This past month truly was a March filled with missionary moments and milestones. We began the month by welcoming four new missionaries who are all Ethiopians and who were adopted as children and raised by LDS families. We ended the month with the milestone announcement at General Conference of a temple coming to Nairobi, Kenya! This is SO exciting and will serve to bless the lives of members in all of the countries surrounding Kenya. That includes all of our Uganda Kampala Mission area which encompasses Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. It will also mean that many other surrounding countries will be blessed as well. This would include Tanzania, Burundi and, of course, all of Kenya. We are all truly celebrating all that this means for east Africa.
As for our newest Ethiopian missionaries, they are all thrilled to be able to come back to their homeland and serve here. Some of them were too young to remember much of their native Amharic language but they are working hard to regain it. These four elders add to an already amazing group of eight other American elders who have been steadily increasing attendance in their respective branches and baptizing several new members as well. So, we would love to introduce you to these wonderful young men.
Elder Neff is from Taylor, Arizona and was adopted when he was a baby so he doesn’t speak any Amharic….yet. He and his sister, who is eight years older, were adopted together from the town of Dire Dawa. He has four older American siblings ranging in age from their early 40’s to late 20’s. His parents just felt very strongly that there were more children who needed to join their family. He has been on his mission for four months having completed his first three months in training in Uganda. He loves to play soccer and hopes to become an anesthesiologist some day. When asked what he has learned about life lessons thus far on his mission, he said patience. Indeed, this is probably the number one lesson that all of us learn here in Africa where slow Internet and heavy traffic and bureaucratic lines provide plenty of patience tutoring.
Elder Chandler is from Pocatello, Idaho and was adopted when he was ten years old having been born in Addis Ababa. He was also adopted with his sister, Meseret, who is six years older and whose name in Amharic means “foundation.” Their American parents obviously provided a very strong foundation for Elder Chandler as he, like Elder Neff, is a terrific young man who is also working hard to regain his native language. Even though he spoke no English when he arrived in the USA and it took him a year or so be conversant, the total immersion to English has meant that he has lost quite a bit of Amharic. Any of you in families where there is a second native language can benefit from speaking the native language at home. Elder Chandler only had his sister with whom he could speak Amharic so he is sort of starting over. He has five older siblings all in about the same age range as Elder Neff’s siblings. True to his Ethiopian heritage he was a cross country and track distance runner in high school. He enjoyed seeing the training area for the world class Ethiopian distance runners at Meskel Square here in Addis. He has been on his mission for four months as well. So far on his mission he has learned that you can’t make people do anything, which I suggested he remember when raising his teen-aged children some day! The highlight of his mission so far has been teaching an investigator in Uganda named Sharifa. She had been taught by several missionaries previously but was finally at the right time in her life to feel the need to be baptized and Elder Chandler had the privilege of performing that ordinance. He will return home twenty months from now and will enter college where he hopes it will become evident what he should study by then.
Elder Cooper was born in the southern part of Ethiopia known as Kersa Ilala which is near Arsi Negele. He was adopted when he was 12 years old and raised in Salem, Utah. His younger sister, Yubo, was also adopted at the same time. Yubo means “someone with nice big hair” and Elder Cooper says she was named appropriately. He remembers a lot of his Amharic as he was a little older and is doing very well with the language. He has two other brothers in his family as well. He says it feels great to be home in Ethiopia sharing the gospel with the Ethiopian people. He is looking forward to reuniting with his older sister, Shagetu, whenever he is able to serve down south. She is 25 years old and that would be a wonderful reunion. He has been very surprised by all of the changes and new construction that has occurred since he left. Since he is thinking of Architectural Design as a major he may have some future input with all of this building. He has been on his mission for six months and spent the first three training in Uganda. He has learned so far that timing is in the Lord’s hands and he is happiest when he acknowledges that.
Elder Munsey is also from Kersa lIala and came to the U.S. with an older and a younger sister, Ayisha and Mari. He has two other brothers in his family as well. He was adopted when he was nine years old and is working hard to get his Amharic back. He has cousins in his home town that he hopes to reconnect with while here. He is from El Cajon, California so he has a California connection with us. He feels like it is amazing to be back in Ethiopia and agrees that many things have changed since he left. He has asked the Lord to help him understand the doctrine better and has really felt that he has been helped with that. He has been on his mission for three months so far. When he returns home he is thinking about pursuing a dental career.
