Saturday, December 20, 2014

Building Friendships, Part 2 - Carole's Post

When we make our visits to members of the Zingwangwa branch, George and I feel like we are the real beneficiaries.  We try and learn about their families and when they joined the church.  What was their conversion story?  Frequently they have a family member, not of the immediate family, living with them or they have a child living somewhere else so we try and connect the dots.  And many times they want to bear testimony to us of their love of the Saviour  or the scriptures or how the church has changed their lives.  Sometimes they have not been to church in quite awhile and some we see every Sunday.

We feel like we need to leave them something too.  So we share with them some thoughts from
I Corinthians 12.   George gives an introduction explaining that the apostle Paul had been on a mission to Corinth for 18 months, similar to what we are doing in Malawi.  After he left, he wrote the congregation two letters called I Corinthians and II Corinthians.  If we were to write two letters to the Saints after we left, they would be called I Malawians and II Malawians!  Paul writes the members that God has given them spiritual gifts.  He gives some examples of those  spiritual gifts, explaining that there is diversity in those gifts and who receives them, but that all come through the Holy Ghost.  Then he continues to write  about how all members should be united; that though they are all different, they are to be "one body".  He compares each to a member of the physical body but says all members of the body need each other to make "one body".

Continuing with the theme of unity, he tells the members that
  1. they should care for one another
  2. they should all suffer when one suffers
  3. they should all rejoice when one member is honored.
The message is simple.  EVERYONE IS NEEDED in the branch.  With diversity comes strength and with unity comes strength.  We hope they feel of our love and concern and are strengthened in their testimonies.

We made an appointment to visit with Memory Munthali (20), who has just been called to be the Young Women's president.  How thrilled we were to discover that she lived with her father, a member of 10 years.  We had not met Brother Munthali before because he is now blind and unable to attend church.  But, oh, what a sweet spirit he has and what a marvelous story!  His wife died ten years ago, leaving him with five daughters.  He has even been to the Johannesburg temple.  We will be back to visit them often.
Memory is preparing to go on a mission.

President Chikapa presides over the Zingwangwa branch and works very hard to make sure all is functioning.  He walks 1 1/2 hours each way to work and back five days a week an what little spare time he has goes toward building them a new home.  Little Nimrod is their son and Time (12) is his nephew.  He and Sister Chikapa, who is from Uganda, both served missions in Kenya.  Sister Chikapa is in the district young women's presidency and also plays the keyboard for our branch.

Brother Chimaliro is a house painter (notice the color on the wall of his home) and is the second counselor in the branch presidency.  When we saw the shirt he was wearing, we explained what the Boy Scouts were and identified some of the badges and emblems on his shirt.  He likes these shirts so much that he has three of them.  When we explained the 50-miler emblem, I could tell that he thought 50 miles was no big deal.  After all, this is Malawi where everyone walks!

We were happy to make the acquaintance of Paul Msosa and visit with him one evening in his home. Paul joined the church about three years ago.  The missionaries came to visit his sister and she wasn't home so they taught him instead!  When we left his house, it was so dark that he said he would walk us to our car several "blocks" away.  I had a flashlight and walked very gingerly among the rocks and holes.  Everyone around us was walking faster and some were barefoot.  I asked him how they did it in the dark and he said they were just used to it.

Brother Kunje is the guard at the church five days a week so we see him often since we stop by for meetings or to connect with people.  When we went out to visit with the whole family, we went to an unfamiliar part of town so Brother Kunje met us at the Baluti market and walked us the rest of the way there.  His wife Blandina does not speak any English nor do Victor (9), Elizabeth (7), or baby Emmanuel (20 months) but we had a good time.  Blandina had made for us "cake-cake" which was made from maize meal and a fruit from a tree in their front yard.  They called the fruit a peach but it was green and shaped more like an apple.  I was fascinated that she could make a cake in a pan on their little stove on the ground.  She also served us hot water with a sugar bowl for us to sweeten it.  They called it Word of Wisdom tea. We sat on child-size chairs up to a child-size table (the only furniture) while the wife and children sat on a mat and watched us eat which is obviously very difficult for us.

We intended to visit with Brother and Sister Ntenda last week so we set up a meeting spot at the Covenant Church with Brother Ntenda so he could take us to their house.  Unfortunately he thought we said Calvary Church and we kept trading calls to connect, all to no avail.  George and I realized we were a little overly confident about finding places ourselves but we got to know the new neighborhood of Manga in the process.  The Ntendas live high up, like many members, and have a wonderful view of Blantyre.  They just joined the church in October and had previously been Muslim.  What a strong testimony Brother Ntenda has and is really passionate about the scriptures.  He really wanted a copy of a picture of Christ for his home and for his welding business so we have made copies for him.  Sister Ntenda has just been called to be a Primary teacher which makes me especially happy!

The first Sunday we attended the Zingwangwa Branch, I went to the gospel doctrine class taught by Brother Nyama.   You can tell he puts a great deal of time into preparing his lessons and he clearly has a gift for teaching (a good example of a spiritual gift).    However, I will never forget him because he asked me to teach the class the following Sunday so there was no time for me to slowly get used to my missionary calling!  We loved visiting him in his comfortable home where we learned he is a bricklayer/contractor.  He is also raising a son and two daughters.

This is just a very small part of the Tsegula family.  Brother and Sister Tsegula have eleven children!  (and 38 grandchildren and ? great-granchildren).   They live on a large parcel of land where most of their children and families live in separate houses on the property and where they can grow enough food to feed everybody all year.   Here they are standing with grandsons Gift and Christopher and their youngest son Innocent.  I teased Innocent that his nephews are older than he is!  Their son Alexander, not pictured, is the branch mission leader so we have a meeting with him every Saturday and they are standing below a missionary certificate of their son Gladwell.  The first time we stopped by, Sister Tsegula was working in the maize fields and we made an appointment for the following day.  They then greeted us in Church attire.  Brother Tsegula, who is both knowledgeable about the church and wise, has had a fascinating career in agriculture, politics, and the civil service.  I'm sure we will visit often this wonderful family. 

You can see some of the great diversity that we have in the Zingwangwa Branch and the strength that comes with that diversity.  It's a joy to attend church and to hear the talks and the lessons and the music and be lifted by these wonderful saints.