Sunday, May 3, 2009

Couples Conference--Masai Mara

From 28 April to 1 May 2009 we were privileged to enjoy a mission couples conference with eleven couples from our mission and three couples from the Uganda Kampala Mission. It began with an evening potluck dinner on Tuesday evening 28 April and some instruction from our mission president, President William Taylor and his wife. They have requested that each couple be assigned to a ward or branch. Many of our couples are already assigned, but those of us with special assignments, such as humanitarian service or employment, have not necessarily been assigned. We were happy to have an opportunity to commit to serving in a branch which we had already decided as a couple that we would like to assist. Our employment assignment takes us away many weekends throughout our mission as well as the Uganda Mission, but when we are home, we will serve in the Langata Branch here in Nairobi.

The next morning we left Nairobi from Wilson Airport flying on a safari plane with 13 people. It took two planes to get us all there, and took about 45 minutes to get there. The flight was fascinating with much to see from the air. We saw lots of hand-dug wells and small settlements.
We flew to the Masai Mara National Park which is the one famous for the wildebeest crossing which occurs in July and August.

The pictures speak for themselves. We saw amazing animals and were able to get quite close to them. We stayed in a very nice tent camp which is as nice as almost any hotel we've ever stayed in. They had wonderful buffet meals and you'll see some pictures of the Masai warriors doing a dance for our evening's entertainment.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Our "Fuzzy" Washer & "French" Dryer

These are pictures of our washer and dryer; not too exciting for a blog post, but our washer has a setting on it called "fuzzy" which, if selected will automatically figure out the size of load in the tub and choose the correct water level and other settings. Our washer is connected only to cold water, so if we want hot (or warm) we have to carry buckets of hot water from our shower out to the washing machine. When we're ambitions, we do it, when we're not, we don't.

Our dryer is a French dryer and we couldn't get it to dry with any heat for the first two times we used it, because Sister Randall couldn't remember her Jr. High French. We finally looked the words up online and found out the French words for Run, Stop, Hot and Cold. We put some labels on the dryer (oh yes, I brought my P-touch labeler to Kenya!) and now we know how to operate it.

The washer and dryer are in an outdoor laundry room right next to our apartment. It is covered and mostly enclosed, but it is surrounded with decorative brick that allows a breeze to blow through, so the four lines of clotheslines can be used to dry the clothes without anyone seeing. It's one of Sister Randall's favorite parts of the apartment. She will miss those clotheslines when she returns home. Her daughter Valerie says she is "June Cleaverish" for hanging her clothes on the clothesline. We've discovered that most things dry great on the line, but towels end up just like sandpaper. Needless to say, we dry them in our French dryer.

This is one of our new little friends in the Ilima branch. We wanted to show you how the mothers and sisters carry the babies. These big scarves work very well and they know just how to tie them so the babies stay snug, whether sleeping or awake. We saw two little five-year-olds carrying their little brother or sister in to church like this.

Our Wheels & Flat

This is our little diesel truck which has a standard transmission. It's been a trick for Elder Randall to learn to shift with his left hand. Luckily, it is four-wheel drive because some of the areas we travel have very primitive roads. Some of the main roads are pretty rough and dusty.

Our apartment is in this building. We are on the fourth floor (the first floor is the parking garage. We climb 55 steps up to get to our door--an added bonus, extra exercise! Our "flat" is on the left in the picture, the third set of windows from the bottom. You can see our living room window with the dining room window on the right of it and the guest bedroom window on the left. We love our "flat" because there are six of the apartments in this building filled with senior couples.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Baby Elephant Orphanage

On Saturday 14 February, 2009 we met another couple, the Elams and their son and daughter-in-law and visited the baby elephant orphanage. It is located on the edge of the Nairobi National Park. It was so much fun to see the elephants up close. We had a place right on the rope near the watering hole and got to see everything so well. The elephants are orphaned for various reasons, most commonly they fall in a well and can't get out, or their mothers are killed for their tusks. They are rescued at varying ages, some as young as just a few weeks old. They only show the trainers feeding them for one hour a day because they don't want the elephants to get too used to human contact.They are fed a special baby formula that is made for human babies in England. They are fed every three hours for the first year and then every four hours for the next year. Their trainers stay with them 24 hours a day and even sleep near them. They rotate different trainers so that the babies don't get too attached to one. Elephants are extremely social animals and exhibit most of the emotions that humans do. They get extremely lonely if they are left on their own. They are kept at the orphanage for a few years and then they take them to another orphanage where they are free to come and go with elephants in the wild.They gradually stay out with the other elephants more and more until they are comfortable and then eventually they don't come back to the orphanage. This last process can take as long as 8 years. Elephants live to be about 60 years old and they age just about like humans. It was a fascinating experience for us. We really felt like we were in Africa!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

10 February 2009

Dear Family and Friends:

Hello from Nairobi, Kenya! We are so excited to finally be here on our mission. The preparation is over and now the work begins and we are grateful to be part of it. We have had a busy three weeks since we have been here and unfortunately we have had a hard time figuring out our “mission routine” and so we are late getting some news out.

