Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Filling the Hole

Monday, September 27, 2010

We Are Not Alone...

The day after we arrived in Burundi we were back at the airport at 1 AM to meet a plane carrying six of our elders. Two were not able to come because of a passport issue and will join us later. But we were so excited to have them. They are some of the GREATEST elders in the world.
Elders Diazola, Moussele, Kintembila, Kizimbou
Elders Tshituka, N'Gondo, Mpoyi and Moussa (the last two haven't joined us yet.)
We were excited to see them and they were equally happy to be here. They were simply bubbling over with 1 in the morning. It was a great reunion. On the way to their apartment they were wide-eyed and full of questions about this new land. We were stopped at a military barricade and that made them a little nervous. However, the police and military here are not like in the Congo. This is the first time we've been stopped since we arrived. No problem!
We took them to their apartment and let them rest for a few hours.
The next morning we held an orientation meeting and breakfast at our home. We talked about how to begin in a new city and made plans for our first sacrament meeting in Burundi.
We talked about security and practical issues.
Then Elder Jameson asked each to express his feelings about being called to this distant land to establish the church in a place where there is no church presence. They gave very tender expressions but were of one accord. The Lord had sent them here. They knew it and they were willing to go wherever and do whatever He asked of them. They are awesome!! It is so wonderful to have them with us. We are strengthened by each contact with these great young elders. They are the hope of the Church here. They are the hope of all of Africa.
  • A fun post note. When they arrived at our house on Friday, Elder N'Gondo expressed worry about the high prices here. He said that he'd heard a chicken was $30. He was anxious about it and so were others. Several times during the morning, they brought up the chicken and how expensive it was. Sister Jameson happened to have bought a whole chicken at the store the day before. ($8 not $30, but still ridiculously priced!) It was pretty yucky and as she put it in the freezer, she wondered if she would ever really cook and eat it. We're spoiled with Costco chicken breasts in the US. After the elders left and were just waiting downstairs for their taxi, we decided to give them the chicken. Instead of taking it to them, she just called Elder N'Gondo over and threw down the frozen chicken. He was pretty excited!
It was a fun surprise for them. Then off they went to begin their work here. I'm sure that they had a good chicken meal that night. We just love these boys.

Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010 was our first sacrament meeting in Burundi. Since we arrived a day late, we were really hoping that the landlord and the member couple, the Malabis, had been working hard. We were not disappointed. By 2:00 Sat. we had the keys to the chapel and every necessary thing was ready. Not every detail was perfect, but we had a clean, freshly painted place to meet and 50 plastic chairs, which was more than the room would hold. We had called people to speak and we had heard that members and others who are not baptized, but are hoping to be, were coming.
On Sat. we took the chairs, which had been cleaned and readied by the elders, loaded them into a rented truck and headed to the meeting house to unload and set up for Sunday.

With the help of the elders and the wonderful landlord,who even brought us a table from her own home to use for the sacrament table, all was prepared.
We had no idea what to expect the next day. We had 6 young elders, two senior couples, a US embassy employee and twelve other members, a group of 30 who live an hour away and 10-15 other people who live farther, who had told us they were coming. We also had about 10 people from around town who, as we met them during the week, said they would like to come. But we didn't really know if we would have 10 or 60 people come.
We wanted to make a final check of the chapel, so we arrived at 8:30 for our 10:00 meeting. We wanted o put up signs to point the way to the church and just take in this historic moment.
As we entered the walkway into the small plaza where the church is located, we saw a man with a white shirt and tie. It was Moise (which means Moses), who had come from Uvira, Congo, across Lake Tanganyika (a half hour away) and had already arrived and was waiting patiently for church to start.
From there on this is how it went....

