Friday, March 24, 2017

Let Us All Press On

This morning I thought of an experience that I don't think I recorded.  In the second month of our mission (November....or maybe early December)  Elder Phelps and I had to drive up to Lira for some business.  I can't remember the business right now but I do remember it was on a Sunday.  We had attended meetings in the Lira Branch and then had to go over to the Adyel Branch (in Lira as well) for the business.  As Elder Phelps was visiting with the Branch President I was able to go into the chapel where there were a few members finishing up watching a session of General Conference.

I couldn't tell which session we were watching but I felt myself reflecting on the last hymn of the October General Conference.  I remember that it was the most stirring arrangement of 'Let Us All Press On' that I had ever heard.  When I heard it for the first time sitting in my basement at home (leaving the very next day for the MTC) I was in tears for the beauty of that hymn!  It meant so much to me as it spoke of "pressing on in the work of the Lord"  I loved hearing the encouraging words "Fear not" and "Courage! For the Lord is on our side!" I definitely needed courage as Rick and I were about to set off for the biggest adventure of our lives!  The last verse sings "....but an unseen power will aid me and you in the glorious cause of truth!"  What comfort that brought to my heart as I thought of angels attending us in the far off country of Africa!  The Choir sang so beautifully and I shed buckets of tears as my heart was filled with the Spirit!

Sitting in the Chapel of the Adyel Branch I found myself silently wishing/praying that I could hear that wonderful hymn arrangement again.  As the hymn was introduced,  my heart was soaring for this tender mercy.  I closed my eyes and soaked in the beauty of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing that beautiful hymn.  I think I maybe even teared up again:)

Just after that experience I learned how to download hymns from General Conference from lds.org and I saved that one on my computer.  Since then we have listened to that hymn dozens of times.  It brings strength to my soul.  Elder Phelps laughs some days when I play it two or three times in succession in the mornings when I'm getting ready for the day:)  It is so stirring!  I love it!

If you don't remember hearing it go to lds.org and look under General Conference and play the last hymn of the conference.  You will be amazed!!  And if Sister Mouritsen by chance is reading this I would LOVE to sing this hymn sometime in the summer with the ward choir.  Can you make it happen???  HaHa!!  Just kidding, but seriously though!!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ntinda Apartment

I thought I would post some pictures of our apartment so we will always be able to remember it.  We live in a suburb of Kampala called Ntinda.  It is not too far from the office and on a good day we can get to the office in 20 minutes.  On a bad day it's more like 45 upwards.  The road in from of our apartment is a dirt road that is very narrow and rutty.  I have to brace myself for all of the potholes and speed bumps that we must travers each morning and each night going to and from the office.  We have been out a few times trying to get some walking exercise in the evenings but it's not too easy with the traffic and the bad roads.

This apartment has been ok for us.  Our bed is comfortable and we have been enjoying the A/C in our room.  I haven't tried cooking anything yet but will this weekend.  We generally have a simple breakfast...Rick likes cereal and I'll have a yogurt and a piece of fruit after we get to the office.  For lunch we generally will snack on some carrots and nuts and then head out around four for an early dinner.  We have found some great restaurants within a reasonable distance from our home and have been enjoying eating out.  I'm getting spoiled.  Not only am I not doing much cooking but we get home fairly early and get to enjoy some down time.  That doesn't seem to happen that much in Mbale.

This is the drive coming into our apartments.
I love seeing that big tree every time we pull in.



                As we get closer we start to see a little something growing in it.

Avocados!  Here they pronounce them ah-voh-cay-dos.
There are lots of them in the tree and they look like they are ready to eat.  I am tempted to pick a couple.....cause they are so big and beautiful!


We drive right under the avocado tree and park.

Our apartment is on the third floor on the right.  
The sister (two of them) are just below us.
The elders (four of them) are on the bottom left.
The Towers are on the bottom right.
 And the rest are just empty.
How about that cool tree on the left??


A view of our balcony.
We don't spend much time out here but it has a nice view overlooking some gardens and other homes.


This is our sitting room.
For some reason the furniture makes me itch so mostly I hang out in the bedroom.



                                         Our dining table.
                  We don't use it very much but it is a pretty table.


Our kitchen is small but again I haven't ventured to spend much time here.  I just wash a few dishes and use the fridge.  That's about it.  Our washer is out the door that you can barely see on the left.  There is a little deck out there with enough room for a washer.  No dryer so we hang them on the drying racks in the second bedroom.  It works out fine except we miss having nice fluffy towels from the dryer!


I love this painting so much.  It is in the hallway.  It reminds me of Francis' home and family in the village.  There is another smaller version in the sitting room.


Last but not least.  Our bed.  we haven't let the mosquito net down yet and probably won't.  I have gotten a few bites, though.  The other morning I woke up with four bites on the back of my neck.  Four within two inches square.  Mosquitos....I don't like them but they sure like me!!

