceries to get us throught the last part of the week.  We also got some pictures printed to give out to some of our friends before we leave.

After stopping to pick up Francis in Pallisa we drove over to Kabwangasi (which on the backroads was very close to Pallisa).  We went to meet with Doctor John.  He wanted to “celebrate” with us before we leave Mbale.  We were scheduled to be there around noon but were a little late.  It was ok because this was another one of those times that we sat and waited FOR TWO HOURS before the food was cooked and ready.  I’m a get in and get it done kind of girl and it is hard for me to sit around making small talk (and sometimes no talk at all) for long periods.  Apparently I have not learned to just go with the flow here in Uganda……but truly that’s the way life is here….very laid back.  Finally, we were invited into a small room where we enjoyed eating a lot of traditional foods.  I tried to eat very little (without seeming ungrateful) because I knew that I needed to get home to make yet another dinner for yet another couple. 

After Doctor John we stopped in to visit Michael and Daphne and their family.  Guess what….ANOTHER full meal!!  This was even a bigger spread than Doctor John’s!  I mean seriously….matoke, chicken, boiled eggs, rice, avocados, mangos…….I just decided, “what the heck?”  I’m not refusing fresh avocados and mangos!!!  I tried a piece of chicken……mistake......why can I not just learn already?  I could not even bite into that thing it was so tough!!  Then I have to try to hide it on my plate so that they won't see that I did not eat their precious gift of meat!  The avocados and mangos though……LOVE!

We hurried home because we were really late by this time.  We actually have been late EVERY SINGLE PLACE  that we have gone to this week.  I have no idea why……Why, oh why can we not get to places on time??  Oh wait….of course, I know why.  It’s because EVERYTHING takes so much longer to do here….from showering to doing dishes to driving, to shopping…..EVERYTHING takes us so much longer than at home in the States.  It’s just the way it is.  I hope we can get back into the groove when we get home and be 'on time' people again.  Rick is a VERY prompt person and it drives him CRAZY when we are late.  He has done very well at understanding and adjusting to the “African Way” here in Uganda, though.

We had dinner with Brian, Stella and Trinity Kanalo, and Pius, Benard and Francis this night.  Brian and Stella are a sweet couple that became members about nine months ago.  Brian is a doctor in the main clinic in town.  He has not been to church for a few months because of working on Sunday.  He is hopefully getting a schedule change soon and will be able to come back to church.  Brian and Stella are a great couple and we hope that they can get to the temple soon.  I served penne pasta with vegetables and rolls.  Thank goodness it was a simple meal and with Francis’ help we got it out from start to finish in just 35 minutes while Rick went to go pick up the Kanalos.  Francis loved wearing Elder Phelps’ apron!!  He had to get a picture!

Finally, this brings us to tonight.  It has been a SUPER full day.  It is way past my bedtime but I feel the need to get the weeks activities written down.

Today we began with a short mission correlation meeting, then some shopping for tonight’s party, then Elder’s Quorum training (Elder Phelps) piano lesson and Primary Training (Sister Phelps) and a visit (Elder Phelps with President Etiang).  After the training and visits were over then the real work began!  We then made it home to get food cooked for thirty plus people. 

We had quite the crowd!  We served roast beef, bbq meatballs, baked and fried Irish, corn, pineapple, cake and cookies.  When we got home from the training we had NO POWER.  Luckily the roasts in the crock had time to cook thoroughly.  And luckily our stove and oven is run on propane.  While we had no fans blowing to cool us in our hot kitchen (or chichen as Benard calls it:) we survived making dinner for everyone. 

We had more people than we were expecting and the last few people did not get any meat.  I can not believe how full their plates were.  I was a little peeved thinking that they should have not taken so much food until everyone had gotten through the line,  thus the running out of meat for the last couple of people.  While everyone went out to play a game I did the dishes.  I didn’t mind…..I could hear everyone out in the backyard laughing and having a good time and it made my heart happy!

