Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Start of the Holiday Season

What a way to start the Christmas season every year. Elder Walker's birthday falls on December 16 (in fact, he shares the same birthday with one of our daughters). When that day arrives he knows that Christmas isn't far away. We met up with Elders Bauer, Tolman, Walker, and Anhanha on that very day. Happy birthday to Elder Walker - his first one in the mission field!!

The Start of our Christmas Celebration - Games!

The club house at the mission home was filled with lots of missionaries last Tuesday while they played games and enjoyed the Christmas celebration of the Angola Luanda Mission Region. Our little band of missionaries played futebol, basketball, foosball, billiards, ping pong and a couple of board games. They all had a good time including back row: Elders Davis, Manuel, Bauer, Borden, and Arrington. Middle row: Elders Rainbolt, Bene, Anhanha, Karate, and Walker. Front row: Elders Sande, Harper, and Tolman. Back in the mission home Elders Harper, Borden, Tolman, Davis, Walker, and Anhanha enjoyed one board game, while Elders Bauer and Arrington started their marathon chess game. This chess game lasted quite a while and even changed locations, but they had a good game. The foosball table kept Elders Sande and Manuel busy while Elder Walker had a good game of ping pong.

The pool table was kept busy by all the missionaries. Elder Manuel had never played before and he came up with a unique way to hole the cue stick, but he played well! Elder Tolman and Elder Walker tried their hand at foosball. Elder Arrington and Elder Bauer were still involved in their game of chess, while Elder Tolman tried to beat President Walton in a rematch game of ping pong. Let's just say that President was undefeated today!

Fun times as the missionaries unwind and enjoy the Christmas celebration at the mission home. Elders Karate, Bene, President Walton and Elder Sande took advantage of the downtime to enjoy some games. Elders Bene, Sande, President Walton, and Elder Manuel played some futebol, ping pong, and billiards in the mission home club house.

On the quiet side of the early afternoon, Elders Walker and Arrington try their hand at a game of chess, while Elder Rainbolt takes a tranquil moment on the deck to study his scriptures.

The Christmas Feast

Christmas just isn't the same without familiar foods (at least for the Americans). We had turkey with all the trimmings. We are grateful to the Reedy family for supplying us with things that aren't available in Angola like yams, marshmallows and cranberry sauce!! One table included Elders Arrington, Walker, Borden, and Anhanha. Elders Kelsey, Bene, and Schioser load up their plates. And Elders Davis, Tolman, Walker, and Eckman take advantage of all the good food, just like home!!

Our Christmas Program

President Walton put together some inspiring and spiritual videos focused on the birth and life of our Savior as well as a special Christmas message from the scriptures, Elder Eckman sang two Christmas songs - he has a beautiful voice. And then Elder Manuel, our senior missionary who will depart the end of January, ended with his uplifting testimony. It was a good way to celebrate Christmas with our mission family in Angola!

An Unexpected Gift

An unknown angel sent all of the missionaries the gift of a shiny new clean tie and brand new good socks. The missionaries were very happy for this gift. We gave them the option of trading to get one they would like and they were all pleased at the end with this useful and very thoughtful gift. Elders Borden and Davis were pleased. Elders Eckman and Walker were happy. Elder Rainbolt was extremely happy. And the whole group was grateful to get something so wonderful. The whole group got together for a group photo including, top row: Elders Bauer, Eckman, Walker, Borden, Davis, Harper, Arrington, and Kelsey. Front row: Elders Tolman, Manuel, Rainbolt, Anhanha, Karate (a branch missionary), Bene, and Schioser. And Elder Sande in the front. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!!

A Lively Gift Exchange

We've eaten way too much, focused on the reason for the season, enjoyed some Christmas music, and now it's time for the gift exchange. Elder Walker was the lucky first gift opener, which means he also got to choose one more time at the end. Elders Tolman, Sande, Bauer, and Eckman were all there to see what the first gift would be. Elder Borden seems happy for Elder Davis' gift of peanut butter and honey.

The gift exchange was definitely fun. There were unique gifts like Christmas decorations for Elder Harper's apartment or a party in a bag for Elder Arrington which included silly string and party hats. Elder Rainbolt seemed pleased with the bag of dinosaurs that he chose. Maybe he'll share them with the Primary children in Viana!

The gift exchange got a little lively when Elder Schioser opened up a beautiful Angola shirt. Everyone wanted that gift. It got traded 3 times. But little did we know that once Elder Schioser lost it in the trade, he chose one more gift and it was another shirt. Elder Kelsey was very happy for his companion to get another shirt. Elder Kelsy got a carved wood lion that was beautiful.

