Sunday, March 30, 2014

Week 56...Karuma Falls

I warned you we'd be cutting back to one blog post every two weeks or so for certainly the work would begin to not slow down but become routine enough that it would not be necessary to repeat to you current events....well, it hasn't happened yet.  Each new week brings newness.

"Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done this unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
One of our blog readers wrote in part: “In your blogs, you have done an excellent job in describing the culture … medical facilities and living conditions the Ugandan people … endure…. What roll does the church play in helping these people?...”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always followed the admonition of the Savior to care for the poor and the needy.  Under current world conditions, the needs far exceed resources, but there is a tremendous amount that is being done through church avenues.

One of these is through member donations to fast offerings, a practice that began in Old Testament times (i.e., Isaiah 58) and continues today  At least once a month, faithful members voluntarily abstain from food and drink for a specific amount of time, then donate the equivalent or more as an offering to assist the poor.  If needs are minor locally, the moneys are used in other parts of the world and are distributed through a local LDS bishop or branch president.  Where possible, the recipient renders some kind of service in return, thus preserving his/her dignity while receiving welfare assistance. Nearly EVERYONE here is in need, so sacred fast offering funds are discerningly disbursed, generally used for medical or hospital expenses.  Though food here may appear scanty – sometimes one meal a day – most everyone has access to food from plots of land in their village.  Clothes are purchased second-hand, often the bundles of clothes the church sends, but they are disbursed through the government to local vendors. 

Another way the people are assisted is through LDS Charities.  In the last decade alone, LDS Charities has provided 100s of millions of dollars in goods and services to people in 179 countries, without any regard to race, religious affiliation or nationality and is based on the core principles of personal responsibility, community support, self-reliance and sustainability.  Some of the ways the church has helped here in Uganda are:

·                   Food production and processing
·                   Donating used clothing, blankets, mosquito nets, household goods;
·                   Dental, vision and medical care; neo-natal training; immunizations
                Business, marketing, budgeting and self-reliance training
·                   Equipment and supplies for schools, hospitals and clinics
·                  Wheelchair distributions
·                  Atmit for malnourished/starving children                       
           Clean water and well projects

The church has also set up excellent agricultural projects.  The following link is to a fascinating short (4 min.)video about cassava farming.  Cassava is a staple in Northern Uganda, as well as in neighboring DR Congo.  The Church has produced a new variety that generates much more food, is disease resistant and can be harvested in 10-12 months, rather than the typical 18-24 months. You’ll enjoy seeing true African living from this little clip.

Additionally, the church helps qualified adults seeking educational/vocational training through the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF). 

100% of donations to LDS Charities and PEF go directly to projects or needs.  All overhead expenses are paid by the church itself from separate funds.

Most importantly, the Church teaches the people the Lord’s way of leaving poverty and becoming self-reliant, which includes paying a full tithing, or 10% of their income.  While the wisdom of the world scoffs that such a practice could provide temporal as well as spiritual blessings, the Old Testament prophet Malachi, in speaking for the Lord, taught:

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me know herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10)

The Lord blesses those who follow His counsel – even when the amount paid is extremely small – far greater blessings than any sacrifice made to help build up the kingdom of God.  

Just this Friday, Prossy, one of our young single moms who had come to me a few months ago broken-hearted about her financial situation, was now excitedly sharing her own testimony of how she and her two young boys had been blessed since she started paying tithing on the bananas and avocados she sells in a market.  Nothing is as heartwarming as seeing the glow in the faces of beautiful Africans like Prossy, who are exercising faith, trusting in the Lord, and who are now feeling the peace, happiness and temporal blessings that come from putting the Lord first. 

Beautiful Prossy

We add our testimony that paying tithing is a privilege which we could never afford NOT to pay!

Karuma Falls

Every time we cross the Nile we look eastward and see some magnificent rapids.  They are called Karuma Falls but to me they look more like rapids.  They are just a little over an hour south of us on the way to Kampala.  We generally see a hundreds of baboons and monkeys on the road waiting for handouts.  They have learned it’s easier to wait for handouts than it is to work…sound familiar? 

