Sunday, May 26, 2013

Visiting a Family

We love this little family - three of their 4 children.  The little boy next to Elder Wheatley was recently baptized by his father and so we took them some pictures we printed of that special day.  Pictures are treasures.
Here he is, showing us the pebble game that is like jacks.

May 26, 2013
Dear family,
We have enjoyed another week here in the Congo.  It has actually been a very peaceful week.  Other than finding no water in the tap when we went to wash dishes we have had life pretty good.   We found out earlier in the week that the water to this part of town has been shut off  (we think it has been four weeks since we have had water in the line, but just kept hoping it would start again, since we had a technician come and look at it and said nothing was wrong).  We go to the Church and fill containers to put in our reservoir.  When the Elders come over like they did tonight and we use extra water the reservoir  has a tendency to go dry.  Since its Sunday we will bucket bathe and flush toilets with buckets and deal with refilling the reservoir tomorrow, by buying water from the well across the street.   
We made it out to visit a few members during the week and didn’t get ourselves lost.  The biggest challenge is figuring out which alleyways won’t come to a dead end.  It’s never fun to have to reverse out of some of these places.  One of the places we visited we found the sister sick.  Since she doesn’t speak English she crossed herself to indicate she would like us to have a prayer with her.   I think she was just trying to communicate with us and was not resorting to an old habit.
A little about the culture:  We have found it interesting that most families have a niece or nephew live with them, especially the young couples.  These don’t appear to be orphans, just family members that are sent to help when a family has a new baby or needs someone to tend their house when they go to work.  On Monday we visited a young doctor who was baptized about a year and a half ago.  He and his wife have a three month old baby.  When we entered his home he introduced us to two young men, each about ten years old.  He indicated they were nephews.  We inquired if they were just visiting and he said “no.” “They live with us.”   Recently we needed the birthdate of a sister, and we found out that she is only thirty years old.  As long as we have known the family we assumed a girl that is about age nineteen that lives with them was their daughter.  When we do the math we realize that she belongs to someone else.  It is difficult to determine age here, because most people just don’t look as old as they are.  Maybe it is the nice, moist air that keeps their skin so young looking?
During the week we visited a young man who has been struggling to come to Church.  We read with him from the book of Mosiah where Abinidi is chastising wicked King Noah and his priests.  He reviews the Ten Commandments, one of which is keeping the Sabbath Day holy.  As the Elders teach investigators it is so important for them to commit the investigator to attend Church on a regular basis.  My observation has been than among those who espouse a Penticostal religion, church attendance is very important and meaningful (I think the Baptists also fit in with this group). Those that espouse the Catholic, Anglican or Luthern Churchs have become very casual about the Sabbath Day. I remember a cartoon I once saw.  Two ladies with their Easter bonnets on were standing in line waiting to enter a Church. One said to the other, “I don’t understand why those who attend every week don’t stay home so that those of us that  attend only on Easter will have a place to sit.” It has always bothered me that Notre Dame and Boston Collage  compete in athletic events on a Sunday.
It is interesting that most holidays here are tied to religion.  They have holidays on Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, (the day Christ ascended into heaven), Assumption (the day the Catholic’s assume Mary was taken into Heaven) and Pentecost.  There are probably others that we are not aware of, and country holidays like New Year’s Day and Independence Day. Most of the converts here were first baptized into the Catholic Church.  It is important that they understand that our Father in Heaven expects that they will attend Church every Sunday, not just on holidays.  I don’t want to preach to you about keeping the Sabbath day holy, but I have learned that attending Church and fellowshipping with the saints and partaking of the Sacrament is a commandment. We can’t be casual about its observance.  When you ask people what is the first saving ordinance we participate in during our life they will say baptism and confirmation.  If you ask what is next ordinance?  For a man they will say receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood, for a woman receiving her temple endowment.  They always overlook the sacrament.  After baptism and confirmation (and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost), the next saving ordinance we participate in is the sacrament. Partaking of the sacrament weekly is a commandment (Preach My Gospel p. 64).  For most of us, the sacrament is only offered during sacrament meeting.  Under the Bishop’s direction it might be brought into our home if there is a special reason.  We partake of the sacrament to renew our baptismal covenants. We partake of the sacrament to be reminded of our Savior’s atoning sacrifice. The sacrament renews the process of forgiveness. “Every Sunday you cleanse yourself so that in due time, when you die, your spirit will be clean.”( Boyd K. Packer p.196 “My Errand From the Lord.”)  
I have never liked to travel on Sunday, but have been guilty on occasion.  When we have traveled, we have always tried to stop along the way and find a Sacrament Meeting to attend.  I will always remember the Sunday morning when we were in KayCee, Wyoming.  We justified not coming home on Saturday because we needed to be at a family reunion.  There were those that needed to be home on Monday. So we would be traveling on Sunday. I remember suggesting that maybe we could stop at Martin’s Cove and partake of the special spirit one finds there and that could be our Sabbath worship.  There seemed to be agreement, but then my son in law, Austin, indicated that he didn’t feel right about it.  Through the marvels of modern technology the younger generation found an address, and a meeting time in Casper.  They estimated the distance, the time we would have to leave KayCee and the speed we would have to travel. We pulled into the parking lot of the Casper 6th Ward with five minutes to spare and enjoyed a wonderful sacrament meeting.
I will always remember being in a little logging town called Morton, in the state of Washington.  The stake president was visiting the ward that day.  The Bishop, an elderly man, appeared to be very nervous.  He welcomed the congregation, then began to do some ward business presenting several ward members who had been called to serve for a sustaining vote.  One of his counselors came to the pulpit and encouraged him to have an opening hymn and invocation before having a sustaining vote.  He never seemed to regain his composure throughout the meeting.  The stake president sat with a smile on his face and we all enjoyed the meeting.  I’m not sure where this information came from but we were led to understand that this man and his wife had come to that area on a mission as a senior couple.  After their mission they decided to move there  and retire.  He hadn’t planned on retirement including being called to be the bishop!  As we prepared to eat lunch that day, my mother in law was called on to bless the food.  In a tender and sincere moment she asked our Father-in-Heaven to bless this good bishop in his calling, then she asked for a blessing on the food.
It’s good to periodically read from D&C 58:9-24 and evaluate how we are doing in our Sabbath day worship.
Each morning and evening, as we kneel in family prayer, we pray that our Heavenly Father’s blessings rest upon each of you.  Once again we express our appreciation for your faith and prayers on our behalf. 
Love from Pointe Noire,
Mom and Dad, Elder et Sœur Wheatley

