Monday, March 25, 2013

Rwanda: Land of 10,000 Hills - March 25, 2013

Here’s a letter to remember -- this one goes in the record books for me.

On Tuesday we were all patiently waiting for transfer news to come. We all wanted to know if we were staying or getting sent to another area in Uganda. Transfer news doesn’t come until Wednesday mid-day so we just continued on with our day but still speculated. As the day progressed I came to the conclusion that Elder Bulloch would be staying. Elder Bulloch came to the conclusion also that I would be staying. With that join conclusion we were both pretty happy since we get along really well and have seen a lot of successes. We continued to talk about what we wanted to do and who we wanted to focus on for the next six weeks as we walked around the area teaching people and finding new investigators.

We had a very successful day. We were able to see a lot of people who had recently been baptized and we were able to talk to them about the importance of always staying clean and worthy. It is really cool to see the change in people after they had been baptized. For example, Robert who was baptized a few weeks ago has really changed. When we use to meet with him, he was always quiet, reserved and just kind of shy. You couldn’t tell if he really liked the message we were sharing with him. Since he was baptized he has completely changed. He is always very excited to meet with us. He is now talkative and happy. When we teach him he is smiling and listening and you can see that he is really learning. As he sits there you can see in his eyes that he understands and is enjoying everything we are teaching him. He always has really good questions that apply to the topic.

It’s really cool to see how people change and grow from experiences such as baptism. Before Robert was baptized he had been struggling to find a job. Once he had been baptized he found a job in two weeks. Things like this just really show that the Lord blesses those that come closer to him. The best part about his job is that it does not conflict with him coming to church. He really received a great blessing because it seems that no one in Uganda has a job that does not have to work on Sundays. The lord really blessed Robert.

Wednesday came (like always) :) Like Tuesday, Wednesday started out good and just kept getting better and better. We went for our daily run and it was awesome. After we finished our daily routine we conducted our weekly DDM. DDM is District Development Meeting. During this meeting Elder Mgijima, Elder Chuya, Elder Bulloch, and I all meet together to talk about how we can improve for the rest of the week and the upcoming week. We talked about all the areas we needed to improve on and set goals for the next 6 weeks, 6 months and one year. This really helped us see what we needed to do to improve and what steps we needed to make to get there.

After we had finished DDM we all left to teach our lessons to all of our investigators and recent converts. At this point it was about 2:30 in the afternoon. We were walking from an appointment we had with an investigator to an appointment we had with a member of the church who has not come for almost a year. He is a really cool guy who is always welcoming and happy to see us. His name is Omo (same as a washing machine soap found here). As we were meeting with Imo, I couldn’t stop thinking about transfer news. My mind was excited to hear if I was staying in this area or not. I wanted to stay because was getting really comfortable with the area, I knew where everyone lived, I knew all the members names and I knew where all the investigators where (and so on and so on). I really liked being with Elder Bulloch. He is a hardworking, fun missionary that is always ready to go teach.

As we were teaching Omo, Elder Bulloch got a phone call. He excused himself from the discussion and walked over to a ledge about twenty feet away and sat down. As he was sitting I was watching him closely so that I could guess what was going on. He instantly jumped up and had a concerned look on his face like someone had just died. After the phone call was over he came back and sat down with us and continued to teach Omo with me. After we had finished up the lesson we ended with a closing prayer and left. As we walked I expecting him to tell me what the phone call was about. Instead of telling me he just walked in silence. After about two minutes of this the conversation went something like this:

Me: "ummm so are you going to tell me about the phone call?"

Elder Bulloch: "The Assistants called and we got our transfer news"

Me: "Sweet. So what’s the story? What’s happening? Are we staying or are we getting split up?"

Elder Bulloch: "You know I feel that I shouldn't tell you until dinner tonight so you can think about it and try to guess some more"

Me: "Hahah dude. Come on. Let’s hear it. Am I staying or am I going? Are you staying or are you going? What’s the story?"

At this point, Elder Bulloch just stopped dead in his tracks, looks at me and says " I’m staying in this area and I’m still the zone leader. As for you, you are being sent to Rwanda!"

