Friday, November 10, 2017

Elder and Sister Bednar Visit Our Temple

Elder Bednar and entourage visit at the Kinshasa Temple 10/14/2017:

On Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 we poured the baptismal font for the 2nd time.  (There was a measurement mistake the first time, and the font had to be redone, which took weeks to form again.)  The 2nd time we poured it, there was a major problem with the concrete and it came out of the chute extremely liquified.  After 24 hours of of waiting, we could see that it was never going to set up to the required standard. (We later found out that the batching plant had added the wrong chemicals to all the batches that they sent to us that day… a retardant instead of corrosion inhibiter we had given them. Welcome to the Congo!)   To add to the pressure, after 18 months of working, we knew we were having our first visit from one of the twelve apostles.  Elder David Bednar was due to come the next day. 

The rest of this is edited from Stan Houghton’s Journal … the general contractor for the temple.  I, Kriss, added a few items which are in italics.

After our prayer meeting on Saturday morning with the guys I told them what we had to do and that we had some special visitors coming today so we needed to keep things just as clean as possible, even with us having to remove all the font forming and bad concrete. We all thought that we would have the guys working until about 12:00 noon. I was nervous as I was still trying to figure out how I was going to explain this problem to Elder Bednar and his group that were coming!

I spent the next 2 hours directing guys on what to do inside so that the Temple would look good and extra clean.  They walked over from the Chapel to the Temple at about 2:45. Present were  (Most all of these brethren had their wives with them) Elder Bednar, Bishop Waddell (counselor Presiding Bishopric), Elder Gong,  Elder Hamilton, Elder Mark Palmer (He's from NZ),  (3 great men from the first quorum of the seventies)  Elder Lono, Elder Monga, (our 2 local seventies) Elder and Sister Romney our missionary couple friends in Kinshasa over PR), and of course Elder and Sister Gates.  

After we met and greeted everyone, Elder Bednar said, ok Stan, take us through the Temple! I knew at that time just what I needed to do. We went in to the front entry of the Temple and I waited until everyone was in there. I told them where we were and where the recommend desk would be located. Then I said, Welcome to the Temple! I then started out and told them that today they would see something that they have never seen before in a Temple, and that I hoped they would never see again! You could have heard a pin drop on the concrete floor it was so quiet. 

Then I told them about us pouring the font on Thursday and the problem we had experienced with the concrete. I told them that this was a prime example of how if something goes wrong and it is not perfectly right, it needs to be replaced. They all completely understood and were very complimentary that we were there watching things and making sure that it was done correctly, not only the font but all of the other items throughout the Temple also. 

Everyone that came were extremely personal and nice. They had several questions as we walked through the Temple and I was able to share some personal thoughts and experiences along with their experiences as the topics and questions came up. One thing that I mentioned to them as we were talking about the topic of Sisters is that I took the time to compliment all of the sisters there on how thankful and important they were in supporting their husbands in their callings, how I missed being with my wife and how each of us men are nothing without our wives!

It was enjoyable to go through with them. They spent about an hour with us in the Temple walking through and asking questions. As we were leaving the Sealing room I explained to Elder Bednar how we have a prayer meeting each day before we begin our work on the Temple and how we had spent the last month on many occasions teaching all who were there at our meetings about who was coming to visit the Temple, your calling as an Apostle, what an apostle was and who you represent. Some of the guys had asked me earlier if I thought they could possibly shake Elder Bednar's hand. I told them that I would ask him if he had time to do so. He said absolutely! So while the group walked in to the Instruction room and then into the Celestial room, I had DM and Eric go get everyone that was working on the job and bring them in to the Temple. 

When we were in the Celestial room we discussed more of their questions and Eric asked me if I would tell the story of the "Rainbow Halo". I decided to let Sister Gates tell the story and she did a perfect job! Elder Gates and I both got pretty emotional while she was telling the story, it was hard to hold back the tears. It was perfect and what a great opportunity for us to be able to share those 2 special experiences of the rainbow halo's we had while working on the Temple.   (Both times we were pouring concrete in the Celestial room.)  After the story Elder Bednar said, "In hearing that you would think the Lords hand is in this work!", it was fun, we had a good time with them. 

After we left the Celestial room I led them back to the Instruction room. We had all the guys line up in the room as Elder Bednar and the group waited in the hallway to come through and shake their hands. After everyone entered the room and lined up I said to Elder Bednar that these men had been taught who he was, what his calling was and who he represented. Along with the other brethren and sisters with him, all being Disciples of Christ and these men were all here and excited to meet them. It was so special, all of the men just loved shaking their hands. After they shook all of their hands I think it was Sister Bednar asked if they would sing a song. We sang "Put your shoulder to the wheel". This was the song that we had practiced and brought all of the men and their families to sing in our sacrament meeting at church a couple of months ago. They knew it well and sang it perfectly, with gusto! It was very touching and special. The sound was just perfect in that Instruction room!  Elder Bednar recorded it on his phone, I only got part of the last verse. It was one of those moments that the tears just come to your eyes. Elder Gates and I both mentioned that there were several times as we walked and talked the spirit was so strong while visiting with them that we both got emotional now and then.

