Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Beautiful Day

Today was our second baptism!
We have been working with Daisy, Sam, and Dan for a few weeks now and they are all outstanding people!  

Daisy is 12 years old and her mother Judith and sister Cyndi were baptized in August when Daisy was away at boarding school.  We have been so delighted to teach this bright young girl!  She was always prepared at each visit and understood all that we were teaching.  If we asked her a question she ALWAYS knew the answer.  She always did her homework and was prepared for each lesson.

Daisy also bore a special testimony after her baptism.  She spoke of feeling clean and that all of her sins were washed away.  She said, "I feel like I have been born again, just like I came out of my mother's womb.  I wish all those who are not baptized could be."  At the end she broke down and quickly finished her testimony.  It was really sweet.

Here is Aaron, (a member from the branch that is close with the family) and Daisy before the baptism began.

Sam is 14 years and has been coming to the church for many months now.   One day as we were teaching an investigator at the church, Francis brought in Sam, who we had seen around, but did not know he was not a member.  He was quiet at that first discussion but as we continued to teach him he opened right up and we have discovered that he is a very intelligent boy.  He has a good friend, Emma (Emmanuel) who is a member of the branch and so he has been coming to the activities and to church. with Emma.  He was not at church last Sunday and then he was not at our YSA activity on Monday because he was sick.  

On Wednesday we had a 'program 'set with Sam to have his Baptismal interview but he didn't show.  Last week we made a visit to the Central Market to meet Sam's mom and to get permission for him to be baptized.  He was so excited about her saying yes, so we couldn't understand why he would not show up for his appointment.  We started teaching a lesson with an investigator there at the church and Emma poked his head in the room so I went to talk with him.  He said Sam was sick with Malaria.  (I have come to realize that when someone gets sick "Malaria" is the go to word for just about everyone. )  We left our investigator in the capable hands of Francis and another YM and we went in search of Sam to give him a blessing.  Long story short, we couldn't find him.  Emma had heard that he was starting to get better so we let it go at that.  The next day at the church Sam came strolling up just like nothing was out of the ordinary.  
Elder Phelps jumped at the opportunity to interview him.  

After the baptism today Sam bore a powerful testimony.  He talked of when he first started coming to the brach he felt like a stranger.  Then he said, "But after today I am a stranger no more." He spoke of knowing that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer and bore testimony of the prophets Joseph Smith and of President Monson.  It was powerful!

Lastly is Dan.  He is 22 and has already done so much in his life.  He is a Tailor and also is the head teacher at the orphanage that I posted about last week.  Dan is an amazing man!  He has been learning a lot and has been 'supa' excited for his baptism.  He was introduced to the Gospel by Nelson who is a member of our Branch.  They are both Tailors by trade and work close to each other at the Central Market.  Dan has been a joy to teach and is always so gracious.  He is excited to be a missionary to the people out in Budaka (where the orphanage is) and has already introduced us to a prime investigator named Sam.  We have set a date with Sam for December 24th!

Dan also bore a great testimony and was most thankful for all of those people who helped him get to this point in his life!  He was baptized by his dear friend Nelson.

The group

It's been a wonderful full day!  We head out to Busia tomorrow where we are planning an especially long day.  First is PEC, then we speak in Sacrament Meeting, then there's a baptism, then we have branch council to help the EQ figure out their home teaching, (apparently with everyone else learning from the experience?) then we drive to Jinja for the night.  The next morning is Zone Coference with Elder Hamilton the Area President presiding.  Then we feed everyone in the group (around 60) lunch.  Then we head to Kampala for the night.   On Tuesday we are going to get a few things we need and then make the long trip back to Mbale.  When we get back our week is pretty full with teaching assignments, with another baptism scheduled for next Saturday. 

They don't call it missionary WORK for nothin'!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Our Thanksgiving celebration a little early

Monday started out kind of rough for me.  What I needed was some good quality time with my companion and to NOT talk about missionary stuff for a couple of hours.  After getting showered and dressed in jeans (NOT a skirt:) for the day, we stopped at the Cafe Arabica for a nice breakfast.  One of our YSA girls is a waitress there and we thought we would try it out.  

I knew right where I wanted to spend our Pday and it was up this mountain that is close to our home. From our road I can see a waterfall and for 5 weeks now I have been wanting to get as close to this waterfall as possible.  Today was our day and it was most delightful!  Just up from our house is the Mooni (pronounced Moaney) area. We turned up the dirt road to Mooni and started driving up the mountain.  We passed by the village and stopped to take pictures and to give out candy to the little ones.  It was such a picturesque drive and the little villages we passed through were really wonderful.  

Here you can see the waterfall in the distance. 
(Actually in our drive we discovered 4 different waterfalls!)
This one is the largest.  We were able to get very close from the road.

Just below the waterfall was this river.  These women were out doing their laundry in it.  The majority of the women here in Mbale (and throughout Uganda for that matter) wash their clothes in a bucket of suds with water that they generally have to carry from a borehole.  It looks so hard to bend over like this washing clothes.  This Thanksgiving day I am thankful for a washer and dryer (and all of my modern day appliances) that make my life easier!

These pictures do not do this mountain justice.  It is covered with lush vegetation from banana and matoke trees to waterfalls, cliffs, and quaint villages.  Truly amazing and it provided much healing for my soul!  At one point we passed a school with children walking home.  When they saw our truck coming they started racing us.  It made me laugh as I rolled my window down and encouraged them to beat our Toyota up the incline.  I posted a video on IG if you want to see it:)

We got back into Mbale around 3:00 and stopped at BAM (our supermarket) to pick up some supplies for our Thanksgiving Activity with the YSA group.  I prepared sloppy joes and bbq beef sandwiches along with chips and pineapple.  We usually have around 15-18 people for our FHE activities but  this night we had over TWENTY FIVE!!  They were so happy to meet together and my heart was so happy as I saw them laughing and talking and just having a good time.  These kids have become like family to us and we truly enjoy being with them.  They love each other so much and it is wonderful for them to have a strong peer group to belong to.

