Sunday, April 27, 2014

Week 60

Exciting news about the Easter video the Church released Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday.  5 million hits through utube and over 100 million hits on Facebook alone.  We hope it touched or helped change the lives of believer and nonbelievers alike, bringing added peace and hope into their lives.

Back from Kampala last night.  We hitched a ride with our missionary zone leaders who went for their monthly training.  Riding in the back of their much smaller hard-body over North Ugandan roads was no picnic, but we appreciate our good Zone leader's driving skills.    

I (Brooks) had not been feeling well lately.  Was actually sittng at the dinner table the week before reading scriptures with Pam when I couldn’t see the words and she said I began to slur my reading.
She said, “Let’s quit, you can’t read”.  I agreed, placed my head in my hands, said “I don’t feel good.” and that is the last I remember.  She caught me as I went to the floor; she laid my head down gently while my legs were still in the chair.  I was out for a good number of minutes while she got the missionaries.  I came to as the missionaries administered to me.  Suffice it to say, there were all sorts of possibilities for what happened.  Our Kampala nurse sent me to the local private hospital the next day for blood work which was pretty whacked out with high white blood cell counts so now we could worry about a viral infection, heart condition, TIA (mini stroke) or even adult onset leukemia.

The church nurse conferred with South Africa medical staff and wanted me in Kampala for more extensive testing.  She said the hospital would be checking up the wazoo and back.  I said I had never had my wazoo checked but if it would be anything like a prostate exam, I would just stay in Gulu. 

I spent nearly a day with the nurse at two clinics…one doing an MRI on my brain, the other more blood work, tests, poking, pulling, BP, heart rate, EKG.  Even had a basil cell spot removed from my forehead.  These were very good hospital/clinics.  Bottom line there is nothing wrong with me that a reduction in my high BP medication and some other minor changes won’t take care of.  While standing my BP would drop to 100/60 from 125/80.  Not too bad but low enough to keep me tired and run down all the time.  My blood work came back positive so they concluded I had an infection of some sort. 

 The five senior missionary couples in Kampala are very busy with their individual assignments which are quite different than that of the Member-Leader-Support missionaries like ourselves.  We know we increase their workload when they host us and the other MLS missionary couples, but we thoroughly enjoy our stay with them.  We just hope they don't start calling us Elder and Sister Moocher because of all the free room and board we've had.  Pam comes home with new recipes after nearly every visit.

Our mission nurse, Sister Squire and and her husband replaced the Johnsons in March.  Like the Johnsons were, they are dedicated and loving to all they work with.  The following activities don't accurately portray the many hours involved in their service but these are just SOME of what they did just this past week:
  • back and forth to the hospital overseeing a missionary's pain management treatment for severe sickle cell anemia
  • innoculating many dozens of African missionaries who had not had Hepatitis A and B shots before leaving on their mission.
  • running over to mission home to treat a sick mission president and his wife, who just aren't "ALLOWED" any sick time
  • spending a day with Brooks, transporting him/us to the various clinics and pharmacy
  • Answering dozens of calls from missionaries across Uganda, Ethiopia and Rwanda with their specific needs

Yet, they always remain calm, cheerful and serve as if that person they are attending is their only concern!  Like the other couples we have grown to love, we are very grateful for our medical missionaries.  

Pam has a little contest going with some of the members who frequent our house.  Our (not-so) stray cat is expecting again.  Whoever gets the closest date to her delivery will get a milk shake.  We wondered if "Big Momma" would have had them when we came back, but not yet.  We'll keep all the cat lovers posted regarding the big event.  

A bigger event is that our son Wyatt and his wife Jaime are expecting their first child, Anne, in just a few days.  We hope they send us lots of pictures.  Even though so far away, we feel very connected to our children because of frequent calls through Skype and the many pictures and short videos of the grandchildren they send. 

                                        Some pics from this weeks Kampala Trip

Pulled into a petro station and you are approached by all sorts of street vendors.  This one selling pork on a stick.  Looks pretty good but I'm afraid pork on a stick will make me sick.  Have never bought one.
 Close up shot.
 Nathan, the baby of Christina, who cleans the flats where the senior couples stay in Kampala.  They don't come any cuter than this friendly little guy.  Often when we start talking to little children, they start screaming because they aren't used to whites, but not this fellow!

