Over the last several months, Carole has been in a quandary about what we should do to wish Merry Christmas to our new friends in both the Zingwangwa and Blantyre 2nd Branches. Knowing this would be our last Christmas in Malawi, she wanted to do something special, as a symbol of our friendship, but knew it was important to keep it from being over-the-top. If it were too extravagant, it could be awkward for the members, and might set a bad precedent for subsequent senior couples. Finally, she settled on getting a year’s subscription to the Liahona, the Church’s magazine, for all of the families in the two branches. Even though the subscription cost is heavily subsidized by the Church—since the Church charges only roughly a dollar per year—many families have yet to subscribe for the Church magazines, primarily for cost reasons. Receiving such a subscription may sound deadly dull for Westerners; yet you would be surprised how much interest the Malawians have in reading the Liahona. This past week when visiting families, we have come across both Tennyson Mpamba and Albert Kunje studying their Liahonas in the middle of the day, and frequently we find Davey, our security guard, looking at his copy while at his guard station. Carole did not claim any originality for the idea, since the Merrills did the same thing for the Ndirande Branch before leaving Malawi to go home.
In addition, Carole wanted to come up a small gift from us that was more personal and represented a bit of her. Ever the cook, she decided to make small loaves of banana bread for the families in the two branches. So for the last two weeks before Christmas, Carole has toiled tirelessly in our narrow kitchen, in the middle of the day, and late at night, and working around the daily power outages, producing loaves for the families, the plan being to distribute the modest gifts to Zingwangwa before and shortly after Christmas and to Blantyre 2nd shortly after the New Year, in total over 80 loaves of banana bread.
Starting on Monday, December 21st, we began distributing the bread in Zingwangwa and, as of this morning, Thursday, December 24th, had managed to hand deliver 35 loaves, visiting with members in Chilobwe, Chimwankhunda, Zingwangwa, Soche, Quarry, and Chiwembe.
What follows are some of the pictures we took as we distributed the loaves over the four-day span before Christmas.
|Driving in Malawi can be treacherous. One needs to be careful not to slide in a ditch. More to this story later.|
|Janet, Enita and More Family. Enita and Carole are visiting teaching companions. Enita lost her 12-year old daughter Angellah about two months ago, one of the toughest challenges we have had to face during our mission.|
|Brother Kunje was one of the first members we met in Zingwangwa. He works as a guard/gardener at the Zingwangwa Chapel. Enita and Carole visit teach his wife, who is a newly-baptized member of the Church.|
|When walking in the townships, Carole and I always attract a crowd of kids, with their customary chants of "azungu" and "how are you's." With their enthusiasm, they always bring out the best in us. We never get tired of greeting them.|
|On the way to the Tsegulas, we encountered these three enterprising young men, collecting sand/dirt, for sale. At this time of year, one finds piles of sifted dirt virtually everywhere; it is one of the local cottage industries.|
|Here is an aspiring artist, who consented to having his photo taken.|
|His creation close up.|
|This is one of Sister James' sisters or sisters-in-law, we never got the story quite straight. She kindly let me snap this photo of her new hairstyle. This photo would be better without the little fellow peeking from the background.|
|Sister James in her new home, just some fifty paces from where they "stayed" last year.|
|Quite the handsome little tike.|
|Another little one, visiting Sister James, when we dropped by. It is not uncommon to find a crowd in almost any household--friends, neighbors, and family.|
|Sister Banda and other friends, members of her community bank, had just finished their holiday party, all in an exceptionally festive mood.|
|This little fellow followed us down the hill after we visited with Brother Sangala and Brother Besser Petro.|
|Our Soche Mountain fan club. They assembled quickly and giggled uncontrollably when viewing their photos on the small camera screen.|
|Banana bread loaves fresh from the oven.|
|More banana bread.|
|This is one of the two bridges we crossed to get to the Nthenda home. You can see why we don't try to drive to the Nthenda's home.|
|Carole wears plastic flats she purchased in Malawi when the weather is rainy. They hold up better in the wet and muddy conditions.|
|The second of the two bridges to the Nthendas. A couple of young men, after watching us snap pictures of the bridge, wondered if we planned on repairing the bridge for the community.|
|Crossing the bridge is dangerous enough when the weather is good. You can imagine the challenges on a wet and stormy day.|
|The community paths take a terrible beating in the seasonal rains, as the gushing water carves huge ruts in the roads.|
|In Chilobwe, up the hill on our way to visit the Magombos, who live about as high up the slope as you can get, we tackled this steep road. It was bad enough to slip off the road in Chimwankhunda; it would be worse here.|
|We came across this gaggle of kids on the way to the Magombos.|
|Not yet to the Magombos, but getting closer. Though I didn't know it at the time, Carole's ankle is getting worse. It was sore and inflamed by the time we got home several hours later.|
|It is unusual to find such a nicely stone sculpted draining ditch in Blantyre, sturdy enough to stand up to the rain when it comes down in buckets. Close to the Magombos, but not there yet.|
|The Makawa's home was locked tight, so the long walk to their place seemed like a waste, but just as we were leaving Sister Makawa emerged over the top of the ridge. She had been at the Chikapa's home recharging her phone.|
|We have taken literally dozens of similar photos of maize fields, tucked in wherever they can find a little extra space, especially this close to town where space is at a premium. The annual maize crop is critical to the survival of many Malawians.|
|I call this a trumpet tree for obvious reasons, but don't know its real name. It is found at the entrance to the Mwale's home.|
|Annie, Sister Tella and Amulek. Neither Carole nor I can coax a smile out of Amulek; usually he starts bawling when he sees us, likely terrified by our pale skin. You can see how cautiously he eyes me in this photo.|