After dinner we sat around and talked about the things we are grateful for.  It was a tender experience listening to our dear friends.  Thanksgiving is an American tradition but it was great to share this special time with them counting our blessings!  Oh, did I mention that I made a two layer cake!  It was a homemade (no boxed cake mixes here) white cake with a delicious almond frosting that I colored what???   Orange, of course!!  It turned out 'SUPA 'YUMMY!  I didn't know if one cake would feed everyone so thankfully Elder Phelps make up some uncooked oatmeal cookies  (He is getting pretty good at that!) to make our dessert go farther!  We came home completely empty handed.! Whatever we take to the activities is always eaten right up!

We also had a couple of kids join us.... they must have heard we were bringing food.
We BARELY had enough to feed everyone.

                                                               The children and Isaac.

                            Mike, Solomon, Joshua, Gerald, (children i don't know) and Mqne

Daniel (in orange) is one of our AMAZING investigators!  He LOVES the Book of Mormon and has an amazing story of finding the church.  Someday I might tell it here on the blog.  He is loving being taught about the church and is preparing to be baptized on the 3rd of December.

                                                              The group being silly!

Sarah and I

Solomon wanted a couple of pictures taken.  He is 17 and is our branch pianist.  I have shared some of my music books for him to practice with.  He is hoping to improve in his skills.  The branch is lucky to have him.  He is hoping to serve a mission some day:)  He will be a great one!

A picture with Michael, me, Solomon, and our beloved Francis!!

         Not sure who the ones on my right are but the lady on my left is Mercy.  (Pronounced Massi)

    It was a wonderful way to spend a day of Thanksgiving with good friends from our branch family!

Today is November 24th so we are officially beginning our Thanksgiving Day here in Mbale.
We have a full day of teaching planned but we are also hoping to go out to have dinner tonight for our Thanksgiving Celebration!  I'm sure turkey will not be on the menu but we will find something yummy!

                                                     Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!!

              Eat up some Thanksgiving foods for Elder and Sister Phelps!  Especially the pies!!

             And of course, recognize the blessing it is to be with family this Thanksgiving Day!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Our First Baptism

Saturday we had our first baptism since Elder Phelps and I have been in Mbale.  We have been teaching and fellowshipping Betty and Teddy who are cousins.  We have worked along a couple of the branch missionaries that have been teaching them for a while.  The full time missionaries started with them a few months ago and then got moved out of Mbale.  That left the Branch missionaries and  us to help them get the rest of the way.  

It has been wonderful to see the changes come over them.  Especially Betty.  The first time I met her she seemed distant and kept questioning why she needed to be baptized when she had already been baptized. (In another church)  We explained to her the process of having the right authority to have God recognize her baptism.  She was very aloof but as we asked her to pray and listen for the Holy Spirit to guide her she agreed that she would.  (she was not very happy about it though)  

When we met with her the following week I could not believe the change that had come over her.  She was all smiles and when asked about how she felt about being baptized she said she would.  Her countenance had completely changed and I knew right then and there that she had done her "homework" and that the Holy Ghost rewarded her with a confirmation of what was right.

What a joy it has been to see her transformation. (not so much from Teddy because I believe she was prepared from the day we met her)  Now, it is like we are the best of friends.  They are so happy to see us when we stop by:)  Bettty told E. Phelps that when her and Teddy used to see the missionaries coming they would run and hide:-0

This is us by Betty's shop.  
She sells trinkets and does plaiting, an African weaving of long hair or braids into very short hair.

Here is a view of the baptismal font just outside the window of the RS room.

                                                             The girls are ready!

Here they are with Isaac, a Branch Missionary who helped to teach them.

The other person being baptized was Benard.  He is a member of the Sironko group.  Just before the  baptism started he completely disappeared.  We had no idea where he had gone.  Just after the second talk was given the Branch Mission leader came in to get some baptismal clothes out of the closet (that happened to be right behind the pulpit).  I figured Benard had shown up.  Yup,  the person that was going to baptize him was not dressed in white at this point so Elder Phelps baptized him as well.

After the baptism we heard testimonies from the three.  Teddy talked of how she felt so clean when she came out of the water.  Betty said that she felt the spirit and was so glad to finally be baptized.  Bernard said that he felt the spirit and was happy to be a member of the church.  I cried hearing their testimonies knowing how far they had come.  The Gospel is so wonderful!  It  literally changes lives!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

African Lingo

I thought it might be fun to document some of the "African Lingo" that we come across on a daily basis.

One of the first things that the Ugandan people say as they greet us at their home is "You are most welcome."  They are always so sincere and I ALWAYS feel 'most welcome'.

Instead of setting an appointment we "set a program"

When we ask a person their name they always give us their family name first.  i.e....Waila Frances, or Wandera Benard.  I have learned to listen to the last part of their introduction to catch their first name.  I can remember the first name but the last.....I usually have to have them spell it for me:)

The Ugandans' roll their R's like the British and the Mexicans.  So Lira is pronounced Lida.  Mary is Mady.  Rolex ( a favorite food of the elders) is pronounced ddrolex.

On other words the r is completely lost....again like the British.  One of our friends Pius, the SS President came up to me one afternoon at the church and I casually asked what he was doing.  He announced that he was going to see the clock.  I said, "the clock?"  He said, "yes, the clock."  I gave a look of puzzlement when he pointed to the clerk's office.  I then said, "Oh you are going to see the CLERK?'  He then smiled and then said, "yes, I am going to see the CLERK."  (Imitating me:)
     Another example of this is when we were talking with the clerk.  We were asking what he was studying in school.  He replied, "Nawsin."  Neither Elder Phelps or I understood what 'Nawsin' was so we just let it slide.  (Sometimes as we listen further we can fill in the gaps.)  Then he talked of working in a hospital......then the light bulb came on.  Okaaaay.  He means NURSING
This one has been one of the most challenging things to learn but we are getting it......Rick has been calling Thursday....Thusday totally dropping the R.  When in Rome......

When asking where a person lives we ask, '"Where do you stay?"

When a person is moving from one house to another they are 'traveling.'

