Sunday, December 30, 2012

This is a letter we wrote to family earlier in December, about Christmas and December activities:

December 12, 2012
This morning we took President and Sœur Jameson to the airport – they were here for 2 nights and one whole day.  They arrived from Gabon, a nation to the north west of us, which is included within our mission  borders, but which has not had an established branch of the church, or missionaries.  President Jameson called a branch president so a branch can be established there.   The man he called to serve as president had served as a counselor in a branch presidency in another African country,  then he moved to Gabon.  He also called one counselor, who just happens to be a young man who is working for the U.S. Embassy there, and who has a wife and 5 young children.  In a branch, there doesn’t have to be a whole presidency called to become established.  This counselor and his family have just recently moved to Gabon.  He is a returned missionary (speaks French) and they will be a great strength to the branche President and the branch.  The country has not yet been dedicated for preaching the gospel, but the work can still begin as far as preparation.  President has been hoping to get a French speaking couple called to this mission so he can be prepared to open the country for missionary work, and send 4 missionaries.   He and Sœur Jameson met with some real estate people, reviewed what is available for shopping and apartments, etc., for a senior couple and missionaries.  A security man was also sent by the church to check out the overall safety of the place, which is another interesting part of this process of establishing the church officially in a country.  This security man e arrived in Gabon a day ahead of the Jamesons and there was something wrong with his Visa, so they ‘detained’ him in jail.  Sounds bad, right?  BUT, because he is a very smart and inspired man (French speaking returned missionary), he had soon made friends with the guards, was out watching a soccer game with them on their TV, and learned more about the safety of Libreville (the capitol of Gabon), the neighborhoods, the police, etc., than he ever could with an official visit to the police to ask about it, which he usually does during his advance visits.  The Lord works in mysterious ways!  He told the Jamesons that Libreville is the nicest city he has ever been in, in Africa – it is more modern (streets are paved, streetlights, shopping, etc.), and there does not appear to be a lot of crime (no ‘guardians’ sitting outside of every nice home and no barbed wire or broken glass along the tops of walls around homes).  All of the Elders say, “send me, send me” and that is the way I feel, too – but they need a couple who speak French so they can do housing contracts, etc.  Too bad for us!

That experience, on top of the recent visit of Elder Holland, for which there is a link on the church news website, and the Jameson’s blog, are all so inspiring and so abounding with miracles.  The work is going forward rapidly in this part of Africa – even though it seems like at a snail’s pace to those in towns and cities all over this huge continent, who don’t have the official church presence yet and long for it. 
Today on the Jameson’s blog I was reading about their visit to South Africa for a Mission President’s conference, and how they met some families they had known and loved in their first mission, in Lubumbashi and Burundi.  When they had just a few hours of break from the conference, friends now serving their mission in that area, invited them to attend a temple sealing in the Johannesberg Temple.  As it turned out, when they walked into the sealing room, they discovered the sealing was for  2 wonderful families that they had known there.  One of the families had saved their tithing for 5 years, as they waited for the church to become established where they lived, so they could pay it  and also baptize their children.  The second family there was one that President Jameson baptized the father of.  There is an inspiring story about how that happened, as well, on the blog.  When some of the members of the family wanted to be baptized, they had to ask their father – and he said it was OK.  Then he also decided to be baptized.  If you read their blog, Jamesons mention there were special circumstances that had to be addressed before he could be baptized.  It is because of that special permission, that President Jameson didn’t think he would have time to baptize the father before they left for America.  The permission was miraculously approved within just a few hours of it being sent, and President Jameson baptized him, I think, the evening before he left.  President and Sister Jameson were called to be the mission president while they were still on their mission in Burundi, so they were given permission to leave a few months early and have about 4 months at home to get ready to return for 2 more years – almost 4 years away from their families, and they weren’t home for 4 Christmases, so why am I feeling sad about not being home for Christmas? 

One of the reasons that require special permission to be baptized is if someone has ever participated in a polygamous marriage.  President Jameson said that when he meets with anyone who is currently in a polygamous marriage who desires baptism, that he counsels them that they do the honorable thing to stay with their family now.  That is the covenant they have made with their spouses.  They will be given the opportunity at a future time, to have all the blessings of the gospel – that is how Christ’s atonement works.  Everyone who desires it and lives worthily will have the opportunity of receiving all blessings and covenants – that is one of the miracles of Christ’s Atonement. 

