Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 2112

Elders listening to Sœur Jameson tell about Elder Holland's visit to Kinshasa, and going to Central African Republic with him to dedicate that country for teaching the gospel.  Our resident Okapi is standing guard.  

Two elders helping Elder Wheatley negotiate for a piece of rope to keep in the truck.  It took a long time..... The man selling it had to measure it by estimate and then the negotiations began.

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Sunday, the 25th - the elders didn't want to miss another day of their work in the same week President and Sœur Jameson came. I forgot to take a picture during the meal - we had two roasted chickens(no turkey available), jello, rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh pineapple, green beans, and pumpkin and banana cream pie.  This is after dinner, when they ALL wanted a nap!  Notice the big toe peeking out?

Letter to Family
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Today we met with President and Sister Jameson and the Elders.  They had been to the two cities in Cameroon and were going home after staying with us for one night and meeting with the Elders for President Jameson to do one-on-one interviews with the Elders and for he and Sister Jameson to tell us about the visit of Elder Holland of the 12 Apostles for a conference in Kinshasa and also to go to the Central African Republic to dedicate that country for preaching of the Gospel. 

All the branche Presidents and District/Stake Leaders were invited (the Church paid for the ones from ouside Kinshasa to travel there) and all the missionaries from Brazzaville and Kinshasa were invited to attend.  However, they couldn’t afford to bring any of the missionaries (senior and young) from Pointe Noire or Cameroon to attend, so we have waited patiently to hear about it.  There was also a write up in the Church News and Sister Jameson wrote about it on their blog.  The visitors/General Authorites, were Elder Holland (Sister Holland was unable to come), Elder and Sister Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder and Sister Renlund of the Seventy, who are over the Africa Southeast Mission Area, Elder Soirez, who is one of Elder Renlund’s counselors.   President Jameson said there was also the man over all of Temporal Affairs in Africa and 2 security people who travel with Elder Holland. 

We thought they were coming to dedicate the land for the Kinshasa Temple, but President Jameson said they came to do a yearly review.  The Church isn’t ready to dedicate the place for the Temple yet, he said.  The people who attended the difference conference and training sessions were amazed that so many General Authorities would come at once to visit them in this part of Africa.  Elder Holland took the time in at least 2 sessions (with the missionaries and with the branche and Stake leaders) to shake hands with every single one of them.  He also attended the first graduation of a new program to show men how to ‘plumb, level and straight’ construction projects and talked at it and then had each graduate stand with him and get a picture.  This program is designed to help not only them, but in his talk, Elder Holland said it would help their children and future generations, to raise out of poverty.  The church has brought in a program manager who has many years of experience in teaching in this field, and a teacher from France to do the teaching.  The hope is that with this kind of quality training and certification from LDS Business College, an American college, companies will hire the men to work for them and they will do such quality work that the companies will want to keep them and hire more graduates, etc.

While President Jameson interviewed the elders, Sister Jameson began telling us about what it was like to be so closely associated with General Authorities.  She and President went to CAR with Elder Holland and Elder and Sister Clayton to dedicate the land.  They hired a small plane to take them there and stayed one night and while they were there, they had a wonderful experience attending the dedication, then they met with the members of the church there (one small branche) and then with local dignitaries, to promote PR, and then came back.  It was a 4 hour flight over the Congo River because the plane was so small, and in a big plane it would have taken less than an hour.  You  can’t fly into that country on a big plane unless you stay at least 4 days.  For the dedication, Sister Jameson said they used several cars to drive up on a hill behind the hotel they stayed at.  The hotel was very fancy and was built by Mohamar Gadafy, the Dictator of Libya, for a summer home, before he was killed in a revolution recently.  They think some of his wives may have lived there for awhile.   From the hilltop you could see the Bangui River, which the town is named after.  Banqui is the capitol.  The Jamesons had visited there not too long ago and with permission from the First Presidency, had arranged, through a member of the President’s Cabinet, who is a member of the Church, to meet with the President and do PR for the Church and tell him about the Church and what we teach and why we want to come into their country – and read the Article of Faith about supporting your government.  They said they were asked by Elder Holland to join in a circle for the Dedicatory Prayer.  The actual prayer is an ordinance of the Church, according to Elder Holland.  The Jamesons were also present when the country of Burundi was dedicated and they opened it with 8 hand-picked Elders and lived there until they were called to be the Mission Presidents of this mission. 