Lots of times in church, instead of asking for something it is demanded.  For instance, " Sister Phelps will give the prayer." We have tried to correct this pattern with teaching the leaders to be polite and 'asking' for members to do something.  This is definitely a work in progress.....and it's gonna take some time!

When something is good the Ugandans use the adjective Supa (or Super).  A common phrase here is supa nice!!

One saying that I love is when a question is asked and the response is positive, the answer is.....ok, please or yes, please.  It just seems so polite to me.  i.e..... Is it ok if we come visit next 'Thusday'?  "OK, please"

Something that is very peculiar is when teaching a lesson and asking a question the Ugandans say the word "what" at the end of their sentence.  For example:  "We go to the store and then we what? we buy food."  "We are baptized and then we receive the gift of the Holy What?  the Holy Ghost".

When explaining something they also like to use the word "what" in another way.  "We go to the store and we buy rice and beans and what? what?" Meaning yada, yada, yada.  This way of speaking makes me smile.

When we are in Busia (next to the Kenyan border) the branch president does something that others do not do.  When we are out visiting we generally ask the person who they would like to give the prayer.  President Ojiambo always says, "Who would you love very much to say the prayer?"  He says this every time!  It is so sweet to me:)

Another thing that is done here, and we have noticed it more so in Busia but it makes us chuckle EVERY time.  We will walk up to someone that President Ojambo knows fairly well and after greeting them one will say "aayyy."  Then the other person will say, "aayy".  Then the first person will repeat and say, "aayy" and then the next person will say, "aayy".  They totally communicate without speaking.  I think it's just a filler when they don't know what to say and they don't want an awkward silence.
     Just yesterday we were in Pallisa (the farm village outside of Mbale) visiting the orphanage again.  We introduced ourselves to a man who came up to where we were standing.  The director of the orphanage talked to him for a minute and then when there was nothing left to say he grunted with a "hmm"  and the fellow returned with a "hmm".  This went on seven times!  Seven!!  Hmmming back and forth!  I looked at Rick and gave him a smile because this practice is "supa" funny to us!!

When we have the window down and we are passing  people in the car we greet them with "Jambo" That means both hello and goodbye.

When someone invites us into their home they say cariboo, cariboo.  (Pronounced cadiboo) That means "come on in."

Cari Cari (Cadi) is the short version and it actually means several things.  Thank you, See you, Goodbye..... this one is used a lot!

This is the end of our African Lingo lesson!

Cari, Cari!!  :-)

PS  I have to tell one quick experience that happened last night.  It was dusk and we were heading home from Busia for the night.  It had been an especially long day.  (Wednesdays always are)  Elder Phelps was driving when a police officer pulled him over.  We assumed it was to check our license and registration because that had been happening the past few days around here.  She pulled us over and requested to see Rick's license.  (She looked very stern) At that point another man in uniform walked over.

She then told us that he had been speeding (going 70 in a 50) and told us that we would have to park our car and go to the bank in Busia, Tororo, or Malaba to pay the ticket and then come back to get the car.  Well, we were at least 15 kilometers from any of these places and it was 6:15 pm.  The banks were all closed.  (I'm not sure she cared about that)  I was trying to clarify what she was asking.  You want us to PARK the car and THEN go to the bank??  She got a little perturbed at my question and said, "just follow this man and he will take you."  We both were still NOT getting it.  "He is going to take us to the bank?"  She shook her head.  (I'm thinking Oh no! This is really NOT a good situation!  How are we going to fare in the middle of nowhere in the dark without our vehicle and NO bank within miles of the place?  Did I mention that we had a fourteen year old girl with us.  We had taken her to Busia to get permission from her parents for her to be baptized.)

Just then the man in uniform that was with her said to the officer, "They are with the Church of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ.  Caution them only.  She thought for a minute and then said, "You need to drive slower." and the waved us on.

Oh. My. Goodness.  What a tender mercy for us!  The Lord sure does bless His missionaries!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Dream and an Answer to a Prayer

Today we had a neat experience that I want to share....and document:)  

We stopped by a sister’s home this afternoon because she needed a visit.  Earlier in the week her husband was taken to jail.  He is the EQP and is being charged with money laundering.  (Not sure if he's guilty or not.....)  His wife who has a 9 month old baby has wanted to meet with us for the last few days but when we tried to see her it didn’t work out.  So finally today we were able to find her home and pay her a visit.  She was in good spirits.  She is hoping her husband can come home on monday.  

Anyway,  we were at her home (with her sisters in law….one is the YW pres and the other is in the RS presidency)  and we talked to them for a little and even asked if there was anything we could do for them.  They didn’t mention anything and after a while and Elder Phelps offered to give Priesthood blessings.  They accepted and were so happy to receive them.  Before leaving I was asked to give the closing prayer.  I asked Heavenly Father to bless them with food and to be able to keep a roof over there heads.  After the prayer,  Elder Phelps asked point blank if they needed any food.  They all looked a little shy...... and then we knew.  He said, "What food do you need and we will get it for you."  She made a list for us and asked her sister in law, Francis to go to the market with me.  Rick needed to get to the church because we were supposed to help clean the church so with Sister Francis as my escort we headed to the Mbale Main Market.  But before we left.....

The wife said to us, “I guess I can tell you this now.  Just today I had a dream that you came to our house, and offered to help me.  And I don’t even know you.  Now I know for sure that God answers my prayers!"  And then she told of one other experience that she had earlier in the week that strengthened her testimony.  The very day her husband was taken to jail she did not have ANY money.  Neither did her sister in laws.   She made her husband some food to take over to him but didn’t know how to get it to him.  Just then a friend of hers from the branch had heard about her situation and came to visit.  Before leaving, he left her 20,000 shillings.  Enough to take a boda boda to the jail to give her husband some food and water.  That was a huge blessing for her.  It is wonderful how Heavenly Father answers prayers many times from someone else who is willing to follow a little prompting from him.  I am glad to have been involved with her little miracle today:) the market I went with Francis and another girl, Mary,  (who is fourteen and is one of our investigators)   It was a really fun experience shopping!  It is a HUGE market with sacks of flour and sugar and beans and rice and fruits and vegetables and bananas,  and gross meat sitting out on the counter, and peddlers.....etc.  The whole nine yards!!  Upstairs was the tailoring, main floor was all the food, downstairs was the clothing and shoes and bags etc… and down in the basement were second hand things.  Pretty crazy with LOTS of people.  The girls were taking care of me.  I kept hearing, “Sister Pheleps, be careful!”  Sister Pheleps, Is one Kilo ok”, Sister Pheleps He is charging too much!”  Sister Pheleps, close your purse, you left it open” and on and on.  These girls had my back and the best part of to was being able to help some members of our branch who REALLY need it right now!  They were so appreciative to us.  It feels good to serve where we can! 