By 8:45 we had about 10 more people. Then before 9:00 another 15-20 people arrived.
By 9:15 most of chairs in the room were filled and we missionaries gave away our seats.
By 9:45 We had every seat filled, the missionaries and those who arrived after 9:30 were standing in the rooms behind the main room, all the children were on the laps of their parents or sitting on the floor and everybody was quietly waiting as we made last minute preparations.
We were overwhelmed by just the numbers of people who came to this first meeting.
The meeting was wonderful. The stereo from the IPhone was used for prelude. Some waiting sang along with the tabernacle choir How Great Thou Art. The Elders did well with the sacrament as they took the place of our few members we had hoped would help out but had come late. Craig invited both speakers and gave them an idea of what I felt they needed to speak on but encouraged them to be prayerful and follow the spirit. Ann Marie an 18 year old daughter of the Malabi family spoke on Prayer and bore personal testimony of Christ, Joseph, the Book of Mormon, and the church; Elder Kizimbou, an elder out but five months, spoke on apostasy and restoration with wonderful power. President Jameson reviewed the importance of order in rolling out the church. We were surprised that the people knew the hymns. We found out later that they have translated 50 of them into Swahili so they could sing them in their meetings. People listened with real intent and many took notes and recorded scriptures for later study.
When the sacrament was passed, Craig explained that the sacrament was for members and done as a way to renew our baptismal covenants, but if someone felt it was something they wanted to do as a token of their devotion to the Savior they could do so. Everyone took the sacrament, although we knew that most were not baptized members. They took it with a reverence and sincerity that was palpable. Many had waited for years for this opportunity and they would not be denied. Later one asked why with the sacrament so sacred why did you let us partake of it. Craig explained 3 Nephi 18 for unworthy members but the unbaptized can use it for their personal relationship with God even though they can’t renew something they haven’t done. 
     This was a group made up largely of people who have been studying the Book of Mormon, learning all they could about the gospel and living it on their own, without any official support or direction. It was one of the most tender moments of our lives as we watched them savor this first experience with the the sacred emblems of the sacrament.
    After the meeting we invited them to stay and talk to the missionaries. We divided them into groups by the areas where they live. As we started to talk to them, the really amazing things about this day began to be shared with us as we heard their stories. There is a group from Uvira, Congo, (half hour away) who have rented a small hall for $10 a month. They meet every Sunday, Monday and Thursday in that place. There are over 50 of them and about 25 were in our meeting.
When Elder Jameson asked them what they did those three nights when they meet, they said that they studied the Book of Mormon, the Bible and other scripture, and an old institute manual that someone had been given. They don't have the Doctine and Covenants or the Pearl of Great Price, but knew about them and asked how they could get them. When asked about Monday night they gave him a puzzled look and answered "we have family home evening." 
     The brethren had so many questions about what they were going to do and how they were going to bring their families into the church while traveling so far at such expense (many traveled 3 days…the road between Fizi-Baraka-Uvira is awful and difficult) after waiting for 15 years in many cases.  Sadly, because of the distance they live they will probably have to wait a little longer, since we don't yet have permission to go out of Bujumbura. But they are just waiting for the day when they can be baptized.  They wanted to accelerate their baptisms in two weeks then send their wives to get baptized. We explained that baptism is only the beginning not the end so they needed to not only work to get their families baptized they needed to be prepared to serve in the church organizations.
     They laughed at our security concerns and continued to insist that things are safe for anyone. We continue to monitor both our Church security officers as well as the Embassy's  

      This is a picture of the people from these three different cities across the river in the DR Congo, along with us and the missionaries.
The sisters met in one room with Sister Malabi since they mostly only spoke Swahili. I was happy that they asked Sister Frogley and me to talk to them. Sister Jameson had been thinking so much about her ancestors as she heard the stories of these African people. Her ancestors waited for three years for missionaries to come back and baptize them. Some of these women have waited 15 years. For some it's more than half of their lives. But she told them how her ancestors had, by their devotion and patience, blessed 8 generations of their family. Sister Jameson told them how blessed she was that her ancestors had found the gospel and embraced it. She told them that they are like our ancestors. Their love of the gospel and their faith and patience will bless many generations of their posterity and will bring great good to their lands. She said she feels a very strong kinship with them and love them already.
 Sister Frogley also was asked to share her feelings of love and acceptance and encouragement. She bore her testimony of the truth of the gospel. She told each of them "Na wa penda! (which is I love you in Swahili)
Another group of about 15 people had come from Baraka, Congo, which is 9 hours way and Fizi, which is even farther. We met with them and were most impressed with their sincerity. It had taken them three days to get to Bujumbura and would take another three to get home. When asked how many would come back next Sunday, every hand went up. We think that the cost will probably prevent them from coming, but they were eager to be in church and we will not be surprised to see them again. I asked them who would come next week. They all raised their hands to signal they would be coming even though they had just wept over the sacrifice it took to come. 
Other people were there in church who we had seen on the streets and in the markets. They had accepted our invitation to come to see the church. The elders collected names and made appointments to teach. Early Monday morning the elders called to get the church keys for their first teaching appointments. One man met our member, who works for the embassy, in the man's church last week, and felt the desire to come. The missionaries have his name and will deliver a Book of Mormon to him.  

