Tuesday, February 4, 2014

2/4/14: Final Week Preparations

Our flight to the Democratic Republic of the Congo Kinshasa Mission where we will serve in Douala, Cameroon is fast approaching.

We leave for the MTC Saturday and only have 4 more days to prepare and still a lot to do.  I'm afraid that some things just won't get done.  I finished our income taxes but they had issues.  I set up new homeowners insurance but it has issues.  Our internet is finally working again after failing when we cancelled our phone service.  I still have to prep our cars and motorcycle for storage, change our address with a dozen companies, clean, pack, and do various other things.  So, I'll keep this short with just a photo and excerpts from my farewell talk.

From Jeff's talk:

There are 405 missions, each with a mission president.  Only one of them called to recruit us.  Bryce Cook, of the DR Congo Kinshasa mission.  He asked us about our health, whether we could live a spartan lifestyle, and whether we spoke any foreign languages.  He said he would call Salt Lake.  But it was too late to make any difference, to anyone but us, because our call was already in the mail.  The next day we received it, opened it, and found a photo of President Cook and his wife.  And we knew that the Lord was directing our call.

A lot of prospective missionaries like to play a game called "Guess where I'm going on my mission."  Whoever guesses closest wins.  I didn't play that game and just didn't feel comfortable guessing.  But then one day that changed when we met a missionary couple in Costco.  We stopped to chat with them and speculated on where we might be called.  They told us about a relative serving in the Congo, and that they speak French there.  That conversation struck me and I began telling people that we would probably be called to the Congo, although we still had no indication.  Then the call came and it said "Congo."  And we knew that the Lord was directing our call.

Prior to that, we had 2 French-speaking guests stay at our house.  One of them, Patrice, stayed for 3 weeks.  We had made our home available to long-distance bicyclists for over a year but hadn't had anyone come yet.  Then we suddenly found ourselves with 3 guests, 2 of whom spoke French.  Patrice helped me immensely to brush up on my old mission French.  He found a group of French speakers who meet Saturday mornings for us to chat with.  I told him that God probably sent him to us because he will be sending us on a French-speaking mission.  Patrice agreed.  And that is exactly what happened.  And we knew that the Lord was directing our call.

Our mission application was quite extensive, with 4 dental pages, 16 medical pages, and 44 other assorted pages.  There was plenty of opportunity for us to specify where we would like to serve our mission, or where we would like to avoid, or what type of mission we would like to do.  We could have specified numerous preferences as to the climate, distance, work, language, cost or circumstances of our mission.  But we knew that the Lord was directing our call. 

We were concerned about what to do with our house.  We learned that leaving it vacant would cause our homeowners insurance premiums to skyrocket.  So we called the San Diego Mission office and asked if a senior couple would like to stay in our home while we are away.  They were able to arrange for one couple, Elder & Sister Dalebout, to stay almost the whole time.  When we talked to them we found that they had been called to the DR Congo Kinshasa Mission but had to cancel due to health problems.  And now they're coming to our house.  The Lord is directing his work.

He knows us better than we know ourselves.  And we wanted to go wherever we could help people and do the most good.  I hoped that would be in Tahiti.  Ruth hoped it would be France.  But now there is no place we would rather go than the DR Congo Kinshasa mission, because that is where the Lord wants us.  He has given us so many indications that he is directing our call that we have full confidence in him.

Of course, when researching our particular mission we found some interesting facts.  Young missionaries are given two buckets: one to wash their clothes and the other to rinse them.  They are given a charcoal brazier on which to cook.  One mission couple published some of their letters on their blog.  I found this gem from the sister who had just arrived in Africa:
"It has taken me two nights of trying to get "connected" & now it is too late to say much more than every horror story you have ever heard about the Congo was understated!"
I should explain that this was after only 2 days that included a terrifying ride through Kinshasa traffic.

Another sister told about being asked by the Branch President if they might extend their mission.  He said he wished that he were rich so he could bring their entire family to Africa and get them to stay permanently.  She wrote:
"...there is nothing in this world that would make us want to live here, but oh how we are going to miss these good people."

Larry the Lawnchair Guy was a truck driver who hooked a bunch of weather balloons to a lawnchair, filled them with helium and went for a ride.  His plan was to float over his neighborhood about 30 feet, then shoot some balloons and float gently down.  But he forgot to tell the balloons.  They quickly dragged him to 16,000 feet where he was too terrified to shoot balloons.  He drifted into restricted airspace near LAX and was spotted by 2 jetliners.  After 45 minutes he got so cold that he found the courage to shoot some balloons.  Near the ground his balloons got tangled in some power lines and he made it safely to the ground where he was immediately arrested.  Reporters asked him why he did it.  I think his answer should go down as one of the best answers of all time.  He explained his foolhardy actions with the simple phrase:  "A man can't just sit around the house."

2 years ago we got on a tandem bike and rode from here to Florida.  People thought we were nuts.  Why did we do it?  A man can't just sit around the house.
Last year we took 2 backpacks and went schlepping around Europe for 7 weeks.  Why?  A man can't just sit around the house.
Now we're going to Africa where every horror story may have been understated.  Why are we going?  Most people would say, "No thanks.  I would rather just sit around the house."  But we have wonderful motivation for this trip.  We know that the Lord has directed our call.

The people of Africa are ready for the gospel and are joining the Church in droves.  Although we go with some trepidation we are excited to be on the forefront of the Lord's army.

Elder Bybee (no relation to David & Judy Bybee), who is serving there now wrote to me, "This is the Africa moment. The Church is blossoming as never before in Africa. We have had a rich and fulfilling experience here. ... You are among a rare few who will serve in this great land."

One of the former mission presidents of our mission, Elder Livingstone, was interviewed on The Mormon Channel where he told of the incredible faith of the saints in Africa and the speed at which the work is progressing.  He said that in one village there were 30 church members who had to travel 45 minutes to get to their meetinghouse.  So the church procured a building for a meeting house in their village and assigned 2 Elders to that area.  After 4 months the President had to put restrictions on the Elders.  He said they were only allowed to baptize entire families and only 15 people per week.

One of the problems of a rapidly growing church is that sometimes there is not enough time in Sacrament Meeting to confirm all of the new members.  17 confirmations pretty much fills all of the time.

We have been assigned to work in the city of Douala in the country of Cameroon.  Cameroon is slightly larger than California although it only has about half as many people.  Elder Livingstone spoke specifically of Cameroon.  He said that the country was dedicated for the preaching of the gospel by Elder Holland in 2009 "and the Church is growing wonderfully, rapidly there."
According to the LDS web site, there are now 1,277 church members and 6 branches in Cameroon.  We are excited to be going to work there.

We were asked to select a favorite scripture for our missionary plaque.  Trying to choose a favorite missionary scripture is like trying to choose a baby name.  She has her favorites and I have my favorites and there's not much overlap.  We finally agreed on 1 Ne 22:25.
" And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture."

I like that scripture because it talks about gathering his children from the four quarters of the earth.  One of those quarters is Africa.  And they shall be with us in Christ "and there shall be one fold and one shepherd."  Also, it says "they know him."  We are not called to serve sheep that have no master.  As it says in John 10: 4, "the sheep follow him for they know his voice."  People who wish to follow the Savior will recognize his voice and follow him.  They are the people we seek.  And the Lord is directing this work.

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