A picture with the family.  Juliet, Jemeema, Francis, Francis (our missionary) and Mary. 

Mary, Me, and Francis

I need to take a video of the market 'cause it's really cool.  The meat department though.......!!!!

Outside of their home was this little homemade wagon made out of an old Jeri can.  I was thinking of Rafe and Scout's red wagon that they love.......

Friday, November 11, 2016

Buduka Orphan/School

It is really late tonight and I know I just posted yesterday but I didn't want to go to bed without writing about our amazing experience today.

On Tuesday we taught a lesson to a man named Dan in the Mbale Marketplace, where he works.  It was a good lesson and he committed to baptism that very day.  He was very interested in learning about the gospel because of his friend Nelson, who is a member, that has been a good example to him.  We taught him "The Restoration of the Gospel" (the first discussion) at that time and made an appointment to see him today at his home in the Palisa District.  He mentioned that he takes care of an orphan group in that area and wanted us to see them.

So today as we are driving up to our appointment I see a group of about twenty adults sitting under a tree.  I also see a table with three chairs at the front of the group.  Also, I notice about fifty small children congregated to the side of the group.  I am tentatively thinking to myself,  "What is going to happen next?"  I walked by the children and waved at them and then personally greeted the men and women in the group by shaking their hands and introducing myself.

Dan came out to greet us and said that he invited the "community" out to hear what we had to say.  We (or I should say I) did not know what to expect of this situation.  I let Elder Phelps do the talking.....(which is what I do the majority of the time!)  He instructed for everyone to bring their chairs into a tight circle so that everyone would be able to hear.  

Before we began the lesson, Dan asked if one of the children could begin with a prayer.  "Well, sure.....)  At this point Dan went over and led a group of about twenty children (ranging in ages 4-9) inside the circle and mentioned they had a special program for us.  They sang a welcome song and then sang two more songs in English while doing a few dance moves. (It was really sweet) They then sang their National Anthem and then they all said a rote prayer while covering their eyes with their hands.   (Very interesting)

After they were finished, they exited and a group of older children came in to the circle and danced and sang for us.  After clapping and praising them they exited and the teaching began.

Elder Phelps started teaching with Brother Francis (our amazing branch missionary that we love so very much) translating.  After a few minutes I whispered to Rick, "just let Francis do the teaching."  We both have complete confidence in Francis's way of teaching (remember I said he's amazing?)  and sometimes translating gets in the way.  He taught the second lesson "The Plan of Salvation" in their language, and the crowd listened intently. A few questions were asked and the group seemed to like what they heard.

After the lesson, another man named Sam, the school president, warmly thanked us for our coming to teach them and how the group is wanting someone to come and lead and teach them about Jesus Christ.  He explained that this area has men who are living polygamist lifestyles.  He explained that some men have had as many as seven wives.  When that happens a man could easily have forty children by the time he is Forty-five.  Well, when the men die young, which they do often, tradition requires that a brother take care of his deceased brother's children.   That is nearly impossible for the siblings of the deceased.  That is just too many mouths to feed.  Well, you can easily see how many children become orphaned.  Thus the need for the orphanage.  Even though the mothers, in many cases, are still living they can not take care of the children.  The group has come together in helping to care for the orphans as a whole.  They recognize the need for them all to share in taking care of the orphans.  I loved this thought. I loved how the community gathers together to bless those in need.  In a way it reminds me of the Law of Consecration.  Caring for the poor and needy around us.  

This group of people also recognize that God wants them to have only one spouse and are asking for the missionaries to teach them the right way to live.  They recognize the need to change this tradition and that it begins now with this next generation.  This way of teaching is a little unconventional but we will try to teach them a little at a time.  We will talk about the B of M next time and invite them to come to church.  The church is quite a distance from this group but there are many members who come to church form this far out.

It was getting late and we were supposed to be back at the church at 5:00 for our branch activity.  (it was now 5:05)  Then Dan said, "We have provided a lunch for you.  Please can you stay for a few more minutes?"  Oh man!  What do you say to that?  I know all of you know my/our nervousness of eating in these far off villages.  There is just not clean water or sanitary ways of preparing the food but I ask again, "What do you do?"  We said we would be happy to stay.  So again we were served another meal.  Rice, beef, cabbage, and spinach.  I had a little rice and served up two small pieces of beef with a little of the sauce.  I felt fine about the rice but whispered to Francis to please eat my beef.  (Just today I was at the market and saw pounds and pounds of beef sitting out in the open covered with flies.)  Francis happily obliged, after all he is a growing boy of 22 years.  I know that meat is a luxury and I did not want it to go to waste.  I was happy to see that the children were eating as well.  They didn't have meat but they had rice and beans.  After visiting for another 45 minutes it was time to go. We again shook hands with everyone....again  (We shake hands with people sometimes four or five times in a visit.  It's just something that the people do.) and said our goodbyes with the promise of coming to visit again next week.

This group has a special spirit with them.  They want to do good and they want to follow God.  I hope that as we visit with them in the coming weeks that they can feel of Heavenly Father's love for them and can have some seeds planted in their hearts of the truth of the gospel.  I'm not sure how many are eligible for baptism with the polygamy thing going on but they want to do what is right. 

 And that's a start.

PS  On the way home we stopped at a little stand and got a couple of bottles of Coca Cola.  I think if we can drink Coke after a questionable meal it might be better for our health.  You know, to help kill whatever is not good.  I don't like drinking soda pop.  I don't like carbonation.  But I don't like diarrhea either.  The lesser of two evils!  Hope I feel good tomorrow!!