     We had started at 8:30 and left at 4:00 with no break. The missionaries accepted the invitation to meet with the investigators to teach them, get discussion meeting set up with them and answer their questions. They did a wonderful job even teaching in Swahili.
This is the Lord's time for Burundi. We feel it every time we meet with these wonderful, devoted people and hear their stories. It will be a trial of their patience to wait so that things can be done in order and following the direction and pattern of the priesthood, but it will happen. We are thrilled!

This is the agenda that was followed in this first sacrament meeting.
26 September 2010 Bujumbura Burundi
Presiding: Elder Brent L. Jameson
Conducting: Elder Craig R. Frogley
Music: Sister Veronique Malabi

Cantique:170 Peuples du Mone, Ecoutez donc
Invocation: Aimable BURUNDI
Business: Elder Frogley
1. Nous savons qu’il y a ceux qui ne parlent pas le Français. Nous invitons ceux qui le comprendre de faire traduction pour ces autre dans votre famille ou groupe. Chuchotez las traduction au même temps qu’ils sont dits. Ceux qui parle sont invite de parler lentement avec des petits pause.
2. Process: meet now get approval to organize a branch
3. When organized people will be called to serve in various positions
4. Une fois organiser avec ceux qui sers:
         a. Saint Cène meeting 1h 10min
         b. École de Dimanche 40min
              i. Primaire pour les enfant moins de 12 ans
         c. Réunions pour les hommes, femmes, et enfants
              i. Prêtrise pour les Homme et Jeune Gens a partir de 12 ans;
              ii. Société de secours pour les femmes
5. Après la réunion nous allons nous séparer par quartier ou ville dans les plusieurs salle avec une équipe de missionnaire alors quatre groups.
6. Nous allons nous préparer pour la Sainte Cène. Expliquer :
        a. Renouvelons les alliances fait au baptême de :
               i. Se souvenir de Jésus Christ
               ii. De toujours gardé se commandements
               iii. De se montrer voulant de prendre sur nous, son nom
        b. Les membres vont le prendre, les amis peuvent s’il veule
7. Pour nous aider a se préparer, chantons la cantique numero :

Apres :

8. Discours : Anne Marie Malabi - Priere
9. Discours : Elder Kizimbou- Apostasie et Restoration
10. Cantique 193 Je Suis L’Enfant de Dieu
11. Discours : Président Jameson -
12. Cantique 89 Dieu Soit Avec Toi
13. Bénédiction : Elder Mousseli

     As you can read we have our work cut out for us but wow it will be more than a pleasure to be an instrument in participating in His work to such a prepared people. We continue to have engaging gospel discussions ending in “will you attend sacrament meeting at…” Craig has a hard time shopping because one clerk with questions attracts another then another until we are in a group committing them to attend or teaching a first discussion in the store aisles. The hole is filling as the heart becomes whole!

Please feel free to comment on your feelings.  We love to hear from you. We love you all!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

African Paradise Found

On Sept. 22, 2010 we finally left Lubumbashi. We were delayed for one final day because of visa problems and only by a miracle (and a crazy one at that) were we able to leave when we did. On Tuesday, which was the day we were originally scheduled to depart, our passports were still in Kinshasa and we had no visas. We knew that we wouldn't make it on Tuesday and weren't sure when it would happen. It didn't look promising!

