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!


  1. You're doing so much good!! Awesome to do a little PR and make friends with a police officer! I'm like you - I couldn't have handled someone eating eyeballs! When I read that she announced you were giving the relief society lesson I laughed out loud! I could never have done it!

  2. p.s. The baptistry is doing well - we miss you!

  3. I've heard the Ugandan's like the eyes best! Even Sarah in the office! You two are doing an amazing job!

  4. Oh Janell--What a nerve-racking experience that would've been to have the Sunday School class talk about rebuking evil spirits!! I'm always nervous as can be when I'm teaching a lesson that people will get off on tangents, but I've never had them get off on 'evil spirits'!! (...and you weren't even actually the Teacher that time!) You did Wonderfully Well at deflecting that topic, it sounds like, and it truly IS something that needs addressed in that culture, I guess. It sounds like you are handling everything JUST THE RIGHT WAY!! I'm so thankful for your good, good spirit! Lots of Love to you, Karen
    (....sorry that it keeps calling me "Unknown". I don't know how to change that. I'm just surprised that my comments are coming through!) ha