Monday, July 28, 2014

Baptism by Fire

Our first few weeks here in Cameroon have been very full!!!

We were welcomed at the airport by Elder and Sister Gates, a wonderful couple who have been helping teach a construction class in Kinshasa.  They spent a month in Yaounde, filling in for us until we could arrive.  They spent every minute they could trying to train us--although our jet lag didn't make us the best students!
We're responsible for all the mission finances here in this city--money given to the elders and spent by us for rent, internet, utilities, mission president visits, etc.  There is a lot to learn!  They took us all through the city to the places we'll need to visit.  It was mind boggling--how do you find your way around a city where there are very few street signs--and they're on tiny little side streets?  Needless to say, we've been lost for hours.  Things are finally starting to make a bit more sense, though.  We took the Gates to the airport after a very full day.  They're off to finish their mission in Kinshasa.

We spent the next couple of days buying food, shampoo, etc. at the stores we could find.  It was an adventure trying to find one of the missionary apartments which is about 25 minutes (if traffic is light) away.  Every other Saturday we take them their "soutien", the money they'll need for the next two weeks.  We have ten elders, four in the closest apartment, and six in the other.  They're all wonderful young men!

On Sunday, we attended the two branches that meet in the building closest to us.  The saints here have a tremendous amount of faith.  It's wonderful to feel their spirit, especially as they sing!  So far, only two of the missionaries have played the piano (electronic keyboards) during sacrament meeting.  The chorister will sing the first line of the hymn, and then everyone starts singing, always in unison, always in full voice.  It's beautiful!  We were asked to bear our testimonies in each of the branches that we've attended.  In one, we were the speakers--a surprise to us both!

Top Row (L to R):  E. Brockbank, E. Wright, E. VanAusdale, E. Beutler, ESimmons, E. Ntambwe, E. Nzuma, E. Leavitt
E. Niyonkuru, E. Tucker
Front:  E. and Sister Dimond, Sis. and Pres. Monga. 
Table made out of closet doors and boxes of pamphlets!
Relaxing while waiting for interviews.

The first full week here, we were getting ready for a zone conference.  The mission president and his wife came and stayed with us.  We took part in that, then fed everyone there a wonderful taco salad, with Texas Sheet cake for dessert.  It's amazing how much elders can eat!  Anne was impressed to have everyone eating at the same table--we've heard there were some issues with people feeling they are better than others, a general lack of unity.  So, she devised a plan to build a table to feed 18.  (Our dining room table will seat six.)  Using boxes of missionary pamphlets as support, closet doors, our office desk, and several sheets, she made a table that, with a little care by those sitting where the closet doors were, worked out great!  It was quite the festive table!
The makings of a table for 18!

Leg room (sort of) along a mostly stable table.  : )

The finished product!

And a serving table (ironing board+ duct tape+ closet door)

After zone conference, Pres. Monga interviewed each of the elders.  Then, Dave, one set of elders, the mission president, and the leadership of one of the branches went to visit a less active family.  (The idea was to find someone relatively close to our apartment so we could squeeze that visit in between interviews and the dinner that night with all the branch presidents and their wives.)  After driving for about half an hour, we arrived at a house where we met a wonderful family.  The young father is a returned missionary, but they have built a home so far from the church that they can't afford to bring the family in to meetings.  We were already late for our dinner when we left their home, and then the branch president announced he had one other family to see.  We drove back toward town, down a four-wheel-drive-only dirt road for a couple of blocks, and then went in to see a family where the mother and children are all members, but the father is not.  That visit lasted half an hour, while Anne and all the branch presidents and their wives were waiting for our dinner to begin.  Another half-hour drive back home, and our five o'clock dinner began about seven.

Anne fixed a wonderful chicken dinner for everyone with panna cotta for dessert.  She had her first request to teach a relief society how to make that yummy treat!  We were both very surprised when Pres. Monga announced during the dinner that Dave was going to serve as one of his counselors in the mission presidency.  We later found out that all the senior couple elders that are serving in outlying areas are going to be counselors, too.  That will really help in being able to conduct interviews for temple and missionary recommends that in the past have taken up two months to meet with the mission president.  He also gave us our charge:  help the district here in Yaounde become a stake before we leave.  It's a bit daunting, but an exciting task!