Mission Goodbye for one of our Elders

Elder Spens is getting ready to go to the airport and return to the U.S. after completing an honorable mission.  He worked right up until time to go!  What a blessing it is to share missionary time with these extraordinary young men.  They love the gospel and they love the people of Congo.  The young man who is on his right is taking his place.  He is currently a branche missionary and is waiting for his passport so that he can serve a full time mission.

His luggage is loaded and he is explaining that he didn't have time to shine his shoes, but he looks great in his suit!  The missionaries here don't usually ever wear their suit coats - it is way too hot, but they keep them in their closets and hope they don't mold, so they can wear them home!

While we waited for Elder Spens to work his way through lines, I couldn't resist buying a couple of statues made of green ebony.  The one on the left is a mother and child and the one on the right is a woman making saka-saka. 

Precious Water

One of the reason we moved was because of not getting water.  Imagine our surprise when we weren't getting city water and were told that the city knows we aren't getting it - because there is construction somewhere in the city.  They wouldn't say when or if  we will get water again.  This is a picture of Elder Wheatley emptying containers of water he got from the church into our cistern.  We have 12 of them for water storage. 
 The church has city water and we think a well, because there is also a large tank on a high steel frame, which has good water in it.  We can also pay a water truck to bring in water to our cistern or pay for water from a well across the street. 