Elder Shumway is from Panaca, Nevada which has a population of 3,000 and is located about 100 miles northwest of St. George, Utah. He has four sisters and is the second oldest in his family. He is a good athlete who played for a small school where you could play football, basketball and baseball so he had some exciting 2A Championships he participated in. He loves baseball most of all so we are hoping he will come see us when he returns home from his mission in a year and go to an Angels game with us as that is his favorite team. He hopes to either play baseball at Snow College where he has an offer or else attend BYU-I or UVU majoring in Physical Therapy. He began his mission in Rwanda and Ethiopia is his second country to serve in. He will probably also spend some time in Uganda before completing his mission. One of the most memorable moments on his mission was participating in the blessing of a baby with a serious hip problem. The blessing promised complete recovery and that was granted.
Elder Moyes hails from the town of Magna, Utah and is the youngest of ten children. He is probably the best cook among the elders and is very calm and quietly confident as well as humble. Actually, they are ALL very humble young men which is so refreshing. Elder Moyes can probably attribute many of his competencies to growing up in a large family. He makes better banana bread than I do, for sure. He and Elder Quinton have done wonders in the Hawassa Branch which requires plenty of autonomy and good common sense since it is five hours away from Addis. He hopes to become a CPA and financial manager some day. A highlight of his mission was on Christmas Day last year when three separate people he was teaching in Uganda were all baptized.
Elder Schweitzer is another wonderful missionary who grew up in St. George, Utah and even went to high school with my niece, Ashley Boice. He played football there and, like Jonny Harline, was a tight end. They went to the State Championship where he had the reverse honor of scoring the first touchdown of the game rather than the last one like Jonny did in the famous University of Utah vs. BYU game. All of this we had to pull out of Elder Schweitzer as he is also a very humble and very focused young man who will be returning home this July. He plans to attend either Dixie College or Southern Utah University. He really feels that it is a blessing to come to Ethiopia at the end of his mission and that all that he has learned to this point has prepared him to come here.
Elder Goodrich is from Moses Lake, Washington in the Columbia Basin and we have been trying to remember the married name of Nancy, the daughter of Wayne and Norma Henderson from the San Clemente Ward, who was also from Moses Lake. If any of you can remember her name please email us. It would be a fun connection. He has six siblings and after his mission would like to go to college and perhaps then enlist in the Navy with an eye to becoming a Navy Seal. We would say that he has “the right stuff” to do that and has also had the right attitude and work ethic here on his mission. He has been serving for eight months and says that one of the best experiences he has had so far was meeting a man on a back road in Uganda who because of Elder Goodrich’s white shirt and tag asked to talk with him. Within a few weeks this man AND one of his friends were both baptized.
Elder Carter is from South Jordan, Utah but was born in Portland, Oregon. He is the third of four children and has the mission distinction of losing the most weight of any of the missionaries. We only know him as the svelte Elder Carter but he has lost over 80 pounds and is right at the weight where he feels most comfortable. He is still a tall (6’4”), big guy. He showed us his former belt that could now wrap around his waist almost twice. Not sure if this is due to all the hard work and walking, walking, walking or eating the more healthy injera diet or both, but he is happy, healthy and a great missionary! He hopes to join either the Army or Marines when he returns home and we would imagine they would probably assign him to their linguistics division as he has an incredible aptitude for languages. His Amharic is coming along very well as is his Arabic and Russian. He feels like being able to serve in Ethiopia has been a fulfillment of his Patriarchal Blessing and he is very happy to be here.
Elder Gooch is from Gilbert, Arizona and lives about five minutes away from our daughter, Alison, and her family. Small world! He is the middle child of five children and since I am as well we decided that middle children are the most well adjusted since they are the “perennial peace keepers” in most families. He had been on his mission for six months when he was told he would be going to Ethiopia and that, he said, was just the best news! He is a hard worker and another humble young man. You can tell he must have been a very good football player and, as it turns out, he was in high school and may have some good prospects for college ball when he returns home. He hopes to major in business.
