Sunday, December 28, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

What a sweet time in the mission field.  We have elders and sisters so excited to talk with the people back home (crazy but even the senior couples get that way too).  We were very busy with a Christmas party on Dec. 22 for all the sisters and elders in three zones (40) and with help from two other senior couples it was awesome.  We started with breakfast and then minute to win-it games followed by the skits and songs.  After the skits we talked about how we should be looking at what gifts each of us could be giving the Savior. Each missionary wrote what his gift to the Savior would be this year.  The list is very personal but could include greater charity, love, forgiveness, more prayerful, being grateful, the list can go on and on.  The skits were a lot of fun.  Some of the skits were spiritual and some were just funny.  I will tell you that while missing family, the Christ spirit (as President Monson has called Christmas spirit) is strong here in Africa.

Here is the breakfast buffet: bananas, muffins and juice.


I was over the biscuit (cookie) from the forehead to the mouth game and so I have a few pictures.

The skits had lots of singing.

Here the sisters are greeting each other.  I mean it has been days since some of them have seen each other.

Here you had to bend over and get the sack in your mouth.  Some could do it others not so much.

M&Ms from the table to the straw pylons.

Here is Mary coming into Bethlehem on her donkey.

No party can go long without some type of line dancing.

In this skit the elders are playing the sisters and greeting each other at a zone development meeting.

The sisters are playing the zone leaders and are not impressed with show of love and excitement.

On Christmas eve we were able to have one of the districts over for our fabulous candle light dinner. We love that our family carried on this tradition and met together as a family for their own candlelight dinner.  Two of the American elders were able to Skype their family while here and the African elders called their families on Christmas.  As we were eating it was decided that each of us would share a Christmas memory.  Sister Squire gave the Christmas where we were called by the mission president to tell us Tyler needed medical attention (fasting and prayers works, he was fine eventually), and I talked about family traditions and the excitement of Christmas morning.  As the elders went around one of them passed so we did everyone else first.  All were thankful and had a family memory they shared.  We take these Christmas memories for granted until you are far away and then you remember when you had opportunities to share fun, music, and memories.  We finally got back to Elder Paul and he said he really didn't have any great memories of Christmas.  He is from Rwanda and all his family were wiped out in the genocide.  He grew up in an orphanage and so while people would come to visit, there wasn't really any lasting Christmas memories.  That really made me happy for my memories and very sad for so many who do not have the opportunity, because of adult choices, to experience a happy Christmas in their childhood.  He will one day have a family and can build these memories for himself and his children but for now I hope our candlelight dinner memory with his mission brothers will do.

Our Christmas lights from Utah died after about an hour or less so we bought some new African lights and life is good.

We also brought the glasses that show different icons (stars, snowflakes, and snowmen) when you look at Christmas lights.  The elders loved them.  Our dinner consisted of BBQ beef, jello, green bean casserole, potato salad, chocolate ice cream with mint brownies and fruit drinks supplied by the elders.

Sister Squire brings out the crazy in all of us...

On Christmas day we had the sister missionaries over for breakfast before they got out to work.  The guidelines are that other than a 30-40 minute call home, it is a typical work day.  I know it is because people have a more tender heart at this time of year and are more willing to contemplate the gift of the Savior.  We finally got them all here and had a wonderful visit.  As we asked them about Christmas, as with the elders, no mention was made of any presents they had received at Christmas.  In Africa, they don't have a lot of money for presents but still they do give out gifts.  It just isn't what is important.  Again, it was memories of family and how each would spend the day in their own way doing things as a family.  It is difficult in America, with our great abundance, to teach where and what to focus on during this season.  We are very accustomed to receiving stuff and the more stuff the better. I wish I had an answer for how to do it but it would be different based on the personality of individual families but finding what our gift to the Savior would be is a good start for any family.

These sisters look cute in any type of glasses.

They had to get a picture or two with our enormous Christmas tree.

For the sisters we had an early breakfast so they could get out and work.  We had home made cinnamon rolls, breakfast casserole, juice and fruit.  Just like with the elders, it disappeared quickly.

When I ride with this posse, no one messes with me. President Chatfield, a cowboy at heart, has a book about cowboy values and being true to the "brand" is one of the tenets.  We are trying to represent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the brand we "hired" on to.

It was amazing how one or two bad jokes can turn the the tables on a given situation and out come the guns...

However, a good meal and acting like a mom does work wonders for this sister.

After the sisters got back to work we took a drive over to the Jinja Children's Hospital.  Sister Squire has me doing all these good things that I would never think to do on my own.  We had the option of going in to Kampala and having dinner with the other senior couples at the Mission Presidents home but decided that four hours of driving on Christmas was not what we wanted to do.  At the children's hospital we went into a ward where there were at least 20 beds and every one was full with a child and parents also crammed into the space.  It was full and hard to walk around.  We had a plastic car and a sucker for every child and their parent but they were all gone when we finished in that room.  Some of these kids are so sick and your heart goes out to the pain and suffering they are going through.  Hopefully, this small gesture will brighten their day for a few moments.  We also had a package from Nancy's sister with some decorations that we put up in the room.  When we were leaving the guard asked why we didn't go to the ward in the back.  We were out of stuff and felt bad that we didn't get to everyone.

