Sunday, November 4, 2012

An Apostle Comes to our Mission

 Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of 
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and other General Authorities
came to the DR Congo Kinshasa Mission October 27-29.  Several meetings were
held in conjunction with this visit, including a Sister's Conference, Missionary Mtg., 
Priesthood Leadership Mtg., Young Adult Conference and a special Stake Conference.
Leaving Kinshasa, Elder Holland flew to Bangui, Central African Republic, which is in
our mission boundaries. He dedicated that country to the preaching of the gospel.  

Sister Robinson & I arrived one and a half hrs. early
for the Saturday Sister's Conference
and even then we were lucky to find two seats together,
(about 2/3 of the way back into the chapel overflow.)
What a sight it was to walk in and see
everyone sitting reverently & listening to the choir.

Before the program began, Elyseé, from the Temporal Affairs office
 saw us sitting far back and brought us up to the front row.
After the meeting, I tried to pop up for a picture of everyone...
Well, not everyone.  There were tons of people in overflow rooms and
in the Seminary & Institute Bldg. next door to the chapel. 
I accidentally chopped off 1/2 of Philomene (r) who runs
the little orphanage with those sweet children that we love so much.
Elder Holland's wife was unable to make this trip,
but the wives of the other visiting General Authorities and
our own Sister Jameson (as well as Stake women leaders) spoke.

This beautiful woman, her husband & family are favorites of many people.
They have eleven children and the whole family are all great examples.
The two girls on the left & right are her twins and are even more beautiful
than the photo shows.  One is shortly getting married in the Johannesburg Temple 
Sister Robinson serves w/ her husband  overseeing the
Church's Perpetual Education Fund (PEF). They live above us
and  you can tell what an angel she is just by this picture.
Sister Kambongo (r) & her husband serve as a
proselyting Senior Couple.
After the meeting, no one wanted to leave, 
so there were lots of chances
to take pictures of  happy, smiling women.
These sisters had a nice diversity of style
and, like so many of the sisters after the meeting,
insisted on having me in their pictures, too.
An attractive young Congolese sister 
and her feminine & very pretty dress.
One sister, in the back, was urged to be in the picture,
but she was shy & didn't want to be there,
so she hid behind the others.
It's too bad because she looked quite lovely.

This group of sisters called me to be in their picture,
so then I asked them to let me take theirs.

Prior to the Missionary Meeting with Elder Holland, the
young Elders (I know, that's an oxymoron) & Sister Missionaries
joined the Senior Couples... waiting for their 1st chance to see
an Apostle.  Those of us who from the USA (& even Utah)
were excited, so you can imagine how these young people felt.

Some more of our 122 Kinshasa missionaries.
There are 16 more Elders (mostly Americans) serving
 with three couples in the "outlying" areas..
Pt. Noire, Republic of Congo,
Yaounde and Douala, Cameroon.
These numbers will soon expand greatly.
Because the age has just been lowered to 18 for men
and 19 for women to go on missions,
the Church is now receiving FIVE TIMES the usual
number of applicants.  Elder Holland told us that,
whereas we now have 58,000 missionaries in the field,
there could be 70,000-80,000 in just a year!

Trying not to distract, I took these quick snap shots
before the meeting began and managed to get a couple favs..
Sister Mutunda (foreground) who emails me sweet short notes,
Sister Razafi, one of our Malagasy missionaries (next to window),
Sister Nkosi (front row left) who'd just been released the day
before from the hospital after having her appendix removed,
but refused to miss seeing & meeting Elder Holland.
Before the meeting, we all filed by rows
 to greet the "receiving line" of President & Sister Jameson,
followed by the visiting Church leaders and their wives.
After the meeting, Sister Fanantenantsoa (leaning over)
began playing prelude on the keyboard.  The song she played
was "God Be With You Till We Meet Again".
It was intended to be postlude instrumental music... but,
as the last of the Church leaders filed out, the sound of soft voices
began to be heard from the back of the room
(Congolese just HAVE to sing.. it's in their DNA!)
and it began to swell until every voice in the room was singing
with a volume that we KNEW was being carried to the ears
and hearts of those who were leaving as we sang through our tears.
It was a powerful and sweet demonstration of love.