Awesome, roaring water, even in the low rainy season we are in.  (Rainy season is just cranking up.)  As a matter of fact, we got caught in our first heavy rain of the year on the way home…some phenomenal looking clouds having developed just before the downpour.

This week we took the missionaries to the falls, having learned from a neighbor that one can actually hike to them…just about 15 minutes off the highway.  The elders cooked hamburgers and Pam prepared the condiments, potato salad, deviled eggs, baked beans, watermelon and chocolate cake so we could have a real picnic at the falls.  The African elders had never seen anything like this before.  They were so excited to be there.  There are pictures below. 

The trees are called “climbing trees”.  Just what you would imagine Tarzan using to swing from tree to tree in.  The vines, to me, are not really vines but branches that come off the trees and get narrower the further away from the trunk they grow.  Maybe that is exactly what a vine is.  We all did some swinging.

I spotted two Monitor Lizards about 3 ½-4 feet long…one just 10 yards away from me scampering away and the other on a rock in the still water.  Tough to see him/her in the picture.  As I moved closer, it slithered into the water.

One can stay overnight in a tent for 30,000 shillings…$12.  There are hippos that meander around the tents at night but don’t seem to bother anyone.  Also crocodiles a good distance away in the water.

At the base of the falls.

The Monitor Lizard sunning on a rock.
This is merely an extension of a branch that has fallen to the ground due to its weight but still growing round and round and up another tree.
 Water weeds or reeds simply circling around in an eddy.  You can see the violent current of water at the top of the weeds.  Simply amazing to me how item(s) can be so close to rushing water and not get sucked in.
 This sole bloom on a rock in the river.
 Pam getting ready to climb onto a "vine" and swing.

 And she's off!

 Photo's don't do this justice.  Storm clouds gathering...awe inspiring.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Week 55

Different drug story

Four year old Nellie just got out of the hospital two days ago for Malaria and possibly typhoid fever.  We took her and her mom to pick up their two prescribed medicines.  One that she was to take for three days cost about 2300 shillings ($1).  The other was for vitamin A, but the pharmacy didn’t have it, so they sent us to another one.  Interestingly, the “prescription” was for one tablet only of vitamin A!  We checked the prescription, but that was it: one tablet!   Vitamin A is for vision!

Truly, one person can make a difference

William  "Will" Tardio

We met William Tardio a year ago when one of our BYU friends invited Will to join us for Easter dinner.  Steve went back to the states last summer, but we have continued our friendship with Will and recently enjoyed some time with his parents while they were visiting here to celebrate Will’s 25th birthday.  They were not here for the safaris, but to help Will with some of his projects.  As you’ll soon discover, Will comes from an amazing (Catholic) family...dedicated not only to the people of Uganda, but to serving others around the world.  First, about Will:

In 2006 while in high school, Will, along with a teacher and two other students attended a global awareness conference in their hometown, Cincinnati, OH. One of the presentations was by the organization “Invisible Children” which told about the youth in No. Uganda and their night commutes from the village to town to avoid abduction or death from Kony’s army.  Will and his friends were so moved by the story that they returned to school and started raising awareness for the children of Northern Uganda and providing financial support for Invisible Children.

Two years later Will and a former high school alumnus met the headmistress of a primary school in Gulu.  A relationship developed and for the next three summers, Will would travel to Gulu to work at the school.  In 2011, after graduating from Miami University, he moved to Gulu for direct involvement in Unified for Uganda (“U4U”), the organization he started.  U4U continues to raise funds and provide scholarships for the destitute children in Gulu, who are often HIV positive or orphans of the war, thus giving them a real chance through education in their harsh environment. Unlike most organizations, 100% of donations received go to education.

U4U is a student run organization which now has 30+ chapters and is continuing to grow.  If you check out the website which Will developed and maintains, you will likely feel as I did, how his work – and the subsequent work of many other passionate students – is having a positive impact on people in the states as well as impoverished students here in Gulu. 