Sister Jameson said that during the time that they spent with Elder Holland, they found him to be very down to earth.  When he was conducting the training sessions with the Missionaries and the Leaders, he walked off the stand and interacted with those attending, which amazed them.  Africans are very much into power and authority and he was trying to teach the concept that it is important for Branche Presidents and Bishops to give some of their administrative responsibilities to their counselors and to get out and visit the inactive, the widows, those who are struggling in life.  That is a foreign concept to them, because the ‘chief’ is in charge and he is the one who sits in front and tells other people what to do and when and how to do it.  In fact, it is very difficult for ‘chiefs’ to be released from their callings, because as the saying goes, ‘once a chief, always a chief.’  President Jameson has made it a practice to always release his Assistants to the President and Zone Leaders, before they finish their missions, so they can experience getting released and how it is not a bad thing.  It has been quite a learning curve for the African Elders.  There is one place in Africa, I can’t remember where, that the real chief was converted to the gospel and he brought his tribe with him.  A nice chapel was built there and the church was flourishing.  Then after several years, when it was time to get a new Bishop, when the presiding authority went to release him, he responded that he was not being released because he was the chief.  He was told that is not how things in the Church work, and he left the Church and took his congregation with him, because no one dares to not follow their chief.  It appears to be much less like that here, in the city, but it is also true that the current Branch President was told by the previous one that, ‘once a Branche President, always a B.P.”…. and he would speak as long as he cared to during a meeting, when it was time to close the meeting.  That wasn’t too long ago, but it was before we came.    Sister Jameson said that as they flew to CAR, Elder Holland sat in the front of the plane and no one sat by him, by design.  She said that he was very quiet and didn’t want anyone to talk to him – he was meditating and preparing for the dedication.  Even when they got to the place, he continued to be very quiet and set the atmosphere for the dedication.  He said things in the prayer that were very different than when the prayer was said for Burundi.  He said that there had been many violations of human rights in that country.  He said that the work of the gospel would go forth and that if the government did anything to prevent the work, the Lord would replace them.  She said it was very powerful.

(another subject:  when the Jamesons attended the Dedication of Burundi, they said that in the prayer, Elder Holland said that there were angels in attendance who had given their lives for the gospel.  One of the members, who is now the Branche President, had a son killed during the genocidein Rwanda between the Hutus and Tsutsis.  The son was 14 and was attending school one day when the headmaster, who wanted to gain favor with one of the tribes, locked the doors of the school, lit it on fire, and killed over 150 children.  At that time, the Church pulled their presence out of Burundi because of the danger.  The man felt the Church had abandoned them and he had never been able to forgive and heal from the death of his son.  When the Jamesons told him what President Holland had said, he was able to know that it would be OK, that his son was one of those present, and that it was time to heal. )

The Jamesons were able to have Elder Holland into their home for a meal and to go with him and the other authorities to dinner Saturday night, then spend Monday and Tuesday with him going to CAR.  Elder Holland asked them to speak at some of the meetings and President Jameson presided at some of them. 

Mom and Dad/Elder et Soeur Wheatley


Monday, November 26, 2012

Flooding in Pointe Noire

A week ago, on Saturday night, it rained unusually hard and many parts of town flooded.  It is so sad to see the already poor living conditions that were worsened for so many families.  Here are some pictures I took as we tried to get to church.

 These pictures are all taken along one of the main roads into the part of town where the Pointe Noire Branche house is.  We had to keep taking different roads until we could find one that wasn't flooded.  There was a stream that went through this area, that became a swollen, fast moving river and flooded probably hundreds of houses.

This shot shows a home and some banana trees several feet deep in the floodwater.

This area is a nursery with lots of plants - they are underwater here.
Although we are in the hot, rainy season, this rain was much worse than normal.  We saw a taxi that was pulled out of the river, that we were told had some people in it when it was swept off the road. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

More daily sights around Pointe Noire

I have posted at least one other picture similar to this but this shows a little more detail about what is in the box.  These types of boxes are always carried on men's heads - I am not sure why.

