Wednesday, July 30, 2014

     I have been tying to do training in the Primary, trying being the operative word.  Branch 2 and 3 came at the appointed hour and we had a good meeting, with Carol Van Wagoner showing them some music.  It was great---everyone loved learning some of the Primary songs.  But Branch 1 has been difficult.  Three times I scheduled a meeting with them and three times they didn't show up.  The 4th time I sat and waited an hour and was just cleaning up to go, when 2 members of the Primary presidency arrived.  The president did not come again.  I was quite irritated until I found out she has only been a member for 5 months.  Can you imagine being Primary president after being in the Church for only 5 months?  On top of that she is a single mom.  I bet she is so overwhelmed and clueless.  I need to talk to her.  Sunday we are going to Uvira to do Primary training there.  Van Wagoner refuses to go to the Congo, so I will be flying solo.

     On Sunday, the member who fled Burundi for Belgium and eventually Canada spoke in sacrament.  He told about his son being called to serve a mission to the Mandarin speaking mission in Montreal!  Here he is, a black French/English speaking young man,  and he is sent to teach Chinese people in Montreal!  His son went and was struggling with the whole experience,  feeling a little down.  He wrote his dad, saying his patriarchal blessing told him he would "serve his people" and so what was he doing teaching Chinese people in Canada?  By the end of his mission he came to understand that he WAS teaching "his people", that all children of God are his people, that all are our brothers and sisters.  He came to love the people he worked with, and in fact, this month, he is going to China to spend a year participating in an educational exchange program, attending a university there.

     Back to Primary.  Imagine a Primary where there are no teachers, only the presidency, no dividing into classes, no music director, in fact, no music.  They don't sing Primary songs here because there is no piano, no way to even know what the tune is.  Visual aides are almost non-existent.  There is no nursery for the youngest ones, so they sort of cause chaos wherever they go.  I have to contrast this with a YW summer camp Brooke just went to.  A camp-out with a theme (Girl on Fire), and activities such as archery, canoeing, firing guns, etc.  And there was food.  What an ocean of difference between  the organization of the Church at home compared to the level it is functioning at here!  We really are seeing modern day pioneers over here, watching how the gospel is changing lives, watching the beginning of the Church in our day and time.  It can be exciting, it can be frustrating.  I bought CD players for the branch Primaries along with CDs with Primary songs.  We are teaching the leaders some Primary songs and waiting for branch presidents to call music leaders.  One step at a time.

 This is me at the garden that Branch 1 tends and harvests.  When we were there, the ladies pictured were quite upset because someone had come and stolen all of their beans.

 Gary with our friend Aloys. ( Gary is the short one.)  Aloys is 6' 8".  He is tall and moves with a fluid grace.  There is something elegant about the man.

Some fishermen on Lake Tanganyika early in the morning.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

     I thought I would share with you some more photos of our home-away-from-home here in Africa.

Except for this first one.  I couldn't resist.  This is a bunch of chickens on their way to market on a bicycle.

This next picture is one of our resident geckos chillin' in our front room.

Now, for your viewing pleasure,  for all of you art connoisseurs,
 here is our one and only painting that hangs in our house.  I have to reach up with an extended arm to touch the bottom of this painting.  They tend to hang paintings very high on the wall!  A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

These are shots of our yard----a flowering bush, a potted plant in front of our house.

And, last but not least, birds in our driveway.  These guys sing like robins on steroids!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