U4U continues to expand and now has its own NGO status, an office in Gulu, and serves children in primary as well as secondary and vocational schools. Each child has a mentor who offers support and counseling.

Will also started Vantage in March 2012 , an internet café in Gulu that has reliable WiFi, printing and computer repair. The cafe will someday help with the sustainability of U4U. Vantage is currently being operated by three Ugandans.

Will's most recent project is developing a computer training center. Anyone who has lived here knows how difficult it is to get something of this magnitude accomplished, but after a year of many delays and much hard work, a building was procured, is now being refurbished and will be up and running by this summer! The goal of this center is to offer state of the art computer classes to qualify Ugandans for computer employment.

Will is gradually turning the management of these programs over to others. He will return to the U.S. in July 2014.  He hopes to pursue non-profit work in other countries in the future. 

Will truly is an inspiration to us, as his actions continuously demonstrate the pure love of Christ:

And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

…Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
(Moroni 7: 45, 47)

We were surprised to learn Chris and Sarah’s three other children have also dedicated much of their lives to service, Two daughters have both served as nurses in third world countries and his younger brother works in the states assisting in the rehabilitation of troubled youth!  Neither acclaim nor personal gain has been the driving force in their occupations.  I asked Sarah what she and Chris did to help instill such a profound love of service in their children.  She was humble in her response.  One of them had mentioned how as young children Sarah often took them to the nursing home to serve people there.  She taught them even at age 5 that life was not about them.  She also told about her father who did a lot of philanthropy work, particularly in Mexico and Russia and how the children were (at least occasionally) involved in some of this service.  What a powerful lesson this is for each of us, reaffirming the truthful adage, “train up a child in the way he shall go and he shall not depart from it”.  What a legacy this good family has created for their posterity!  We are inspired by their powerful example.

Will's parents, Chris and Sarah


A couple of Uganda Scouts off to a scout meeting one recent Saturday morning.
Is this one of the best looking young men you have ever seen?  One of our missionaries just transferred from Gulu to serve as a Zone Leader over other younger/newer missionaries elsewhere.  He wears this hat on transfer day.  Elder Latola is from South Africa.  Sweet, soft-spoken, dedicated to the work.  We already miss him.

The work is progressing!
Women washing clothes for family/friends who are patients at the hospital.  Gulu Referral...government run.
Photo above and below of Gulu Regional Referral Hospital.  The gutters on the buildings run water to the holding tank once the rainy season begins...which was about a week ago.   Was dry this week but next week promises to be cooler and wetter...YEA!

Children's ward of Gulu Regional Referral Hospital.
This is the gate to the Bardege Chapel grounds.  A small door one must stoop down in order to enter.
After 12 months, I still manage to scrape my head on the metal gate as I'm coming and going.  Very painful. Sometimes it is hard to keep my religion here.
An interesting article on the Church in Africa found in December 2013 LIAHONA Magazine of the Church.
Cut and paste into URL.

Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about how the Sabbath is a special time for families to be together and reviewed 10 other activities of the many that are worthy of the Sabbath day: “This is the time we are to attend our regular meetings together, study the life and teachings of the Savior and of the prophets. ‘Other appropriate Sunday activities include (1) writing personal and family journals, (2) holding family councils, (3) establishing and maintaining family organizations for the immediate and extended family, (4) personal interviews between parents and children, (5) writing to relatives and missionaries, (6) genealogy, (7) visiting relatives and those who are ill or lonely, (8) missionary work, (9) reading stories to children, and (10) singing Church hymns.’ [“Suggestions for Individual and Family Sabbath-Day Activities,” Ensign, Mar. 1980, 76]” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2003, 44; or Ensign, May 2003, 42).
President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke of the reality of spiritual disorders that can cause powerful suffering:
“There is another part of us, not so tangible, but quite as real as our physical body. This intangible part of us is described as mind, emotion, intellect, temperament, and many other things. Very seldom is it described as spiritual.
“But there is a spirit in man; to ignore it is to ignore reality. There are spiritual disorders, too, and spiritual diseases that can cause intense suffering.
“The body and the spirit of man are bound together. Often, very often, when there are disorders, it is very difficult to tell which is which” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 89; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 59).

