Monday, March 9, 2015

A Brief Sequel to Esther's Funeral--George's Post

This past weekend Carole and I made our first trip to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, located in the central district, which is a four to five hour drive north of Blantyre.  We wanted to meet the leaders in the four congregations in Lilongwe and I needed to conduct a number of interviews, interviewing young men to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, calling a new branch presidency counselor, and reorganizing one elders quorum presidency.  Over a two day period, I visited with about 15 young men, two of whom were from refugee camps.  An unexpected byproduct of the trip was to resolve one of the mysteries associated with Esther’s funeral.

For those who read the post about the funeral, you will remember that Esther’s sister, whom we were told had flown from China, arrived just after the coffin had been lowered into the grave and was being covered with dirt.  Her sister made a dramatic entry, throwing herself on the gravesite, sobbing inconsolably.  Finally, a woman, we assume an aunt or other close relative, cradled her in her arms and was able to calm her.  But the story did not make much sense—how could Esther have a sister living in China, when most Malawians have never been outside of the country, and the cost of flying, certainly so far away, is far beyond the means of all by the wealthy. 

When visiting with the Fisks, one of the two senior couples in Lilongwe, we were able to piece together part of the puzzle.  Esther and her grandfather joined the Church in Lilongwe about eight months ago.  Both of Esther’s parents died of AIDs years ago, and Esther, who was 18 when she passed away, was born with AIDs and it is likely that AIDs or some AIDs related illness was the cause of her death.  She had at least the one sister, the one who attended the funeral.  Esther’s grandfather comes from a prominent, and wealthy, family and is the cousin to the current president of Malawi.   He was recently appointed the Malawian ambassador to China and moved to Beijing, taking with him Esther’s sister.  The Chinese government apparently blocked incoming mail to his personal internet account, so until very recently none of his friends in the Church were able to contact him.  China is one of the major trading partners with Malawi, most large infrastructure projects in Malawi being contracted out to Chinese companies.  And while the grandfather comes from a well-known and well-connected family, it is common in Malawi for family members to be buried in the villages from which their family originally came, even if they have been away from home for many years.