These little girls were so cute I couldn't pass up the shot - many of the children seem so little to be on their way to school!  Most  children carry a backpack and a bottle with water.  Sometimes they also have their morning meal of a loaf of French bread in their hands, too.

The next picture is another one of the daily work of carrying water for the family from where it is available to the home.
The babies here learn to sleep through it all!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pointe Noire Branche Baptismal Font

The font will stay outside and will be filled bucket by bucket, then drained out the bottom when the baptism is over.  This is a view from upstairs.  
The picture below is of some of our 'regulars' who come to the English class we teach each week as a community service project. We teach an advanced class of conversational English.  Elders teach the beginning and intermediate classes.  We have classes at both church houses.

Monday, November 12, 2012

 We were invited, with 2 missionaries, to celebrateFrère Felix's birthday.  He is in the middle, with his wife on the left and their daughter to the left of her and their grandson on her left.  To the right is someone I can't identify and then on the far right is a neighbor and friend, who helped prepare dinner.  The wooden dishes on the table are antiques that he honored us by using.
 The food was delicious.  Going counter-clockwise, there are plantains in the white pot, a rice dish with cabbage and other vegetables in the tan bowl to the right, fried fish in-between, French bread and underneath it was manioc, the green-colored food is saka saka, made from leaves, and a chicken dish on the upper left.  There was bottled water and the bottle that looks like wine was a mint liquid that could be added to the water.  The 3 women had gone to the market early in the morning to get the food and then spent many hours preparing it.

Here is another view of the table.  They live in one of the nicer homes we have been in.  Frère Felix is a physician and he has a very big and nice parcel with his home and several buildings and his office within the walls.  

A close up of the antique wooden plate and utensils.

Garden Spot Service Project

 Four Elders wanted to help an older gentleman develop a garden spot so he could raise food and become more self-sustaining.  He also helped.  This was step one - just getting the rocks and weeds removed and the dirt turned over.  The morning session of school was just out and so we had a lot of helpers!

The man on the left is who the service project was done for.  He lives in the little wooden house in the upper right corner of the picture above.

Here are two women that walked by while we were working.  It got really, really hot and yet everyone besides us didn't seem to mind and were busy about their daily activities.  It is now the hot and rainy season and today it has poured several times and is raining again now.  This is jungle rain - I have never seen anything like it before, it comes down so fast and so furious....and wet!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Recent Experiences - November 2012

 We couldn't resist a photo of this - since Meg and Austin now live in Le Grande!  Little did they know there is a link from there to Congo!  We sometimes actually appreciate taxis - like a recent night when we were trying to find our way out of a cartier when it was dark, full of sharp turns and dead ends and huge areas of mud and water were everywhere.  Suddenly a taxi appeared in front of us at a turn, then we lost sight of it, then it appeared around a corner again and we followed it out to the main road.  We know it was a blessing from Heaven, because we (me especially) didn't know how we were going to find our way out.

We invited two families for dinner.  The family on the left is our interpreter, Frèrer Leon and his wife and daughter (they are church members), and then on the end of the table are Frèrer Mitch and his wife and their 3 children (they are not members).  Both families are loving and talented people.  The children have great educational goals.  Both families sang an African song for us before they left.  We laughed and talked and ate and had a great time!

The father of this family wasn't home, but we were there to do follow up teaching with the Elders because the two little girls were recently baptized.  Their mother was baptized some time ago, when she lived in Brazzaville.  The little girl on the right is very talkative and told us about how she broke her arm one day (the cast has only been off for a short time), when she was running and fell.  The can't straighten her arm all the way now, but didn't complain.  Their mother braided their hair and then added ringlets.  The two little boys were full of energy and mischievousness - trying to get attention and driving their mom crazy......