 This is a view of our street, with cement from a demolished building inside the red gate on the right.  By putting it outside the wall, without a sign saying it is for sale, it can be taken by whoever wants it.  For  about a week, people have been coming with wheelbarrows, like the one in the distance and getting the smaller pieces.  Most of it is taken to fill in holes in the road.  The large pieces are still there, and we don't know what will happen to them.

Another picture of a busy day at a street market.

The sun was setting as we were traveling home and it was actually very red and beautiful, but my camera didn't capture that.

Friday, May 17, 2013

P Day Activity

Because there are no parks or places to go where it is OK for the elders to play football and soccer, sometimes we take them to a beach area out of town a little way, to an area where few people go.  Congolese seldom swim in the ocean,because most of them are afraid of the ocean undertows and many have never had the opportunity to learn to swim.  Once in a while we will see someone play at the edge of the ocean in their casual clothes, but we have only once seen anyone (it was a family) in a swimsuit or sunbathing.   People love to to to the beach area in town and walk or sit and enjoy the clean air and the view of the water and the boats.  There are a few people we have seen actually surf at that beach, which is by a lot of hotels and restaurants, but they are all male Europeans or Mid-Easterners.  
The Elders are not allowed to swim, but they love to play in the sand and have an area to play ball.  I am not sure if this video will work, but they had a lot of fun running and jumping down this sand cliff.

Before they can safely play soccer or football, they clean the area of broken glass and garbage.
Here is another view of them coming over the sand cliff.  They insisted I keep trying until I got a good shot, so they had to do this a bunch of times.

