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


  1. Yea for the blog!!! I'm so happy you got it to work. I love the posts you have put up so far and love the cabbage!!

  2. Yeah! I am sorry I posted for you, I just know how much you are going to love blogging! I am glad it is up and running though!

  3. It looks great. It's wonderful to hear about everything you are doing. Keep it up. Love, Tresa