Hope everyone is okay at home and that it is not still snowing!
Love, Elder & Sister Bullock
April 2, 2011
Yesterday, (Saturday), we left at 7 a.m. and headed north to Lilongwe. We stopped at about the 2 ½ hr. mark at Lwanda where we visited with the leader of a new church ‘group’ that has just been started there. It is in interesting story. There previously was a branch at Satima Village which is about 6 miles away. We had heard the story of this village on our first mission. Several years ago there were about 200 people baptised there – some not really taught well. About 2005 the branch was shut down as it was too far away to oversee things there and there were things going on that shouldn’t have been. Not too long ago Pres. Dube and Elder Stevens, along with someone else went to visit the Village to see what was going on there. Someone heard that they were coming to attend their meeting and they quickly cancelled it. When they arrived and talked to a couple of people Elder Stevens ask what an outdoor bell was and that if he rang it, would the people come. They said that it was the church bell and that people would come. Elder Stevens rang it and about 80 people appeared right away and they were able to talk to them and find out what was happening there. They were happy to see people with official church name tags on came to visit. It turns out that even still some members have still been meeting and the ‘leader’ was collecting tithes and offerings which were not being turned in to the church. Some did not realize that the branch had been dissolved because when the letter was sent out to the group leader he did not read it to the people.
Anyway, -- a man, his wife, and 3 children recently moved to Lwanda. He was previously a branch president in Bulowayo, Zimbabwe. This man is now a ‘group’ leader there and meetings are being officially held again in Lwanda. Some of the people from the village are coming and they have about 40 in attendance now. The past branch president who was doing things without authority and that he should not have been doing has been disfellowshipped. He is telling people that they should come to the new ‘group’ though and is not trying to compete with it. In fact, it seems that he is going to start coming as well. It will be exciting to see the progress here. We will be spending some time there when we can. It will operate under the mission.
We spent our day here in Lilongwe and attended part of both branches. We were surprised at the number of men and boys in attendance – almost double that of the women. In Zimbabwe there were always many more women. They just rented a new house to use as a meeting house. It is really nice and has several bedrooms that are used as classrooms. It has a garage and we bought a large inflatable swimming pool to be kept in it and it will be their baptismal font.
Sunday after our meetings we were invited to dinner at the Collin’s home. They are a young white couple with 3 young children, from California, and are in Malawi for 18 months evaluating the education system and helping to decide how donor money can be spent wisely. I think he is with USAID. They have a nice place to live. They are such a blessing to have here in the branch. He has been called as a counsellor in the branch presidency and she is Primary president. The load on them is tremendous as they are training and teaching the members. We are so grateful to have their help though because we can only be in Lilongwe about once a month and that just isn’t enough. Hopefully they don’t get burned out! They certainly are learning a lot with this experience.
Monday, April 4th: We went shopping in Lilongwe and we bought 2 desks, chairs, a filing cabinet and some office supplies for the new branch presidents office and the clerk’s office that are in the new building. We also bought some curtains for the windows in the two offices. If Physical facilities doesn’t get curtains for the rest of the windows we may have to do that the next time we are up there. The branch president was thrilled with his new office.
There are a lot of Muslims here and they own quite a few of the businesses. They treat us very well and we like shopping at their establishments.
We came home from Lilongwe on Tuesday and we were tired, however, there was not rest as we had so much to learn from Stevens. We spent some long days and long nights and hope that we can remember at least most of it. We appreciate their patience with us.
Friday we took Elder Phiri to a private hospital here to have some screws removed from his ankle that he broke before his mission. He was there all day and spent a couple of nights here with us. We got him some crutches so he can get around a bit and is back with his companion. He will be slowed down for 2 or 3 weeks.
Saturday, April 9th: President Dube arrived last evening and is conducting interviews to find the District President, counsellors, and District counsel. He is also dividing the two branches and there are now four, consequently he is also looking for 4 new branch presidencies. There was a training meeting from 2 – 4 p.m. I was assigned Primary, Sister Steven did Young Women’s and Sister Dube did Relief Society and other things. It went well. I hope my part of okay. After that there was an adult meeting from 4:15 – 5:30 and Sister and Pres. Dube spoke. Sister Dube used to be so timid and quiet when they were first called and I am so impressed with her and her ability to speak and teach. President Dube always does a good job. He is a good man.
