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"

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