Monday, October 17, 2016

Happy Birthday, Sweetie

Elder Phelps had a birthday today!  He turned 52 and is looking as good as ever!!  He got this fun birthday present from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints!  Of course, it is just on loan for six months.  It is a 2015 Toyota Hiace with less than a thousand miles on it.  I am a nervous wreck in the passenger seat but he is doing a fabulous job of navigating these crazy streets in Kampala.  The steering wheel is on the right side of the car and we drive on the left side of the road.  Luckily it is not a standard so he doesn't have to worry about shifting with the left hand. The streets here in Kampala are absolutely nuts.  I explained a little bit about that on my last post but you'd truly have to see it to believe it. Anyway, my stomach did a number of flip flops on the streets of Kampala today so I hope I can get to the point where I am not such a nervous passenger.  It is funny because if he gets to close to another vehicle, since I am in the passenger side on the left where I would normally be driving, I catch myself trying to slam on a brake that isn't there.  I did that at least three times!
 We are both learning.

Here's the birthday boy's dinner.  Shrimp with vegetables and rice.  He loved it!  
He also loved his creme brûlée dessert.

And this is what we paid with.....Ugandan Shillings.  We exchanged our money for the month (finally) and came out with a boatload of bills.  10,320,000 to be exact.  I am still trying to get used to  how much things cost around here.  Everything is pretty inexpensive but when a soccer ball costs 36,000 shillings it kind of throws me for a loop.  I'll get the hang of it. 

Happy Birthday to the man I love!  I'm blessed to call you mine!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Our first few days......

I have been waiting to post for a few days because the internet at the mission home was not letting me load pictures.  We are staying in Mbale tonight and as luck would have it, the internet is lightning fast, so I am taking advantage of it and am going to get caught up on blogging.

On Wednesday night after making visits at the office we went to a nice dinner at a place called Mediterraneo.  It was very elegant food.  Tracy says there are lots of places to get good food in Kampala.  We even felt safe eating a green salad with our meal.  Sometimes that could be dangerous because we have to wash all of our fruits and vegetables in a bleach solution to make sure they are safe for consumption.  Even pineapple.  
We decided to give ia salad a try and we were just fine.  We also started taking our Doxy pills (Doxycycline) which are supposed to help fight against Malaria.  If we are taking the pills and an infected mosquito bites us than more often than not we will not get sick.  The problem is....the pills can make us sick.  Many missionaries stop taking the pill because it makes them feel nauseous.  To combat that it is suggested that we take the medication with food.  That has helped us.  Neither of us has felt any side effects from the medication. (Is this boring info?  I'm not sure how much to write.  I guess it will be good to remember these little details in twenty years when we come back to reminisce.)

That night Tracy and I stayed back at the mission home while the guys went to the airport to pick up another senior couple.  That was nice because I was really tired from jet lag and Tracy had a lot to get done before we left the next morning.

On the way to the airport Rick saw two weird things.  These guys on roller blades hitched a ride on the back of this taxi and 'rode' it for about a half mile.

Then he saw a guy leading these two camels down the street....

I guess I should take this opportunity to talk about what we are seeing here in Africa.  If you read Sister Collingses blog this will be a repeat of some of the things that she mentions.

First and foremost let me say that the people here are very kind.  They love God and seem to be happy.  The people I have met seem to have good hearts.  The women dress very modestly which is refreshing and I would say 98% of them wear dresses or skirts. Most people don't wear any deodorant from what I can tell so that will take some getting used to:-0  It's gonna take some time to get my "African ears" because I'm having a hard time understanding what people are saying.  I hope all goes well for church tomorrow and I don't offend anyone because I'm not quite following what they are saying.  I hope I can learn soon.