19 May 2013
Despite a few days of bucket baths, when we discovered a leak in the water line going from the pump to the house, we have had a good week.  A little about the culture:  We arranged for a plumber to come on Saturday to fix the leak.  He said he would come at 9:00 A.M.  He arrived at 11:00 A.M.   We showed him the problem; he indicated he will have to return to his home for tools, even though the problem had been explained to him by our interpreter, so we think he should have known what tools to bring.  Fortunately he didn’t ask us to supply them they don’t have vehicles so if a ladder or something like that is required you improvise.  We offered to take him home, because we have been through this routine before so we know where he lives and it takes less time to just take him so he doesn’t take all day to come back.  We lose an hour, returning at about 12:00 P.M.  It takes only a few minutes to chip away concrete and discern what needs to be done.  We need to go to town for parts.  It is expected that we will buy the parts since they have no cash, if we don’t drive him he might go to the market find out the cost of the parts and return asking for the amount of money he needs so he can return to the market to buy the parts.  We learned the hard way its best to take him to the market.  The traffic was bad and the market crowded.  We find and purchase what we need and return home about 2:30 P.M.   He replaces a piece of hose and a few connections, mixes some cement and covers the hole in the wall back over.   At 3:00 P.M. we have running water again.  We have learned that for any repair job you plan on being home all day, and even into the evening.  Actually, we can’t remember anyone ever coming within 2 hours of when they said they would – and our life here has been full of problems that have needed to be fixed.  Usually it isn’t more than a few days before something else breaks or quits working.  Sometimes the cost seems a little high when compared with what people here live on.  But then you realize that maybe this is only job he has all week.  So much for a lesson on the culture.  We have been so blessed to live in the U.S.!
On Friday one of our Elders completed his mission and we put him on the plane for his long ride home.  A great Elder, he was in the shower when we went to pick him up at 5:30 P.M.  He had been out working all day and wanted to leave feeling clean.  His companion said he worked and acted all day like it was just another day giving no indication that he would be leaving in the evening.   He told us that he is concerned about the future and being able to maintain the standards he has been living for two years.  We have two more Elders leaving in six weeks.  We felt impressed to share with them the story of Lot and his wife from the Old Testament.  It used to be just a story of a lady looking back and turning into a pillar of salt.   It probably goes a lot deeper than that.  It is conceivable that Lot and his wife left Sodom and were gone for some time, but she didn’t have the faith needed to change her life.  The friends, the activities, the social life of Sodom were not available in their new surroundings.  She was probably like the people in Lehi’s dream who were influenced by those in the great and spacious building.   And so she returned to Sodom and was destroyed with the people there.  We talked openly about the fact that returning missionaries are challenged.   A couple of incidents come to mind.  Legend has it that a man who was born and raised in Clinton, Utah returned from his mission and a few weeks later he was putting his skis in his car on a Sunday morning to head for the slopes.  The Bishop happened to observe this and came over to tell him to forget the skiing and get to Church.  This man is now an Emeritus member of the Quorum of the Seventy.  (If you want to know who he is I guess you can do some research.)  Fortunately he listened to his Bishop.   At work a man who had fallen into inactivity had a son who was pulled in by the ward members and served an honorable mission. He returned home and married in the temple.  The man said to me one day, “My daughter-in-law just doesn’t understand why my son wants to go hunting with me on Sunday.”  “We hunted for years on Sunday and it’s what he wants to do now.”  Unfortunately this young man, like Lot’s wife didn’t have the faith and courage to move forward as he knew he should. His desire was to return to his old ways.    For two years these young men haven’t had the challenge of a “Super Bowl Sunday.”  They haven’t had to choose which movies to watch or what music to listen to.  What friends to hang out with or what books to read.   Many never fasted for twenty-four hours, or paid fast offering before their missions.   Many never had a job that paid enough to make the payment of tithing a real sacrifice.  Some have never dated and this will be a new experience as they seek a mate.  Some will return to homes where church attendance, family prayer and other gospel centered activities are not the norm.  Many African missionaries don’t even have a home to return to. 
We will always remember these stalwart young men in our prayers.   Here in a third world country they have lived without a lot of luxuries but never complained.  They have walked through mounds of garbage and waded through the mud, been soaked by the rain and burned by the sun.  Ridden in crowded taxi’s.   Eaten pig noses, pigs feet, fish heads and a variety of other foods claiming they were all delicious.  They have taught people the gospel, witnessed miracles and had their prayer answered on numerous occasions.
When you pray each day for the missionaries in the field we hope you will also pray for and remember and reach out to those who have just returned home.  Please be sensitive to their needs as they move forward during one of the most challenging times of their lives.
Once again we express our appreciation for your faith and prayers on our behalf.  We feel of the strength of your united efforts.  The work moves forward here.  It moves at our Heavenly Father’s pace and according to His plan. Patience is the watch cry.
We remember you in our prayers each day.

Love Elder and Sister Wheatley

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Life in Pointe Noire

When we were visiting a new member, this family lived in the same parcel.  I asked the mother if I could take a picture because her little girl is working so hard washing dishes, lots of dishes.  It appears that because it gets dark shortly after 6:00 PM year round, by the time a family eats dinner, it is late and dark, so often the dishes wait until morning.  She was scrubbing them and rinsing them and they looked good!

We have passed this truck with chickens in the back on several different days, at one of the outdoor markets.  It is amazing, because they just stay in the truck!  People here eat a lot of eggs and a lot of chicken, which is mostly grilled and sold along the roads.

Here are some common foods we eat:  pineapple, in season (we have had 3 this week-yummmmm); Congo oranges (they are more like lemons than oranges); bananas; and plantains. I didn't have a papaya to include, but that is very plentiful and eaten as a staple.

Elder Nash was SO excited when we told him their apartment could take some of these plantains home.  The elders say they usually fry them, which is the way we have had them in restaurants here. This bunch, which has already had several removed by the other apartment, was given to us to share with them by a family in one of the branches.  They are HUGE!