November 11, 2012
Dear family,
If you go to missioninthecongo.blogspot.com I think Sister Wheatley posted a note lamenting the fact that time is running out.  She has had trouble lately adding to her blog, hopefully things will correct themselves.  The power seems to have been very weak lately.  There is a direct relationship between weak current and weak internet.  This has been a quick but interesting week.  Yesterday and today we viewed the DVD's from the October Conference.  We have a copy of the talks in English so we would follow along while everyone else listened in French.  I think they get a different interpreter for each talk or at least they keep switching them. On one of President Monson's talks they had a real young voice.  It was a struggle  get the feel for that particular talk.  
On Monday we tried to get a "long stay" visa.  Currently we have to renew our visa's every three months.  We hoped we could renew it for the rest of our mission.  After going to different agency's and hearing what it would cost we gave up.  The mission president is not satisfied with the results so we might be trying again.
On Tuesday afternoon we went with the Elders, to visit some recent converts and a new investigator.  Sister Wheatley doesn't normally go but felt a need to go this day.  (She probably thought that if she went,  Elder Wheatley would be more careful and not get the truck stuck)  The first visit was with a young girl.  She and her sister were baptized about three months ago.  Her Sister was still at school so we just taught her.  She started into a lengthy story about breaking her arm shortly after her baptism. She had been causing problems with her sister and a cousin that was visiting.  After causing problems she took off running and tripped and fractured her arm,
The story seemed to go on and on but the Elders said they thought it was a way of her confessing her sin and feeling sorry for what she had done.  We next moved on to visit a family the Elders had taught once before, the husband was not home but his wife was, and the man’s brother came over.  They have a big unfinished home, very typical to move in as soon as one room is finished and then finish the rest of the home when money becomes available.  We  sat  on chairs on the patio and had a good lesson on the Priesthood, at least that's what we gathered.  At the end of the lesson Sister Wheatley asked if she could bear her testimony. Her French came out very good and we could all feel the spirit.  When it was time to go the lady asked Sister Wheatley to say the closing prayer.  Once again she did very well.  After the prayer we felt a connection between the two ladies.  Probably the reason Sister Wheatley felt a need to accompany the Elders on that afternoon.  We had one more stop.  A family that struggles to make it to Church because of finances.  Husbund, wife and four children live in a small wooden house. When we arrive we have to park some distance from the home and our vehicle can't be seen but the children all seem to know when we have arrived as they always come running and jump up on the Elders.  Once again we sit on benches out in the open and swat mosquitoes.  The children all cuddled up to Sister Wheatley.  This was her first visit to their home.  She was asked to give the opening prayer.  Looking back it was a special day for Sister Wheatley,  two prayers and a testimony in French.  More importantly all felt through the spirit.
Wednesday we went with the Elders on a service project.  We dug up an investigator's yard with shovels so he can plant a garden.  Elder  Wheatley is ashamed of how weak he has become.  A couple of hours in the  hot sun and he was praying the Elders would be done in.  It is interesting how many of the young Elders come from homes where they didn't raise a garden.  They kept asking questions about how on plants seeds.

(We are now switching to Sister Wheatley telling this)Wednesday afternoon we had dinner at the home of a recent convert, and older gentleman (probably about our age!), who is a physician.  He has his office in the front of his home, on a parcel that is quite large and has several buildings on it. We have been to his home several times, but never for a meal.  On our blog, there are a couple of pictures of missionaries bonking heads with him, which is a way of greeting for good friends.  His adult daughter and her son, who is 12, were also baptized (her husband is dead).  His wife doesn't speak French, so the elders haven't been able to teach her.  She speaks a village language, and so it will be up to Frèrer Felix to teach her.  This is often the case – where either the husband or wife joins but the spouse doesn’t.  In that respect they seem to live different lives.  The reason we were invited was to help celebrate his birthday.  I had made cookies for them one time and they didn’t seem to really like them, I think they were too sweet, so I took potato salad this time, which they had for dessert and seemed to really like – anything with eggs and lots of mayo is a sure bet!  He told us that in our honor, we would eat off of his collection of traditional wooden plates, goblets and utensils, and some of the serving dishes were also from his antique collection.  He has spent years and we are sure, a lot of money, buying special items from villagers and from his family, some of which he says are from the 1700s.  I will post some pictures on our blog as soon as the power gets a little better so I can make it work.  We had a wonderful meal of whole fish (the innards removed, but not the bones or heads & tails), saka saka (a dish that is very time consuming to make – leaves, seasonings, usually some fish for flavor, the leaves are crushed in a wooden bowl with a long handled -several feet long-wooden tool, then the mix is cooked for a long time), manioc, a rice dish, French bread, and chicken in a delicious sauce.  I was worried about what to drink – we can’t drink their water- but the bottles of water had not been opened before and they were even chilled, and there was a mint flavoring to add if we wanted to, which was very good.  It was a lovely dinner and Frère Felix’s wife sat by me, which was fun because I had never met her before and we couldn’t talk, but could motion about things.  It was a lovely evening – we had a prayer & song and spiritual thought before the meal.  He wants to know how to have FHE, so we had talked about that the week before.     
Well, that's all for this week.  A thought we talk about in missionary meetings:  People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.  
Love from the Congo,
Elder & Sœur Wheatley


