Mormons Learning to “Just Say No”

Mormons have been taught not to refuse a church calling. Whether you are called to the position of Relief Society President or home teacher, you just say yes. After all, your Church leaders are inspired.

A post on the Mormon blog bycommonconsent.com suggested that, in some cases, the answer should be no. The author argues that family should come first, then Church. Particularly, for a “family-friendly” church. She turned down her most recent calling.

While some agreed with her, one commenter argued that the “just-say-no” strategy places unnecessary burdens on the Bishop and potentially overloads “yes” members. The response to this comment was that the Church has too many make-work callings.

A year or two ago, I had my most recent “no” moment. I was called to be some sort of secretary. (As background, I hate paperwork.) I spend 2 months a year in Africa. I also volunteer monthly in the Navajo Nation. One of my sons and his family live in Washington D.C. I love my volunteer work and I love to travel. The calling seemed less than inspired and I turned it down. Why would the Stake President call me to a position that would cause serious disruption to my chosen retirement activities? Besides I hate paperwork.

My wife had a similar experience. She was teaching the Sunbeams (4-year-olds in Primary). A job she loves. The Bishop wanted to release her and call her to be the Relief Society secretary. My wife was devastated. The Bishop asked me if I could support him? I replied that this was problematic. I should have said “Hell no!” Luckily the Bishop reversed his decision. My wife still teaches the Sunbeams.

What I am as a humanoid is defined by my (non-LDS) volunteer work. Would a loving deity really want to disrupt that? My wife enjoys teaching the Sunbeams, it’s an important part of who she is. Would a loving deity really want to deprive her of that joy?

There are all kinds of reasons to “just say no.” Family responsibilities, interference with job (paid or unpaid), make-work callings, or person preference. And I’m sure there’s a myriad other reasons.

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Checking Out the Ugandan Presidential Campaign

This month Ugandans are electing a President. Campaign posters are obnoxiously everywhere including on road signs. Making the signs useless.

A few days ago a major candidate came through the small town where we were staying. His 4-car motorcade and police escort stopped for a brief speech. There were hundreds of fans crowding along the highway, holding up traffic. I was one of the onlookers.

Major Candidate Campaigning for Ugandan President

Major Candidate Campaigning for Ugandan President

The candidate’s party color is blue and its sign is 2 fingers raised, think of a peace sign (or Nixon’s victory salute) with fingers married.

By coincidence, I just happened to be wearing blue. So I raised 2 fingers on each hand. Sort of like Nixon would have done. The crowd cheered.

After His Speech, the Candidate Fist Bumped a Couple of His Supporters in the Crowd

After His Speech, the Candidate Fist Bumped a Couple of His Supporters in the Crowd

The candidate was standing through the roof window in his luxury car. During a break in his oration, I stepped up and fist bumped him. The crowd cheered. I played Nixon again and the crowd cheered.

Enough silliness. I had goofed off enough. We needed to move on to our next job: installing playground equipment in the mountains above Kabale.

Postscript: Apparently my act was caught on camera and I showed up on the Ugandan TV news. My ego is running amok.

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A Lively Playground Rocker

We are constantly looking for new types of playground equipment to install, designs that are appropriate for a developing country environment. We started by building swing sets based on an American design. We then added seesaws and pyramidal-topped climbing towers.

Colorful Playground Rocker

Colorful Playground Rocker

Recently in Masaka, Uganda, we discovered an interesting design for a rocker, a combination seesaw and swing. We decided to try one out. I wasn’t sure kids would like it.

We transported the rocker to an isolated school located south of Masaka. After we showed the kids how to use it, they got a little too enthusiastic. Hopefully, when the novelty wears off, it will be more enjoyable and a little less hectic. It seems like a fun group activity.

Somewhere in This Mass of Humanity Is a Rocket

Somewhere in This Mass of Humanity Is a Rocket

I like this rocker because it has no moving parts. But I wonder how safe it is? And I think it requires a fairly large flat area.

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Portraits of Ugandan Children

Below are photographs of children that I took on a recent trip to Uganda.

Masaka, Uganda

Masaka, Uganda

Kabale, Uganda

Kabale, Uganda

Kasese, Uganda

Kasese, Uganda

Kampala, Uganda

Kampala, Uganda

Kampala, Uganda

Kampala, Uganda

Arua, Uganda

Arua, Uganda

Masaka, Uganda

Masaka, Uganda

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Colorful Playground Pyramidal Towers

Colorful towers with pyramid-shaped tops are a common sight in Uganda. They are easily made, and since they have no moving parts, they should be very durable. They make an excellent companion piece for a swing set.

Colorful Tower installed at Survival School near Lira, Uganda

Colorful Tower installed at Survival School near Lira, Uganda

Young children climbing on the tower, use both their arms and legs. The towers are also relatively inexpensive. In Uganda, the average price is between $75 and $100.

