Thursday, October 27, 2016

Inviting others to Christ

There is so much to tell and not enough time in the evenings to tell it day by day.

Our missionary purpose is to invite people unto Christ.  Even though we have been called to serve as Member Leadership Support our mission service will be more than that.  The area Presidency of East Africa has encouraged the Mission Presidents to pull in missionaries from the outlying areas and bring them into the areas where the Church is growing most..  That's where the growth of the church has been.  The goal is to grow these bigger areas so that we can build more stakes and eventually get a temple in this area.  That means that the missionaries in Mbale (and other smaller towns) have been pulled out and are now in Kampala. 

Rick and I are the only "senior" couple (except for the Bratsman's who work in the mission office) serving in Uganda.  There is one couple in Rwanda and another in Ethiopia which are also included in our mission but we are the only ones serving "out and about" in Uganda.  Needless to say the branch members here in Mbale were upset that their missionaries got taken away.  They loved those young missionaries.  Rick and I are trying to pick up where they left off.  The important thing for the members of the branch to learn is that THEY can be missionaries.  THEY can be the ones sharing the gospel and teaching their friends.  

We have been happy to discover that they certainly are already wonderful missionaries.  There are a number of returned missionaries in the branch who are super solid and know how to teach the gospel.    Since the missionaries have been pulled out, our job here will be not only MLS (training the branch auxiliaries and be a support for them) but we will also be out proselyting and helping to teach investigators with the ward missionaries.  We also will be reactivating the many who are less active.

We began this process last Saturday when we were able to start visiting.  We are finding that the people just need a little encouragement and invitation and they will come back!

I will tell of a few of the people we have met.

We met with a sister (I will not give her name for her privacy) on Saturday afternoon.  We pulled up outside of her compound and immediately the little children swarmed us.  We mzungus (that is what they call white people) are so fascinating to them.  As we were visiting with this sister a few bold ones came up to me and touched my arm.  It was cute to see their fascination with my light skin:)  Anyway....this sister has not been to church for a three months.  She was in a boda boda accident and felt bad when no one came to visit her.  (Thus the need for good visiting teachers)  She was offended and has not been back.  We talked with her of the importance of coming to church and partaking of the blessings.  She seemed quite aloof and I'm not sure we were reaching her.  Before we left we asked if we could sing a song.  There were so many children there (Fifteen in fact and they were all staring straight at us THE WHOLE TIME!) so we asked if we could sing I am a Child of God.  She agreed and even joined us.  I felt the spirit as we were singing and know she felt it too.  Some of the children were even singing along.:) She did not come to church but hopefully it gave her something to think about.

These are of the few of the children that were with us. 
Not sure who the guy is....I think he just wanted to be in the picture:)

Another visit we made that night was to Aida.  Her husband serves as the 2nd counselor in the branch presidency.  She has not been to church for two years.  She said the reason she has not been coming to church was because of the price of transportation.  She is not within walking distance and has to pay to ride a boda boda into town.  Sometimes it is between paying for a ride to go to church or having enough money to eat that night.  (This is the case for MANY of the branch members!)  We promised her that if she made the sacrifice to come to church that the Lord would pour out blessings upon her.  The branch missionary who was with us (Benard) is a good friend to the family and actually was introduced to the church by this family,  let her know that she was a friend and was missed not only by him but by many others.  She nodded her head and said, "I will come."  And she did!  We were so happy to see her there, and what's better than that was that SHE was happy to be there!  She stayed after the block and visited with other sisters.  She came up to us after the meetings and said, "I am back forever."  Isn't that wonderful?  She just needed an invitation and needed to know that she was missed.

Monday was our PDay which was great!  I made a big breakfast (the eggs here are not yellow they are white so it looks like you are eating only the egg whites)  We cleaned the house.....again, did laundry and made cookies for the YSA Activity for that night.  We then took a drive around the area.  We didn't get too far because we ran out of time but it is fun to drive into the little neighborhoods and see the people and pass out "sweets" to the little children.  That night we had the activity with the young adults and I tell you it was so much fun.  We started with a spiritual thought given by Francis and then played the game "I have never".   The kids had a lot of fun and we laughed a lot!   Afterwards, they played soccer, volleyball and basketball outside.  They haven't had balls to play with for a while so they were really excited to play:)

We went visiting again on Tuesday and had marvelous experiences.