Life in Pointe Noire

Most children know how to work hard.  These boys are breaking up chunks of cinder blocks and cement.  They will probably fill the wheel barrow and take their load some where to sell.  Usually this is used to fill in holes in the roads.  This week, there are huge piles of broken up cement on the road to our house, from a home that is being demolished.  People will come and gather the chunks up to use.  We have lots of them on our road, in the holes and dips.  First the chunks are big, then they gradually disintegrate until they are mostly dust, as vehicles drive over them.

On our way to District Meeting we saw this across the road we drive on.  We took a different way going home, because the traffic will have to cross over the median and go both directions on one side.  We weren't sure what type of a gathering this was going to be.  It was probably too big to be a funeral on the main street.=

A few people have started coming - it's about 9:45 AM.

This is a road we traveled down with some of our elders to visit a family out of town a little ways.  It soon developed into......
   ......this road, or non-road, if you want to be realistic.  We are so grateful for our truck and 4-wheel drive.  This is pretty mild - it gets really interesting when it rains, even in the city.  Actually, especially in the city, because that is where we are most of the time, and the people mostly live in cartiers which have dirt roads and lots and lots of huge puddles and ponds.

On our way to and from our visit above, we crossed over this water hose.  This area has no wells and no electricity.  The water here probably has to be paid for because it is trucked in to a tank.  Even large, fancy homes, which are built right next to the small humble ones, have to carry their water in.  The people who can afford it, have generators.  Most people can't afford them.  In the city, in many areas there is electricity - more common and available than water. 

Elders & African Suits

Elder Baker trying to cut Elder Wheatley's famous banana bread.... Really, it is quite delicious - he  makes  it several times a week and we take it as a gift when we go visit people.  Everyone so far, including the missionaries, love it (at least they say they do).  He uses less sugar, because most people here don't like things too sweet. 
 The missionaries LOVE peanut butter!  There is a sister in one of the branches who will get them this bucket of fresh PB for only 5,000cfa (about $10.00 USD).  That is a deal, because a 340g jar in the French store costs about the same.  Elder Lavering (leaning in) says he could eat the whole thing by himself!  Elder Stephens, Baker and Porter will insist on helping him.  Missionary moms - we do talk to them frequently about germs and cleanliness, but that doesn't stop them from 'sharing'!

Elder Porter thinks PB tastes great with milk, kind of like a milkshake.....

This is a men's taylor shop.  Since I took this picture, a glass window has been installed, but it didn't have one for a long time, although it has the usual bars over the door and window when it is closed.  Many of the missionaries talk about getting an African suit to take home - one with short sleeves and pockets on the front.  Men wear them with a casual shirt like a white T shirt.  One of the members told us one day during a visit, that you would never wear a dress shirt under such a suit, because if you did, it would look funny and people would say you were "from the village."

A little girl and her brother.

Another view.  The children take care of each other very well.

This woman is washing fish to sell.

This is right across from the nice, walled parcel where some of our missionaries live.

We Moved to a Bigger Home

This is our new home.  It is much more open and has room for everyone to sit at the dining table together and meet together more comfortably for Zone Conferences and other meetings.  It is actually less decorative - no columns or ultra fancy ceilings, which is OK.  We have two bedrooms and two bathrooms and a large kitchen/dining/living area.  There is also a detached laundry room and storage room and a bathroom for the guardians.

President and Sœur Jameson are visiting.  This is our front room/dining area/office area.  
  Because of the lighting, this picture doesn't show the best, but it is one we bought because it is so true to life of what the markets are like here - women with babies on their backs, and things on their heads, pregnant women, women selling deep fried donuts (beignets), manyoke, fish, etc., and some men in the mix also.  Yesterday we went into a covered market and saw thousands of people and their wares - all crowded together so you can hardly walk down the isles.  We bought egg plant, green peppers and apples there.
 This picture also represents to many real life scenarios.  In the background are Baobab trees, which are found outside of town and have much importance in legend and culture here.  When I bought the painting, it wasn't finished and the artist agreed to include the color blue so it would match our furniture.  I love all the babies on the mothers' backs.  Scenes of lots of people crowded together like this are a popular theme in Congolese paintings.