We spent the evening with the Jamesons on Tuesday night, asking questions and requesting guidance about our work.  Then all day Wednesday, we met with the Elders.  We had instruction from President and Sœur Jameson, watched the First Presidency Chirstmas message program, then had a fun activity, then I fixed a ‘Christmas’ dinner: 
·         Chicken enchiladas (no tortillas here, so I made flour ones from scratch and no cream of chicken soup, so I made that, too);  homemade salsa and tortilla chips from the store (I can find them here!);    rice with chicken flavoring; a canned fruit bowl and 2 bowls of fresh pineapple (an investigator had given a HUGE pineapple to some of the elders – perfect!); homemade chili with Mexican spices (the French store has some spices);  French bread (a must at every meal, to help fill up the hollow legs of the Elders);  and for dessert, I made brownies, then topped them with vanilla ice cream (glace) and chocolate sauce and put a Ferro Rochett (lights are out so I can’t see how to spell it) on the plate – you know, the little round yummy chocolate balls wrapped in gold foil, that are so expensive?
When I bought a lot of groceries one day, the manager of the store brought me a bottle of wine as a gift at the checkout, but since he speaks English a little (I think he is Lebanese or Indian), I explained that we don’t drink alcohol and so he gave me a box of them, instead  - Yahoo!!!

The Jamesons gave each elder a sack of goodies, including a pair of socks, which cost them in South Africa, less than an orange does in Kinshasa (Sister Jameson says oranges cost about $3.00 each).  This is Africa, so they surprised us with a gift that included some candy that is the closest to M&Ms as we can get here (once I found peanut M&Ms and bought 2 bags, but have never seem them again until just the other day – in the French super market they are about $30.00 U.S.  a pound, a kitchen towel that has darling little African children embroidered on it (won’t ever be used, too cute), a small ribbon flower that Sœur  Jameson made, for me to put on my dress – perfect!!!, and a box of real Ziplock bags – hooray!!! I have been using the ones Liz and Meg sent in my package disaster, but had to throw away the ones the rats chewed on.

I made them each a Christmas stocking out of African fabric (my hand sewing skills are improving a little at a time),trimmed them with bright yellow fancy lace (lot of that kind of stuff here and the men like it as much as the women do) and we put some chocolate santas (from the French store), and an apple and orange in them,  and a handwritten note from each elder and one from us.

Today, we were parked as close to the side of a dirt street as we could get, while Elder Wheatley went with the Elders to do an interview with a baptismal candidate.  A Taxi came along and passed with no problems, but then a large van came by and hadn’t pulled over as much as he could, and stopped part way past and thought he couldn’t pass without hitting us.  I went and got Keith and even though there were a couple of inches of give, he decided to move the truck.   The trouble was, when he started
to move, the truck slid on some large rocks and scraped the side of the van, leaving some blue paint on the white van.  The man got out, of course, because now it was our fault,  and then traffic started piling up behind the van.  People had to get out and shout for awhile, then the van moved out of the way and I went and got the missionaries to come and help us communicate with the van driver.  A man from the house the elders were teaching at, came out and talked with them, and they pounded on the inside of the van for a few minutes (was it dented a little?) and then the missionaries and Keith rubbed the blue paint off, and eventually the driver was OK enough to leave.  And that was that.   Anyway, it was a blessing that the van driver was OK and drove away instead of demanding a bunch of money.  We know the Lord blesses us each time we go out, and we pray a lot before and while we are out.  It is just very scarey!  I need to have more faith and not worry so much, but it is hard to do that.  I have prayed a lot about it and have done better today, and then this happened and I need to concentrate on the blessing of it turning out OK.  
The power was on the whole time the Jamesons were here – unusual!  Then about 2:00 it went out and stayed off until about 7:30.  This time, though, when we were using the generator, about 6:30,  the power surged, knocked the generator off, and then when it came back on, we had more power than we usually do – it powered more than one light and stayed good until the electricity came on.  Makes no sense to us – and now the power is off again!  Guess I will send this if/when it comes back on tonight or whenever it does.  It doesn’t do me any good to get upset – I try so hard not to, but it is difficult to be patient about the power issues –all the time, day after day after day.  I think it must be like this in many places around the world, but knowing that doesn’t make it easier for a woman spoiled with the good and dependable blessings in life.

Today is Sunday and I wrote the above on Thursday night.  Power issues continually, but I am grateful that we do have one light and some air conditioning when the generator runs.  We can even use either the water pump or the fridge or the stove, if we do it and turn everything else off J

Yesterday we had a challenging day again, with the truck.  We noticed that someone had scraped the front driver’s side fender and left some deep scratches.  It must have happened when we were parked, because it didn’t happen when we were in it.  Then, as he was backing out, and I was supposed to be directing him, I didn’t say STOP fast enough and he backed into a brick wall just outside our gate and broke one of the back lights.  It still works, thank goodness.  I felt so awful but it is one of the few times I have to make myself be OK with the “it’s OK, it’s Africa” when it happens and there is nothing to be done and so it goes…… We use that phrase frequently – like when someone dents the truck, steals a piece off of it, or anything else that can’t be helped.  It is hard to believe that the truck is less than a year old – it is showing a lot of wear and tear.  But that is what it is for, and when elders hop in dirty as all get out from a service project, or it has been raining and there is mud everywhere, there is nothing to do but get in and get on with it!  We are grateful it gets us safely to where we need to be. 

Love from Pointe Noire
Elder and Sœur Wheatley

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