First we met with John, a less active man who lives about twenty minutes (by car) from town.  What a neat man he is.  He is a single parent to Kevin (whose mother left them both when Kevin was just nine months.....can you imagine?)  John has been raising Kevin on his own since.  He was baptized a year ago but for some reason has stopped coming.  John has a really good spirit about him and we could tell that he loved the Lord.  We shared some thoughts about the reasons we attend church and Benard talked about the importance of partaking of the sacrament and how it is needed each week in our lives.  John was completely in awe of Benard's testimony and said that he will come back this Sunday.  He is a good man and we really hope he will be there.

As we drove up to John's clinic (he is a doctor in the area and is very respected) another man introduced himself as Michael.  The missionaries had been teaching Michael  but then they were pulled out of Mbale so he was left hanging.  He works at the Primary (Elementary) School next to John's office and he came right into the clinic (it was open air) and listened in on our conversation.  He said he would be to church with John as well and wants to learn more.  It was a wonderful visit:)

Next we visited "M".  She is divorced and has four children.  She was once an active member of the branch but is with child (seven months) and does not have a husband.  She is embarrassed and worries what the people in the branch would think of her.  (It is sooo important not to pass judgement on people for their mistakes.  There is only one Judge and that is the Savior.)   She sends her children to church each week with her sister.  We encouraged her to come.  Even though she has a very sweet spirit she did not commit to coming back to church.  She works on the streets in the evening selling homemade potato chips and works until two in the morning.  (It is so surprising how people come alive after the sun goes down.  There are people EVERYWHERE!  There are actually people everywhere during the day too, but somehow the nights become even more busy!) We tried to let her know that the Lord would bless her if she gave up working on Saturday nights to be able to come to church on Sunday.  It would be a HUGE sacrifice for her because she needs to earn money for her family but it is hard to explain the blessings that Heaven would pour out upon her without her having the faith to test it.  Hopefully we will see her at church!

Our next visit was really wonderful!  When we had come through a little village (named Palisa) back  on Saturday to pick up Francis from his home.  He received a call from a former teacher who had seen us driving past.  He told Francis that He wanted to meet us.  We stopped on our way out of the village to say hi. (again bombarded by about 12 kids who were fascinated with us)  He said he wanted to learn more about the church so we set an appointment for Tuesday and we got to visit with him (his name is Waki) and his beautiful wife Justine and their 14 year old son Trevor.    This family is golden!   His wife purchased a few snacks and some waters and some soda to share with us. One of the first things that Waki said to Elder Phelps was, "How can we join ourselves with you?" Uuummm?  Well let me tell you.....  We then proceeded to give the first discussion.  It is hard for the people to understand us so Francis did quite a bit of teaching.  He is amazing!  He is 22 and wants so bad to serve a mission.  He is very poor but is trying to earn and save money.  He already is an awesome missionary!  He has been a member for four years (I think) and has helped teach 185 people.  Back to Waki....his family is coming to the branch activity tomorrow night and we will set a time for another discussion then.  They have committed to read the B of M and to come to church on Sunday.  I feel this family will be very faithful!

Next we had a visit with Teddy and Betty who are cousins. (we visited them with two returned missionaries, Alan and Isaac)  They both have been coming to church now for about four weeks.  Teddy (I think her name is actually Terri but is pronounced Teddy)  had committed to be baptized but Betty was not sure because she has already been baptized (in another church).  On Saturday we tried to explain about being baptized by the right authority but she seemed disconnected from us.  At the end we challenged her to pray about the things we had talked about.  She said she would:)    Long story short....when we visited them again on Tuesday for another lesson there was a totally different feeling with her.  Betty said she prayed about being baptized and felt that she should.  There was a good feeling at the lesson and we set a baptismal date for the both of them for November 19th!

Here are Betty (in red) and Teddy (in orange) with Rick, Francis, Alan, and Isaac as teachers.

After our visit we went with Francis to visit a member of the ward.  Her name is Merembe and she is an active member of the branch.  She makes chapatis (a type of tortilla) and sells them from her stand.

We stopped by a members' home to give the father James a blessing.  He is very ill.  As we walked into his mud hut it was if we were smelling death on this man.  He is down to skin and bones and has a very distended belly.  He has not been out of bed for a long time.  He went to the doctor a few months back but the family cannot afford the medication that was prescribed.  The family has been very faithful since they were baptized a few years ago.  James has not been able to go to church but his wife, Bess, does not miss a week.  She has to walk about two hours to get to church. They are in a very difficult situation.  After the blessing  as we were leaving James called Francis back in to ask if we could get him some medicine for his bedsores.  We did.  Such poverty and sorrow.  It is heartbreaking!

