Sunday, April 6, 2014

Week 57

The Bardege Branch Nursery (Pam)
A new milestone was achieved two weeks ago.  The Bardege branch organized its first ever Primary Nursery for the children 18 months to three years old!  There are about 10 little ones attending the nursery.  Prior to that time, they were meeting in one combined class with all the other Primary children up to age 12 due to a shortage of called teachers.  There have been as many as 60 children in the one primary class.  You can imagine how chaotic this could be, especially since some of the children come from off the streets and have no attending parents.  At least now the littlest ones have their own classroom, little benches for sitting, eating refreshments or coloring, simple toys, music activities, and a short lesson time.  I meet with Susie, the new nursery leader, at the beginning of the week to help her prepare the lesson, visual aids, and activities that can be sustained even after we leave.   Susie is learning good principles of leadership that will hopefully carry over into other areas. 

I also had a prospective missionary build two nice toy/storage boxes for both branches with the money earned going towards William’s mission expenses.  William had never constructed anything so this took a LOT of mentoring on the first one, but now he has a new skill he may be able to use after his mission.  I told William I was proud of the work he had done on the first box.  He replied, “I am proud of me also.”

Not only are the little ones much happier in the nursery, the Primary presidency has less stress and is able to more effectively teach their students.  

Mind Games 
It is the rainy season and with it comes more bugs and insects.  The markets once again have a plentiful supply of  the flying ants/termites and other such delicacies.  We have not had as many this year invading our home, but we are puzzled about the appearance of centipedes.  For the last few weeks we see each day three or four crawling around usually in the middle of the floor.  We can’t figure out how they get in our house.  We haven’t seen them anywhere else, either outside or at anyone else’s place. (Lest a reader think this is a Uganda negative, we occasionally had centipedes in our basement in Vestavia, AL).

A few nights ago I was up late working on a project when I thought I felt a mosquito or fly on the back of my neck.  When I swiped at it, I discovered it was a centipede! Now I have a keen interest in bugs, but I want to deal with them on my own terms – not theirs; this instance was a breach of my privacy, so I slung that thing as far away from me as I could.  A short while later I went to bed, but sleep was fitful at best.  I dreamt of hundreds of centipedes coming out of my head, and when I awoke I was itching everywhere.  I finally had had enough of the tossing and turning so around 4:30 took a shower and started the day. 

It’s amusing how we can take something unpleasant and build in our minds an overpowering paranoia!   Some of you will remember how I did this a few years ago when I was “locked” in the church’s attic.  Not so amusing is how many politicians, religious and opinion leaders grasp the power of mind games and use false rhetoric to influence people’s decisions.  Hopefully we will reflect profoundly on our decisions to assure they are based on faith rather than fear.

Transfer week
A trip to Kampala this week to take 3 transferring elders down, one of which, Elder Hofheins is heading home for Provo, UT.  He is a giant even after having lost 24% of this weight while here.  Big volley ball player, wants to coach while going to school -- plans to be an orthopedic surgeon.  Also considering walking onto the BYU football team…which, I suppose is a doable dream at BYU, but that would be an impossible dream in the SEC…not to mention one school whose name doesn’t need to be mentioned.

We left Gulu Wed and were to return  with three of our four new missionaries on Thursday,but our truck needed some mechanical work so we had to stay another day. Roads are really getting better but no one visiting for the first time would know that.  Perhaps 25% of the potholes have been filled allowing travel 60 KPH versus 30 KPH in many places on the highway.  Much of the road construction is completed which is a big help. We can pretty much make it in 5 - 51/2 hours without undue speed.  That's cut more than an hour off our driving time!

President and Sister Chatfield invited senior couples for dinner in their home Wed night, followed by an informative Q&A session.  There is a major shift in what is expected of our prospective missionaries regarding earning money for their missions and the way the shortfall will be addressed.  No more use of the “mission working fund” to pay their expenses.  Now  only through fast offering support from the branch president, after all the young man or woman and his family can do.  If assistance is given, as before, he/she will work around the chapels, cleaning, repairing, serving others, assisting the missionaries here, etc.   Missionaries leaving from Africa and other 3rd world countries, I imagine, have used a short-form missionary application.  It is being replaced by a long form similar to the one used in developed countries.  As a senior missionary, I’ll basically be out of the equation and all processing will be between the branch president and the mission president, which is something I've been working towards the last few months. I continuously give back to the Branch leaders the forms and work they should be doing for the missionaries.  Now that it appears more and more likely we will not be replaced in Gulu as a senior couple, the branch presidents will be on their own in getting their young folks on missions which is no small feat.  My job over the next few months will be to make certain they understand the new process, application, expectations, etc.  I tried to set up a meeting with our two branch presidents this coming Tuesday but one of the replied that he has just landed a job so could not meet. (HOORAH for him!) but he told me he has read the material and understands it.  I was surprised as I have read it and don’t understand it all; neither have other key people in the mission. 

