Sunday, July 26, 2015

How many cows for that woman?

We have been here on our mission for almost 17 months and still I experience - "did you see that" moments.  I have to admit, I love it.  This past week we saw a child being carried in a cardboard box on top of their head, a man by the side of the road with his pants down, his legs straight in the air and rubbing his bum and a jerry can wagon without wheels and two kids being pulled inside.  Ok, what did you see this past week?  :)

I am afraid there will be many more videos this week because we got to play "dress up" and I wore a kanzu and Sister Squire wore a Gomesi (both are traditional dresses for special occasions).  The special occasion was one of our assistants to the president (APs) was married and invited us to the wedding and introduction.  He did it backward for Africa because he was married the day before the introduction.  Usually, you have the introduction and then a church wedding after.  The introduction can also serve as a wedding ceremony.  This is one area where Africa really has gotten off track (in my view) with how a marriage should work.  Here you pay Lobola or bride price for your wife.  The groom has to come up with whatever negotiated amount (not cheap) the aunties can get out of him.  For our past elder it was a dining room set, a whole bunch of individual gifts for all the family members, a rocking chair, money, roosters, a half a beef, a cow, and tons of commodities to cook with.

So a new couple either moves in together because they cannot afford to get married (the bride price)  or they start off with a huge debt to pay along with trying to get schooling and raising a new family.  Elder Dallin H. Oaks in March of 2012 gave a great talk called The Gospel Culture.  Elder Oaks says this about bride price: "seriously interferes with young men and women keeping the commandments of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  When a young returned missionary must purchase his bride from her father by a payment so large that it takes many years to accumulate, he is unable to marry or cannot do so until middle-aged.  This conflicts with the gospel plan for sexual purity outside marriage, for marriage, and for child rearing."  He goes on to say how the practice should be discontinued so young couples can get married and prepare for the temple and families.  In this talk Elder Oaks praises many of the gospel traits that Africa symbolizes such as family loyalty and modesty.

There are other cultural traits that are contrary to gospel teachings.  For instance the man rests while the woman does most of the work around the house and outside the home.  The wife and children are more servants to the husband rather than a team working together. 

In America, marriage is becoming an option, not a necessity.  The family is the foundation on which all gospel principles are taught by word and by example.  We cannot get away from it and have success as a nation.

Here is the bride (Carol) getting ready at the mission home before President Chatfield married them.  Usually not allowed before the introduction ceremony.  They did it backwards because they wanted to be married.

Sister Squire did another great job with the cake.

Look at those shoes!

Married at last.

Does this dress make my butt look fat?  No, Elder but the rest of you sure does.  This is the next day and everyone has to dress in traditional clothing.  A Kanzu for men and Gomezi for women.

Sister Squire making friends with part of the booty.

President Chatfield runs cattle so he gravitated to the cow.  The basket has some roosters for the family in it.

This is at Chris's home loading everything up before heading over to the party at the brides home.

A marked man.

I thought all along this was Chris mother but it turns out it is his aunt and neither mom is allowed to come to the ceremony.  They are to stay home and pray everyone will accept the gifts offered as adequate.

The bride in her first change of clothing.  Very fancy gomesi with lots of bead work.

Half way through we stop for eats.  They have two MCs going back and forth all day, one for the bride side and one for the groom.

Here is the half of beef for the dowry.  The leave one leg on so they know you aren't slipping some other type of meat past them.

Usually this would be the gifts for the new married couple.  Not here, it is the price of giving up a daughter they have invested so much in.

The second change, an orange number.  I didn't get a good picture of this one.

The third change, a regular looking dress.

This is the brides side and the guy with the mike is their MC.

This will be a lot of videos but I tried to capture the culture of this ceremony.  In may ways it was very interesting (once) to see how formal and fun for those involved.  They dance and banter back and forth the entire time. The women in pink are the Bridesmaids. 

The girls in green are the teenage cousins.

The even got some white guy who really couldn't dance to come up. These are the older cousins in Yellow.

Sister Squire however really cut a rug (no idea what that means).  These are the boy brothers and cousins. If some of these thin women seem to have a big booty, it is because they all pad their behinds.  The men in Uganda find a women very attractive if they have a large behind.

These are the Aunties.

After dinner the presents are all brought in on top of the grooms family and friends heads.

These are some of the younger cousins.