This is our kitchen, which is open off of the dining area.  It has a small fridge and freezer behind the cupboard doors on the right.  First time we have had drawers (3 of them) since coming to Congo! There is a stove top above the oven, but if we use it, we blow a fuse, so we brought in our gas stove and use those burners, but not that oven....our solution.  We also brought in our large fridge because we didn't want to store it outside and we need more space.  We keep water bottles in the 'white' fridge.

This is the front of our home.  There are two French doors that open into the living/dining area and two (one around the side) that open into our bedroom.  There are also 4 windows, which the landlord added bars to before we moved in.  We are a little leary of not having bars on the doors and have chosen to have guards 24/7.   It really isn't because we are afraid of safety, but of theft.  It is the culture here to have bars (or some type of grills) on windows and doors.

These are our guardians.  Patrice is on the left.  He has been with us almost a year.  He is a very good guardian - without us asking, he washes our car every day and keeps the outside of our house clean.  He tends our flowers and found and planted flowers in front of our outside wall.  He has come every day he is scheduled for all this time.  He belongs to another church and so we have always worked his schedule around his being able to attend.  When we moved, we were able to find another guardian to help on weekends, so he gets all of Sunday off.

Pascal is on the right.  He just started with us when we moved.  He is a recent convert to our church.  He seems to be good, too.  They both like to keep busy, by caring for the outside area and also reading and moving around.  Sometimes they sit outside the wall, as most other guardians do.  But we think it is good, at night, for them to be inside the wall, because then they know if someone were to try to come in from the side or back.