The living conditions here in Uganda are very much like that of Mexico.  The standards here are very different than what we are used to.  Of course, there is a lot of poverty.  Many of the men here just cannot find jobs.  Even if they get a good education..... there are no jobs.  The women are often out working in the fields, selling their wares on the side of the road, or cooking over a small fire outside of their living quarters or shops.  The women wear their beautiful colored dresses with big headpieces often of the same material.  It is very beautiful to me.  Many times they are walking around with big baskets or buckets on their heads selling some kind of food.  It is amazing what these women are carrying on their heads.  Sometimes they are carrying huge bags filled with who knows what and they look really heavy!   

The traffic is really crazy!  Lots of people on the roads edging their cars into traffic trying to get from point a to point b.  Lots of van taxis FILLED to the brim with people.  Lots of people walking on the sides of the roads as well as crossing the roads.  Along with this are thousands of motorcycle taxis called bota botas carrying as many as up to four people on it dodging in and out of traffic.  Pretty crazy!  And to top it all off everything is on the opposite side.  Steering wheel on the right and driving on the left.  I must say Steve (and Tracy) have really gotten the hang of it since they arrived in June.  I feel very safe with them at the wheel.  Rick and I will be getting a small pickup truck next week to have for our transportation.  Rick is excited to drive.  I'm not too nervous.  I know he will get the hang of it really quick.  He has had lots of experience driving in different countries (Rome was one of the worst) and even practice driving on the wrong side of the road (Australia, St. Thomas, and England)  It won't take long for him to get in the groove.

There is a lot of red dirt and there is always a smell of smoke in the air because people are always burning stuff.  I'm not sure what but I'm thinking they burn their garbage.  Just a guess.  So there is always a smokey smell outside especially in the evenings.  Along side of the roads are lots of cement shops painted in bright colors.  They sell all kinds of wares in these shops from clothing to cell service to food.  It is fun to see the people outside cooking and selling their food.  There are are a lot of produce and vegetable stands.  I'm excited to check those out.  I have not taken any pictures of everyday Ugandan life but that is on my agenda in the next week when we get settled in Mbale.

Yesterday we left the mission home early to get to the Mukono Zone Conference.  We got there a little early so while Tracy and I sat in the car President and Rick did a little street contacting.  They met a man name Mohommad who said he would like to come to church on Sunday.  The missionaries in the zone are going to follow up with him.  The zone conference was really good.  Sister Collings spoke on having a good attitude and the difference it can make on our mission experience.  President spoke of God's grace and the meaning it has in our lives.  They both were excellent!  Then the zone leaders did some teaching with a learning based activity.  It was a great conference.  I had no idea that  it was going to last for four hours!!  It was a long one.  Afterwards we gathered as a group and went to Mohammad's restaurant and sang I am a Child of God to the workers there.  Unfortunately Muhammad wasn't there but the workers took a video.

Here are the missionaries gathering to sing at the restaurant.

Afterwards we ate at a little cafe not far from the church.  It took  FOR -EV -ER to get our food and we were all sooo hungry by that time.  Here we are at the cafe.  I enjoyed getting to know the missionaries.

After lunch we hopped in the car to head to Jinja where we stayed for the night.  We met up with Jinja's Stake President, President Mbiru (with his wife and baby) and John (an investigator) and his wife and child.  We were able to spend time visiting and then ultimately talk to John about the Book of Mormon.  It felt good to testify of truth to him.  He is an interesting character and he has committed that he will come to Stake Conference in a couple of weeks.  We stayed at the Nile Village Hotel.

Me with John's little girl.  I wish I could remember her name.  She was really sweet.  She was full of smiles!  I wonder if she had ever seen a Mazunga (white person) before.

Our group without John.

John and his WHOLE fish.  He ended up taking it home to eat.

The Nile Village Hotel.....

The next day was more of the same.  We had a double zone meeting with the Jinja and Inguru Zones. More teaching and meeting of new missionaries.  It's hard to remember all of their names.....expecially the African names!  All of the missionaries seem to be top notch!  I was quite impressed with their insight these last couple of days.