We arrived on Saturday evening, 16 January 2009. We flew British Air from Dallas with a plane change in London. In London, we were given an upgrade to business class and so we were able to ride the last 10 hours in style. We had seats next to each other that faced each other and reclined so we could sleep. We were an hour and a half late because our plane stopped in Cairo, Egypt to try to repair a problem with the water system in the restrooms on the plane. The stop was not successful, but, at least we can say we have been to Egypt. Unfortunately, our ride from the airport, Elders Elam and Luke, had to make two trips to pick us up and we finally arrived in Kenya about midnight. Thankfully, they are our good friends in the mission now and were willing to serve us.

Our first Sunday we went to church at the Upperhill Ward which is the ward right at the church complex where our office is. We met many wonderful young single adults which make up a large percentage of the ward. Many of them are PEF students who are going to school or who have now finished and are repaying their PEF loans so that others will have the same blessings they have. All of the meetings functioned so much like what we know at home, the only real difference being that they don’t have enough people to play the piano. Fortunately that gave Sister Randall a chance to be of service only hours after we arrived. (She also led the music in Relief Society).

Monday afternoon we began our training by going with a driver to the airport to pick up our supervisor from South Africa, Vivien Roberts. It was interesting to see the airport in the daytime. She is a vivacious talented woman who knows a lot about employment. She gave us wonderful training over the next few days and we were able to observe her teaching the Career Workshop to a group of young people on Wednesday and Thursday. We got so many great ideas and learned much from her example.

One of our most challenging assignments comes in the form of learning to drive all over again. Elder Randall is doing well, but Sister Randall has to remind him to “stay left” many times. The right turns seem to be the hardest to remember, but he is doing very well. He’s learned to shift (it’s a standard shift) with his left hand, but seems to have trouble with the turn signal. Every time we turn, he turns the windshield wipers on instead and sometimes we even get the washer on, too. We laugh about it every time. The other day I looked over and wondered, “Why is that little kid driving that car” for about half a second until I realized he was sitting in the passenger seat, of course. We have a small extended cab diesel truck. It’s built to take the rough roads in Kenya and we are thankful for that. It is classified as a commercial vehicle so we are not allowed to drive more than 80 kilometers per hour. So far we haven’t driven anywhere where it was possible to drive that fast. Our biggest challenge of the day is trying to predict where and when the traffic jams will be on our way to our office. On a Sunday morning with no traffic we can make it in less than 10 minutes. One day it took us 50 minutes to go home. But we are figuring out the system and have learned to go in to the office early and beat the traffic and so we also leave early and do the same.

We live in a nice two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. It’s very comfortable and has a nice living room with a couch and two chairs along with a TV, a desk, some shelves, a dresser and a nice legal-sized file cabinet. We even have a dining room with a table and six chairs. We’ve put our family pictures out in some fun African frames we bought and we are making it feel like home. We live about two blocks from the house where the President of Kenya lives on State House Road, so that’s very interesting, too. We have heard that if he travels in a car, they block off all the roads so there is no traffic. We did see some police and military people along the road from his house a couple of weeks ago.

Two Saturdays ago we went to a Safari Park adjacent to a National Park. It was mostly a glorified zoo, but the animals were in much more natural habitat and it was still very fun to see them. We saw a bongo, cheetah, leopard, lions, ostrich, zebras, wildebeest, crocodiles, and we even saw three giraffes that were outside the park in the wild. We’ve also see animals on our way driving to some branches.

Our assignment consists mainly of strengthening branch and ward welfare committees, with special emphasis on employment. We train ward and branch employment specialists, teach them how to present the Career Workshop and the Self Employment Workshop which the church has developed. In areas that do not have employment specialists we teach the workshops ourselves. Once a month we report on all of the people who obtained employment, started a business, improved their employment or started school. That information goes to South Africa to provide a basis for evaluating how well the people are doing at finding employment. We will visit a lot of wards and branches in Kenya, but we will also travel to Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia, as well. We have heard that we will have an Employment Conference in South Africa at some point in our mission, too. It’s a very exciting work to be involved in and we feel the trust of our Heavenly Father. We are working hard to be worthy of that trust.