A couple of typical street signs heading out of town back home.
 And up the road, either going to or coming from a wedding.  A Brit all duded out with his tux and Union Jack with a beautiful bride.  They had been riding a bicycle.  There was a chain of aluminum cans tied behind the bike and dragging on the ground.


    Two of our missionaries a couple weeks ago at the Mission President's home at a super in their honor as they leave that night to fly home having receiving an honorable release after the missions have been completed...24 months for the elders, 18 months for the sisters.

    When I was growing up and on summer vacation Mom would take some domestic help to the beach with us to cook/clean so Mom could have more time to relax and be with her kids.  Mary, the help, had free time as well and she liked to fish off the dock.  She would catch what we called Sun Fish…mostly blood and bones…something we wouldn’t eat but she would. (We would throw it back or use it for bait.) She would batter her freshly caught fish and throw them into some hot oil having cleaned nothing...innards, head, scales…nothing.  Before cooking the fish, we would ask her if she was going to clean the fish and she would respond…”Lawd no.  I eat the eyes, ears and everything”.  

    This is a picture of a cows head being smoked on an open fire.  It will smoke for over an hour at which point the skull will be cut open and the brain will be removed and then boiled with onions, pepper and other vegetables and  eaten.  This isn’t something I could stomach but I think it is wonderful when people eat all that is  edible , all that God has provided them, wasting nothing.  I think He is pleased when we are not wasteful.  Something we are very inclined to do in the states. 


    Alma 5:57. “Come Ye Out from the Wicked … and Be Ye Separate”

  • Elder David R. Stone of the Seventy discussed how techniques used in the construction of the Manhattan New York Temple provide an example of how to remove oneself from the influence of the world:
    “Too many of the people of the world have come to resemble the Babylon of old by walking in their own ways and following a god ‘whose image is in the likeness of the world’ [D&C 1:16].
    “One of the greatest challenges we will face is to be able to live in that world but somehow not be of that world. We have to create Zion in the midst of Babylon. …
    “My involvement with the building of the Manhattan Temple gave me the opportunity to be in the temple quite often prior to the dedication. It was wonderful to sit in the celestial room and be there in perfect silence, without a single sound to be heard coming from the busy New York streets outside. How was it possible that the temple could be so reverently silent when the hustle and bustle of the metropolis was just a few yards away?
    “The answer was in the construction of the temple. The temple was built within the walls of an existing building, and the inner walls of the temple were connected to the outer walls at only a very few junction points. That is how the temple (Zion) limited the effects of Babylon, or the world outside.
    “There may be a lesson here for us. We can create the real Zion among us by limiting the extent to which Babylon will influence our lives.  “Wherever we are, whatever city we may live in, we can build our own Zion by the principles of the celestial kingdom and ever seek to become the pure in heart. …
“We do not need to become as puppets in the hands of the culture of the place and time. We can be courageous and can walk in the Lord’s paths and follow His footsteps” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2006, 94–97; or Ensign, May 2006, 90–93).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Week 59

Some of you will have seen this 3 min video has had top utube billing this week.  If you haven't, take time to watch.  Cut and paste into your URL if necessary.

Had some more lab work done at Gulu’s finest hospital this week...a private institution, frankly a little pricey but the reception area is as clean and nice as any hospital in the states.  Pam asked where the restroom was.  After going in, she decided she could wait.  It was the traditional hole in the ground with no toilet paper and no hand washing facility or soap.  I told her I noticed that also this morning. BUT outside the door on the counter was a large box of individually wrapped “sanitary wipes”…with a sign saying “Please take ”.  How nice I thought…at least they are trying to reduce the spread of disease in the hospital.  So we both took a few.  I open one of mine and it was a condom!  Wonderful!   No toilet paper, no soap, no sink to wash your hands but all the free condoms you'd like.  

This is not terribly interesting news but very significant to our young single adults…18-30 years.  As our mission is winding down and the likelihood increasing that we won’t be replaced as a senior couple, we continue to work hard so local leaders and organizations become as self-reliant as possible.  The most satisfying thing is watching how Institute (college age religion course) is a real success.  Even with school in session and many students away, we had 20 kids there last night.  And one of our return missionaries, Onen Vincent, a return missionary, is our newly called instructor.  He does a great job, leads good discussions, asks leading questions, waits on responses, begins and ends the class on time.  I’m just so proud of these group of kids and Vincent.  Its so rewarding hearing them sharing verses from the scriptures and teaching one another.  They truly are the light on the hill for Uganda.  