A group picture with some of the orphans and leaders.

                                                 Here's a picture of our wonderful Francis.
                         He is working to serve a full time mission.  He is going to be awesome!!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

To teach and preach and work as missionaries do.

Elder Phelps and I have had some wonderful experiences this week!  As I have said before, there is so much to tell but not enough time to write them all, so I am just going to pick some of the highlights.

On Tuesday we visited a wonderful woman who is not a member of the church but has been coming faithfully for two years.  "H" is such a wonderful person and has such a good spirit about her.  She believes whole heartedly that the Gospel is true and wants so very much to be baptized.  She mentioned to us that she has some "difficulties" and that's why she hasn't been baptized.  We were hoping to visit with her and help her through these "difficulties" but as we were visiting she told us what those difficulties were.  I was not (in the least) expecting what she told us.  Apparently a few years ago her husband took on another wife.  (This is a common practice for many men here in Uganda.  The sad thing is that if the man gets tired of a wife he can just leave her and their children with no repercussions.  One of our returned missionaries has a father who had seven wives.  SEVEN!) 

 Since "H" is in a polygamous marriage (not of her doing) than she can not be baptized unless she gets a divorce.  I feel so bad for her.  She has been married to this man for over twenty years.  We offered to come and talk with her husband.  She liked that idea but I'm not sure what if any help we can offer.  This is not a win win situation.  Either way some one is going to lose out.  We assured her that if she stays faithful to the church (even though she is not a member) than Heavenly Father would somehow in the end make everything right.  She deserves it to be so! 

On Tuesday we also visited with Daisy, a sweet 12 year old girl who's mother and sister were baptized in August while Daisy was away at boarding school.  Now it is her turn to learn about the Gospel!  This family is so special!  Judith (the mom) is a single parent and had three daughters.  There is such a good spirit in their home and I can tell that Judith is an excellent mother.  Daisy is a very bright young girl and understands everything that is being taught in the lessons.  I love that she is so receptive to Truth!  She is scheduled for baptism on the 26th of this month:-)

We also had a second lesson with Daniel and Winnie.  Daniel is a Security Guard at the Mbale Church.  He and his girlfriend are wanting to get married but not anytime soon.  They are cohabitating..... but we will cross that bridge when we come to it:-0  As for now we have taught them the Restoration and then answered questions at our second visit.  They didn't have any chairs in their small humble home so we sat on the concrete floor.  That was a first for me since coming to Uganda.   With Daniel and Winnie (and others too) sometimes it is hard to know just how much they are comprehending because of our inability to speak "African."  We will be having another visit with them tomorrow to teach the second discussion but will have one of the ward missionaries with us to bridge that gap.  They are a good couple and I hope they understand and accept all that is being taught.  As a missionary,  I just want everyone to feel, see and accept truth when they hear it.   

Also on Tuesday we got to visit a member of the branch named Stella.  Stella and her husband Brian have been members for about a year.  They have a beautiful 9 month old girl named Trinity.  We stopped by Stella's place because one of our ward missionaries reported that there was another girl staying with them that needed to hear the lessons.  Come to find out the girl is not staying with them but is a neighbor.  We are hoping to start teaching her on Saturday.  In the meantime we discovered that Brian's brother, Alex, is staying with them for a few months.  He is not interested in learning about the Gospel but we had a nice visit with him:)  As we stood up to leave after about a half an hour of visiting with Brian he said, "Stella is making you lunch."  Really?  We had no idea.  We didn't want to be rude so we stayed for another 15 minutes until Stella brought in four HUGE plates of rice, chicken, and spinach.  

Here we are in this situation again! :/  I really am nervous about eating in the member's homes but, what do you do?  We ate most of what was served (which btw tasted pretty good) and left hoping that all would be well with our health.  Note:  We did not drink the water which was not bottled.  I knew way better than that.  

I ended up getting sick the next day but not sure where it came from.  We are exposed to a lot of germs, especially by shaking soooo many hands in a day.  We use A LOT of hand sanitizer but still......    There is no telling where I picked it up:(

Here's a picture of Trinity and Elder Phelps

                Rick, Francis (our branch missionary) Alex, Stella, and Trinity having lunch.

That night we taught a first lesson at the Mbale market to Dan.  He has set a baptismal date for the 26th!  His friend Nelson introduced him to the gospel.  Nelson is a good man and is great example to everyone.  Dan saw of his goodness and has great trust in his friend Nelson.  He wants to be baptized because of the example of his friend:)  It is so important to "be thou an example of the believers"

The market is a cool place with a lot of shops and people.  We are going to have to go back on our P-Day!

                                These are roasted grasshoppers from the market......
                                Rick took a video of a guy munching down on them.

That night we had President Owidi and his family over for dinner.  No grasshoppers but I made some bbq pork and cheese potatoes.  The meal turned out pretty good, if I say so myself!

Wednesday was another good day of teaching.

Our first lesson was with another Security Guard from the Branch Chapel.  His name is Nathan and we had one lesson with him last week and then when we got together again on Wednesday, he brought his brother Simon with him.  It was another one of those times when the subject of evil spirits came up again.  This makes me super uncomfortable!  There were just some uncomfortable questions brought up and while Elder Phelps and Francis did a good job fielding the questions I just wanted to get back on task of teaching the lesson.  Don't get me wrong, I love to be able to answer questions and help people understand but this was just weird.  Thankfully,  Nathan seemed a little closer to the spirit than his brother did.  We are going to meet with them again tomorrow.  Hope it goes well:/

After that we drove to Busia for our weekly visits there.

First we visited with Brian.  He is a member but his girlfriend and parents are not.  We met his mother, Margaret and his father ?  It was sweet because as we were visiting,  Margaret kept her eyes intently on me pretty much the whole time.  I gave the spiritual thought and I looked at her directly as President Ojambo translated my words.  As it came to the end of the visit Margaret asked if I would pray.  I did and then at the end of the prayer she looked directly at me and asked, "Would you pray for me and my husband that we can get married?"  At this point I did not even know that they were not married.  They have grown children and this couple has never been married!  It is very common to cohabitant and have families because it costs money to get married and the people just don't have any extra money for "frivolities" like getting married!  I am so glad that she has come to understand the importance of this particular law.   I assured her that I would pray for her and her "Husband" to be able to be wedded.  President Ojambo will work with them.