One thing I love about the bedroom is the window that faces east.  Every morning we get a beautiful view of the sunrise.  And boy are they beautiful.  Lots of color!  I like to just lounge in bed and watch the sun come up.  It's a good way to start the day:)



I don't have any pictures of our bathroom but I promise it's there.  A shower, pedestal sink and a toilet.  Not a lot of space but it works.  Tonight after our evening walk I got in the shower to clean up.  I didn't notice anything strange about the water but when I was drying myself off my white towel was covered in brown splotches.  I looked at the floor of the shower and it was a little muddy.  I turned the water back on and noticed that it was coming out.... reddish brown!  EEWWW!!  How did I NOT notice that!!  I called Rick in and asked him to get me some purified water to rinse off with.  He said, "turn the water back on and see if it will clear up."  I did and within a few minutes it did start clearing so I hopped back in and showered again.  I still don't feel all that clean but I'm just putting it out of my mind.  Man, I'm glad we don't have to drink that stuff.  I'm thankful for purified water!!!!

There is also a second bedroom and bath.   They have come in handy when we have had our Mbale friends over:)

All in all we are glad to have this nice apartment to come home to at the end of each day.  I recognize that we are truly blessed to have power and water, and a flushing toilet.  I have been in many places where they have none.

Just down the road from our apartment is a very poor neighborhood that we pass by each day on our way to the office.  The pit latrines are made of sheet metal and the small homes are made of mud and sheet metal.  There are many, many homes crunched into this neighborhood.  Each time we pass by I think about the people that live inside of these homes.  They are real people and this is real life for them.   I am curious about their lives.  What do they do for a living?  What is their family life like?  What do they know about God?  Do they know he loves them?

I have gotten the opportunity to be in homes and neighborhoods just like this in Mbale and Busia.  These people feel, and love, have challenges, and hurt, and have joy just like we do.  They are good people trying to provide for their needs and take care of their families just like we do.  The same... but so different.   Temporally we have been given so much.  We get irritated when the hot water runs out or the washer breaks down.  Many of these people have to walk a long way just to get water and then they have to carry it back to their homes.  In the dry season it is common to wait at the borehole for four hours to have your turn at the water spigot.  And a washer??....forget it.  Most of the women do their laundry in a bucket and then hang their clothes on a line or bushes for their clothes to dry.

It is easy to take for granted the many blessings of comfort that we have and enjoy because we have always had it and have had no reason to worry that we wouldn't have it.   Let's not forget to thank Heavenly Father for his bounteous blessings upon us.  We have so much and it all comes from Him!  We are truly blessed!!

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Weekend

 Last week we got a call from President Ojiambo. (from Busia)  He asked if we could come and help answer some questions from the members there about the temple.  There is a group of about 20 that are preparing to go to the temple at the end of this year.  Jackie, who is a recently returned missionary and the RS President in Busia has been teaching the Temple Prep class.  

Last week she mentioned in the class that when she went to the temple she had the opportunity to be proxy for her grandmother.  She then mentioned how after that she had a dream where her grandmother appeared to her.  Well, that set off a chain reaction with some of the members and they went to the Branch President worried that when they go to the temple then they will see spirits.  It kind of freaked a few of them out!  (Remember this is the Branch where on our first day visiting them we both had to address the class we were in about witch craft and curses.  They are a very superstitious people.)  This is the reason that President Ojiambo wanted us to attend the class and help to answer questions and dispel fears.

We decided that this weekend would be a good weekend to travel to Busia.  I REALLY did not want to have another weekend of traveling (because we have been on the road each weekend for the last four weeks) but we decided rather than take the time from the Mbale branch our last few weeks of our mission that we would go this weekend.  We decided to travel back to Mbale on Saturday and overnight there so we wouldn't have to pay for a hotel and just travel the 1 1/2 hours to Busia Sunday morning.

It felt good to drive the streets of Mbale and into our compound:)  We sure miss it!!  We met with President Etiang and gave him the chicken soup I had packed.  We discovered that morning (after packing a little food for the trip) that the mission was having a special fast that night.  Thus, the need to give our soup away.  President was happy to receive the it and he was even going to share some with his roommate Allen.  

When we got home (mbale home) we did a trial pack of some of our souvenirs that we have collected over the last five months.  I have been really worried that everything was going to be too heavy in our suitcases.  We are planning to leave most of our stuff here with those who need it more so we will be taking just the necessary things.  We discovered that we should be just fine and should be able to get everything home as we want.

Then the power went out.  This is a common thing in Mbale.  Our battery kicked in and we were fine.  After going to bed though,  I woke up in the middle of the night with the power still off and our back up battery dead.  This meant that our fan in the bedroom wasn't on and it was stifling.  
I had a hard time getting back to sleep after that.

When we woke up we were still without power.  I desperately needed to wash my hair but decided to pull it back for yet another day.  We each took a cold shower and quickly got ready for our drive to Busia.

We had a nice time in church.  It is great greeting the members and finding out how they are doing.  We have one YSA from Busia, Walter who is leaving for his mission this week.  President Collings is scheduled to set him apart on Wednesday.  Walter is so excited to get to South Africa where he has been called to serve in the Cape Town Mission.  (Hopefully all will go well.  I found out today in the office that his visa is still not here:(  I hope it gets here in the next few days.