This self-reliant issue, which I have mentioned in past blog posts is so critical to the growth of the Church here.  Our people cannot rely on mzungus, white people, in this case white .  missionaries to move the Church forward.  I had a branch president call me the other day.  He needed some money to assist a sister from his branch’s welfare funds….we call them Fast Offering funds, (which we explained a few weeks ago.   If there are no local needs the funds are sent to SLC where they are used world-wide…every penny…no overhead salaries, admin expenses, etc.)  I told him I would not get him the money as he has 2 counselors, one of which is gainfully employed.  He could either borrow the money from his counselor and then reimburse him from their bank account or wait until they could meet together to co-sign the church check to get money from their bank account.   It's just easier for them to ask us to take care of it, but they need to learn to do these little matters for themselves.  All worked out as it should…relying on each other and not us missionaries.

For further doctrinal basis on living the law of the fast see Isaiah 68:6-11.  Some acquaintances make light of the Church’s practice of a monthly fast, but note how long God’s children have been practicing this commandment.  Focus not only on the purpose of the fast but on the promised blessings from the Lord to those who live this law.  That's the way it is with every commandment.  The blessings always outweigh whatever the sacrifice.  I add my witness to Isaiah’s testimony and millions more who fast monthly in our day that God does fulfill the promises he makes to those who to keep His commandments, or in my case, "try" to keep them. 

Each senior couple is issued two phones.  They are very basic phones - no voicemail or other features - and they look exactly alike.  Pam has a piece of yellow paper taped on the back of hers to help us differentiate.  A few days ago I dropped her off at the Gulu Branch chapel for her keyboard lessons.  She mentioned she didn’t have her phone with her so please pick her up at 3:30 at a given time.  When I went to pick her up, I took her phone with me and dropped it in the phone pouch of her purse, letting her know she had received a number of calls during that time.  She used the phone later that day in the evening.

The next morning she tells me she knows I gave her her phone but she can't find it.  She is worried because she has been calling her number through my phone but each time she gets a "busy" response .  Where did she leave it? Who could be using her phone?  I took the phone from her hand and showed her it was HER phone, not mine, she had been calling from!  If it is this bad at age 64, life is going to be pretty tough for each other and our poor children who may have to deal with us.

                                                              More of our members.

 More members...Susie Apiyo.  Recent convert and desiring to serve a mission.

William the Great Okeny...what a wonderful guy.  Made our nursery toy boxes. Submitting his missionary application.
 Atto Beatrice....a YW leader Bardege Branch
 Katherine...just joined the Church.  Planning on a mission in one year.  She has been a model here in Gulu but told me recently she is no longer modeling as all they want her to wear are clothes not deemed modest.  She told them "I am a Mormon now and will no longer be modeling such clothing."
 Obal Steve.  Works in the radio broadcasting field.

 Seems like every 5th store sells telephones.  The problem is that while everyone has a phone, they have no money to buy airtime and no power to re-charge the phone so most of the time we can't communicate with them.  When they get enough money, they go to little shops to get the phones recharged.  Very few actually have chargers.
 A fancy-smancy "stove" with 3 burners.  We've never met anyone here who has a real indoor stove,  not even the landlord in our "upscale" compound. 
 Very cool hand turned wooden stools.  Women sit on these as they pound grain or maize.
 Folks in Gulu waiting in line to use the ATM, which is slow process.  I'm guessing 30 minutes or more for the last fellow in line.
Traffic in Kampala.  Double click to see the bodas on the wrong side of the road.  They are on the wrong side, the right side of the road...remember we drive English style here, slipping between cars, taxis, bicycles and people. Stopping, going, crashing.

 Above and below...a most interesting fruit.  This bunch is several days old.  When newer, they are beautiful and look like a bouquet of large rose buds.  Simbwa, who accompanied us to the refugee camp, said they grow in swampy forests.  Below is the inside of the fruit after you peel back the outer layers.
The fruit was sour, kind of like a lemon - just not as juicy.  You can also eat the seeds, which taste and look just like PEPPER!  very, very interesting delicacy.  Maybe this is where the idea of lemon pepper seasoning came from.


