May 9, 2013
Bonjour, Bonjour, Bonjour!!!
After 22 hours of “flying” and airport time… we are almost back to the Congo. I want to give some background on this mission call before we arrive.
We have been home from our last mission, in Pointe Noire in the country of the Republic of Congo, for 15 months. Ed was retired for about 5 months and then decided to go back to work and build 2 more Pei Wei that he had taken advantage of the opportunity for more work. We felt very driven to turn in our mission papers at the end of the year. We considered waiting, but knew in our hearts that it was time to turn them in. We received calls from the PEF (Perpetual Education Fund) department asking us if we would be willing to go to Kinshasa. It sounded like a great assignment. They said they would call us in a week and let us know what was happening.
That week we also received a call from the church HR (human relations) department about being construction instructors. We laughed because they didn’t seem to know that we had been to the Congo or that we had even turned in mission papers. We assumed that this call was also a result of our submitting our papers. A week later we received an email from the PEF, that we were being considered for 4 positions. That made me happy, because I kept wondering if we were really needed at that time, or if we could hang around and play with our kids for a few more months. Our call came in early February and we were called to serve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Kinshasa as Construction Instructors and Advisors. We were excited, because we felt it was something that we could do well, and because of Ed’s construction experiences, we could do it better than most.
Three months later, on Monday May 6th we had dinner with Whit & Kathy Clayton. (Whit is in the Presidency of the Seventy of the entire church.) They told us that they had been in Kinshasa last fall (I think November) with Elder Holland. They were visiting with the couple who started the construction program. Their name is the Billings. Brother Billings expressed concern that he would need to leave the area in a few months, to start the building program in the south of the DRC, and was concerned that the church find a replacement couple. They will leave the country in 9 months. President Clayton told us that he immediately had the impression that we … Ed and Kriss Gates… were to be the replacement couple. He laughingly told us that they had practically “ordered the office name plate and hung it on the door.” Now everything makes sense. We would have been called on this mission even if we had not submitted our mission application papers. It was just a beautiful coincidence that we felt prompted that it was time to serve again.
We have spent the past couple of months getting ready to leave the house and our family. We have been blessed with good tenants to rent our home for 18 months. Ed finished his 2 Pei Wei Restaurant jobs in Beverly Hills and Hollywood. We spent a great week on the East Coast at the Outer Banks with our family in a big 12 bedroom home on the beach. Even our Dad, Jim Bodell, was able to come with us. We felt the sweet spirit of the Holy Ghost with us throughout our preparations to leave, and knew that the call was for the right assignment at the right time. After gathering in Sat Lake this past weekend and having loving goodbye dinners with both of our siblings… “The stars were all aligned” and before we knew it, it was time to go.
Monday and Tuesday of this week we had the opportunity to train at the church offices with Pat Brearton and Ron Guymon. Pat works in the offices of the church that design and build chapels. She wrote the construction manual that we will be using, and is our contact with the church headquarters. Ron Guymon works for the LDS Business College, who is the accredited institution that will grant the degrees for the students who pass the courses we will be teaching. There will be a 9 month certificate, for those learning the construction trade. Of these men, we will identify and choose the future leaders who will be able to get the 2 year degree and become trainers. The goal is to have local leaders ready to teach this class by the time we leave in 18 months, and they won’t need a replacement for us.
In our classes this week we discovered that this is a marvelous program that has been designed to:
1. Change the lives of these great people by teaching them a trade that will allow them to become builders and teachers in the future. The self-confidence and knowledge they will learn will be passed on to their posterity for generations to come.
2. Use these newly trained builders to help build the many chapels that are needed in this area, as the church is rapidly growing. They will be employed and paid by the local contractors who will be building the chapels.
As we trained on Monday and Tuesday we developed a great respect for this inspired pilot program. If we are successful, the program will extend throughout many of the 3rd world countries, and bless the lives of members around the world. In our training we were taught that this program will be taught with extremely high requirements for graduation… with the criteria for a degree being as strict as those attending school in the US. The president of LDS Business College came to meet and greet us at the end of the 2nd day. He solemnly told us how grateful he, and the university and the church leaders are that we would use our talents to return to Africa and develop this inspired program. It is a marvelous concept and we are honored to be worthy to be called to be a part of it in the pilot stages.