Sunday.. we, the Robinsons, Billings & Moons rode
up to the Mont Ngafula Stake Center.  I love to take pictures
of our chapels when I see them because they are all so beautiful.
In Kinshasa and it's suburbs, there are about 20 similar chapels

built by the Church, plus some buildings which are owned or rented. 
No Church building is dedicated & used unless it is fully paid for.
We arrived two hours early to ensure getting a seat
(not knowing they'd reserved front seat for Sr. Couples). 

The people were seated & the choir was already singing.
They ended up having 2,000 in attendance all told...
about 95% of the membership of that stake.
In another part of Kinshasa, the Kimbanseke Stake

 was also holding their own Stake Conference 
where Elder Clayton presided & spoke.
They  had 3,000 there... 99% of their membership.

  The Congolese people are so strong & faithful.
Special Meeting choirs always create a coordinated "look"
and this was no exception.  This is a Young Adult choir.

Don't let the hymn books fool you...the Congolese love to sing 
and know almost all the hymns most by heart.
They sing with so much power and feeling 
that tears come to your eyes as you listen.
When he got up to speak, Elder Holland looked out and said, 

"I wish ALL the General Authorities could see you. 
I wish all the members of the Church could see you.
 You are a beautiful sight!"  And, indeed, they were.
He also commented on the beauty of the singing and said that
he was touched by congregation singing & the prelude choir songs, 

which included two hymns usually heard only
 at Christmas ("O, Holy Night" and "Joy to the World")
and one we love to sing at Easter ("That Easter Morn").  

He asked, "Wonderful! Why don't we sing these all year long?" 
Since it is not appropriate to take pictures DURING a meeting,
I hoped that a quick shot of Elder Holland leaving would be OK.
You can see that our row was directly in front of the pulpit.
We were seat-sore and crook-necked after two hrs of waiting &
two more hours of meeting, but it was wonderful and worth it.
Afterward, I followed this precious little girl out, trying to 
capture her cute little "Luputa" hair style on camera.  
Just an example of the gorgeous landscaping around the chapel. 
This man was SO proud of his family
 and asked if I would take a picture of them.  
This is a common request here (and they almost
always want another picture with you in it, too)
This mom saw me taking the other family's picture
and requested the same.  It's so sweet that they do this
and then look at the picture on the camera with delight,
even though there is no probability of ever having it themselves. 
This time, I just wanted to zoom in on these sweet faces.  
I am not usually so gushy when it comes to kids,
but these children have such powerful little spirits.
Most parents we observe LOVE and TEACH their children... 
and you can see it in their children's faces.  They will bless Africa.
These guys had to show how cool they were,
(reluctantly letting the girl come into the picture)

If Mr. "Shy" and Mr. "Cocky" can blend traits,
they will be humble but confident missionaries some day. 
The man on the left indicated that he wanted to take a picture with me.
Then I took one of him & his friend, who could speak a little English.
He explained to me that the man was the 1st member in Mont Ngafula.
It is because of stalwarts like this that Africa has a strong foundation

and is now exploding in membership.
After we finally got into our car and began
 the bumpy, bone-jarring portion of the trip back,
a woman walking on the side provided yet another chance
to share a different Congolese pattern and style.

Sunday dinner & dessert at the Jameson's.
Elder Holland, Ron Rumble, Elder & Sister Clayton,
Georges Bonnet, Elder & Sister Renlund, President Jameson.
We had the chance to have dinner with Brother Trumble,
who is an "advance" man for Elder Holland, a couple weeks ago.
At Elder Holland's invitation, he bore 
one of the most powerful testimonies of the whole weekend.

After arriving in Bangui,
Sister Jameson wanted to record the process.
She began to took a picture of the group
 as they boarded a chartered plane.
Immediately, the man in the vest
snapped to life & demanded the camera.
She managed to fend him off until something else
distracted him and she was able to keep her camera.

This is just too good a picture to pass up.
Taking off from N'gili Airport provides a bird's-eye view
of what we smilingly call "The Nauvoo Temple".
It is a 3-story huge ward chapel on the new Lumumba Blvd.
Actual temples are usually large & typically quite magnificent.
But, chapels are supposed to be nice looking, yet functional.
Somehow, an architect slipped these plans through
and got them approved years ago. I think the word is anomaly. 

The Congo River with the large split just to the east of Kinshasa. 
Flying over Kinshasa...
We live at the top end of the main road (Trente Juin),
which runs more or less diagonally in this picture.
The "Stadium of Martyrs" can be seen (far right-middle)

Passing over Brazzaville (Rep. of the Congo) 
and looking back at Kinshasa (Dem. Rep. of Congo).
These two capital cities do not like each other,
which is a shame because they could help each other.

