Saturday, April 25, 2015

What Have We Been Up To? - Carole's Post

These first two photos about sum it up:
George spends hours and hours in the study trying to make sense of all of our new responsibilities.  I wish VickiLynn (his wonderful legal secretary) could have come to Malawi with us!  In case you were wondering why he hasn't written any blogs lately, this is the reason: visas and temporary permits, budgets and auditing, vehicle maintenance, leases for the flats and buildings, payment of taxes, prospective missionaries, incoming and outgoing elders and sisters, distribution of funds, trips to the bank, twice a month reconciliations, etc.  NOTHING is automatic and rarely is anything done over the internet.  Wow, do we miss Elder and Sister Reynolds and have a whole new appreciation for what they did while here!

And I, though not nearly so burdened with paperwork, keep track of the Distribution Center and the magazine subscriptions.  This is not exactly like in the USA.  Sometimes I take my tape measure with me to the different branches because people want to order temple garments and have no idea what size and type.  It's too difficult for them to come to the house so I try and make it easier.  
Then, there are those missionaries...always wanting to order new Bibles or Triples for their converts and new friends!  Some problems you can't anticipate - like the last batch of Bibles had Matthew and other books out of order.  Hmmm...that could be a bit confusing!  
And since there are baptisms almost every week at one of the three buildings, there are baptismal clothes and towels to deliver, then pick up, launder, and return to the closets.

This is a picture of what happened to us the night before last. George had gone to bed and while I was blogging, the electricity went out and well, you get the picture.  I crawled (literally - it's pitch black) my way to bed and was furious, once again, with ESCOM, the power company for another failure.  When I got up the next morning, there was still no power and I thought it was going to be one miserable day.  Then, Christopher, who lives on the property knocked on our door and pointed to the meter.  Oooops!  We just hadn't paid our bill!  It's not exactly a bill, since we pay for the electricity ahead of time at the office, then punch in the given numbers into the meter.  When it gets low, we have to go pay again.  We just hadn't been paying attention and aren't you glad we are not responsible for your utility bills!  Water, internet, phone - all paid the same way and we have to keep track of the usage ourselves.  The previous office couple did this for ALL of the missionaries, but we have been able to pass off this lovely responsibility to the zone leaders.  Maybe they should keep track of ours too, since we have failed more than once!

So, what else have we been doing?

We went to Lilongwe on two different occasions.  Once was for a Senior Couples Conference.  On another occasion, George had several interviews for prospective elders and new missionaries.  
The members are waiting their turn to meet with George outside the office of the branch president at the Kalambo meeting on Sunday.  

On this particular day, there were two baptisms at Kalambo so we were privileged to feel the wonderful spirit of both the members and the converts.

The Kalambo property has two identical houses on it, which are used for offices and classrooms.  Then the Church built a larger building in the back for the chapel area. In these photos, church meetings are over and the members are waiting for the baptism to begin.
Sisters Falco and Quaye  were instrumental in teaching the gospel to this wonderful sister.  Her son had actually joined the Church first and then introduced it to his mother.

With Sister Fisk, one of the senior missionaries serving in Lilongwe.

The font is the same as we have in Zingwangwa, but the space for placing it is very different.

And afterwards...

We also visited the two other buildings in Lilongwe, which made for a busy day.

  This is the Kauma building, another converted home, where two branches meet.

It's hard not be envious!  Look at those grounds!  However, they have had three break-ins in the last two months, losing computers and equipment.  That is in spite of an alarm system, wire-topped brick fences, and round-the-clock guards.

...even a volleyball court. 

I loved seeing both the missionaries and the members in Lilongwe since our Malawian experience has been confined almost entirely to Blantyre.  Lilongwe, the capital, has a completely different feel than our city.  Whereas Blantyre is very compact, L-i-l-o-n-g-w-e feels like this ---very spread out!  There is more than one center of town.  The government buildings, stadium, and other modern buildings really caught my eye and several of the main roads appeared top notch.  Still, once you get off the main thoroughfares, things look very familiar.
On our free day, Sister Fisk took me to some of the shops and galleries.  When we drove back to Blantyre, we stopped at Dedza, where we ordered some pottery and lamps, and at the Kungoni Art Center at the Mua Mission, a marvelous and impressive Catholic complex.   We added to our growing collection of wood carvings.  

Other activities include
 having the sister missionaries over for a pot luck dinner and then viewing Women's Conference.  What a treat for me and I know Sister Merrill feels the same way!  This is a marvelous group of young women who have such energy and dedication.  Even after they have been out proselyting all day, their enthusiasm is infectious.

 We always attend the monthly zone meetings and in this situation, you can see that the missionaries are doing some role playing.  George and I did presentations on food safety and malaria prevention, visas, and informed the groups that we would be doing inspections of their flats the following week.  It was great to see where the missionaries "stay" (Malawian English) and we hope we can improve some of their living situations (such as a poor water supply).

We have slowly been getting to know members of the Blantyre Second Branch and try to visit several each week.

I am trying to smile but in this case, we just had to walk through a garbage dump (in the background) to get to a member's house.

This is another path we took to reach another home.  The photo just doesn't do it justice.  New neighborhoods mean new adventures and this was a STEEP climb.

It might be a new neighborhood, but doesn't this look familiar?

 We still get caught in the rain!  The weather looks so beautiful when we leave the house, but we just don't seem to learn how quickly it changes.
Sugar cane is everywhere right now.

George is just arriving home after a visit to a city office regarding a possible piece of property for a new building.  The car in the background is undriveable until we get a new side mirror.  The vehicle issues are endless.

We were worried one Sunday when there was a baptism at Zingwangwa.  I didn't see any way it could happen because there was no water and hadn't been for over 36 hours.  But the missionaries were determined and visited the water board to get a couple of tanks of water.  They parked on the road above the building and snaked hoses down to deliver the water to the font.
Emmanuel Banda and Tennyson Mphamba are being baptized by Elder Sagers.  His companion is Elder Allred.

This was a day to be creative.  Because the water level was so low, Emmauel and Tennyson both had to sit in the water so there could be a full immersion.

On the other hand, two weeks later I was teaching Primary in the Blantyre 2nd Branch, which has a lovely building with a traditional indoor font.  There was to be a baptism that day after church, but when I opened the door to the hallway to let out the children,  the entire floor was covered with water and branch members were working as fast as they could to clean up the flood.  Someone had forgotten to turn OFF the water and much of the building was flooded!

We do little things to brighten up the day.  We created a small garden outside the kitchen window so when I wash dishes, it makes me happy (okay, so that was an exaggeration).


I saw this sign last week
and of course, it made me smile. Every day there is something we see or hear that gives us delight!

We hope to soon have the office duties under control and get back to the things that we love.  We have now been here for one-third of our mission and we look ahead and think "how can we ever accomplish all that we would like to do?"  How can we best help and support these people that we have come to care about so much?  We know we have been very blessed to come to Blantyre.  On days like today, when we have sat with the members and listened to the uplifting words in General Conference, my heart is so filled with gratitude to the Lord for letting me spend time with such wonderful people.   In spite of so many difficulties, their hearts are generous, their spirits ever so strong.  We came here to serve and support the members, but they have no idea how much they have strengthened our testimonies by their dedication and sacrifice.  I see their humility and how the Gospel has blessed their lives and this blesses mine each day.