Monday, April 1, 2013

Paradise Called Rwanda - April 1, 2013

Dear Everyone

Well, Rwanda is awesome. I really like it here it and it has been a great experience so far. It’s remarkable how much the people here in Rwanda need and are ready for the gospel. The people in Uganda were also very prepared for the gospel. Let’s just leave it with the idea that the people of Rwanda are just as or more ready.

We are not yet allowed to tract or contact people on the streets. I was a bit confused on how we would ever get any work done. We basically walk in circles around the cities with hope that someone will talk to us and ask us what we do. An alternative is that we can have members from church introduce us to people.

I have since learned that the people of Uganda are really curious about everything. They can’t help themselves but to ask when they see two white guys dressed up nicely walking around the cities and ghettos. They just come up and ask us what we are and what we are doing. To be honest we really do stand out. As people ask what we are doing we explain to them that we are missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. After explaining all that we really can’t say much more. At that point we ask if this something that you would like to learn more about. If they say yes, we have to schedule an appointment for a later date and hope that they will be there and be ready.

It is an adjustment from Uganda where we would stop every single person we saw to talk to them about the gospel. Here we can’t stop and talk to anyone unless they talk to you first. We can’t teach them in the streets like we did in Uganda. What I have learned from Rwandans is that they are really good at keeping commitments. If we set a time and place to meet they usually will come about 30 minutes late -- but they will come. The people here are awesome -- they are clean and they are extremely happy. They really have pride in their country, respect it and take care of it. The police here are serious business so the streets are always safe. It is really just a whole different world from Uganda. I really enjoy just seeing how the people here are so grateful that there is peace in the land, and that they are free from war.

You recall from my last letter that there are the two tribes in Rwanda. You can see the difference in their facial structures. Even though there are physical differences there is no hatred towards each other at all. They see each other as equals and treat each other as if there never was genocide. It is truly remarkable. If the whole world had the desire for peace like the Rwandans, then the world would be wonderful. It’s really remarkable.

Once a month the Rwandans do something called ‘muduganda’ which is a holiday held the last Saturday of each month. Each and every citizen of Rwanda is required to go outside at 8 am and clean the streets, sidewalks, buildings, work in public gardens and many other things until noon. Picture this, all of Rwanda, going outside and cleaning the country for four hours each month. It really brings a lot of unity to the people. The saying ‘a family that works together stays together’ applies to countries as well. So, food for thought, ‘a country that cleans together stays together’.

April 7th-14th is genocide week in Rwanda. This is going to be a really interesting week. From what I have heard from the locals, genocide week is a special experience. It is a time where everyone stops being secretive about the genocide. During this special week, natives are allowed to tell their genocide story. They will be able to tell their stories and experiences to everyone. It is kind of like a week of mourning and reflection. The people have peaceful parties and tell their stories. From what I have heard the people here will probably tell the missionaries a lot. I am not expecting them to tell me much because I am not a Rwandan. We will have to see what happens. Elder Terry and I decided that we would go to the Genocide Memorial in Kigali on the 8th out of respect. We desire to learn more about it so that we can truly understand. I think it will be a big learning experience for me and will help me to better understand the culture.

Let’s talk about Danny, a new investigator that we are teaching. We found Danny through a referral. He is 23 and his uncle (the person he lives with) is the leader of the Ministry of Defense for Rwanda. We met with him for the first time last week and it was an OK lesson. He didn’t seem too excited or interested about anything. We thought that we would teach him one more lesson to see what he thought about it all. We set a return appointment with him and prepared to teach him the Restoration (in this mission we teach the Doctrine of Christ first then the restoration second). As we met with him again his whole spirit had changed. When he showed up he was very excited to see us anxious to learn more about the gospel. We taught him about the restoration and he remained excited to learn. He kept just asking really good questions that showed that he was paying attention. It was just a really great lesson.