  • 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).

  • Elder Mark E. Petersen (1900–1984) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that our observance of the Sabbath day reflects our appreciation of the Atonement of Jesus Christ:
    “We can readily see that observance of the Sabbath is an indication of the depth of our conversion.
    “Our observance or nonobservance of the Sabbath is an unerring measure of our attitude toward the Lord personally and toward his suffering in Gethsemane, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. It is a sign of whether we are Christians in very deed, or whether our conversion is so shallow that commemoration of his atoning sacrifice means little or nothing to us” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1975, 72; or Ensign, May 1975, 49).

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Week 58 Adjumani Refugee Camps

Adjumani – the South Sudanese Rescue Camps

What an incredible day we had Friday leaving shortly after 9:00 am, driving 2 + hours north over rutted dirt roads to the city of Adjumani near the Sudanese border.  A few miles further we were at the Ugandan Government settlement offices, used to organize the 80,000 refugees who have been pouring in from war-torn South Sudan. Pam and I planned to donate the pillowcase dresses sent to us, soccer balls, candy for the children and bananas but fearing our small donations (considering the number of refugees),  would cause more problems, we ended up just tagging along.  

We traveled with Simbwa, a Kampala-based member of our Church who helps with the logistics of all our Church’s humanitarian efforts, Elder and Sister Hansen, Public Affairs missionaries and Elder and Sister Hannan, Humanitarian Service missionaries and their daughter Ashley who is visiting from Thailand.  They had all driven up the previous day.  We were lead there by the Honorable Musa Ecweru, Minister of Disaster Relief and Rescue…a cabinet position in the UG Govt…I would say similar to the head of our US Homeland Security Department.(Musa is the surname) He is also an elected Member of Parliament (MP), representing the "Amuria District".

The refugees began pouring into Uganda in December.  In March there were  300 refugees from So Sudan coming into the camps daily.  As of last week the number had dropped to 100-150 per day. Uganda has over 400,000 refugees.  When other countries have been at war, Uganda keeps its borders open for those needing to flee.  Currently, the biggest camps are those we visited and those on UGs western border, where people have fled from the Joseph Kony fighting in the DRof Congo. 

Our purpose was to help with the distribution of mosquito nets (The minister told the refugees there was no sense in escaping South Sudan only to die of malaria in Uganda.) blankets and 1000s of saucepans (cooking pans) to the most vulnerable in the camps.  At these camps there are many who are old, frail, lame and blind and many children and mothers, often without their husbands who are involved in the fighting.   All of these donations came from our Church.  (The Church had already donated food which was delivered through Catholic Charities).  

We were surprised how far apart each of the camps were.  That was wisely done to allow each to become its own community with more space, especially for planting, since they may be there for some time. Each camp is also divided into districts which elect their own leader/s. 

We did handovers in three of the four camps.  Minister Musa addressed each one and had all of the missionaries introduce themselves…there was an interpreter at each to translate.(We were traveling to the fourth camp over rough terrain when we hit a tree stump and got a flat tire – very grateful that’s all it was).  Since it was already quite late, we had to forego that camp.  This would be a huge disappointment for those refugees.  They would need to wait until Monday without all the “dignitaries”.   They love having visitors.

Although the poverty of the refugees is hard to imagine, they were in well organized, clean camps with decent housing.  At each camp we were greeted in the warmest fashion with traditional dancing, singing, clapping, yelling, and twice with uproarious laughter when Pam and I kissed after we introduced ourselves. (Kissing in public seldom done).These people were so sincerely grateful for what the UG govt, our Church and other organizations have done for them.  As I have said before, based on what I have seen here, we have NO poor in America.

Each camp’s handover began with prayer.  Musa then gave very practical counsel to the refugees; “be one, be unified, no tribal fighting among yourselves, be hopeful as this is a temporary situation; remember you will be home someday.  In the third camp (only) he said, “there are rich people in UG and some will bring you money but will also bring you AIDs…it will do no good to survive in the camps only to return to South Sudan to die there from AIDS contracted here…  If your husband is not here, be faithful to him.”  (One man was pointing fingers at one of the women).

Musa was able to get a Canadian Pentecostal church to donate some very expensive equipment for a radio broadcasting station so the camps could have their own radio frequency; only messages of hope and peace will be aired, there will be no tribal finger-pointing or arguing permitted, no debating, no speakers from the warring factions in So Sudan. Next week Musa is bringing donations of seeds and hoes.

