Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Gifts of Christmas ~ 25 December 2014

He is the Gift....

Our Christmas was spent celebrating the gift of our Savior.  We are grateful to our Heavenly Father for his only begotten Son, who came to this earth to die for each one of us, so that we can live again.   All of the Elders came over for some food and fun and we received a wonderful surprise when our President showed up with his family to spend the next 10 days in Pointe Noire.  

Our daughter-in-law Stephanie and her family sent us a scripture-present each day of December.  Each present told of a "gift" the Savior has given to us.  We loved focusing on the real meaning of Christmas and what the "gift" of our Savior means to all the world.

Back:  Elder Mbikayi, Elder Etheringto, Elder Muamba, Elder Sperry
Middle:  Elder Bulendolo, Elder Johnston, Elder Nzoronka and Elder Andri

The Pointe Noire missionary team!

President and Sister Monga and their family with all of the missionaries ..........  We loved having them for our Christmas Devotional and dinner.

Each of the Elders took one of the Scripture-Gifts and read it to all of us and then wrote what gift the Savior gave us on the "white board".

President kept checking to make sure all of us had the right gift written down.

Elder Andri's gift was found in D&C 84: 36-38 "everything we have".....

The Gift of Food....

We prepared a wonderful chicken dinner for 16 people.  Because we now have 5 African Elders, we have to try and fix things they will eat.  They have a very "hard time" with American Food, but seemed to enjoy the chicken.  We whipped cream for the fruit salad and Elder Nzoronka said it was wonderful on his Avocados and onions..........!  We just set the food out and the African Elders just mix everything together and love it.   They ended up putting the Banana Cream Pie on baguettes.  

Elder Etherington got a phone call right in the middle of the dinner.  He has not been feeling well, so he just settled for some mashed potatoes and gravy.

Everyone ate everything that was put on their plate....  We have to say they eat much, much less than the American Elders!

Elder Mbikayi and Elder Muamba tried American food for the first time.  They were a little hesitant, but President Monga told them they have to try "new things".

We bought a "Yule Log" to celebrate Elder Bulendolo's birthday today.

We made oatmeal cookies, chocolate chip cookies and fudge for dessert.  By the end of the night we only had a few left.  

Our entertainment for the night was Elder Mbikayi, Elder Etherington and Elder Sperry singing Away in a Manger.  It was beautiful.

The Gift of Snow....

Elder Johnston and Elder Muamba practicing for the "snowball fight".

We asked each of the Elders to tell us of some of the "traditions" that they do as a family each Christmas Day.  One Elder said that they always had a "snowball fight".  So Elder Sperry helped us make "snowballs" during the week and we had a competition between the Mpaka and Aéroport Elders and the Loandjili and Pointe Noire Elders. 

 Get ready...... Get set.......

We put a line on the driveway and put the teams across from each other.  The goal was to see who after one minute had the least amount of "snowballs" on their side of the line.  

Elder Etherington took one to the face!!

Elder Johnston trying not to get snow in his face!

President Monga has never witnessed a snowball fight!

Time is running out....

Times up...............!

The Loandjili's and Pointe Noire's snowball's....

The Mpaka and Aéroport Elders snowballs.....

And the winners are.......................
Elder Muamba, Elder Sperry, Elder Mbikayi and Elder Johnston.

We made African socks to give to each Elder... We filled it with essentials like a tooth brush, toothpaste and a black writing pen also some caramels and chocolates...

Our Zone Leader Elder Johnston with President Monga and Elder Muamba.

It was a very fun and wonderful Christmas day to be together with our dear Elders as they called home and were able to talk with their families.  We love them and love serving with such fine, dedicated young men who are dedicated to the "work of salvation" here in the Congo.


The Gift of our Savior....

We are so grateful for the gift of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Some days our testimonies of what he has done for us, is what helps us make it through the day.  We know that because of Him we can accomplish anything even when things are hard.  We are so thankful this Christmas Day for the special season of celebration and the focus we had on who Christmas is truly all about.  It is one Christmas we will always remember as we serve the Lord here in Pointe Noire Congo.

The Church Is True!!!!

Until Next Week.........................

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tis the Season.... 17 December 2014

Tis the Season for Celebrating the gift of our Savior....

This past week has been one of preparation and celebration.  We were asked by our Mission President to plan something in each of our cities to celebrate... "He is the Gift".  We already had in mind that we wanted to do an "Open House Christmas Concert"..... so we just went with that and called it "Il Est Le Don".   

Several weeks ago we chose the date, time and place, and that we wanted each of the Branches to provide one musical number.  The missionaries spent the last 4 Mondays practicing their song, "As Shepherds Kept Their Lonely Vigil" and it all came together last Saturday December 13.  We had a wonderful 2 hours of tours of the church, videos, concert and ended with the Piano Guys playing "O Come Emmanuel".  Everyone was touched and the Spirit was felt.  We had almost 200 people come and many investigators who were also impressed with the evening.

Our greatest hope was that we could bring to all the people the understanding of how precious the gift of our Savior is to the world.    We have been asked by our First Presidency to remember the humble dignity of His birth, gifts, and life, and to fill the world with the light of His love and healing power.

The meeting was held at the Mpaka/Aéroport building.  These investigators and members loved the musical numbers.

We were the final number.  Elder Etherington was the "director" and he had great vision.  He is at the piano so you can't see him.  The missionaries "whistled"..... (African flute) the first part of the song while Elder Johnston and Elder Nkulu gave the account found in Luke.

These are the Aéroport Sisters singing "Away in a Manger".  They were directed by Bienchelvie who is very passionate about music and loves to sing and direct.

