Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Last Lap Begins! INVITATION!

With only four months left serving in the Bujumbura, Burundi and Uvira DRCongo branches, our Mission President of Lubumbashi DRCongo Mission, President Gary L. Packer has asked us to post this invitation for our replacement couple.  He would like a couple who has a desire to work hard and meet challenges.  At least one of the couple, needs to speak fluent french, preferrably the husband. They both need to be in good health. The cost is 2500 per month. 
If you are interested or have been moved by the spirit and are ignoring it, please email President Packer at
After communicating with President Packer, your mission papers need to be submitted A.S.A.P.!!

Now, that stated, we just returned from a 5 day Christmas Couples Conference in Lubumbashi. It was really a blessing.  Here is the Christmas photo of President and Sister Packer.

We also met with all of the couples in this geographically large mission.  We loved them all!  They serve with all of their hearts.......and have great senses of humor, too!!

This is the "casual day" photo!
This is the "formal" photo taken in the mission home.

Just remember, the Lord watches over and protects His missionaries!  We have seen it time and time again.
Also, you will not be living as Africans.  You will be living like Americans in Africa.

"As President Boyd K. Packer taught this morning, Satan cannot directly take a life. That is one of many things he cannot do. But apparently his (Satan's) effort to stop the work will be reasonably well served if he can just bind the tongue of the faithful. Brethren, if that is the case, I am looking tonight for men young and old who care enough about this battle between good and evil to sign on and speak up. We are at war, and for these next few minutes, I want to be a one-man recruiting station. So I am looking tonight for missionaries who will not voluntarily bind their tongues but will, with the Spirit of the Lord and the power of their priesthood, open their mouths and speak miracles. Such speech, the early brethren taught, would be the means by which faith’s “mightiest works have been, and will be, performed".
"We need thousands of more couples serving in the missions of the Church. Every mission president pleads for them. Everywhere they serve, our couples bring a maturity to the work that no number of 19-year-olds, however good they are, can provide.
To encourage more couples to serve, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have made one of the boldest and most generous moves seen in missionary work in the last 50 years. In May of this year, priesthood leaders in the field received a notice that housing costs for couples (and we speak only of housing costs) would be supplemented by Church missionary funds if the cost exceeds a predetermined amount per month. What a blessing! This is heaven-sent assistance toward the single largest expense our couples face on their missions.
 In another wonderful gesture, permission is given for couples, at their own expense, to return home briefly for critical family events. And stop worrying that you are going to have to knock on doors or keep the same schedule as the 19-year-olds! We don’t ask you to do that, but we have a host of other things you can do, with a great deal of latitude in how you do them."
Oct 2011 Conference address by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Let's "Think Outside of the Box"! More DRCongo Uvira Baptisms.

At the first baptism in RDCongo Uvira Branch, because they have no permanent building yet, two rooms at a beachside hotel were rented.  One room for changing was for the men and one room for the women. If we were to continue having baptisms all month, that was just too EXPENSIVE.  Besides that, we will not have a building and a font built for some time and so we had to "think outside of the box". Also when using the beach outside the hotel, there was a bar and a restaurant and curiosity seekers, as well as naked little children swimming in the lake from the hut next door.

After planning and brainstorming, the idea came to use a two tents on the beach.
We began looking for tents in Bujumbura.  When we asked people where they got their tents, they would answer that they were left by the military. So we checked to see if we could purchase one and the only one we found came to a total of just over $1100.  Well, that wouldn't do!  In another year, we will be paying that much to have a actual baptismal font built.

So plans were made and ALTERED as we went to this hardware store. They did not have the usual PVC pipe parts. The PVC was thin walled and unsatisfactory for tent poles. So we finally found some thick walled schedule 40 PT pipe but the fittings had to be heat synched, which wouldn't do because we needed to assemble, then store, then reassemble the two tents. The heat sync is permanent. So we used glue on fittings that ALMOST fit but with filing and shaving and glueing what we could, they were secure. We were able to get surplus heavy gauged tent materials from the refugee camps, sold in certain markets. One of our members thankfully discovered them and secured them for us.
 So after much effort and then more effort, finding the private beach and putting the tents up  in a bunch of bullrushes.  The tents were just what was needed and can be easily taken down and used again in following baptisms.

I will again show you some of the scenery on the way to Uvira.

Grasses being taken to market. These grasses have many, many uses: bedding, roofing, basket weaving, wrapping up other items for transporting and more.

Handmade bamboo mats, special delivery.

Manifestations of one of the hundreds of religions in this area.
This one-legged handicapped man is using his three wheeled, arm powered bike and some boys to also make a delivery. What resourceful people!
Sorry this photo is blurry.  These men are delivering bread.  You can see the tarp for rain protection.  It can downpour very unexpectedly. They ride their bicycles and stop at the small villages which are spread throughout the countryside and sell to individual families. They do a great service!!!
The usual and daily rains during "rainy season" can make the roads into rivers!

It is always an adventure to drive toward the beautiful Congolese mountains.  There are heards of longhorned cattle crossing, many goats scattered through the villages, along with many chickens and.....of course pigs and piglets.
We recently asked what animals live up in those mountains and the answer was "many, many monkeys"!
The tents are  working very well. They stay up beautifully, even in high winds, and provide the needed privacy.
There are fine people always anxiously awaiting their baptisms after the usual Sunday meetings at their temporary chapel. Since we have no font yet nor will we for some time, we all walk out to the beach on the beautiful Lake Tanganyika. Lake Tanganyika (800 meters above sea level), is the longest lake of the world (600 km) and one of the deepest (1400 m).  It holds 1/6th of the fresh water stock on the planet.

