Monday, May 22, 2017

Troubles with getting a passport

This is the last of the Waila Francis stories.  And the last of our mission stories.  I will be shifting to writhing about every day life again.

While we have received letters from others in our Mbale branch we have not yet heard from Francis since we left Uganda.  We miss him and others terribly.  Hopefully he will be able to get his mission papers in soon and get out serving a full time mission.  This story was written over the course of a few weeks as things progressed for Francis.  These stories that I have written give just a little glimpse of the challenges that beset the Ugandan people.  They do their best at moving forward and improving their lives.  The members of our branch live lives of faith.  They put their trust in God and hope for a better future.

                                                        Challenges With Getting a Passport
                                                                   From the life of Waila Francis


Francis has been working on getting his passport papers finished for his mission.  It has taken him quite some time to get things in order.  He needed one more signature for his passport papers.  He has to take a taxi to Pallisa town (which is in Palissa District) and is a four hour ride in a taxi.  It costs 20,000 UGX each way.  Francis has been to the district a few times but the man who says he will be there has NOT been there which means he loses 40,000 UGX each time he goes because it’s all for nothing. ( A regular Joe will make anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 shillings a day.  That is roughly about $1.50-$3.00 USD a day.  You can see it would take time and effort to save 40,000 shillings for just the transportation for a trip like that.)

 When he went last week the man was there but because he saw that Francis wanted to serve a mission for the LDS church he would not sign the paper unless Francis gave him 25,000 UGX.  There should be no charge for this service.  Francis only had his transport money, 20,000 UGX, so he offered that to the man figuring he would just walk home, which would take a long time.  The man would not take it so he tried to sell his watch to no avail.  The man told him many times that he was “stupid” for wanting to go on a mission.  Francis sat there for 20 minutes listening to the man “abuse him”.  The man kept calling him stupid and said that because he wasn’t defending himself or replying to what he was saying he was not a very smart person.

Francis told us that as he was sitting there he thought of a talk from Elder Oaks.  Elder Oaks taught us that we need to love others, especially those who are difficult to love.  He was thinking of this talk when the man was reviling him and he recognized the importance of staying silent.  If he argued he would get nowhere.  Francis left Pallisa and will now work to earn the extra 65,000 for transportation and the “payoff”.  When I heard that this happened I felt the “mama bear" come out in me and I wanted to go give that man a piece of my mind.  Seriously!  The man is a public servant and because he has a little authority he chooses to pick on others and demand money for something that should be free of charge.  I know this would not help Francis so I will do nothing but boy, this gets me!!  Anyway, once he gets his papers signed I still am of a mind to go talk to his  “superior” and let him know how I feel about it.  I don’t like to use race as a foot in the door but the color of our skin has a lot of clout with people here and I want that man to be humbled a bit.  Francis just says, “He will get his reward eventually.”  I need to be a bit more humble like Francis:)

Here is more of the story....

After leaving us in Kampala last week Francis went back to Pallisa with some extra money to "pay" the guy to sign his papers for his passport.  When he got there the man demanded not 25,000 shillings but 60,000 shillings!  (I had mentioned in Kampala to Francis that maybe, just maybe  the man might demand more when he goes back knowing how much Francis wanted his signature)  Francis was prepared and payed the amount the man was asking.  This trip cost a total of 100,000 UGX with the payoff and transportation.   When I heard this I said to Rick, "We need to go talk to that man's superior officer/manager and let him know what's going on.  I formed lots of things in my mind what I would say to this dishonest man if I ever met him...most of it NOT very nice!  I was thinking of the other prospective missionaries from Mbale who will need to go through him to have their passports signed.  We wondered if talking to this man's superior would help or hinder their process.  We decided to wait until we get back to Mbale and talk to Francis and the Branch President to see what they thought.  We thought we would get some direction from President Collings as well.

And then....

Francis called us last night and told us that the night before he had gotten a call from "the guy" telling him that he had to go back to Pallisa to sign a form and pick up a letter.  The man told him that he had submitted Francis' papers but then called immigration and told them NOT to let his papers go through.  He told Francis to be in Pallisa by 7:30 AM to get the letter that would allow his papers to go through.  Francis left by 4AM to get there on time....of course paying the 20,000 for the taxi ride.  He got to the office and sat and sat and sat.  The man made him sit there ALL DAY LONG!  When Francis called us at 5:00 to tell us the story he was just leaving Pallisa to ride the four hour trip home.  Francis had not eaten anything all day while the man had his own breakfast and lunch brought in.  After the day had passed the man came out and gave Francis the needed paper.  He then addressed Francis saying, "I have made you suffer long enough.  Why are you so  persistent?  Why don't you just give up?"  He asked, "Have you gone into the military because you have a lion heart?"  Francis answered, "no". Francis told him, "God will punish you for making me suffer."  The man replied,  "I don't believe in God.  I have everything that I need.  I have a good home and plenty of food.  I will be fine."  Francis replied,  You may not have to suffer God's punishment because of your actions but your children will suffer."   

