Friday, December 30, 2016

A Late Christmas for the Orphans

On Tuesday we were invited out to the Home of Good Hope Orphanage School for a Christmas Celebration.  We were treated to a program of talks from the headmaster (Dan) and others and were given an opportunity to speak as well.  We spoke of Heavenly Father's love for each of us and how he hears EACH of our prayers as we pray to Him.  
We testified of the divinity of Jesus Christ and His birth and Atonement.

Dan the Headmaster and our friend.

       The children provided us with some entertainment as they sang and danced for us.

We then were served a nice meal from our hosts.
We had rice, eggplant, posho, matoke with g-nug sauce, and cabbage.
I am really learning to like this food.  
(We still drank a coke afterward:)

After lunch we presented the children with some gifts.  We gave them some writing pads, coloring crayons and pencils, and a few jump ropes and balls to share.  Oh yeah, we also gave each of the children a sucker:)  They were happy to receive a few gifts and it gave us much joy to give!

Finishing up #25waysin25days

I need to finish documenting our Light the World efforts here in Uganda.

Day 22
Jesus Showed Gratitude and So Can You
Today Elder Phelps and I received a Christmas gift from President and Sister Collings.  It is a beautiful Gratitude Journal with Elder Eyring's talk given in 2007 General Conference.  This talk encourages us to write at the end of each day how we have seen God's hand in our life for that day.  I have started writing and while it hasn't been everyday it is a blessing to RECOGNIZE what Heavenly Father gives us each day.

Day 23
Jesus was a Peacemaker and So Can You
We found out on this day that Michael our investigator would not be able to provide any gifts for his children for Christmas so since we were going to be out shopping we decided to get a few small gifts for his family.  It was much appreciated!

Day 24
Jesus Cared for His Loved Ones and So Can You
This was the day that we had our party for our beloved YSA's.  We provided physical as well as spiritual nourishment for them!

Day 25
Jesus' Disciples Followed Him and So Can You
We attended a wonderful Sacrament Meeting in our Branch and shared Christmas dinner and presents with the Waila family!

 We will try to continue to Light the World by serving each day:)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Sipi Falls and Sebei Cultural Center

The day after Christmas was our P-day.  We decided last week that we were going to take some time and drive back up to Sipi Falls .  It is a beautiful place in the mountains and it sounded nice to go back up there, just the two of us.  We hiked the short trail up to the middle falls.  There were a lot of people hiking this time.  I guess it’s because of the Christmas holiday.  

Last time we were there we didn’t hike up to the area that gets you close to the back of the falls so that was fun to do this time.  When we got up to that point we saw a girl sitting there by herself.  

  A little while we noticed another girl to the other side of us.  After we took a few pictures of the falls these girls stood up and we noticed that they weren’t girls at all but were teenage boys!  We had to laugh when our guide told us they were wearing skirts because they were recently circumcised!!

There is a tradition in this area of Uganda that is quite barbaric.  It reminds me in the Book of Mormon when the wicked traditions of their fathers were carried on from generation to generation.  This is one great example of a very wicked tradition!  

If you are squeamish do not read further.

 Every two years there is a ‘holiday’ that begins in August and ends in December. It is called Mbalu.  Boys either 16 or 17 years old are encouraged (or badgered I should say) to be publicly circumcised.  If they decide to do it, than a big group of people (mostly between the ages of 10- 25 from my guess) get together as a group and march down the streets in preparation for the circumcision.  There are people playing drums.  The men carry sticks or tree branches and some of the girls (yes, girls and are involved with this, too) paint their faces with a white chalky substance.  They march around the streets letting others know that a circumcision is about to take place.  This march is called a Kadodi.  

When it comes time for the circumcision to take place the young man holds two heavy sticks over his head and is not allowed to cry out, flinch or even move his eyes while it is taking place.  This is all done in front of a big crowd.  If he does cry out or flinch then he is shunned by the people and is not considered a "man".  When I first heard of this “tradition” I was sick to my stomach.  I still get a sick feeling when I see these kadodis marching around.  There have been so many in this month of December.  