With our extra night in Kampala, we were invited to attend the Farewell dinner at the mission presidents home in honor of 3 missionaries who have completed their 2 years of service.  The two elders were both zone leaders who had served in Gulu whom we knew well and loved very much. We are sad, often as they, to see them leave, but so proud of them and the great work they have done the last two years.  They were on no vacation here, and sacrificed so much of their own choosing because they love their Savior and love serving His children.  

Not long ago I had a family member tell me, “I reject proselytizing.”  By definition proselyting means to influence one to join one’s faith, institution or cause.  That would include religious as well secular causes, be their political, humanitarian, clean air or water, global warming, advertising to purchase one's product or service, whatever.  How can one reject what is done around the world in every context imaginable?  If only this person can understand the joy that comes into the lives of those who serve others and into the lives of those who find a new belief, perhaps individuals wouldn’t be so quick to condemn what they know so little about.  I’m so very honored to have had my 3 sons serve in San Antonio, New York and Russia.  King Benjamin, a Book of Mormon prophet declared, “...when in are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.”  Besides professing these young men and women live their beliefs.  We love living less than a stone's throw from eight of them - ages 18-25.  Contrast how they live with some of the other college age students who have lived near us.  Next time a Mormon missionary comes to your door or you see one near a store, offer them a bottle of water or a bite to eat.  They would greatly appreciate it.

Next week will be an interesting one.  We have two senior couples coming to Gulu from Kampala.  One couple, the Hannan’s, are over Humanitarian Services.  The other couple, the Hansen’s over Public Affairs.  We will all head to the South Sudan border where thousands are still displaced in refugee camps from the war in South Sudan.  Tractor trailer rigs of supplies will be delivered by the Church and with donations of “pillow case” dresses from an African-American sorority in Lewisville, TX  we will be taking with us.  Much more to report on both in next week’s blog post.

William after finishing his first toy/storage box.  He also made a nice bulletin board for the primary.

I strongly encourage you to cut, paste and watch this 10 minute utube.  It will be most worthwhile, your children and your grandchildren.  It's on the topic of bullying.

Some of our Gulu Area Church members:

This is Lehi, son of Walter and Agnes Lanek of the Gulu Branch.  He was born with cerebral palsy but is just the sweetest, funnest, most patient young man you will ever meet.  He will sit for the longest time in his wheelchair waiting on his Mom to come out of a meeting...never a complaining peep.  Always smiling and laughing.  Requires a wheelchair and the one he has was close to it’s last days.  You’ll recall a fellow we met by the name of Nelson who we helped get fitted for a wheelchair.  Agnes was not aware Gulu Referral hospital might be able to help Lehi.  We dropped both of them off at the hospital recently for the hospital to look at his current chair...the great news...they will repair his chair for no charge.  The Lanek’s have no car so they currently push the broken wheelchair maybe  two kilometers to Church and home every Sunday and during the week if Agnes has special meetings to attend.  Agnes is in the Relief Society Presidency of the branch.  The RS is the largest women's organization in the world.  Walter is a pioneer Church member in Uganda...being one of the first members to join the Church in this county...around 1991.