And then....

We got a text from Francis tonight saying, "Hi Elder and Sis Phelps.  4 sure God lives.  They arrested the man!"  Now I'm curious to find the end of the story.  It is too late to call Francis.  I'll write later.

Here it is three weeks later and I have the last of the story to tell......

Francis told us that the man was arrested on embezzlement charges and then later let go.  Francis mentioned to one of his friends that works here in Mbale in a government position what had happened to him when he went to get the man's signature.  His friend said, "We should have this man arrested and put in jail."  Francis said, "No, I don't think that is necessary."  And left it at that.

His friend however, did not leave it at that.  He felt that Francis had been wronged and wanted him to have recompense for the money that he had lost.  A few days later Francis was invited to go to the police station to meet with the higher ups to tell his story.  The man was brought in and Francis was told to add all of the expenses incurred in getting that signature. The man was told to not only pay him the 250,000 shillings but to also kneel down and apologize for the way that he treated Francis.  The man said, "I will even pay him 500,000 shillings but I cannot kneel before that stupid man and apologize.   The police told the man that if he would not apologize then they would give him two months to think about apologizing and if he decides that he still cannot apologize then he will spend all of two years in jail.  (The time that Francis will be out on his mission)  That will be his punishment.

Francis has not received any recompense yet and probably will not unless the man will apologize.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Accosted by Thieves

                                                        Thieves By Bridge
                                                                From the life of Waila Francis

A day I realized God’s hand in my life. 

Being asked by the Elders to wash their mission car to raise some funds for my mission, other young men in my branch were not happy about it.  They also wanted to wash because they also needed to prepare for their mission.  Elders explained to them but they {did not} listen.  As a result my fellow young men stopped working with missionaries and I remained {the} only one.  There were six missionaries {living in the area}, that is three groups (companionships) I needed to work with.  I used to rise at 4 AM to walk to their apartment and I would reach at 7 AM.  From 9:30 I would work with the District Leaders.  From 12:30 I would work with another (companionship) and then at 4:30 I would work with the Zone Leaders until 9:30 PM.

One day we were finding new members to teach with the missionaries.  We found a new family (Brian and Stella) which we taught up until 9:00 PM.  I had to walk home (which was very far).  Elders asked to have a prayer and then I started walking home.  Being deep in the village the path I used could pass in the forest and by {the} bridge.  As I came nearer to the bridge, I saw a light and even men with guns beating a certain old man.  They were trying to rob him.  I felt strong as I walked nearer to them.  They asked, “Where are you {coming} from?”  I replied, “From teaching the gospel.  They said, “Which gospel?”  At the end they asked me to remove my shoes, shirt and everything.  I had a phone and money (5,000 shillings) {that they took}. They threw my scriptures into the river.  I had the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Old Testament and the New Testament.  I sat down and they wanted more money, which I didn’t have.  They slapped me strongly and beat me.  I prayed silently to my Heavenly Father. 

They continued beating me until they gave me my shoes.  As I started to walk away they called me back {to give me} my shirt.  They then beat me again.  The Lord finally softened their hearts and they let me go. 


Reaching home my parents said to me that they were praying for me.  (Because it was so late and they were worried.)  I was sick for almost one month having pain and wounds.  In the morning as I was going to the hospital I found a crowd of people trying to get out the dead body which was floating on the water.  I realized that he was the man whom the thieves were beating the night before with me.  They had killed him.  On that day I realized God’s hand in my life.  Whenever we serve Him, Jesus taught, that He will be on our right hand and we are surrounded with angels.  I testify that scripture is true.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Challenges

                     One of the Challenging Weeks in Preparing an Investigator for Baptism
                            From the life of Waila Francis


Whenever we do what is right we face hard times but God places someone in our way.

One day as we were doing findings with the Elders, we found a family which was ready to receive the restored gospel.  We taught the first lesson and the second the following day.  Then the Elders were taken out of our branch and I remained with the responsibility to continue preparing them for baptism.  That week I was supposed to prepare them, was the week my mother was admitted to the hospital.  Being the eldest son in the family I had responsibility to take care of my little brother and sisters at home (seven of them) as well as my mum in the hospital. 