Anyway, we saw these newly circumcised young “men” wearing skirts at the waterfall and the irony was not lost on us!  It had been twelve days since their circumcision took place and they still could not wear pants because they were in pain.  Anytime Rick looks at the pictures he giggles thinking of these wanna be men wearing skirts. 

After we visited Sipi Falls we drove a little further up the mountain.  We found a sign for a cultural center and thought that would be fun to check out.  We found the owner of the place (his name is Kali) and he gave us a little tour of his blossoming property.  It is a work in progress that he has been working on for two years now. It is a campground/cultural center/restaurant/and sometime in the future a hotel.  He has three different generational Sebei Village homes that he has built.  He took us inside each one and had a few artifacts to show how the Sebei used to live.  The Sebei are also known as the Mt. Elgon Masai.  They are cattlemen like the masai (the masai come from Kenya just right across the border from this area and they are a common tribe that are well known thorughout the world.)  Remember the Kevin Bacon show from the 90’s “The Air Up There”? 

 We enjoyed the afternoon walking around and learning about the Sebei people.  Kali’s place was located on a bluff and overlooked the whole valley.  It is a beautiful piece of property. I love his idea of creating this place for tourists!  Especially since it is so close to Sipi Falls.   More Ugandans need to think outside of the box to bring new ideas into creating new businesses.  He told us that if we book before hand he can have cultural dancers come and put on a show.  We like that idea and so we might go back another time for thatJ

We enjoyed our P-day after our big weekend and felt rejuvenated for our week ahead.

                           This is a wedding necklace

.......And one for the man

                                A very sharp sword and a rabbit hat.

                                 A couple of different types of mud huts.

                                             A beautiful view of the valley.

Elder Phelps enjoying a rolex for a snack.  While it was being prepared he curled up on that bench with his head in my lap and napped for about 20 minutes.  He was ready for the drive home after that!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas in the Village

Christmas was a really wonderful day.  Rick and I got up early and exchanged a few small gifts for each other.  He wrote me a nice letter that I read aloud and left us both in tears:)  He bought me a few African items.  A cloth handbag, two sarongs, and a Ugandan picture frame.  I bought him some handkerchiefs, a pineapple slicer, and a family photo frame.  Very simple items but it was fun to exchange gifts:)  Before we left for church I prepared a chocolate cake for later in the evening.  

                                    Our early morning Christmas.....don't mind our bedheads!!

Church was wonderful!  We enjoyed greeting our branch members and wishing them all a Merry Christmas.  It was sweet to partake of the Sacrament on this special day.  We had two beautiful talks given about the Savior and his birth and atonement.  We were spiritually fed!

                  These cute little boys came dressed up in their Christmas best!  I had to get a picture!

After church we got home to a HOT kitchen.  I had forgotten to turn the oven off after I took the cake out:(  That meant that our kitchen never cooled down for our afternoon baking!  I was concerned about cooking in the middle of the afternoon anyway because it has been in the 90’s this past week and we have NO air conditioning!  Whenever I cook our kitchen swelters!  Anyway, I had prepared our turkey overnight (in the crock pot) and it turned out pretty well.  Francis had butchered and cleaned the turkey on Friday.  When he pulled it out to show us it took me by surprise because the neck was still attached!  Kind of grossed me out, actually!  Anyway, we sliced the turkey, cooked and mashed the potatoes, made gravy, chopped and cooked the mixed vegetables, and then I frosted the cake.  All in a 90 degree kitchen!! It may not have been very comfortable for us but we made a memory:)