Monday, May 6, 2013
Dear family,
We are so excited about Katie/Sister Johnson, leaving for her first missionary assignment today!  She will be a great missionary in the Rochester, New York, Mission.  One of the elders who was in our city for several months has a friend who is a sister missionary there.  We have asked his mother to tell her about Katie, in case they have the opportunity to meet.  Katie wrote that she may be able to go to the Sacred Grove even more than once while she serves there.
We have experienced a good week, and a lot of interesting happenings.  On Monday we returned home to find that our power had been disconnected.  We were assured when we moved in that all the utilities were currently paid up.  We found out that the electric here was over $800 U.S. dollars in arrears.  It hadn’t been paid for fourteen months.  This is not unusual here and we know that people sometimes get in difficult situations back home and utility bills are usually the first things that go unpaid.   However, when our interpreter called the landlord, he said that if we wanted electricity we would have to pay the whole bill and then deduct less than half of it from our next rent payment amount.  This did not set well with Sister Wheatley, who said we shouldn’t have to pay any of it because it was all for months when we didn’t live here.  After a process that took most of the day, and cost about the equivalent of $400.00 US dollars, we were very blessed to have our power restored – at least temporarily!  Until this morning (Monday May 5) we hadn’t had any water come into our reservoir for about 15 days.  We were happy this morning to receive water again and know that it hasn’t been shut off.  It appears that we will just have to take what water the city gives us and take it when it is available.  There is a well/reservoir across our little road and we can pay to have water run through a hose from there to our cistern when we run out.  Water and reliable electricity are both precious and to be treasured here, as in many places around the globe.    Sister Wheatley says she will never take pure water for granted again – it is most precious above diamonds and rubies!
One day last week, we decided it was time for dinner out.  We had that tradition at home – after a long and busy week, Friday night was the night.  We had been shopping for groceries and decided to stop at a small bakery that is owned by a Portuguese man and his Italian wife, because they also own a couple of hotels and restaurants.  They have told us where the one that is open to the public is, but we were never really sure where they meant.  The bakery was closed (most businesses close for several hours in the afternoon), but not locked and we walked in and ‘talked’ to a man who was closing up.  We understood that the restaurant was about 3 streets over in a certain direction…..not a lot to go on, but we decided to try to find it.  We drove around for a while, and suddenly saw a new looking Italian restaurant, which we figured might be the one of a man we had met one day in town, who said he was from Italy, a member of our church, and was opening an Italian restaurant soon.  We went into the restaurant – and it was his!  He must have just opened, because he still had no menus, but the restaurant had quite a few people in it and he was happy to see us.  It is small, but very clean and nicely decorated.  There are about 8 or 9 tables, some which seat 2, some 4, and a couple that seat 6. We had a lovely  appetizer, delicious lasagna, cold bottled water, a crêpe with Nuttella for desert.  The reason he didn’t open his restaurant as quickly as he wanted to, was he was waiting for his shipment of cheeses, etc., from Italy.  The missionaries who work in the quartier where he lives, haven’t been able to meet with him because he has said he is too busy getting his restaurant ready.  He indicated he has been inactive for quite a while but wants to return.  He is friendly, but doesn’t speak a lot of English or French!  He said there is not work in Italy, so this is why he and his business partner decided to come to Congo.  We think there are quite a few Italians here.  The restaurant is across the street from the Italian Consulate.  There are Italian contractors here – one of whom we met about a year ago, when we traveled to a bridge about 20 miles out of town, for a P Day activity.  He was the managing contractor over the refurbishment of the bridge.   There are many French people, a lot of Chinese, and a variety of Italian, Canadian, South African, Portuguese, Philippine and a few British and Americans here.  They come here to work in shipping, oil, airlines, mining and we aren’t sure of what else. 
One of the Elders phoned us and requested that we pick up a baptismal candidate and his family.  This was the Elders idea.  The family comes to Church faithfully even though they live a long distance from the Church and they have little or no money.  The baptism would be in the church building not where they meet, but much further away.  Because they do make it to Church faithfully we agreed even though we are not supposed to, to give them a ride to the baptism.  The fear is making people dependent on the missionaries.  On Saturday we headed out to get them, with plenty of time to spare.  We wanted to visit another family on the way, and leave them a loaf of bread.  The Elders were worried that their family might leave before we arrived if we stop before going to get them, suggesting that once we secured the baptismal candidate we could stop to see the other family.  After picking our way through giant mud holes (we never know how deep they are we just look to see if other drivers made it through) and around many dirt roads and sandy areas, we arrived at the home - a simple one room, wooden house.  The son to be baptized had gone to the market and the parents were busy working around the yard and not prepared to leave.  We decided to visit the other family while we waited.  They agreed that when he returned, they would meet us on the road at 1:00 P.M.  We proceeded to visit the other family and returned to the designated pickup point a little before 1:00 P.M.   We sat in the vehicle in the hot sun until about 2:00 P.M.  It seems to Sister Wheatley, that no matter where we park, or what direction we face, the sun is always directly shining into the cab of the pickup….and opening all the windows and doors or trying to find shade is futile.  We finally decided to return to the baptismal candidate’s home, realizing that we may miss them altogether if they walk a different way.  We follow a water tanker trucks tracks and find a shorter way back (there are no water sources in the whole area and no electricity without a generator).  When we arrived they were just getting ready to come and find us.  For the fourth time it was through mud holes and over questionable roads, on our way to the Church.  We had the keys to the closet where the baptismal clothes are kept and  knew the other people wanting to be baptized would be waiting to get dressed.  We also had the keys from the bathrooms into the font.  We arrived just in time.  There was a nice service and despite the frustration we were happy to be a part of it.
