Dear Brother and Sister Johnson,
Once again, thanks for sharing your son with us. We are Elder and Sister Wheatley serving as a senior couple in Pointe Noire. We are in month nineteen of eighteen. (Senior Couples usually serve 18 month missions) We prayer each day that someone is being prepared to replace us. It’s not uncommon to have lapses in these African cities.
Elder Wheatley grew up on a dairy farm outside of Preston, Idaho and Sister Wheatley grew up on the banks of Puget Sound in Olympia, Washington. We have called Clinton, Utah home for the past thirty-three years.
The Republic of the Congo is a third world nation, but the happiness of the people makes up for the lack of material things. I have been for more traumatized by seeing people standing in line at a food kitchen in the dead of winter in Salt Lake City, than anything I have seen here. At least we know that no one is going to freeze to death. We are in the cold dry season now, and while we rejoice when we feel a cool morning breeze, many of these people put on winter coats.
There are three branches in the Church here. We think maybe one of them is ready to split which would allow them to form a district. (The LDS Church organizes areas similar to school districts, with several wards or branches in an area that belong in a Stake / District / Area etc. /1 Corinthians 14:33 and 40) We are very careful not to give our leaders advice on these matters. We trust their judgment and know that all things are done according to our Father in Heavens schedule. This is a very big mission area. It covers part of the (DRC) Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, (ROC) Gabon, Central African Republic (CAR), Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. There are Stakes in Kinshasa (DRC), and Brazaville (ROC). Branches in DRC, P.N., Gabon and CAR. Importantly, Cameroon is one that your son will likely serve in, since there are two cities there and one here where Caucasian elders can serve! Typically, elders serve in both Republic of Congo and Cameroon during their two years, but there is no guarantee of that. We totally believe in the inspiration of our Mission President for the decisions about where elders need to serve. It’s next to impossible for the mission president to stay on top of all these branches and take care of the missionaries by himself. Therefore; senior couples are here to help watch over them. Patience is the watch cry here.
We have a post box here. One of the Elders gets a postcard from home almost weekly. Letters and small-small packages sometimes get here. A small package arrived two weeks around ago (June 13th 2013) that was mailed in October 2012. Large packages are usually destroyed by rats if they contain food and are very expensive to retrieve. Please do not send mail to the Democratic Republic of the Congo Mission home. The address to the mission home in Kinshasa is too available on the internet, but the mission president has to pay a couple of dollars for each letter and then be responsible to deliver it. (Just an extra burden in such a large area) We usually communicate via e-mail since we have power most of the time. The missionaries can only email on Monday (Personal Day / P-Day) There is no cost for letters or small packages sent here to the P.O. Box in Pointe Noire. Bigger packages cost us about $10.00 to retrieve but if they have food in them the rats will usually destroy the package. If you go to Sister Wheatley's blog you will see what happened the one time our children tried to send her some supplies. Letters usually take three to four weeks to arrive. Packages take about two months. Another reason we discourage packages is that the Elders have often been transferred to Cameroon by the time the package arrives here. When that happens we have to rely on the next missionary being transferred to that area to hand carry it to your Elder. There is no way for us to forward mail or packages.
Sister Wheatley's blog address is missioninthecongo.blogspot.com
Thanks Elder Wheatley