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.
I 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
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.