Our evening was wonderful!  We packed up all of the food and drove out to the village to be with Francis’ family.  We love their little family!  Alfonso is the father and he is working in Jinja and could not come home for ChristmasL  The family was really sad about that but we tried to make it fun for them.  Alfonso and Mary have eight children.  Francis is the oldest at 22.  Gerald (pronounced Jarrod) is 17, Lugosi is 15, Jessica is 13, Anna is 10, Peter (pronounce Peetah) is 6, Agnes is 3, and Jimeema is 11 months.  When we pulled the box of wrapped presents out of the truck the kids started smiling and jabbering in their languageJ  I thought we would be eating outside but immediately we were invited into their home.  Their family home is a red mud brick building with dirt floors.  Mary, Francis’ mother, set out a sarong on the floor and then they placed all of our bowls of food on the sarong.  Five neighbor children showed up at the door and they were invited in for food.  I dished up my food first and then Mary dished up food for EVERYONE else in the room.  I thought that was sweet.  I thought to myself, “I’ll bet that is something she does everyday for the children.”  We enjoyed a quiet dinner with the family and then Mary, told of stories from Christmases when she was young.  Francis translated for us.  After that the family sang songs in their native tongue about the Savior and Christmas.  It was really sweet.  We enjoyed singing a few hymns with them, as well, and then Francis gave a little talk about Jesus Christ.  His family, even down to three year old Agnes, sat reverently on the dirt floor and listened. 

 This was an amazing moment in my life.  Here I was, a guest inside a primitive Ugandan home.  The sun was about down and I was sitting in a darkening room (there was no electricity) staring at black faces that I could barely see, listening to Francis’ voice bearing testimony of the Savior.  You know when you have moments that you know you will always remember and hold special.  This was one of those moments!J  I have had a lot of special moments like this.  Since I have been in Africa I have tried to FEEL and ENJOY and REMEMBER the special moment that is happening.  I am trying to live in the present.  I do this because I know that sometime in the near future Africa will be just a dream.  It will be a life that I got to experience for just a few short months.  This living in the present does not mean that I do not long for home……. because I have felt much of that throughout this Christmas Season…. but I know it is important to be in tune to the feelings that being in Uganda is bringing to me.  

                                                    Our big feast

                                                                Cute Agnes

                                                         Lugosi, Anna, and me

                                                            Peter and Lugosi

                                                            Gerald and Francis

                                                         Mary and Jimeema

My cake doesn't look that great because I used pie tins to cook them in but it sure tasted good!

                                                         Jimeema liked it!!

Lugosi singing a solo for the program

After the program we brought out the gifts for the family.  We started with three year old Agnes because she was the youngest.  (Well actually, Jimeema is the youngest but she had fallen asleep nursing on her mother’s breast and lay quietly in her mother’s arms).  I don’t think Agnes had ever seen a wrapped present before.  She was not quite sure what to do with the pretty wrapping paper.  We told her to open it so she slowly undid the paper trying to not rip it:)  Finally, she got the gift opened and all of the children oohed and aahhed and were so happy for her!  One by one they opened their gifts and oohed and aahed at each of the gifts as they were unveiled.  These small gifts were just inexpensive dollar store type gifts but they were so thankful to have themJ  The really fun part was when Mary opened her gift at the last and pulled out a small solar light that Rick had bought for them.  The kids cheered and were so excited!  These lights are less than ten dollars to purchase but this family is so poor they couldn’t even afford that.  Rick bought them two and when the second one was pulled out they cheered again!!  It was a great moment!   Before we left, Gerald (who is 17) took one of the lights out to his little mud hut where he sleeps and just set the light inside on the floor.  He giggled as he walked out of his hut looking back at the glowing light coming from inside.  

Kathy sent me some stickers in our Christmas package.
The children loved them as you can see:)
Stuck them right on their foreheads!!

As we were leaving their home our headlights were shining on all of the children as they were dancing around in the dirt and laughing and having a good time.  We kept saying, “Merry Christmas” and they would laugh and respond with a joyful, “Merry Christmas!” back to us.  Our hearts were filled with joy!  It was an evening that we will never forget.   