I am glad I was able to support one of our great missionaries but once is enough for me.  All day affair. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

"Time" for some videos

We are rapidly moving toward the end of this portion of our lives.  Being on a mission has been such a blessing in our lives and we hope every senior couple that is able will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to serve full time – together - on a mission.  My thoughts are moving to how best to spend our remaining time here in Africa. 

"We live in deeds, not years;

In thoughts, not breaths;

In feelings, not in figures on a dial.

We should count  time by heart-throbs."

—P. J. Bailey Some Transitional Comments

Neil A Maxwell said “No challenges of discipleship are more vexing than the management of one's time the day-to-day choices we have to make—not always between bad and good things, but often between competing good things. These are precisely the areas where we need to apply our Father's morality, because these challenges are so real and so persistent. It is also at these confluences of time choice, and tasks that we will achieve our greatest growth or experience the greatest failures.”

I like this quote from the philosopher Hegel: "there are very few simple choices.  No blueprint gives us easy answers.  Life's most wrenching choices are not between right and wrong but between competing demands on our time, our resources, and our love and loyalty."  Simple right?

In our lives we have vital and urgent things we must accomplish.  The vital things are usually not all that urgent because they tend to be more long term.  I remember starting a new semester at school and you would get the syllabus for the class outlining the vital tasks necessary to receive a good grade.  Rarely did I get right on the vital tasks because there were so many other urgent things that needed to be done.  When our life if filled with only urgent tasks we may need to pull back and look for the vital tasks before they become urgent or left out all together.  I plan to do that with our remaining time here in Uganda.

This week we have many videos that show the culture and awesomeness here in Africa.  Understand that we are traveling outside of any large city by over 1½ hours on dirt roads doing the humanitarian project I blogged about last week.  To see the excitement over the planned receipt of a garden hoe and how it will provide a way to be self-sufficient in feeding their family brought to me a time of reflection.  Each of us need to individually appreciate what we have been blessed with and give our Heavenly Father gratitude for these gifts however they are packaged.

Let's get started with a very cute girl who thinks everyone is laughing for her.

Different girl, same cuteness factor.  Playing "fetch."  Mom was actually seeing how close she could get her little girl to Sister Squire.  

If there is music, there will be dancing.

This was by far the most fun stop.  We arrived and this group of dancers led us to our chairs at the front of the crowd and then performed three different musical and dance numbers.  It is fun to see the many ways they make their own musical instruments and then make beautiful music with them.

The man in Green is Musa, the member of Parliament who they are really welcoming.

The horn is from one of the animals.  He gets a bit embarrassed when he see he is being videoed.

The welcome song.  The humming noise is the speaker system.  It was much better when they would just turn it off.  They had a huge truck battery to run the system.

This one is a bit blurry but we had a school next to where we were holding our meeting and we were just starting to hand out the hoes.  All of a sudden hundreds of kids started running to see what the crowd was all about.  It was crazy to see all these kids and more in the back.

Sister Squire and Sister Howard getting their "grove" on.

Oh yes, lots of dancing.

A board and some sticks with a shaker board and they have some great dancing music.

Driving around Layton will be rather boring after this adventure mission!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

15,000 more hoes in Africa

We have had a very busy week.  We lost our humanitarian couple (the Hannans) who served so richly.  In their place we had the Howards from South Ogden arrive and they had a huge handover of 15,000 garden hoes to accomplish.  This was to be done over several days and in many different villages.  One problem, the Howards know how to drive on the left hand side of the road from serving in Fiji but not what turns to make while driving on said roads.

President Chatfield asked if we would accompany them to Soroti, a town about 5 hours from Kampala.  Each morning we would drive for 1 1/2 hours from Soroti to some village in the bush.  The Howards  arrived at our flat in Jinja and after Church last week we headed out for our big adventure.  The pictures will follow.  

When we got home I had the opportunity of speaking at our District Branch Presidency training meeting.  I talked about how to be a great Stake (soon) by building our lives around having a good foundation.  In Helaman 5:12 we read: “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

In an article where Elder Hallstrom taught that in order for individuals to build and maintain a foundation, that will help one to face the trials of life,  they need to remember three principles—vision, commitment, and self-discipline.

1. Vision is the ability to see the eternal perspective, and as Jacob described, it is seeing “things as they really are, and of things as they really will be” (Jacob 4:13).

2. Commitment is the willingness to make promises—covenants with God—through priesthood ordinances. “In addition to God, we should be willing to make commitments to ourselves, to spouses (or to become a spouse), to friends, and to those with whom we serve.”