 I feel for President and Sister Collings.  They have so much to do and so many missionaries to know and take care of.  One hundred and twenty right now.  Tracy is the nurse for all of the missionaries so a couple of times a day, missionaries will call for advice if they are not feeling well.

I will finish up for tonight because it is getting late.  We are staying at the Mbale Resort and it is very nice.  Our room even has carpet and a bathtub!  Shaving my legs in the shower has not been too fun:(  

We are going to go to the Mbale branch tomorrow and then drive the four hours back to Kampala.  We have a project on Monday that we have been invited to so I will post about that next time.  We should be in our house by Wednesday if everything goes well.  I am excited to get settled into our home but it is not quite ready yet.  It is having some repairs done but I'm hoping to at least see it tomorrow so I can start purchasing things that I need for the place.  I'm hoping that the internet is good in our living quarters or it might be a while before my next post.  Signing off for tonight!!

We made it to Uganda

Tuesday morning we left for our six month adventure to Africa.  I really surprised myself by not being too emotional.  Brach and Kendra and the kids brought us in to the airport and quite frankly I expected to be sobbing the whole way there.  Not so.  I did cry a little while hugging the family goodbye but what a relief that I did not lose myself in a cryfest!  

We got ourselves a window seat for our first leg of ten hours to Amsterdam.  It's nice that this was a direct flight.

While in the Netherlands we got to stock up on Stroopwafels!  Rick loves these things!

After a two hour layover in Amsterdam we flew ANOTHER ten hours to Uganda with a quick stop in Rwanda.  I was ready to get off of that plane!  The Collingses and the Bratsman's (the office couple) were there to greet us and get us over to the mission home.  It's good to be back with our dear friends:)

After the hour drive (the traffic was good so it was not the regular two hour drive) we made it to the mission home where we visited for another hour before settling into bed at 2AM.  After a pretty good nights rest we woke up to this beautiful sight off of our balcony.
Uganda is very tropical and beautiful!

Here's a shot of our room (sorry, this picture is kind of dark but the room is very comfortable:)

We ventured out for a walk and Rick found this HUGE snail out on the lawn.

After a breakfast pancakes that Tracy made for us we got to go into a store and get a few necessities for Rick and I and then we went to the mission office to meet and greet the staff.  We were also able to get instruction from Pres. Collings on his vision of what is to take place in Mbale and Busia where we will be over the branches.
These are things that he wants us to do:

*Make sure that the auxiliaries are running sufficiently and that they will go out and visit in the members' homes at least once a week.
*Make sure Home and Visiting Teaching are organized.
*Go out and visit in the members' homes at least once a week.
*Find and teach people.
*Help to bring unity into the branch

This is our charge and we will best try to do it!

After the afternoon at the office we had a nice dinner at the Medditeraneo Restaurant with President and sister Collings.
A good beginning to our Uganda experience!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Missionary Training Center

This past week was our wonderful experience at the MTC.  We arrived Monday morning and were greeted by many smiling faces.  The MTC is run like a well oiled ship.  Everyone knows where they are to be and what they are to be doing! We had someone there every step of the way.  From where to park to picking up our mission packet to someone taking our luggage and escorting us to our rooms, to the immunization dept. to the travel dept. to the lunch room to our first meeting.  We were taken very well care of and we didn't even have the opportunity to get lost.

Our first meeting was held in a large room with around 84 senior missionaries.  We were welcomed and heard talks from the MTC Presidency and then each of the couples (and 8 single sister missionaries) introduced themselves and said where they were from, where they were going and what their particular assignment would be.  I was amazed at the feeling of unity of this big group as we all talked about our different areas of intended service.  Here we all were with the same serve the Lord wherever He wanted us to go.  We figured we had about 65% going to serve foreign missions while the other 35% would be staying stateside.  We had several that would be staying in SL at the Church and Family History Mission.  While Rick and I were the only couple going to Africa their were many missionaries called to serve around the globe.  Represented were missionaries going to the Philippines, Marshall Islands, England, Lebanon, Greece, China, Finland, Norway, and Indonesia.  I'm sure there are more I just can't remember all of them.