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Week 54

                                              DRUGS, DRUGS AND MORE DRUGS. In Uganda one can walk into a pharmacy and get just about any drug available...sleeping aids, valium, any kind of name, you want it, just ask for it.  That was the case until yesterday, however.  I have caught a pretty nasty cold/'flu with a little fever, headache.  Aspirin has always been my wonder drug working better than ibuprofen or the other new fangled pain/fever reducers.  So I walk into a new clinic yeterday, very reputable name and ask for some aspirin.  "Do you have a prescription?",  I'm asked.  "No, in America you just pick aspirin up off the shelve and pay for it."  The pharamacist was very reluctant to give me any so I says, "OK, keep your aspirin and I'll take the Ibuprophen".  He says, "OK, I'll give you 10 aspirin but only take one a day."  Go figure!

We were in Kampala recently for a farewell for 2 couples heading home.  Elder and Sister Jonson and the Barton's.  Elder Jonson has served as our mission “doctor” for 18 months, tried to extend a few months but his replacement had already been called to serve.  The Barton’s are heading home via Egypt and Israel.  Pam and I were fortunate to visit Israel a number of years ago.  If you want the best perspective on the life of the Savior, this is a trip you really should do if you have the means…Jim.  Do your part to keep the world economy afloat while at the same time increasing your carbon footprint while burning jet fuel to fly half way around the world.  It’s a win-win.  Of course, if you don't believe  in man-made global warming, it takes half the fun out of the trip.

Patrick Kumakech, new branch president of Gulu Branch.  Recently returned from his 2 year mission to Ghana.
This fellow just turned 96 years old.  Lives on the egg farm where we purchase fresh eggs.  Well educated. Speaks great English.  Former military trainer. Can quote Isaiah. One tooth with  major gum problems but a very happy, delightful man.  As mentioned previously average life span in UG is 45 years.
 A picture of him in his 60's.
On a recent trip to Gulu from Uganda...nearly a whiteout on the dusty, gravel road under construction. Our air filter and a/c cabin filter require changing more often than normal.  I have taken these out and simply banged them on the ground or vacuumed them with a shop vac to get a little more mileage out of them. Have also taken to service station where they use compressed air to blow out the filters.
You remember Nighty who recently got a job as a cook at at local school for 80 cents a day.  We were visiting her and while she was telling us the good news, her cute daughter Nellie, fell asleep standing on her feet but leaning over on a wooden table.

 Need to move some furniture but have no truck?  No problem.  Hire a boda.  Just make sure it is balanced.

This is a very nice restaurant on the highway nearly halfway between Gulu and Kampala.  We stop here coming and going to order a takeout.  Usually some samosas...hamburger meat fried up in a crispy dough shell.  Sometimes a rolex...nickname for a scrambled egg, rolled up in a chipatia bread like dough...flattened out so one can roll up an egg in it, hence the name rolleggs or rolex....  A host of menu items.
President Spencer W. Kimball offered the following counsel for when we witness suffering:

“If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective.
“Is there not wisdom in his giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?
“If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.
“If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil—all would do good but not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, only satanic controls.
“Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life and godhood” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1973], 97).

Elder Orson F. Whitney (1855–1931) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that everything we experience teaches us valuable lessons: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven” (cited in Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 98).


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Week 53

 (Pam) Dogs in the Compound
Last week some people moved into the compound bringing two larger dogs with them.  Lelah and Tucker are very sweet, but  I was a little concerned how they and Big Momma (our adopted stray cat) would get along.  Initially the dogs would come down and eat Momma’s food off our porch.  I moved the food inside.  The dogs would nonchalantly walk inside and eat her food.  However, nature took care of things in its own way.  After a day or so Big Momma got over her trepidation of the dogs.  Since then each time they have ventured down, we would hear whining and yelping.  That’s happened five or six times.  The dogs have now learned to stay away from her territory.  So now we have chickens, a cat and two dogs that peacefully co-habit our compound.  And the compound’s  mice (we have none)  are on the verge of extinction due to Big Momma’s prowess.  I understand why a cat is the king of the jungle.  They can handle both the big and the small problems. 