It was one of the most difficult times I have ever faced.  In addition to that we didn’t have enough food.  We used to have one meal a day.  But still I serve God and the family.  One day I went with my companion (another branch missionary) to that very family.  I didn’t have anything to eat.  We taught them.  On our way back I was so hungry and thirsty. 

We met a woman {by the way} and asked her for a glass of water.  We did not have any money with us.  The woman looked at me and she said, “You don’t only need a glass of water but even food.”  I said,  “We don’t have any money.”  She asked us, “What do you do?”  I answered and told her that we were branch missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  She said, “Your Church has a lot of money.  How comes that for you, you don’t have money.”  We explained to her the meaning of a missionary and that we don’t get paid.  She wanted to give us food so that we can pay later which my companion supported.  I knew I didn’t have any possible ways of getting money and said to her that a glass of water was enough for me.  She said, “I also need my Heavenly Father’s blessing since you are missionaries.”  She asked us to take seats and she served us with a lot of food including soft drinks.  We had enough, which I didn’t expect in my life to happen.  I said to her that we had a wonderful gift to {give} her and finally we gave her a restoration pamphlet.  We invited her to church.  She attended church for two Sundays and then stopped.  We knew it was not her time to receive the restored gospel, but she was prepared to serve us, especially me who never had anything in my stomach when I left to go out and teach.  I will never forget that day.


I testify that as we stay faithful and obedient to God’s commandments, even in difficult times, the Lord will always place people to help us and strengthen us.  Even to provide for our needs.  I know God lives.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the Lord’s restored church.  Thomas S. Monson is His prophet today.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Solomon




                                           












                                           A Story about Solomon

I want to share a special story that happened a few days before we left Mbale.   Solomon (Butali) is one of the first people I met when we first arrived in Mbale.  He is a quiet, shy young man of 18.  He is very smart and knows a lot about the gospel.  He is one of the few members of our branch that had the opportunity of growing up in the church.  His family lived in Entebbe when he was young and they joined the church at that time.  He and his family were able to go to the temple to be sealed many years ago.  I felt a connection with Solomon when we first met because he loves music and can play the keyboard.   I brought a few music books with me to Uganda and he liked practicing from them.  We became friends and had a good relationship.  He had the assignment of playing the keyboard for our little branch and did a wonderful job.

The last few months of our mission I noticed that Solomon was not playing the keyboard.  He was also distancing himself from Elder Phelps and I.  When I asked him about why he was not playing he did not give me a good answer.  I encouraged him to continue playing for the branch but he wouldn’t.  Each Sunday, Allen, a member of the Branch Presidency would approach me just before Sacrament Meeting and kindly ask if I would play the keyboard.  Of course, I always did.  This bothered me that Solomon was refusing to play the keyboard for the branch.  Hymns can be sung a cappella but it is so much more enriching when there is some music behind the singing.  Plus, it helps people become familiar with the tunes and how the hymns are supposed to be sung.  His heart was hardened for some reason I did not know.

When we arrived back to Mbale after serving the month of March in the mission office, I had Solomon on my mind.  I had heard through the grapevine the reason he was refusing to play.  He was refusing to play because he was upset with our new Branch President.  When we received a new Branch President in January he decided it was best to lock up our church building during the days.  Before, the church was always unlocked and throughout the day many young adults would congregate and just “hang out” at the church.  There was a restroom, wifi, and power to charge their phones.  Sometimes, it was rumored, that some would even stay the night and shower there.  Well, President Isaac decided it was best to lock up the church during the days to keep the church (especially the sacrament room) undefiled and clean.  That did not sit well with many of the young adults.  Solomon was one of the young men that was caught up in the anger.  This is when he decided not to play the keyboards for the branch.  He also started avoiding Elder Phelps and I when we came around.

After arriving back in Mbale I knew that I needed to somehow talk with Solomon.  Our schedule was very full and I did not know if I would get the opportunity.  My head was full of questions.  What was the best way to approach the subject?  Should I just approach him and bring it all out in the open?  Should I write him a letter?  I did not know and I had convinced myself to just write a letter.  I did not see when I would have an opportunity to discuss with him.

