Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Posted by Kriss Gates
After being here for just a couple of weeks, I realized that the church has grown here so fast, that the members have never been trained on what the auxiliaries purposes are and how to achieve them. One of Branch’s Relief Societies often had no teacher, or presidency member attend on Sunday, and there were just a handful of women attending. They had no concept of the magic and the depth of Relief Society. They have never heard of visiting teaching. Then, I realized that in that same branch’s Primary, there was no “instruction”. There are over 40 active children, that were all squashed into a smallish classroom and “babysat” for 2 hours… usually by the Branch President’s wife (who is the chorister) or a counselor in the branch presidency. Sometimes the kids just entertained themselves for 2 hours. It was chaos. I didn’t know how I could help, but I knew I needed to. We were instructed in the Missionary Training Center that we shouldn’t just go in and tell the members in our mission that they were doing things wrong, so I was shy about pushing “my way of doing things” into the Congo. I prayed about it and knew that the first step was to get new Presidencies of each called. I begged the branch president to pray about releasing his less active Presidents of the 2 organizations. He was afraid of offending them. However, 4 weeks ago my prayers were answered and a new Presidency was called for Relief Society. I made up notebooks for each member of the Presidency, with dividers. I included copies of the Relief Society section of the handbook for each of them. They were thrilled. I have met with them weekly and I am humbled by what has happened. We have poured over the new handbook and they have soaked up the spirit that comes with doing things correctly. We now have 4 teachers and the lessons are beautiful. There is a sweet spirit in the room every Sunday. I helped them plan and put on their first “Activity.” They hadn’t seen the General Relief Society Broadcast from October, so we decided the activity would be to view 1 hour of it on the big screen. They were so cute as they said they couldn’t afford anything for refreshments but plain buns and a homemade drink from a plant. They call it BeeSap. I used this as an opportunity to teach them about a budget. We prepared a budget for the year, for each activity and the items they needed, and submitted it to the bishop. We had $30 to spend on the activity and I showed them how we could afford fresh fruit (which they rarely have) and cake with frosting and lemonade with Sprite. I did the shopping and baked the cake and provided some of my precious Crystal Lite from America. We gave out invitations to all the women as they left Sacrament Meeting, the week before. We had our activity last Saturday afternoon, in the chapel. Our theme was “My Sisters… My Friends.” While we were waiting for 30 minutes for more women to show up (African Time is later than Mormon Time or Polynesian Time), we planned a fun “getting to know you” activity. Then we showed the film, ending with the Prophet, President Monson, speaking to the women of the church ("Charity Never Faileth"). When it was over we met in the Relief Society Room for visiting and refreshments. I can’t express in words how special the day was. The women stayed afterward and visited with each other for a good 45 minutes. That night at home I glowed, because I knew, with the help of the Lord and the Handbook, I had done something to make a difference. Two weeks ago, a new Primary presidency was called. Again, I followed the same pattern of meeting and studying the Primary portion of the new handbook. I taught them about Junior and Senior primary and Sharing time. I explained that the stacks of Primary manuals were to be used in “classes” (having Primary classes was a new idea to them). For the first week, I made timelines, rotation charts, and classroom signs. On that first Sunday, I asked the Elders to serve as teachers and to lead sharing time, to show the members how it should work. The Elders were darling. Last week was rougher, because I told them they needed to learn to do it on their own. The branch president hadn’t called any teachers, but the Presidency pulled through, and got three substitutes. Two of the substitutes didn’t show up, but overall, it went ok. I am excited to see how today goes, because they called three new primary teachers last week. I am still in charge of the “Break” in between. (Did you know the new handbook has a 10 minute break for primary? The Junior Primary break is first and then Senior Primary. We go to the restroom, then we go outside and do the Hokey Pokey (they don’t understand the English words but they get the moves and love the “backside in.”) We let them stretch, and then we go sit on the front steps and get drinks. Then, the children reverently return to class for the second hour. It was brilliantly executed by following the Handbook… and the presidency and the children were great! Once the other branch saw and heard what was going on, they got jealous and wanted to know when I can train them to do the same things. We have had one meeting with the Primary Presidency and today they are calling teachers. Our goal is to start next week, with splitting Junior and Senior and having Sharing Time. I will start training the 2nd Relief Society in another week. “Line upon line, precept on precept.” We are taking baby steps and loving it!