     I would like to share some points of reality that I am learning.  As a somewhat complacent member of the church I never took time to think about the General Missionary Fund or its purpose.   I always placed my emphasis on Tithing and Fast Offerings, mainly because those were the questions being asked.  Making a donation here in Bujumbura, Burundi is a major sacrifice no matter how much the donation is or what category is chosen on the donation receipt.   
The average worker here will earn in a day about 5000 Burundian Francs.  Converted to dollars, that is $3.26.  Multiply that by 6 or sometimes 7 days it will be $19.56 a week or $78.24 a month.  That is if they are lucky enough to get a job.  Most of the students when they graduate our equivalent to high school or college will not get job.  
We are currently working with 22 young Elders and Sisters in Bujumbura and 14 in Uvira/Kulundu to prepare them for missions.  We received from Uvira/Kulundu alone this Wednesday 9 missionary applications.  Included on the application is the amount they or their families will be contributing on a monthly basis to support the missionary.  Also included is the amount of contribution the Elder or Sister will be making as a one time amount in preparation for the Mission.  We have yet to see any monthly amount listed from any family and usually the candidate will make a one time donation of 20000 to 30000 BIF or about $13.00.  So in this area the missionary candidates are completely supported by the Mission.  We will provide them what they will need to get to the MTC and all the clothing that is needed.
The full time missionaries,  most of them are in the same position though I know a few come from families capable of handling the monthly expense.  We support at the moment 10 full time missionaries.  They receive average 220,000 BIF ($144.00) each a month. That covers food, personal items, phones.  Which by the way is more money than they earned when they were working at home.  So where does the money come from to support these and many other missionaries in Africa and the world?  As I am learning, most comes from the General Missionary Fund.  If that fund was not there the 36 missionaries here preparing for missions would have no way of serving and most of the full time missionaries would not be here.  The 15 baptisms that were performed in the last two weeks would not have happened. The work would be left up to the members here which would probably be very few.  If it were not for the faithful members through out the world that truly understand the doctrine, truly love the Lord and support him in his quest to bring all his children back to the fold,  none of these members would have the chance to serve.  You need to thank all of them and remind them how appreciative the members out here are.  How appreciative we as support missionaries for the Branches are.  And how their contribution has and will continue to effect the growth of the church here and everywhere else the support is needed.  They, the members there, literally have a direct effect on the growth of the church here in Burundi.  I do not have words to express completely how wonderful the members there are and how deeply we love them for their choice to help in the Lords work. To truly bring salvation to every kindred, tongue and people.  Sorry to be gooshy, this really isn't me.  But I had to do this so I could get over it and move on.  Love to all.  Gary

     Hey, Kelton, Luke, Ryan, and Cameron!  And anyone else who would like to see BATS!  There is a large colony of bats here in Bujumbura, about 5,000 I am told.  All day long they hang upside down from the branches of some large trees that border one of the main roads in town.  It was amazing to look up and see the trees packed with bats.  It was like brown furry clumps of an exotic fruit.  These are fruit bats,  a larger species of bat than our little insect eating bats at home.  I believe they are called flying foxes.

One evening we decided to go to the trees to see the bats take off for their nightly flight.  We got there about sunset.  Gradually they started getting more and more agitated.  The noise was loud from all these bats and got louder as the time came for them to take off.  Finally it was time to go feed all night on fruit, and small groups would take off together.  It's really quite a sight and sound to stand and watch this happen.  Pretty amazing!

I had taken a few photos at a sewing class Sister Van teaches and had them made into prints.  Yesterday at a baptism, I spotted a mom and her cute little boy.  I had taken a picture of the little boy so I handed the photo of him to the mom.   Her face lit up from the inside out,  and she was so very grateful.  I suddenly realized that most of these moms have never had a picture of their cute babies.  I thought about how much I love having photos of my kids and my grand babies and could not imagine never having had a photo of any of them.  Suddenly I realized the reason for the depth of the mom's joy and promised myself I would take more photos and give them to these moms.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

     On July 16th, we had a fun activity with the full-time missionaries.  They organized a soccer match with the branch missionaries and about 12 non-members.  The day of the match there was excitement and anticipation in the air.  We provided them with very handsome new soccer uniforms, water and oranges during the game, and then everyone gathered at the church following the game for Burundian's favorite treat, a Fanta soft drink in a bottle.  We ended up with about 60 young people at the branch.  It was nice to see so many young people at the Church.
                                                                 Our Team
                                                               Cute Zone Leader

                                                            Our Team on the Field


Wednesday was a good day!