Elder Holland is fairly tall and the chartered plane was not.
He tried, unsuccessfully,
to stand and stretch on the four hour trip to Bangui.

One of the few paved roads in Bangui.
Kids going to school.
People trying to make a living in different ways.
A beautiful picture on a beautiful day.  This hill is where the
Oubangui Tribe began.  Most of us remember them from books w/
pictures of natives with lip plates.  The tribe is also called Ubangi,
and, from that, the name of the capital, Bangui.
After seeing what the town looks like, 
this structure is a little shocking!
It is a hotel.  And you'll never guess who built it...
Muammar Gaddafi!  No one can figure out WHY.
It was begun before he died and just completed.
The afore-mentioned hill, the site of the dedication
 is right behind it.

The hotel foyer was tastefully done with lots of marble and elegant furnishings. 
It was sweet time for a reunion with a valued and loved
local priesthood leader, Branch President Langue.
He had a bad stroke last year and still shows effects,
but battled through it and stayed in his place,
working long and hard to be a servant of the Lord. 
Another happy reunion was the chance to be with
 a returned missionary who had served with the Jamesons
previously in the Kinshasa Mission.
Elder Laguerre was the first missionary to ever serve
from the Central African Republic.
After driving up the hill, the party of people stopped at a nice overlook. 
Elder Holland directed the people attending the dedication,
which included some of the local Church leaders and their wives.
This dedication could not have been performed without achieving a
particular legal status in the country, which we've had for many years.
But the dedication of a country is a priesthood ordinance
which can only be done by an Apostle under the direction
of the Prophet, so this was an historic occasion.
Elder Holland and the General Authorities with local leaders and wives.
Elder Holland waved to the drivers (back) to come join in the picture,
since they had been witnesses of this special ordinance, too.
The chapel, walls and grounds had all been painted and spruced up
for this special occasion.  The previous sign was stolen,
(which begs the question... why?)
but a new one replaced it and everything was in order for
this historic meeting in Bangui.
When the group arrived, the chapel was already over-flowing
with members and visitors having to sit out on the adjoining porch. 
The children had been set up at the very front in small plastic chairs.
They were sitting reverently.  Elder Holland remarked on them
and indicated he would like to have a picture with all of them.
Good thing he did it ahead of time, as you will see later...
Look at these wonderful faces.  Beautiful children, so sweet!
I especially love this little guy in the front.
You can tell, he's not entirely sure what's going on.
Then it was time to get the picture with the older children.
And, another picture with all (or most) of them.
Then, Elder Holland asked several people to speak before him.
(Remember, the children had probably been sitting for two hours
before the group of Church leaders arrived for the meeting.)
At last, Elder Holland began to speak, but this little girl
just couldn't hold her eyes open another minute.
The darling boy at her side was showing signs of following
her into dreamland.  Elder Holland said to Sister Jameson,
"You've got to get pictures of this!"  So, as he continued
to speak, she took pictures.
Now we have that same little boy next to her FULLY committed to sleep,
AND the girl next to him AND the boy in the second row.
Talk about "laid back"!! (The girl in polka dots studies the scene.) 
Finally, she succumbs also.... just as the girl who started it all
wakes up from her cat nap, looking a little woozy!
Children!  Aren't they wonderful?  Elder Holland loved it.
A tender picture...
Elder Jameson bidding farewell to this wonderful Branch President
who has been so terribly ill, yet never stopped serving the people
of his little unit.  They said goodbye to each other,
 knowing they might not see each other again in this life.

1 comment:

  1. Another awesome post. I love seeing all the women and their dresses but still think it's funny that they picked pink for the choir shirts and ties. The kids were priceless as usual. I loved the sleeping series. I even shed a tear for your last picture. I've been a little emotional myself this week just realizing all we have been through these last many years and to have the feeling of relief that we are finally seeing our hard work pay off. They were talking about Adoptions today at Radius and it is such a beautiful thing but I have to compare it to what we have been through. Although adoptions sometimes take forever and there is a lot of requirements that must be accomplished I just know the end results are the same. We all want to make a difference in the life of a child. I'm so proud of the difference I see the church making in Africa which in return makes the lives of those precious children so much better too. We love you guys and all you do...Much love, Juli