Next, we met with Paul, an elderly gentleman, who has been a member since May.  He lost his wife in March and since he has found the church, he is SOLID!  He walks thirty minutes each week to get to the chapel and is very stalwart.  I loved meeting him and feeling of his strength!  He doesn't speak much English but was so welcoming and happy to have us at his home.  He is a brick maker and the Elders sometimes come to his home and help him make his bricks.  His son Jude (whom we did not have the chance to meet) is an artist.  He paints amazing pictures and also carves animals out of wood.  We are thinking when we meet him in a few weeks to ask him to carve a few things for us:)

Another neat visit on Wednesday was to "J".  He is a man in his twenties and has been less active for two years.  He had a humble spirit about him and we had a nice visit.  We gave a spiritual thought and invited him back to church.  We asked if he had any questions and he was quiet for a minute.  He then said, " I don't have any questions but I want to tell you something."  Then in all sincerity he then said something like, "After I was baptized I started living with a girl.  I now have two children.  How can I please God after doing something like that?"  I'm sure that took a lot of courage to say that in front of the five of us that were visiting (President Ojambo, the Elders, and Rick and I).   I loved hearing Elder Phelps tell this young man in such a loving way how to have his burden lifted and how to repent of his wrongdoings.  I loved being reminded of the sweetness of repentance that can make our scarlet stains as white as snow.  I know that the Savior has made it possible to repent of our wrongdoings so that we can become clean again.  I'm so grateful for his love and mercy in my life.  I love how through repentance, the Savior can take our burdens from us and make us whole again.  THIS is the good news of Christ! 

 I am so happy to be sharing this message to the people of Uganda!

It's getting late so I will end here.  It has been a wonderful week of teaching and it's only Thursday!  I'm grateful to share these experiences with Elder Phelps, my eternal companion!

 These kids kept touching my feet through my sandals so I thought I would let them touch my toes.  It was so cute!  They were enthralled with my feet!

 They loved having their picture taken and laughed hysterically 
when they saw themselves on my phone.

I'm thinking of buying one of these and having a sister in the branch clean it and get all of the feathers off so I can make a turkey dinner for Christmas.  What do you think????

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Busia Branch

Last night we were able to go to dinner with a higher up in the police department here in Mbale.  His name is Afonda Stephen.  (Afonda is a title for a man in Uniform) He is a very nice man and we had a really enjoyable evening with him.  Elder Phelps and I scheduled this meeting with him to make sure that the church has good relations with the police department and to let our presence in Mbale  be known.  It can come in handy to know a police officer in times of need:)  We actually had the program (appointment) made with another leader in the community (Madame Violet) and she got the date mixed up and showed up at the restaurant the night before. (when we were traveling back from Kampala)  We'll have to set another date with just her.  

President Owidi (Mbale's Branch President) joined us for the evening as well.  He ordered this whole fried fish for his dinner.  I was sitting next to him and at one point I looked over and he had eaten the whole fish with just the head left.  He then proceeded to dig out the eyeballs with his fingers!  I had to turn my head and think of something different so I wouldn't get sick.  I'm pretty sure the eyeballs went into his mouth.  EEEWWW!!  THAT sure did take me by surprise.

On to today.....Elder Phelps and I left early this morning to meet with the Busia Branch.  We started with an 8:30 PEC meeting (well.....remember African really started at 9:00.  The Elders were late:(  We had a good meeting and then went right into Sacrament Meeting.  President Ojiambo is a really wonderful Branch President and is taking good care of the members in Busia.  There still is a lot of training to be done, though.

At the beginning of Testimony Meeting Elder Phelps and I were invited (along with a newly returned missionary) to bear our testimonies.  I was grateful for the opportunity:)!  There was a beautiful spirit in the meeting and afterwards we were able to meet a lot of members of the Branch.

I had two interesting experiences today:

First, in Sunday School the lesson started out well but kind of took a turn into a strange land.  The teacher was teaching about the proper language of prayer.  You know using the pronouns thee, thy, thou, and thine?  The lesson was given in English and Lugandan.  Well,  the lesson was going well and then then someone in the back of the room said something very animated in Lugandan.  The teacher then said to me, "Sister Pheleps (that's what most everyone calls us since they can't pronounce Phelps) did you understand that?  ("Ummm, no!)  Then she proceeded to explain that the fellow was wondering about rebuking evil spirits through prayer.  She asked if it's ok for members to rebuke their neighbors, rebuke evil spirits, rebuke other people through prayer.  (I was like, "What in the world??)  After she finished explaining she looked at me and I just shook my head and gave a resounding, "no."  After a little bit more Lugandan was spoken the sister next to me turned to me and said, "What about when I have an evil spirit in me?  How do I get rid of it?  Can I rebuke it?  (Here I am thinking to myself, "Is this a common thing for these people to feel like they have evil spirits surrounding them?)  I explained to her that there is two things that she/they could do.  First of all, the power of prayer is strong and if they feel something is not right they should kneel down and ask for Heavenly Father's help,  to replace the bad feelings with good.  I also told the class that the only way an evil spirit could be rebuked is through the power of the Priesthood and explained how that is done.  After a few more comments were made I knew I had to turn this uncomfortable feeling in the room around.  I turned around in my seat to face the class.  (I was on the front row) I was so bold at this point to ask them, "Is this a common problem here in Busia to have evil spirits around you??"  I did not wait for an answer.   I told them,  "An evil spirit cannot be in the same place as the Holy Ghost.  So the answer to this problem is to live worthy to have the Spirit with you always!  Only watch good movies.  Only listen to good music.  Keep your lives pure.  Attend church.  Pray and read your scriptures.  Keep the spirit with you always and you will not have a problem with evil forces in your life.  I actually said this very slow and repeated myself so there was no question or language barrier.