     Gary and I received a document, 6 type-written pages, written by and in behalf of the members of the Church who live in Bukavu, Congo.  There is no branch there, but these members have organized themselves into a group of faithful Saints who hold sacrament meeting every week, followed by a missionary training class.  They have 13 newly baptized members who had to travel 4 hours to Uvira to be baptized, and 9 young adults who are preparing to serve a mission.  They wrote this 6 page letter pleading for help from the Church---for a meeting house, for full-time missionaries, for a missionary couple, for teaching manuals and song books.  They would also love to have visits from the Mission President or his representative.  They so sincerely and fervently desire these simple things from the Church, things we take for granted, that, feeling the depth of their pleas, it almost makes you want to cry.  They are carrying on the work of the Church and living the gospel without any support or supplies from the official body of the Church.  Someday soon I hope they will receive all that they requested.  We passed their letter on to the Mission President.
     Just thought I'd throw in some random shots of Bujumbura before I begin:
                                                             We had Jonathan (young, Canadian UNICEF worker) and Delphine (Diana Ross look-alike) over to watch a movie last week.  We popped corn and watched Dances With Wolves, a movie neither of them had ever seen.  Only problem is, for some reason, this copy of the movie is without sub-titles, so whenever the Indians are speaking, you have no idea what they are saying.  Kind of reminds me of living in Burundi!

     We were invited back to eat dinner with the family who is here at their hotel until the end of the month.  When we went there for the first time, she, Beatrice, told me that you are only a guest the first time you come to a Burundian's home.  After that you are family.  And she means it.  When we arrived for dinner, we found out family complications/problems had come up,  preventing her from being home to prepare dinner.  So she called her sister who lives here in Bujumbura and asked her to prepare dinner for all of us!  We went to her sister's house rather reluctantly, feeling as if we were imposing and thinking we should probably should just go home and try to come for dinner another night.  Beatrice wouldn't hear of it.  She gave us chocolate from Belgium called Galler (Jared's favorite from his mission) and the movie Frozen in Blue Ray with a French version available.  Her sister prepared a very nice meal---chicken, rice, linga linga, peas with plantains, avocado/tomato/onion salad.  Dessert was yummy sweet pineapple and Japanese plums, which were something we had never tasted before.  The brother-in-law is a retired surgeon, and he and his daughter spoke very good English.  Conversation was comfortable.  After dinner we had lemon grass tea.  She picked the lemon grass from her garden.  It was excellent, especially with a spoonful of sugar.  The background music was upbeat, Congolese music, she said.  The host family, whom we had never met before, tried to give us a king-sized mosquito netting because in dinner conversation we were talking about our current netting having some holes.  They immediately got up, went to their closet , put one of their own mosquito nets in a bag and insisted we take it home with us.  We didn't, but how generous and what great hosts they are!

More random shots:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

     We were without power for 80 hours straight past week.  (Wednesday night to Sunday afternoon.)
Then it came back for about 8 hours and then cut out again.  We are in the dry season right now.  This year the dry season started 1/12 months early with extra warm temperatures.  Power is "iffy" during the dry season because electricity is generated at small dams near the mountains and during the dry season, the water level in those dams drops too low to provide needed power.  On the bright side, humidity is lessened, so I don't feel like I am running around in a sauna all day long.  One draw-back to the dry season is that people throughout the city start burning their own trash.  The air is full of smoke and haze and it smells!  Our neighbors behind us burn their trash in their back corner so we get the benefit of the nasty smoke which comes in our windows and settles nicely on all of our floors and furniture.  the smoke does make for colorful sunrises and sunsets.

     Two of the 3 candidate missionaries who live in our backyard have received their mission calls!  It's so exciting when a call comes.  It is delivered to our house by DHL.  We give it to the branch president who then gives it to the missionary.  They have all been waiting so long for that day.  Remy, one of the young men in our backyard, has been called to serve in Benin, a small French-speaking country on the west coast of Africa, and Fiston, another one from our backyard, has been called to serve in the newly created Brazzaville Mission here in Africa.  Such excitement, so many smiles!  It's fun to be a part of it!

     One of our missionaries called and said he was sick, so we grabbed our malaria test kit and went to see him.  I guess Gary drew the short straw because he was the one who had to prick the poor boy's finger to get blood for the test.  This was the first time in his life Gary has tried to get blood from someone.  (Run, young man, run!)  The 1st prick we couldn't get enough blood for the test kit no matter how much we milked and massaged it.  So we had to go in for another try.  This time we had him try to pump up his circulation by swinging his arm in circles.  I got that technique from Brooke when she has to get blood out of my finger!  Gary stabbed him again and this time we got  bit to use for the test.  Results were negative for malaria.  Yay!  Patient will live but has very sore finger.  Somehow I don't think he'll be calling us again when he's sick, probably preferring to suffer in silence rather than risk another finger prick from Dr. Neeley!