This is the end of a very long post to a very long week.  Looking forward to Easter Sabbath tomorrow.  Just two more nights left and then we leave our Mbale home forever.  We’ve made some great memories here!!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Crossroad

I just wanted to relate a sweet experience that happened on my morning walk.  I had just left our house and was walking briskly up our red dirt road (of course, greeting everyone that I saw:).  I saw a group of five young school girls walking on the left side of the road.  As I came up to them I greeted them and started passing them.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see the tallest one start swinging her arms mimicking me and catching up to me.  Then she started inching her way over to my side of the road.  The other girls were not far from her.  All of a sudden she was right next to me and reaching out to hold my hand.  Next thing I know another girl was on my right side grabbing my hand and all of the others were surrounding me.

We walked like this for a few seconds when I engaged them in conversation.  How old are you?  What grade are you in?  Where is your school? We walked together for a few minutes when I noticed there were suddenly a few boys that had caught up to us.  I told them my name and showed them my badge and they took turns saying my name out loud:)  We kept walking like that hand in hand until a   few minutes later when they came to their crossroad and branched off to the right leaving me on my way, walking alone.

  On our mission we have had many "little experiences" like this that touch our hearts.  We are very often talking to people......sometimes complete strangers.  That's what missionaries do:)  I'll heartily admit that Elder Phelps is so good at this.  Usually I'll let him do the talking but sometimes I chime in.:)  We meet someone for just a brief moment in time and see of their goodness and then they are gone.

As I finished my walk I reflected on how in just less than a week it will be Elder Phelps and I "getting to our crossroad "and branching off and leaving these wonderful people.

Just today as we were visiting with our very first convert, Betty I sat listening to her speak to us as we sat in 'our spot' under the mango tree.  Betty has been very sick for the last three weeks and so she has not been able to attend Sunday meetings.  She was at last diagnosed with typhoid and is getting medicine for it.  She was very weak today as we visited with her when normally she is a happy healthy 26ish year old!   I got emotional when she said, "I have missed church so much!"  My thoughts were,  "I love Betty!  I have seen her change from a skeptical unbeliever to a woman who loves God and misses church when she cannot attend.   My other thought was...."and this is one of the last times I will ever see her. "

Yes, our crossroad is coming awfully fast and while I am excited to see my family and friends back home I recognize that our Ugandan mission, an experience of a lifetime, is coming to a quick end.  Yesterday, I again reflected on how it will feel when I am at home and all of this is behind me.  I know it will be much as Jacob said when he reflected, " ....and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream......"

I am sad at the thought.

Our Last P-Day

Picture Overload......

Yesterday we took our last P-day and drove to Sipi Falls.  We invited Mercy, Nambale, and Benard to go with us.  Wish we could have taken more but there are only three seat belts in the back of our truck!  The falls were beautiful although there was not as much water as back in October.  It was definitely greener than our last trip when we went the day after Christmas, though.  We had fun listening to the boys talk about their mission experiences.  Bernard served in Malawi and Namable served right here in the UKM.  He spent ten months in Ethiopia (which was not easy according to him) and six of his months in Rwanda. (which he loved:).  Mercy is a quiet person so she did not say much but we sure love being with her.  She has such a sweetness about her.

Here are some fun pictures of our day!

After our seeing all of the three falls we went back to the Sebei Cultural Center for a buffet lunch of traditional foods.  I could not eat my chicken because it was so tough.  I was sorry to have left in on my plate.  Bernard saw it and asked if he could have it.  I asked him how he could eat that tough meat and he jus said, "Ugandans have strong teeth!"  I laughed at that:)

Afterwards we were shown some of the typical living areas of the Sebei people.  They are cattle herders so they have a lot of milk.  Here we are with our gourds....(not really drinking....:)

When we returned back to Mbale we had our last Family Night activity with the YSA.  (Although we are having a special get together with them on Saturday night)  We had a nice spiritual meeting discussing Isaiah 53 and telling our feelings about each verse.  Afterwards we had ice-cream for dessert .

                             Derek, Baraka, Solomon, Gerald, Pius

                            Hamilton, Nathan, Mercy, Steven and Betty

                             Tony, Ben, Jude, and Francis

Elder Phelps and Aaron

After ice cream a paper was pinned to our back and then the Young Adults each wrote a note to us on our backs.  They are so cute!  We had a fun time coming home and reading their sweet thought to us:)