Well, an opportunity presented itself.  Our last Saturday in Mbale we had a party at our home with the YSA’s.  Solomon was there.  I was busy the whole night preparing and serving food.  By the end of the night the kids were all outside playing while I was cleaning up.  Solomon had asked if he could collect the extra empty water bottles that were lying around.  I said he could.  I was surprised when after a bit as I was washing dishes I could see him and a friend through my back window rummaging through our garbage trying to pull out as many bottles as possible.  After a while Solomon was at our back door.  He stood in the doorway and called me over.  He simply said, “You promised.”  I didn’t know what he was referring to so I asked what he meant.  He said, “The music. You promised.”  It was then that I remembered he had asked some time before to look online for some classical music that he could practice to improve his skills.  I simply forgot about it.  I apologized and felt really bad that I had not followed through with my promise.  I knew that I was out of time  and that I would not be able to get any sent to him (through his email) before I left Uganda.  He simply said, “That’s ok. You can send me some after you get home.”

I felt the spirit prompt me that this was the time to speak boldy and frankly to Solomon.  I said, “Solomon, I now I need to talk with you.”  He said, “Right now?”   I said, “yes.”  The first words out of my mouth were.  “Solomon, this branch needs you.  They need you to play the piano for them.”  That opened the door for me to express my feelings for him, for music, for pushing out pride, for serving the Lord in whatever capacity he calls us to. I asked him why he was not playing.  He simply said, “Why is it upon me?  It is very hard.” I explained that he has a talent that absolutely no one else in our branch has.  The Mbale Branch was suffering because of his unwillingness to use his talents and that those talents would be taken away if he did not use them to bless the lives of others.  I let him know that the Lord was not pleased with his actions.  I spoke of how life is not about “us”.  I said, “If life was about “us” I would not be here in Uganda serving this mission.  Do you think it was easy to leave my family to come and serve this mission?  Life is NOT about us.  We go where we are called and we do whatever the Lord asks us to do to further the work in his kingdom.” 

I kept on in this vain for about 10-15 minutes as Solomon stood with his head bowed.  I said to him again, “Solomon, this branch needs you.  Will you do it?  Will you push out pride and whatever is holding you back and play for our branch?”  He slowly nodded his head.  I expressed my love for him and then we went back to our duties. 

I was so thankful to have had the opportunity to speak frankly with Solomon and to encourage him in his responsibilities.  I felt that I had been empowered to speak my mind freely and clearly to this young man that needed direction.  I was so thankful  that Heavenly Father opened up an opportunity for me and helped me to express my feelings in a direct and bold way.

As I walked into church the next morning my heart was filled with joy as Solomon was sitting at the keyboard softly playing hymns.


After church and our branch baptism was finished,  Elder Phelps and I had a fun time on the church porch taking pictures of many of our branch members.  This was, after all, our last Sunday.  I approached Solomon and gave him a hug and told him how happy I was to see him in his rightful place behind the keyboard.  He simply said, “Thank you for helping me to see.”

As we were driving back home Rick said, “Oh, I forgot.  Solomon asked me to give this to you.  It was a handwritten letter.  He had written it after I had spoken with him.  I could not wait to get home to open it so I opened it right then!  The lovely handwritten words left an imprint on my heart.  I will share his beautiful words in this post.  I don’t ever want to forget them…. or him.

“Hello Sister Phelps,
     A few words I should write you before I realize how much you and Elder Phelps mean to me.  This night I realized it was not just a fun time to get to know you and share this six month duration together.
     Though I may not remember all the words you told me, the courage you planted in my heart, I cannot forget the Spirit I felt as you talked to me.
I felt silenced, downtrodden and grieved for I had not been my best in the service of others around me.
     You are one of them, those powerful inspiring women I have met along this journey of life…you have pushed me a distance I could hardly take at the moment I least expected heavenly relief.
     I’ll be ever grateful for such enlightenment.  May you keep these few words of mine with you this time of uncertainty on when we’ll ever meet.
     Be not moved for you have shown a great example and played a good part in my life.  You have found it easy, by the spirit to confront all weaknesses and evils that would otherwise cause great setbacks in my spiritual progress.  May you ever be blessed for that.
     Your actions and word has made me throw oft inferiority but instead reinforced the saying “I am a son of God…..and He has a work for me.”  If He has a work for me and I do it not, how will I be blessed?”
     Many people misinterpret my sayings or totally misunderstand me….but God is all understanding.
     A small while from this day you will hear; Solomon is out for a full time mission, Oh, he’s getting married soon, and more will come because you have helped me move a step more.
     I, though imperfect, have seen great divine potential in you.  I have been having days of much thought on how I can better my life.  It’s just been aware within my heart.  I had much trouble and felt it almost is an impossible thing to let go the past.  Today all things have turned out so good.  Let the past remain in itself.  I will move on and hold to the truths I have received.
     If I have tarnished my name….am sorry but from tonight I promise to serve the Lord in all faithfulness with full purpose of heart…..never should I injure my reputation……


Solomon