I couldn't believe it. I was just stood there all confused. What! Are you serious? I kept asking him if he was being honest or not. I was having trouble believing him. This went on for five minutes -- me not believing him and him telling me, “no I’m serious your leaving”. I was stunned.

Truth be told, I am now in Rwanda so I guess the transfer news was true after all. I am now with Elder Terry. We get along perfectly and I really like working with him. He is from South Carolina and has serving for about 14 months. He is the Zone leader over Rwanda. I’m with a zone leader for the third time.

A little fun fact for you all is that Rwanda just opened up to missionaries a few months ago. There are only six missionaries in Rwanda at this time and I am one of those six. An even cooler fact is that I am the eighth missionary ever to enter Rwanda. This is one awesome experience. I feel really blessed to be here. It is a remarkable place. The Lord really gave me a wonderful opportunity to be out here and I am extremely grateful for it. This is a really precious area. My companion explained to me that us being out here is a true blessing because we are the test pilot missionaries. Rwanda is seeing if we are constructive, so we have to be extremely responsible to not mess things up. If we mess it up, other missionaries may not be allowed to come into Rwanda ever again.

I can’t explain how lucky I feel to be here with these people. The people here are remarkable, so kind and quite classy. They may not have much money but they treat their country very well and treat each other even better. It’s really interesting how it became like this. The genocide that happened here changed everything. The people now want nothing but peace. They avoid war and contention at all costs. They will do anything to keep the peace. Before the genocide, the people were split into the Hutu and Tutsi tribes. After the genocide they decided to get rid of the separation by tribes and made themselves all one tribe. You can still see the physical differences in the people so you know what tribe they are originally from, but now they are no longer separated. They are together in everything.

In Rwanda there are a few things you never do (my companion has let me know ahead of time). You never ever ask what tribe someone is from. You never ever ask about the genocide. You never ever ask if people were in the genocide. These seem like common sense to me but I guess it is better to be warned then make the mistake. There are some pretty crazy stories about how these good people survived the genocide. They have to bring it up -- you can’t ever ask them about it. It is still a very sensitive topic because it happened so recently. Things have really changed here since that time. It is now peaceful, safe and has a good culture. I feel really blessed to be here and have the opportunity to experience this.

I don't know if I will be here for one transfer or many transfers. I would love to stay here for a very long time. I love this place. There is really nothing to complain about. It is such a blessing to be here. I truly hope that the government opens up and allows more missionaries in. The people here are so ready for the gospel. They are not only ready but when they find out about the gospel they are dedicated to it. Once people here find the gospel and learn about the freedoms it brings they are committed to it for good. It’s a really amazing thing.

One fun fact about Rwanda is that it is called the land of a thousand hills. Well, let me tell you, it’s more like the land of ten-thousand hills. I’m pretty positive that while I am serving here I will get some pretty strong legs. The hills here are super-steep and my legs are burning like crazy once I reach the top.

To show you how dedicated the people here are, I want to tell you about a guy named Isaac. Isaac has been a member of the church for about two and a half months now.  Isaac lives about three hours away from the church. Every single Sunday, he walks for three hours to get to church, he then sits and listens to church for three hours, then he walks back home for another three hours. That’s nine hours for church every Sunday. That is not all. Isaac really wants to serve a mission after being a member for a year. He wants to be a missionary so badly that he works with us every single day. He literally does work with us every single day. He is so excited to work with us that he wakes up at 6:30 to get ready. He walks for three hours. He works with us all day and then he takes a taxi home. This guy is an inspiration all on his own. He is a remarkable member of the church. He was just baptized and he has already almost finished Alma in the Book of Mormon. Just remarkable.

I am out of time and have to go. I hope that this letter was a good read. I really tried to explain how great of a blessing it is to be here and how excited I am to be in this great country. It is an awesome thing.

I am sorry no pictures this time. I just had too much to write and my camera is messed up so getting pictures might take a little longer than before.

I really love you all


Elder Bitter

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