Never Coming Home

Never Coming Home

We left our mission exactly 10 months ago today, yet we have never actually come home. Our hearts and minds are still in Uganda in so many ways, though we love being here with our children, grandchildren, and wonderful surroundings. But part of us will never settle down again. Our lives are different. Our gratitude for our many blessings is profound compared with before our mission. We find great joy in the simplest things, like walking out our front door to exercise without locking our door, and finding open space to walk and breathe without armed guards, walls, and razor wire. We love the seasons. We love our neighbors. We love life and find great peace here. We love the plenty, yet cry every time we walk into the cavernous big box store and observe the monstrous shopping carts filled to overflowing with all the stuff. Personally, my biggest challenge is watching the veracious appetite of consumerism here in the West. The insatiable hunger for the most delectable foods, the latest model cars, toys, and electronics, boggles my mind. It is like a starving man who eats and eats but can never be satisfied, or a thirsty man who drinks but remains parched and dry inside. RaNae and I constantly think of our loved ones on the other side of this planet who deal daily with all the challenges they face, yet of which we here in the West are scarcely aware. So we cry and pray and express gratitude to God for clean water, indoor plumbing, plenty of clothing, transportation, and a cozy roof over our heads. We...
Humble Pie

Humble Pie

Blogs and posts are most often a platform from which one can exhibit pride or success to one degree or another. Today’s blog will be no such thing. Over the past week I have had an especially large helping of humble pie. I will also refrain from giving details of the sudden rush of health challenges that have come my way, since doing so can be a form of bragging. I feel no need to brag since it would achieve no good end. Rather, I’ll list a dozen things for which I feel deep gratitude today. Those who have found themselves in similar circumstances can relate. Those who have not, won’t really get it even if I spelled it out. Some things you just need to experience before you can comprehend the wonderful contrasts between trials and blessings. On this glorious morning I am grateful… For a real, good night’s sleep. To stand and shower myself and allow RaNae to finish dressing me. For a good bowel movement after surgery and reach my backside when using the toilet. For a mind that is starting to function again. To laugh or cough without pain. To sit at the kitchen table for breakfast and view the stunning winter scene outside. To hold RaNae’s hand and weep and pray and express our thanks for all He has given us. For our family and friends who have stood by us through challenging times. To truly know what it means to thank God for the gift of life, because it is, and to see the sun another day, because we can. For medical professionals who have chosen their field because they love people more...
Thanksgiving Kit

Thanksgiving Kit

As my gift to you this season, I offer the following Thanksgiving Kit for use with your family: First, here is a game to determine between necessities and luxuries. Print off the front for each member of your family, and keep the second page for the answers. Necessities 68.08 KB Download Next, here are two emails I received in the past month from a dear friend in Uganda. This one is for your teens and adults to hear. It may not be appropriate for younger children since it discusses violence in South Sudan. Treasure Life 98.42 KB Download Finally, here are four framable 8″ x 10″ mini posters to remind you and your family to be grateful for your every blessing. But Mom, This is Too Hard - Mini Poster 5.66 MB Download But Mom, There's Nothing to Eat - Mini Poster 3.01 MB Download But Mom, I Need New Clothes - Mini Poster 5.84 MB Download But Mom, I'm Bored - Mini Poster 2.92 MB Download Please accept my very best wishes for a grateful Thanksgiving, and a wonderful Holiday Season with your family. Bernell...
Family Photo

Family Photo

I’m standing in front of 35 teachers and administrators of the Main Street Primary School in Jinja. Behind me are five full time missionaries; two Sisters, two Elders, and my sweetheart, RaNae. We’ve come to share a discussion centered on The Plan of Salvation, as taught by our Church. Since this is a mixed group, I greet them first in the name of Jesus Christ (for the Christians), and second using the greeting Mash’Allah, meaning God wills it (for the Muslims). As we proceed to sing and pray and teach, I am impressed with the diversity in the room. I invite our missionaries to introduce themselves to the group. They hail from South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, and the U.S. Today I am impressed more than ever how the origin, religion, position or background of any person has vanished like smoke in the wind. Of course there are obvious differences, but our unity as a human family and children of a loving God overwhelms me with a feeling of peace. Before coming here to Uganda, we knew this logically. But now that knowledge has migrated to our hearts. We no longer see race. We don’t see poverty or power. We just see brothers and sisters from all over, doing the best they can. I pray we will remember this when we return home next week. I feel certain we will. We’re all in this together, you and me. We’re here to live and breathe and learn and struggle, to forgive and love and teach and forgive again. As we pass out the American Donuts after singing Families Can Be Together Forever, I feel at peace. We...
Our Gift for You

Our Gift for You

A Gift for You For you, our friends who have followed our mission, and benefited in any way from our experiences, we have created a keepsake 92-page digital book. You can download it FREE here. Happiest Faces Digital Book 7.13 MB Download We also plan to print a limited number of these books for family and friends. When we began this website, we named it Happiest Faces on Earth because we saw in the Ugandan people an indomitable spirit in the face of great challenges. While that is still true, it is not exclusive to Uganda. It can be found anywhere. We’ve discovered the key to happiness lies in how we live life far more than where we live. Those here who appear to be the most happy have common characteristics, which we can replicate. 1. Faith in God and Jesus Christ, and practice religion regularly and openly. 2. Sweat and work to provide for needs. 3. Care for one another in an extended family model. 4. Avoid materialism, and find peace sitting under a Mango tree. We do not need to move to Uganda to experience this kind of happiness. We can do it anywhere in the world, and in many cases much easier than our friends living with the inherent challenges of Ugandan culture. The website has taken time to create and manage, but we feel it has been useful both as a living journal and a missionary tool. We hope our friends and family have benefited from our mission in some way. So today, with only three weeks remaining, we ask ourselves what we have learned...
Pure & Simple

Pure & Simple

During our visit to Johannesburg SA, we attended a devotional at the Africa Southeast Area office. One topic included a concept Elder David A. Bednar had shared with Elder Carl B. Cook: Is it pure? Is it simple? This applies to how the Church is established in Africa as well as how we live our personal lives. The Church does not want Africa to become a duplicate of Utah. Some wonder if the Church back home has become too complex, with too many programs, meetings about meetings, over-the-top lesson plans, and chatter about things that don’t matter. Just attend your Gospel Doctrine class and listen to the discussion. Some people pontificate on little known tidbits which neither strengthen testimony nor build the Kingdom. Perhaps everyone should re-take the Gospel Principles class and discuss faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, the law of chastity, tithing, the word of wisdom, honoring the Sabbath day, and prayer. Is it possible that the Church back home is leaning toward Pharisaic?* I’ve thought about Elder Bednar’s formula several times since our visit. Is it pure? Is it simple? I saw the theme again last night as I read President Cook’s message in the Liahona magazine. Quoting Elder Bednar, he wrote: “If you start right and keep it simple, you will stay right.” Then Elder Cook went on… We can’t let the things of men or the things of the world distract us from our core beliefs. We must stay focused on the things that bring peace, joy, and success in life. I invite each of us to evaluate whether there are things that may be overcomplicating our lives and distracting us from the things that...