Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Ups and Downs of Missionary Life (part 2)

This is the second part of our rollercoaster week!  I documented the ups on the previous post.  It is a lot easier to read than this one!  The following is the down part of our week.  These are the tough moments of a missionary's life.

So Thursday we had planned to spend some time out in the Budaka District visiting members that are a ways out.  Our first stop was the orphanage/school.  We were planning to show Dan and the children a short message about being Children of God.  As we pulled up we could see lots of people in the School compound.  We knew right away that it was a burial service.

Dan came out and told us that a three year old had passed away the night before.  Pete/Junior had HIV as well as Sickle Cell.  His parents are both living and both have HIV.  We were invited into the compound and we of course, knew from experience that we would be there for some time.  All of the women were sitting on the ground either on mats or banana leaves separate from the men who were sitting on benches.  We are such a spectacle at these events (or anywhere we go for that matter)  people stare at us and it gets kind of uncomfortable at times.  I just try to be polite and smile and wave at them.  Usually if there are not too many people I will greet them with a handshake and introduce myself.  This was not that time because there were so many people.  We figured there were about 250 in attendance.

Again,  the dead are not embalmed here so they must be buried within a day or so of the death.  Generally it is the following day.  

Francis told us that we should go view the body.  We walked into the small room and saw the little boy laying on the ground wrapped in sheets.  Only his face was visible.  My heart constricted when I saw him.  He was such a little boy....about the size of my beloved grandchildren.  I was overcome with emotion and stepped out of the room only to have a thousand eyes staring at me as I wept tears of sorrow for this young life lost.  HIV in a small child who did nothing to deserve the disease!  It was the poor choices of others who caused this little boy to have such an awful disease.  It was hard for me to think about.  I felt sorrow for his mother who would obviously have the same disease.   What must her feelings be?   What a trial to lose a young child!

We were able to stay for the rest of the service which included talks (in Luganda) from the local minister and others and some hymns sung by the congregation.  Elder Phelps was given two minutes to share some thoughts.  He spoke of how little children are innocent and are not accountable for sin.  And how little Petie went straight back to that God who gave him life.  He mentioned that Petie has a great work to do on the other side in teaching others.  Thankfully Francis was able to translate for him so that the congregation could understand his words.

After a few more talks we walked to the back of the property where Petie was laid to rest.  The people were singing "Nearer My God to Thee" in Luganda.  We were able to hum along:)  Afterwards, all of the Christians were invited to stay and eat.  Sam, a man that we have taught and are friends with invited us to his home (pretty much next door) to eat.  He served us fresh mango and rice with a soda to drink.  It was an unexpected turn in our day to witness yet another burial.

Another downer.....

Friday afternoon we had a teaching appt scheduled at the church.  I greeted a girl who I will call "Z" who is nineteen, sitting at the back of the chapel looking very despondent.  I asked how she was and she said, "Somehow not so good."  I talked with her briefly than made a stop to the bathroom.  As I walked back out I felt impressed to go sit with her and find the root of her sadness.

As I talked with her she opened up about how she and her three younger siblings are in the care of her aunt.  Her mother left two years ago and they haven't heard from her since.   "Z" tries to help take care of them by selling, buying and then reselling small vegetables.  She does not make very much.  

I asked about her father and she said he left eight years ago.  She explained that he was a drunkard  that went around with a lot of women.    When I questioned her further about her mother she said, ""She left and it's all my fault."  I knew right where this conversation was going.  I could feel it.  She said, "My father was not a good man....he did things....."  I directly asked, "Did your father sexually abuse you?"  With tears in her eyes she slowly nodded.  I told her, "This is NOT your fault.  Your father was an evil man to do that to a young girl.   What were you about eleven or twelve?"  Again she nodded.  I reiterated to her that it was not her fault and that her father was completely responsible for what he did.    I pulled out my scriptures and read to her Alma 7:11.  I told her that the Savior does not want her to carry around that burden.  He suffered for the PAINS and the sicknesses of His people.  I told her that she can give that to the Savior because He understands how she feels and she does not have to shoulder that anymore.  I encouraged her to talk with the Branch President and he could help here resolve issues that she is struggling with.  

I thought about her most of the night.  I was angry with a man that calls himself a father and does that to an innocent child.  "Z" is a beautiful woman and she has been deeply scarred because of him.  I can't stand the thought of innocent children being abused.  I know it happens everyday all around the world.  Usually, I feel quite distant from child slavery, child abuse, and hungry and homeless children.   I like to live in my safe bubble and not have to think about the evils of the world.  But still they are there.  And they are prevalent.  
Someday these monsters who take advantage of children will reap their reward.  

And lastly......

