From the Thursday that we went to Eldoret, it was a crazy ride. Thursday August 29th, we went to Eldoret in the afternoon. President did some interviews, and the next day Elder Mkhabela of the 70 (area 70 I think, or maybe the 2nd or 3rd Quorum) came to get ready for Eldoret District Conference. Saturday and Sunday was the district conference for the Eldoret district. Unfortunately, I didn't see much growth from early 2012 when I was there with Naitiri. However, while numbers have stayed small, the actual spirituality has gone up according to my feelings. People felt more spiritually mature. Elder Mkhabela gave some nice talks too, interesting ones. Overall it was an interesting little experience. Got to do some service as well, so..... yeah.....
OK on to the interesting stuff. Elder Renlund arrived on Sunday evening but we didn't get to hang with him. Elder Renlund last spoke in the October 2009 General Conference, a VERY good talk and interesting too, called "Preserving the Heart's Mighty Change". So my companion and I, with some of our trusty zone leaders, went early to clean the chapel. It was spotless and good-looking when Elder Renlund came!! We had a fantastic zone conference, and Elder Renlund shared some great counsel in a leadership meeting before the main meeting. I will summarize the counsel he gave after a summary of events.
After the conference, we ate some delicious food, and I got to talk a long time with a senior couple called the Moons while eating. It was really nice, and that guy has seen alot of miracles in his life. Miracles really do happen according to the great plan of God. After eating, we took off to the airport. At the airport, we still weren't exactly comfortable with Elder Renlund. In that I mean that we hadn't gotten to know him much yet, so we didn't openly just go and talk to him. But as my companion and I were sitting aside from President Hicken and his wife, and Elder Renlund and his wife, we were both thinking, "Man, it would be cool to ask him some questions." Elder Renlund comes out of the bathroom, and as he's about to walk back to his seat, he turns abruptly and sits down with us and says, "Ok Elders, do you have any questions for me?" WOOO!!! So immediately, I fired off a question and asked him what the apostles are like. I've never met one so I was super curious, plus it's the first thing that came to mind haha. He then proceeded to give me and my comp a rundown of each apostle, one by one. What they're like, how they act, all these things. Elder Renlund has spent alot of time with the apostles in his time as a GA and in his profession at times. It was SO cool. Unfortunately we only got to Russell M. Nelson before they called for boarding.
When we got to Nairobi, we went home for the night. Elder Mulondo and I, that same night, did all our wash (with a new washer that the mission got us cuz our other one was dying. A REAL WASHING MACHINE!!!! :D :D :D) and packed for Mombasa, since the next day we would not go back home before traveling to our next destination.
Tuesday morning, another leadership meeting, this time that really pricked my heart but also taught me one of the most impressing lessons I have experienced. My leadership has changed because of it. It was all about Leadership in the Church, and how it differs so much from other leadership positions. And it really does, a TON. But we'll talk about that. The zone conference was wonderful, had a sandwich bar for lunch, and the Assistants got to meet with Elder Renlund for 30 minutes or so. He let us know that President Hicken just praised us when he talked about us, and expressed to Elder Renlund how much we help them. That was touching. Our relationship with President is really strong. We do love him and sustain him 100%. Then at 3:30 we take off to the airport to get to Mombasa. We had about 2 hours in the airport before we left. Guess who I sat next to? Yup. Elder Renlund. I asked him, "Don't you ever get tired from traveling all the time?" Cuz I was personally fatigued already from traveling straight from last Thursday and going going going. He explained that he feels tired while traveling, but when it comes time to be in the conference or any spiritual meeting, all the fatigue leaves and his focus and energy are there. It reminded me of King Benjamin in Mosiah 2:30, supported by the Lord. A miracle in itself! Cuz if I, a 20 year old, healthy young man, needed energy, after only a few days of travel, what about a 60 year old Elder who travels on a weekly basis? Cool. So we talked in the airport for a long time, and somehow settled on the topic of revelation vs. tradition. Rituals and traditions can block revelation when they become routine. No doubt this is a big reason why the Lord commanded us to refrain from vain repetitions, because how can the Holy Ghost give you certain things to pray for if every prayers goes the same way and the same things (or sometimes same words) are mentioned? It was a super enlightening chat and I am thankful for it.
When we arrived in Mombasa, a branch president who owned a matatu picked us up and drove us to the hotel (Pres and Renlunds) and the ZL's flat (my comp and I). While in the matatu, Elder Renlund shared with us about the dedicatory prayer for Central African Republic (CAR). Elder Holland dedicated it, and holy cows. Amazing. When an apostle dedicates a country for God's work, it is no joke. The Heavens listen and the prayer is fulfilled. CAR just recently got a new stake too, by the way. At home, I never appreciated what a HUGE deal it is to get a stake, since there are many. But here, where there are sometimes one per country (Uganda, Kenya, zero in Tanzania, CAR, etc.), it is a BIG milestone to form another stake. Kenya will get another eventually, after I'm gone.