What a delightful and spiritual giant he is.  He has great love for these poor desperate people, having told them that at age 19 he was a refugee himself from UG living inside Kenya.  So he understands the plight of the South Sudanese.  Musa’s genuine concern, love and patience manifested itself in every instance. He was a great teacher to the refugees, visibly demonstrating charity…the pure of Christ which fills his heart. 

At the end of our long, tiring, hot day, we sat down for dinner which the minister provided and held a debriefing in the city of Adjumani.  He asked for our comments. I told him it was so inspiring to watch him interact with the refugees, that the smile always on his face was radiating from his heart and the scriptures teach us when we are in the service of our fellow beings we are only in the service of our God. (Mosiah 2:17, Book of Mormon).  Another who has participated with him before commented on how amazed they are at the amount of time he spends personally visiting and distributing at the sites.  He explained that for him to be an effective leader, he had to get in the trenches (my word) to verify what’s happening – to know the facts.  He mentioned, for example, last week when he was on the front page of the major newspapers and NTV news because he lam-blasted one of the top generals for stealing cattle from some poor people in one of the districts, saying the general should removed from office.  He said he was able to do that because he had the facts, no one, not even the president, has contested what he said.

He asked if we could possibly furnish two more things: 1) dresses as some of the women came with only the clothes on their back making it difficult for them to wash their one dress; and 2) reusable female hygiene supplies.  (Needs are so great all around the world that we are not sure the Church can do these.)  

He offered a nice catholic facility for us to spend the night, but we all had other obligations early the next morning.

As the meeting concluded, Musa and I walked towards our vehicles with our arms across each other’s backs, expressing our appreciation and love for one another  It was now dark but his vehicle led us safely back into Gulu.

Minister Musa has been a trusted friend to the church for eight years, not afraid to get in the trenches for us when there have been special needs or false accusations hindering our work.

Pam: If Relief Society, Young Womens or a similar organization is interested in making the simple hygiene supplies, send an e-mail to and I will send the instructions.  Musa has two sons attending BYU-Idaho and UVU Provo. He and another top government official fly to Salt Lake City in May.  Perhaps some could be returned with them. Two of our sons are also flying over here the end of May.  They could bring some.  I will also pay postage for one large box of the hygiene supplies.    My motto:  “I am only one, but I am one.  I can’t do everything, but I can do something.”

 His Honor Musa

Thanksgiving expressed through a prayer.
Sis Hansen in the blue.  Ashley Hannan on the left.  She was here visiting her folks.

Many grateful faces
This Sudanese lady required help standing up. Then I noticed she was blind as well as lame.
Just one shot of the saucepans and under them a blanket and mosquito nets.
Waiting her turn.
The Honorable Minister speaking to one of the camps...always smiling.
Arriving into a camp, people on both sides of the road cheering us on.
lady in pink dancing, others singing and welcoming

 Sharing language interpreter required.  One educated young man, 20 yrs old, handed Pam a letter addressed specifically to her, seeking help.  Its heartbreaking that we can't do more.

 A group of expectant recipients. Notice the man on front row with wooden leg, also blind.
 Back shirt of a local aid worker.
UUGGHH!  This was the road.  The stump also bent the tire rim.

Mosiah Chapter 4 of the Book of Mormon

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will  administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
 17 Perhaps thou shalt sayThe man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore  will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of  my food, nor impart unto him  of my  substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
 18 But say unto you, man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent;   and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no   interest in the kingdom of God.
 19 For behold, are we not all beggarsDo we not all depend upon the same Being, even   God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for   silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
 20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled  with joy,  and has  caused  that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly  great  was your joy.
 21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith,   believing that ye shall receive, then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye   have one to another.
 22 And if ye  judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he   perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for   withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongethand yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.
 23 say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance   shall perish with him; and now,  I  say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.
 24 And again, say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain  from day to day; mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; would that ye   say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if had would give.
 25 And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemnedand your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.
 26 And now, for the sake of these things which have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk  guiltless before God I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poorevery man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing  the naked, visiting the  sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally,  according to their  wants.
 27 And see that all these things are done in wisdom and orderfor it is not requisite that a  man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be  diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.