Saturday, February 3, 2018


This is a copy of my entry for our 2017 annual Family Christmas Service Project.  It is written to our daughter, Amy, as she was my assigned recipient for the year.  This is an important chapter of our mission, so I am including in our mission blog.

Dearest Amy...

You are such a loving and caring sweetheart.  There were many things that I could have done and related to you, and there are many ways to serve in the Congo.  However, I wanted to make an extra effort on a project for you.  Knowing it was for this purpose encouraged me to focus on it and make it happen. 

You have two grown-up girls, who are very special.  You have seen to it that they are getting educational opportunities, and taught them the importance of learning.  We had the opportunity to "Pass it On", and owe the incentive to you.

A couple of months ago, Dad and I were visiting the orphanage.We were taking them some Home Depot shelving units we had shipped over in a Westland container.  

There is one girl who was raised in the Kaka orphanage for the last 17 years.  Her name is Ornella ands she is now 22 years old.  On our last mission she worked for us, cleaning our home, to earn money.  She now works at the orphanage and helps take care of the children.  She does most of the cooking and the laundry and cleaning. 

While we were there, delivering the shelving, Ornella, humbly told me that she would like to go to sewing school.  We had an interpreter with us, so we were able to coordinate that we wanted her to find out more about the school she wanted to go to.  We gave her transport money, so she could go get printed information that would tell us more about dates and prices and requirements for attending the school.  We were to call her three days later to see what she found out.  She was very excited about learning to sew, hoping she could make some money.  We then told her we would pay her (very well) to work for us again, and if she would earn half the money (from us) for her schooling, we would pay the other half. 

We arranged to meet with her the next week, at the school, to get her registered.  The school was over an hours drive away, in terrible traffic.  Dad took off working at the temple to drive me and our interpreter, Felix, to the college.  We waited in the line and then Felix coordinated with the receptionist to find out what we needed to do.  He made the arrangements for us to pay the registration fee and testing fee directly to the bank.  Yes, we found out she needed to take an entrance test.  We gave her the registration form to fill out.  She looked at it and shook her head.  I pointed to where she should write her name, and she haltingly did... in very childlike letters.  That was all she could do.  We discovered she could not read or write, at all.  My heart sank.  We knew she would never be able to take a test, let alone pass it. 

When she came to clean, a couple of days later, I sat down with her.  I had her write her name.  Then I asked her what the letters were.  She only knew some of them.  I asked her if she would like to go to school to learn to read and write.  She said, "Oh, yes... Please!"  I had one of our student/workers who lives out by the orphanage check into literacy schools in the area.  We found one about a ten minute walk from the orphanage. 

The next week, we drove out to take Ornella to the literacy school to find out about registering her.  The school was very humble, but perfect.

Ornella was excited for the opportunity to learn to read and write.  They agreed to start her the following Monday.  We had kept the money she earned working for us in an envelope for her.  She paid her half of the tuition with it,  and we paid the rest.

She was thrilled and on the walk back to the orphanage kept saying, "Je suis une etudiant!"  ("I am a student!)  For the first time in her humble, humble life, she was a student.

We don't know how it is going, but we look forward to finding out.  Hopefully she will be able to get away from the orphanage work for 3 hours a day, for the next 6 months, and she will become literate.  It will open many new doors for her... and change her life, if she is able to.

Amy, we are proud of you for making the sacrifices that you have to give your girls the opportunities that they have to learn!

"Water, Water Everywhere, but Not a Drop to Drink" by Ed Gates

This entry was originally written for our family Christmas service blog on Dec 25, 2017.  I had Ashley's name as my recipient this year.  She is currently Relief Society president in her ward, and always serving others.   This experience is an important chapter of our mission, so I wanted to add it to our mission blog.  

By serving in Africa as a missionary it's not very hard to find a way to do a service project!😳🤔The real challenge is putting that serving to the particular person who you will be serving for?

I really thought about who I was to serve, early in the year. 

You have heard about the orphanage, we have kind of adopted.   On our last mission we built a wall to stop the flooding creek.  In early November there was a terrible storm and the creek overflowed and rushed through the area.  Our wall held up, but not the neighbors on two sides.  The pictures will show what we found when we arrived, better than me trying to explain it to you.  

My service was for my favorite daughter in law Ashley!  The challenge was that I had to connect my getting the water 💦 out and doing it for Ashley who is the Relief society president.
The water originally was up above the top of the door and windows.  However, much of that dissipated when the 2nd neighbors wall collapsed.  The bedrooms are about 2 feet lower than the ground, so when we arrived, there was over 2 feet of water in the house and a good foot throughout the yard. We tried to pump the water out of the house, but the pump didn't work.  After hours of trying, we finally gave up and bucketed the water out of the house.

There was much clean up, and many dishes to be done, once we got the water out.  I said to Kristine that we needed help from the local relief society but they never came.  I spent most of two days getting the water out and she kept busy cleaning dishes and working on getting clothes dry and helping get clean food for them.

I know that if this was in Ashley's ward, she would have made sure that there were some sisters there helping get the clean up done!😍

I am proud of you Ashley for the way you serve as president of your Relief Society.  There were many many times throughout this year that my thoughts were of you and of how I could do a service for you.  .🙄

To end this report, I need to say how difficult it was,not physically,but mentally.  It was extremely difficult not get depressed,because of how blessed I am,and how blessed all of us are.  I do know that as you have served in this  calling, there have been some of those same feelings.  Both of us have been able to grow from the service we have been blessed to give.

I love you Ashley.

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.