Our next group getting ready to go to the temple is an interesting one. One man who is going has a wife and 2 children, but he is going alone, as his wife is Muslim. There are several mosques here in Bujumbura and you see Muslim women throughout the city. In fact, the branch president of Branch 1 used to be a Muslim before he converted to the church. He had several wives and gave up all but one when he converted. What a change that must have been. Another member going to the temple is a young mother with 4 children. Her husband was killed during the civil war here in Burundi. She is taking her children with her and will be sealed to her husband, the children will be sealed to them both. The last family going is the branch president of Branch 2, Jean Rene, and his wife and small child.
3 short stories of faith:
When we were last in Uvira, we were approached by 2 young men from Bukavu, a town about 4 hours away from Uvira. They are members of the church who heard we were going to be in Uvira that day and came 4 hours to talk to us. In Bukavu, there is no formal church organization, no branch, no branch president, but there is a group of members. These young men came 4 hours to meet with us in order to tell us they want to serve a mission for the church and to see if we could help them achieve that goal. How many young people at home with no help or guidance from a church official, would make a 4 hour journey on the chance that someone might be able to help them serve a mission? Luckily we were able to arrange for their membership records to be transferred to the Uvira branch so that the branch president, President Mabishwa, will be able to help them fill out papers, interview them and be responsible for them. Main point: they inspire me with their strong desire to serve a mission.
Another short story of faith: We work a lot with a young man (30 years old) with a great smile and an infectious laugh. He owns his own small construction company and does lots of projects for the various branches here. He is one of the few endowed members in Bujumbura. Recently we asked him if he would be willing to help teach a temple preparation class. His response was, "Yes, of course. I want to serve the Lord for the rest of my life!" He also pays for guards for Branch 1 out of his own pocket just because he wants to help. No one asked him or suggested he do it. He does it because he saw the need, and he wants to help the Church, considering doing so part of his "sacrifice" for God.
Last short story of faith: There is a young man who comes quite a distance, paying his own way to get there and back, every Saturday morning to mop and clean the chapel at Branch 1. He does this as part of his "sacrifice" for the Lord.
This a a picture of Gary with Jean Paul, the young man with the construction company in story 2.
Now 2 stories of dishonesty:
We were asked to put together emergency food kits for all of the missionaries. We purchased 8 large buckets with lids to hold the food supplies, and then on Tuesday, we bought the bulk of the supplies, putting everything in our garage (which has no door, but is inside our gated property.) On Friday we went out to put all the items in the buckets and discovered we were missing 3 large packages of spaghetti, 4 tins of sardines in tomato sauce (yuck!) and 2 bars of soap. It was irritating and disappointing to realize that one of the 3 "candidate missionaries" who live in a little house in our back yard, had, in all probability, stolen the food from the garage. Was it too big a temptation to have the food there in buckets? These 3 young men are living here as they wait to go on missions because their families are so poor they cannot take care of them. But, if you are preparing to go on a mission, should you be stealing?
Here are our buckets of emergency food. They are now in the house.
Second story of dishonesty: The Congo and Burundi have an agreement that citizens from both countries can travel back and forth and receive visas free of charge. So imagine our surprise when we went to get a visa for one of our Congolese missionaries and were told that missionaries are "rich" so from now on it will cost each one $210 for a 3 months visa. We were denied access to the High Commissioner at Immigration when we went to question this policy. This morning, with help from a friend who was able to get us in to see the High Commissioner, we found out that there is no change in the law or policy. It was simply someone trying to milk us for as much money as possible, which would have gone right in his pocket. CREEPS.