Monday, July 14, 2014

     The meeting with the 5 branch presidents was really LONG, but very good.  It was the first time all 5 presidents have ever met together, and I think important bonds were built.  They discussed issues that are important to all the branches.  Gary and I each gave a short presentation as part of the program.  Afterwards, we went to dinner at Gian Franco's Italian restaurant.  The 2 presidents from Uvira spent the night there at the hotel and returned to Uvira the next morning.  The whole evening was great!

     Not all meetings are so successful.  For example, Branch 1 asked me if I would teach English.  I said I would and showed up at the appropriate time to have an English class.  Unfortunately I was the ONLY one who showed up.  The next week I tried again, and again I was the only one in the room.  I figured the third time was a charm or three strikes and you're out.  This time I had two people show up. We went ahead with the class because they made the effort to come.  Now I am having trouble getting Branch 1 Primary to come to training.  Their training meeting was scheduled for 2:00pm on Thursday.  Sadly, not one of the presidency came.  So I talked to them and told them to come to Branch 2,3's training, which was Friday at 2:00pm.  The presidencies of branch 2 and 3 were there, and we had a great meeting.  So much fun with the Primary music!  Sadly, once again there was no one from Branch 1 who attended.  As you can see, serving here is a series of ups and downs!  You feel good about how things are going, you feel bad about the way things went.  I guess that's life!

     It has been 5 weeks since we've had power during Church on Sunday in Branch 1, so I was pleased when we had power last week and Elder Kapata could sit down at the keyboard and play some prelude music.  Seeing that it's July, I was a bit surprised when he started playing "Away in a Manger."  This week we enjoyed "Far Far Away on Judea's Plains".  Christmas songs are enjoyed here year round.  Adam will appreciate that!

     Monday night we were invited to dinner at the home of a family who is just here visiting.  They are originally from Burundi, but when the war started, they were able to get out of here. They told us of their experiences.  He was a professor at the University of Burundi and she had a 2 week old baby when the trouble began.  They could hear the violence going on throughout the city and sometimes passed bodies on the street.  Killing was going on indiscriminately.  Grenades were thrown into classrooms full of students, teachers were murdered.  They were able to escape and flew to Belgium where he had earned his doctorate in engineering.  Eventually they settled in Canada, which is where they live now.  They have a beautiful daughter who reminds me of a young Diana Ross (lead singer of the Supremes for you youngsters out there!)

     Yesterday we returned to the school we had previously visited, only this time with an engineer whom we hope will be able to give us direction on how to help the school with their water run-off issues.  There are so many needs here it is overwhelming.  There are 2500 students who attend elementary school here.

     We got word that we are to find a building that can be used as a church building for the newly split off Branch 3.  We drove the area and there is one really promising possibility.  The president of that branch is not excited about this particular piece of property.  It has been used as a reception center and has been the site of lots of wild parties and drinking.  He fears that his members will not go there because of the bad reputation of this building.  We tried to explain that many changes and renovations
 will be made to the property and that it will be, in the end, dedicated as a church.  He is unconvinced.
                I am going for a record! Yesterday morning I got 50 bites (I counted them) on my right leg from the knee to my toes.  That doesn't count the other leg.  I look like I've got chicken pox!



Sunday, July 13, 2014

     Last time we talked a bit about mango trees, so this time I thought I would dedicate this blog to all of our friends and family who enjoy working in the garden .  (You know who you are!)  This will be a little peek into what plants are like here in Bujumbura.  What you might put in your garden were you living here with us.

     This is a shot going down the hill towards our neighborhood.  You can see Lake Tanganyika in the background.

This is a fan palm. a variety I find beautiful.

                                                               obviously a banana tree

These are strange trees the green ones) whose leaves point down.  The pink flowering tree is a plumeria, the kind of flower that they makes leis out of in Hawaii.

                                           This looks like a 7 foot tall poinsettia bush to me!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

     This is a post from Gary that I wanted to put on the blog:I

     I  thought I would share with all of you an event that is in process that confirms the fact that the Lord truly is in control and watching over his work in spite of all the garbage we bring. 

