It's impossible not to smile when you talk with Brother Bring. He came to meet us as soon as we moved in our home, just to get acquainted. When we went to his home, we got to meet his wife and seven children. Bring Andrea or Andrea Bring? Though everyone calls them the Bring family, they are actually the Andrea family but Bring is such a friend to everyone, the entire family is known by his given name. In fact, there were several people in the branch who insisted that the branch list was incorrect with his official name. Bring is a guard and Sister Bring is a tailor, doing business from their front porch where she sits with a sewing machine. The children are Jessy, Eveson, Blandson, Humility, Morine, Thompson and Tamar.
John Chaula is the branch clerk, but that's rather tricky since he lives in Chickwawa where he is a secondary teacher. He has to take a minibus to church and that takes him over an hour.
One Sunday we told him that we would like to drive him back home so we could see his school and see where he "stayed".
Here he sits at his desk in an office that he shares with all of the other teachers. He teaches math, geography, and social studies. Posted on the pinboard behind him is where he has to be at what period of the day since he moves around among the classrooms.
In one of the classrooms.
Some of the desks also serve as chalkboards.
John is thinking of applying to law school for the fall. He was such a good student that his schooling has all been government funded. He likes being a teacher but doesn't get a choice as to where he teaches and would much rather be closer to a city and the church.
Faith and Lyford Ngwira in front of the Blantyre chapel. Faith is from Zimbabwe and Lyford is a returned missionary. The first time I saw Faith, she just walked into the primary room and at the last minute, managed to put together an engaging lesson for the children. I was sure she was a returned missionary, but she has only been in the church a few years.
Lyford is the district executive secretary and keeps everything humming along.
Charles and Lera Tchongwe in front of their home.
Brother Tchongwe is on the district high council and often visits other branches/
Sister Tchongwe has just been called to be the new Relief Society president so we have spent time together organizing visiting teaching and trying to update the records.
Brother and Sister Tchongwe have a beautiful family of four daughters. The oldest, Mercy, is in nursing school and gets home periodically. Faith, 17, and Lilian, 16, stay with their grandmother, Sister Kandioni, who lives next door. Bongani, 13, is the youngest.
Sister Kandioni is such a jewel for Blantyre. She has been in the church for over 10 years and knows the history and the names of many members. If someone doesn't know someone, they always say "ask Sister Kandioni. She will know...." Also, Sister Kandioni's home is always filled with love because she has so many who live with her. Sister Kandioni had a special opportunity a few years ago to spend four months in Calgary, visiting a former missionary. And everyone knows that she is a missionary extraordinaire!
Granddaughters Bongani and Faith, plus Maria Paul all live with Sister Kandioni.
Ivy Lifa doesn't actually live in the branch boundaries, but rather in Ndinande. However, she has moved around so often that the district president just told her to pick one branch and stick with that one! Ivy is a returned missionary and makes necklaces to sell, saving the money for her upcoming wedding. Her fiancee is from South Africa and lives in Johannesburg. It's still up in the air where they will live after their marriage in December.
Lucy Tembo is one of the newer members of the branch since she was baptized the first week that we began attending. What a great laugh she has! When we found out that she came from a large family AND had a twin sister, we decided we wanted to meet them all! So George and I set a time to pick Lucy up and have her take us to her parents house.
Lucy's father was working out of town but we made the acquaintance of her mother. When we asked her if she would like us to take photos of the family, she absolutely beamed.
Like many families, many of the adult children live close by. If the parents own some property, then houses pop up here and there until it becomes a compound. It didn't take many minutes for the family of eleven children to get word to gather at the house of "mayi" (mother).
And the word spread...
until we had to move outside under the bouganvilla. Brothers, sisters, in-laws, nieces, nephews!
Lucy with her twin sister.
A favorite shirt for George! Even after George's explanation, no one seemed to understand why it was a big deal?!
One evening we made an appointment wto visit with Gift Tembo and his wife Chisomo. Gift works for a pharmeceutical company and his wife works as a maid at the Hotel Victoria so they lead a busy life. What was especially interesting was that Gift's family had joined the church when he was a young boy so he is one of the original Blantyre members.
with Shekima (5), Theo (2) and Martha (9), a niece who stays with them.
The elders took us to the home of Sister Monjeza, where we visited with her and children Gertrude and Partsong.
Later I was able to visit the preschool where Sister Monjeza works.
On Sunday, husband and father Charles was able to participate in a family photo.
Just about every time we walk through the Kampala market, we run into Edson Samon, so much so that it has almost become a little joke between us!
When we visited him at his home, we met his sister and several nieces, nephews and assorted neighborhood children!
Photos bring out his serious side, because in person Edson always has a smile on his face.
Brother Gopani, a policeman in Limbe, stands with his two sons outside the Blantyre building. They knew it would be photo day, so maybe they coordinated their ties?
Earlier we had visited with the Gopanis in their home on the northern side of the branch borders. Sister Gopani speaks very little English but they have a young daughter and that gives us something to share smiles over.
Ruth Juma joined the church the same day as Lucy Tembo and in fact they are very good friends.
When we sent to visit Ruth at her home, we met the uncle and aunt that she stays with.
You can see Lucy in the back because she brought us to Ruth's home. When we stopped to visit Lucy last week, they told us that she had just started a job which is a real success in Blantyre because jobs are difficult to come by. However, she will be working on some Sundays which makes it difficult for her to come to church.
As we were leaving, Ruth's aunt said what she always said to us in her limited English,
"May the good Lord's blessings be upon you from Jesus of Nazareth."
You can see why we love to get to know these church members and why we feel privileged to visit them in their homes. I think I may have mentioned this before....no one could have a better place to spend 18 months in building up the church and getting to know a part of the Lord's vineyard.
Kampala, Manase, Chingakhudse, Naperi - these are no longer just neighborhood names, but our neighborhoods, the ones we love to explore and visit with our friends.