After teaching the lesson we set a baptismal date with him for the 21st of April. He gladly accepted it. After we set a date with him he indicated that he wanted to see where it is going to happen with a huge smile across his face. Elder Terry and I just looked at each other and said OK, let’s show him the place we do baptisms. :) We walked him in and as we entered he just kind of gasped and became very quiet. He just stood there and just stared. I thought he was scared out of his mind because it seems everyone in Africa fears water. The tank that we baptize in is kind of deep…… I soon found out that his gasp was due to his being very very excited to be baptized.

Danny came to church on Sunday. We had scheduled the baptism of a young girl named Brenda who was the daughter of a part-member family. Danny just soaked up everything that the teachers were teaching. He just seemed that he could not get enough of it all. After the third hour of church was over I asked him what he thought of church and instead of giving the usual answer that everyone gives (“it was fine”) he said "it was amazing". This was a big surprise to me. This was the first time I had ever heard anyone say that three hours of church was amazing. :)

Because he enjoyed church so much and he seemed like he didn't want it to end, I decided to invite him to the baptism of Brenda. He gladly accepted the offer and stayed after church to watch the baptism. They had a few speakers before the baptism that were alright. Then it was time for Brenda to be baptized. As we walked into the baptismal room Danny became quite again as he had before. As the baptism was being performed, he just stood quietly watching carefully every little detail. After the baptism was complete we went back into the room where the talks were given. I looked at Danny and just smiled. After I smiled he looked at me and said "I’m Next". I was so caught off guard I couldn't figure out what he meant by "I’m next". After sitting there for a second I figured out that he meant he is next to be baptized. I just couldn't help but to smile.

We still have a lot to teach him before he can be baptized. We really like people to come to church a few times before their baptism day. I told him that his day is coming soon and he just smiled and couldn’t help but to be excited. I think Sunday made him really realize that he wants his whole family that he lives with to have the gospel and to enjoy the same feelings that he had at church. I think that he will be introducing us to his relatives that he lives with very soon. We will be teaching them as well. I’m excited about Danny for many reasons. First he is a super powerful investigator, second he is already excited about reading the Book of Mormon, third he can’t wait to be baptized, fourth I think he will be introducing us to his relatives soon, and fifth his uncle is the Ministry of Defense leader of Rwanda. I think it will be very cool to get to know his uncle and teach him the gospel.

I have a funny story to tell. So in Uganda my companion and I were running every single morning and we were eating really healthily. It was awesome and was easy to stay in shape. It was fun to work out every morning. When I came to Rwanda, I got a companion who used to be a cross-country runner. I was pumped. I thought that this guy is going to be kicking my butt every single day and really motivating me to run more and more. I was really excited to meet Elder Terry and to start running with him. All I have to say that Elder Terry is the funnest companion in the world. We get along perfectly and we know how to be serious when it’s time to be serious and we know how to have fun when it’s time to have fun. It’s just an awesome companionship.

Back to the running. I was all pumped to have a cross-country runner as a companion. I quickly learned that "used" to be a cross country runner is very different than "is" a cross country runner. Don't get me wrong, he is in great shape still. Running is just not on his list of things to do in the mornings. Every single day I’m practically begging him to run with me. He is just trying to gain weight (he probably weighs 145 and is about the same height as me). He says that if he runs he will just disappear. To this point it has been a battle of convincing him that running is a great thing and that being thin and in shape is an even better thing :) We will see how that all goes. I’m hoping that he will soon start enjoying running and start looking forward to it so that we can run a little further and run a little faster.

I’m sure he will come around to the idea of running every morning. It will just takes a little convincing since he isn't a morning person. Either way, he is an awesome companion and such a blast to work with.

I can officially say that I have gotten use to sleeping under a mosquito net every night. It was really a struggle to learn to sleep under that thing because I would wake up in the middle of the night and stretch my arms out and would run into a weird feeling wall that seemed to be all around me. After feeling around for a little while, my mind would eventually leave its dazed state and I would figure out that it was a mosquito net. Now my mind instantly knows what it is. I know it sounds dumb but it is nice to finally get used to it and not get confused at night when I wake up.  It is the small things that make us happy.

Things are going well here. I really enjoy Rwanda. I love the people.

I love you all and hope all is well.


Steve/Elder Bitter

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