On the other hand, when we have local members returning from their missions, it is such an momentous day! They have served 18 or 24 months, most likely in another African country, and they are bringing back with them spiritual depth, leadership qualities, and an enthusiastic spirit for building the kingdom here in Malawi. There is no doubt that they will do more to help the Church take root on Malawian soil than any other group. We know the young men and women who are leaving to go on missions and we will be back in the States when they return. So it is especially tender for us to see those coming home now, whom we didn't know when they left, and imagine how the missionary experience has changed them.
Here we are at the airport greeting Elder Nyirenda after his arrival from the Kenya Nairobi Mission. Picking up members of his family along the way to the airport, we wanted to make sure that his family was there to welcome him home!
Elder Nyirenda is the only one in his family who is a member of the church.
Just look at that smile of Christopher's! Christopher Sitolo had been telling us for weeks all about Elder Nyerenda, now back to "Mike", and I don't think anyone was more excited to see him. Mike had served as an assistant to his mission president.
A week or two later after church, Mike, with loosened tie, is getting ready to go make some visits to less active members of the Blantyre 2nd Branch.
One day after Mike arrived home, we went to pick up Elder Sikumbiri, who had been serving in the Zimbabwe Harare mission.
We were worried that there wouldn't be family to greet him because we were not able to connect with them. Before he left, the family had lived on Soche, but had now moved. Once again, Elder Sikumbiri is the only member in his family. But when we got to the airport, there was his family. They recognized us because of our name tags. Of course, we offered to give them a ride home. One hour later, as we were driving north toward Lilongwe, we arrived at their new home! (There are so many little details that get lost in translation...)
I was worried about Elder Sikumbiri, now back to "Steve". How would he ever get to church, living such a long way away?
But there he was on Sunday! He has found a place to stay on Soche so he can easily get to the Zingwangwa branch. That sure does make a branch president happy! - and all the young single adults too!
Now to the story of Maxwell, our VERY PATIENT prospective missionary from Zingwangwa. George wrote earlier about his mission call to Mozambique. Only days before he was to leave for two months of training at the Missionary Training Center in Brazil (since Portuguese in the language of Mozambique) he found out that his visa application had been rejected. His date was pushed back to the end of April. When the visa did come through, we found out that two other prospective missionaries in Zambia were still waiting for theirs. President Chinyumba (our district president) who handles the passport issues for the Malawian missionaries, managed a small miracle.
It's a bittersweet time for his loved ones. His mother, not a member, is on the left. Sister Mwale, his "church mother" is on the right with his twin, Benson.
Elder Maxwell lived a long way from the meetinghouse and made many, many sacrifices to come to church over the past few years. We know he will be a great missionary!
In the meantime, we have another prospective missionary, patiently waiting. Khama Ganghire was scheduled to leave for the Johannesburg mission in April but days before his departure, his visa, too, was rejected, something very unusual. His date has been pushed back to July.
Early May brought changes to the our Blantyre mission field.
Two sisters were released: Sister Griffus from Minnesota and Sister Mntungwa from South Africa.
After church, we took them, along with their companions, to the bus station where they would take the bus to Lilongwe, fly the next day to Lusaka and two days later, fly home.
(Yes, these are short sisters!)
|Saying good-bye to her companion, Sister Browning|
Sister Mntungwa was such an awesome missionary, a real sweetheart!
With her companion, Sister Zohner, also from Idaho.
And as the bus pulled away...
Farewell, bon voyage, we will miss you!