The branch presidency: President Kanjala is in the middle with Brother Gunde on his rights and Christopher Sitolo on his left. George has been meeting with them at 7 am on Sunday mornings.
Here is President Kanjala in his home. Sister Kanjala does not speak much English but it's easy to feel her sweet personality. Unfortunately their son Yanakho (means "answer") was sick this day and I was able to leave some Tylenol and Ibuprofen to help bring his fever down. As with many families, they have someone staying with them who is not family but needs a home. Eliza Paul, who is 12, is now part of the family. Her brother left earlier this year on a mission.
Brother Gunde, the first counselor, lives very, very far from the church, yet he gets up early to take a one hour minibus ride to make it to the 8 am meeting on Sunday. George has encouraged the branch presidency to hold their meetings, so he goes out and picks Brother Gunde up and brings him back to church for a 6:45 am meeting. Brother Gunde's wife and daughter live in South Africa, not unusual here. He has retired from working with the water board (utility) and has built a very large home so that several of his children and their families can live with him. His doctor son just left to get an advanced degree at Johns Hopkins!
Christopher Sitolo, a returned missionary from Zimbabwe, is the second counselor. He lives in a small room at the back of our property and frankly, since he is so knowledgeable about anything in Malawi and Blantyre in particular, I can call on Christopher for just about anything. He directs me to the right tradesman or best butcher and lets me know if something is a good price (rather than an "azungu" price). Christopher, who has been first in his class of 63 for two years running, is in a hospitality and tourism program and will graduate next year. So he has a bright future ahead! He has helped us so much that we wish we could help him - find a wife!
Brother Nixon Ngwira, along with children Blessings (8) and Lisi(10) and his wife Jane. A long time member of the church in Blantyre, (baptized 2003) Brother Ngwira has served as a branch president. His adult son Lyford is also in the branch.
He is frequently out of town because of his work as a contractor/builder but we are always happy when he is home and at church because he is so friendly. He made me feel at home on our first Sunday in Blantyre 2nd branch.
Sister Naledi Cruikshank and AnnaLisa are a new and bright addition to our branch. They were baptized last fall and are now indespensable to the branch. Sister Cruikshank is from Botswana, married to a Scotsman, and has lived in several African countries. She has a vivacious personality, as does her daughter and was just called as a counselor in Relief Society. Every Sunday she brings four neighboring children to Primary. When we have had water shortages, she has lugged water to the meetinghouse and cleaned it on her own.
She loves to serve!
Oliver Niyonzima was one of the first members that we visited at his home. I recently teased him because I had to distribute 540 copies of the Liahona conference issue but one was in French - that would be for Oliver because even though he speaks English, his native tongue is French since he is from Rwanda. Oliver's story is both harrowing and hopeful. He witnessed the death of his mother in the Rwanda genocide and his father, from the DRC, was later killed by robbers. Yet Oliver persevered and with the help of other family members, he has managed to acquire two degrees, nursing and law. He now works as a nurse and since joining the church last year, he has felt a new purpose in life.
Sister Grace Kenamu has been a member for ten years and is so faithful about attending. She lives in Chingakhudze, quite far away, so we discovered a new neighborhood when we went to visit and realized, once again, the great sacrifices members make in order to come to church. She has recently been the Primary president. Her granddaughter Evelyn stays with her because Sister Kenamu's only child, a daughter, lives in Lilongwe.
We met Clement Ngwira early on and he was helpful in directing or taking us to other members' houses. Always dependable, Clement was just called to be the branch mission leader! Since he is 18, it will not be long till he is sending in his own mission papers.
It took us several tries to find Sister Ponde Ponde (isn't that a great name?) at home. Her mother lives in a house close by as does her son Mike. Her other son Elvis stays nearby and can usually be found at Edgar's, a small cafe, which he operates. The restaurant was founded by her deceased husband, Edgar. The day we found Sister Ponde Ponde at home, she was being visited by two other church members.
And here is my favorite member of the branch. Since we have been attending Blantyre 2nd branch, Elder Beal sits on the stand (as a member of the Mission Presidency, he is the presiding authority) and gets a view of the congregation that I don't have. He also has the good fortune of speaking every time someone doesn't show up for a talk or even when everyone does show up. His knowledge and study of the scriptures have made him not just my favorite, but that of other members too.