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Merry Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve to everyone!  Today was a great day!  It started early as we prepared breakfast for our branch YSA.  Elder Phelps started making pancakes at 6:30 and I joined him by peeling potatoes at 7:00.  We worked at getting ready for a couple of hours before the kids (they are not  really kids but I like to call them that) started coming.  Our party was slated to start at 10:00 and people started arriving shortly after 9:00.  Neither of us had even showered for the day when they started arriving but all worked out because they just enjoyed sitting around chatting while we finished with the breakfast and then took a few minutes to shower for the day.

We served a pretty traditional American breakfast with scrambled eggs with ham and vegetables, fried spuds, pancakes, and pineapple.  A brother of a young lady from our group made up some scones as well.  Everyone got their fill of food and again there was NOTHING left.  These Africans love to eat!  
Especially the boys:)

We had such a nice time with everyone!  We have grown very close to each YSA member.  It's nice to  gain relationships with new people.  It's amazing to think that just a couple of months ago I didn't know any of these kids but now they truly are like family to us.  We love spending time with them.  

Here are Betty, Mirembe, Sarah, and Mercy (Massi)

Betty is fairly new and I don't know her well yet, but she fit very well with the group and was very comfortable with everyone.

Mirembe is a sweet girl.  She is a former Muslim and sells chapati's in a little stand near her home.

Sarah is great!  I love Sarah!  She is so loving and is a good friend.  She works in the Arabica Cafe where we sometimes have lunch.  She is waiting for a missionary who is coming home in April. 

Mercy is great too.  She comes to clean for me each week.  She has been excited to serve a mission but is already 26.  Rick had to let her know last week that she will not be able to serve because of her age.  She was disappointed but we told her she can be a member missionary here in Mbale.  She is going to go out teaching with us next week:)  Mercy serves as the Primary President.

This is Ben Tushave.  He is a really fun character.  Can you tell by his African outfit?  He served his mission in Ghana and this is traditional Ghanan clothing that got sent to him in a Christmas package. He was happy to show it off today:)  He is going to be married in a month or two!

Betty (on the left) is a recent convert of about 6 weeks.  I just love her!  She has a little shop outside of her home where she sells little sundries.  You know...snacks, soap, toothpaste, candy, jewelry, etc....  She also does hair.  Whenever we stop for a visit she is always sitting underneath the mango tree plaiting someone's hair:)  If you don't know what plaiting is I will explain it.  African women's hair is usually very short!  Betty takes pieces of fabricated hair and sews it into ladies "real hair" on their head.  That is how the African women can have so many different looks.  As you can imagine it is a long process and takes hours to do.

Next is Tony.  I don't know him very well but have seen him at church a few times.

Nathan is next.  He is a security guard at the church.  We have been teaching him for quite a while now and it is going slow.  He will get there though.
Then we have Mirembe and Betty again.

Here is Maqne. .... Or Jonny as most people call him.  He is the one I teach piano lessons to.  Well sorta....He has stood me up the last two times we were supposed to meet.  He promises he will be here on Tuesday for his next lesson.  I hope so!

Ben and Betty

From the left:
Pius Ochanda.  Isn't that a cool name.    Pius is great!  He is very serious.  He has reason to be.  Earlier this year he lost his father and just a few weeks ago his mother passed away as well.  It has been a tough year for him but he is a very faithful member of the church.  He is the Sunday School President and is one of our branch missionaries.  Pius served a mission in Johannesburg.  He is the one who walked up to me at the church one day and said he was going to see the "clock"  Remember that story?
Gerald Mutebi is one of the first members I met in Mbale.  He is in charge of getting the church cleaning done each week.  That is NOT an easy task!  These poor buildings in Uganda take a beating! He is also the YM's President.  He is a really nice kid and is hoping to serve a mission soon.
Gerald Nambale (Nambale from Mbale) is a recently returned missionary from the Uganda Kampala Mission!  He served much of his time in Ethiopia and Rwanda.  He LOVED Rwanda!  He was released from his mission just two weeks ago and now he is helping us teach his two brothers!
Lastly is Jude.  (the one who is looking at his phone) He likes to joke around with me.  He is a returned missionary.  Actually he likes to say that he is the FIRST missionary from Mbale branch to serve!  He is very proud of that!  We keep telling him that he needs to get married:)

This is Isaac.  He has blue eyes.  Very rare in an African.  He is a returned missionary from the Zambia Mission.  He is a great leader and teacher and friend.  He is a branch missionary.  He and his roommate just started a popcorn making business.  It is starting slowly but hopefully will grow with time.  We had him make forty bags of popcorn for our party this morning!