 These people have been raised in a society that involves witchcraft and cursings on people.   They need Truth.  They need to understand the Gospel in it's fullness and the goodness of their Savior.  They need to understand the love of their Heavenly Father and the happiness that comes with filling their lives with good.  The Gospel is new to the Ugandans.  Most people in the Branches have only been members for a few short years.  They are still young in the teaching/learning of Truth.  This takes time and a real change of thought process.  There is so much for them to learn and at times it is overwhelming and I think, "How can this possibly be done?"  And then I remember that the Lord is on our side and that with God, anything is possible!

My second experience came in Relief Society.  I was enjoying sitting in the class amongst the other members listening to the announcements.  I enjoyed singing the hymn "As Sisters in Zion" and I enjoyed the opening prayer.  Then the bomb dropped.  The sister conducting looked at me and said, "And now Sister Helps (this was the first time I heard this pronunciation) will give us our lesson.  Whaaaat???

Let me just interject at this point and say that last week, two hours before church, I got a text message from someone in the RS Presidency asking if I could give the lesson in RS.  Well,  I am the type of person that prepares a week in advance for a lesson but I said I would do my best and then spent the next hour cramming for the lesson.  (Which I ended up not giving because it was the 5th Sunday and we all met together and the Branch President gave the lesson)

Anyhoo......When she said, 'Sister Helps will now give us the lesson,  I said a silent prayer and dug right in.  For some reason this group of sisters were not using the Teachings of the Prophets book.
They had a green book called "Women of the Relief Society" or something like that.  I was relieved to see the title of the lesson was Family Home Evening!  Whew!  I know all about that!  I've been doing it with my own family for lots and lots of years!  I just went with it.  I asked questions of the sisters, told of personal experiences, read from the manual, and listened to the class's ideas.  It seemed to go pretty well.  I was a little concerned that the sisters couldn't understand me so I talked slowly and very clearly.  I think it worked!  I am most certainly glad that the lesson wasn't on The Last Days or anything hard like that.  I hope this impromptu teaching isn't a weekly occurrence.  I don't mind giving a lesson but a little bit of notice is VERY helpful!

After the block we had some Leadership Training for the Elders Quorum Presidency.  I spoke of Teaching in the Savior's Way" and Rick gave instruction on how to establish Home Teaching.  It was EXTREMELY hot in the room.  Because of it being fast Sunday and not having anything to drink all day I seriously thought I might pass out.  Well,  guess what?  I survived!!  We actually got home just before six o'clock tonight and we have totally enjoyed being HOME!  I plopped ingredients for a stew into the crockpot before we left (at 7AM) this morning and enjoyed walking into an aromatic home after a long day on the Lord's errand.  We even made uncooked oatmeal cookies for dessert.  It was like manna from heaven:) I hope you all have had a wonderful Sabbath.  Life is never dull here in the Uganda Kampala Mission!!!

PS  We just got a report from our amazing ward missionary, Francis.  He has been out "doing what he does best" and bringing people to church!  We had ten investigators come to the Mbale Branch today.  TEN!!  Some that we are teaching and some that are new.  Elder Phelps and I have a goal of ten baptisms before the end of the year.  These good people here in Mbale are making it pretty easy for us to be able to reach that goal.  It is so great to teach the discussions with investigators!  It feels good learning the ways of a missionary.  I love it!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sironko, Sipi Falls, and Lira

The power has been out at our place since yesterday at 2PM.  We didn't get home until 7:00 last night and we had been so excited to get home, cook dinner and send out some e-mails.  Well,  like I said the power was out and we ended up making dinner in the dark.  Not so easy in an already somewhat primitive kitchen.  Luckily we have a gas stove.  With the two of us together we had dinner on the table in less than an hour.  (fried potatoes, breakfast burritos using chapatis, and juice.  It turned out yummy and filling!  It's hard for me to get used to eating so late.  At home I would usually have dinner on the table between 5 and 6 so this eating later here in Uganda is new to us.  

The power was off all through the night.  We ended up going to bed at 9 because there's just not much to do if the power/internet is out.  We stepped outside to check out the stars.  We could see the Milky Way but I could NOT recognize a single constellation.  Couldn't even find the North Star.  I know we are at a different latitude then home so I would love to find out about these constellations nearer to the equator. 

Anyway, we opened the windows (they have screens on them to keep out the mosquitoes but they are not sealed) to let in some cool air because our home is VERY hot if the fans aren't working to circulate the air. (especially when we are cooking)  I really don't like being hot but it hasn't been too bad here in Mbale.  They say the hot time of the year is in January and February so we'll see how that goes.  We read a little than headed for bed.  This was the first time we used our mosquito netting over our bed.  I haven't been too concerned up to this point because we've never opened the windows at night.  (Nighttime is when the Malaria carrying mosquitoes come out).  I woke up in the middle of the night and I have to tell you that it is sooo dark here.  I couldn't even see my hand two inches from my face.  Luckily, I had a flashlight right by my pillow so I could find the restroom:) 
Life sure is different here!  

Today we are on the road and won't be back until Friday night.   The power was still not on when we left.  We ended up giving two packages of chicken and a package of pork chops from the freezer along with a few items from our fridge to Frazida, our groundskeeper, because we have been told that sometimes it can be DAYS before the power gets restored!  I don't want my house to reek of spoiled meat when we return on Friday.  We were even told that sometimes the water gets shut off for a week at a time!  What!?!  Not sure how I'm gonna handle that one!

Sunday was a great day!  We had four of our less active that we had visited during the week come to church!!  YAY!  An added bonus with the three investigators that came as well.  It had been a wonderful week of visiting many people and inviting them to come back and it was so great to see some of them respond positively to that invitation.  Elder Phelps and I also helped with some Branch Presidency Training.  The Presidency feels like they need extra help in learning how to do things effectively in the Brach.  We hope that we can help them feel confident in their responsibilities by the time we leave Mbale. 