The next morning, we met in Mombasa a bit late because of traffic, but had a fabulous zone conference. The leadership meeting was a great one again, and he focused on the very topic which we had discussed in the airport - revelation vs. ritual. In fact, midway through the meeting, he turned to me and said, "Elder Schneider, you may be able to teach this better than I can, so why don't you take over and discuss this principle with everyone." Sheesh! Talk about flattering me!! So I taught with Elder Renlund the principle that he had enlightened me about the evening before. Whew.... I taught with a 70 :) :)
That afternoon we got back to Nairobi, and stayed the night. I was tired. :P
Thursday morning we flew to Dar es Salaam, or as Dad calls it, Der Al Shezam. It was pretty hot... Mombasa and Dar are HUMID. We had another good conference, and Elder Renlund and Sister Renlund were both ill by the end actually. Haha, don't know why, but they were. So they went back to the hotel, I got a picture with them and everything, and said my goodbyes, and Elder Renlund expressed his great thanks to us for the work we are doing, and also reminded me that he still owes me the last half of the apostles where we left off from Eldoret airport :) He also asked Elder Mulondo and I alone to conduct the last leadership meeting!! So we did, with the ZL's, DL'z, and STL's (Sister Training Leaders). Went AWESOME.
These were the 3 main principles from all the leadership meetings which we taught:
1. Leadership in the Church. We can not lead as other things in life. In the Church, we lead like Christ. We do as Joseph Smith taught, we "teach correct principles and let them govern themselves." We exercise love, we don't seek to condemn. We have patience and hope for the best, we don't jump to conclusions. We seek to lovingly guide God's children to repentance, not to push them to inactivity. In short, where a stern hand and no mercy would suffice in most worldly and business leaderships, in the Church we lead like no others. We do not rule, we serve. Jesus taught so much about how the leader or the chiefest is to be the servant. It's something i need to work on for sure, and i have been applying it since he taught us these things and WOW. Charity skyrockets and the Holy Ghost brings consolation even when things don't go how you think they should. It is leadership that relies on the Lord, instead of trusting in your own strength and wisdom to accomplish things.
2. Christlike ways to give correction. Giving correction is not confronting somebody in a apathetic way and telling them point blank that what they did was wrong and needs to be corrected. Elder Renlund was once in Malawi with a newly called Branch President. He went to visit some members with him, and while at the first, a Priesthood blessing of healing was asked for. Elder Renlund asked the branch president to anoint, and then he would seal. This is what happened: the branch president opened the oil, held it about 3 feet above the member's head, splashed a drop on his head, and said out loud, 'I anoint you with oil so you will be healed, AMEN!' Needless to say, Elder Renlund was a little shock. But what did he do? He went ahead and sealed the anointing. I was amazed when he told us that he did that!! I was thinking, how does that work?? But Elder Renlund explained that the Lord can not sit on his throne and say, 'Because my child does not know how to anoint and has not done it correctly, I will hold back my blessings from those affected by it!!' And that is true, God would never say that. Elder Renlund, after that first blessing, walked with the branch president to the next appointment and read with the branch president from the white handbook about giving blessings, and the branch president saw for himself how to do it correctly, and corrected it form that point on! Christlike correction is lasting and humble.
3. Ritual vs. Revelation, which i addressed earlier.
All I can say is that 4 days with a 70 of the Lord was amazing. One thing Elder Renlund did every conference was deliver a message from the 1st Presidency to us in the KNM. He first taught us what the duty of a 70 is and what office he held. He didn't do this to build himself up, but instead to help us see the significance of the messages he was about to share. He shared from Exodus 24:1, 9-10; Numbers 11:4-6, 10-17; Luke 10 chapter heading; and D&C 107:21-25, 33-34. Then he delivered this 3 part message:
1. Thank you from the 1st Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 on behalf on the Lord and His Church.
2. You are called to this specific mission by the Lord Himself. And if you don't know it for sure, you have the right and the obligation to find out.
3. President and Sister Hicken are called of God to lead this mission, and were chosen unanimously by the 15 prophets, seers, and revelators to come to this exact mission.
Whew............. It was priceless to me to learn these things. I am doing my best to apply these things as Elder Renlund taught us, and as President Hicken has taught us. Elder Renlund told us on more than one occasion, "I know no finer President and wife than the Hickens." Now that is saying something considering he is the Africa Southeast Area President, and there's over 10 mission presidents currently, and he has seen over 20 come and go in his time there. And he expressed the great significance of the call the Lord has given Elder Mulondo and I to "train" and welcome the Hickens into this part of the Lord's vineyard. I don't really know how to express that I am thankful for the charge the Lord has trusted me with, but I am thankful beyond words for what the Lord has done for me, all the chances he has given me, and for all the opportunities he has given me. You are one of my infinite blessings and I love you all with all my heart :) don't count the days until I'm home, it's going too fast for me :(
Love you forever and ever!!!!