The men lined up reverently to shake hands.  The security men stayed close to the Bednars. 

After shaking hands, when I asked Elder Bednar if it was ok to take his photo for the temple history book, he said ok and asked where we wanted it.  I asked if it would be ok to take it in front of the men, and he agreed. 

 Things quickly got a little crazy.  One of the guys asked if he wanted to wear a a Westland hard hat and then one of the men put one on Sister Bednar. ( I hoped their wasn’t any head lice.)  It was only seconds until they took out their phones and started taking “selfies” with an apostle.  After that the guys were so excited and could not get enough pictures with Elder Bednar! It was great! And it was HOT and humid in there!

After we finished there we walked through the rest of the Temple showing them and explaining the balance of all the rooms to them. And of course, they all had to see the Baptistry with all of the unset concrete that we were still shoveling out!

After the visitors left, many of the guys came up and gave me a big hug thanking me for helping them to meet and shake hands with an Apostle. Even our workers that are not members were so happy that they got to shake the hand of an Apostle!

It was a special day for all of us, one we all will never forget! Even with the trial that we have been facing, it all is turning out ok. Now, we just need to pour the font one more time and have it turn out perfectly!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Our Temple Worker's Choir

July 18, 2017

One of our most important assignments with this calling is for us to promote spirituality on the temple job site.  Every morning at work, we start the day with a morning prayer meeting.  Ed (or I)conduct it.  We have a welcome, a song, a prayer and a short message.  Then we turn the time over to Stan or Justin to discuss the work of the day.  On Mondays we have a longer devotional with a message.  Every morning we are thrilled by the men and how great they sound when they sing.  They really are amazing.  They know all the verses of almost every hymn.  They sing, often in beautiful harmony, with gusto and testimony of the words they sing.

A few weeks ago, Ed felt inspired to invite all the workers, members and nonmembers, to join together and form a choir to perform at our sacrament meeting.  He felt it would be a good way to promote spirituality and unity, and to introduce the church to those with questions.  He did everything, and asked nothing of me... except to bake cupcakes.  He coordinated with the bishop to find the best date.  He felt they should sing "The World Has Need of Willing Men."  Of course, they sang it in French.  It is a favorite, because it describes what all of us are doing every day.  About 2 weeks before the big day, Ed had a printed invitation made up and gave them out to everyone who was working on the job.  He invited them to bring their entire families to be part of the special day.  He told them he would pay for the public transport for all.  He had each man fill out a response sheet, and if they replied that they couldn't come he went to them and asked if he could help them in any way to be able to participate. He was marvelous and made everyone feel an important part of the Temple Worker's Choir.

On our big day, we were thrilled with the participation.  Most of these great men brought families.  We had over 120 extra people at Sacrament meeting.  The choir was absolutely amazing!  I was very proud of my sweetheart.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Our Orphanage Was Flooded Again – And once again, we were needed!

On our 2nd mission, we were very involved with the Kaka Orphanage here in Kinshasa.  Due to severe flooding, when it rained hard, Ed dedicated the last 2 months of his mission to rebuilding the orphanage.  He built a wonderful wall to block the flooding in the future, and it has held beautifully. 
(These are photos of the wall he built in 2014.)

However, while we were in the United States last month, a few weeks ago the creek, next to the orphanage, was so full that it ripped down a section of the old wall, that wasn’t even along the creek bed.  At 2:00 in the morning, while it was pitch dark, the wall broke and the water came rushing and swirling into the orphanage yard, and then into the children’s rooms, which are 2’ below the rest of the yard.  The water was so forceful that they couldn’t open the door to get out of the bedroom.  19 children and 1 adult were trapped.  The children were kneeling on their bunks, trying to keep their heads above the water, screaming and crying for help. The one adult was moving from one bed to another, to help the children, as the water was up to her neck.   A neighbor (a good Christian man) heard them and got through the water in the yard, with something heavy enough that he could smash a hole high up in the exterior wall.  The 1 adult handed the children out to him, one at a time, as they were rescued at the last minute.  (The rescue hole is the one up high, to the left of the word "Centre".)
When we returned from the United States, we were told about the disaster by Elder and Sister Romney, the other missionary couple who live in our apartment building. (They had emailed us about it, but had sent it to our temple job email, which we didn’t have access to while we were gone.)   When the flood happened, Philomene called the number that she usually calls to get ahold of me.  Our interpreter answered, and he understood the gravity of the situation.  He told the Romneys what had happened.  They immediately got men from our jobsite, and drove out to the orphanage to help pump out the water and start cleaning up the mess.  The children were moved to the school rooms to sleep for the following couple of weeks.  (This is 15 year old Dorothea.  We have loved her for 4 years.  She was the 2nd oldest in the bedrooms when this flood happened.  You can see where the waterline was, above her eye level.)

