Sunday, June 24, 2012

There have been convert baptisms twice a month while we have been here, in two of the three branches.  The branche meeting in the newly rented building is overflowing already.  But these two fine young men were the first to be baptized in the branche we attend, since we came.  Our branche has just struggled to get new members, although the elders assigned to this branche work so hard to share the gospel.  We are so happy to welcome these new members!

While I was waiting for the baptism service to start, I took this shot of the area where the baptismal font is.  This room is also used for Relief Society, for Sunday School, English classes, and a host of other meetings.  The members and investigators love to come to gather at the church for services and for activities. 

 This is a wonderful family with 5 sons.  The woman sitting on the left is the maternal grandmother.  The parents are standing in the back in white shirts and the oldest son is standing on the right in a white shirt, next to a young nephew.  The baby that is sitting on Elder Wheatley's lap is the youngest son.  They kept asking when we were going to come and see their new baby - so this is when we did.

 A few daily sights on the streets of Pointe Noire:

A soda and beer delivery truck, slowly ambling down the road, hoping the tires don't pop from the heavy load....

Three ladies trying to get safely across the street - it looks like they will be fine, but there must be some traffic coming to make the look so tentative!

This photo is taken along the main street we take to go to the Elder's apartments and to the church at La Base.  This is very typical of a vendor - except that she is not crowded by other vendors.  It looks like she is selling (sour)oranges and peanuts and probably some bananas.

This is along the same street.  Notice the cement drainage ditches.  Some of them are up to 6 feet deep and every once in awhile a car or truck goes in and gets stuck and occasionally a person steps in.  Even toddlers seem to know the danger and run and play freely along the sides of the road while their mothers sell their food.
This baby goat is brand new and was just getting up and trying its legs.  Goats run freely all over, even right down town.  I tried to get a shot of a group of spotted goats next to the main street in town but they moved too fast.  These are in a cartier we were visiting.

Elder Wheatley's first plant - a volunteer bean plant, which he says may be a dry bean, like a pinto bean.  It grew right up inton the barbed wire and wanted to go to heaven but couldn't find a way!
The 'teepee' sticks are to support the other beans, and are bamboo shoots he gathered from the swampy area across the road.

This is a "Wheatley" look, don't you think?  Actually, he should be all smiles, because some of his tomato plants have blossoms.  Even though the plants might not produce anything, Elder Wheatley says the green looks good in his garden!   I think the side view is to show his older brothers that even though he lost a few pounds to start with, he is holding his pants up just fine now and still doesn't need suspenders......

The flowers below are in front of our porch and make us smile each time they bloom.  New blossoms  arrive daily.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Elder and Sister Renlund's Visit

         Our Mission President, President and Sister Jameson, our Area General Authority, from the First Council of the Seventy, Elder and Sister Renlund,  and Elder and Sister Wheatley, at our little home.  The elder taking the picture didn't realize Elder Renlund was hidden behind Sister Renlund, so there is another picture of Elder Renlund below.  I will post a picture of all the elders with the Jamesons and Renlunds as soon as I can get a copy from one of the elders because I didn't get one taken.    We had a wonderful, inspiring afternoon with them.  Many words of wisdom and welcome guidance were shared with us.  Hopefully we all got them written in our journals.  There was so much to remember and even with notes, it is difficult to write everything we want to record, down.  This is the Renlunds second visit, and they are so amazingly dedicated to the work of the gospel in Africa.  Elder Renlund presides over most of Africa and they travel extensively.
Elder Davis and Elder Waite came to the rescue the night before the visit.  The power was out and the generator wouldn't support the oven, and there was much to do before the next day.  They took the cookie dough home and brought back cookies the next day!  Elder Waite surprised me with a special cake he baked because he said he could tell I had a stressful day - the design looks like flowers!  WOW! And the cake was delicious!!!
Elder Davis and Elder Renlund.  When the elders were getting ready to leave, Elder Davis asked me to take this picture.  Two wonderful servants in the Lord's work!