Once the gift exchange was over it was time to enjoy the gifts they received. Elders Eckman and Walker ended up with the much-coveted Angola shirts. Elder Rainbolt took a moment to set up the dinosaur set that he opened. It was a fun time for all!

Conclusion of a Great Christmas Celebration

We had a full fun day. It was a nice break from the work. But all things must come to an end. Elders Davis, Arrington, and Eckman filled up on dessert and then they all headed off into the night to work. But before disappearing back into their areas, a few stopped for one last Christmas photo with their Christmas hats. Then it was back to being a dignified missionary. Here we have Elders Walker, Manuel, Anhanha, Arrington, Tolman, Bauer and Borden. Feliz Natal e Propero Ano Novo!!

For parents of those missionaries in Lubango (Elders Guente, Richter, Allison, Perry and Casal Violin), we will be heading down there next week so I'll post pictures of them soon after!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Things Are Happening In Angola!!

So sorry that I haven't posted for a while. We've been extremely busy with lots of visitors from the South East Africa Area office. Things are happening in Angola. There is a lot of work to be done, but it is moving forward. It needs to because the church is growing rapidly here. One of the wonderful things to see this past week was the District Leadership Meeting. They met to discuss their plans for the upcoming year in the Luanda Angola District. Each auxiliary or priesthood leader outlined their plans and goals for their stewardship in the district. The leadership here is amazing and the church is on solid ground! Things are moving and shaking in Angola!

Trainings, Trainings, and More Trainings!

President Walton did quite a job setting up lots of trainings and helps for the branches in Angola. We've had medical training, audit training, MLS training and seminary and institute training. We've toured the buildings and have been looking at potential sites for future church buildings. All of this is helping Angola build a strong church base for the future rapid growth that is going to happen here. To start with the MLS training, Given from Jo'burg gave the District Leaders their first lessons in how to use MLS.

Branch Training in MLS with Given.

Next we had Given come from Jo'burg to help teach the branch presidencies and secretaries how to work with MLS. This is the first time that we have had MLS in Angola and it is the start of more organization and strength for the branches here. Now we can see who is in what branch. Now we can keep records of all the ordinations, callings, births, marriages, and whatever else we need to track. The church is moving forward rapidly in this forgotten country. Given gave several trainings for Cassequel, Luanda 2, Luanda 1 and Viana. They were well attended and the branches are excited for this important step for the Church in Angola.

Seminary and Institute Training with Brother Khumbulani

Our last visitor to Angola was the Director of Seminary and Institute for 27 countries in Africa. Brother Khumbulani got everyone excited for the start of these great classes in 2012. With seminary and institute in Angola, the new convert members will be able to learn more about this great gospel of which they are now a part. Many member adults over the age of 30 will also have the opportunity to attend adult classes. This is such a momentous time for Angola. Things are happening to help strengthen the church and the members here!! Br. Khumbulani had Maera help with a demonstration while Elder Anhanha translated from English into Portuguese. We had quite the crowd gathered to meet with him and learn what was going to happen in the upcoming year of 2012. Since it is summer vacation we had quite the group of youth up in Luanda from Lubango where they are already enjoying the blessings of a seminary class. Next year they'll go from one day a week to five days. What a huge blessing!


The 10th of December brought 2 baptisms to the Luanda District. Gildo and Yvanildo were ready to make that commitment. These are two wonderful future priesthood holders, missionaries and church leaders for Angola. I always love how excited missionaries get at baptisms. There is always quite the photo taking session before the start of the baptismal service. All the missionaries want to document this happy day for the new members. Elders Walker, Harper, Davis and Borden are no exception!

Elder Bauer is serving as zone leader for our faithful Luanda district. It is always an extra special day when you get to baptize someone you have known and taught. Gildo has been taught well and is ready to become a Latter-day Saint!

Viana has another baptism! Gildo was ready and willing to join the true church of Christ. Branch President Pedro, Elders Arrington, Borden, Bauer, Walker, and Gildo with Elder Bene, were all very happy to help and support this newest member of their little branch in Viana!

The baptism of Yvanildo was a very special event for our missionaries. They have been teaching him for a while and hoping he would finally realize what he had to do. Elder Anhanha, Elder Davis, Yvanildo, Elder Manuel, and family and friends were all there to support him on this memorable day.

Elder Anhana knew Sister Luiza when he was just a boy living in Portugal. Who would have guessed that they would meet again in Luanda, Angola? It is a special treat for him to have her around because she is so like a mother to him and our other missionaries!