After the concert, the missionaries mingled among all of the people.

Elder Sperry, Elder Johnston, and Elder Andri, take a selfie with some members.

Tis the Season to celebrate being a missionary....

Back: Elder Bulendolo, Elder Johnston, Elder Sperry, Elder Tripp, Elder Etherington
Front: Elder Nkulu, Elder Ralison, Elder Andri, and Elder Bybee.

This was our group photo on Monday as we were saying goodbye to Elder Tripp who is going to go to Brazzaville to be the new Zone Leader, and Elder Nkulu who has finished his mission and will go home to Limbubashi DRC.  Elder Bulendolo has only been here for two days and is right out of the MTC in Ghana. 

We had planned on going to the Beach on Monday to have our farewell dinner.  But it was raining so hard that we went to Plan B and had our Barbecue and baked beans at our home.  Every last drop was eaten.....

After our meal we had a testimony meeting where we expressed our thankfulness to our Savior, and had some "parting words" by Elder Tripp and Elder Nkulu.  

This is Elder Bybee and Elder Ralison singing Elder Nkulu's favorite song.  

Here the missionaries are uniting as a Zone to give Elder Tripp a blessing before he goes to Brazzaville to assume his new duties.  We told him "If the Lord brings you to it....He will bring you through it".    We know that we are not alone in the work of the Lord.

Saying good-bye!

This is Elder Muamba,  our new missionary from DRC, who had been serving in Brazzaville.  He will be Elder Johnston's companion for the Mpaka area.

Tis the Season for Mangoes......

We have waited for the mangoes to come back and they are finally here.  There are many different kinds and sizes, but they all taste the same......delicious!

This is the grand-daddy of them all.  It was (we ate it in a Mango smoothie) the biggest mango I have ever seen!


We are so grateful this year 2014, for the season of Christmas, to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  He is the source of true peace.  "If the Savior were among us today, we would find Him where He always was---ministering to the meek, the downcast, the humble, the distressed, and the poor in spirit."  We hope to be following in His footsteps, as we serve here among the people of Pointe Noire!    The Church Is True!

Until next week.........  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Getting Ready ~ 7 December 2014

Getting ready for President Monga....

As Senior Couple Missionaries here in the Congo, we have found that we must be ready for anything.   We received a phone call from our President Monga on Monday saying he would be coming to visit us on Friday and stay for just 24 hours.  In that 24 hours he wanted to have a Zone Conference, interview each Elder, meet with 2 candidates who needed a special interview before they could be baptized and talk with one of the Branche Presidents.  We would also have a baptism at 3:00 that we would all need to attend.

Our part would be to organize this and see that it went off "without a hitch".  President arrived on Friday night at 9:00 P.M. with Elder Rakotonindriana who is his assistant.  Sister Monga was very weary from having just had Zone Conferences in Brazzaville, and Elder Rako was more than happy to come since he had served here for many months. 

We decided to have the Elders come to breakfast at 8:00 Saturday morning and then start the Zone Confernce at 9:00.  Whenever there is food involved, the Elders are always on time!!  
President started the Conference and talked for three hours on missionary work here in Pointe Noire.  We are so grateful for his leadership and love.  He told them that they are missionaries no matter where they are, and that they represent our Savior Jesus Christ whether they are at their apartments, in a taxi, walking on the roads, going to the store or at the Cyber. 

How we loved his quick visit and look forward to his return sometime in January.  

Elder & Sister Bailey, Elder Tripp, President Monga, Elder Sperry, Elder Nkulu, Elder Johnston and Elder Rako

This picture was taken after a very long day.  We are getting ready to take President to the Airport to return home to Brazzaville. 

The missionaries of Pointe Noire, except for Elder Etherington.  He was in his interview with the President.

Elder Ralison, Elder Tripp, Elder Andri, and Elder Rako

These are the Madagascar missionaries..... and Elder Tripp who is all American.

We love to hear Elder Sperry play the guitar.  He was our entertainment while we waited.  

Elder Rako served in the Mpaka Branche where all of these "youth"  attend.  He said it was like "coming home".

Getting ready for the baptism....

Elder Nkulu and Elder Sperry have been teaching (?).  He was baptized this past Saturday and confirmed a member on Sunday.

 Getting ready for Christmas....

Elder Sperry mentioned that missionary friends who had written him from other countries already had their Christmas decorations up..... here in the Congo we had nothing.   With limited funds and limited Christmas decorations, we just had to do our best...  

This will be our Christmas Tree for 2014.  It is simple and humble,  just like the first Christmas long ago.  Our daughter-in-law is sending us a scripture-present each day with a gift that the Savior has given us.  We love this....... so far we have received the gifts of the Atonement, Resurrection, Comforter, Grace, Forgiveness, and life itself.  Can you think of any better presents than these?

These are our stockings hung by the chalkboard with care!! Our daughter-in-law made these also.

And these will be the Elders Christmas Trees.  

Elder Bailey and I decided to do "24 days closer to our Savior"  for the missionaries.  We first had to make our own little boxes.

We ran off a scripture card for each day up until Christmas Eve.  Each scripture gives them a way to become closer to their Savior.  Because we have 8 Elders, each missionary received 3 boxes each to open on a certain day.

So this would be day 6.

And an example of a scripture that would be inside.

Then inside of each box is a service that they need to do to help them become more like our Savior.

These are the boxes from 1 - 24.

This is the Mpaka Apartments Christmas!  

Getting ready to call it a day!

Elder Bailey is checking the church grounds to make sure everything is locked down and secure.  "Unto the Lord" is our motto and we are so grateful for being able to serve here in the Congo and do our part to build the kingdom of God.  

Until next week!