Mission Tour – We experienced our first Mission Tour this week. We wondered what that was and learned it is when General Authorities of the Church visit the mission and speak and encourage missionaries in the work. Elder Marlin Jensen and his wife, Elder Turley (Assistant Church Historian), and Elder Koilliker (Southeast Africa Area President) came on Wednesday. What a feast of knowledge and spirit. They told us that more than ½ of the people in the church today are first generation “pioneers.” He asked the missionaries how many of them were in that group, and ½ raised their hands! We were encouraged to help retain the new converts. Elder Jensen said we should “Own our converts forever.” This is important all over the Church. The African people (at least those we work with) aren't naturally outgoing, and fellowshipping is a challenge. Elder Blake and I are trying to find ways to encourage more interaction and warmth among members. (Any suggestions?)
Another statement at the conference about missionary work impressed us: “A missionary is someone who leaves their family for a little while so others can be with their family for eternity.” We see so many wonderful convert families with beautiful young children and our prayer for them is that they can get ready and go to the temple to be sealed together. It's quite a process as the closest temple is in Johannesburg South Africa, about 4,000 miles away!
Missionary Friendships – One of our favorite parts of the conference was being with all the young elders and sisters. It's a thrill to all join together and sing the missionary songs: “Hark All Ye Nations” and “Called to Serve.” They look so young to us, (We have grandchildren near their age!) but when they speak or teach with the spirit, a transformation seems to take place and you feel their strength and testimony. // We love the 12 other senior couple missionaries and enjoy sharing ideas and feelings with them. We are making eternal friendships and learning so much from others. Another couple will be leaving tonight to return home to Bountiful, Utah. The tradition is that we all stand outside when they leave and wave white handkerchiefs. Two more couples will leave this month. Couples are need so badly all over the Church. Anyone like to join us here in Africa?
New Branch Leadership – Saturday Elder Blake traveled with President Taylor to Kilili (three hours south of Nairobi) to interview priesthood leaders for a change in the branch presidency and elders' quorum presidency. They left early and returned home late. Sunday Sister Taylor and Sister Blake joined them and we returned to Kilili so the change could be made. It is tricky here in Africa because there are so many cultural and tribal rivalries. It is very important to be in charge and in some branches as many as 30 people have raised their hands to object to a person who has been called to lead! President Taylor has had to explain that they are not voting, but that they are saying whether they agree with who the Lord has called and will sustain them. President Taylor was so warm and appreciative of the outgoing presidency and gave a beautiful explanation of what was happening as the new presidency was called. What could have been a difficult experience went very smoothly and we believe the newly sustained presidency will grow in leadership and do a good job. Our job now is to help with leadership training!
They will be needing a new building soon as two primary groups and all the young men have to meet outside because there are not enough classrooms!
We will be up in the hills most of this week. Please know our thoughts and prayers are with you.