Pres. Packer tenaciously kept calling the travel department all day. Finally, Vincent reported that he had the needed documents and would send them on a plane to us Tuesday afternoon.
He told us the name and phone number of the man who would bring them, who he described as an East Indian friend wearing a blue shirt and black suit. He was coming on a private African airline. Any other information kept changing hourly as we waited. The arrival time of the plane was reported to be anywhere from 4 pm and 9 pm. Our tickets were for 11 a.m. the next morning, so it was getting scary. We waited anxiously for word from the East Indian man. Finally at 9 pm we got a call from him. He had arrived at the Lubumbashi airport.
The Jamesons hurried to the airport to meet him. They had to wait outside the doors this time and watching for the East Indian friend in his blue shirt and black suit. It seemed that all the people were off the plane and they hadn't seen him. They were getting a bit panicky.
Then a man came up to them, stared at their tags and asked if they were from The Church of the Latter-day Saints. He was a black man dressed in tan pants and no jacket. He did have a blue shirt. They were confused that he didn't fit the description Vincent had given us, but relieved to see him. He handed them the package and assured them that he had not looked in it. As they eagerly opened it, there they were,passports, visas and airline tickets for the four senior missionaries and 6 of our eight elders. Two were not able to come because of passport problems and will have to come a week later.
Pres. Packer had promised a ride home for our helper in return for his kindness, so they put him and his friend in the back seat of the truck and headed for the city. It turned out that he lives on the other side of the city. He lead them around for 20 minutes through unfamiliar dirt roads almost too small to pass, around piles of dirt and garbage half the height of the truck, over bridges and all in total darkness. He and his friend were talking together in a language we didn't recognize most of the time. During our travels Brent asked the man how he knew Vincent. His answer was "Vincent Who?" Vincent had given our documents to a complete stranger because he felt like the man looked like an honest man. Thankfully he did turn out to be honest and we got our things.
Our trip to Burundi was saved with the help of "an honest man" and we could actually find our way home so that we could go. We were relieved that it had all worked out and our documents were in hand. Finally we knew that we were going to Burundi in just a few hours.
Wednesday we left our home on Avenue Gambela in Lubumbashi for the last time with very mixed feelings.  We were excited about this opportunity, but sad to leave behind people whom we love so much and will, in all probability, never see again.
Our departure will leave Pres. and Sister Packer there without any other couples and we know how difficult that can be. Our AP's, Justin and Serge were all there to see us off. It was a tender parting. But we were off to Burundi.
Burundi is about 600 miles from Lubumbashi, but you can't get here from there. So, our journey took us 18 hours of travel. We spent an 8-hour layover in the Nairobi airport where we took up residency in a cozy little corner at the end of a hall.
We arrived in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi and our new home at 2:00 A.M. on Thursday . We had landed in five countries on our journey-Lubumbashi in the Congo; Ndola in Zambia; Nairobi in Kenya; Kilgali in Rwanda; and at last Bujumbura in Burundi. Our adventure in the establishment of the church in Burundi had begun.
Recently we saw the video Pioneers in Africa. In it there was a map of the Church's presence in Africa at the current time. All the countries where the Gospel has been taken were in red. In the middle there was what appeared to be a tiny little heart that's white. No church presence!
With our landing in Bujumbura that white hole was filled. What a privelege it is to help take the Gospel to a new land. At 2:00 a.m on Thursday, September 23, 2010 the dot was filled.

It took flying through five countries to get here but we made it: We started in the DRCongo and flew to Ndola, Zambia with an hour layover, then to Nairobi, Kenya for an eight hour layover, then at midnight we flew to Gilgali, Rwanda for a 45 minute layover and finally we landed in Bujumbura, Burundi. We were met by our faithful Taxi Drivers and driven to our new apartment.


This isn't Lubumbashi anymore, Dorothy! We are in the upper right circular apartment. From our from patio we see:





             The  "street" in front of our house... we will watch it change as this is all new construction.

Inside it is just as nice:

We are most grateful to work where we are comfortable.