(Pam) Schools in Gulu
Ugandan children old and young understand it is a great blessing to be able to go to school.  In most instances they are happy to go and enjoy learning.  It’s heartwarming walking by some of the primary schools hearing the chants and songs between teacher and pupils. 

Unfortunately  for many school is not possible because of fees,  uniforms, and other expenses.   Those fees in our area range from 80,000 ($32) to 400,000 shillings a term, plus exam fees.  While that doesn’t sound expensive, for the vast majority who are unemployed or receiving below subsistence wages, the costs are insurmountable .  Fortunately, a small percentage of schools and students are assisted by NGOs and other non-profit organizations.

One of our branch leaders is pleased that at her  9 yr old son’s  public primary school has only only 80 students in the  class, compared to the 150+ in most classes.  She said the school is excellent, and since her son is a bright boy, he generally goes to school one hour early (7:00) and stays until 6:00.  On a first come/first serve basis many of the better public schools will allow a small number of students to participate in this additional learning time. 

Most of the public schools do not have books for their students.  The teacher may have the only book on a given subject.  Private schools have more, often a book shared by five students  or the students buy their own books.  Books here are more expensive than in the states, probably because of the shipping costs.  Nearly all teaching is via rote.  The teacher reads something from his/her book and then has the students repeat it back several times.  They also do this with all writings on the board.    

Because teacher’s wages are low with little direct accountability, they frequently do not show for school or they may leave several hours early, but since schools  give the state-monitored  term/year-end exams, the teachers often require the students to attend on Saturday.  I have heard this is against the law, but it happens all the time.  Students also are often required to attend special prep classes on weekends to prepare them for the state-based exams. 

When a child reaches Primary 7 (sixth grade equivalent), he/she is often sent to a boarding school, which may be local or in another city.  Boarding schools take more than 50% of our senior level church youth.  (You may recall last week we about one of our former Relief Society presidents, a single mom with four girls, who cooks every day for a local boarding school and makes 70,000 shillings or $28 a month.)  Students in boarding schools are not allowed to leave school at any time, including Sundays for worship, until the term ends and everyone has a “holiday” for a month or so.  In the better boarding schools, which are all competing for top university placings, the students have study classes til midnight and are up at 4 or 4:30am for more mentoring  with the teachers.  If a student falls asleep they are “caned”.  Students are used to the rigorous schedule and are able to manage on little sleep.  I’m sure it also helps keep them out of trouble! 

Due to the challenging circumstances, most students do NOT  graduate from high school.  S4 (10th grade) is considered a very good achievement.  Most are in their 20s when they complete this.  Only a few – at least in Northern Uganda – are able to complete Senior level 6. Of course to get the certificate all fees must be paid in total.  One of Ugandan missionaries  we sent out owed over 800,000 shillings in back exam fees that needed to be paid to get his S6 certification. 

This past week was especially challenging for many students in Gulu.  Students are allowed to attend for a week or two without paying their fees, but on Friday all who hadn’t were booted out.  The children are very tearful about this often demanding that their parents find a way to come up with the money.  This scenario is so pervasive that there is no way the church or missionaries can help with those needing money for school fees, but we were informed about  this situation with one of our leaders so we stopped by to offer her moral support.  It turned out she AND her 17 year old daughter  had both made purse bags and scripture bags by hand and had done an excellent job.  I told the daughter that instead of expecting her older widowed mother to provide everything for her, she could assist by making more of these bags and selling them.  I told her that (contrary to what they perceive about all Americans being rich and lazy) all of our children had jobs and worked hard besides going to school and it would benefit the whole family if she worked hard  during the next week to help get the needed money.  I told mother and daughter I would provide the materials, deducting the cost from their profit and would buy the first 8 bags for family members back in the states.  That would not give them all the money they needed, but enough to get them back in school for a few weeks while the mother continued to make and sell the bags.  The mother thought it was a great idea and began sewing as soon as I brought her the cut out bags.   The daughter reacted as many teenagers in the states – not THAT interested – especially if mom would do it all for her!  I don’t think that will remain the case.  This is a good young woman who will step up to the plate to do her part.      