Here's a fun picture of the group.  I didn't quite get everyone in the picture but it was close.  At one point I counted twenty people besides Rick and I.  Just the perfect size.

Some others that I will mention.
Solomon (in red on the left) is very shy.  He loves to play the piano and plays for our branch.  He is always asking for more music.  I have let him borrow all of the music that I brought to Africa and now he is hoping that I can get some classical for him.  He has been asking for weeks but I have been too busy to get him any.  I'm hoping I can find a free website that I can download classical music from:)  I hope I get time before tomorrow.......well, not sure if that's gonna happen!  Maybe by  next weekend:)

Caroline (in the turquoise shirt) is our branch RS President.  She is a really nice girl but travels a lot with her job.  She only is able to come to the branch only one week out of the month.  It's a little tough on her counselors but they are doing the best they can.

Ok, one more.  Francis (in blue in the very center) is a really great person. I love that she expresses herself so well.  A few weeks ago, in one of my first times at the Mbale Central Market, Francis went with me to show me the ropes of the market.  She even scolded a teenage boy who was trying to charge me too much.  She gave him a what for and told him not to cheat people!

After having breakfast we each shared memories of Christmases past.  It's interesting that most of the memories shared were about family and food!  I guess that tradition is worldwide:)

Next we had Isaac read "The Christmas Orange" story.  It is tradition that we read this story to our kids each year.  It is one of my favorites.  Kathy sent me a condensed version and it worked out great!  Last week we stopped in Lira to pick up oranges (because theirs are supposed to be the best) and gave out an orange to each of them.

We spent the last couple of hours of our party watching the movie "The Nativity Story".  We all piled on one side of the room and Rick had it projected onto the wall.  Three minutes after the movie ended the power went out!  It was a tender mercy to be able to finish the movie.

Before everyone left we passed out popcorn, goody bags and a Christmas Star with a poem attached as their gifts.  It was a wonderful time with our beloved YSA's!!

This afternoon after the party we had a baptism.  We have been teaching Michael for many weeks now.  He had met with missionaries earlier in the year but somehow got lost when the missionaries left Mbale.  We met up with him one day while we were visiting with his friend John (the doctor).  Michael told us at that time that he wanted to be baptized.  It has taken some time to get all the lessons taught to him.  He lives in Kabwangasi ( I love to say this word!!) and it is a little distance away.  He rides his bike to church each week and has been very dedicated.  His wife and family are Seventh Day Adventists and so now he is the first Latter day Saint member in his family.   Michael is a Primary 4 teacher in Kabwangasi.   He has been very excited to be baptized and tomorrow he will receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  I am thankful for our friendship with Michael.

It has been a wonderful and busy Christmas Eve!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Lighting the World one day at a time

I have gotten terribly behind at documenting our Light the World progress.
25 ways in 25 days

Just a disclaimer....I am not trying to "brag" about the way we are serving but truly I am trying to keep a record of what we are doing here with our time in Uganda.  
My blog just happens to be the way it is recorded:)

Day 13:
Jesus Showed Humility and So Can You
This day we were able to view many of Heavenly Father's amazing creations while we were visiting Murchison Falls National Park.  The beautiful falls and so many wonderful wild animals!  We both gave thanks to Heavenly Father many times throughout the day for his goodness to us!