Toward the end of this meeting we were split into Districts with four couples in our district.  
It included:  

The Beacksteads from Alpine UT, who are going to serve in Hong Kong with the assignment of Public Relations over the Pacific Area.  This entails working with about ten different missions and many different countries in improving the relations with these countries.  In some places the Church is viewed unkindly by the people so Elder and Sister Beckstead through many different means i.e., organizing service projects to help communities, meeting with different dignitaries, working with schools.....etc.  will help to give the Church some good publicity.

Next we had the Steeles.  They are from South Jordan,UT.  They will be serving in the Indonesia Jakarta mission as MLS (missionary leader support) missionaries.  Along with strengthening the members of the church they will also be working a great deal with the muslim people (since Indonesia is mostly Muslim)  

The Hawkins', from the Sacramento, CA area, will be serving in Greece as Humanitarian Missionaries.  They will be working with other charities to help the large number of refugees flowing into the area from Syria and Northern Africa.  There is not an LDS program there yet, but the Hawkins' will head up the LDS Charities Organization and if I understand right will be able to help distribute donations to the correct charities.  They will be able to go into the refugee camps and meet with people and assess their needs.

the infamous "map"

enjoying a walk outside .....

Our District.......The Hawkins, The Beacksteads, Rick and I, and The Steeles.  (below)  We all got along so great and there's something that brings you closer as you spend lots of time role-playing! :-)  We had lots of wonderful discussions that taught great principles and teaching skills.
               These are really great people that are going to do A LOT of good in the world!
                                              I am exited to follow them on their journey!

The cafeteria was a wonderful place to be!  Not just because of the food but because this is where we got to mingle with the young missionaries.  Generally we tried to sit by a bunch of young un's and find out a little about them.....where they were going to serve, how long they had been there, and if they were learning a new language. We got to meet many outstanding  Elders and Sisters.  They truly radiated goodness.   What a privilege it was to be associated with them!  

I was always amazed at the amount of food that was produced to feed these couple thousand missionaries in a such a short amount of time.  THREE TIMES A DAY! That is A LOT of food!  
 It all just runs so smoothly and everyone is so courteous and nice.

                                             Wednesday was ice cream day.
                                           Not gonna lie. I had two scoops!!

Wednesday evening we had some free time so we did some sealings at the Provo City Center Temple.  This place is just so beautiful inside.  I love it!

Here is our morning teacher Sister Robertson.  

And one of our afternoon teachers, Brother Wade.  Brother Hyde was our other afternoon teacher but I didn't get a picture of him.  He got married on that Friday so we didn't get to finish with him.

There is sooo much time spent sitting indoors.  It's nice when you can get out into the sun on a warm day.

My learning experience at the MTC was phenomenal!  It's been a long time since I was in school so I was a little concerned about learning everything I needed to know about being a good missionary.  I learned A LOT!  I have written very specific entries in my personal journal of what I learned but on this forum I will just mention a few:

*Our main purpose is to "invite people to Christ"
*We are not the only ones who are leaving all we know and love to serve the Lord.  We are part of a great army of missionaries and it is truly an exciting adventure!
*With the Lord's help I can do great things!
*Our children will be fine while we are away and this will be a great opportunity for each of them to learn and grow as well.
*Preach My Gospel is AMAZING....(really,  I already knew that but it was wonderful talking about it with other missionaries.
*The natural man turns inward and the Lord always turns outward.  I want to be like the Lord by turning outward and be a giver instead of taker.
*In all that I do Jesus Christ will be the center of what I teach and how I live.  

The MTC was a wonderful place of learning and growth.  It was a definite shot in the arm as we get ready to fly out TOMORROW!  Aaaagghhhh!  I still have so much to do to get ready! 

Next time I post we'll be in UGANDA!! See you on the other side of the world!!  :-)

our room and me journaling......