After the blessing it was getting dark.  We traveled back towards Francis' home to give another blessing to his neighbor.  Driving down the dirt road (you would not BELIEVE the condition of these roads.  So many huge potholes!  It is unbelievable!)...anyway, as we were traveling in the dark and in the distance I saw a HUGE snake crossing the road.  Francis said,  "We call that a Nabi Komo in our language."  It kind of freaked me out because people are always walking on this road, even at night.  I thought to myself, " I wonder how many people have died from snakes here?  (All of the snakes in Uganda are poisonous.)  Then I said to Rick in a low voice,  "I do not want to get out of this truck."   As we pulled past Francis' house the road narrowed into a path.  Francis said, "Just park here and we can walk the rest of the way."  Rick said, "No, Sister Phelps won't walk."  So we drove another hundred yards and the path was really down to nothing and very bumpy.  Francis said again,  "we can park and walk the rest of the way.  It is not very far."  I asked, "how far?"  he said, "only a half a kilometer."  I looked at Rick and couldn't believe what I was hearing.  There is no electricity out in the village and it was VERY dark....with snakes out there I might add.  Rick said,  "I think that we will come back on Friday to give her a blessing.  Will that be ok?"  I could tell Francis was disappointed but to my relief he said, "Yes!"  Seriously?  A half a kilometer?  We had to laugh about that one later on.

When we got back to Francis' house to drop him off he asked if we could come in and have family prayer with his family.  I haven't mentioned his family.  They are wonderful people.  His father, Alfonzo, and Francis walk six kilometers every week to get to church.  They go every week and are so faithful!    His mother Mary is just as sweet as could be.  The first time we met the family we were invited into their small and  humble home (with dirt floors) and gave a short message.  Francis had to interpret because they do not speak English. After about 15 minutes we needed to go.  They humbly asked, "When can you come back and stay a little longer."  Isn't that sweet?  Mary does not get to church often.  There are eight or nine kids in the family with the baby, Jemima, still nursing.  It always catches me by surprise when women plop out their breast to feed their baby in front of the whole world to see.  Anyway, back to family prayer.  The family was excited to see us again and it was quite the experience going into their home with no light except for our cell phone.  We snapped this photo before leaving and the kids laughed and laughed when they saw it on Rick's phone.  I'm not sure if they were laughing because Peter's eyes were glowing or if they were just excited to see themselves in a picture, but it was such a fun experience.  I sure love this little family.  They are so sweet!

Wednesday we drove to Busia to make some visits with President Ojiambo of the Busia Branch.  Here we are meeting his 2nd counselor and his family.  They are very nice.

We visited a number of people but I will not go into detail because this post is already way too long.  Suffice it to say, since Busia is a border town (with Kenya) most of the people speak Swahili.  In one of our visits a new member of just three weeks brought out his B of M in Swahili and with the help of the branch president we were able to share our message.

Just for fun....on the way back to Mbale we got to see a group of Baboons on the road.  This guy was the dominant one and ate most of the carrots we threw out the window:)  Pretty cool!

                                               A beautiful Ugandan Sunset!

It has been such a wonderful week getting to know and come to love the people of Mbale.  What a blessing it is to have the fullness of the gospel and to be sharing it with people who really desire to know truth.  While serving this mission in many ways is difficult, it is so rewarding to share the gospel with these wonderful people.  I love how when I wave and smile their faces light up.
I can really see their goodness!


  1. WOW--How BUSY you've been!!!! What wonderful WORK you are accomplishing! It's hard to believe that you two are the ONLY senior missionaries in UGANDA!! What a LOT of work you have ahead of you!! :) Thanks for taking the time to write these experiences down--I LOVED reading about the different people you are meeting and the different things you are doing. (It's not too fun to hear that ALL the snakes in Uganda are poisonous and that you SAW a huge one already!!!!) Oh MY!! I'm glad you refused to walk in the dark!!
    Kathy and I talked on the phone this evening and she mentioned that you had written a really nice blog today, so I was happy to get to read it--right on Thursday. I said that I am worried about you...(after seeing that little video you e-mailed....), but she said you are doing so much good work that you will certainly be blessed and all we need to do is just KEEP praying for you and for your well being! So--of course--we WILL!! Lots of Love to you both! Karen
    (even though I'm the only one who keeps making "comments"--just know that OTHERS are reading what you write, too!!!) :)

  2. I love reading these posts! We miss you very much but feel that you are close by when we read your adventures. Much love!!! Xoxoxoxo