June 20, 2012 
Dear family,
I can't remember when I last wrote but thought an update would be in order.  We are well, we had a good week. The power has gone on and off each day since Monday, but we can live through that.  We are in the cool dry season. With no rain the air has become very olluted.  Since there is no garbage disposal most of it gets burned, which causes most of the pollution along with all the idling cars.
 We were blessed to host Elder and Sister Renlund of the Seventy (our area President) and President and Sister Jameson last week.  They were on a tour of the mission.  We always wish we could capture the spirit they bring.  They come and go so fast.  Elder Renlund is over most of Africa, its hard to comprehend the magnitude of his calling.  Our mission covers six countries so our mission president doesn't have an easy life either.  Hopefully we are taking a small load off of his shoulders by taking care of the Elders here in Pointe Noire.  Please pray for more senior couples willing to come to Africa.
 I wrote down so many things that Elder and Sister Renlund said, and I wanted to share one quick story. He said he was interviewing the missionaries and a handsome young man from the states came in.  After a worthiness interview he asked the elder if he had any questions.  The elder responded, "I have been on my mission six months, when am I going to be made a zone leader?"  The next interview was with a young native sister (from South Africa). When asked if she had any questions she responded, with, "We have investigators and they have this challenge, what should we do?"  Then after discussing the situation, it was, "We have this other investigator and......"  He then talked with us about being turned inward and turned outward.  One missionary was focused on himself and his needs, the other was focused on the needs of others. 
After the young elders left, Elder and Sister Renlund sat down in our front room and just visited.  He looked so tired, but wanted to know if we had any questions or concerns.  Then a little later, I drove them to the hotel and the next morning, I drove them and President and Sister Jameson to the airport.  Theresa wasn't able to enjoy those rides with them because there isn't room in the truck for 6 people.  I offered to ride in the back, while President Jameson drove, because he loves to drive and has lots of experience from driving in the crazier than Pointe Noire traffic in Kinshasa, so Theresa could come, too, but they didn't want me to ride in the back, I guess.
 I sometimes think about our mission and why did we come, was it to move the work forward and to receive the praise that comes with it?  Before we came I sent e-mail to hundreds of people at work telling them of our call.  Email at work were easy to remember and I still had them stored in my brain.  I just wanted them to know what I was up to.  When we arrived, I found that the reason for a two year mission as opposed to 18 months is, there is a six month period in which you are humbled and you are taught to forget yourself before you are of much value.  Six months is past, we hope we have the humility part behind us.  I am a big fan of Vi Sikahema (not sure if I spelled his name right).  He lives in Philadelphia where he is a sportscaster. He writes an article in the "Morman Times" section of the Deseret News each Thursday.  He was a sophomore on the BYU football team when they won the national championship.  After that season he decided to go on a mission. After his mission he came back to BYU and the played pro football for the Eagles.  He tells of an experience on his mission in South Dakota (maybe North) when  Elder Loren C. Dunn, then of the Seventy, was touring the mission.  In 1950 Loren C. Dunn played basketball for BYU.  Their team won the NIT championship.  Vi was excited for that chance to be interviewed by Elder Dunn.  He was sure they would talk BYU, football and basketball.  Vi was wearing his championship ring and when he set down he laid his hands on the table so that his ring would be seen.  Elder Dunn then asked him if he was a missionary representing the Savior or a jock from BYU seeking everyone's adulation?  Elder Dunn suggested that the ring disappear and that Vi focus on the real purpose of his mission (I used the word jock, since I can't remember the real words but you will relate).
 Well, that's my sermon from the Congo.  Let's all focus on why we serve and make sure it is for the right purpose.
 We express thanks for your faith and prayers,  we remember many of you by name in our prayers each day.  We have to remember that you have needs and concerns that are probably more troubling than ours.
We love you all.
 Elder Wheatley