Greetings from Ethiopia! We are surviving the traffic and warming up our taste buds to injera! We have made several home visits and are grateful for the Ethiopian hospitality. It is at once humbling and an honor to be in their homes and be welcomed as new friends. It’s difficult to articulate how incredibly resourceful and patient so many are in just managing the daily challenges of finding enough water to bring home and then providing enough food for their families. Very few have a car or even a bicycle to get to work, so they either walk or stand in long lines waiting for van taxis or buses to get them across town. Usually this amounts to about 2 or 3 BIRR or ten to fifteen cents. They leave early in the morning and come home by 5 or 6pm hoping the electricity is on so they can cook dinner. And, most people cook on small charcoal burning camp stoves. Add in the almost daily rain we are now experiencing as it is the rainy season from June through September, and the muddy roads that are everywhere off the main paved roads, and it’s quite the daily routine. We were first introduced to these challenges in our very first visit with Ester (a widow) and her four children. You may remember them and how the elders have been trying to prepare them for baptism. Well, the big day arrived last Sunday! Baptisms are typically on Sunday after church due to transportation issues as it is hard and expensive to make two trips to church on the weekend. It was CLEARLY a baptism to remember!
Ester and her four children, Homey (15), Soleney and Solen (13-year-old twins) and Nimona (8) were all anxious and excited to be baptized. Theirs was a different kind of anxiety, however, since we are pretty sure that none of them has ever been completely underwater before. The font was only 2 1/2 feet deep so it was already a challenge. Soleney, who is 5’ 11″, had to be baptized twice, and Solen had to go under three times as knees and feet flailed once he went under. And that was just the beginning. Homey and Nimona were, thankfully, cleared the first time. They were all baptized by two good friends, Eliezer and Brother Brook. Ester was last and clearly the most traumatized by the water. After twenty minutes, two attempts, a rag to cover her nose and plenty of coaxing and advice from those surrounding the font, Ester was finally baptized, kneeling down. After the first attempt she was terrified as water rushed up her nose. We all knew that if the second attempt failed she would probably NEVER be baptized. We were all holding OUR breath just hoping she wouldn’t walk out of the font. Finally, both Eliezer and Brother Brook got in the water, tried to calm her down and then, eventually, just put her under the water before she really knew what had happened! Eliezer (slight of build) kept Ester (much larger build) under the water by falling on top of her while Brother Brook (medium build) made sure her head went under and then pulled her up the second it looked like success! It was easily the most unique baptism any of us had ever witnessed and there was a collective audible sigh of relief when she emerged! Ester was SO happy that she didn’t have to do it again AND that she was finally baptized!
We thought it would be fun to introduce you to the ten wonderful elders we have serving here in Ethiopia. They all come from very interesting backgrounds and have very strong testimonies of the gospel and what it means in their lives. They send the “best of the best” of the Uganda Kampala Mission to Ethiopia because they are serving 1,000 miles away from the mission home. They are trustworthy, obedient and very hard-working missionaries and it is just a privilege to be around them and to serve with them. We had a Zone Conference last week and took the opportunity to ask them a few questions so that you would get to know them. They all send a big Selamno (hello in Amharic) to all of you as our friends and family back home. We asked them when they joined the church, what family they left behind, important things they have learned on their mission so far, blessings and special experiences they’ve had and what their plans are after their missions.
Elder Tichaona Mafirashango is 25 years old and is from Zimbabwe (southern part of Africa). He is the older of two boys of a single mom who is waiting for both of her sons to come home from their missions. His other brother is on a mission in Kenya and returns home later this year. They joined the church in 2009. His mother had a serious back problem before he left home, but since he has been on his mission she has had no problem with her back. Both sons are very grateful. Elder Mafirashango says he has learned the importance of having charity since he’s been on his mission. He has one more year to serve and then he hopes to finish his education in logistics. (Editorial Note: He and Elder Mugwagwa serve five hours away from Addis Ababa in a town called Hawassa and have to handle everything in a city of 200,000 by themselves.)
Elder Tongai Mugwagwa is the tallest missionary (6’4″) in Ethiopia, but the most soft-spoken. He is from Zimbabwe and is 24 years old. He is number five of three boys and three sisters. He and his parents and three of his siblings are members of the church. He spoke of two miracles: (1) Being on a mission, since his father didn’t want him to go, but he changed his mind, and (2) when he had two of his molars removed before he left on his mission and only suffered for five minutes even though he had been warned it would be painful for hours! The most important thing he has learned on his mission is “being faithful to the Lord.” He plans on law school after he returns home in a year.
Elder Cole Heath Farnsworth is 19 years old and is from American Fork, Utah. He is the third of six children. He comes from a long lineage of members of the church. He says his greatest miracle was being called on a mission to Africa and being able to serve in Ethiopia. Since he has been on his mission his testimony of the Book of Mormon has been strengthened and he has learned of its power in conversion. He has been accepted to Brigham Young University but hasn’t decided on a major yet.
Elder Christopher Josephy Phiri is from Malawi (in the southern part of the continent northeast of Zimbabwe) and is one of six children. He was introduced to the church by his uncle when he was 19 years old. He is 23 now. His family belongs to the Catholic church and he is the only member. His mom is a single mother and his siblings were opposed to him serving a mission as he had a good job at the Police Planning Unit and contributed to the family income. His mother encouraged him to go and even sends a small amount of money each month for his allotment. Now the siblings are feeling much better about him serving and he hopes they will all listen to the message of the restored gospel when he returns home next year. He has learned to be more patient and compassionate on his mission and wants to go home and continue his education unless his family needs him to work. There are NO part-time jobs so it is either work or school so he will see where things are when he returns home.