I’m proud of the Ugandan students who do work very hard.  Their buildings and their materials are far below what we have in America, but their determination far exceeds that of most American students.  We can learn a lot from their unwavering willpower to succeed. 

An interesting thing is that those who completed S6, the highest level of high school, are required to wait a full year before they can enter a university program.  The students’ university level field of study is chosen by the government, based on the student’s  test scores.
The link below in honor of my longest running best friend and cuz Julian MacQueen, Founder and CEO of Innisfree Hotels based in Gulf Breeze, FL.  Next time you are booking a room on Pensacola Beach, remember this article and support those who support high moral standards.  All 3 of my sons have worked for Julian...Brooks, who promised never to leave Dallas couldn't pass up the opportunity to be Julian's CFO.  Wyatt who worked in new hotel/condo construction development, promised never to leave the beach but lives in Dallas now and Lawrence who molded new hotel guests like puddy in his hands at the front desk of the Hilton, never promised to live in any one place more than 12 months and has bounced from Columbus, OH, to VA to AK, to Russian to Dallas to Houston and now to WY in the last 3 years.  

Cut and paste the link if you need to.
 Young Single Adults at Family Home Evening...I don't know what game they are playing but cards is a real past time over here among the unemployed...which is most of the population.
 Big push to get this procedure done in the belief it will prevent, reduce HIV spread.  The only thing that will do that is living the law of chastity  It's really all quite simple.  Most people hacking at the leaves trying to find solutions to our social problems when the solutions are very, very simple and right in front of us.
Pam has taught the older sisters and the youth girls how to hand sew purse/bags and scripture bags.
One sister made 4 of these in about that many days and already sold 2 of them for just under 20,000 shillings a piece helping her to become self-reliant.  Equally important, the money she is making is being saved to go to the temple in Johannesburg, South Africa.  She will never make enough for that trip but after she has done all she can do, the Church will assist with the remaining expense.

After months of waiting we were finally able to get our facilities management folks in Kampala to install a real volley ball standard in our Bardege Chapel parking lot.  The young singles play nearly every Monday night for family home evening.  Occasionally the American missionaries join in and really put on a show.


This shot dedicated to son Wyatt...Ole Blue doing well in Uganda.  Sugar cane off to the market.



President Joseph F. Smith explained: “It is true I am weak enough to weep at the death of my friends and kindred. I may shed tears when I see the grief of others. I have sympathy in my soul for the children of men. I can weep with them when they weep; I can rejoice with them when they rejoice; but I have no cause to mourn, nor to be sad because death comes into the world. … All fear of this death has been removed from the Latter-day Saints. They have no dread of the temporal death, because they know that as death came upon them by the transgression of Adam, so by the righteousness of Jesus Christ shall life come unto them, and though they die they shall live again. Possessing this knowledge, they have joy even in death, for they know that they shall rise again and shall meet again beyond the grave” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1899, 70).

Elder D Todd Christofferson
The Moral Force of Women continued....