Sunday, April 10th: The new district was created and we have a good District Presidency and some good Branch presidencies. There are some good people here and we are starting to get to know them. It will take some time learning faces and especially how to pronounce names but we will get it with time. It was a great day for the church in Malawi! They have a beautiful building here in Blantyre and it is big (stake centre size). We aren’t quite sure how they got that before now but it is wonderful for them. Recently a house was rented here to accommodate the new branches – it is small and old and needs work so Elder Bullock is already arranging some of that so that hopefully they can meet in it in two weeks. This next weekend will be our General Conference weekend here as the DVD’s arrive this week by DHL.
Sunday evening we had Elder & Sister Dube here for supper, as well as Pres. Makasi, Stake Pres. from Bulowayo, Zimbabwe. He was here doing some Seminary and Institute stuff(that is his paid job) – he stayed here at the house with us. We knew him from Zimbabwe. We had a nice supper (lasagne that Sis. Stevens made) and some great conversation.
Monday, April 11th, (Today): We got up early and left here about 6:30 to take Pres. Makasi and Elder & Sister Stevens to the airport. The young elders took Pres. & Sister Dube. They all flew together to Harare. The Stevens will be there for a week and then they will fly home to Mesa, Arizona. So...... we are now alone and hoping we know what to do. We did have a plan for today and it went well. Jim never even got lost as we drove around doing our errands.
First we went to immigration and got the TRP (temporary residence permit) for one of the Elders so he can stay in the country another 6 weeks. It was approved and we had to pay some money (30,000 Kwatcha) and then it will come in the mail. As long as we have the receipt he is ok. Last week we also applied for our 2 year TEP (temporary employment permit) so that we can be here and it will come in the mail in a few weeks too.
After that we then went to the new building that will be a chapel for the new branches and got the account # off the electrical box and went and bought some prepaid electricity. We then went back to the house and entered the code into the system there so that the lights will come on. We do that for the Elder’s flats too. Our place is post-paid. We met up with the new District President, President Chinyumba at the bank where he was opening the new accounts for the District. He went with us to find the place that will cut keys for us so that he could a key he needed. They are VERY careful about who cuts keys here – that is a good thing!!!
We then came home and had a bit of lunch (tomato sandwich and some salad). Yesterday a young man was set apart as a missionary and needed some missionary clothes. His family doesn’t have much and under such circumstances the mission helps outfit him. He is set apart about 2 weeks early so he will stay with the missionaries and work with them. They dropped him off and we took him and bought razors, deodorant (and taught him what it is and how to use it), socks, shoes and a new suit. Pres. Chinyumba met up with us again to show us where to shop for a suit and we got one for the Elder. The taylor sitting outside at his treadle machine hemmed the pants. He will be a ‘sharp’ looking Elder now. He seemed to be pretty pleased with it all even though he is rather quiet. He will go to Johannesburg at the end of the month to the MTC (missionary training centre) and then will serve in the Zimbabwe, Harare mission.
Tonight at 6:20 the electricity went out. I guess it happens a couple of times a week here but only for about 2 hours at a time so that is okay. (Better than it was in Zimbabwe when we never knew when or for how long).
Blantyre is a pretty city up in the hills/mountains. We have a nice ‘mission home’ here with a beautiful yard and a really good gardener who has worked for the church for quite some time. He is totally trustworthy and watches out for us. The house is surrounded by an 8 ft. + wall with razor wire around the top. We have a large steel gate at the entrance and have a gate guard day and night. The guard company we use is run/owned by a member (Gabriel) and he hires a lot of the young prospective missionaries to work for him. We really like Gabriel – he is a wonderful young man and was just called to be a 1st counsellor in one of the branches.
We also currently have a guard dog and his ‘handler’ here each night to patrol the grounds and keep us safe. President Dube has told us to get a security system installed and monitored and we are looking into doing that but until then we have the dog. There was a break -in (the first) a couple of weeks before we arrived. Luckily Stevens were away at the time but some things were taken but Davey the gardener and his wife (who live in quarters on the property) were attacked but are ok. It seems like it may have been planned knowing that they were away and a temporary fill-in guard from a different company did not show up for work that night. He is now fired. It makes us somewhat nervous so please keep us in your prayers and we do pray for safety each day. For the most part it seems that Malawi is even safer than Zimbabwe though and we should be just fine.
The house has two ‘master bedrooms with ensuites’ as well as two other bedrooms. It has a very nice kitchen, big office, big living room, & dining room. We aren’t complaining!!
There are 4 missionaries in Lilongwe and 10 here in Blantyre but that will increase by July or before when we will become part of the Zambia, Lusaka mission.
I have made this too long so hopefully you haven’t quit half way through. I will try and send a few pictures soon. Good news – the electricity just came back on as my computer battery was about to die.
Love to all and thanks for your prayers and support.