Elder Langford, along with Elder Quinton, has been in Ethiopia the longest having arrived last August. He is from Eagle, Idaho and is another hard working young man who never complains and just gets the job done. He and Elder Schweitzer have been serving in Debre Zeit and have visited many, many families. Many have returned to activity because of their care and concern and that branch is increasing its numbers by the week. He hopes to go to college when he returns home, probably BYU-Idaho, and wants to sell medical devices or other things related to health services. He returns home late this summer.
As mentioned before, Elder Quinton arrived with Elder Langford last August so both of them were two of the four elders who helped to hold things together during the State of Emergency last fall. He has really learned a lot of Amharic and can even read Amharic (as in the Amharic letters, not the English version). He has had some amazing teaching experiences and has sought to really understand the culture and the people. He will be going to BYU Provo when he returns home and hopes to pursue science and robotics as his major.
Other milestones in March have consisted of everything from a hail storm, which many locals say they have never experienced before although some said it did happen once many years ago, to Elder Harline’s first baptism (usually the missionaries handle all of the baptisms). There were some other “firsts” as well.
We had our own version of “Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here” about two weeks ago when a spring thunder storm turned into about 3/8” size ice balls. Our Sudanese basketball players were in the middle of a game when the storm suddenly burst upon them. Lloyd immediately went out of the office and started throwing snow (hail) balls and we all stood in awe and excitement at this most unexpected event.
Another wonderful event in March was the celebration of the Relief Society’s 175th Birthday. Our women’s organization provides not only for the temporal relief of the poor and needy among us but also for our spiritual nurturing. The humble beginnings of twenty women gathered in the Red Brick Store in Nauvoo, Illinois on March 17, 1842 to the worldwide sisterhood that is now 7 million strong attests to the inspired vision of the prophet, Joseph Smith, who organized this according to priesthood patterns rather than the more common “benevolent societies” of the 19th Century. It remains the largest and oldest women’s organization in the world.
Here in Ethiopia we celebrated this milestone birthday by traveling 25 miles south of Addis Ababa to Debre Zeit. Sister Yeweinshett, who is our District Relief Society President and incredibly capable even though she is totally blind, organized this day to include all of the sisters in the District. Many of these sisters in Addis had either never been to Debre Zeit or had been there a long time ago. This is due to the difficulties in transportation as no one really has a car and taxi and bus fare can strain the family budget. So, our District President, Eyob, hired a bus and the sisters enjoyed not only a little outing, complete with a visit to the local lake, but also a nice gathering at our chapel in Debre Zeit complete with a short history of the beginnings of Relief Society and a lovely traditional lunch of injera prepared by these amazing sisters who really know how to cook!
Another recent milestone has been the move in for Sister Atsede to her government apartment. Many of you may remember her long seven year wait on a government housing list that gave her the opportunity last year to pay about $70 a month and in 20 years to own her own apartment. She had previously raised her two daughters, Kalkidan and Fiker, as a single mom in other government housing that cost her $5.00 a year. Last fall we visited the one bedroom apartment only to learn that the government hands it over devoid of electrical wiring, running water or any other amenities. Atsede must do all of the finish work. She and her daughters have worked for several months to get all of this completed before Kalkidan and Fiker leave next week for school at BYU-Idaho. A milestone in their lives as well. It was wonderful to see how elated Atsede was to move in even without electricity and with water only available once a week as of now. Hopefully, those services will come sooner than later.
This past month we also said good-bye to one of our office employees, Andualem, as he reached a milestone in his life. He, too, has been sponsored to attend BYU-Idaho and he was really excited to finally see America. He said it was WAY better than the pictures and American movies depicted. He was amazed at the number of cars and manicured lawns and big houses. More than anything he loved Temple Square and he was thrilled to be able to attend General Conference. He is deeply grateful for this opportunity for higher education at an American university. We miss him but are so happy for him as well.
Another special day in March was a baptism that Lloyd was able to perform in one of the metal containers outside of one of our buildings. Usually these baptisms are performed by the missionaries but this sister wanted Elder Harline to baptize her as we had the privilege of participating in the lessons with her. That same day Brother Kifele was baptized by Elder Carter. He is an older man and was a little apprehensive about navigating the climb into the container since he only has one leg. But all went well and it was a very memorable day for all of us missionaries and everyone in attendance.
March has truly been a month of “missionaries and milestones” and now we look forward to April and all the possibilities it will present. With this great group of young missionaries it promises to be another good month.
Lloyd and Nancy