Conference Issue of Liahona (Ensign)

The elders came to our home for a Preparation Day activity and we had the pleasure of giving them the October edition of the English Language Liahona (the French edition is the Le Liahona), which is what African Saints get instead of the Ensign, New Era and Children's Friend.  It is all of those combined, and has a special Africa Southeast Area insert each month. 

It was so amazing to watch - they forgot all about the snack on the table and going to play flag football - they all just wanted to sit down and read!

Baptisms in city of Pointe Noire

November 4, 2012
  Dear family,
We were just discussing what happened this week and couldn't think of too much excitement.  We did remember that on Tuesday afternoon a set of Elders wanted us to take them to visit several families.  Elder Wheatley traditionally does this and Sister Wheatley stays at home.  Elder Wheatley was concerned about her going because of the difficult mud puddles, lakes etc. that must be transvered to get to when we going (there are very few paved roads).  Sure enough Elder Wheatley got the pickup stuck in a mud bog.  Fortunately he had put in a shovel and with a little digging and a push from the crowd that had gathered we got out.  In this culture it is expected that when help is given, help is rewarded.  When you have a crowd of people, some giving advice, some disagreeing with the advice, and some actually helping who do you pay?  I have always worried that the person getting the money might lose in the end as the others fight for their share of the loot.  Anyway Elder Wheatley gave one of the men a 5,000cfa(about $10.00 USD) note and we left, knowing that they were 5,000fc richer and the only white people to drive through their cartier that day had given them something to laugh about.  The rest of the afternoon
we made sure we followed the taxi's.  If a little Toyota Tercel or Corrola can get through, a big Toyota HiLux 4 wheel drive should make it.  It is true that the taxi drivers are much more skilled as drivers than an old white man from Utah.  
Last Sunday we had to rely on our containers of water since the pump needed some repair.  It was taken care of on Monday  and we were all smiles for a few hours until we lost power.  Fortunately the generator was able to cool one bedroom.  Since Tuesday life has been pretty smooth except for getting the pickup stuck.  Wednesday and Thursday we met with the Elders in District Meetings.  Saturday was baptisms and English classes.
Something that has given me some thought recently started when I was reading in Luke 24:5-6.  This is when the two messengers at the tomb made the statement, "Why seek ye the living among the dead.?"  "He is not here, but is risen."  As I have thought about the impact of that event and particularly that statement, "He is not here is risen."  I have been thinking about important statements that have been made, trying to determine in my mind which is the most important statement ever uttered here on earth.  Some others that I think are important are: 3 Nephi, 11:11" ...I have drunk out of the bitter cup which the Father has given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered 
the will of the Father in all things from the beginning."  Here are some others, you can read them  D&C 76:41-42, D&C 76:22-24, John 17:3, Moses 1:39.  I remember when Karl would pay us a visit and at the dinner table he would ask, "What is your favorite word?"  When we
answered we would then have to tell why.  Maybe in a family home evening or when you need something to discuss this would be a good activity to ask, "What do you think were the greatest words ever spoken.?
We hope you are all happy and well,  we have a busy week ahead.  I don't always know what we do that makes us so tired, but hate to admit we usually fall asleep on our knees.  We think maybe we should pray earlier in the evening.
May you be blessed always. We mention you by name in our prayers each day.
Love Elder and Sister Wheatley