There has long been a cultural double standard that expected women to be sexually circumspect while excusing male immorality. The unfairness of such a double standard is obvious, and it has been justifiably criticized and rejected. In that rejection, one would have hoped that men would rise to the higher, single standard, but just the opposite has occurred—women and girls are now encouraged to be as promiscuous as the double standard expected men to be. Where once women’s higher standards demanded commitment and responsibility from men, we now have sexual relations without conscience, fatherless families, and growing poverty. Equal-opportunity promiscuity simply robs women of their moral influence and degrades all of society.9 In this hollow bargain, it is men who are “liberated” and women and children who suffer most.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Week 52

How do we make our one year anniversary blog post as special as it could be?   Well, it's just another week and we are feeling most inadequate in our abilities to accomplish all we'd like to.  Each day brings more challenges.  We are falling behind and time is marching on.  While with the Mission President last week we learned there is not a single senior missionary couple replacing the next 5 couples to leave the mission between now and July.  Then two more couples leave in September and October, us included.  No word of replacements for any couple thus far. Couples are usually called about five months out so they have adequate time to prepare everything needed at home. There has been a big increase in the number of missions this past year, but not a significant increase in the number of senior couples, so every mission is experiencing a decrease in couples.  We sadly tell our local priesthood leaders that we will likely not be replaced, at least not anytime soon .  We are approaching a time in Gulu and throughout the mission that local branches will have to learn to stand on their own -- sink or swim.  I shared that news to our two Branch Presidents this week and I could sense their anxiety - and rightfully so. This area has been in war for so many years with most living in the bush during that time that learning and reasoning skills we take for granted are often lacking.  They people are capable but they have subsisted in survival mode for many decades.    Pam and I are stepping up our training schedule and doing less and less for the branches to help them become self-reliant by the time we leave.

Three more countries added to our viewing audience last week: China, Canada, Poland.

The Gulu Branch’s former Relief Society President (Women’s Auxilliary), Nighty, has just been hired as a cook at a nearby school working 7 days week.    That’s the good news.  She cooks the same menu everyday…beans and posho (sort of like grits but cooked til they are hard/firm/stuck together. The locals eat with their fingers, tearing off some posho and dipping it into the beans.) The children are used to the humdrum diet.    Worse news for Nighty../her work prevents her from attending Church.  Her salary is 70,000 shillings per month or 2300 day or 80 cents.  Even here, not near enough to survive on.  If she doesn’t grow a garden, she doesn’t eat.  There are 4 girls at home.  Fortunately for daughter Fiona, Nightly solicited the aid of Save the Children  and they are providing her schooling to learn a trade…two trades actually, hair dressing and tailoring.  What a blessing this will be for her and the family.  Nighty’s husband left her when she could not provide him with a baby boy.  Nighty has a sewing machine but really needs to move it to the market where she can drum up business.  There are a lot of seamstresses in Gulu at the market so there is plenty of competition to boot.  Moving her equipment and renting a place at the market requires cash, which she does not have.


Last spring we met a guy I’ll call Cinderfella, a recent young single adult convert.  He wanted to go on a mission so Brooks helped him find employment, but he was reported as not a good worker who complained a lot.  I hired him to help with a project at our compound, but the simple task was poorly done.  He was also often laughed at by peers because of some of his actions and comments.  Then we learned that he had stolen a pair of the missionaries shoes off their front porch (another missionary caught him wearing the shoes.  Cinderfella replied he thought they were Sister Moore’s – not the missionaries – as if stealing from me was all right!)  He lied to his branch president, so Brooks had a long talk with him about honesty and work ethic advising him we would not assist him any more in finding work.  If he was serious about a mission, Cinderfella would need to make a lot of changes as well as find his own way to pay for the required mission minimum.

Fast forward six months:   

Cinderfella continued to attend church and institute, usually sitting quietly, but I would occasionally see him reading from the scriptures.  Not too long ago was able to exercise Priesthood duties by blessing the sacrament.  Brooks met with him and found out that he had also obtained a job issuing parking tickets to cars parked illegally (there are not many cars in Gulu, but nearly every space is illegal).  He doesn’t make much, but he had saved nearly enough to cover his mission minimum.  He was recently asked to teach one of the institute lessons and did a good job engaging the other students through the scriptures.  A few weeks ago he gave a talk in sacrament meeting.  I was sitting so far back that I couldn’t see who was speaking, The voice sounded like Cinderfella’s but I thought “surely not” as this speaker was so humble, so articulate, and expressed a moving testimony filled with the Spirit.