We have been struggling with several issues the last few weeks that seemed to never have a clear way to resolve.  One of the issuers was that we have two Branches in the Congo, Uvira and Kulundu, that are hard to get to because we have to cross the border into the Congo and come back. It usually takes more than a hour and is really a hassle.  We also from time to time get stopped by the Police because we are white and are hassled until we give them money.  These two branches need our attention as much as the branches in Bujumbura.  The second issue has been training for the Branches, especially the Presidents and the counselors in Bujumbura.   We have been unclear how to structure the training, how often, subject matter etc.  With those two things in mind listen the next story. 
We were informed by the Zone Leaders that one of the candidate missionaries was telling members of the Branch that the full time Missionaries are paid and how unfair it was that the candidate missionaries who work with the full time missionaries are not.  So this has now spread through out the Branches.  All five of them.  Apparently he is not the only one that thinks the full time missionaries get paid a salary.  There is a lot of misconceptions about the Church paying missionaries and even paying members.   So we convened a meeting with the Branch President to discuss not only this person but also on how to address the issue in all the branches.  We met at the 1st Branch under a large Mango tree.  Now you need to know that the Zone Leaders call this tree a sacred tree, and they always use it to teach the gospel to new members and investigators.  The afternoon was beautiful, as every day is here.  While we were discussing the purpose of the meeting and building an agenda, the branch president explained some of the history of this particular person and how he had gone inactive and then decided he wanted to go on a mission etc. Again we do not know his motivate for wanting to go on a mission, probably he thinks he will get paid for life, which is what a lot of members think.  To the point.  President Mabingo recounted a dream he had had not too many days before the meeting.  In his dream he wanted to go and visit with his old pastor and members from his previous church, but he could not do it.  He was drawn back to the Church, and in the dream was sitting under a tree discussing church issues with friends from the church. So as he recounted the dream he knew there was going to be a meeting before we ever called and set it up.  It was just as he had seen it in his dream.

The responsibility of talking to this young, candidate missionary lies with the Branch President,  and as he also is very new to the church, and is not completely knowledgeable,  we started directing the discussion toward how to teach/instruct the 3 branch presidents in Bujumbura, what criteria to use, times, etc.  As we were discussing all the ideas,  it became very clear that to me, as in a sudden personal revelation, that we should invite the other Branch Presidents to this meeting and not just this meeting but this meeting should start a monthly training meeting of all the Branch Presidents.  Of the five branch presidents, two are brand new, within the last 3 months and both because of branch splits.  So they had to start from scratch.  Now this in itself does not seem that it is a big deal.   In fact it appears that any thinking, normal , intelligent person could figure this out, it is so simple. But keep in mind we were not finding solutions, it took a misguided kid and a Mango tree to set in motion exactly what the Lord wanted to happen here. And a bit of revelation.  His people need the training so badly.  There are so many misunderstandings about the roll of the church in the lives of the members.  And this area is about to explode as far as growth in the church.  It is just a small story in hopes you can enjoy a portion of what we get to see.  Usually late.  But, it is the small things that create large lasting changes.  For the very first time all the Branch Presidents will be together, to build brotherhood, to strengthen the members together and to help each other deal with the issues, to have someone to talk to.  This will grow into a full scale teaching and training of members in all levels and all auxiliaries.  They truly will be able to completely take charge of their  Branches and govern themselves.  Love to all,  we miss you.  Hope this does not come across as preaching I just wanted to share this with the ones I love.  We know the Lord is in charge here and will see that what needs to be done will get done.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

     Last week-end we went to a traditional drum performance at a beach with Aimable (the young man engaged to be married) and his fiancĂ©, Freida.  Cool drums!  Cool dancing while drumming!  They use so much energy when they dance and/or drum.  the one guy would leap into the air and kick his legs so they went up above his head.  They asked us to come and drum with them.  We must have had "TOURIST" written on our foreheads because not only were we asked to participate with them, but we were asked to donate $20 for the free drum concert.  Oh, well.  It was fun, anyway!

At this same beach, they had a chimpanzee in a metal cage.  It made me sad to see him confined in such a small space, all alone with nothing to do.

There was also an even smaller cage with a baboon in it.  Inside the cage with the baboon was a tiny puppy which the baboon was grooming.  Hopefully it was put there as a companion and not as lunch!