Dear family, (July 12, 2013)
Sorry we don’t get a letter off each week. We seem to stay very busy and always manage to fall asleep saying our prayers at night. We celebrated the 4th of July on Monday, the 8th, which was their P Dad. We took the Elders to the beach and roasted hot dogs. It doesn’t get any more American than that does it?
We seldom eat out but went to place on Friday night that we had never been to before. On the board outside we thought they had a special of baked chicken and rice. We wondered what was happening when they put catsup and mayonnaise on the table. Our chicken and rice was a processed chicken paddy in a bun and fries. So much for thinking our French is improving! We also ordered a chocolate milk shake – which we got and was very delicious, although more like chocolate milk.
We have a new mission president, but probably won’t be seeing him anytime soon. They can’t seem to get a visa into this country. The government seems to be giving people coming here for religious purposes a rough time. Two Elders that received transfer notices to come here from Cameroon were denied visas. We will receive two African Elders fresh out of the MTC in Ghana in their place. We have had African Elders before but none that were starting their mission. We understand that they speak some English. That means that every elder who is in Pointe Noire is either a Trainer or brand new – four of each (2 new African elders added to the 2 new American elders who came about 2 weeks ago).
We have faced the normal challenges, but this week it seems to be landlords that we can’t please. Somehow they always think the rent is due. We always pay for three months at a time, in advance. They seem to want three months’ rent every month. We have to always make sure we get documentation when it is paid. When we show them when we paid, with their signature on the line that seems to appease them for a few weeks.
We continue to stay healthy. The weather has remained cool for the most part. We enjoy walking along the beach and feeling a cool breeze in the mornings. We see a lot of teenagers with scarfs wrapped around their necks. Is that a trend worldwide or just something they have picked up from the French? We have been told that ‘everyone’ in France wears a scarf…..
We wanted to share some thoughts that have been triggered by a water project that the Church completed here in Pointe Noire just prior to our arrival. The Church agreed to fund the drilling of a well. The Church would be responsible for drilling the well and the city would provide a generator to pump the water. The city would also maintain the well. The Church would pull out as soon as the well was drilled and the city would assume responsibility. The water from this well would be pumped into existing water lines. It appears that the water lines were very old and had not been maintained. When water was pumped into them leaks sprung up throughout the lines. For the time being the well is not in use. We assume they will have to replace the water lines before the well will be of any value to the people. As we think about this the scripture in Luke 5:37 where the Savior says, “And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled and the bottles shall perish.” When Elder Wheatley was on the mission of his youth, Elders would sometimes use this scripture when they talked about a boy of age fourteen being called as the prophet through which the gospel could be restored. This, instead of calling an older man schooled in the philosophies of the churches of that day. God needed someone that was not yet weighed down by the philosophies of man, someone humble and teachable. We think that perhaps when Christ spoke these words he was actually telling his disciples that the old ways were to be done away with and man would now be judged by a higher law.
Maybe we could apply these words in our own lives by putting off the natural man and becoming new persons. As we cleanse ourselves it is easier to listen, it is easier to be fed, and to understand the Atonement of our Savior. It is like putting wine in new bottles, we will retain and as we retain we will grow. We will desire more. Too often because we are not in tune we are like the old bottles. We sit in Church and listen but we don’t comprehend. We partake of the Sacrament but we are not fed. We read the scriptures but fail to find understanding. Maybe the Prophet Haggai’s words have more meaning: “Ye have sown much and bring in little, ye eat but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink, ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put in bags with holes. (Haggai 1:6) We know not if the old water lines that were intended to take water to thousands here in Pointe Noire can be repaired, or if it will take new watr lines. What we do know is that we are all children of a loving God and that through continuing repentance we may obtain forgiveness and be cleansed of our sins by the power of the Holy Ghost. As we are cleansed, our body and spirit will be renewed. We will be prepared to accept the counsel and guidance of our leaders. We will be prepared to accept our daily challenges as opportunities to grow. We will be new bottles ready to receive, retain, share and savor that which will return us to the loving arms of our Heavenly Father.
Today, we went with missionaries to visit two young men, one of whom is a member, as is his family. The other young man is living with the family and is a cousin. The member told us that when his cousin saw us coming, he ran and hid! We visited with him once before and thought we had a good teaching discussion with him. He seemed very interested and receptive, so this surprised us. We met with the member young man, who doesn’t come to church very often because he said he doesn’t have a testimony of the Book of Mormon (we wonder if he should have been baptized – that is supposed to happen prior to baptism). The elders told him, as they did last week, that he must find out for himself and the way to do that is to read and pray about it and ask God if it is true. He is a fine young man, and his family is very humble and teachable. We hope that he will try to find out for himself – he must make the effort, because no one else can do it for him. The missionaries are working very hard with inactive members, trying to ‘rescue’ them. It is so sad when people are baptized and then disappear. It is like everywhere in the church – so easy for people to get caught up in daily struggles and forget about the gospel and how it can help them with daily life and eternal goals. We know this sounds like preaching, but then……isn’t that what parents are supposed to do?
We hope you are all doing well. We know you all have your own daily challenges. We hope you are accepting them as opportunities to grow. Our mission president promised us that each of you will be blessed in some way through our efforts here. That we believe.
We pray for you each day.
Love Mom and Dad (Elder and Sœur Wheatley)
Mpaka District Elders:
Elder Brockbank, Elder Porter,
Elder Mukadi A., and Elder Christensen.
I still need to take a separate photo of the other District, and then I will get it posted.
We took Elder Mukadi and Elder Christensen with us to visit a family who live past these trees and Elder Mukadi wanted a picture of the trees. I shot this as they were coming back to the truck.