3. Self-discipline means individuals are able to live consistently with the vision and commitments an individual has made.
“Developing self-discipline is essential to progress because it seamlessly connects learning and doing,” he said. “Ultimately, the strength of our spiritual foundation is shown by how we live our lives, especially in terms of disappointment and challenge.”

I really like those three principles for building a successful life.  Now on to a very small part of all the pictures I took over the past week.  

I have often wondered why they don't have me out in the field working with the people more.  I think this video sums it up nicely.

Chicks on a stick, ready for transport (they are all still alive).

We thought this was a horse but later you can see it is a wheel toy.  Very ingenious on finding and building toys for their children.

If there is room, climb aboard.

These feet are made for walking.

Honorable Musa Ecweru, the State Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees.  He is wearing an Arrow Boy shirt from when he was in this area fighting Kony (the head of the Lord's Resistence Army that killed many people in Uganda and stole their children to become child soldiers and sex slaves).  He is a bit of a hero in these villages because of ridding the country of Kony.  He is now a member of Parliament and the people love that he comes out to visit and bring needed supplies. He is also a great friend of the church and has two sons in America attending BYU Idaho and UVU.

The hoes come 24 to a box and weigh around 75 lbs.  The women were given hoes first and then what was left was passed out to the men.  The women do most of the gardening.

This was a horn flute.  We were greeted by parades, dancing and music at most of the villages we attended.  Two of the villages had never had a Caucasian come in their village before.

We saw many twins.  It was fun to look around and see how many children are here in Uganda.

A duck getting a bath at the bore hole.

One of the parades where they yell, wave flags along with tree limbs while dancing in front out us.

A very modern look.

Musa is assigned his own military guard to keep him safe.  He dug right in to help pass out the hoes.

Some of the happy recipients.

We have had grandchildren that like to sit on their heads.

A little dirt spot never hurt anyone.

Just one of the many village meetings.  Musa would have them laughing and enjoying his talk at each village.  He would speak around 15-20 minutes and then each senior couple would introduce ourselves.

This guy was a school teacher and when I was getting ready to take his picture he pulled his arm out of his shirt so it could be in the picture.  Some of the kids look a little nervous.

I may be sweating but for some it is time to pull out the old winter coat.

Never too young to ride the adult bike.

This was one of the most fun stops.  We were led in with a dance troupe and then we had three musical numbers performed.  Loved it.

At every stop the villagers would give talks about the need for medical care, roads, and many other problems to the Honorable Musa.  They would also bring him notes asking for monetary assistance for someone sick or other need.

Some crowds were very large.  We arrived here around 3:30pm and they had been waiting since morning.

Even the trees were full.

John Christensen, a very deep thinker, will have to explain this one.  I have no idea what it all means.

This is how the sisters greet the men (on their knees).  It is a sign of respect.  The children all greet this same way. We often are greeted the same way by the sisters and children.

School children marching to provide a welcome song.

This sister is a chief over many villages.

Traditional meal on the go in Africa, grilled maize.

The sister in the pink and black has a growth around her neck.  In America we would have her in the hospital to get this fixed.  Not here.

Picking tree limbs for his seat.

This sister was mentally affected and was overjoyed to get a hoe and the empty box it came in.  Everything, including the banding was taken to be used back at home at every village stop.

These two brought their hoe stick with them.  Everyone will have to cut their own branch to get their hoe ready for the heavy work.  The hoe is very heavy duty and really works well.  They use it for everything from gardening to installing water and other pipelines in the towns and villages.

To market, to market to sell a big pot...home again, home again...

Come visit, we found a nice place for you to stay.

On the way home we saw this bed moving and he was not happy to have his picture taken.

Light or heavy, it ends up on the head to be carried back home.

Poor girl has little feet growing out of her side.

Rare to see one of the thumb sucking beasts.

Black cobra bite from in the night. They live in huts with fabric doors that don't keep unwelcomed visitors out. He came to us to help. Sister Squire cleaned it and put antibiotic on the site, but who knows if it will help.  He had gone for treatment at a clinic, but they hadn't even cleaned it.

This will be one of the uses for the new hoes.  These are sweet potatoes and have to be heaped up to grow.  They did a very good job on this I think.

Look at these big eyes.


Running for the mayor of some village.

Always ready to boogie.

Seriously, you want me to sit on what...

It was a lot of fun to spend time with our new humanitarian couple and having served in Fiji on a humanitarian mission they hit the ground running.  Well done Howards!
A big old chicken for your efforts.