Some days are calm and other days, there are heavy winds, but so far the clouds don't explode except before and after the baptisms. Blessings from a loving, caring Father.

There are always expressions of gratitude and joy for the new truth in their lives...... in good weather or stormy weather.

"And it came to pass that they did travel in the wilderness, and did build...being directed continually by the hand of the Lord." (Ether 2:6)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

All of Heaven was Smiling! (1st Baptism in Uvira RDCongo)

In April 2011, when there was no established church branch in Uvira DRCongo, twelve friends of the church decided that they would not wait any longer to be taught the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  They along with others, in their Uvira community, had been gathering for many, many years each week to read the Book of Mormon and study the principles of the gospel together.  Their desire to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and be baptized, drove them to sacrifice the money, time and effort to travel by transport bus on extremely rough roads for an hour and half (one way) into Bujumbura, Burundi and back, crossing over the country borders multiple times, attending weekly sacrament meetings in the new branch in Bujumbura and being taught by the full-time missionaries.                                                                                     
   On May 14, 2011, they were all baptized in Bujumbura, Burundi.  However, they and others in their community continued to plead for the establishment of the church to come to their homeland city of Uvira.
ALL OF HEAVEN WAS SMILING on this long awaited day and the threatening skies did not give up a drop as the first of many baptisms, which are sure to come, began to finally occur in Uvira, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa.

On the 23rd of October 2011, just weeks after the first church Branch of Uvira DRCongo Africa was established, the first baptismal service in the actual city of Uvira was held in the nearby waters of the beautiful Lake Tanganyika. With two witnesses in place, the newly called Branch President lovingly walks hand-in- hand with his young son to perform the first baptism in Uvira. 
            This photo shows how far it actually was for each candidate to wade out. You can barely see the city of Bujumbura, Burundi  across the lake on the far upper left at the foot of the hills.
After each sacred ordinance was performed, the next candidate would anxiously wade out.........
........while another joyously watched and waited.
Each taking their turn.
The last two to be baptized, were a husband and wife who have just had their first little one. What a blessing for them to begin their family knowing, loving, teaching the gospel and serving in the true church of Jesus Christ.

And they were “buried in the water; and they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit.” (Mosiah 18:14)
After these worthy men had served their fellow beings by witnessing and baptizing, in the name of their Lord and Savior, their joy could not be hidden!
“…and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.” (4 Nephi 1:16)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The people have begged for 15 years. Uvira RDCongo has a branche!!

Who were the first people to sacrifice so much to come across country boundaries, pay for the transport and be at the first sacrament meeting in Bujumbura????  The devoted, Book of Mormon loving,  sincere people of RDCongo Uvira!
 These people have been requesting the church headquarters in SLC through email for the gospel to come to their area for over 15 years.  They have been teaching each other with a couple of Books of Mormon that they were able to obtain in Swahili. They continued to ask for missionaries and leadership to come and establish the church in Uvira.  A year ago, when we first met them, they were asked to be patient.  They said, " Patient?  We have already been waiting for 14 years!"" When the missionaries traveled to Uvira this month to establish the first branche, these are some of the scenes they saw on the way there.

 Grass is a big seller here in Africa.  It is used for many, many things: roofs, baskets, furniture, charcoal wraps, for sleeping on, etc.
 One of the members said, "Oh, we find many uses for domestic animals, including cows!"
Gatumba is one of the cities we pass on our way to Uvira.
 You can always see a gathering around a village water source.  The yellow containers are called bidons and they are really heavy.  But they carry them on their heads as if they were light.
 There are many businesses like this along the main roads.  Avocados are so plentiful and delicious here.  Some of the best in the world!
The streets are always busy and not just with people!
There are many people with disabilities that use what abilities they have very resourcefully! This is a tricycle wheelchair that is powered with the arms.  He is transporting his water on it.

Just as we get to the border of Burundi and DRCongo, there is a brick making kiln.  It is very picturesque.
Finally, we arrive at the border.  We have a Burundian office to take our passports with visas in to to be approved and stamped and then a DRCongo building.
Life in the villages, contain more domestic animals and many foot paths.

                                                        Dinner is cooking at this home.
                                        What a good boy to bring home the water for his family!
A few minutes past the border, you get a great glimpse of the beautiful Congolese mountains.  This bicyclist is transporting more bidons.
 Most of the ladies in the villages have the colorful and beautiful traditional Congolese clothing.
We passed several rivers on the main road.  The rivers, as you can see, are used by many for many different reasons. Uvira is a city of 375,000 people. This is only a little corner canyon of the city.
When the missionaries finally arrived at the rented home that is being used as a chapel,..........................................................
..................the people had been patiently waiting.........and............
.....waiting...but then they had been for 15 years.
The music that the missionaries heard as they drove up to the building was a rousing version of "How Great Thou Art"!  No one sings a hymn like the African people!  It was heartfelt and powerful!!
Much planning and preparation and prayer was given to the organization of this branche in Uvira. The leaders came prepared to establish and "Do It Right" as Elder Holland had admonished.
The branche callings were established on a firm foundation of good, diligent, God-fearing men.
As the people exited the building they just kept coming.....

.....and coming!!  There were many, many espressions of gratitude for the gospel being brought to their land.
While one sister is embracing a Book of Mormon, smiles were everywhere!
If you really think about it, this small and simple handful of children out of the many children that will be taught the gospel of Jesus Christ in their homes by loving, new member parents will have a huge impact in the next ten years.  What a great blessing the gospel will be in this city!!

"Behold, I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls." Alma 37:6-7