After the meeting, I learned that it was Cinderfella!  A mighty change has come over this young man as he has diligently worked to overcome his “natural man” instincts.  His whole countenance has changed through the application of Gospel principles in his life.  As President Hinckley used to say,  living the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ “makes bad men good and good men better”.   

“… the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just – yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them – therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.”  (Alma 31:5)

President Boyd K. Packer affirms “the study of the doctrine (of Christ) will change behavior quicker than the study of behavior will change behavior.”

Cinderfella’s transformation also demonstrates how we are “born again”:
“ And now… king Benjamin … desir[ed] to know of his people if they believed the words [of Christ] which he had spoken unto them. 

“And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Ominipotent, which has wrought a might change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”  (Mosiah 5: 1-2)

What a blessing it has been to witness these changes in the hearts of our African brothers and sisters.

African children learn to work early.  It's not optional in a subsistence living environment.  The children become very strong.  Perhaps it is a blessing to help them fight off the many diseases prevalent here.

This 5 year old stoking the fire.  Parents weren't home when we dropped by.  No problem.  She'll have the fire ready and the meal in the pot all ready for their arrival.

 A little blowing and
Bingo...soups on! (cabbage or beans)

Came across two vehicles parked next to one another the other day.  One above, the other below.

Sweet, brave Louise.  He was the child who was burned so terribly when his brother died after someone set fire to the hut they were sleeping in.  His family had been changing his bandages about every 3 days.  We visited a couple of weeks ago and it was time for a change.  The dried bandages were stuck terribly to his open burn wounds.  As his sister worked gently to pull the bandages away from his burns, he winced but never whimpered.  We've seen this bravery time and again.  The African people seem to be used to suffering and bear it without much complaint or asking "why me?".  We've provided some new bandages and ointment and instructed his sister to change his bandage everyday.  No more pain in removing the old dressing.  Saw his father this week.  He is a school teacher in Northern Uganda near the Sudan border.  Leaves on Monday, returns on Friday.  Salary is 250,000 shillings/month or only $100. Certainly above average but his son's school fees cost 400,000 and he is trying to get his daughter, Lucky, off on a full time 18 month mission for the Church.  They also have a pig pen maintaining several pigs to sell for school fees.

This is what is left of the hut Louise and his brother were sleeping in.  Sits one hut over from his family's home.  All the children sleep under one roof now...the the parents larger house...larger than a hut, that is.  This family has much more than most in our area.

Hanging in their home.  The people we have met truly display of the Heavenly virtues of patience and long-suffering.
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counseled us to turn to the Lord when we face trials: “I have come to understand how useless it is to dwell on the whys, what ifs, and if onlys for which there likely will be given no answers in mortality. To receive the Lord’s comfort, we must exercise faith. The questions Why me? Why our family? Why now? are usually unanswerable questions. These questions detract from our spirituality and can destroy our faith. We need to spend our time and energy building our faith by turning to the Lord and asking for strength to overcome the pains and trials of this world and to endure to the end for greater understanding” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 16; orEnsign, Nov. 1998, 14–15).
Elder D Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The  Moral Force of Women continued...
"A pernicious philosophy that undermines women’s moral influence is the devaluation of marriage and of motherhood and homemaking as a career. Some view homemaking with outright contempt, arguing it demeans women and that the relentless demands of raising children are a form of exploitation.8 They ridicule what they call “the mommy track” as a career. This is not fair or right. We do not diminish the value of what women or men achieve in any worthy endeavor or career—we all benefit from those achievements—but we still recognize there is not a higher good than motherhood and fatherhood in marriage. There is no superior career, and no amount of money, authority, or public acclaim can exceed the ultimate rewards of family. Whatever else a woman may accomplish, her moral influence is no more optimally employed than here.
"Attitudes toward human sexuality threaten the moral authority of women on several fronts. Abortion for personal or social convenience strikes at the heart of a woman’s most sacred powers and destroys her moral authority. The same is true of sexual immorality and of revealing dress that not only debases women but reinforces the lie that a woman’s sexuality is what defines her worth"