Yesterday (Sunday) was a busy day.  Elder Wheatley had to oversee changes in an Elders’ presidency in one branch and some Priesthood Advancements in another.  Despite his objection, he ended up confirming one person a member of the Church and conferring the Melchizedek Priesthood on another.  We always stress that the members do this and not the missionaries, so they can experience the blessings of using their priesthood authority.
Today one of the elders called and said he wanted to come over to have Sister Wheatley look at his toe.  This is always a heart-stopper for her.  You never know what that means – it could be a severely infected ingrown toenail, a worm growing out of a toe, a cut, a rash………We have tried to nurse a really nasty ingrown toenail that eventually required surgery, stitches in an elbow due to a P Day basketball game, a variety of intestinal issues like worms, what some elders thought was malaria with fevers and chills (but what we don’t think was because it wasn’t severe enough), headaches, backaches, toothaches, allergies and colds and a worm growing out of a toe.  Our mission doctor is in Johannesburg, but usually answers his phone and if not, can be contacted by email, or through our mission president if there is an emergency.  We have two good clinics and one good hospital here, with French doctors.  The doctors trained in Congo have different approaches to medicine and unfortunately don’t have the opportunity for the quality of training that French doctors have.  We have taken elders to the doctor whenever needed, but try to contact our mission doctor first for his direction.  If there was an emergency, we would insist on going to one of the approved clinics or that one hospital that is approved.    After looking at this toe, which has red, swollen flesh and was indicating red spreading up the top of his foot, Sister Wheatley called Dr. Hoffman.  He was able to talk with us and indicate that we should start him on an antibiotic, he should cleanse and soak his foot and apply antibiotic cream, etc.  Dr. Hoffman is very careful with antibiotics, so we know he felt this was important in this case.  The elder said he had a small cut on his toe and that is how he felt the infection started.  It is so difficult to keep feet clean here because of the rain, puddles, dirt and sand everywhere, and all the walking they do.  We will check his foot in the morning and see how the treatment is progressing!  The Church places the health of missionaries as a very high priority, which is comforting and we feel so blessed to have medical help from the mission doctor and quality care available if needed.  It isn’t the same as at home, but as close as possible. 
Amil, a member from the Phillipines that we met down town one day,  attended Church yesterday.  He had seen the spire of our church house before, but was unaware that the Church was established here in Pointe Noire. Sister Wheatley invited him over for supper. He accepted the invitation.  We learned that both he and his wife served missions in the Philippines.  They now have three children.  He contracts with a U.S. shipping company called Tidewater.  He usually works for four months then goes home for a month.  He brought his scriptures, so after supper we asked if he would like to share a scripture with us.   He said he had been reading in Alma and was touched by Alma 5:46.  The whole chapter is very powerful.  I had marked in my scriptures that this verse is part of Alma’s testimony.  What is interesting is that Alma says in verse 46 that he had fasted and prayed many days to know that the things he spoke of were true.   This is the same Alma that had once gone about persecuting the Church.  Even though he was visited by an angel (Mosiah 27) and rendered helpless, he tells us in verse 46 of Alma 5 that he had fasted and prayed many days to understand the doctrines he was preaching to the people, which were mainly, being spiritually born of God through repentance and being stripped of pride, after which the Holy Ghost can act upon us.  Chapter 5 ends with a plea or invitation to come and be baptized.  A lot of lessons can be gleaned from this chapter and each reading will probably reveal something new.  Last evening the impression was that like Alma, a visitation by an angel or a few spiritual experiences won’t carry us through.   We must continue to fast and pray, and keep the commandments so we can say as Alma says in verse 48, “I know that Jesus Christ shall come, yea the Son, the only begotten of the Father full of grace, mercy and truth…..He cometh to take away the sins of the world, yea the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name.”   We leave our testimony that what Alma testified would happen, did indeed happen.  And as Alma looked forward to the coming of Christ, we look forward to the day when he will come again.
We hope you are all happy and well.  Once again, we express our appreciation for your faith and prayers on our behalf.  We know that it is through your faith and prayers that we are protected.  In a very real sense your prayers for us and other missionaries, involve you in the work of seeking out those who will be touched by the gospel message.  Our prayers need to include more than just finding people to join God’s kingdom they need include providing members with the means to marry, and attend the temple to receive their endowments and be sealed together as families.
Love Elder and Sister Wheatley