Day 14:
Jesus Taught us to Clothe the Naked and So Can You
I knew that I wanted to give away some second hand clothes for this day but since I have brought very few items with me to Uganda I couldn't use mine.  Plus, I wasn't in a position to purchase and give away because of being on the couples retreat so I recruited Sarah to do it for me!  She  gathered a few items from her home and took them to the DI:)  Thanks Sarah for helping us!! 

Day 15:
Jesus Worshipped Through Song and So can You
This was the day of our balloon ride and bush breakfast!  At the end of our breakfast we asked the waiters (and the guard) if we could sing Christmas Carols to them.  They were surprised and very willing to let us.  It was cute.  They joined right in as we sang Silent Night and We Wish You a Merry Christmas!   We made a fun memory:)

Day 16:
Jesus Showed Compassion and So Can You
As we were traveling back to Mbale we needed to stop in Lira with President Collings for some business so while they were doing their "business" I helped a couple of older ladies in the branch wipe down the chairs in the chapel to get ready for Sunday:)

Day 17:
Jesus Cared for His Mother and So Can You
It was my mama's birthday so we gave her a call!  Unfortunately she wasn't home so we sang her the birthday song and let a birthday message!  Hope she got it:)

Day 18:
Jesus Honored the Sabbath and So Can You
We had an enjoyable Sabbath at Church and afterward taught a lesson and then invited a branch missionary and our investigator over to our place for some lunch!

Day 19:
Jesus Calmed the Sea and So can You
Not gonna lie....this one kinda got skipped.  Rick did give up his YSA Activity lemon bar (which I made and tasted scrumptious) to one of the guys who came late and missed the treats.  
Does that count?

Day 20:
Jesus Saw Potential in Others and So Can You
Rick bore testimony to our Muslim friend, Frazida.  
She works here in our complex as groundskeeper and we had a good conversation with her on Monday.  We showed her the Light the World video and talked about the Savior (who she does believe in.  Not as the Son of God but as a teacher of God)  We  learned some interesting things about Islam and we shared some of the beliefs that we have, as well.  It was a good conversation but later Rick was bothered that we did not bare testimony of the Savior's Atonement.  So he took some time to do that on this day.  Frazida was good with it all:)

Day 21:
Jesus Forgave Others and So can You
We both thought of an experience where we either forgave or was forgiven by someone.  I'm grateful to be able to repent and change.  And it is all because of Jesus Christ and his willingness to atone for each of our sins.  I love Him!!

Quickly, because it's getting late and it's time for bed I want to document about our Zone Christmas Party we had today.  A few weeks ago Sister Collings asked if we could help feed the Jinja Zone again.  This time for the Christmas Party.  We are aways happy to help and we are getting to know and love many of the missionaries in the Jinja Zone!  We made chicken salad for sandwiches, cut pineapple and papaya and made LOTS and LOTS of cookies.  Sister Collings brought two different salads (coleslaw and pasta salad) and the rolls for the sandwiches.    We barely had enough food.  Exactly the right amount of sandwiches.  I wasn't sure if the chicken salad was going to hold out but there were 54 of us and we had 54 sandwiches.  Other than some papaya EVERYTHING was gone!  This are missionaries after all.  They eat a lot!!

I believe this is the Iganga Zone mixed with our beloved Busia missionaries.  Here they are practicing for their skit!

Elder Phelps working in the kitchen!  Doesn't he wear that apron well:)

Skit time

                                                                    The food......

After the skits they all grabbed a plate full of food and watched a mission video in the RS room.

We cut off a little early to stop at the store than made the 3 hour trek home.  We decided to make nachos for dinner.  It was a success!  I have only recently been able to  find tortilla chips and Kathy sent me some taco seasoning in our Christmas Box so we had the makings for some good nachos.  I made som fresh Pico de gallo and guacamole and Rick made some delicious Pineapple, Mango, Banana smoothies.  So yummy! 

Then the best yet ....we got to face time with Kendra and the kids to end a good day!
The kids love to chat and talk to grandma and grandpa!
We love it too:)