Hi family and friends,
I haven't been writing as much lately but will try and do better. We still have a few busy weeks ahead of us but we are excited that our prayers have been answered and we are getting a couple that will arrive here Dec. 4th. They will be helping us in Malawi (Lilongwe). They are David and Debbie Prete from Cardston. They are excited to come and we are emailing back and forth with them.
We came to Lilongwe yesterday even though it wasn't in our plans to be back here so soon. On our way up we picked up 3 hitch hikers. They are with the Peace Corps and are in Malawi for 2 years (6 months to go). They were from Pennsylvania, Connetticut, and Georgia. Two guys and a girl. We had a nice conversation with them and heard about their projects here BUT they are all anxious to go home. They live right in the Villages with the people - each one alone in their separate Villages. They rough it with no power or water. The girl said she has learned to carry the water on her head etc. It was interesting. They get paid $4.00 a day and that is all they live on.
We came to Lilongwe because we got word that 4 members & wives were having a special meeting. These are the same ones who were involved a while back in accusing the Branch president of doing witchcraft and it was unfounded. They don't like the Br. President and want him released and it seems that they are even doing things to try and set him up to look like he has taken money and that he is doing things he shouldn't be doing. We heard that these people were having a meeting to form their own branch of the church ... Hmmmm.... Things just can't work that way!!
Anyway -- we met with the Elders about 6:15 p.m. and they took us to the home where the meeting was suppose to be underway. We parked the truck and walked in the dark for 3 or 4 minutes. There is no power in the village. I was a little nervous but the Elders thought I should be there as the Sisters might be there. We arrived but only 3 wives were there - no men. We ask about the husband of the house and she said he was at another house. We debated what to do and as we were leaving one of the men showed up at pathway. Jim talked to him and ask him to phone the other men and tell them that we were there and would like to meet with them. It was only a couple of minutes and they all arrived and we went back into the house with them and sat down. As we were going to the house the missionary wanted to know if they could leave but I said, No. He knows the language and the people and we might need a witness or two as we didn't know what to expect. He was rather nervous I think. There was a candle on the centre coffee table for light. Jim told them we had come to hear their concerns and discuss. They told us and Jim talked to them about how grievances should be handled in the church and that having secret meetings to discuss the Br. President was not the way to go about it. He read a few scriptures on how we need to sustain and support our leaders even though they may make mistakes now and then. They did have a letter all prepared that was addressed to President Padovich and President Bullock and it lists their concerns.
Jim told them that we heard they wanted to start their own branch and they denied that. They said they did not want to do that and 3 of them bore their testimonies that they believe the church is true and they want the Branch to succeed. What they don't seem to understand (and we didn't talk about it) is that even if the present Branch President was released - none of them would be called to be in the new Presidency after the things they are doing. They think they could run things better but it won't happen any time soon. Our meeting with them lasted about 1 1/2 hrs. and it did end on a good note. At some point the sisters joined us and I did talk to them about how we want to help make the Relief Society run better and that we do care about them etc. etc. I spoke and then one of the men interpreted for the women. He turned to me and ask - did I say that right, Sister Bullock. I laughed and said that I didn't know because he was speaking to them in Chichawa. It was rather funny.
Today when we arrived at their meetings (Gen. Conference DVDs this weekend) Jim talked to the Br. President about a couple of the allegations. He showed that he had not done what they accussed him of. But even before that he walked in and gave Elder Bullock a letter saying that he wanted to resign because this was just too hard. He was told that he can't just resign and to just hang in there because we have a couple coming that will be able to give him support and training and help. Jim also talked to three of the men and showed them a couple of things that proved the President had not done what they said and told them that he needs their support or the Branch is going to fall apart soon. There are a lot of ill feelings and we don't know if they can work through this or not. There is a lot of jealousy in this country and in the church, not just with the men but also with the women. We hope things will be okay --- until the next phone call, anyway. We aren't sure if the 4 men are happy with everything BUT we were pleased that they all came and listened to both conference sessions today.
We were glad we came and both parties seemed glad to be able to talk to us. We told them we would sort things out but that it wouldn't happen overnight and that we want to see this Branch be united and successful. This just shows again how much we need a couple to constantly be on top of things here.
We have been VERY safe at the hotel here. There was a COMESA conference with dignitaries from 8 countries and there was security, police and body guards everywhere. It ended last night so by tonight it seems they have all left the hotel. There were two guards posted in the hallway one door down from us. The bad thing was that last night when we got back here after the meeting at the Village we were starving and the dining room was being used for the dignitaries for supper and presentations so of course, we weren't allowed in there. They were feeding the few regular people in the coffee shop lounge. We ordered and waited 1 1/2 hrs. for our food to come so it was a late night. There was no place else to go eat by then and we wished we had just eaten a couple of bananas we had in the truck and gone to bed.
Our dog and handler seem to be keeping the thieves away from our house. A house back behind had a break-in or attempted break-in a few nights ago. Our guards said they saw them run through the lot next door and up over the hill. Davie seemed to think that one of the thieves had been shot but who knows --- he doesn't always get his information right.
Regarding Davie --- he got his verdict from the Court this past Monday when we were in Lilongwe. He called because they said he had to pay 25000 Kwacha (about $170) - gave him 6 months to pay it-- and that he has to build the x-wife a house at her Village. He needed to pay 5000 MK right then or they would put him in prison. We made a phone call and got someone to take him the money. He said they also wanted to know about his possessions because she should get half. He told them that we owned the fridge, table and chairs etc., which were bought for the cottage by the Stevens. He also told them that we were not at home and so they were getting prepared to go to the house and check as they didn't believe him. I suggested he put them on the phone and I talked to someone from the Court. I assured him that we were in Lilongwe and that the items did indeed belong to us and he was just allowed to live there and use them while he gardened for us. The guy was satisfied with my answers. I then ask why they would charge him 25000 MK and how did they ever expect that he could pay that much money on his small salary of about 8000 MK (approx. $55) a month. The guy just laughed at me and said 'You can pay it for him' and wouldn't listen when I said that we could not do that.
Anyway -- we talked about it and later told Davie that we would pay it for him but that he would then owe us for the next year. We pay him 2000 MK a month to wash our truck each morning and he also sweeps and mops the outside patios. So he is all paid up. He was thrilled and then told us that Saturday and Sunday he had been fasting and praying because he didn't know what he was going to do and that God has answered his prayers. We feel good about doing that for him. He is always there when we need any help. He will be going to our new place with us when we move because we talked to the owners and they will hire him as the gardener at the complex. We are glad because when we are out of town or away he will be there to take care of DHL packages etc. and keep an eye on our place.
Tomorrow on our way home we will stop at Liwonde and see Maria. The mom is still hanging in there and just had another 'drip of blood'. We will go visit her. We will also drop off the conference DVDs and they will watch them this next weekend. We will check on Sis. Chisambo and our rice business. It sounds like it is going well and she wants to pay us back some of the money that we used to buy rice to start the business for her. She is so thrilled with herself and has some regular customers and even a hotel that buys from her. I'm glad we were able to help and that it is being a success.
I better quit for the night. Love to all, Jim and Nancy/mom and dad