Children Enjoying Climbing Tower in Northern Uganda

Children Enjoying Climbing Tower in Northern Uganda

There is one aspect of these playgroud towers that needs to be explored further: how they be used in conjunction with other playground structures.

Monkey Rings at Survival School, Lira, Uganda

Monkey Rings at Survival School, Lira, Uganda

At a school just morth or Lira, Uganda, we installed 2 towers and stretched a 4×4 board between them. We then hung monkey rings from the board at one-foot intervals.

Connector for 4x4 Welded to Top of Tower

Connector for 4×4 Welded to Top of Tower

At installation in Masaka, Uganda, funded by the Lions’ Club, there is a large climbing tower. But there are serious issues associated with this playground structure. Foremost is how to transport it to isolated rural areas. Perhaps a modularized version is possible.

Large Climbing Tower in Masaka, Uganda

Large Climbing Tower in Masaka, Uganda

The next permutation I think we will try is constructing a swing set using towers as end posts. One possible problem: children on the towers might interfere with those on the swings.

A square formation with towers at the corners might be fun. Strung between the towers could be swings, monkey bars and rings, and/or suspension bridges.

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Our One-Car Crash in Uganda

Yesterday was a crazy and tiring day. We set out from Kabale, Uganda, at 8:00 am. We were headed to the Batwa Pygmy community in mountains, a 3-hrs drive from Kabale. The last 50 miles were on a rocky gravel road.

Our Flipped SUV

Our Flipped SUV

I was rocking out (with my headphones on) to the sounds of the Stones, ZZ-Top, Tom Petty, Neil Young, and CCR. We occasionally saw wlldlife along the road, monkeys and small brown antelope. One boy along the road was showing off his camilleon.

A few miles before we were to arrive at our destination, our driver lost control of our SUV. The vehicle veered to the left. On returning to the road it spun 180 degrees into a ditch and then rolled on its side.

Damage to Our SUV

Damage to Our SUV

Luckily nobody was hurt. We all had our seat belts on. It was a bit of a chore getting out of the vehicle but we managed.

By the time we had gotten out of the SUV, we had attracted a crowd of local villagers. They worked for an hour to get our vehicle upright.

We decided to continue to the Batwa school where we were going to install a small swing set. We negotiated a bad deal to get ourselves and the swing equipment to the school.

Pygmy Woman Trying Out the Swing Set

Pygmy Woman Trying Out the Swing Set

Unfortunately, the newly-rented small pickup could not climb the sandy, rocky “road” to the school, so several of us carried the swing parts the last half-mile. It was a hot day, even in the mountains. Several locals stayed around to help us, including a middle-aged Batwa woman. After about 2 hrs we had the swing assembled and concreted in.

Small Swing Set for the Batwa Pygmies (with Installation Crew)

Small Swing Set for the Batwa Pygmies (with Installation Crew)

The sponsor of our project, an Anglican Canon, agreed to give us a ride back to Kabale. The owner of our damaged SUV didn’t want us riding in his vehicle. So our driver rode back to town alone.

Our three-hour trip back to Kabale was largely uneventful. The Canon took a much longer route, but the gravel road was better.

About halfway through the trip we were forced off the road by a large, speeding bus. We ended up in another ditch. Unfortunately, there was a man standing in the ditch. Fortunately, we were able to stop about a foot short of hitting him. No problem, we just pulled out ditch and continued.

We got back to Kabale at 8:30 pm. We were dropped off at our favorite restaurant. Even though I hadn’t eaten all day, I wasn’t very hungry. We took boda-bodas (small motorbikes with drivers) back to our hotel. It had been a long and eventful day. I was tired.

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Abilnino, Uganda, Movie Theater

Albilnino is a small Ugandan community located 4 kilometers off the Gulu-Kitgum highway. To say that Abilnino is an isolated, poor community would be a serious understatement.

Abilnino Chidren Waiting for the Start of a Movie

Abilnino Chidren Waiting for the Start of a Movie

Because they want to see their children educated, the parents in the Abilnino area have banded together and started a school. Their buildings are primitive, but it’s a beginning.

We were in Abilnino this week starting construction on a new 3-classroom complex. We decided that while we were there, we would show animated movies to the children. (There is no school in Uganda in January.)

Abilnino has no electricity, so we brought with us a small, battery-powered LED projector and speakers. We played th movies on a laptop computer.

Since the LED projector requires a dark room, we decided to show the movies in a circular, windowless traditional Africa hut.

Albilnino Movie Theater

Albilnino Movie Theater

Twenty-five children gathered inside the structure. All enjoyed the animated feature films. We used a battery-powered fan to help control the indoor environmental conditions.

Although this activity was strictly for fun, it did demonstrate that LED and laptop technologies can be successfully utilized in isolated developing country environments. Educational videos, PowerPoint presentations, etc. are now possible anywhere, which opens up a whole new list of activities for improving global education.

The next step for Abilnino is the installation of a small solar unit to recharge the batteries for their future educational hardware.

Posted in Africa, Movies, Technology, uganda | Tagged , , | 1 Comment