Elder Lameck Dominic Chisale is also from Malawi and is 21 years old. He grew up Catholic in a family of eight children. He joined the church in 2011 and learned about it at school. One Sunday he was walking down the street and saw a sign that said LDS Church and remembered some friends at school talking about that church. He went in and was impressed with the sacrament service. There was one friend there he knew from school who referred him to the missionaries and four months later he was baptized. He was 17 years old then and saved to come on his mission when he turned twenty. He entered the MTC in Johannesburg on a Friday and found out on Monday that his father had died the very day he entered the MTC. But, his mother and siblings told him to stay on his mission and not to come home since he had wanted to go for so long. Their support has meant a lot to him. He feels one of the lessons he has learned on his mission is how to listen to others so that he might be able to help resolve their concerns. When he goes home he will either study accounting or agriculture in college.
Elder Joe Musona has been on his mission for fifteen months now. He is 23 years old and is from Zimbabwe. He’s the youngest of ten children (five boys and five girls) and his parents and siblings all joined the church in 2007. He had quite a unique experience on his mission. Last January while serving in Uganda, his missionary companion was sent home for beating up a twenty-two year old man. Later, the police wrongly accused Elder Musona of being an accomplice so they arrested him and threw him in jail. He was so grateful that he only spent five hours in jail. (Editorial Note: From all we have learned it can be a harrowing experience to be there for even one hour.) He says one of the greatest lessons he has learned on his mission is to be diligent. He hopes to be a software engineer when he returns home.
Elder Simeon Makaiokoh is from Malawi and is 22 years old. He comes from a family of seven children and he is sixth in the line-up. His father passed away three months after he left on his mission. Elder Makaiokoh and his youngest sister are the only members of the church and they joined on January 12, 2014. If we do the math right, he was only a member of the church 16 months before he left on his mission. His most powerful experience on his mission thus far is learning the power of fasting. After fasting, a particular investigator decided to be baptized. He has also learned to be patient and to make friends with all people. He hopes to start an office cleaning service business when he returns home in another year.
Elder Assani Sani is the youngest full-time missionary in Ethiopia at age nineteen. His home is in Zimbabwe and he has two sisters. He and one of his sisters joined the church five years ago. He feels fortunate to be here. In 2010, he was riding a bicycle with a friend and they were hit by a car. His friend sustained multiple injuries but Elder Sani was not hurt. Thankfully, his friend has since recovered from his injuries. Elder Sani lists three things he has learned on his mission: (1) Humility; (2) Charity; and (3) Patience. His lifelong ambition is to become an architect.
Elder Tyler Matthew Dean is 20 years old and hails from Whittier, California. While on his mission his parents moved to Mesa, Arizona so he will return there afterwards. He was recently transferred here from Uganda and serves as one of our zone leaders. He is the only child in his family and although his parents are members they didn’t go to church much when he was growing up until he turned fifteen. He started going to church with friends and then his parents started coming and they have since all been sealed in the temple. His parents are very grateful that he is on a mission. He had a scary moment two months ago when a taxi driver veered into the car he was driving while he was serving in Uganda (right side British driving there). The car flipped over on its top and there were two sister missionaries as well as his companion inside. They all had seat belts on and he feels very grateful that no one was seriously hurt. He plans to go to school when he returns home and enter into the family’s refrigeration business. He says the most important thing he has learned on his mission is that Jesus Christ lives and this is His church. (Editorial Note: We couldn’t resist a picture of Elder Dean’s “worn out” shoes and think he should bronze them when he gets home!)
Elder Saukilani Sankhulani Kapatamoyo is from Malawi and is our other zone leader. His last name is pronounced Ka-pa-ta-my-o and because his last name starts with Ka-pa-ta he says to just call him Captain Moroni! Pretty cute! We, of course, call him Elder Captain Moroni! Just kidding! He learned about the church through his uncle who was a member and he then joined in 2011 while away at boarding school. There are four children in his family and his mother, one brother and his sister are now members. His father is currently taking the lessons back home. Elder Kapatamoyo holds two distinctions. The first is that he is the very first missionary from Malawi to come to Ethiopia. The other is that he was born on Sister Harline’s birthday (September 16th) albeit a few decades later. Now, there are three other missionaries from Malawi. He hopes to go home and build up the church there, to become either a pilot (for Malawi Airlines) or a lawyer, and hopes that his family can be sealed together in the temple some day. He also plans to apply to BYU. He says the important things he has learned on his mission are that Jesus is his Savior, that the Book of Mormon is true and that this understanding is a privilege to share with others.
Here we all are in a final group photo with the Uganda Kampala Mission President and his wife, President and Sister Chatfield, who will finish their service the end of this month and return to their home in Lehi, Utah. This was a fun day of meetings and pizza and farewell to the Chatfields.
These young men are first generation members in their family and we often think of the analogy our Area President has given that they are like the saints in Kirtland, Ohio in 1835 building the foundation of the church. They are truly African pioneer saints. Several of them are the first members in their families and have come to serve at great sacrifice as they have left families that depend on them in so many ways. They all feel fortunate to have at least one parent still living as there are so many orphans here. We always feel uplifted just being around them.
For those of you who would like to read a rather typical story of many of the young orphans here in Ethiopia, there is a good article in this month’s church June Ensign or you can find it online at https://www.lds.org/ensign/2016/06/seven-tender-miracles-along-the-way?lang=eng. Our sweet daughter-in-law, Cherilyn, sent this to us and we certainly related to his story.