When the director of the orphanage was telling me of the terror, I cried and cried and cried… as she cried with me… and we held each other tightly.  We both realized how fatal the flood could have been.  We know that they were greatly blessed that night. 

The Romneys were fantastic!  They said they were glad that we weren’t there, so they could have the blessing of helping and coordinating this project.  They are the Public Affairs missionary couple, and rarely leave their desks.  By the time we returned to Kinshasa, they had spoken with our humanitarian missionary couple, and found a contractor to start building the wall that had collapsed.  The urgency was to get it built before another rain storm.  They were all relieved when Ed showed up, as he could monitor the work and make sure that it tied in with the existing wall, and would be built strong enough to withhold future floods. 
The new wall is completed.  Things are getting back to normal.  The Romneys arranged for new mattresses and sheets for all the beds.  The children were so thrilled with the sheets that they took them off the beds at night, and folded them up for under their heads.  They said they didn’t want the sheets to get dirty. 

I am continually amazed at life in the Congo.   We are grateful for the good neighbor that saved the children’s lives.   We are thankful for the Romneys and the others who helped Philomene and the orphanage.  We are thankful we returned when we did so that Ed could help get the wall built better and stronger.  The list of things we are thankful for is endless.  We are thankful we are where we need to be, at this season of our lives.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

It’s Good To Know You Are Needed!

Look how fun... We are really building a temple!  This is a photo taken from the neighbor's deck, so  we are allowed to post it.  It shows how much of the steel roof is erected.  (It also shows our apartment house at the far, far left.)
Ed is the inspector for the temple job.  When we were told not to come back to the Congo for a few weeks, due to potential political violence, everyone assumed all was going well at the job site.  The first morning back on the job Ed immediately realized there were problems with the way that the roof structure was being erected.  The connecting plates were made out of a steel that was only about half the thickness that was specified on the plans.  Corrections are being designed... and then we will move forward again. 
The good news that came out of it was that we were reminded that we are needed here in Kinshasa!😊😌

What more can I say?

Words can't describe how I feel about this picture, so I decided I needed to blog it.  This is AJ, our grandson who survived brain cancer and surgery two and a half years ago.   (After 6 weeks of daily proton therapy, following the surgery, we were warned to expect side effects.  So far, we don't see any and he has had clean scans!  He is such a sweetheart.) This is his new sister, Mayley. 

Our Quick Trip Home - March 23-May 14

As service missionaries, we are able to return to the United States to visit our children.  It has worked out to be about 3 times a year... spring, summer and Christmas.  For our spring visit, we were scheduled to be gone for 19 days and to return on May 11th. To make a long story short, due to potential political violence, we received word that we should not try to come home for another week.  (It was reported that 14 people were killed in Kinshasa on the 10th, near the road from the airport.)  On Easter Sunday, the 16th) we flew to Chicago and checked our bags in to go to Paris, our next stop on the way to the Congo.  We rented a car and went to a Sacrament Meeting.  When I checked my messages after the meeting, there was a message from Alan Rudolph (our director in Special Projects, for the church) saying that he agreed with Stan (the owner of the construction company who is building the temple) and we should not return to the Congo for a "few" weeks.  Wow!  We got our bags back from the Paris flight and switched to return to Raleigh-Durham and make new plans. 

We had a marvelous time playing with our kids and grandchildren for the time we were home.  We were able to visit all 6 families, in 5 different states.  (Char & Lani in North Carolina, Chuck in Virginia, Mitzi in Utah, Tiffany in California and Amy in Alaska.)  Highlights included:

Attending general conference with two of our granddaughters, Zetta & Tara. (Mitzi's girls)

Brooklyn's Baptism... (We have missed attending 2 others this year, so we appreciated being able to be at this special occasion.)

A golfing trip to Saint George with Ed's brothers, Ernie & Ken... and their wives.  We are very blessed to have these 2 couples as our dear friends!

Our first trip to Costa Rica...  seeing the gorgeous country, golfing 72 holes in 2 days, and some great relaxation.


A last minute Eastern Caribbean Cruise with 2 of our daughters and their husbands, and Ed's brother Ernie and his wife, Linda.

But the highlight of the trip was being able to help Lani and her family during the birth of her 5th child...  What a blessing to be "Grammy and Papa" and to be able to be there!