We took the Mongas to the airport, with the help of our wonderful district president, Pres. Bala, the next morning.  Next trip to the airport, we'll do it on our own!

Our first week was very busy, but wonderful.  The spirit is so strong in the meetings we're involved with.  It's amazing to be part of this great work!

Love you all!

Elder and Sister Dimond, mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, etc....

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The adventure begins...and almost ends in Brussels

We had smooth sailing from Salt Lake to Chicago, and we thought from Chicago to Brussels.  Then one of the worst-case  scenarios happened--we lost a passport!  Some place between the gate in Chicago and leaving the plane in Brussels, we lost a passport!  We had the airline search the plane (at least they said they did) with no luck.  We looked through all our luggage, pockets, etc. and couldn't find it.  We went to security and they had no help for us.  (They told us unless we could find it, our only option was to be flown back to the U.S.)  The church even booked a return flight to New York City for the next morning. We were crushed thinking about having to fly all the way back to the US and start everything over.

Everyone was very kind, but not very helpful.  Anne was able to contact the U.S. Embassy in Brussels.  They weren't any help either, at least at first.  Finally, she talked to an American at the embassy.  He was very helpful and told us what we needed to do.  We got copies of her passport from church headquarters, and the embassy fellow talked to security.  (Originally, the only way we could leave the airport was with a passport.)

Here are some photos from our airport adventure.
Personal Study in our "Airport Apartment"
One of many phone calls to get out of the airport and on to getting an emergency passport.

The "balcony" view from our airport apartment.

One of the many steps to getting a passport and visa at the Brussels American Embassy.

After a lot of prayer and a few tears, with the help of a very kind man at the US Embassy, we were able to get an emergency passport (that was Wednesday afternoon).  The next step was to get a visa for Cameroon.  We had to get the Yellow Fever verification from Utah for that.  When we went to the Cameroon Embassy on Thursday morning just as it opened, we had just learned that Salt Lake was able to get us on a flight to Cameroon that afternoon.  (Our flight plans said 1:55, which plays into the drama in a bit.)

The people were very methodical in the embassy.  They finally got us to a point where we needed to pay for the visa.  When we went to the window, they required 200 Euros, in cash, which we didn't have.  We tried to ask for directions for somewhere where they did foreign exchange, and ended up walking blocks and blocks trying to find the bank they suggested.  We found it, but they couldn't help us make an exchange for US dollars.  They gave us the address of a Western Union.  We eventually found it, but it was just an abandoned building with a faded sign out front.  By this time, nearly 45 minutes had passed and we were getting frantic.  We started walking back to the Embassy and finally flagged down a taxi.  The driver was extremely kind and took us to a Western Union back toward town.  He stayed with us until we had the money and then drove us back to the Embassy.  We paid our fee, and then were told to "sit down".  It was an agonizing hour that we waited for them to finish the visa.  They gave it to us, and then we asked about calling for a taxi, which we'd been told on two occasions they'd do for us.  That didn't happen.  So we left with a phone number that wouldn't work on our cell phone, and started walking back toward town.

Another cab driver picked us up, and we explained our plight.  Our flight was supposed to leave in a little over two hours, and we were across town from the airport.  He got us there as fast as traffic would allow.  Once at the hotel, we pulled our bags over to the check in, only to find that the 40 lbs. we could put in our carry-ons when we were coming from the U.S. was only going to be 22 lbs. for this last leg of the flight.  We went over to a scale and tried to combine heavy things into one bag so we could check it and only have to pay 150 Euros for it.  When we got to the counter, another tender mercy occurred.  The girl waiting on us weighed our bags, winked at us, even though they were still overweight, and said, "Have a nice flight."  We were stunned, humbled, and ever so grateful.