We love looking at all the snow that finally came back home but guess what, we will take this kind of snow any day :)  Instead of a white Christmas, we enjoyed a green Christmas! We loved talking with all the kids and seeing the joy in the children as they experience another Christmas.  We reminisced about how quickly those days go by and before you know it, you are in Africa on a mission.

Finally, our guard was doing a 24 hour shift to cover for one of the other guards and so we got him into a game of Phase 10.  Hopefully he had fun but he hasn't asked to play again.  He is going to teach us on of the African games when we get it.

We love you all!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

I'm Odd

From the title I know many would like to argue with me and let me know how perfectly normal I am.  Well, as someone willing to leave their family and friends, you have to wonder about us don't you?  As missionaries and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are expected to be a bit different.  We are expected to be examples of honesty, chastity, love, patience, charity and the list goes on and on.  Everyone can give examples of where members of the Church fall short of having those traits but as long as we are trying and recognizing that we have the power and desire to change, we are heading in the proper direction.  President Chatfield asked each of the senior couples serving here in Uganda Kampala Mission to thank their families for supporting us on our mission.  I do thank our family for their love and support.  It does affect their life, especially having one of their grandmas here in Africa.  The good news is that it affects their life in a very good and positive way.

We try to live the gospel and make it something to be enjoyed.  You can serve anywhere and find joy in the journey if you have the proper attitude.  We find so many opportunities to find joy in something different and new here in Africa.  Christmas is different.  Most of the population do not have the funds to spend on decorations, travel or anything more than what is required to feed their family.  We are seeing that you do not need to have all the extra things to enjoy the spirit of Christmas.  If we don't understand what Christmas really means, how can we expect to benefit from the season at all?  I have found it is in serving one another and being kind.  Allowing the Savior to use us to help others where they can not help themselves.  Crazy as it may seem, we may be the best example of what a strong marriage over many years looks like.  There is so much death, divorce, poverty and theft that it may be hard to imagine how you can ever make it through this life living as we should.  I know that living in America has many problems of a much different nature but all come back to really believing if the birth of the Savior and His resurrection really matters.  It matters!  We can find joy in this life and the life to come if we will have faith that Christ can do what He says he can do.

We had a very tough week.  We had the annual senior couples conference this week and traveled about 6 hours to Queen Elizabeth Park for three days of enjoying the natural beauty of Africa.  It is beautiful here and we were able to meet with the Rwanda and Ethiopia senior couples.  It was very fun and we enjoyed our new friendships very much. Enjoy the picture journey of being on the greatest adventure of our life.  We are changing, and while I am still very odd we are not the same people that we were when we left over 10 month ago.

First, if you are going to go on a mission you need to find a big chair, under some of the biggest elephant tusks you have ever seen, grab a cape buffalo head and think.  Just sit there and think.

You also need to have the eye of the elephant to be successful.  I have the wrinkles around the eye down.

Some times you see a pretty vixen with horns and it really gives you pause and something to think about. 

Then you can decide, do I grow some horns or not...

When you go on saffari you have to plan on a getting a push to get where you need to go.

The men protecting the women from anyone who was going to cross the river from the DR Congo.  The river and trees in the background are in the DR Congo but they wouldn't let us walk down and cross the river.  Something about wild animals...whatever.

Copy cats...

Speaking of cats, Queen Elizabeth is the only place you can find the tree climbing lions.  We drove 2 1/2 hours  to get where they are.  We were lucky after that to find three of them in the tree.  It was cool to see them.

Here you can see all three in the tree.

They don't get too concerned to have folks interrupting them.

Life is good at the top of the food chain.

I love how they straddle the tree, it doesn't look comfortable.

However, it must be.

Meet George, he was walking all around our hotel grounds and walking through hedges and fences if that is where he decided to go.  The staff was getting tired of fixing up after him.  The manager of the hotel was late two days because George was blocking his driveway to get out.

 The was a new antelope for us.  The Topi with dark brown spots on each quarter.

We had a dance troop at the hotel in the evening.  Sister Squire never passes up an opportunity to dance.  She was great!

Shake it ladies.


This was the band, they were very good at singing and drumming.

We went on a fantastic boat ride and while seeing lots of elephants, hippos, crocks and birds we also passed this fishing village.

The elephants

Playing together.

Every boat ride needs a safety briefing.  We volunteered to keep everyone safe.

This didn't make me feel safe.  Sister Squire took over for the captain of the boat.

The boat got really close to the hippos and out of the water they sprang. 

Cool video that gets blurry at the end part.

The spoon bill bird, very cool looking.

More elephants in the grass this time.

Out in nature you find some tribal magic.

Merry Christmas everyone, angels are looking over you.

I may have to add some more pictures next week as this is quite long but I will tell you that serving in Africa is one of the coolest things you can do.  You get to do things you wouldn't ever see or do somewhere else.  Check this out, I mean come on, where else?