We finally were cleared to come "home" to Kinshasa, the day after Lani returned home from the hospital.  It was great to spend time with our kids... but it was also great to get back to build the temple!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

School Donations - The High Schools

At the high school level we were able to go into 14 classrooms and introduce ourselves.  It was a wonderful opportunity to spread good will about the church.  We told them that the temple is across from ShopRite (the main store in the area) and that they could watch the temple go up.  Then in a year we would send an invitation to them to attend our open house.  Almost all the classes got a notebook and a pencil... most got pencil sharpeners and erasers... and the scientific classes got rulers.  Again, lots of happy kids! 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

How does one put into words sacred happenings?

March 11, 2917

How does one put into words sacred happenings?  I wrote a blog entry, in October, and asked “Is It A Coincidence?”  Literally during the minutes that we poured the concrete floor slab in Celestial Room, we witnessed a beautiful natural phenomenon for about 15 minutes.  It is referred to as a “Halo”.  As we all looked up at the sky, we saw a beautiful rainbow around the startling bright sun.  I immediately said… “It’s Dad… and he’s letting us know that he is with us and cheering us on.”  I pointed it out to the workers who were busy pouring and finishing the slab.  And then I said… “It’s the Seraphins! (French for angels.)  They are celebrating that we are building a temple in this part of the world!”  We were all thrilled, and very humbled, to have witnessed such a sight.

Yesterday, March 10, we poured the columns and beams in the Celestial Room.  I was deep in work in the office.  I felt a distinct impression that I needed to go outside and watch the men and see if I felt Dad’s presence, or at least to feel the spirit of the temple.  (He loved the excitement of a concrete pour.)  I kept working, and a minute later the feeling came again.   At a cousin retreat in January, my sisters and nieces encouraged me to “Be Still” and taught me the importance of taking time to follow promptings.  I decided to walk away from my work at my desk, and go watch the men at work… and “Be Still” and enjoy the moment.

I opened the office door and walked outside.  The sun seemed brighter than usual.  I looked up and saw our 2nd Halo.  I quickly walked down to tell Ed and the workers to look up.  It was there again, as we were pouring the Celestial Room walls.  I walked over to the lunch area, picked up a plastic chair, and sat down at the front of the temple and watched.  For about 30 minutes, I just sat and watched the temple being built, under the Halo. 

I happened to have my little red Kids Are Music sound amplifier on the job, for the first time.  I have a wonderful digital album called “Happy Hymns” that I love.  Our interpreter volunteered to walk around the job with the speaker playing energetic songs such as “The World Has Need of Willing Men.”  The men sang as they worked for about 30 minutes.  They moved from the Celestial Room area to the front platform, which will hold the steeple for now, but is engineered to hold a “future statue”.  As they finished pumping the last of this area… the pour was finished, the pump hose was pulled up and moved to the side of the building.  We looked up in the sky and the Halo faded away. 

This time we know what it was that we saw.  It was a special Tender Mercy. It happened twice, months apart, as we were pouring the floor & walls of the Celestial Room.  What a blessing it is to work on building this temple with these marvelous men!  We will always humbly remember what we witnessed.

School Supply donations from the U.S.

Along with all the other items that arrived from the United States, there were several boxes of school supplies.  We sorted and took an inventory of what we had.  We identified a needy elementary school and two schools with approximately 7th-12th grades.  We were concerned that if we just dropped off the supplies, that they might not ever make it down the line to get to the individual students.  There is a big problem here of people taking bags and boxes of donations, and setting up a shop on the road.  Then they sell the items and pocket the proceeds.

We contacted the schools and made arrangements to go in and talk to the administrators.  We felt good about the elementary school.  The "principal" said that we could meet each of the 9 teachers and give them a bag with crayons, scissors, colored pencils, a pencil sharpener, a notebook and a single file folder.  The art supply bag, with the teacher's name on it, will be checked back into the office everyday.  They were thrilled with everything... even the filing folder!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Distribution of Donations from Utah Part 1

When the temple contractor, Westland Construction, shipped a large container to Kinshasa from Utah, he accepted donations from various sources.  Huge crates and boxes were shipped.  I was asked to coordinate finding worthy recipients and distributing them.  It ended up being an extremely rewarding experience for me.

I arranged for 4 boxes full of "like new" children's books to be donated to the English speaking school.  This school was not as needy as the other places we made donations... but the books were in English, instead of French... and the school was thrilled to receive all those wonderful books.
There were over 100 fabric bags, made by a group of young women.  18 were distributed to an orphanage.
The rest were donated to the Raped Victims Women's Center, which is in the Eastern part of the country, where a violent war is currently being fought.  Enemy  soldiers rape the Muslim women, who are then abandoned by their families, as the victims are considered "unclean."    Most of the baby clothes we received were also donated to this center. 

Clothing and beautiful soft fuzzy blankets were given to orphans and to some of the needy children in the church, whose Dad's work at the temple site.