Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Malawian version of a Relief Society jumble "sale" - Carole's Post

We have known for five months that after the Reynolds finished their mission, we would be moving into their home in the Mandala neighborhood of Blantyre.  Consequently, in the flat we were staying, we didn't do much to make it feel like our home.  Now we are in our home for the next thirteen months so we are making it a place we can call our own.

The first thing that we realized is that several missionary couples have lived here through the years.  We hear the local members refer to these couples by name and it makes us realize again that we are in a long line of senior missionaries who are trying to give support to the members and missionaries of the Church here in Blantyre.  That also meant that the storage closets were full of things from the previous couples - some clothes, old curtains, office materials, and fabrics.  I kept pulling down boxes and finding more things that had probably been there for years.  I added foodstuffs in the pantry that I knew we would never eat.  It was impossible for me to know how I could best distribute these items among the members, so I sorted and bundled them up and brought about eight cardboard boxes of items to Sister Banda, the Relief Society president in the Zingwangwa branch. 

 I wasn't sure how the Relief Society could use them, but I knew and trusted Sister Banda's judgement.

I could see that Sister Banda was very excited, so George, I and Sister Banda carried the boxes up to the Bandas home on Mount Soche so that she could sort through them. 
George even attempted to carry the boxes Malawian style - on his head- and I was just sorry my hands were to full to take a photo.  Sister Banda really laughed and then easily put two boxes on her head and off she went! 

Some of the items could be used for sewing projects for the Relief Society so Sister Banda saved those. 

 The white shirts were all quite large so we decided that if we took them to Brother Sangala, a tailor and branch Sunday school president, he could take them in so they would more likely fit some of the men in the ward.
As for all the other items, they would be distributed among the sisters.  But, what seemed like a good idea at first, began to haunt Sister Banda.  A few days later, she told me that she was worried that the sisters would get mad at her if they did not think the distribution was fair.  I put my arm around her and laughed, telling her that is why I asked her to do it, because I knew they would not be happy with me if I did it!   

I suggested that we put all the items out for people to see and then each person would select a number out of a jar and each sister would go, according to her number, and select an item that she would like.  We could go around until all the items were gone.  She liked that idea and I thought the problem was solved!

President Chikapa announced on Sunday that there would be a Relief Society activity on the following Saturday at 10 AM (following Institute) and Sister Banda explained in Relief Society what the activity was.

A few days before the activity, I went to visit Sister Banda and to work out picking up the items to take back to the meetinghouse.  I could tell that she still had concerns.  She just knew that the sisters were not all going to be happy with the way we had organized it.  (I still didn't understand why, but when I had earlier told Sister Chikapa, the branch president's wife, about the project, I could tell she also had concerns.)  Sister Banda suggested that she go through the items and bundle them in thirty different plastic bags, so that no one could see what was in them.  Then the sisters would choose a number and according to their number, they could select a bag full of unknown items.  I was floored! How could this be better than getting something that each sister would want and use?  But I trust Sister Banda and as I have told her many times, she knows her sisters well.
She did not have enough plastic bags, so George and I drove home and brought back 25 plastic bags from local stores. Sister Banda went to work and tried to equally divide up the goods.  

We came back at 8 AM the next morning and carried the boxes containing the filled plastic bags back down the mountain to our car and off we all went to the church.  She also had the newly altered white shirts in a separate bag and I asked her how she would distribute those.  She smiled and said "Oh, there is no problem at all with the men.  We will just give them to those who need them on Sunday".
Hmmmmm.  "No problem with the men" I thought...

The meeting was set for 10 AM but did not start until 10:45.  Sister Banda was worried because we only had about ten sisters there and she thought there would be closer to thirty. She wondered if we should just wait awhile because some people do not arrive until noon for a 10 AM activity.  She made the decision to start anyway, because perhaps "they would learn that you have to come on time for the activities".
After singing "As Sisters in Zion" and an opening prayer, Sister Enita spoke about visiting teaching. It's always good to get a pep talk on that struggling program.

Then the moment arrived.
Out of the closet came the plastic bags, one box at a time, and Sister Banda placed them on the floor in the middle of the circle.
Sister Sandra (to the left) is blind and the sisters would select a bag for her when it was her turn.  
Every sister was able to select three bags.  
There was one bag left over and Sister Banda was perplexed as to what to do.  She looked inside to see if she could distribute the items but looking at me, she said "There are only four.  What should I do?"  All of the sisters sat until she brightened and said, "I know!  I will give it to Brother Magombo tomorrow at church!" and everyone seemed happy.  We all know Brother Magombo, who is 77, is very deserving.  The cardboard boxes were given to the sisters who wanted them.

So, how did everyone feel about what they got?  The next day at church I asked Sister Banda and she just glowed and said that everyone was so, so happy with what they received. I spoke with Enita who said it was a just perfect way to give things,  because no one could compare what they received with what someone else got.  There was no envy(!) and everyone went away so pleased.

The white shirts were given out in Priesthood meeting on Sunday and George said "there was no problem with the men".