 Some of the wonderful people of our two branches.  Above branch presidency member, Stephen Lawoko.  Stephen was one of the "Invisible Children" you can google about.  As a child he fled the village  (the country) where Joseph Kony was raping, pillaging and killing most anyone that moved.)  He and thousands of other children would flee to the city every night and came into Gulu Town to sleep at the bus stop where there was police protection.  He joined the Church a couple of years ago and is one of the finest young men I know.  He is dedicated to learning the keyboard (elec piano/organ) and has been one of Pam's most faithful students.  He has worked hard enough so that he will earn ownership of the keyboard  A grant program provided through an LDS affiliate foundation to serious students.
 Young Men's President, Santos.  Finalizing papers for his mission
 Pres Charles, Elders Quorum President.
Jennifer, our Gulu Branch Relief Society President.  Her family joined the Church when she was 15.  They were sealed in the Temple for all time and eternity.  Jennifer could not read when she joined the Church but when she picked up the English edition of Book of Mormon for the first time, she found she could understand the words and began reading in English from that moment forward.  She learned how to read English while studying the Book of Mormon.  Miracles like this occur frequently in Africa. These people are very spiritual, very in tune with the Holy Spirit.  You can imagine how strong her testimony is of this powerful book!  If you have seen the play, The Book of's time to read the book.  She is a wonderful sister and leader in the Church  

Joann, a Relief Society counselor who moved here from Jinja Uganda.  She also has a very strong testimony and provides great insight to the sisters.
 Bro John...counselor in Elders Quorum
 Pres Kumakech, returned in September from his mission to Ghana; now serving as Branch President of Gulu Branch
 Onen Vincent...returned missionary (also Ghana), branch clerk and Institute Instructor. (College age religion course)  He is a powerful teacher, engaging the students
 Relief Society Counselor...Lanek Agnes.  Mother of Lehi shown above.
Prossy, a former Young Women's leader.  Like most, she is still attending High School in her 20s.

 Olobo Patrick soon to submit his mission papers.
  • Sis Ricky, Bardege Relief Society President, has learned a new skill making bags/purses and is saving her money to go to the temple to be sealed for all time and eternity to her deceased husband.  She is the mother of 8 children.  She teaches the sisters, who are jealous of her new skill, that they need to be committed and they can do the same thing.
 Nelson...the double amputee policeman we met at Lacor Hospital months ago.  They were willing to keep him there while we searched for a wheelchair for him.  We learned the govt run hospital had some quality wheelchairs donated by an American foundation and only charged 100,000 for a fitting and adjustment.  The wheelchairs are free, but the technician said that if they don't charge something, the people don't take proper responsibility for the chairs.  The staff is following a sound principle in this regard.
 Nelson's son and wife.  On their way home to the village after being in Gulu for months and months.  While at Lacor, we thought he would die.  So emaciated.  We brought him some fruit, milk and/or sweets every other day or so for months and became good friends.
Phillip of the Bardege Branch is First Counselor to Branch President.  In med school and trying to earn his tuition.  Has begun manufacturing this detergent.  Sales are doing very well.  He's going to make his tuition!

A farewell dinner for 3 of our departing missionaries this last Thur nite in Kampala.  These two...some of the tallest missionaries in the world.  On the left, Hofheins heading to Utah and Elder Reed, an Assistant to the Mission President...he'll be sticking around a while longer.
  • Elder Hofheins and another returning missionary Pam's right.
  • ______________________________________________
  • The term God generally refers to our Heavenly Father, and it is Him whom we ultimately worship. It is also true that Jesus Christ is God. Saints of the Old Testament era knew Him as Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that the scriptures help us understand the divinity of Jesus Christ and His role as a God: “We claim scriptural authority for the assertion that Jesus Christ was and is God the Creator, the God who revealed Himself to Adam, Enoch, and all the antediluvial patriarchs and prophets down to Noah; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of Israel as a united people, and the God of Ephraim and Judah after the disruption of the Hebrew nation; the God who made Himself known to the prophets from Moses to Malachi; the God of the Old Testament record; and the God of the Nephites. We affirm that Jesus Christ was and is Jehovah, the Eternal One” (Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. [1916], 32).
Elder M. Russell Ballard shared the following:
“What peace, what comfort this great gift is which comes through the loving grace of Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. …“… Even though His life was pure and free of sin, He paid the ultimate penalty for sin—yours, mine, and everyone’s who has ever lived. His mental, emotional, and spiritual anguish were so great they caused Him to bleed from every pore (see Luke 22:44D&C 19:18). And yet Jesus suffered willingly so we might all have the opportunity to be washed clean—through having faith in Him. … Without the Atonement of the Lord, none of these blessings would be available to us, and we could not become worthy and prepared to return to dwell in the presence of God” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2004, 86–87; or Ensign,May 2004, 84–85).

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