After church we stopped at home for just a few minutes for a quick sandwich.  Our next assignment was to drive out to Sironko (about an hour away) for Elder Phelps to interview five people for baptism.  There are no zone or district leaders in our area because all of the young elders have been moved to Kampala so President Collings has asked Rick if he would do the interviews.  The Sironko group has about 30 members of the church that meet together each week to sing hymns and teach gospel lessons.  It is too far for members of the group to come to the Branch each week so they just meet there in Sironko.  Of course, they do not have a Sacrament service because they do not have the Priesthood Keys to do so.  That's why they are encouraged to come in to Mbale once a month to partake of the Sacrament.

Well, we were drove out to Sironko to have Rick interview these prospective members.  We got there around 3:30 and walked into their rented 10 x11 room and it was FULL of people.  About 15 of the members had stayed after their own meeting that began at 10:00 and then waited for FOUR hours in the heat of the day for us to get there and have a special meeting with them.  I looked up on the board and saw this:

WE were the featured speakers (or preachers as the case may be)!  It was humbling to know that this group had waited so long for us.  They are people hungering for leaders/missionaries to give them direction.  It means so much to me to see the faith of such humble people.  There were a number of children in the group so as I spoke to them I asked them to identify which children belonged to which parents?  I felt impressed to speak of the blessing of the temple and how if these people are patient and faithful that they can reach the magnificent goal of having their families sealed to them.  I felt the spirit strongly as I spoke to them.  There is a lot of work to be done here in Uganda but I believe in just a few years there will be many more branches, wards and stakes with the way that the church is growing here.  A temple is definitely in their reach.  There were a number of nonmembers listening in as well and one of them wanted us to visit his wife who stayed back at home.  I love it when I can go in and share a favorite scripture and bear testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel.  Before visiting his family we stopped and another investigators home to give the elderly father a blessing.  We were received very warmly.  (We always are:)

The second home we visited was  the investigator Charles and his wife ? and daughter, Ruth.  We had a wonderful visit and gave a spiritual message.   I think Charles was hoping for his wife to have a good experience with the missionaries.  She was very gracious.  Here's a picture of the family.  The third on from the left in named Innocent and he is the one who got this group formed in Sironko.  The one on the right is named Benard and he is another one that is getting baptized.

Rick managed to get the truck stuck in the ditch next to the road.  After a few tries and some ingenuity (a bunch of African men pushing us) we got it out and were on our way.  This picture is AFTER the fact. 

Lastly, Benard really wanted for us to meet his parents so even though it was getting late, we drove out and had a spiritual thought with his mom and dad. They are not members of the church but hopefully they felt the Spirit. His grandmother is also in the picture.  The drive home was crazy!!  We went a different way than when we had come in and the road was FULL of speed bumps.  Probably somewhere close to two hundred!  There are speed bumps all over in Uganda, especially in the big towns.  They do not let you travel fast at all!

Monday morning came and it was our Pday!  We planned a trip to Sipi Falls with some great RM's in the Branch.  Except for one....he is planning to serve a mission!  Here we are with Isaac (He's has bright blue eyes.  Strangest thing....), Alan, me, Baraka and Rick.  We hired a guide, Moses,  to take us across the mountain. It was a good thing because he held my hand on the rough parts.  It was REALLY steep going down to the falls and REALLY steep coming back up.  It was a three hour hike and it about killed me!!  Seriously!  My foot stepped off the precipice twice but Moses held tight and I'm grateful I had a walking stick.  That really was handy to have along.  The going was rough but everyone was patient with me.  I probably shouldn't tell you this but I almost started crying...... twice.....really,  I felt like it cause it was so hard.... but I held it in......and I made it to the end.  I don't want to do that again anytime soon!  The falls were spectacular and the boys had so much fun.  It was worth the difficulty!

Me with the tall falls (around 100 meters) behind me.
How do you like my safari hat?

Elder Phelps and I......  I remind myself of my mother in this picture.

Having fun by the middle falls (80 meters)

A man let us hold his chameleon!  Rick was loving it.  
We put him on my orange church to let us see what happens.
He didn't change color:(

On Tuesday, we drove up to Lira to do another two baptismal interviews.  It is three hours to get to Lira from Mbale, with good roads I might add.  We were actually able to drive at highway speeds and there was hardly any traffic.  The last hour was a little slower though because of the ever present speed bumps.  We made it to the Lira Branch building and met President Oyet.  He is a wonderful man and has been the Branch President for EIGHT years.  I enjoyed visiting with him as Rick gave one baptismal interview.  

He stayed with us as we went to visit the Adyel Branch on the other side of the town.  There we met with President Ojok.  We visited with him for about a half an hour trying to give him encouragement.  He has only been a member for two years and needs confidence and direction.  He is an older, humble gentleman with a good spirit about him but he does have a bit of difficulty in trying to lead the branch.  Everything is so new to many of the leaders here in Uganda.  The need for a senior couple to help this new Branch President is great!  Uganda needs more senior couples!

Our baptismal candidate never showed so we went to her house to try to round her up.  The person who has been teaching her said that she might have gotten too nervous for the interview and "skipped town" so to speak.  It is very intimidating for some to be interviewed, by a Mzungu no less, and so sometimes they are a no show:(  We never did find her.  Hopefully, next time!

President Oyet asked if we could go to his home to meet his wife, Sarah.  I had the feeling that she was going to try and feed us...(we have never eaten in any of the homes.....and have been glad of that.  There is no way to know how the food is prepared, if  it is a clean environment, and I have already shown you a picture of the butcher shop in my last post.)  Well, I mentioned to Rick that we might try to get fed and we really did not want to offend President Oyet so we just decided to eat if it was offered.  It was and we did.  Actually, the food was delicious  (rice and chicken in a sauce) and since we hadn't eaten for quite some time we were happy to receive it.  Sarah owns her own restaurant and is a great cook!  I asked her if she butchers and cleans her own chicken.  She does! 
 Strong women here in Uganda.

On our way home we stopped to buy a couple of oranges for President Owidi,  since this is where he was raised, and says they are the sweetest oranges.  We were BOMBARDED by all of these people wanting us to buy THEIR oranges.  We bought three buckets full for about $1.50!  We also purchased two HUGE avocados in Lira for about 30 cents each.  Produce is so inexpensive here in Uganda!

We got home that night to the power being off and now we are in Jinja heading to Kampala today to run errands!