Elder Phelps and I scheduled a meeting with some perspective missionaries to help them fill out their mission papers.  Some of them had told us they were having some struggles getting that done.  While I was helping Mercy with hers, Elder Phelps was helping another young man in a separate room.  One of our sweet friends, Mirembe, walked in with all of her paperwork.  I asked her to wait a few minutes right by us at the table while I finished up with Mercy.  Seeing that Mercy had a few pages left I asked Mirembe to start filling in the simple information i.e.; name, birthdate, where she lives, etc.......

After a few minutes I noticed that she barely had her name filled out.  I got up for something and as I was coming back I noticed Mercy writing on a paper and Mirembe copying the words.  I asked what she was doing and Mercy said,  "She does not know how to write.  I was helping her to know how to write the word Mbale."   Just as a back story.....we have spent much time with Mirembe.  She does not speak English but she always gives me a hug and asks "How are you?"  I have tried to speak to her in the past but she just smiles and does not know how to answer.  

Mercy told me at this point that Mirembe never had the chance to go to school.  Her mother passed away giving birth to her and her twin.  The twin did not make it either.  Mirembe was raised by her father and for some reason he did not send her to school.  Mercy said,  "She has not even read the Book of Mormon."  My mind was we have a 22 year old woman who does not speak English, cannot read or write, and has not read the Book of Mormon. and wants to serve a mission.    How could she possibly serve?  Missionaries teach from the Book of Mormon.  How can she answer questions let alone find a reference for an investigator?  How can she know the ins and outs of Preach My Gospel without knowing how to read?

I kindly asked Mercy to tell her that we will finish her paperwork another time.  I asked her to let Mirembe know that because she can not read or write that we would have to talk to President Collings to see if she would even be able to serve a mission.  Mirembe put her head down as I was trying to think of something to say to help her feel better.  Pretty soon I saw huge tears falling from her cheeks.  Tears welled up in my eyes as well.  I got very close to her and said,  "Don't give up hope!  We will talk to President Collings and see what he says.  Even if you are not allowed to serve a mission there are so many things that you CAN do!  You can serve as a Branch Missionary and teach people right here in Mbale.  You can receive other callings and serve here in the branch."  I realized as I spoke that my vain attempts at making her feel better were NOT working.  

She got up from the table and went into the bathroom.  I was heartsick!  I felt like I had just crushed her life's dream.   Mirembe is a very faithful member of the church.  She is the only member in her family.  The fact that she has never even read the B of M and still has a strong testimony of the Gospel tells what kind of faith she has.  She has wanted to serve a mission for a long time.  This came as a complete surprise to her.  After about five minutes,  I went to check on her.  I stepped into the bathroom and could hear her sobbing in the stall.  I knocked on the door softly calling her name and she timidly opened the door.  I wrapped my arms around her and we cried together.  I told her not to lose hope and that Heavenly Father loves her and will take care of her.  I told her that Elder Phelps will talk with President Collings and we will see what his counsel is.  After a few minutes I left her to herself and went back out.

This was hard.  Really.  I hate the fact that good people have such limitations.  We and our children have had the great blessing of attending school and learning.  There was never any worry about coming up with funds to provide an education for our children.  There are many illiterate people here in Uganda.  Most of this new generation is being educated but still there are some that cannot afford to go to school.  Usually students are well over eighteen before they even finish high school because they have missed previous years because of lack of funds.  

Many children are sent away to boarding school which is a completely different subject that I abhor.    Just today, Sarah Butali had a young child with her in church.  The child was not yet three but Sarah was taking her from her mother to start her schooling.  
The child is only TWO and leaving her mother.  It breaks my heart!  
It is true that education will help children to have a better life than their parents but to send them away to a boarding school is not right!  (In my humble opinion)

Schooling began again last week after a two month break.  So many people are struggling to come up with the funds to pay for school fees.  We have had three different people approach us this week to see if we could help pay for their children's school fees.  It is hard to tell them no but we have to.  It is against mission rules to give money to people.  We will sometimes help people to have food if they have none but we have been directly counseled to not give money.  Sometimes we are not the best at this but we have been trying lately to be better and to heed the counsel of our leaders.  

I thought about Mirembe the whole evening.  Worried about her.  
Sometimes life is just hard!!

(Update: Elder Phelps talked with President Collings just this morning and he suggested that she take a couple of years to learn to read and speak English and to prepare herself in that way.  We spoke with her today after church and she is willing to work very hard to do this.  She has tried before unsuccessfully but she REALLY wants to be a missionary so Elder Phelps and I will try to find a way to help her learn:)  We are looking for people who could help in this process.  

I think that's all to report!  With missionary life there are lots of rollercoaster emotional ups and downs.  I know that Heavenly Father will take care of each of his children and that eventually things will work out.  
We must have faith in that!

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