To start I will write about the opportunity of meeting with Elder Bednar and listen to him speak to the members of Kampala. This past week we handed out about 30 invitations to less-active members to go and listen to Elder Bednar speak. Elder Stewart and I were so excited to go and listen to an apostle that we could barely keep it in.
After working in the morning we came home and got ready so that we could be early and get a good seat. We went straight to the chapel in the heart of Kampala to sit and wait for him to come. We thought we were pretty smart because we arrived 1.5 hours early, thinking we would get a nice seat. Wrong. We were in the back-back section for sure. After waiting for some time, he eventually arrived up and we had the opportunity to listen to him.
After the opening prayer, song and other jazz, Elder Bednar stood up to speak and said, “This is going to be a different meeting than any of you have ever seen before. In fact this is the first time that anything like this has ever happened in Africa”. He then said, “I will not be standing up here and giving you a talk on a given topic. I am going to let the topic come from you”.
“You will be raising your hands and asking any question you have about the assigned reading topics that were given to you prior to attending this meeting.” I was shocked. Wo. No topic at all??? Well, it made an amazing meeting. Real questions and concerns were answered. The most important question that was raised in my opinion regarded the church’s stance on marriage dowry (paying huge money to a woman’s parents such as cows, goats, furniture or whatever). As this question was asked you could just see and feel the tension in the meeting surge.
Elder Bednar smiled, stood at the stand and said, “Well, to answer that question I think it would be best to let a leader from Uganda answer who understands the Ugandan culture. He then invited the Kampala Stake President up to answer ‘The Question’.
President Okot stood up. He is as straight-forward and blunt as a man can be. He said that, “participating in Dowry goes against the teachings of Christ. It is not acceptable in the Lord’s eye. It is an evil and a wrong practice”. I was stunned. I sat in shock while he went on to say, “everyone should move away from such habits and stop them now. Now is the time to use church marriages (which are free by the way)”.
The crowd just exploded and went crazy. Then Elder Bednar stood up and everything went silent. Elder Bednar came to the pulpit and said "as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles I know what your Stake President has said is true. I am a witness of it!" The crowd remained completely silent. He then said, “It is time for the members of Uganda to be pioneers and to step away from the traditions of their past. It is time to move to the Culture of Christ”.
It was just amazing to there. It was just the thing that Elder Stewart and I had been hoping to hear. This false tradition has caused a whole lot of members to become less active. Since they can’t afford to pay a dowry, they just start living together. In turn, they feel guilty and move away from the church.
This is awesome. I could not have asked for anymore.
Over the past week or so, our house has been flooding on a regular basis with sewage. The pipes to our house are the pipes that the whole apartment complex converges into. Basically, all the sludge and stuff from the apartments in the entire complex passes by our house. Our sink drain finally called it quits a few feet below our sink. The blockage is just downstream from our place, so as all the houses in the apartment use their sinks it all drains right through our house and stops right at the clog. The clog that is just far enough away so that we can’t reach it with a snake or anything like that. Gross.
As people use their water it piles up and floods straight up our sink and right onto the floor in our kitchen. hahah We have told the landlord a bunch of times. He does not really care about it so we decided to take matters into our own hands. In Uganda, most of the plumbing is done on the outside of the house. There are pipes running up the walls of the apartment that go to each unit. We found the one that connects to our apartment and there is a huge screw off cap to get access to the pipe. We screwed it off (a feat on its own). And as soon as we unscrewed it, we knew why it was clogged. This pipe was about two inches across and it was stuffed with gray soupy sludge that smelled like death! What did we do? We sent one person up to our sink to started plunging water through the sink and force it down the pipe. The other person below was shoving a broom stick into the pipe to break the sludge free.
After doing this for some time, a huge amount of gunk just spewed out like a sideways volcano. It was about 5 gallons of thick gray/black sludge. Yum. We thought we had fixed it!!!! Go team. We screwed the cap back on and left it alone. Long story short, we were wrong. It is still clogged but just quite as bad. The sink now drains not but still is super slow. Our kitchen still floods, so not too much has changed. Every day we come home we squeegee out about three inches of dirty, nasty water out of the kitchen. We finally convinced the land lord today to hire a plumber and have him come out and fix it. The good side is that the plumber is coming tomorrow to fix it! Nice.
One more highlight.
In conclusion, I will tell you my highlight of the week above and beyond the experience with Elder Bednar.
When I served in Jinja, my companion and I taught a man named William. William was known for persecuting the church. His wife was a less active member and a daughter of a former branch president. William would openly make fun of and persecute members of the church who attended the school he worked at. We were told that he could use a gospel message. Apparently many missionaries had been told the same thing but had not been able to connect with him.
When we started teaching William he really started to change and began welcoming us and was happy to see us. After we had taught him for about 4.5 months he accepted a baptismal date. The only problem was that he was traveling to China prior to his baptism date.
He flew to China and stayed there for about 3 months and I was transferred. When he came back he had read the Pearl of Great Price and a good chunk of the Book of Mormon. He was baptized the fallowing Sunday after his return. He was baptized on New Year’s Day. After his baptism, he sent me a cool Christmas gift -- a homemade "African Shirt".
My hearing that he had followed through on his baptism date and continued on the path that he had started was the greatest feeling ever -- and the shirt was pretty dang cool as well. I had not seen him since before his baptism. When I showed up to listen to Elder Bednar, there was William with his wife (who was reactivated along the way). I was so pumped to see him. I gave that guy the biggest hug in the world! I took pictures with him and his wife. A perfect day.
They are now preparing to go to the temple when they hit their one year mark to be sealed for time and all eternity (with all of the members of their family). I feel like I came to serve a mission in Uganda for a few specific reasons. I feel that I came to meet them and have the opportunity to teach them. They are the best thing that has happened to me so far.
This does not mean that my mission is over or anything like that. I do feel like that this is a huge part of my mission. I can’t send any pictures on this computer because it is a junker. When I have a chance, I will send you the pictures of these great people. They are awesome. I sure love Sister Faith and Brother William.
I can’t tell you how grateful I am.
I love you all and hope that all is well back home and that your being taken care of.
Sorry for the long email but I had a lot to say.
Love You Mom and Dad.