We have also helped a lot of young people apply for jobs since we got here—probably around 30, by helping them write a resume(they call them CV’s or curriculum vitae, here) and a cover letter. One young man we helped is also one of teachers in the local stake for the Career Workshop. He followed the principles he teaches to the letter and he landed a job as the head of one of the kitchens in a very nice private club. It’s exciting when that happens, but there are very few jobs here and so many who are looking. It’s tempting to be discouraged, but we know that our Heavenly Father wants his children to be successful and we just keep working and teaching them the principles that we know will work.

Last Sunday we went with another senior couple to visit a couple of small branches that are about 2 ½ to 3 hours away by truck over extremely rough roads. Elder and Sister Bishop travel these roads 5-6 days a week back and forth each day because the towns are so small that there is no good housing for them there. They live in an apartment in our complex. (There are seven senior couples in our complex, six of them in sets of two, one above the other—it’s lots of fun, a little like a college dorm!) The couples have varying assignments: humanitarian, public affairs, employment, PEF, office couple and some proselyting missionaries. Anyway, we went with the Bishops to Kyambeke and Ilima Branches. These two little branches each have a chapel and they sit far up on the sides of two hills which face each other. The roads to the chapels have to be experienced to be believed. The people there are sweet and humble and we felt right at home with them. It was so inspiring to be with them and see them functioning much like our wards at home. They had the same Joseph Smith lesson for Relief Society that our ward at home was having. The people kept streaming in to sacrament meeting in a steady stream and before it was over they were setting up chairs all down the hall. We saw two little girls that were probably not much more than five years old, carrying their little brothers who were probably about 15 months old on their backs tied on with a large scarf. We’d seen mothers do that several times and thought it was such a great idea, but we had never seen a little girl doing it. I estimate that there were likely about 130-140 people there and 82 of those were children! I went to Primary with them and they sang so beautifully. They memorize all of the words to the songs by rote because the children don’t begin to learn English until about third grade. The building the Primary meets in is a house which sits down the hill from the chapel. There are 84 steps that lead down to the building which is a vacant home. It was once the home of the first member of the Church in those tiny towns (there are actually three branches in three little towns). The branches are small and very isolated and it’s hard to understand how the Church would get a start there until you learn that a man named Gideon Kasue was working at Hunter’s Lodge when he met an American Church member, Dennis Child, who was working in Kenya. Gideon’s sons were baptized in Nairobi and became the first two missionaries from Kenya. Another son, Julius organized Sunday school groups in the Chyulu area (which is the area we visited). He was requested to stop because he wasn’t baptized and didn’t hold the priesthood, but five years later he was baptized and a small branch was organized.

We had a wonderful day (even though we literally bounced our way there and back) and felt much like we did when we served in our small branch, Morong, on our first mission. We visited with both branch presidents about the employment needs in their branches (which are many!) and made plans to come back and teach a Self Employment Workshop in a couple of weeks. We are excited by the prospect and will incorporate some micro enterprise principles to help those who may already have businesses, but need training in how to manage them better.

We are really enjoying our mission. It’s so different from our last one, but so rewarding. We learned in the MTC how much employment is tied to the building of Zion and we are so grateful to be part of it.


Elder Scott and Sister Gayle Randall

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Now that's a cabbage!

This morning we received some vegetables that we ordered through another senior couple, the Lukes. They have been hiring a young man to bring them vegetables from the market. We added our order with theirs and our order included a cabbage. Now that's a cabbage! I had to cut it into four pieces to get it in the sink to sanitize it with "Jik water." Jik is the Kenyan version of Chlorox. We wash and sanitize all our fruits and vegetables including every leaf of lettuce and cabbage by soaking them for one minute in water with bleach added. We're going to be eating A LOT of coleslaw!

Monday, January 5, 2009

MTC--Here we come again!

Scott and I love the MTC! Our time there on our first mission was so exciting and spiritual! We were really looking forward to it this time and it did not disappoint. We are having the time of our lives! We sit by the young missionaries each time we eat and we love to see where they are headed and where they are from.
I was thinking today about the sweet feeling of love and peace I have while I am here in the MTC. I am so inspired by the wonderful righteous young men and women I meet who are willing to consecrate their service unto the Lord. I also am humbled by the examples of the senior missionaries in our group and the sacrifices they have made to serve a mission. I cannot imagine the celestial kingdom having any better people in it than this. What a wonderful place it will be!