The missionaries are on fire in Busia.  They had six baptisms last week and they were all being confirmed on Sunday.  The missionaries have a large teaching pool and are doing very well there.

Elder Phelps and I were able to be in the Temple Prep class and had some wonderful teaching opportunities.  We mostly addressed the concerns that some of the members had.  They didn't mention anything about seeing dead spirits but they had some genuine questions.  They included what the baptisms for the dead were like.  Are they all done at once or individually?  How are they supposed to remember everything they learn?  Why can't they talk about what goes on in the temple?
What about their spouse that has passed away?  What about being sealed to parents where one is alive and one is not?  

Genuine questions.  It was a nice question answer period and we felt like we were able to help the members understand a little more about what to expect.  After the block on our way back to Kampala we both felt happy to have helped in some small way:)

The drive back to Kampala wasn't as bad as we were anticipating.  It was only a 3 1/2 hour drive. instead of the five I was expecting.  When we arrived Sister Tower caught us as we were walking up to our apartment and said she had some leftover bbq chicken and rolls.  That was a blessing for us to have some already prepared food.  She even had some chocolate cake for us!  


I sure like my companion!


This sight always amazes me.  
A woman with a baby strapped to her back carrying a heavy load on her head.


                                                     Me and Mary.
She is preparing to go to the temple and be sealed to her spouse who died several years ago.

Jackie, me and Margaret
Margaret doesn't understand much English but she is so faithful.
She is also planning to attend the temple.


Me with the other Margaret.
She is the former RS President.
She is always made up so pretty.
(Unlike me with my gross hair:(



                                        Good Morning, Kampala!


Tonight we were able to go out to dinner with the Elder and Sister Tower.  They are finishing up their assignment (he works with the justice system) and will depart for home on Monday.  We went to a place called The Lawns.  We tried some Crocodile as an appetizer and Rick had Kudu (wild african game) for his main course.  He loved it!


Our crocodile appetizer served with naan bread.  It was really yummy!

I had the stuffed chicken.



                                              Rick's kudu dish with mashed potatoes.

                                          All of us together


                                         Just FYI what a kudu really looks like!!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Our Beloved Francis


Waila Francis








Tonight I want to write about our dear friend Francis.  Francis is small in stature (110 lbs) but a giant in his testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ and His Gospel.  He has been a member of the church for about four years.  The missionaries found him when he was still in Senior School.  They introduced him to the Book of Mormon and once he read that....there was no going back.  He had a lot of questions and the missionaries answered them one by one.  They encouraged him to pray to find his answer.

And he did.

In the beginning he was persecuted by his own parents and they sent him away because he wanted to become a member of the Church.  Through time their hearts softened and Francis was able to teach them and bring them to the Gospel.  There is so much more of this story to tell....but not tonight.  

Tonight I wanted to tell something else.

Francis has been staying with us this week in Kampala.  He came with us last Sunday to be working on his Medical Papers for his mission.  Today was his last appointment and he knew that he was going back to Mbale....without us.  He said to Elder Phelps this morning, "Before we leave this morning can I give a spiritual thought."  Elder Phelps said, "Sure" and after our family prayer we sat and listened to Francis speak.

He started out by telling us of his grandparents on his mother's side.  He loves his grandparents so much.  His three last living grandparents (including both on his mother's side) have passed away during the time we have been here:(  He told of how when he was young he was able to go and spend time with his mother's parents when he was out of school.  He said that they had many cows, goats, and chickens.  In the year 2002, when Francis was about 7 or 8 his grandparents decided to serve as couple missionaries for the Anglican Church.  Francis wondered why they would want to leave everything they had to serve a mission.  His Grandparents set off on a four year mission to Ghana.  After two years they were in a serious accident and his grandmother lost part of her leg.  They needed to come home early because of it.

Francis said "My grandparents were wonderful people.  They always taught me good things.  One day my Grandy (Grandpa) said,  'We (your grandparents) may not see all of the blessings that will come from our serving this mission, but you (our grandchildren) will see blessings from our service.  Someday others will come and bless your life as we have tried to bless others' lives.  They will come and serve you and teach you.'


At this point Francis was looking at me and he said "And they did."  I couldn't stop the tears from falling.

He then said, "I know of myself that your children and grandchildren will be blessed because of the sacrifice that you have made to come to be with us and teach us.  I know that others will come and bless your grandchildren as you have blessed us.  I know that as we sacrifice and leave our families to go teach the Gospel to others then we will be blessed and our children and grandchildren will be blessed also."

At this point he started weeping.  He said, "I know that the Gospel is true.  I know that the Prophet Joseph Smith was a true prophet.  I know that the Restoration is true.  I know that President Monson is the prophet of God today."  We were all weeping at this point.

This was pure and simple testimony.
It was completely from his heart.

Elder Phelps and I have sat and listened to Francis teach the Gospel now for five months.  He has been a wonderful companion and teacher from the very beginning.   He always bears a strong testimony of what he is teaching.

This morning though..... was very special.  He was bearing his testimony not for an investigator or someone in a lesson.  It was for us.  Just for Elder Phelps and me.  It was such a special moment.  I will never forget his simple but heartfelt testimony.  Ever.