By this time, we were ten minutes from the time they were going to close the gate for our flight.  We ran through hallway after hallway, were stuck in long lines going through security, and then literally ran from security nearly a half mile until we got to our gate.  The last security agent happened to be the man who was very helpful in security the night before.  He said, "No problem.  You have plenty of time."  We were both sweating profusely with the physical exertion and stress.  Sure enough, our flight didn't leave until 2:55.  We had almost an hour to spare!

The flight to Yaounde was almost seven hours.  We sat next to a young family who were returning to Cameroon to visit relatives.  Anne became the airplane "grandma" to their two cute kids.  She played the video games they had built into the airplane display with their son for hours.  They received a pass-along card with an invitation to come to Utah in 2016 to visit.

When we arrived at the airport, getting all our luggage took nearly an hour.  It was wonderful to see the Gates, the couple who took over for us temporarily (they're construction missionaries in Kinshasa).  What a fitting beginning to this incredible adventure!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Yaounde Apartment

Here's the tour of the inside of the apartment.  We have three bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, a nice sized dining/living room.  All the comforts of home!

Dining Room Table
Elder and Sister Gates, our Trainers 

Living Room

Kitchen Work Space
Kitchen looking out to laundry room 
Laundry room off kitchen 


Guest Room

Guest Bath

Master Bath


Soeur Dimond working on a map of Yaounde

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The MTC (Finally!)

We entered the MTC on June 30, 2014.  We were a bit apprehensive, but mainly excited to finally be able to start our mission!

There were kind people everywhere, helping us park, check in, get to the chapel where the Senior MTC activities take place.

Elder Fred Thomas, Elder Dimond's former temple shift supervisor, coordinates senior MTC training.  He was shocked to see us in the line of new couples.  It didn't take him long to call on us to give the opening and closing prayers for our first meeting, as well as to call Elder Dimond to be a district leader.  (We're in the top picture, fourth couple from the right.)

Our district was comprised of us (far right), (left to right) Sister Pace, the Etheringtons, the Andruses, and the Smiths.  
We were all going in different directions for our missions:  The Smiths to Vanuatu, a chain of 83 islands north of New Zealand to do audits, and perform humanitarian efforts.  The Andruses were heading out on their third mission, all of which have been in Russia!  It was nice to have someone in our group who had some experience.  The other couple, the Etheringtons, just finished serving for 14 years in inner-city Salt Lake, working with the wards there.  What a remarkable couple!  They will be member and leader support in their home stake now.  We shared goodies, laughs, and some tears as the Spirit was strong, even in role-play situations.

Our teachers were enthusiastic and very knowledgeable.  Sister Pace, Brother Herman, and Brother Rowe all helped us tremendously.

Even though we might not be teaching all that much, it was a great spiritual experience, and really helped us see just what the elders will be doing.  Can't wait to work with them and the wonderful Saints in Cameroon!


Before entering the MTC, there is a lot to do as a senior missionary couple.  We started paper work back in September of 2013.  After getting our dental work done, and several trips to different doctors, we had inspiring interviews with Bishop Carter and President Newman.  It was exciting to get our call on December 20th.
We were a bit surprised, but also thrilled, to be able to serve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Kinshasha mission.  Several months later, we learned that our mission was going to be divided, and that we would be serving in the Republic of Congo, Brazzaville mission. 

Beginning in January of 2014, we started studying with our learning coach, Bryan, our language coach, Marcel, and several fabulous volunteers.  Trying to learn (or re-learn) French at our stage of life has been a challenge, but we made some progress over the course of the six months.

Just a couple of weeks before we entered the MTC, we were able to meet our mission president, President Monga, and his wife when they were in Utah to attend the mission presidents' seminar at the MTC.

On June 29, we spoke in sacrament meeting.  Sister Dimond spoke about going wherever the Lord called us.  She used an analogy of our lives being a car, and the Lord guiding us, as long as we had faith and were moving forward.  Elder Dimond spoke about senior missionary service.  We were grateful to see so many wonderful friends and family members that day.  We'll definitely miss you all!